Dinner parties are divine, but hosting them is torture. Those who claim to enjoy it—embracing the esoteric art of menu planning, wine selection, table-scaping, and then suffering over the stove top—are surely the kind of self-flagellating fools who do it professionally (Instagram influencers, aspiring Instagram influencers, Martha Stewart).
For the rest of us, there’s Party by Numbers, a new entertaining start-up that brings everything one needs—and we mean everything—to one’s home, neatly organized in a stylish midcentury bar cart.
It’s the kind of thing that seems too good to be true, so I tried it in hopes of being disappointed. It requires answering only four questions: Number of guests? Look? Level of service? Any add-ons, such as more wine or perhaps a plate of churros? And so I commanded dinner for eight, the Italian “Sorrento” menu, and the “Indulge” level of service, which includes four varieties of hors d’oeuvres, a healthy dinner, sparkling water, and two magnums of fancy French rosé. Oh, and there are also ready-to-pour cocktails, complete with garnish, but please, don’t make our mistake and empty the carafe.
The cost of such splendor is $190 per person, which I hoped would seem like a total rip-off so I could revert back to my usual entertaining formula of overbaking gougères and underseasoning salmon while swilling not-quite-chilled Chablis and wondering why in the hell I even do this.
But the professionals behind Party by Numbers won this psychic battle handily. The brainchild of the Gathery, an event-design firm founded by Nicky Balestrieri and Luigi Tadini, and Pinch Food Design, a New York–based caterer known for its work with the persnickety fashion set, Party by Numbers is a snobbish operation in the best sense of the word.
The cart, inspired by the functionality of an airline trolley, was designed by Bednark Studio. Jered’s Pottery makes the beautiful serving dishes that made me want to jettison my Sur La Table stuff out the window. Arquiste Parfumeur developed a scented candle to accompany the experience, while a music collective called Les Filles handles the playlists, accessible by QR code and executed on a portable, fully charged Bose speaker.
My cart was delivered around four p.m. on a Friday by the friendliest possible gentlemen, who smiled their way through the sodden downpour raging around us. I opened the instruction manual, and with the help of a friend, who shares my attitude toward entertaining but executes it all with much more panache, we got cracking.
Party by Numbers, a new entertaining start-up, brings everything one needs—and we mean everything—to one’s home, neatly organized in a stylish midcentury bar cart.
Sixty minutes was required for assembly, and the origami-esque instructions laid out every step of the minutiae-driven process. When we started unpacking the cart, we discovered why they were so involved. There was a gobsmacking amount of food. The table linens looked suspiciously like the $400 set from Summerill & Bishop that I’d been eyeing. Tin Can Studios’ arrangements of anemone, olive branches, and lemons would put 95 percent of Manhattan florists to shame. There were linen napkins of all varieties, and even globe lights, for heaven’s sake. And what’s this—a bucket of frozen-solid ice cubes?
We were so giddy—and there was such an embarrassment of food—that we added two plates to the table and summoned more friends. Then we started drinking, just to make sure the specialty cocktail wasn’t poison. Good thing that the entire menu—including stuffed polenta with zucchini ragù and garlic gel, Pecorino-farro-vegetable salad with pesto drizzle and Calabrian chili oil—could be served at room temperature, although we did manage to heat up the calzone with brussels sprouts, ricotta, and marinara powder to delicious effect.
For once, my lipstick was properly applied by the time my guests arrived. The cart, as the ultimate conversation piece, ensured that the party was a complete success even before it fell into full swing.
And, best of all, the post-party mess went right back into the cart after dessert, no dishwashing required. Around 11 a.m. the next day, the same friendly gentlemen arrived and simply made it all disappear.
I suppose, for the sake of my savings account, I’ll have to assume my former duties at least on occasion. But those who are tempted to try Party by Numbers should be warned: it’s as addictive as those calzone.
Ashley Baker is the Style Editor for Air Mail