In case you weren’t already aware, we have entered the reunion era. At long last, we can wrap our heads around the possibility of more safely being in the same place as our friends and family, laughing, hugging, drinking, roasting each other, sharing germs and meals. So we’re calling it: The dinner party is coming back! With dinner parties, in particular, we are getting back to pre-pandemic meals that bring people together. You probably have the food covered, but you might not have thought about dinner party accessories that foster a sense of community while you eat.
Clever asked seven dining devotees to share what they’ve learned about eating together and the items they surround themselves with. Read on for their essential dinner party recommendations.
Tara Thomas, chef and urban farmer
Loves to share meals with: Everyone, but lately it’s been folks at the garden, new friends at stoop hangs, family, and my love
Purpose in her community: Bringing equity in the marginalized communities via food
Dinner party essential: Cast-iron skillet
Tara—known by many as Chef Tara Thomas—starts a meal with a toast. “A toast provides a moment to acknowledge each guest, be grateful, and break bread before we feast!” Tara says. After the toast her preferred way to share a meal is for others to grab their food from a cast iron, specifically the Milo Cookware 3-piece set by Kana Lifestyle.
A cast iron checks all the boxes for her. Sustainable. Modern. Ritualistic. “Cast irons hold an imprint of the energy from every meal that is cooked. I think of the beautiful women in my family who love their cast iron sets and their bellies that nourish them,” she says. “I've been using this set for about three months, but I’ve been using a cast iron for years. For years I was perplexed as to why cast iron wasn’t on the rise knowing that synthetic materials are not sustainable, but I continued to see nonstick synthetic pans being marketed to folks. I think about how my great grandmother still cooks on a cast iron skillet that my family has been using for over 100 years.”
$230.00, Kana Lifestyle
Zoey Gong, food therapist
Loves to share meals with: Anyone who is willing to try Chinese medicinal cuisine
Currently making a lot of: Breakfast congee and herbal bone broth
Dinner party essential: TCM 24 Seasonal Points Calendar
For most of the past decade, Zoey has been busy teaching others the art of traditional Chinese medicinal cooking, hosting pop-up events, and collaborating with brands to share her wisdom. She is the cofounder of Five Seasons TCM, a women-led food-therapy brand. As a food therapist, Zoey knows how nourishing it is to eat with the seasons. One of the items that fosters a sense of community when she’s sharing meals is her 24 Seasonal Points Wall Calendar, designed by Korean-American photographer and graphic designer Tommy Park.
“It contains the dates of all 24 seasonal points of a year, as well as detailed lists of TCM wellness principles and recommended foods and herbs,” says Zoey. “I hang it in my open kitchen near my wall of herb jars. Whenever I have guests over, they always gather to look at the herbs and the calendar. They would find the seasonal point that we are in at the moment and read out the seasonal foods and herbs.”
Zoey advises to pick some foods from the calendar based on the month you are in and cook a seasonal meal with your friends and family using the recommended foods or hang the calendar near your dinner table to have a conversation with your guests about eating, nature, and healing.
$40.00, Five Seasons TCM
Misha Lasoff, dining experience curator
Favorite way to share meals: Family-style always. Watching people pass platters and plates makes my heart warm.
Cooking style: Cuisine du marché
Dinner party essential: Table candles
The writer Jeanette Winterson once wrote “Sitting round in candlelight or firelight, people start to talk about how they are feeling—their inner lives. They speak subjectively, they argue less, there are longer pauses.” This quote sums up why Misha loves having table candles around during dinner. Misha knows a bit about curating a space to engage more deeply around a dinner table as the cofounder of Her Name is Nala, a community founded upon a desire to bring the focus back to making connections on the most human level: through the communal act of sharing a good meal.
“Ambiance is such a big part of the experience, and I’ve noticed when it’s candlelit, people feel a lot more comfortable and vulnerable,” Misha says. She often uses things like old wine bottles or vases—anything she can find around the house as a candle holder. Misha usually goes to her local bodega to pick up taper candles, but when she’s feeling funky she’ll use Baby Won’t You Light My Fingers Candles from Dada Daily or the Gaia Candle by Sainté.
$65.00, DADA DAILY
Lexie Park, dessert creator
Favorite meal ritual: I love ending the meal with a ritual, which includes dessert of course, but also a nice tea ceremony.
Currently making a lot of: Traditional Korean and Chinese food with my and my partner’s personal twist
Dinner party essential: Lazy Nünchi
Pastel, floral, and jiggly describe this dessert chef’s Instagram aesthetic. Lexie, who works under the name Nünchi, creates glamorous jelly-forward desserts and makes them available to order through her website. Apart from jelly cakes, Nünchi also creates table pieces to foster conversation when eating meals. Lexie created the Lazy Nünchi, a personal take on a lazy Susan in a flower shape on which dinner guests can put snacks, dips, appetizers—you name it—to share during meals.
“The first time I ever saw one was probably before I can even remember. They’re typically found in most Chinese restaurants, but my mom also had an obsession with them so we had a huge glass one at home on our kitchen island. I wanted to make my own modern version of it with a Nünchi twist, so my partner helped me develop one,” she says. “It’s based on sharing meals, and I want to bring that aspect into other people’s homes.”
$350.00, Eat Nünchi
Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey, author and interdisciplinary cannabis professional
Favorite people to share a meal with: People with manners and, of course, people who love, or at least respect, cannabis and irie vibes
Favorite place to eat: Somewhere outside is preferable. In the afternoon sun, or by candlelight.
Dinner party essential: An infused oil or tincture (of THC, CBD, or any other combination of cannabinoids) with additional herbs and spices
Author of The Art of Weed Butter and the cofounder of the CBD brand Xula, Mennlay knows a thing or two about adding a healthy dose of weed to a dinner party. Her favorite thing to bring to a meal-sharing event is an infused THC, CBD, or cannabinoid tincture. “Tinctures or an infused cannabis can consist of herbs, roots, and flowers that can support your body while also giving whatever meal you’re eating a complex and earthy flavor and a fun little added side effect,” says Mennlay.
She promotes making your own tincture at home using appliances from Ardent and Levo in combination with organically grown or sustainably harvested herbs. “Whenever I introduce cannabis—even if it doesn’t get you high, like CBD and CBG derived from hemp—there is an excitement and wonder that comes from experiencing it together. There is also an accountability that at first was difficult to own, but I’ve become much more comfortable and joyful in being able to facilitate this moment for folks. That’s something that weed can do.”
$350.00, Ardent Cannabis
Charlie Max, model and multidisciplinary artist
Favorite way to share meals: In the nude
Favorite meal ritual: At the beginning of shared meals, I encourage everyone to have a moment of gratitude and express it either out loud or to themselves. I also lead a hand-held group breathing exercise before we begin eating.
Dinner party essential: Elixirs
“Sharing beverages have historically brought people together. I like sharing elixirs with others because they nourish our souls and bodies together, creating a deeper connection in the present moment,” says the model and artist. Charlie runs her personal Instagram account along with @fude_____, an account providing plant-based recipes and promoting body positivity.
Charlie begins every morning with an elixir infused with her favorite superfoods like cacao, mesquite, and ashwagandha. When she’s not making her own, Charlie loves to share Lark’s Inside Job Elixir or Mon Fe Fo’s Turmeric shots with friends at a dinner party to nurture bodies and conversations.
Sophia Roe, chef, writer, TV host
Why she started cooking: Sharing food and making it accessible
Favorite thing to cook: Mushrooms, no matter what kind
Dinner party essential: 17-inch cast iron skillet
Sophia started cooking on her cast iron as a teenager. "I’d take these trips to the beach with my friends, and we’d buy a bunch of hot dogs, burgers, chicken wings, etc. We were a bunch of kids who knew nothing about cooking. All we had was a little wire grill and a cast iron pan, and I swear they were the BEST burgers, wings, and hot dogs any of us had ever had. We’d always talk about how we’d prefer to just cook on the cast iron pan than eat at McDonalds—like most teenagers did at the time," she says.
Sophia swears by a classic cast iron every time she has people over. "You can cook a ton of food on a large cast iron pan, so it's a great thing to have if you're entertaining or have a lot of mouths to feed."
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest