My Experiment Throwing a Potluck for Total Strangers

By Iso Rabins

Iso Rabins of forageSF is guest blogging for us every once in a while. Read his last post on foraging for mussels. Follow him on Twitter @forageSF. Read his blog at at foragesf.wordpress.com.

A few weeks ago I decided to throw a potluck because I wanted to meet the people on my 11,000-person email list. I talk a lot about building community through food and figured a potluck is the perfect way to bring people together.

I threw the potluck in the loft of Chicken John, in the Mission District neighborhood of San Francisco. I left the space unfinished because the nature of a potluck is that the people attending bring the event. As people arrived, they just saw one long plywood table, with nothing but a tray of pork belly buns gracing the middle. Chairs lined the perimeter of the room. I didn’t give any instructions on what people should bring. There were Mojito Jell-O shots, a vegan chocolate beet cake, and lots of other good stuff.

My intention was just to bring people together and see what happened. I had been wanting to throw events that are completely devoid of commerce, and the potluck attained that goal. Two people did a home-brew demonstration in the kitchen, and two musicians performed in the main room. They were all mailing list folks who had volunteered. One hundred and fifty people showed up. Next time I won’t cap the invite list (I was afraid there would be crowds), and I’ll see just how many of the 11,000 show up. Here’s a recipe for one of my favorite things that showed up at the party:

Gin and Kumquat Cocktail
By Jennifer Rinzler
Makes 6 to 8 drinks

You’ll Need:
1 pound kumquats, rinsed
20 to 25 leaves basil
1 cup simple syrup (recipe follows)
1 cup good gin (Rinzler uses Sapphire)
1 bottle sparkling water

Instructions:
Simple Syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. You can use raw sugar if you prefer, but it will affect the color of the cocktail. Stir to combine and heat slowly until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool, then pour into a clean jar for storage. Keeps well in the fridge for several weeks and can be used to sweeten cocktails or iced drinks.

For the drinks:
Reserve 3 kumquats and 6 to 8 basil leaves for garnish. Place the rest into the bottom of a pitcher or glass jar. Using a muddler (or a wooden spoon if you don't have one), smash the fruit and herbs until pulpy and fragrant. Add the gin and simple syrup. Allow to steep for a few hours if possible. You can strain the pulp or leave it in for a less formal drink. Add the whole bottle of sparkling water and some ice cubes. Pour into glasses and garnish with slices of the reserved fruit and a basil leaf.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Rinzler

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