candlelit dinner party
Photo: Getty Images

Our First Post-COVID Dinner Party Is Going to Be Bananas

When we finally break bread together once more, it’s going to be a sensory smorgasbord of tablescapes, charcuterie, and trippy candles.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US
MF
New York, US
March 10, 2021, 10:30pm
3_5_2021_FANTASY_WEEK_LOGO_CV
A week of sharing our ultimate fantasies for life after COVID-19.

Welcome to Fantasy Week, where we indulge all our grandest daydreams about what we wish to do when this is all over. After a year of pandemic life, we’re fantasizing about globetrotting, throwing ragers, and dressing like we truly give zero fucks, and imagining a world where we’re all vaxxed and the world is our big, briny oyster.


Back in March 2020, that first week of lockdown was a brain-curdling blur of praying to Saint Cottonelle the Asswiper, loading up on Doomsday Grains, and getting more invested in Tom Hanks’ health than we ever needed to. The Rona gobbled up everything, and left no crumbs at a dinner party it was never invited to. 

Now, it’s been a year since that fateful week when we first started dousing ourselves in hand sanitizer and hoarding cans of minestrone. We’re used to this part of Mad Max. We’re out here dutifully trudging on in the new normal, à la distance, with our KN95-hooked tool belts . We have so many vaccines (amazing!) that folks are actually “shopping around” for their favorite flavor (not amazing!). It's definitely dystopian how accustomed we've become to life under COVID-19, but as vaccination rates go up and infection numbers decline, we've finally reached a point in the struggle where we’re able to grow more and more optimistic about the prospects of picking up one of our favorite Great Before pastimes: throwing dinner parties.

Yes, one of the simple pleasures we've missed the most is inviting six to 16 of our closest friends and their rando +1s over to dine on platters of hors d'oeuvres and roasts, then getting a little too turnt on the assorted bottles of corner-store wine the squad collectively pooled and dimming the lights to dance to "One More Time," leaving our homes in blissful disarray. Honestly, we'd do anything for that energy right now… but we’ll have to wait just a little bit longer.

So in the After Times, we insist on having a dinner party. But not just any dinner party. Think Jacques Pépin meets Salvador Dalí. Think the aesthetic energy of bartender Sam Anderson's Day of the Dead cocktail fountain (below) colliding with the culinary fearlessness of the guy who bites into a pepper on Iron Chef.

We want deep-fried Versailles, and ridiculously inviting decor. The following accoutrements are some of our most coveted accoutrements for having the best Last Supper we never got—in the hopes of throwing many more.


Get surreal tablescape inspiration

Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí made a very psychedelic cookbook in 1973 that combines his dream-nightmare imagery with fantastical recipes. It's the perfect inspiration for conjuring up the wildest food presentation you've ever dared to flex.

Dalí. Les dîners de Gala, $60 at TASCHEN

Get thee a tablecloth (aka the easiest way to say "I'm an adult")

Yes, this is probably a little earth-shaking—aren't tablecloths for, like, grandmas, you ask? No, my friend! Like bed frames, they are something we should all own. They will stop your Craigslist-find mid-century dining table from getting covered in crumbs, in addition to making you feel like you're dinin' out. We love the lumbersexual energy of this geometric bad boy. 

Pinar Tablecloth, $86.99 ($100.99) at Wayfair

If you're ready to go full Wizard of Oz on your color palette, Mexican-made oilcloth table covers aren't just amazing-looking; they're also waterproof, so merlot spills will be NBD. 

Art of the Tablecloth Lime Floral Mexican Tablecloth, $45 at Etsy

The ever-important shark coochie board

Even though charcuterie culture has gone full Instagram-influencer, we mustn't forget that there's a reason some things are crazy-popular (like, you know, Nirvana, or IKEA)—it's because they're good! Meat and cheese in an attractive arrangement on a wooden board… it's easy, it’s delish, it looks chic. Just try to get a decent-looking slab instead of trying to woo guests with your stained, scratched-up everyday cutting board.  

Olive Wood Serving Board, $29.99 at Cost Plus World Market

A panier that's like a post-modern seaside hot dog basket

Serving a fat, crusty loaf of warm sourdough (alongside some sea-salt-chunk-sprinkled cultured butter) is an easy way to keep your attendees happy while you try to figure out how to fix your cooking mistakes. 

Panier basket, $45 $18 at HAY

Pyramid crystal salt for the gods

Speaking of fancy sea salt, you can get a literal tub of Maldon for under $16 right now and you will NOT regret it. 

Maldon sea salt flakes, 20 oz. tub, $15.90 ($26) at Amazon

Load up on spreadables

If you want to have a real blowout cocktail hour, you're gonna need hors d'ouevres, baby. You’ve got the local cheeses and little breadsticks. Now you need a smorgasbord of spreads. (If you need DIY dip inspo, make sure to try our Buffalo chicken dip or these 26 other recipes.)

Artisanal Pesto (Set of 3), $46 at Food52

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Equip your cheese, please

When it comes to cheese slicing, one blade reigns supreme: Laguiole. (Pronounced: "la-yole," because we know you're wondering.) This heritage French brand hails from the witchy, wheat-colored fields of Aveyron, where the dairy and cow culture is so real, some (everyone) says the vaches win the prize for most stunning eye makeup

Laguiole 5-Piece Cheese Knife, Fork, & Slicer Set, $49 $33.97 at Nordstrom Rack

Make a giant salad of saucy meat

It’s a little grotesque, but guess what... WE’VE BEEN HUNGRY for finger-licking fun, and this 19-pound meat medley does the trick. Throw all the wings, and all drumsticks, and all the thighs into the same wumbo wine glass for your guests. 

Mary's Poultry Non-GMO Chicken Value Box, $119.99 at Thrive Market

Pass around the pork buns

If you’ve missed stuffing your face with pork buns and Hoisin sauce with your buds, go for this full kit of 24-hour brined babies by Momofuku. You’ll get 12 pieces of pork, pickled cucumber slices, and steamed, pillowy buns. If you’re feeling extra-extra, go for the NYC restaurant’s storied Bo Ssäm

Momofuku Pork Buns, 12-Pack, $119 at Goldbelly

Instant flavor-town 

Only know how to cook that one stir-fry thing you’ve invented over the years? Omsom packets can help with that. This company is owned by sisters Vanesa and Kim Pham, who’ve brilliantly siphoned all of their knowledge into these flavorful seasoning packets that are defibrillators for even the most weh-weh of meals. 

The Omsom Bundle, $55 at Omsom

Offer a sexy non-alcoholic aperitivo option

Wellllll here comes Ghia, again, looking a little *too* good in that vibey 70s bottle to stay on our shelf for long. This Mediterranean-tasting aperitif is one of our favorites of the non-alcoholic spirits renaissance. Everyone—even the ever-sobers—can partake.

Ghia, $33 at Ghia

Recipes for better feasting

Chinese Protest Recipes

VICE recently spoke with author Clarence Kwan about the power of food to combat systemic racism. His digital cookbook is a valuable, intersectional tool for appropriately (and supportively) expanding palettes, historical knowledge, and allyship practices within BIPOC communities. The recipes are available online, and you can support Kwan’s work by keeping up with him on Instagram

Chinese Protest Recipes by Clarence Kwan, Free at Chinese Protest Recipes

Use cloth napkins to that channel the Beetlejuice dinner

Good for the planet, and good for the energy of your dinner party. It’s worth it to get a set of 12 cloth dinner napkins for every apostle at your supper, or have spare napkins on deck if someone gets a little messy after one too many post-munch cordials. 

Stripes 18" Napkins (Set of 12), $72.99 at Wayfair

If your dining table is a coffee table

You’re gunna need a poof (or two, or three) for guests to plop their bottoms. We like these ugly-cute ones from Etsy that will add a touch of PeeWee Herman visual interest to any apartment floor.

Checkered Wool Floor Pillow, $159 at Etsy

Amber is the color of your energy

Slightly mismatched dinner goblets always feel homier, but a united color scheme will reign in your tablescape. This set of eight goblets offers a honey-hued treatment for whatever you choose to sip on, be it blood-wine or water. 

Vintage Mismatched Amber Glass Goblets, $94.50 at Etsy

For the guest of honor

There’s always one, and anyone who says otherwise is either lying or not dramatic enough to score an invite to your high-flying goblin symposium. This Jesus bling chalice, with its golden details and girthy base, looks like it was hand-crafted by a wizard and his peacock sidekick.

Matashi Crystal Jesus Chalice 2.5 oz. Goblet, $72.99 at Wayfair

A personality-sub floral arrangement (that lasts forever)

Dried bouquets, only. They live forever and they look totally like a painting by one of those 19th century Impressionist guys on drugs. We don't know who Rory is, but he cute.

The Rory, $105 at Urban Stems

Swap fondue’d saliva

Can you even imagine a world in which multiple-person double dipping is not just happening, but encouraged?! This mid-century cheese cradle is just the move, because it’s retro, unique, yet versatile with its graphic black and white motif. Chic-horny meets Hobbitcore. 

Vintage Mid-Century Modern Imperial Japan Fondue Pot, $55 at Etsy

Burn an insane candle

YOLO. Reconvening with the whole gang is worth celebrating with as much fanfare and drama as possible. Burn a candle that doubles as a piece of art, and show just how much you believe that Harvard astrologer who says we made contact with aliens.  

Hannah Jewett Candle, $85 at SSENSE

Or a dungeony candlestick for some tapered bois 

A little bit Phantom of the Opera, a little bit S&M, these candle sticks are an excellent way to add drama to your tablescape. 

Boonies Chain Candle Stick, $60 at Garmentory

A lighter too obvious for anyone to "accidentally" pocket

If you leave a mini Bic next to your candle(s), it will get lost—this is one of life's guarantees. The flashy orange of this Bodega lighter in collaboration with Tsubota is so "look at me" that it's impossible to lose track of. 

Bodega x Tsubota LIGHTER, $30 at Bodega

The dapper fake taper duo

No drip, yet, all the drip. This two-headed faux-candle holder can honestly psyche out even the sharpest of eyes if you poise it oh so deftly on a shelf. Plus, you won’t have to worry about lighting your deep quar plant friends on fire. Perfect for the space cadet host. 

Flameless Taper Candle Light, $25 at Urban Outfitters

The party trick 

Our hosting conversation skills are rusty AF, so we’re going to need an ice-breaker. A theremin is perfect for the task as we exit the COVID-19 Twilight Zone, and re-enter a prosperous era of finally displaying our fantasy genre TV show theremin cover skills.

Burns Theremin, $99 at Amazon 

This sea-creature serving centerpiece 

“Epergnes” are kind of the one-human-jug-band of centerpieces with a base dish for sweets, spreads, nuts, and bolts, and a main vase (or several) for flowers. They’ve been around for centuries, peaked in the Victorian era (had a lil blip return in the mid-century) and went culturally extinct everywhere but that one aunt’s house by the 21st century. We say: bring ‘em back for a post-Covid world of finger grazing. Just think of how good Flaming Hot Cheetos will look in this. Maybe just double check with the seller to make sure it’s not made out of that uranium

French Uranium Glass Epergne, $150 at Etsy

Don't forget the punch

You can have all the cool aesthetic housewares in the world, but if you don't have a killer punch, you don't have the ultimate dinner party. The Absolute Baller lives up to its name, but the Grapefruit and Beer Punch is unfussy, beyond easy to make, and still guaranteed to impress. And best of all, we’ll all be able to dip into the same crystal bowl.


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