This Year's Dinners

2016 Literary Feast Dinners
V = vegetarian friendly / P = pescatarian friendly / G = Gluten Free
M = meat lovers only

1. The Old Gringo – Carlos Fuentes
Fuentes’ novel tells the story of an American writer who mysteriously disappears during the Mexican Revolution while living among Pancho Villa’s soldiers. If you’re a fan of Mexican and pan-Latin cuisine, you may well lose yourself in this mouth-watering feast featuring mostly seafood and lots and lots of avocados! Buen provecho! P

2. Back to Bologna – Michael Dibdin
Inspector Aurelio Zen is puzzling over a murder committed with a confusion of different weapons—including a Parmesan knife—but there’s no mystery about the menu at this multi-course feast, which will include a dish of rich ragù Bolognese and some great Italian wines. Shaved Parmesan, signore? Better watch your back!

3. My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
The two friends from Naples whose story inspired this feast may have grown up poor, but that’s no reason to skimp. From a generous antipasti to a pasta first course, polpette (meatballs) as the main event, and a torta caprese (flourless dark chocolate cake), this Neapolitan menu is abbondanza! M

4. The Life and Death of Dith Pran – Sydney H. Schanberg
Steam-cooked fish “amok,” the national dish of Cambodian, will “Angkor” this exotic feast based on a book about a survivor of the fall of Phnom Penh. The spicy menu will also include Khmer beef salad, marinated and tossed with herbs and vegetables, and an assortment of Cambodian curries. G

5. Chang and Eng – Darrin Strauss
Join your hosts for a culinary trip around the world based on the real-life travels of the original Siamese twins. Start with Asian delicacies, sample the finest Continental cuisine of London, and end with home-cooked Southern food fit for a pair of farmers in the antebellum South. Come attached—or unattached!

6. 32 Yolks – Eric Ripert
A kid from the South of France, told that boys had no place in the kitchen, grew up to become a world-renowned chef. Enjoy the fruits of his revenge with a fresh, simple meal more reflective of his beloved Côte d’Azur than of his fancy-schmancy restaurants in New York and Paris.

7. The Alchemist – Paolo Coelho
Santiago thought he had to travel far and wide to find his treasure. If only the Andalusian shepherd had known about this feast, which offers a bounty of Spanish and Moroccan dishes, including leg of lamb, paella, a variety of salads, and refreshing sangria. This one’s worth its weight in gold!

8. The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
Amy Tan’s classic tale of mothers and daughters inspires this Chinese feast that will include simmering hot pots, fat little dumplings, and plenty of vegetarian options. This one is bound to bring you both joy and luck! (The ability to play mahjongg is not required.) M/V

9.  Heat – Bill Buford
You’ll really warm up to this Italian feast inspired by superstar chef Mario Batali. The menu includes antipasti with olives, charcuterie, cheese, and crostini; handmade pasta; meat, risotto and vegetables; insalata di rucola; and varied dolci, served with Italian prosecco and red and white wines. Molto caldo! M

10. Blue Latitudes – Tony Horwitz
Sail the South Seas with this pan-Asian feast inspired by the story of a reporter who signed aboard a replica of Captain Cook’s ship. Your epic voyage of discovery will include Vietnamese salad, chicken and fish kebabs, and Malaysian cabbage and ginger salad. Avast and feast here! P

11.  News from Tartary – Peter Fleming
A Swiss adventurer and British journalist’s trek across Central Asia inspires this mixed feast, which sets off with British and Swiss cheese munchies, wanders through Chinese dumplings, and follows the Silk Road to disembark at a slightly spicy Xinjiang dish called “Big Plate Chicken” and a Chinese seafood dish. M

12. Children of the New World – Alexander Weinstein
What will the future bring? Out of control social media, eerily humanoid robots, virtual reality games that insert monsters into museums and cemeteries (oh, wait…)? Come see what pops up at this cutting-edge feast, which will include broiled fish with succulent sauce, seasonal organic vegetables, wild rice pilaf, and salad. P/V/G

13. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Márquez
Welcome to Macondo, the fictional setting for this classic novel by the Colombian master of magical realism. Your South American paella-and-tapas feast will include pan con tomate (seasoned tomato puree on toasted baguette), gazpacho, fish ceviche, paella with mussels, chorizo, chicken, and vegetables, grilled asparagus wrapped in jamón Serrano, and sangria.

14. Brooklyn – Colm Toibin
You can take the girl out of Ireland, but… When Eilis Lacey left Enniscorthy for opportunities in Brooklyn, she never forgot the tastes of home. Drawing inspiration from the fields and rivers of Ireland, this feast features a duo of Irish soups, Shepherd's Pie (vegetarian version), wild mushroom tartlets, salads and more. V

15. Kitchens of the Great Midwest – J. Ryan Stradal
Snag yourself a seat at this feast, based on a novel about a chef whose pop-up supper club becomes the most coveted reservation in the country. Enjoy French onion soup, Eva’s famous Caesar salad, pan-seared walleye, garlic studded pork shoulder, sweetcorn succotash with string beans, honey-crisp applesauce, and Pam Prager’s peanut butter bars. M

16. Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers' Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm – Forrest Pritchard
This locavore’s delight offers a seasonal farm-to-table menu, with sustainably and humanely raised meats and hand-made pasta sourced from Smith Meadows, the author's farm in Berryville, VA. You’ll also feast on cured meats, local cheeses, and fermented and fresh vegetables sourced from local farms and DC-based small businesses. M

17. The Mistress of Spices – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
In this novel, a woman trained in the ancient art of spices must choose between immortality and romance with a handsome stranger. Happily, your choice will be much easier. Pick this zesty feast of traditional Indian cuisine and you’ll find much to savor, whether masala, tikki, biryani, or tandoori. V

18. The Martian – Andy Weir
What do they eat on Mars? If you’re a stranded astronaut, it’s potatoes, potatoes, potatoes. This feast, which starts with dry ice cocktails and “mission prep” appetizers, will feature loaded baked potato soup, latkes, and gnocci with meat or vegetarian sauce.  This one is definitely out of this world!  V

19. The Collected Works of Dr. Seuss – Theodore Geisel
Will it be green eggs and ham? Will they serve a rack of lamb? What will show up on your dish? Will you have a stew or fish? Maybe there will be roast beast? That would be a Seuss-like feast. All we know is it’s a winner. Grinches will not spoil this dinner!

20. La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind – Beppi Severgnini
Discover the real Italy behind the seductive tourist façade--“la bella figura”—by taking a culinary trip across the country with a feast plentiful in meat, fish and vegetable dishes—as well as pasta and bread—all prepared in the traditional ways treasured by paisanos from every region. M

21. The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles
Unlike the Americans in this novel, adrift in the deserts of North Africa, you’ll suffer no culture clash at this feast, which offers a comforting saffron-infused harira (a traditional soup of lentils, chickpeas, rice, herbs, spices, and meat), and other Algerian/Moroccan specialties such as couscous, spiced olives, and lamb tagine. M

22. The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown
The crew from the University of Washington had to row their way to glory at the 1936 Olympics, but all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the bounty of Seattle: salmon, wild rice, wine from the Columbia River valley, and a treat made from the huckleberries that grow wild there. P

23. The Glory of My Father – Marcel Pagnol
This author’s Provençal childhood is the stuff of movies, sun-drenched and redolent with the scent of olives, thyme, seafood—and savory dishes such as bourride, a Marseille-style fish stew thickened with a pungent garlic and olive oil aïoli and perfumed with saffron and white wine. C’est bon ça! P

24. The Hundred-Foot Journey – Richard C. Morais
Tag along with Hassan Haji, born above a curry restaurant in Mumbai, whose family opens an Indian restaurant in the French Alps opposite the auberge of a famed French chef. Spice meets herbe in this multi-culti feast, where your hors d’oeuvres will be Indian and your dinner French (most likely chicken). M

25. Alexander Hamilton – Ron Chernow
Step this way, sirrah, to a colonial repast replicating the dinner menu when Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison hashed out the Compromise of 1790. The Founding Fathers dined on salads, capon stuffed with Virginia ham, beef stew, French wines, and Revolutionary-era cocktails. No Broadway ticket required. “Huzzah” for this feast! M

26. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love – Oscar Hijeulos
The Castillo brothers made their way from Havana to the dance clubs of New York, where their music made them the kings. This royal feast will feature the cuisine of their native Cuba, with its unique blend of Spanish, African, and Caribbean flavors, and its tropical fruits, root vegetables, rice, and beans. M

27. The Whiskey Rebels – David Liss
Rise up and seize this colonial feast that spans Pennsylvania, from the whiskey-making frontier of Pittsburgh to the Pepper Pot Soups of Philadelphia. The hearty bill of fare will include meat pies, salted fish, and pickled vegetables, all washed down with the finest (taxed!) whiskey Capitol Hill has to offer. M

28. In Other Words – Jhumpa Lahiri
The author was so captivated by the Italian language during an early visit to Florence that she moved from India to Rome for a “trial by fire.” This feast will rise to her fiery challenge, offering the best of both Indian and Italian cuisines made with the freshest of local ingredients. P/V

29The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
Giving a nod to the settings and characters in the prize-winning novel, this menu will range from New York to the Southwest, with a little bit of Russia thrown in. The entrée will be meat or fish, but rest assured: no finches will be destroyed in the making of this feast. M/P

30. A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams
Hop on board for this feast that will feature favorites from the French Quarter of New Orleans, known for its gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée, and jazzy hospitality. No need to rely on the kindness of strangers here; just sit back and laissez les bon temps rouler with your new friends!

31. The Story of San Michele – Axel Munthe
Drawing on the rich culinary heritage of Capri and the towns along the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy, this feast will offer homemade pasta, fish from the Mediterranean, fresh cheeses and vegetables, wines from the ancient vineyards of Campania, limoncello from Sorrento—and, of course, pizza from Napoli! P

32. The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
Nothing diminutive about this feast, which will offer a veritable bounty of flavorful, aromatic Indian dishes. The menu will include butter chicken, shrimp curry, lentils, cauliflower with onion and tomato, naan—and, of course, a bracing chutney to freshen your palate. This one may be the answer to your prayers! V

33. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
This feast evokes a colorful fall day in New England, highlighting seasonal vegetables in a menu of roasted tomato soup, hearty green salad, cider, and a selection of savory galettes made with butternut squash and sage, wild mushroom, and onion and fig. Put a big red “A” next to this one! V

34. The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
What could capture the repression of Midwestern family anxiety better than an all-American menu of steak, potatoes, and flowing libations? Join your hosts for some modern twists on traditional flavors—and enjoy all the fun of a dinner party without the family reunion drama and angst! M

35. All the President’s Men – Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
In honor of this fall’s Presidential election, join us for a feast of American fare inspired by the culinary habits of past residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Will it be George Washington’s cherries, Jimmy Carter’s peanuts, JFK’s clam “chowdah,” or Ronald Reagan’s mac ‘n’ cheese? We vote for connoisseur Thomas Jefferson’s wines! M/V

36. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Join Jake Barnes, Lady Brett Ashley, and the rest of the Lost Generation expatriates for a Spanish-themed feast that’s heavy on the tapas—and, happily, light on the post-war disillusionment. The main course will feature a piquant fire-roasted paella with meat and fish. And that’s no bull.

37. First Stop in the New World – David Lida
You won’t need a second stop after this hearty made-from-scratch Mexican feast. Start with tequila, mezcal or fresh juices, and proceed to centuries-old recipes for Yucatan slow-cooked pork, Oaxaca mole, Mexico City-style tacos with fresh salsas and chopped vegetable toppings, and handmade corn tortillas. Viva Mexico! M

38. Surprise Me!