Every year, neighbors come together to host a series of dinner parties –all themed around a different book– as a unique way to raise money for the Capitol Hill Community Foundation’s grants to community schools. In 2014, grants totaling more than $100,000 were given to fund special projects and programs for our schoolchildren.
Each dinner is held in the host’s home and features food and fun related to a specific book, although reading is optional — it’s a dinner, not a discussion! Neighbors from across the greater Capitol Hill area attend, creating opportunities to mingle with new and old friends in support of an important cause. After dinner, all guests are invited to continue the party with dessert at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital.
Registration is open through September 25th or when tickets sell out. This event always sells out, so don’t delay! Here is how it works:
Identify your top six dinners from the dinner choices (listed below). Then complete the online registration form (if you’re paying with a credit card, a check, or PayPal) or download and mail in the printable registration form (to pay with a credit card or a personal check). Individual registrants may purchase a maximum of four tickets. Tickets are first come, first served and they will sell out!
A week before the dinner your dinner party assignment will be sent to you. Please note that not all requests for seating more that four at the same dinner can be honored. But all dinners are great so stay open-minded for a second choice – you may find it to be better than your first choice!
You then choose your charitable donation level from $100 to $500 per ticket. Ticket price(s) includes admission to both your individual dinner and to the dessert party at the Hill Center. Your donation supports the Community Foundation’s grants to neighborhood schools. Your entire payment, less $15 per ticket, is tax-deductible.
The purpose of the Feast is to meet new neighbors, so consider going solo or with only one guest. Learn more here.
2015 Literary Feast Dinners
V = vegetarian friendly / P = pescatarian friendly / M = meat lovers only
1. The Grind: Inside Baseball’s Endless Season – Barry Svrluga
What could be more all-American than baseball? An all-American literary feast based on this series of behind-the-dugout profiles that appeared in the Washington Post, that’s what. No drudgery involved here. Just come and enjoy your favorite dishes from every corner of the U S of A.
2. JFK in the Senate: Pathway to the Presidency – John T. Shaw
Join the author of this book for a New England feast with some DC flourishes. According to the chefs in his White House, JFK loved his fish “chowdah,” but often had to be reminded it was time for dinner. Don’t make them call you twice!
3. The Wright Brothers– David McCullough
Strap yourselves in for a virtual flight to the dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where you’ll enjoy a barnstorming bounty of Outer Banks specialties, including shrimp, butternut squash soup, BBQ ribs, okra, corn, and sweet potato fries. This one really takes off! P
4. The Citadel – Kate Mosse
During WWII, the walled city of Carcassonne held out against treachery and the threat of discovery by the Gestapo. Celebrate the French Resistance—and the end of wartime privations—with this feast of cassoulet, sausages, duck, stinky cheese, and hearty red wines. Vive la France! M
5. The Enchantress of Florence – Salman Rushdie
We promise you’ll be enchanted by this multicourse omnivorous feast of Tuscan cuisine, known for its hearty meats, seasonal vegetables, mellow cheeses, and fine wines—in this case, a premium selection from your host’s own cellars. No sorcery needed to lure you to this one!
6. 1421: The Year China Discovered America – Gavin Menzies
Who knew that the Chinese reached America seventy years before Columbus and circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan? Hop aboard with the Chinese fleet to enjoy this feast consisting primarily of Asian cuisine, complemented by wines from Europe, sake from Japan, and water from good old DC. V
7. The Story of San Michele – Axel Munthe
Based on the autobiography of a Swedish psychiatrist who built a house on the Isle of Capri, this Italian feast features antipasti misto, homemade meat ravioli, salad, and tiramisu—plus plenty of prosecco, negroni, vino e grappa. Buon appetito! M
8. That Chesapeake Summer – Mariah Stewart
Expect plenty of fresh seafood at this feast inspired by a book set at a little inn on the Chesapeake Bay, an area known for its shellfish and succulent Eastern Shore produce. And no fussing over whether the crabs were actually born in Virginia! P V
9. The Polish Officer – Piper Alan Furst
The shadowy world of the intelligence underground in WWII provides the backdrop for this hearty Polish feast of traditional meat and pork and vegetable dishes—with their signature flavors of marjoram, dill, and caraway—plus a bracing serving of pickle soup. Pucker up! M
10. The Polar Express – Chris Van Allsburg
All aboard! Join us for early holiday festivities that offer a contemporary twist on the classic children’s Christmas tale, with hot cocoa as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars. Sample Aquavit and Nordic cuisine in the club car, and a smorgasbord at the dining car’s Julbord. No passengers will leave hungry, with options for meat, fish, and vegetable eating elves.
11. A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
East meets West in a novel about a Tokyo teen and her counterpart, a novelist on the other side of the Pacific who discovers a cache of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—as well as in this fusion feast blending modern American cuisine with Japanese influences.
12. The Widow of Dartmoor – Warwick Downing
The game is afoot when the owner of a fashionable London dress shop is discovered at 2am dragging the body of a murdered man into an alleyway. Can the nephew of Sherlock Holmes save her? It’s elementary, my dear dinner guest! This vegetarian feast will include Dr. Watson’s favorite beet salad. V
13. The Paris Wife – Paula McLain
A struggling artist and reporter, Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, crisscrossed Europe and the US between the two great wars. Join us for a moveable feast based on this story of the couples’ brief and intense European love affair, with a focus on Parisian cuisine and a heavy nod to their trips to Pamplona, Spain. And that’s no bull! M
14. How to Speak Baseball: An Illustrated Guide to Ballpark Banter – James Charlton and Sally Cook
Hey, batter, batter, batter! Step up to the plate for a feast evocative of the nation’s pastime, including riffs on baseball terms (“high cheese”), gourmet turns on traditional ballpark traditions, and a meal that will feature dishes from the hometowns of some of the Nationals players. Play ball! V
15. The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro
Mix post-Roman-occupied Britain with a Japanese author and you get what your hosts call a celebration of “the clearing of the mist,” featuring traditional Korean cuisine—based largely on rice, vegetables, meats, and savory side dishes known as banchan— all prepared by a guest chef. Oh, and don’t forget the kimchi! M
16. The Talented Mr. Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
Follow the ultimate bad boy sociopath with a talent for murder as he travels from New York to Italy and on to Greece, for a feast that that evokes those locales in the 1950s and features both salmon and vegetarian entrée options. Just don’t turn your back on him. V P
17. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
A virtual utopia in the year 2044 and a teenage hero with a proclivity for puzzles provide the basis for this feast, whose gourmet menu will revolve around puzzles relating to pop culture of decades past. So bring your appetite and your thinking cap—but no cell phone cheating allowed! M
18. Sea of Monsters – Rick Riordan
The magical, mythical adventures of teenager Percy Jackson, who just happens to be the son of the Greek god Poseidon, supply the impetus for this Greek menu that will offer nectar, ambrosia, and a plentiful array of Olympian delectables. Sea monsters welcome, if space allows.
19. The Cat’s Table – Michael Ondaajte
A boy boards a ship in Sri Lanka bound for England and is seated at the “cat’s table”—as far from the Captain’s table as possible. Join your hosts on a culinary journey that samples the sumptuous tastes of South Asia and Southampton. And yes, you may sit with the grown-ups.
20. Eva Luna – Isabel Allende
Both the Chilean-American author and her main character are magnificent storytellers, so get ready for a magical feast woven from the rich culture of South America: a tapas-style meal that will also feature paella with chicken, seafood, and chorizo… and plenty of sangria! ¡Disfrute de su comida!
21. Paris in the Twentieth Century – Jules Verne
In 1863, Verne imagined a future Paris as a center of technological wonders such as subways, electric lights, and automobiles—but even he couldn’t have predicted how France would revolutionize cooking and introduce the world to haute cuisine. Merci, Escoffier!
22. Our Man in Havana – Graham Greene
This Cold War novel about a vacuum-cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent sets the stage for a feast based on the cuisine of our newly-recognized neighbor to the South, known for its black beans and rice, fried plantain, arroz con pollo, and ropa vieja. Buen provecho! V
23. Zorba the Greek– Nikos Kazantzakis
Zorba might have been content with “a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, [and] a wretched little brazier,” but think how much happier you’ll be when that wine is accompanied by a feast from Greece, known for its olives, lemons, lamb, spinach, honey, and yogurt. Dancing the syrtaki is optional.V P
24. Summer in Tuscany– Elizabeth Adler
Tuscan food may be based on the Italian notion of cucina povera or “poor cooking,” but you’ll suffer no poverty of delights at this feast, set to feature arugula pesto salad, tagliatelle al ragù, bistecca alla Fiorentina, market vegetables, roasted rosemary potatoes, red wine, and amaro liqueur. Deliziosa! M
25. Suite Française – Irène Némirovsky
It’s Paris during the Nazi occupation of the 1940s and food supplies are dwindling. C’est la guerre. But you can be sure that Parisians from all walks of life—working, middle, and upper classes—will find a way to whip up something savory and delicious. They are French, after all. M
26. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson
The journeys of three African American families who fled the Jim Crow south to northern and western cities in search of a better life help map the menu for this feast, which will feature regional specialties from the origination points of Louisiana, Florida, and Mississippi, and the end points of California, Illinois, and New York. M
27. Burr: A Novel – Gore Vidal
In recognition of the Founding Father who served as our third vice president—and was a distant ancestor of your host’s late husband—this Southern feast will feature cream of peanut soup, lamb, and vegetables. Guests are asked to please leave their dueling pistols at home. M
28. Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems – Juan Felipe Herrera
This feast honors our new poet laureate with a poetic mélange of locally grown seasonal vegetables and salmon grilled to lyrical perfection. Bring one of his poems to share or simply come prepared to savor your sumptuous supper—both literally and literarily. P
29. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
The Mediterranean locale of Dumas’s thrilling revenge adventure—as well as recipes from his own published cookbook—serve as inspiration for this swashbuckling spread of quiche, curried French lentils, potato salad, and grilled vegetable ratatouille. Vegan meal possible but meat also served. V
30. The Disinherited: A Story of Family, Love and Betrayal – Robert Sackville-West
Move over, Downton Abbey. The story of this real-life English dynasty boasts enough secrets, lies, intrigue, and sibling rivalries to give the Crawleys a run for their old money—and to spin off a “veddy” British feast of Victorian fare likely to include lamb chops, vegetables, and wine. M
31. Soldiers of Salamis– Javier Cercas
Set during the waning days of the Spanish Civil War, this novel pores through post-war propaganda to discover the identity of the true hero. Your gallant hosts will uphold the finest—and tastiest—traditions of Spanish cuisine, offering a heroic feast of tapas and paella. No salami, no baloney. But there will be Sangria! M
32. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
You’ll think you’ve fallen through the rabbit hole at this dinner, where things may not be what they seem. Start with surprising soup, proceed to an inside-out lasagna, and save room for the “key lime” quiche. If might help if you can believe six impossible things before breakfast. V
33. Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
Travel to Maycomb, Alabama, for a nostalgic feast of Southern specialties based on Harper Lee’s newly-released prequel. We can’t tell you exactly which dishes will be on the menu, but there are two things we’re sure of—it will be finger-lickin’ good and it will not include mockingbirds.
34. Shakespeare’s Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook – Francine Segan and Patrick O’Connell
Brush up on your Shakespeare for this 21st-century reprise of a Renaissance feast, with dishes fit for a king and prepared as you like it (no boiled mutton, we promise). Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table! And never fear: forks will be provided. V M
35. The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean – Paul Theroux
Trace Theroux’s route as he sets off from Gibraltar and travels around the shoreline of the Mediterranean, stopping off at the Riviera, Croatia, Sardinia, Greece, Albania, Egypt, Morocco, and Israel along the way. The menu possibilities are dizzying—but guaranteed to make for an exotic and intriguing feast. V
36. One Soufflé at a Time: A Memoir of Food and France – Anne Willan
A memoir by the former DC resident who founded La Varenne Cooking School of Paris and Burgundy lends this feast its je ne sais quoi, as well as its gourmet French menu of amuse-bouches, salade du jour, entrées, and vin that’s anything but ordinaire. Mangez bien—and don’t let that soufflé fall!
37. Surprise Me!
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