Join Us! City Harvest Fundraiser June 7th!

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Potluck!Join Cookstr and Zokos as we celebrate the coming of summer with a Picnic-themed Potluck to benefit City Harvest. For a $25 donation (feel free to contribute more!), you will be invited to partake in fantastic blogger-cooked dishes, as well as drink to your heart’s content. No need to prepare a dish, but if you’d like to, feel free! Everyone will be voting on the best picnic – themed dishes as we crowdsource the winners, who will receive sets of Anolon Nouvelle cookware as prizes.

RSVP HERE !

We’ll also be raffling off exciting picnic sets from OXO! Be sure to pick up raffle tickets for $1 each at the event.

All attendees are also invited to bring their own potluck dishes to share for an opportunity to win more prizes! And everyone will get a gift bag filled with goodies from Pretzel Chips,Peanut Butter & CompanyFairytale BrowniesPlated.comKerrygoldRolandRunaBuilt NY and more!

Now serving New York City for more than 30 years, City Harvest is the world’s first food rescue organization, dedicated to feeding the city’s hungry men, women, and children. This year, City Harvest will collect more than 42 million pounds of excess food from all segments of the food industry, including restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers, and farms. This food is then delivered free of charge to some 600 community food programs throughout New York City by a fleet of trucks and bikes. City Harvest helps feed the more than one million New Yorkers that face hunger each year.

As part of our commitment to City Harvest, we are asking each attendee to bring a few unperishable food items to contribute to the City Harvest food drive Tipping Point Workspace will be holding. Additionally, as a part of their Skip Lunch Fight Hunger Campaign City Harvest will be sharing details about how a donation of just $50 can help feed 6 children for an entire month.

Throw a Festive Holiday Party with Zokos!

Here at Zokos, we want to ensure that you and your friends have the best parties, so we’ve been busy gathering the best ideas for parties and putting them on our site in what we’re calling “ZoKits.”  ZoKits are pre-planned parties that you can throw with your friends.  All you need to do is invite them!  Here is a selection of our favorites for the holiday season:

Tasting Table Healthy Holiday Dinner Menu

GT SQUASH

How about a healthy holiday meal? Tasting Table serves up a lovely vegetarian meal perfect for your next dinner party.

Food52 Holiday Cookie Party

meyer_lemon_pizzelles

Get your friends together for a cookie party and use these great recipes from Food52.

Persian Holiday Party

Cucumber_and_Pomeg_4B4884D4

Throw this Persian-inspired holiday party with fabulous tips from Lucid Food’s Louisa Shafia!

Entertaining Exchanges: Carly DeFilippo

For our newest Entertaining Exchange, we’re delighted to introduce you to Carly DeFilippo.  Carly, proprietor of this fine blog and a supper club of her own, has offered to answer questions from the Zokos community on how to throw a stellar dinner party.  So if you’re wondering how much wine to buy, or how many hours to roast your turkey, just ASK CARLY by posting your questions on our Facebook Page.

Zokos: Think back to the most recent dinner party that you hosted or attended. What was the best part of it?

Carly: I recently launched a monthly supper club, which I host in my new Park Slope apartment. It’s been amazing to open my home to old (and new!) friends, and – most importantly – to have the opportunity to introduce such a varied group of interesting, curious and generous individuals.

Regarding the food itself, preparing a meal for fifteen inspires me to experiment with recipes that seem too elaborate for one or two people. It’s a rare and exciting reason to block out a full day and truly dedicate it to cooking. 

                   Zokos: Explain how the most recent dinner party you threw was different than the first dinner party you ever threw. What has changed since you first started throwing dinner parties? Why?

Carly: The first true dinner party I threw was in Paris, where I was living during graduate school. On Sundays, all my Parisian friends would head to their parents’ or grandparents’ apartments for a family meal, a tradition that made me and other non-locals wildly jealous. So I started inviting over a dozen of close friends on Sundays, to cook our own “family dinner.” It started off very simple – meat, cheese and wine – essentially a picnic. But as I got to know the markets and neighborhoods of the city better, I got increasingly adventurous, making everything from veal liver to squid ink risotto.  I think my French friends’ favorite dinner, however, was when I made them a big American pancake breakfast.

What’s different now is that I’m a much better cook (largely thanks to those weekly feasts), from planning, to knife skills, to timing the service of food. That said, the casual feeling of community and the shared ownership of the meal is still there. I always recruit a sous-chef and few friends to come early and help set the table. I don’t believe in keeping people out of the kitchen, so by the time the evening is over, nearly every guest has lent a hand.

Zokos: What are the top two items – not ingredients- at your house that you find yourself using over and over at your dinner parties?

Carly: My record player! And these great burlap tablecloths that actually used to be homemade curtains. The music is a great way to get guests involved, and for my next supper club, I’ve actually asked everyone to bring a record of their choice. The burlap is great because it makes everything feel relaxed. It’s the opposite of white, fancy linens -so if someone spills something, who cares?

Zokos: What is the dish you’ve cooked that you are most proud of?

When I lived in Paris, I went to the market as often as possible, but there were certain ingredients that intimidated me – namely seafood. But eventually, I decided that if something interesting went on sale, I should give myself permission to buy it and experiment. I’ve since cooked everything from octopus to stingray, and it’s actually been delicious, every single time!

Zokos: What does cooking mean to you?

Cooking is one of the few opportunities for true creativity that we all can tap into on a daily basis. I know that when I was in grad school – reading heavy French literature and philosophy – the highlight of my day was a trip to the market or the time I spent preparing a meal. That feeling has only gotten stronger as I’ve moved into the workplace. Even though – working in food editorial and social media – I get to think about cooking all day, there’s nothing that inspires or relaxes me more than grocery shopping and “getting my hands dirty” in the kitchen. And I don’t think you have to love food as much as I do to reap the benefits of cooking. From managing your budget to improving your health – not to mention your relationships – cooking is, in my opinion, the number one way we can all improve our quality of life.

Zokos: How did you first get interested in cooking?

Growing up in an Italian family, if we weren’t preparing or eating food, we were talking about it. So from an early age, shopping for, cooking and sharing a meal we re activities I not only enjoyed, but valued. But what really tipped the scales for me was learning about other food cultures, from the ingredients they ate to the way they interacted with food. Living in France – where good conversation and excellent food are part of the daily culture – it seemed obvious that I should study culinary criticism and really dig into how we communicate about food. The more I read and listened and talked about the “art of the meal”, the more I wanted to be living that experience. So that’s where my intense love of cooking began, and it’s been a runaway train every since.

Zokits: The greatest thing since friend-funded dinner parties.

We’re thrilled to announce the greatest thing since friend-funded dinner parties. Since you’ve been our friend for a while, we wanted to let you know first. Zokits are parties planned by industry experts, food bloggers and world-class chefs. They include recipes, know-how, and even products—everything you need to create a memorable get-together with friends.

Check them out on the site at www.zokos.com/zokits

 

Zokits

Entertaining Exchanges: Erin Coffey

Why hello there! Welcome to another installment of Entertaining Exchanges, this time with Neuroscientist & chef extraordinaire, Erin Coffey (you can see her Stone Berry Galette below). Erin spends her days in the lab at Penn and her nights with the Philadelphia Wind Symphony and baking some pure goodness. Read on to learn more about her struggle on whether she’d rather have Sherlock Holmes or Bill Nye The Science Guy as a guest at her next dinner party.

Zokos: Think back to the most recent dinner party that you hosted or attended. What was the best part of it?

Erin Coffey: My most recent party was a potluck birthday barbecue.  My favorite part was the diversity of people that attended – I have friends that I’ve met through a variety of entirely unrelated groups and activities, so seeing who brought what sort of food and how they all interacted over dinner was a delight.  It’s a funny thing – the character of the various attendees was really reflected in the dishes they contributed!  That, and a potluck barbecue means that people are walking around, grabbing a burger here or a kebab there, and that it doesn’t have to be a formal sit-down event.  Lots of opportunities for people to interact with each other.

Z: Explain how the most recent dinner party you threw was different than the first dinner party you ever threw. What has changed since you first started throwing dinner parties? Why?

EC: The first dinner party I can remember was a Mexican-themed dinner that my college roommate and I hosted the summer after our freshman year.  It was fun, there were corn chips, and there were more than enough sombreros to go around – but it was a theme party, which comes attendant with certain challenges in terms of menu and decoration.  It’s also a lot of hard work!  So, while I still love a good theme – “brunch” is a favored one for me at the moment – I’ve since learned that having the right people makes the dinner party more memorable than having the perfect theme or setting.  A friend recently commented that she likes coming to my gatherings because she always gets to know really interesting folks that she’d never have met otherwise.  That, for me, is the perfect dinner party.

Z: What are the top two items – not ingredients- at your house that you find yourself using over and over at your dinner parties?

EC: First and foremost, my collection of vases, full of fresh-cut flowers – no question there!  I briefly worked at a florist’s during high school, so I always make my own flower arrangements when I have guests.  Flowers are like living sculpture, and I think a well-thought-out arrangement – particularly one with seasonal blooms and interesting colors – doesn’t have to be really big or dramatic to change the feel of a party.

Second – board games. I find that if the talking is slowing down but people have too much inertia to actually leave, some sort of activity can really get things moving.  Even at the end of a long evening, there’s nothing like a heated round of Bananagrams or an equally heated (though perhaps less speedy) turn at Settlers of Catan!

Z: Where is your dream place to host a dinner party?

EC: Quiet New England beach, early fall, light breeze.  I’d stick a polished driftwood table right in the sand,     get some big, bright candles and sea glass to decorate the table, and serve some sort of seafood dish – maybe curried shrimp. Alternatively, elk or venison chili, a similar table but made out of roughly-cut logs, dressed with pine garlands and pinecones, and just on the edge of an alpine lake.  In other words, find me a rustic shoreline, and I’m a happy camper (figuratively or literally, in this case).

Z: You can invite any four people to a dinner party – who are they?

EC: Hmm… tough question.  My ideal table is profound, passionate, delightfully nerdy, and above all a barrel of fun – I tend to invite people that I think would find each other’s company enjoyable.  So let’s go with Joy the Baker, for her excellent wit  (and of couse, for the delicious baked goods); Fran Kranz, because I think he’d be a hoot and a half; Emma Thompson, because she’d have some great life perspectives; and Sherlock Holmes, the original popular scientist (particularly in the great detective’s current incarnation)!  Unless it’s a murder mystery dinner party – in which case, I’d have to swap out Sherlock Holmes for Bill Nye.  Holmes would be approximately zero percent fun at a murder mystery party.  He’d either solve the case too quickly and point out all the holes in it or, if he were the murderer, he’d be so good at it that no one would ever guess!

Z: What’s your ideal number of people for a dinner party and why?

EC: Six is just few enough that the host doesn’t have to go too crazy making appetizers and entrées, but many enough that it’s quite reasonable to have a potluck-style dinner or to ask for contributions of food or beverage from attendees.

Don’t follow these rules if you want to be a bad guest

It’s not that uncommon to read articles about hosting a great dinner party or event but it’s not all that often you read one about being a good guest. This might have to do with the fact that being a good guest seems pretty obvious but it’s really important to appreciate the amazing things our hosts do for us. Without further delay, here are 5 easy keys to being a good guest:

5. Take the time to RSVP
As we highlighted in an earlier post, RSVP doesn’t mean “Refreshments served very promptly.” Dating back to the early days of the term “Respondez S’il Vous Plait” (Respond Please) the goal was to inform the host whether or not guests would be attending so he or she could plan accordingly. Well, at some point the art of RSVPing became much more casual eventually leading to a good portion of guests not even responding at all.

4. Make a decision and stick to it
We live in busy times with a constant news-feed of events and possible ways to spend our time. Thanks to social media and smartphones those event offerings never end, allowing us to make decisions up until the last minute. Unfortunately, that means people hold off until the last possible moment. With this comes the fear of missing out on something better. Why not reduce the stress and help the host out by making a decision on whether or not you’ll come to an event and stick to it. There’s nothing more annoying to a host than the person that never shows up after RSVPing (or shows up late).

3. Factor in friends
Related to number four, if you’re going to bring friends it’s a good gesture to let the hosts know. Most hosts don’t mind a few extra people but it’s common courtesy to at least let them know so the extra guests don’t throw them for a loop. You might think a person here or there doesn’t do any harm but if everybody brings a guest or two the party can quickly double in size making for an awkward affair.

2. Chip-in to help out
It takes a decent amount of time and money to host an event and that typically all falls on the host. Why not make the gesture of chipping in some money or at least bringing a little something to lighten the financial burden on the host. If money or goods isn’t an issue, you can always chip in by helping prepare the food, DJing or cleaning up. Your mom would be proud and the host sure will be.

1. If you appreciate, you should reciprocate
It’s rare that guests leave a party saying “that sure wasn’t any fun, I don’t want to see anybody there ever again.” Instead, most people leave the party saying “we should get together and do this again.” While it’s certainly easy to leave the task to someone else, even the best host appreciates not having to carry the torch all the time. The best way to thank a host for a great time is to repay the gesture by hosting an event of your own.

The Dip a Chip Showdown!

Thanks to Noorman’s Kil and I Wanna Nom, we had an epic Guacamole and Salsa competition this past weekend in Brooklyn.  Over a dozen entrants competed for some killer prizes (like that wrestling mask below) and everyone dipped chips to their hearts content.  We were even interviewed by the the News, though the footage has been hard to come by.

Here are the Winners:

People’s Choice: Harrison with his “Molcajete Mayhem” Guacamole

Salsa: Ateqah with her Kitchen Sink Salsa

Guacamole: Lindsay with her Guac and Shit Guacamole (the News called it Guac and expletive, which is hilarious)

For more pics check out our Facebook Gallery.

Entertaining Exchanges: Lillian Medville

We’re thrilled to bring you another edition of Entertaining Exchanges with host Lillian Medville of Lillian’s Test Kitchen.  Her parties sound like a heck of a lot of fun.

Zokos: Think back to the most recent dinner party that you hosted or attended. What was the best part of it?

Lillian: My ultimate frisbee team got together last week for a dinner party potluck style to watch the semi-nationals (College frisbee) on TV. I made a strawberry rhubarb pie (grain-free, vegan, cane sugar-free, and corn-free) which was devoured in literal minutes (that always feels good). No one else on the team has food allergies, but they all know me, so when I got there I was presented with my very own bag of Cape Cod Potato chips (which I can eat) and my teammate who brought the salad, went out of her way to double check that everything in it was safe for me, and then she guarded it from cross contamination all night. I felt included and cared for in a way that I rarely am. It was fantastic.

However the best part of the party wasn’t really the food (although that was tasty). The best part was talking trash with my team. The game turned out to be pretty boring, the coverage was more on the side of hilarious than anything else, but it really didn’t matter. The game was the reason we all got together that night, but it really wasn’t the focus or the point. The point was hanging out and laughing with 11 of my favorite people.

Zokos: Explain how the most recent dinner party you threw was different than the first dinner party you ever threw. What has changed since you first started throwing dinner parties? Why?

Lillian: I used to get super nervous about hosting parties. I would feel both nervous about having so many people in my space, and anxious about providing good enough, and just enough food and entertainment. I’ve always had a lot of different kinds of friends from different worlds, and the thought of those worlds colliding was enough to keep me from inviting anyone over, ever. I don’t know if I just have cooler friends now, or if I’ve just grown up, but I don’t worry about it so much anymore.

Now I love being the host. Part of that probably comes from my control issues around food. Because of my food allergies (gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and soy) I rarely am able to eat safely at other people’s houses. But when it’s in my space, I know where all the food has come from and what it has touched and know that it is safe for me to eat it. And plus, I get to show off a little bit. My friends who live close to me don’t tend to have food allergies, so I like playing the, “Guess what this is made of!” game. I love it when someone tastes something, like my Chocolate Mousse and get’s their mind blown to pieces when I tell them that it’s made of avocados.

Zokos: What are the top two items – not ingredients- at your house that you find yourself using over and over at your dinner parties?

Lillian: Music, and games are the essentials.

I love game nights. Lately we’ve been playing Pandemic! Which is a cooperative game that pits you and the other players against 4 diseases that are threatening to destroy mankind as we know it. It’s a game that’s big on strategy and is super fun. It’s also super morbid. But what can you do.

I have a few playlists that are my go-tos. If it’s a bigger event or a dance party, I’ll make a playlist specifically for it. The last game night was a lot of Belle and Sebastian, Band of Horses, and Miles Davis. The last dance party there was a lot of Jay-Z, Rihanna, Cyndi Lauper, and Sir Mix-A-Lot.

Zokos: What is the best dance move to break out at a party?

Lillian: The running man. It is my favorite go to dance move to break out at a party. It’s requires absolute commitment in order to do it right, is completely silly, really not sexy, and is also kind of fascinating in a train wreck kind of way.

Zokos: Do you ever cook for people with conflicting food preferences / allergies? How do you resolve the dilemma?

Lillian: The best way to deal with people with conflicting food preferences and allergies is to talk to everyone to make sure that they are all safe and to also stay flexible. I wont make individual things for each person, but I will change my plans to accommodate different needs. For instance, I have a good friend who is a vegetarian. Our diets are almost the exact opposite of the other. She eats grains, soy, sugar and dairy, but no meat. And meat is almost always in the center of my savory meals. So while we can both chow down on some vegetables, and do, I like to keep things simple, and so I tend to invite her and her fiance over for dessert.

Dessert is something we can both eat and enjoy. There is no haggling or anxiety over what to make, or if there is enough food for her. I would really hate to not have enough or the right kind of food for her. And I wouldn’t want to put her in a situation where I’ve made a roast chicken, sweet potatoes, and broccoli and only feed her the potatoes and broccoli. That’s not the whole meal, that’s part of it. It’s easier (and more enjoyable) to skip the whole thing entirely and just eat some chocolate together.

For instance, at a game night I might make a mango smoothie and some vegan chocolate mousse with berries. That way we all get to eat together, no one feels left out, and all have a great time racing against time to save the world from disease. Basically, everyone wins.

Zokos: What is your favorite cocktail to serve at a dinner party? How many is the
perfect number of them?

I like bringing drinks that can be alcoholic or not depending on what kind of mood you’re in. Lately, I’ve been making my own lemonade and bringing that to parties. While squeezing enough lemons to get a cup of lemon juice requires a little work, it’s totally worth it. I don’t drink much, but I’ve been told that it is super tasty with a little vodka or tequila.

As for the number of drinks, I think a good guide would be to drink enough to get a little loose, but not so much that you start hugging other girl’s boyfriends or crying about how much you love your platonic friends. So somewhere in between there is probably the ideal number.

Make your Tailgate a Tail-great

If it’s been a while since you’ve tailgated before a game or concert, I’ve got news for you: a small grill and a pack of hot dogs no longer cuts it.

At stadiums and arenas across the country people are bringing elaborate spreads, complete lawn furniture sets and even fully decked out buses, vans and fire engines (True story, you can get a used fire engine for $1500)!

Tailgating has become a way of life and almost as big of a deal as the event itself. It’s not uncommon to have 50,000+ people on any given Saturday or Sunday during football season and musicians like Jimmy Buffett and Dave Mathews have armies that follow them from city to city.

All this probably sounds pretty good to you but the million dollar question is who pays for all of this awesomeness? We told you a while back about losing $200 at a tailgate last year and that was just for a small get-together. This year we’re going to friend-fund our tailgates before the season starts so that doesn’t happen again. That way we can concentrate on having a good time instead of walking around hustling friends for money. Instead of an empty wallet and a mediocre event we’ll all pitch in so we can be the ones with the amazing feast.  Who knows, maybe we can scrounge up enough to buy one of these?

 

Zokos has you covered on collecting money and organizing the party so why not get an early start on the season and create an event right now?  If you’re looking for a few extra hints on preparation, check out 9 great suggestions below from our friends at Chow.com

1. Research the site: Are you even allowed to tailgate there? If you want to grill, can you use an open flame?

2. Check the time: When do the gates open, and when do you want to be in your seat watching the event? Don’t try to make a slow-cooked pork shoulder if you only have a few hours before the game. If you have a two-hour window of time, choose fast-grilling items like sausages, shish kebabs, or flank steak. Remember that you’ll also need to factor in time to heat up the grill, especially if you’re using charcoal.

3. Finger food always rules: It’s easy to eat standing up and leaves one hand free for fist-pumping. Plus you’ll have less trash if you’re only using napkins. Hot dogs, chips and dips, cut-up vegetables, quesadillas—anything that doesn’t have to go on a plate is fair game.

4. Don’t cheap out on coolers: You should have at least two—one for food and one for drinks, so people aren’t rummaging around the bloody bags of meat to get a beer.

5. Don’t be a moocher: Essentials that are often overlooked are plenty of napkins, extra fuel, lighters, bottle openers, sanitizing wipes for whoever is handling the meat, extra bags of ice, trash/recycling bags, extra clean bags for leftovers, and extra water for hand-washing. Don’t forget basic grilling tools, too: tongs, foil for keeping things warm (plus it doubles as a grill brush in a pinch if you wad it up and rub it on the grill with your tongs), and a spatula.

6. Prep at home: That means more time to apply that face paint. Marinate kebabs, cut up vegetables for dippin’, make your dips and sauces, form your burger patties, and soak your wooden skewers (so they don’t catch fire on the grill). If you’re serving cocktails, mix up batches in advance so you’ll just have to add ice and/or club soda on-site.

7. Pack smart: You don’t want to end up with watery wings and contaminated side dishes. Use resealable plastic bags for marinating meats, as well as for fruit, vegetables, frozen things, sausages, and hot dogs. Use resealable containers for anything crushable—dips, sauces, and salads. If your containers don’t seal tightly, wrap plastic wrap around them. Pack the food cooler right: Raw meat goes on the bottom, vegetables on top. Given that, try to pack things in the reverse order that you will be using them—i.e., snacks on top, side dishes below that—so you don’t have to dig around.

8. Don’t forget the most important thing: But if you do, here’s how to open a beer with (a) a pen; (b) a piece of paper; (c) your forearm; (d) a carabiner; or (e) another beer. And if you’re bringing a keg, here’s how to tap it.

9. The food’s also pretty important. Check out our full gallery of tailgating recipes with all the fuel you need for a good parking lot party. Some highlights: Ginger Mojitos for a CrowdGrilled Maple-Mustard Chicken WingsGrilled Steak QuesadillasGrilled Shrimp-Boil Skewers, thePerfect CheeseburgerCelery and Olive Orzo Salad, and S’more Bars.

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About Zokos:  Zokos helps you have better events more often by friend-funding.  A host sets a goal amount and a maximum and how much they’d like their friends to chip-in. If the minimum is reached the party is on and money gets transferred directly to the host through PayPal or WePay.  If not, the host is off the hook and avoids a bad party. 

Cooks for the Cure + Midnight Brunch

Recently, I was given the amazing opportunity to check out a Midnight Brunch. Midnight Brunch? Ya. Crazy right? Though I have known Emily who runs Midnight Brunch for a while, I have never been able to attend one of her famous events – they are pricey!  Well last Thursday, I found out why they’re so pricey, because they are decadent and super fun.  How was I able to go you ask? Well, Kitchenaid and their Cooks for the Cure campaign made it possible.  Cooks for the Cure is a program that “gives people with a passion for cooking a way to support the fight against breast cancer.”  The program inspires people who love to cook to throw fundraiser dinners (a perfect use for Zokos) and engage in other fundraising activities to support the Susan G. Komen foundation.

In addition to Emily’s amazing cooking I got the chance to hang with some old friends and some new ones like Yvo of Feisty Foodie (pictured above)!  Here at Zokos, we were inspired by such an amazing event and the partnership between Midnight Brunch and Kitchenaid. It was a wonderful model for how us in the food world can use our talents for cooking and throwing parties for good!

To see more photos of our recent fundraiser with City Harvest check out the Facebook Gallery.

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