This Year's Dinners
V = vegetarian friendly
P = pescatarian friendly
G = gluten free
1. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
While it’s not exactly the Spanish civil war, Chef José Andrés has been waging a battle of his own against a certain hotel owner. No contention here, though: this dinner showcasing his signature tapas such as patatas bravas, confit of piquillo peppers, and marinated tuna cubes, as well as seafood paella, will be amazing! P
2. Signs Preceding the End of the World – Yuri Herrera
Join a border crossing journey from Mexico to the US for this dinner of traditional taco favorites from various regions of our neighbor to the south, featuring hand-made tortillas, beef and pork fillings, vibrant salads and veggies, tequila and mezcal. ¿Quien quiere un caballito?
3. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
There’s no escaping it! This Mediterranean-inspired meal, which pays homage to the isle of Monte Cristo, fabled home to monks, pirates, saints—and, of course, an infamous prison—will capture your attention. The arresting menu will feature a vegetarian appetizer and entrée as well as a selection of seafood. P
4. My Life in France – Julia Child
When Julia Child arrived in France in 1948, she couldn’t cook and didn’t even speak the language. Ooh la la, how things changed! Toast her newfound passion for French cuisine with some champagne, followed by a classic meal of onion soup, boeuf bourguignon with potatoes, peas, salad, red wine, and brandy.
5. Red Sparrow – Jason Matthews
The collision of a “sparrow,” a Russian agent trained in the art of seduction, and a CIA intelligence officer sets the stage for this international feast whose dishes rely on locally sourced ingredients and whose intriguing menu crisscrosses the world, savoring tastes from Moscow, Helsinki, Rome, and Athens… tempting for both carnivores and vegetarians of all nations. V
6. Shoe Dog – Phil Knight
Make tracks to this feast based on the memoir of the West Coast founder and board chairman of Nike, known as the man behind the swoosh, and you’ll enjoy a dashing menu featuring Pacific Northwest salmon, wild rice, fresh vegetables, and wine from Oregon. Just do it! P
7. Typee – Herman Melville
Come ashore and don your lava-lava for this traditional feast from the kingdom of Tonga, featuring fish in coconut cream (ika lolo’ia); roasted taros, yams and plantains (haku tunu); local-style ceviche (ota ika); pork roasted in packets of taro leaves with coconut and aromatics (lu puaka tunu); and Tongan vanilla ice cream.
8. The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein
“Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.” Come feast on the fruits of this apple-based menu, which features succulent dishes of pork and chicken served with calvados apple brandy. Have all you want. No, really. It will make the tree very, very happy.
9. All the Odes – Pablo Neruda
The prolific Nobel laureate wrote an ode to his socks as well as to at least 19 foods, including artichokes, oranges, onions, tomatoes, chestnuts, apples, corn, olive oil, fried potatoes, and tuna. This feast will take its poetic inspiration from those odes, with Chilean dishes prepared using the ingredients Neruda lauded in verse. Buen provecho! P
10. A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
In 1922, an unrepentant aristocrat is sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. He can’t leave his hotel—but who would want to, especially if it served the elegant Russian menu presented in this feast of vodka, caviar, borscht, and stroganoff? Na zdrovie!
11. The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island – Linda Greenlaw
After swordboat captain Linda Greenlaw chugged off at the end of “The Perfect Storm,” she moved back to her home island off the coast of Maine to take up lobstering. Her story inspires this feast from Down East that includes lobsters, mussels, clams, and the bounty of Maine’s gardens and vineyards. P
12. Bruno, Chief of Police – Martin Walker
As a policeman in a small village in southwest France, Bruno has more occasion to whip up truffle omelettes than solve crimes, but he brings a certain savoir faire to both. This menu capitalizes on the rustic cooking of his region: salmon rillettes, pate, Roquefort cheese and Porc Frais au Lait.
13. War and Turpentine – Stefan Hertmans
A Flemish novelist’s book about the reminiscences of his grandfather, a painter who served in the Belgian Army in World War I, inspires this distinctive feast of watercress soup, potato gratin, waterzooi, endive salad, moules marinières and frites, celery root salad, beet salad and, of course, Brussels sprouts and beer.
14. Paradise of the Blind – Duong Huong
Based on the saga of three women in post-war Vietnam, this feast samples the balance of flavors and textures in traditional Vietnamese cuisine, offering such dishes as baby mustard green rolls, beef & peanut carpaccio, spicy pineapple salad, sweet potato curry, caramel fish or pork, and/or fresh tuna in banana leaves.
15. Out of Egypt – André Aciman
The colorful memoir of a flamboyant Jewish family in Alexandria provides the backdrop for this Middle Eastern feast of authentic Israeli home-made hummus, savory chicken and rice flavored with cardamom, lemon, cilantro, turmeric, and cloves (can’t you just smell those spices?), a tangy salad, and sweet vegetables. To your pleasure and health!
16. Our Man in Havana – Graham Greene
This espionage thriller cum political satire about a hapless vacuum-cleaner salesman pressed by economic necessity into becoming a secret agent provides the basis for a feast of Cuban delicacies, including ropa vieja (slow-cooked beef with vegetables), and Cuban sandwich sliders, topped off by refreshing mojitos.
17. All the King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
Willie Stark’s mouth would surely water at the thought of mint juleps, candied pecans, deviled eggs, baked cheddar crackers, shrimp cocktail, and this down-home New Orleans dinner of chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, and salad. No need to resist temptation. Sign up for this feast and it’s all yours for the taking.
18. Gourmet Rhapsody – Muriel Barbery
In the heart of Paris, a dying restaurant critic has a final wish: he wants one last taste of a sublime but elusive flavor par excellence. Happily, no impending demise is required to treat yourself to the very best that France has to offer at this vegetarian feast with a decidedly Gallic flair. V
19. Nutshell – Ian McEwan
This dinner's ingredients, like Nutshell's narrator, start their culinary journey hidden from view, silent observers. Shellfish, eggs, nuts, beans and other foodstuffs found inside shells, pods, skins, and casings will star in this feast of dishes such as crab strada and scallop-sausage noisette. A mystery smoothie may even emerge—for those who dare. P
20. Common Sense – Thomas Paine
Here’s a feast celebrating something that’s far too scarce a commodity these days: good, sensible… Colonial American cooking! This Pennsylvania Dutch menu reflects the tastes prevalent in the Revolutionary War period and will feature meat, corn, potatoes, whiskey, and Madeira, as well as scintillating historical conversation and pithy bon mots.
21. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy
This story of a journey that traverses the Indian subcontinent gives rise to a feast guaranteed to create the utmost in culinary happiness. Based on the Gujarati cuisine of western India, known for its distinctive blend of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors, the menu will feature meat, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. V
22. The Sellout – Paul Beatty
A farm-to-table feast honors the roots this racial satire’s protagonist, who was born in an “agrarian ghetto” outside Los Angeles. The all-local menu will include a salad with fall fruits, vegetables, and cheese; horseradish-encrusted roast beef or prime rib; potatoes au gratin; Virginia wines and DC beers; and, true to the book, watermelon.
23. Blood and Beauty: The Borgias – Sarah Dunant
Enter the House of Borgia, where the noble family’s zest for life is reflected in this classical multi-course Italian dinner with native wines of intriguing complexity and felicitous for Renaissance popes, wannabe royalty—and, of course, Capitol Hill denizens (also no strangers to political intrigue). Just watch out for those rings!
24. We Do Our Part – Charles Peters
A survey of American history from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to today lays down the can-do spirit for a classic “meat-and-three,” an all-American meal that has been described as “glorious vittles served with utmost informality.” So do your part: pick your meat, pick your sides—and clean your plate!
25. The Fat Man from La Paz: Contemporary Fiction from Bolivia
Works by the stars of Bolivian literature illuminate this splendid feast featuring specialties of their native land such as mocochinchi (cold peach cider), chufly cocktails, salteñas, peanut soup, quinoa, mondongo (crispy pork in red aji chili sauce)—and, with a tip of the bowler to the fat man, plenty of chocolate!
26. Blood Pact and Other Stories – Mario Benedetti
Spend a virtual evening in Montevideo enjoying this feast of Uruguayan asado (barbeque), featuring appetizers, grilled meats and chorizo, provoleta (provolone cheese with herbs smoked and melted on the grill), grilled vegetables, fresh chimichurri sauce, salad, and big red wines from the Southern Cone (white ones, too). Anyone care to tango?
27. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis – Giorgio Bassani
Despite the solemnity of WWII era life in Italy, life is still being celebrated at the large Finzi-Contini estate. Let's enjoy an evening like the wealthy Finzi-Contini family and not allow gloom and doom to darken this evening, which will move decadently from apperitivi to ciccheti and insalata, followed by meat ravioli, tiramisu, and digestivi.
28. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
Poor Santiago can’t seem to catch a break. Maybe he should just land a seat at this feast instead, where he could dip into mojitos, avocado salad, mini cubano sandwiches, black bean soup, pork chops with sweet potatoes, caramelized plantains, rice and beans. Take the bait and join him! G
29. Queen Sugar – Natalie Baszile
When Charley Bordelon inherits a sugarcane farm, she and her daughter head to Louisiana to stake their claim—and to revel in the rich, spicy tastes of their newfound home. Join us for this Cajun-Creole feast of seafood and smoked Andouille gumbo, homemade biscuits, and buttermilk cucumber salad. Welcome to the Sugar State, y’all!
30. The Godfather – Mario Puzo
Who doesn’t like Sicilian cuisine, famous for its melt-in-your-mouth arancini (rice balls), tomato sausage pasta, spicy caponata, veal marsala, and, of course, those cannoli! So what are you waiting for? You want us to make you an offer you can’t refuse? C’mon, take that orange out of your mouth and mangia, mangia!
31. A Mango-Shaped Space – Wendy Mass
The teenaged heroine of his novel is able to see sounds, smell colors, and taste shapes. This feast would definitely put her in sensory overload, with its reliance on the fusion cuisine of the Caribbean, known for its seafood, plantains, jerk pork, and rice and beans—not to mention those ripe, shapely mangoes.
32. News of the World – Paulette Jiles
Join Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd on his errand of mercy as he travels through northern Texas to deliver a young captive back to her family. Happily, you’ll fare better than his camp-stove meals with a feast offering both beef and vegetarian chili, stove-top corn bread, salad, vegetables, and all the fixin’s. Plus some rustic tequila, beer, and wine (not from texas). V
33. The Chinese Love Pavilion – Paul Scott
In a nod to the author, sample some British cheese with your cocktail, then immerse yourself in the exotic flavors of Malaya, starting with chicken satay with peanut sauce and diving into a main course of both meat and fish with rice, all drenched in rich and spicy fish sauce, chili, garlic and herbs.
34. The Priest Fainted – Catherine Temma Davidson
You’ll be swooning over this feast based on a Greek-American author’s memories, myths, recipes, and family gossip. Expect a selection of mezze, including imam bayildi—the eggplant dish so delicious it is said to have caused a priest to faint—followed by moussaka, and served with Greek wines and ouzo.
35. A Year in Provence – Peter Mayle
We can’t offer you a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in Provence, but we can invite you to enjoy the earthy pleasures of a French-inspired menu featuring a meat entrée and an array of seasonal and local vegetable dishes from the garden and the CSA program, with a variety of paired wines made by the host.
36. Trail of the Lonesome Pine – John Fox, Jr.
A 1908 novel set in Appalachia provides the inspiration for this feast that includes cheese and crudités, and a beef entrée with roasted vegetables, accompanied by wines and maybe even a little moonshine to top off the evening—all of it 100% Virginian. Oh, Shenandoah, we long to taste you!
37. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Join Shadow and Mr. Wednesday on a road trip where each course reflects a food from the birthplace of the (new) American Gods. Enjoy libations before partaking of the Indian, African, Mediterranean, and Slavic/Nordic delicacies of the Old Gods...and beware the New Gods' attempts to disrupt the evening with electronics, pop culture, and conspiracy theories. V
38. Zorba the Greek – Nikos Kazantzakis
A spirited new interpretation of Greek classics characterizes this creative feast of spanakopita (spinach pie), pilafi me garides (shrimp with rice and tomatoes) spiked with ouzo and dill, traditional Greek salad, dolmades (with and without lamb), cheeses and wine. Greek dancing in the garden for those so inclined… metaxa liqueur finale to encourage those less inclined! P
39. The Shadow Land – Elizabeth Kostova
Journey to Sofia for a feast of Bulgarian specialties, steeped in Turkish and Greek influences but with a flavor all their own, including lozovi sarmi (stuffed grape leaves), shopska salata (cucumber, tomato, and Bulgarian feta), ciorbă (sour soup), roast lamb with grilled vegetables and, for dessert, kiselo mylako (sweetened yogurt).
40. Surprise Me!