Inspiration: Secret Suppers

Not quite a potluck, definitely more high brow than a picnic, and more exciting than a meal in a restaurant, the renegade supper club is part of a growing trend of food lovers gathering in fields, warehouses, and private homes to have a one-night-only dining experience. We just read this article from Garden & Gun, a new magazine about Southern culture based in Charleston, and the photographs alone have us contemplating how to pull off our own secret supper in Central Park...

In essence, it's a dinner party. But with most of these events, the dishes—usually prepared by a chef who's part of the draw—are made to highlight local ingredients and show off the indigenous cuisine. There are no set rules as to how guests are invited; it may be word of mouth among a group of friends or an email list with a first-come, first-serve reservation policy.

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The party featured in Garden & Gun took place outside of Austin, and the article claims that these roving culinary evenings are really taking off in the South. But we've been hearing about them in the city, too. Outstanding in the Field is one organization, started by chef Jim Denevan, that hosts farm-style dinners (think long wooden tables, white tablecloths, and wildflowers) in open spaces from Vancouver to Queens.

Outstanding in the Field's dinners are expensive (from $180 to $220 a person); you're paying for the experience of meeting local food advocates and undoubtedly eating a very good meal. But we think the idea could be easily adapted on a smaller scale for the home cook. Find an outdoor space and throw a party with other food lovers, maybe even some you've never met. You can keep the location a secret until the day before, or just treat the whole evening like a down home dinner party, with a focus on local ingredients and dishes served family-style.

The story describes these dinners like pop-up restaurants, but you don't have to be a chef. The fun is having a special scene just appear out of nowhere—and to go home full and happy.

• Read the article: Secret Suppers, at Garden & Gun (Click on "Photos & Videos" at the top of the page to see a full slideshow.)
• Visit Outstanding in the Field.

Related: Easy Entertaining: Throwing a Spontaneous Dinner Party

(Images: Peter Frank Edwards for Garden & Gun)