Georgette Moger-Petraske’s Potluck Fantasy
Six is it. Six is that magic number where a host can lavish her guests with attention without ever feeling in the weeds. Turning to the classic question of dream dinner party guests, living or dead, it’s almost too easy to fantasize about. Invitations going out to Proust, Didion, and my late husband, Sasha. At the end of the day, Didion would sit in snide judgment, asthmatic Proust would buckle at the first lit cigarette, and my late husband, true to form, would arrive super late, though dressed in an impeccable suit—“It’s seersucker season, Miss Moger!”—with his arms full of lilies.
For this potluck bacchanal of merroir and terroir, everyone is very much alive. The guest list is a roster of my favorite lady sea farmers, some wine and spirits experts, and a few friends who are themselves ace entertainers. The first signs of spring are sprouting up in the city and we’re all gathering in my brownstone in east Gramercy. Nell has made the invitations, beckoning everyone at 8pm. Ann-Eliza has arrived early with budding branches of lilacs and cherry blossoms to arrange while I pull fronds of ramp leaves from the oven that have spindled into curly crunchy chips. Rebecca bounds through the door, all smiles and giddy embraces with not a trace of jet lag. She bears her family’s Bourgoin Cognac, as well as vacuum-sealed parcels of exceptionally stinky, gloriously unpasteurized cheeses and some cannelés baked in Bordeaux mere hours ago. Meg has brought 100 of her Yennicott oysters from her farm in Southold. Susan, our wine expert, came with four bottles from some of her favorite producers. Stephanie flew in from Santa Barbara with sea urchin she harvested the day prior, which will serve as the base of our main course.
We graze at the bar on ramp leaves and the potato chips, crème fraîche and caviar that Nell always brings. Everyone is shucking oysters, while I prep a martini to pair. The vermouth has been infused with ramps and we’re breaking into the Mattei gin I smuggled from Corsica. We are rounding it off with a touch of gentian spirit and a drizzle of oyster liquor and have settled on the name Marcel the Shell, with Suze On. In the kitchen, Stephanie is cracking open the urchins that didn’t make their way into the pasta sauce and we’re all popping in to spoon these musky Hermes-orange lobes into our mouths.
The table is covered in antique linens and beeswax candles are flickering in oyster shells, a rainy-day project Meg and I worked on last winter. There’s a fire in the fireplace but the windows are open on this fresh April night. On the sill sits a brandy snifter holding a diminishing supply of Dunhill cigarettes, their perfume mixing with the amber and myrrh oils burning with the wood in the fireplace. Rebecca is draped on the chaise just tipsy enough to begin playing her accordion, the sweetest dinner bell that could be rung. I have brought to the table an enormous porcelain chamber pot filled with squid ink tagliatelle glistening with uni butter and speckled with caviar and chives. While I serve everyone heaping bowls of pasta, Ann puts Charles Trenet on the turntable while Susan opens two bottles—a 2004 Bollinger, La Grande Année Rosé Brut, and a 2016 Cécile Tremblay, Vieilles Vignes, Vosne-Romanée from Burgundy. We stop gorging ourselves on urchin and inky ribbons so that we’ll be able to tear into the tower of cheese that is pungently calling to us from the kitchen. While Susan knew to bring both a 2018 Vigna Petrussa Venezia Giulia IGT “Desiderio” from Italy and an NV Ramos-Pinto 30-year Tawny Port for this moment, I had the wherewithal to time our fête du fromage with the arrival of the Task Rabbit I’ve just buzzed upstairs to wash all the dishes. For in this fantasy dinner party, the host awakes miraculously without a hangover, to find everything clean and back in place, making her question if it had all been a magnificent dream.
Georgette Moger-Petraske is the host of Regarding Oysters, a weekly salon inspired by Paris of the 1930s where she leads guests in oyster shucking and cocktail-creating based on her best-selling drinks memoir, Regarding Cocktails (Phaidon). Tickets can be booked at regardingoysters.com.