In Brooklyn, a Honduran-inspired backyard dinner | ET REALITY


On a warm afternoon, shortly before her guests arrived, Cathleen O’Neil, 30, was stocking the bar for a dinner at her home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as her co-host, chef Feisal Lagos, 39. , was hastily putting the finishing touches on his handwritten menu. “The point,” he said, “is that people don’t realize you’re paying attention to those details.”

He and O’Neil, who last year founded the events company CONeil Productions, met through their work with the New York-based hospitality consultancy Care of Chan: Feisal, the chef’s former sous-chef and food stylist Camille Becerra, 51, often cooked at events; O’Neil did the production. During the pandemic, they missed the collaborative thrill of hosting and came up with the idea of ​​Regathering, a dinner series that would allow them to come together with their circle. Their first meal, in July 2021, was a celebration of the end of social distancing, held in the backyard of O’Neil’s apartment building. “We needed to get out and see our friends,” O’Neil said. “But we both also take what we do very seriously.” They served an ambitious menu of raw oysters with granita and grilled tilefish.

The purpose of the couple’s most recent dinner, their third, was to reconnect with their group during a busy year and celebrate each other’s creative efforts “on our own terms,” ​​Lagos said. (O’Neil had confirmed events with fashion brands Rosie Assoulin and Collina Strada; Lagos had cooked for Christy Turlington Burns’ nonprofit Every Mother Counts.) He and O’Neil invited friends not only to attend but also contribute: she brought everything from glassware to floral arrangements. Lagos prepared a family-style Honduran feast, an homage to the barbecues of his childhood (growing up, he spent summers in Honduras), and O’Neil prepared the patio of his building with a long zigzag of tables to seat 50 guests, hanging ropes. lights above them.

Lagos started cooking in the small kitchen of O’Neil’s 695-square-foot apartment and eventually moved to a portable Konro grill outside. After catching up over drinks, guests settled into their assigned seats with an air of quiet anticipation. Then, the atmosphere lightened, the evening progressed and the reggaeton, wine and conversation flowed late into the night.

The assistants: Among the guests were Becerra; recipe developer Pierce Abernathy, 29, who helped on the grill; Daniel de la Nuez, 42, co-owner of the Brooklyn-based Forthave Spirits distillery; drinks consultant and glassware designer Arley Marks, 39, who mixed a cocktail for the evening; food supply specialist Thalia Clark, 25, who helped supply supplies for the meal; photographer Kelsey Cherry, 33; and Matt Diaz, 37, co-owner of Brooklyn restaurant For All Things Good.

Table: O’Neil chose a mix of dinnerware from her personal collection and from her friends. “I never want him to feel too sterile,” he said. Florist April Johnson of New York-based studio Flowerpsycho created orb-shaped centerpieces from a giant purple allium and a green smoke bush. Material, a client of O’Neil’s and a cookware brand she prefers for events, provided linens, glasses and serving utensils in neutral tones. Marks lent sculptural colored glasses from her line, Mamo, for the evening, and a last-minute run through Ikea filled in some gaps. Each place setting had a card with her name handwritten on it, and when the sun set, candles lit the tables.

Food: “I wanted to represent Honduran cuisine very well,” said Lagos, who sourced the best seasonal ingredients available with Clark’s help. “This was the most satisfying meal I have ever cooked.” Dinner began with a familiar portion of crudités from Back Home Farm in High Falls, New York, along with a red snapper and black sea bass ceviche from Fjord Fish Market in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, served with crackers. Next came Lagos’ version of pan con bean (braised Rancho Gordo beans on a crusty baguette) and yuca con curtido, boiled yucca served with a crunchy, tangy cabbage slaw. The savory final dish was an elevated riff on the Honduran mixed plate known as plato tipica, featuring binchotan-grilled Akaushi Wagyu beef from Brooklyn meat purveyor Heritage Foods with summer squash, yellow rice, and avocado. Dessert was a platter of Mara des Bois strawberries from Norwich Meadows Farm in Norwich, New York, macerated in sugar and served in a pile on a bed of fresh cream.

Drinks: Marks advised O’Neil and Lagos to set up a DIY bar where people could mix their own spritzes, which he helped prepare. “He got people feeling fun and celebratory pretty quickly,” he says. The base of the spritz was a blend of Forthave Red, a Campari-like aperitif, and Forthave Nocino, a nut-infused liqueur. An instruction card told guests how much Topo Chico sparkling water to add, but they could modify it to their liking. O’Neil also served orange and pink pét-nat wines from natural wine producer Vivanterre.

Music: To help evoke the atmosphere of a lively Honduran barbecue, a friend in Lagos compiled a Spotify playlist featuring reggaeton and Central American soul. The artists ranged from Rosalía to the Panamanian band Señor Loop. “I love changing the atmosphere as the night goes on,” O’Neil said. During a lull in the night, he recalled yelling at Lagos: “Turn on Bad Bunny now.”

The conversation: Assigned seating prompted several introductions, so the evening’s conversation began with icebreakers before moving on to Lagos cuisine. “The cassava was a big hit,” she said. At one point, someone looking at his pristine blue Bragard apron asked, “Is that from ‘The Bear’?” referring to the television series. In fact, it was a throwback to his days cooking at New York restaurants, including Roberta’s and Uncle Boons. She keeps it clean by drying her hands with a towel, never with her apron.

The recipe for bread with Lagos beans: “Black beans are my number one comfort food,” Lagos said. All you need for your version of the ubiquitous Honduran snack is a good baguette, a can of refried black beans, some spices, and sour cream or crème fraîche. First, reheat the beans with a drizzle of olive oil, a bay leaf, a pinch of cumin and, if desired, some red chili flakes. Cut the baguette lengthwise and spread a thick layer of hot beans on one half, then top with a generous amount of lightly salted sour cream or crème fraîche. Complete the sandwich by covering it with the remaining bread. For a heartier meal, serve with scrambled eggs and a hard, salty cheese like Cotija or even Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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