Sobremesa | Summer Dinner Party

Last month I had the honor of hosting the first Sobremesa dinner party in Charlotte. Sobremesa is a global dinner concept created by the lovely minds at Sunday Suppers in New York.

I wanted to start small for my first dinner, just to make sure I was equipped with space, and it turned out to be perfect. The ladies at Sunday Suppers thought of EVERYTHING. They sent a wonderful host guide, complete with recipes, printouts of the menu, beautiful photos of what the food should look like, resources for the obscure ingredients like the squid ink, all the seasonings/spices for the recipes, and a highly enjoyable Spotify playlist for the evening’s festivities.  I felt so supported and so prepared to host, it made it so enjoyable for me.


Typically at a dinner party, I revert from my extroverted tendencies and end up hiding away in the kitchen — cooking, prepping and avoiding small talk like the introvert I’m not:) There’s something about the kitchen that calls me, and it’s where I feel the MOST comfortable and at ease. The sounds of stress and the hustle of getting the meal together are my love song. Weird, I know.

My favorite part of the hosting kit was the prepping/cooking guide they provided. The attention to detail in laying out when I should start prepping and cooking the different components of the meal was absolutely incredible and so helpful. At no point was I stressed. It was probably the first large meal I’ve made without stressing out one bit, and that made it so much more enjoyable for me…from beginning to end. I could ACTUALLY sit and enjoy the meal myself.

What I loved most about this dinner is that it brought together people from all over. New faces, familiar faces from all walks of life. Dear friends and new friends, we all were lovers of food, conversation and enjoying a meal together, and that’s really what made the evening SO incredible. A communal meal shared over great conversation is what beautiful food was made for!

If you missed this one, no worries, I’m planning to host more of these dinner parties — the next Sobremesa night will be in the Fall, so stay tuned!

As for the menu, here’s what was served:

  • Frutas w/Lime & Sumac
  • Sopa de Lima (my FAV!)
  • Roasted Curried Cauliflower & Pickled Veggies w/Handmade Squid Ink Tortillas
  • Cacao Black Beans w/Queso Fresca
  • Charred Tomatillo & Jalapeno Guacamole
  • Chocolate Avocado Pudding w/Toasted Hazelnuts

Since hosting this first meal, my gears are grinding and I’ve got some great ideas for the next dinner, so stay tuned for more info as we get closer.

❤ Jess

*On another note, I’m grossly behind in posting and I think up next will be my recap of my summer week of freedom. It WAS amazing in so many ways, so I think I’m ready to put it all into words….soon:)


Making Plans, Taking Names

Next week. It’s on.

It just so happens that the same week Jay will be out of town for Appalachia Service Project with his youth group, Lady Amelia Rose will be livin’ it up with her Grandma…which means, Mama gets a week to herself. A whole entire week.

I truly love my people — our little tribe of 3 — but it’s in my DNA (and all of ours, really) to relish in a little dose of “me time” every so often. Jay’s all about it. He, too, knows the power of “off time” where we can catch up on dreaming, scheming and all the things we tend to push aside in lieu of the daily routine. We don’t get to do it often, but when we do, it’s magical. It’s my official #SelfCare week. Lots of cleaning, lots of organizing, lots of meditating and exercising, lots of facial masks and even treating myself to a deep tissue massage.

Last year’s #SelfCare week with my girl, MK ❤

I’m starting to plan my week, and so far, it includes a little bit of work, a little bit of cleaning, a little bit of catching up with friends and a LOT a bit of eating delicious food around the QC.

Amelia’s heading out of town on Friday, so Jay and I will have some much needed US time before he leaves on Sunday. I’m catering a Spanish Tapas-themed graduation party on Saturday (woot, woot! pictures to come!), celebrating some dear friends’ retirements on Monday and then it’s ON.

So far on the agenda, I think I might go on a quest to find the BEST DANG cappuccino in Charlotte. I plan to try a different coffee shop each morning (Looking at you: UndercurrentHexNot Just CoffeeQueen City GroundsTrade & LoreCoco & The Director…anyone else I should add to the list??)

I’m also planning to visit some of the the newer restaurants in the QC that are on my bucket list…The Stanley, Fin & Fino, and more. And maybe even venture to dinner by myself.

But first, a story. A few years ago when I traveled to San Francisco for my National Geographic Photography Workshop, I had one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I arrived in San Fran, checked into my AirBnB and then walked around the Mission District to find dinner. Being alone, I shyly planned to grab something quick to bring back to the apartment. Fate had other plans, instead I found myself in an adorably quaint pizza shop around the corner. As I was about to inform the hostess of my takeout plans, when I was overcome with this need to stay for dinner. To sit, by myself.

I had never done that before. I was turning 30yrs. old later that year, and in this particular journey of self-discovery at the time, I was led me to take a seat at the bar, alone. I made a conscious decision NOT to pull out my phone to aimlessly scroll the interwebs while I sat in isolation, and it was the BEST decision. Instead of shutting out the world with my phone,  I watched the chefs handcraft every pie, meticulously and intentionally arranging each ingredient. We chatted as they cooked. The waitress and I talked for the longest time about traveling and how this was my first trip traveling alone. Next thing I know, the owner of the restaurant was pouring a glass of the most incredible red wine from their neighbors in Sonoma. I stayed for what seemed like hours. We talked and laughed, drank wine and shared stories of food, traveling and life. The chefs started experimenting and creating random dishes, insisting I taste-test each of them. As the night wound down and I asked for the check, the only thing listed was my salad….everything else was “covered.”

You guys, it was incredible. It was an experience I would have missed out on had I A.) gotten take-out or B.) taken the introverted route with my phone in my face.

So, here I am in my own City, and I am looking for THAT kind of experience again. Sure, I’ll spend some of the week catching up on practical matters like work, cleaning, etc., but more than that, I want to take advantage of this gift of time.

Yes, I could eat this entire platter by myself. ❤

Time to slow down.
To slow down and notice.

I don’t want to just “eat food”, but experience the richness of an incredible meal shared with friends or even shared with just myself.

I’m on the lookout, I’m making plans. Send any and all suggestions my way!! Any places that you’ve been wondering about? I’ll try them and report back…OR you can even join me.

Shoot me a message or leave a comment. I can’t wait. I’ll report back next week:)

❤ Jess

Belonging | Together in the Kitchen

I really love cooking.

I wish I could say I always have, but the truth is that I only began cooking when I was 23 years old. I’ve always longed to have these beautifully poetic childhood memories of cooking in the kitchen with my mother…with messy flour spilling on the counter, lingering aromas of seasonings, spices and all of that. Reality is that my mom is one of the hardest working women I know. However, she and my dad started our family at the age of 19, so working and jobs took precedence. My parents did manage to cook sometimes, but it was always after a really long day of work, so the meals were usually quick, easy and many times, from a box or can.

Making up for lost time with my grandmother, too. Dementia began robbing her mind a few years ago, so the women of the family insist on recreating her holiday candy recipes each year as a way to remind her and keep what little traditions we DO have, alive.

I don’t feel slighted though, because I had a great childhood, but I do feel a little regret because my parents were so burdened by the hustle that we didn’t really have time for those picturesque moments in the kitchen. The fact is, my mom LOVES to cook and eat delicious food just as much as I do. She would have LOVED to have my sister and me in the kitchen, working our way through beautiful recipes together. The struggle was real.

Somehow in our adult lives — my mom, my sister and I have gained new perspectives and appreciation of whole foods, and have each discovered the joy of cooking a meal from scratch. Thankfully, between cooking classes together or family meals during the holidays, we’ve made up for any lost moments from our childhood.

So back to when I was 23 and newly married…I knew how to make two things: scrambled eggs (a la breakfast burrito style) and fancy ramen (definitely NOT the trendy ramen of the now, but more like adding some garlic salt and veggies to those 25c ramen packets). I was determined to learn how to cook. I challenged myself to try a new recipe every day for 6 months. It was awesome and literally, trial by fire — with some great successes and some major failures. But after a few months, I found myself needing something more than my own isolated musings in my kitchen.


I took my first group cooking class more than 5 years ago. This amazing little 24-hr bakery opened up and started offering cooking classes, so I jumped at the opportunity (Shoutout to Stefanie Haviv & Amelie’s — those classes were the BEST!). I had a growing love for cooking, but I had NO idea of the transformative power of cooking with people. Eating together is one thing, but cooking a meal with one another is a completely different experience.

I’ve worked as a graphic designer for more than 15 years now, so for me cooking has become my chosen outlet for creative expression. I have found freedom in the trial and error of learning new recipes and feeling confident to go “off book”. Combine that newly-discovered freedom with an organized group of people who have nothing in common other than their shared love of food…and I was in heaven.

Anytime I find myself in the kitchen with friends or family, or even strangers working together to create a meal, I enter a sacred space…of purpose, of belonging, of connection. Just like our innate need for food and water, making connections with people is one of our basic human needs. Cooking with and for others helps us build and strengthen those connections.

A few years ago, I won a grant at Trinity Episcopal School where I was given the opportunity to dream up an amazing out-of-the-box professional development experience. I signed up for a week-long National Geographic photography workshop in San Francisco.

However, I was still in the early days of my love affair with cooking, so before I arrived in San Francisco, I got a wild hair and decided to email one of my favorite food bloggers and cookbook authors, Adrianna Adarme. I asked if I could come to Los Angeles to cook with her, pick her brain on food styling, photography and whatever else for the day. I knew it was a long shot especially because she didn’t know me from Sam. So, when she surprisingly agreed to host me, I. LOST. MY. DAMN. MIND.


It was life-giving and life-changing in so many ways. The photography workshop was my professional development for my job at Trinity, but my cooking experience with Adrianna was the personal development I needed for life.

She let me tag along to her local market, and I watched as she mulled over available ingredients and then laid it all out on her kitchen counter as she began her own process of exploration in the kitchen. I watched as she orchestrated this stunningly simple, but delicious dish — a crostini with ricotta & gremolata, topped with fresh apricots and pistachios.  I knew of Adrianna only what I had read from her blog, but being in her home, in her kitchen, cooking together, I felt like we had known each other forever. And THAT’S the magic of communal cooking. It was connection, it was therapeutic and it was something I knew I wanted to replicate.

So, I want to open my doors and invite you to come cook with me. I’m not a studied culinary expert with a dream kitchen, but I do have an insatiable love for food and for community. In just a few short weeks, I have the privilege of hosting an incredible Sobremesa dinner party as part of Sunday Suppers global dinner series. I would LOVE nothing more than for you to come experience the joys of community and cooking with me. I hope to see you at the table soon!

Thursday, June 21, at 7pm.

Tickets & information can be found here.