How to Entertain in a Small Kitchen (and on a Budget)

The ladies behind Big Girls Small Kitchen share their secrets with us
Josh Shaub/William Morrow
Josh Shaub/William Morrow

When you have an expansive kitchen, entertaining is easy. There is tons of room to roll the dough for your pies and ample space to set up a kitchen-island buffet before sitting down to an immaculately-set dining room table. But, when you’re a recent college graduate — or a young professional living in the big city — many find a lack of space makes entertaining a challenge.

But not Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine, the creators of Big Girls Small Kitchen. Since bonding over oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in the seventh grade, Cara and Phoebe have hosted many a cocktail or dinner party in their tiny New York City apartments. Their debut guide to entertaining in those closet-sized spaces (aptly named In the Small Kitchen) comes out tomorrow, and lucky for us, they're sharing some of their secrets with us.

 

Living in a tiny apartment in a big city is hard and entertaining when you have a closet-sized kitchen seems more impossible. How do you do it when you’re short on space (and space-hogging appliances)?

Basically, we just try to keep it simple. We have a whole section in the book on one-pot meals, and we've got a lot on our site, too — think Lentil Chili, Chicken Tagine with Sweet Potatoes and Golden Raisins, or a Sweet and Savory Moroccan Stew. When you’re short on space, it's all about resisting the little extras and focusing your attention in the kitchen. We're proponents of buying (rather than making) any extras: bread, for example, is a great candidate for something you can pick up on your way home from work. 

In terms of equipment, we go for the best quality and skip the rest. We love our Le Creuset pots and our Cuisinart Mini Prep. Cara bakes a lot, but she gets by without a standing mixer — the handheld one does the trick 99% of the time. You can file the other 1% under "kitchen disasters."

 

You’ve done a fair share of entertaining in small, urban apartments both during college and after. Making a one-pot meal is one thing, but what about seating your guests?

If we're only a total of four or six, we'll have everyone pull chairs around our “dining room” tables. This feels moderately grown-up, even if the napkins are assorted colors and only four of the glasses match. But as soon as our parties get bigger, we move to the floor. The real table becomes the place where we put the buffet, and then we all make plates and sit on the floor or on couches around the coffee table. There's just something so cozy and casual about it, and though it may sound unrefined at first, no one ever minds. (In fact, you can see how happy we are to be curled up on the carpet in this photo!)

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