From Russia with Love

From Russia with Love

Chefs & Experts

From Russia with Love


Dinner parties are always fun (or almost always, depending on the guest list and how many things go awry in the kitchen).
But as I rediscovered this past New Year’s Eve, adding a theme element to the mix can add extra flavor to the party.

Last summer I was fortunate enough to experience the trip of a lifetime. It was a Russian river cruise. We sailed down Volga River with stops in Moscow, St. Petersburg and along the rural Russian countryside. It was truly fascinating. I highly recommend it if you’re at all interested in history or in seeing a side of the world that is much different than ours.

Fast forward to November, when I was starting to think about hosting a New Year’s Eve dinner party. I suppose a New Year’s Eve party comes with a ready-made theme . . . out with the old, in with the new and all that. But I wanted a departure from the usual. And I wanted to tell my friends about my amazing summer journey. But no boring slideshow, please! So I thought, why not give the food and presentation a Russian accent?

Still relishing the memories of my Russian adventure, the ideas came quickly and everything turned out wonderfully.

The first course was pre-revolutionary Russian: blintzes, caviar and sour cream—the kind of fancy appetizers enjoyed by the powerful czars. We dined like Peter the Great.

I decided that the second, main course, should evoke the U.S.S.R. era, and served a simple green salad and a hearty beef stew that comrade Khrushchev would have enjoyed.

And the dessert course would be suggestive of Russia, our contemporary ally. I heard that there are now more Mercedes-Benz automobiles on the streets of Moscow than there are in Berlin. To commemorate this new consumerism, I made my famous scratch cheesecake, served with fresh raspberries. Throughout the evening, we consumed our share of vodka (to stay in the spirit of the theme). Champagne at midnight, of course.

In the end, even TIME magazine cooperated, making Russia’s President Putin its Person of the Year cover boy. I never realized I had so much influence!

I’ve been thinking about other potential dinner party themes. This is an election year, so some kind of red state/blue state theme could be fun, with political convention-style straw hats, banners and buttons, and regional cuisines from the key battleground states. This would be great around convention time or the weekend before the election.

Or how about a movie theme dinner party around the time of the Oscars? You could feature foods from films: The pasta from ‘Big Night,’ a shrimp dish ala ‘Forest Gump,’ and a decadent dessert reminiscent of ‘Chocolat.’

I’d love to hear some of your theme ideas. Please share!



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