Erin Gleeson launched The Forest Feast Gatherings, an extension of her blog and book series, at Powerhouse last night. Many children were present but also, happily, there was wine. Her husband Jonathan led the conversation and seemed little prepared and uncomfortable, so I guessed that something had gone awry. Let’s blame The New Powerhouse for that because we can!
Gleeson started her blog after moving from Brooklyn to a cabin in northern California, where she loves to throw parties big and small, and this book is organized to reflect menus for different occasions. The parties she’s planning for you range from cocktails to buffets to picnics, and cover a range of eating needs from vegetarian to vegan to gluten-free.
Her favorite at the moment is a Fall dinner party, which includes butternut & goat cheese crostini, kale-hazelnut salad, zaatar roasted carrots, squash lasagna, pear-thyme galettes, and pomegranate punch. We tried the Rose Spritzer from her Cocktail Party, as well as black pepper shortbread and strawberry caprese bites.
Gleeson did all of the illustrations and photography herself, and I think this is where the book really excels. “I come at this from an artist’s perspective; I have an art background. I started my blog when I starting getting a CSA box, and I would look for ways to put meals together by pulling out all of the most colorful pieces and grouping them together that way.” I should mention that she also designed the flowery dress she was wearing!
When developing recipes, colors and shapes are at the forefront of her process. “I look at magazines, photos, Pinterest, looking at color groupings and plating to put together ingredients. I think about the colors and shapes of the final photo while I’m shopping and cooking. I’m always looking for ways to cut an ingredient that will make it visually interesting, but not add too much time to the process.”
The process of editing and testing the book also had a lot of pieces. “It was like a puzzle, putting together menus, thinking about the time needed per dish, what goes together, what vegetables are in season at the same time.”
Still, food isn’t the most key ingredient of a good dinner party. “Good conversation is more important than flowers, or how the table looks, or what they’re eating.”
Other keys to good hosting are help from friends, preparation (have the menu set and locked the day before), assigning clear tasks to each participant, and making lists. The lists are great when you’re in the grocery store, but you should also have a list of each dish you plan to serve on the counter as you cook – “I’ve forgotten platters in the fridge before!” But really, just do it – invite people, and they will come, and then you’ll have a party.
What would she serve, if someone was coming over in half an hour and she wanted to impress? “Something on puff pastry because it’s always delicious and easy. And I would add burrata, because everybody loves burrata.”