Last month, as part of a special sweepstakes on this site, twenty of my readers scored an invite to a cozy Paleo dinner party in San Francisco with me and Henry. This exclusive shindig had secretly been in works since January, when Amanda Nudelman of Disqus (the company that powers the comments on my blog!) reached out to me with an idea to create an “IRL” (in-real-life) community event. It sounded like a whole lotta fun, and I couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out.
The deck was stacked in our favor—gorgeous venue, incredible chef, and cool peeps—but as the date approached, I began to fret. After all, our guests were picked randomly from the pool of readers who entered the giveaway, so no one would know each other. Would our dinner companions get along? Would there be awkward silences? Paleo food fights? Would I have to break out my Fake Call App to bail me out? Or would we be making 20 new friends?
My questions were all answered on Saturday night. And as I should’ve known, I’ve got some of the coolest readers on the planet.
Amanda hired a professional photographer (yay, Irja!) to document the festivities, which meant Henry could actually put down his camera and enjoy himself for once. Of course, my compulsive husband ended up snapping some shots with his phone anyway because HE. CAN’T. STOP.
Want to see how twenty modern cavepeople (who don’t know each other) party in a San Francisco loft? Then keep reading!
After depositing the kids at their grandparents’ for the evening, Henry and I headed into the heart of San Francisco’s bustling North Beach. We’d planned to arrive early at the stunning, sun-drenched Cookhouse SF so we could assemble special Nom Nom Paleo gift bags for our guests. (Each guest received a signed copy of our cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo knee high socks, and a Mini-Michelle action figure.)
Amanda was already there, setting up the venue for our guests…
…along with our chef, Diane Davidson of Cast Iron Kitchen, who (with her assistant, Linda) was putting the finishing touches on the menu items—all of which were based on recipes from our cookbook.
I love smiley chefs!
Before we finished stuffing the gift bags, our guests began trickling in. Henry and I couldn’t wait to greet each person who walked up the stairs from Columbus Avenue. As drinks were served, the buzz of laughter and conversation filled the room. Many of our guests were Bay Area locals, but a good number traveled long distances to join us; some flew in from as far as Utah and Washington, and one of our intrepid dinner companions drove seven hours by herself from Southern California to come see us! I was absolutely floored and humbled that folks actually wanted spend a beautiful Saturday night with us, let alone travel across several states to do so.
To be honest, I had the jitters about meeting twenty strangers who knew waaay more about my life than I did about theirs, but as soon as we met this bright and bubbly group, I was instantly at ease.
We immediately bonded over drinks (sparkling water for me, vino for the guests) and Lazy Devils (a crowd-pleasingly spicy one-bite treat from our cookbook).
When we picked the date of our dinner, I didn’t realize that it was the evening before Mother’s Day. Many (most?) of our guests were moms, and the dinner turned out to be a fun gift for us. In fact, one reader’s husband won a spot at the event, and he gave his ticket to his wife for Mother’s Day. That guy’s a keeper, folks.
As for my fears that no one would talk to each other? Totally unfounded. This friendly bunch of gabbers started laughing and chatting as soon as introductions were made.
Henry and I were lucky enough to spend quality time with everyone. We scribbled in their books…
…before we were ushered to the communal table to share a family-style Paleo feast.
First up: Carrot + Cardamom Soup!
As I confessed to my fellow diners, this soup was the bane of my existence when I was creating and testing recipes for our cookbook. It took almost a dozen attempts before I managed to get this soup just right; by the time testing was done, I was sick of making it, and I haven’t made it since. But it’s a delicious springtime starter, and after tasting the version that Chef Diane brought out, I’m happy to report that Carrot + Cardamom Soup will be going back into my regular dinner rotation!
Next, we were served a big platter of Asian Cauliflower Fried “Rice.”
Diane’s version was perfectly seasoned and topped with copious amounts of herbs and bacon—just how I like it!
And of course, no one batted an eye when folks took out their cameras to capture the beautiful food for posterity. My motto: If it’s not posted on Instagram, did it even happen?
For an extra dose of veggies, we dined on grilled asparagus topped with Dukkah, an Egyptian condiment made from ground roasted nuts and toasted spices. (My recipe can be found in both my app and book.)
And for the main dish…a heaping platter of Korean Short Ribs!
I swear these ribs tastes even better when someone else makes it for me!
The final treat of the night? Individual espresso cups filled with Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème and topped with whipped coconut cream.
If you haven’t yet bitten the bullet and made this treat, you’re missing out.
By the end of the night, my belly was full and my cheeks were sore from laughing and smiling with my 20 new friends.
Meanwhile, I’m convinced Henry spent the evening at the other end of the table revealing some of my deepest, darkest secrets to his new BFFs.
Thankfully, what happens in Cookhouse stays in Cookhouse.
Big thanks to Amanda Nudelman and the gang at Disqus for bringing everyone together (check out Amanda’s take on the party here); Diane Davidson of Cast Iron Kitchen for cooking my food better than I do; and Irja Elisa Photography for perfectly capturing our party and giving Henry the night off!
Blogging can feel like an isolating activity sometimes, and it can be easy to forget that there are real people—really cool people—who come across my ramblings and cook my recipes. Get-togethers like this are a wonderful reminder that I belong to a vibrant community of people who are just as interesting and awesome in real life as they are in the comments section of my blog.
I thank my lucky stars for you everyday. Let’s do this again someday!