Going out to dinner is fun. But you know what’s even more fun? Not going out. Instead, consider inviting over a group of your nearest and dearest, and settling in for a new-fashioned dinner party. Inspired by chef Mina Stone (official dinner partier for Urs Fischer and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, among others) and her very excellent cookbook Cooking for Artists, we decided to try something new with this week’s Top Shelf After Dark by adding a little hosting advice, to taste.
“After I graduated from college, I started working as a cook for a family on the Upper East Side just to support myself. It’s a long story, but I ended up meeting a woman who was the [Gallery] Director at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. She was like, can you come cook a dinner for 40 people at this gallery? I was like ‘...!’ I had no idea about the art world, and I was just 24, but I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ It was supposed to be a dinner modeled after a French artist who used to make dealers sit for dinner, so I decided to make a French dish—chicken bouillabaisse. That was 10 years ago, it turned out OK, and I’ve been cooking at the gallery ever since. That’s how I met Urs Fisher, whom I’ve been cooking for for the past six years and who wrote the foreword to my book.
All the recipes in the book are very simple—I was actually really insecure about it because I thought that people would be like, ‘Is this a joke?’ But in the end, they’re really approachable. This woman threw a dinner party in honor of my book and I went to her house and cooked for 12 women—one of them was Brooke Shields. I was scared that the food wouldn’t come out perfect, but the stars aligned and everything was really good. I think it’s a little spiritual, but you have to let go of that fear that you’re not going to make something that’s good because it’s just food. I mean, maybe it could go really, really bad but nobody ultimately cares. They’re just happy to hang out.
I think that stew is the key to entertaining. [Laughs] I just feel like women all over the world forever have fed 20-30 people without batting an eye, and it’s because it all goes into one pot. So tonight we’re making a Greek lentil soup with cinnamon and cloves. The [other key] is being attentive to what people need and making them feel comfortable. I’m half Greek and I think that’s very a very Greek thing to do—when you insist a little too much. Like, are you sure you don’t want water? Are you sure you don’t want more?
When I’m throwing a dinner party, I like to make everything ahead of time and then take a shower and be relaxed. To wash my hair, I use Shikai Natural Everyday Shampoo from Whole Foods and Aveda Shampure Conditioner. I love the way the Aveda smells… I don’t even know how well it works, I just love how it smells. I find it so relaxing. I also like Bottega Organica Nourishing Vanilla Body Oil. The soap that I use is called Cool Soap—it’s from Aegina in Greece. They’re olive oil soaps with different herbal essences in them. I always go to Greece and bring back soaps and deodorants because they all smell better, they have that Euro scent. Klorane Deodorant really works. They’re all so cheap in Europe. Here, they’re so expensive.
Skincare is important when I’m cooking because there’s all this steam and fat and things like that, and on one hand I want a cleanser that’s really strong, and it has to foam and make me feel clean, and then on the other hand I need to have like a creamy, non-drying one for when I’m not cooking and my skin dries out. I like Earth Tu Face’s Palmarosa and Aloe Face Wash post-job, and it smells amazing, or I’ll use the heavier Vichy Purete Thermale Softening Exfoliating Cream. Luzern Force de Vie Pure Oxygen Crème Luxe is my moisturizer, but I also swear by this Dr. Alkaitis Organic Nourishing Treatment Oil. It just works. At night, I like Bottega Organica Face Balance Cream. It’s so rich and good. It smells earthy, but I like those scents.
If I wear makeup, I wear Face Stockholm, but you can’t find it anywhere. I’ll wear their Picture Perfect Foundation if my skin’s looking bad and I’m going out. But if I’m working, bare face. Tonight I’m wearing Nars Audacious Lipstick in Charlotte, but I love all of the Face lipsticks, too.
I like to wear really loud, one-piece garments—it works because I just slip it on and don’t have to think. My friend in Athens has this place called Vintage Darling, and she takes appointments out of her home, but she has the most amazing things. This past holiday I got an Ungaro dress from the ‘70s for a hundred bucks. It made me appreciate fashion again. I also love Rodebjer—just something statement-y and bright.
I do the dishes as I go, so [after dinner] I’ll just take a shower and go to bed...if I manage to take a shower. I like going to take a hot yoga class the next day, because I like stretching out and getting all the food smells out. It gets in there! Isn’t that funny? Different people’s bodies hold on to those smells. So I do hot yoga. It’s all about balance to some degree, right? You work hard, so you relax hard.”
—as told to ITG
Mina Stone's Faki (Greek Lentil Soup with Cinnamon and Cloves) from Cooking For Artists
* 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
* 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
* 1 pound green or black lentils, rinsed
* 2 whole bay leaves
* 1 cinnamon stick
* 2 whole cloves
* 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
* 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 14.5-ounce can of diced or pureed tomatoes
* salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 2–3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (optional)
In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Stir occasionally and sauté until the onions start to soften and become translucent, about six minutes. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cloves, and pepper flakes to the onion and garlic. Sauté a minute longer until the spices become fragrant.
Add the lentils, tomatoes, and enough water so that the ingredients are covered by three inches of liquid in the pot. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil, then simmer the soup half-covered with a lid for about 40 minutes until the lentils are tender and the soup is thick. If you feel the soup is too thick, add more water, a cup at a time.
When the soup has finished cooking, add another generous drizzle of olive oil at the end and stir to incorporate. (This is my grandma’s trick—she likes the olive oil to be uncooked whenever possible.) Fish out the two bay leaves and discard.
Let the soup sit for 30 minutes and then taste it for seasoning.
I like faki plain, but others prefer it with vinegar or hot sauce. If you like before serving, you can add in a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar or a dash of hot sauce.
Mina Stone photographed by Tom Newton at her home in Brooklyn on February 4, 2016.