Obviously there are the daily howdies. The sharing of sugar, flour and eggs. The occasional dog walking sorts of favors and chit chatting on the front stoop to digest the humdrum of our days. But there is one thing about neighboring that doesn't occur to the mind immediately upon moving in: that someday you'll co-host a dinner party together with your two kitchens, your two sinks, your two sets of plates and forks and knives. And that together, the two of you will maneuver a cart full of produce around the Berkeley Bowl and gather a mix of friends to feast upon it--two sets of hands at the helm of the ship, steering it toward the dusky table where masterfully, you'll feed the people.
With a little planning last weekend, Marianne and I did just that in the second half of a Sunday afternoon. Chopping vegetables and finding ways to prep things for grilling in our rather cozy kitchen was challenging, but also meditative; washing dishes between rinsing mint and pots balancing on stools, for instance.
No matter how much you think about setting the table, I love when you can count on the guests to contribute top-shelf costume elements to the mix. That orange pattern pictured was a jumpsuit Nicole wore, and she may as well have overtaken that small vase of daisies as our centerpiece.
It was the first time we've played host to so many people at once, now with the expanded space of our backyard to use. And we billed it as a trial run for our grill, which newly functions thanks to some rigging. On both counts, it was quite a success, as the grill carried on like a champ and our otherwise huge table felt perfectly sized, and we settled in elbow-to-elbow over some of the finest food of my summer.
The menu was changing up until the last minute, but at last count featured: White Sangria; Goat Cheese with Roasted Garlic dip; New Potato Salad with Salsa Verde, Grilled Corn & Shaved Fennel; Panzanella; Red Onion, Eggplant, Zuchini, Mushroom & Lemon wedge skewers with Red Pepper Pumpkin Seed Slather; and for dessert, a Gingersnap Mascarpone tart topped with stone fruits and fresh mint.