I really like themed events but am too shy to make my friends dress up in costume. So instead I make rules about what kind of food they can bring to my parties.
  1. The Meat-Up.
    This one was explicitly for the omnivores. Folks brought all sorts of meaty appetizers (prosciutto and melon, meatballs, etc.) and I prepared David Chang's bo ssam;
  2. The Pot Luxe.
    The only rule for this one was that whatever people brought had to feel fancy to them. So some people pulled recipes from fancy cookbooks and others served low-fuss foods on really fancy dishes. I made Joel Robuchon's mashed potatoes because we only ever ate boxed mashed potatoes growing up and I always thought homemade were SO fancy. These were a heart attack in a bowl:
  3. Meat-Free, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free...Hey Wait, Where's Everybody Going?
    I wanted my friends with more severe dietary restrictions (both medical and ethical) to be able to join in, too. I made the ratatouille from Ottolenghi's Plenty:
  4. It Takes Stew to Make a Thing Go Right.
    Pretty self-explanatory. Other people brought the bread and desserts and I fixed an enormous vat of Cooks Illustrated's beef stew, because Chicago winters demand it sometimes:
  5. Women Laughing Together With Salad.
    I always found the Women Laughing Alone With Salad meme to be hilarious, so when I had to put together a storytelling event for a class I was taking last spring, I came up with this title. Everyone brought a salad and a story to tell--some funny, some sad, all deeply personal. It was hands down my favorite party I've ever hosted. I made a salad that the chef I was dating at the time thought up. It was meh (so was he).
  6. Skill Swap.
    Technically this one hasn't happened yet. The title's a work in progress, but the goal is that, while folks eat, 4 attendees will take turns demonstrating a skill/life hack for the group. So far I have people who want to teach basic drumming skills, the proper technique for applying nail wraps, how to get out of a parking ticket, etc. And everyone leaves with a tangible item--a recipe card or sample or whatevs. I am still waiting for someone to offer to teach me how to get Haim hair.
  7. Who Moved My Cheese
    All dishes with unexpected cheese. Or served by Marsha Wooley.
    Suggested by   @vp