Summer is one of the best times of the year to entertain. The markets are bursting with bright flavors, my garden is lush with leafy herbs and crisp produce, and the general mood of the city tends to take on a certain laid-back nonchalance. The ease and slowness of summer also provides us the space to turn our awareness to our surroundings — an opportunity to consider the land our food comes from, and to eat with more intention. In a true moment of serendipity, just as my daydreaming of a zero waste summer dinner party was really taking off, I came across Alexis deBoschnek’s new cookbook, To The Last Bite.
Alexis’s debut cookbook is centered around helping you make use of entire ingredients, saving you money while also cutting back on food waste. Inspired by Alexis’s sustainable and low-waste style of cooking, I began planning a dinner party wholly centered around the book.
With Alexis’s book in tow, off I went to my local farmers market to let the seasonal and highly local produce of the moment dictate my menu. I left with the makings of the Panzanella with Tomatoes, Melon, and Pickled Mustard Seeds (pg 51), Blistered Asparagus and Peas with Salt-Cured Egg Yolks (pg 73), and Charred Corn and Burrata Salad (pg 79). Between foraging from my garden at home and a generous ingredient haul gifted to my from my friends at PortoCibo, I’d have everything I needed for the rest of the menu: a gorgeous cheese board, Citrus Salad (pg 55), Tuna and White Bean Salad (pg 175), and the gorgeous Spatchcock Paprika Chicken with Carrots and Onions (pg 129). Dessert would be a sophisticated, more adult version of a Creamsicle, the Orange Meringue Semifreddo (pg 189), which I also already had the makings for.
Luckily, my friends at PortoVino were equally excited about this zero-waste dinner, and graciously provided several bottles of their juicy, organic, highly drinkable FUSO wines. FUSO is PortoVino’s project to search for and bottle natural wines from farmers in Italy. PortoVino has team members full-time in Italy, so they’re present throughout the wine’s journey — from fermentation, to sample tasting, and eventually bottling. I love that FUSO wines are unfiltered, made by human farmers and not tank-farms, and are terroir-driven, letting grape variety and soil be the stars. These wines are served chilled, making them an utterly perfect wine to usher in balmy, slow summer nights. More on these gorgeous wines — and the love letters we wrote them — here!
With my menu planned and amazing wines secured, it was time to move onto prepping for the dinner. I quickly realized just how much I loved cooking from To The Last Bite when I realized how accessible and affordable all the necessary ingredients were. Alexis intentionally created these recipes around simple ingredients that you can easily grow or buy. The recipes are simple and unfussy, yet thoughtfully elevated through the use of unexpected ingredients like pickled mustard seeds or salt-cured egg yolks. I also loved that I could prep the dessert and a bunch of other elements to the dinner a few days before, making the day-of super low key. I also served most of the dishes at room temperature, so I was able to be totally present to enjoy a glass of wine with my guests as they arrived.
I chose table linens and ceramics to reflect the season and also my personal style. This chartreuse linen table cloth and napkins are definitely more color than I usually use, but it still gave me the modern and moody vibes I’m comfortable with through using my black matte dishes. The grey and blue tinted glasses also added a touch of color while still being understated. Being a sucker for all things matte and neutral, I had to include some gorgeous and simple pieces from my friend Sherród at DEEP BLACK as well. Luckily the lovely Gabi from Well Kept was on my guest list, and graciously offered to take all the gorgeous photos you see here!
I’m so grateful that everything came together so beautifully for this dinner — from Alexis’ incredible recipes, to the bright and unique foods, memorable wines, and the gorgeous setting — celebrate summer we did!