From my experience, city life is severely lacking in impromptu cookouts, friends dropping by unannounced and lingering meals at home. We’re all so busy double booking our schedules that we hardly make time to eat at all, much less make an evening out of it. With the tenth anniversary of my life in L.A. quickly looming, I realize that if I want this to change, I’m going to have to take matters into my own hands. Literally.
I was recently introduced to a book that if taken seriously, will replace your frantic chaos with a renewed sense of zest and vigor—Friday Evening: Creating La Dolce Vita, one bite at a time. Inspired by the Italian way of life, author Michele Carbone takes you on a journey of personal transformation and teaches you to prepare your own traditional Italian meals for your friends and family. Focusing on the importance of shopping for the highest-quality, seasonal produce, she challenges you to make the process part of the experience .
Always up for a challenge, I invited a few friends over (albeit on a Saturday evening) promising good food and good company, praying that I wouldn’t let them down. As I drooled over photos of Michele’s long family-style table overlooking the vineyards of Santa Barbara, I was instantly depressed, thinking it might be hard to recreate her Friday Evening in my cramped Los Angeles apartment. Michele has mastered the art of cooking without a recipe and even for me, the thought is overwhelming. If you never cook, I urge you to take baby steps. Her “kitchen rules” are something to aspire to and not meant to discourage. With a little help from my friends at The Food Network and my local Whole Foods, I put together a menu that was delicious, fulfilling and inexpensive for a crowd.
It wasn’t until my friends were gushing over the food, laughing amongst each other with never a lull in conversation that I finally got it. No matter your setting, it’s the effort we make to surround ourselves with good friends and good food that will lead to the good life. My journey to develop a personal collection of Friday Evening meals has officially begun. Maybe next time I’ll get crazy and try it without a recipe.
- Charles Smith BOOM BOOM! Syrah
- Martin Codax Albarino Rias Baixas
- Estrella Damm INEDIT**
- Bread sticks Wrapped in Prosciutto*
- Cyprus Grove Lambchopper
- Endive and Mixed Greens with Blood Oranges in a Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Spaghetti Carbonara
- Chicken Piccata
- Chocolate Honey Almond Tart with Raspberry Sauce
**This beer launched last month by a collaboration between world-renowned chef Ferran Adria, Julie Soler, elBulli sommeliers and Estrella Damm, the leading brewer of Barcelona. It was created specifically to accompany food as an alternative to wine. Bottled in a wine bottle intended for sharing, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try something new and unique. A huge hit, everyone found it to be extremely crisp, refreshing and light, similar to an IPA without the bitterness.
*I am proud to say I made this without a recipe.