Before the weather starts to turn really cold I always try to fit in a few last outdoor parties. A few years ago I noticed that some of the best views in San Francisco were from public spots like parks. So I started experimenting with throwing a parties in public places. My first party was held at a pier right in front of Ghiradelli square with views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a small group and I figured since other people like fisherman set up tables all the time it wouldn’t be much different than that or people having a picnic. I was aware of the open container laws and laws about flames (I didn’t want to be the person that set my favorite pier on fire!) so I did not serve alcohol and I made a special point to use battery operated led candles to light our meal.
The party turned out fantastic. I spent about $100 from a rental company and rented chairs, a table, and linens. Then I planned an easy 4-course meal: a soup we kept hot in a large thermos, salad we dressed on location, gourmet macaroni and cheese served in individual ramekins (these I had a friend bake, wrap in foil, and bring immediately when the dinner started). And then for dessert we had pot de creme. My friends were happy to help out with things like flowers and contributing to food so it even though it took some effort it wasn’t as difficult as it might seem. (Make sure you invite helpful friends!)
Since then I’ve thrown a few more and started calling them “pop up dinner parties.” I threw one on a beach in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and another on my Nob Hill rooftop. I’ve learned a few tips for making these kind of parties go smoothly.
1. Plan out the food and ask friends for help.
2. Bring a small “prep” table to get ready to serve each course.
3. Bring a bag with a mini kitchen: paper towels, serving spoons, saran wrap, cutting knives.
4. Use rentals where possible. You can just drop off everything dirty (including the dishes) the next day. It makes clean-up a cinch.
Would you ever throw a fancy dinner party in the middle of nowhere?