PHOTO BY ANDREW BEARDSWORTH
bigLITTLE Get Together, established in 2006 by Flannery Klette-Kolton and Lauren Gerrie, is a series of roving dinner parties based on the simple premise that food has the power to excite. For the last two years the pair have channeled the concentrated attention from their personal chef and catering business into tailored, five-course meals, each inspired by a film or television show. While there's plenty of underground food activity in New York, bigLITTLE is distinguished not just by the memorable food, but also by devotion to thematic detail (yes, those are Lucky Strike cigarettes on the Mad Men-inspired table).
Klette-Kolton and Gerrie entertain with thoughtful care and cook with a combination of analytic precision and emotional sentiment (that feta foam on top of your sliced watermelon isn't just technically impressive, it tastes like a wave). They spend time developing cohesive, whimsical menus including dishes like a Bone Plate for their American Psycho dinner that consisted of a white bean puree, white asparagus, a perfect poached pheasant egg and almond dust. They find great spaces—that Bone Plate matched the white shag rug in a 1980s-decorated apartment—and arrange evocative settings (for American Psycho, the table was outfit with the New York Times Styles section and adorned with power tools). Then they prepare something for you to take home when you leave the party.
I sat down with the Ladies recently to talk about what goes into their parties, what's coming up, what goes into making them the very thematic them:
JULIA TURSHEN: Your dinners draw mainly from film and television. How do you choose the theme?
bigLITTLE: Before we choose the movie or show, we choose the space. Then we match a theme to the space. When we did our "Dorsia" dinner inspired by American Psycho, we were using a friend's apartment in the East 20s with a white shag carpet.
PHOTO BY FARHAD PARSA
TURSHEN: How does the menu develop?
bigLITTLE: First we re-watch the movie or the show. Sometimes it's easy—for Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal's infamous line, "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti" is a direct influence on the menu. There are dishes that are more indirectly influenced-like the sauce for our fish in our American Psycho dinner. It was a cherry and Lambrusco reduction that had the effect of splattered blood on the plate. For our Mad Men dinner, we looked into the era's food history-we had to do something with crab and avocado, we had to have cocktails. It was an era of must-haves and we got to do our spin on them.
TURSHEN: Do you tap into your circle of chef, sommelier, farmer, friends when you're working on a menu?
bigLITTLE: Definitely. For the Mad Men cocktails, for example, our friend Gianfranco Verga of Louis 649 Bar helped us perfect martinis and Manhattans. Kerin Auth, who runs Tinto Fino, helped with our wine pairings.
TURSHEN: What's the desiredeffect of the themed menus on your guests?
bigLITTLE: The effect is like a familiar mystery. It's a lot to ask people to show up to something unknown [menus are not revealed before the dinners], but when the meal is tagged to a theme, senses get heightened, and people are more inclined to try new things. Since we ask people to dress-up according to the theme the evenings become transformative. At our Mad Men party, people carried themselves differently. Each male guest reclined like Don Draper, their body language era-appropriate. For guests who don't know each other, the theme is like an ice breaker.
TURSHEN: What's coming up in 2010?
bigLITTLE: This Thursday, January 21, is "Pack Your Speedos!" a five-course dinner inspired by Wes Anderson's films. We're spending all of February in California, in Los Angeles and Orange County. We want to go where the produce is good and experience ingredients in their natural environment. There's only so much you can do in New York with kale and apples for three months. We're excited about avocadoes and kumquats! We're hoping to do more casual events in the spring—get a keg and a few racks of ribs, that sort of thing.