Take Back Your Kitchen
Umbrian lentil salad
Avocados with Oroblanco
Prime rib with creamed horseradish
Grilled lobster with herb butter
The guest list
Teri Baron A friend of Suzanne's through their teenage daughters
Margo Tyler Bartender at Jar
Nancy Melrose Best friend from high school
Bonnie Beck A former colleague from Jozu restaurant
Jannis Swerman Suzanne's publicist
Susan Kim Jar's special-events manager
Suzanne Tracht is surrounded by sous-chefs—they're peeling avocados, boiling lentils, segmenting grapefruits, and drinking lots of pink champagne. This isn't a typical night at Jar, Suzanne's upscale chophouse in Los Angeles. Instead, she has gathered six close friends for a meal at her friend Teri's house a few blocks away. It's the kind of feast that may take longer to create than to eat, but that's just fine.
After all, when you're cooking with friends, they don't mind if you stop whisking vinaigrette to nibble on pecan-crusted goat cheese, gossip about men, or catch up on careers. And if there's enough pink champagne, you can pretty much get away with anything.
"I used to travel to Italy in the summer with my kids, family, and friends," says Suzanne, 45. "The best meals were the ones when we'd go to the market and cook for ourselves. You're choosing the ingredients, so you're invested and excited."
That kind of indulgent vacation cooking doesn't end when she's back home. Despite her hectic schedule—she has two kids and two restaurants (a third, Suzpree, opens later this year)—Suzanne finds time to cook with friends practically every Sunday. "It's first and foremost about having fun and enjoying the end result with good company," she says.
Today's meal includes some of Suzanne's favorite dishes, from a rib roast—served rare, the way her friends like it—to lobsters and oysters grilled on the barbecue. "Seafood with champagne? It doesn't get any more classic than that," she says. A salad of Umbrian lentils, cooked al dente for a slight crunch, often makes an appearance at her dinner parties. She's also taken advantage of southern California's abundant produce and added a simple avocado salad with Oroblanco grapefruit and herbs to balance out the menu. As for dessert, well, that's not her forte. "Whenever a friend asks me what to bring, I always suggest dessert," she says. "I'd rather play with other things and preserve my oven space." Her friend Teri has baked a lemon tart.