c o u n t e r  s e r v i c e

Issue Four: Gatherings

Issue four: gatherings 


We're in it y'all. We're in the post Thanksgiving stretch.

We're in that, "Yes, I have to take three flights to get home for the holidays, and they're all going to be delayed" or "No, I don't want to talk to aunt Myrtle about when I'm going to get a 'real job.'" We're there. We're in the season of obligatory present-giving. Darling sweet Darling Connor will grow into that sweatshirt someday. Or resell it.

We are here. And you know what? Let's take it for what it is: getting together with a bunch of people you haven't seen in awhile and clandestinely taking down three bottles of Tempranillo in one night. Or catching up with your crew since we've all been busy AF. Or, just sitting down for a second and not thinking about the insanity around you.

So sit down already, finish what's in your glass, grab some cheese and crackers, and let's go.  


By Chris Roberts

These images were taken between 2010 and 2014 from a series of immersive collaborative dinners that took place in Minneapolis and New York. The dinners and weeks of planning beforehand sought to provide queer artists of all levels a venue to explore new mediums in the process of crafting edible narratives.

All photographs by Stephanie Colgan.


When I met up with chef Danny Newberg on a recent Sunday afternoon at Abraço in the East Village, he had recently returned from a trip to Mexico (I had to go there for a wedding, so I was, like, "I might as well do a dinner," he explained) and was in the thick of the holiday dinner party season. Formerly the sous chef at Estela — he's also worked in the kitchens of Isa, Aldea, and Momofuku Ko — he broke off from the traditional back-of-house scene to do his own thing. He started Joint Venture in 2015, a collaborative and nomadic pop up dinner series that builds on his work as a private chef, and takes him into other people's kitchens.


How do you describe your best meal ever? How do you answer that question? Oh it was that super fancy super expensive meal I had that I didn’t pay for? Obviously it was at that one restaurant with the best burger ever. Or maybe it was at a hole in the wall falafel place in Paris as you were on your way to the concert and you were so hungry and it was just right. Or maybe it was the doner kebab at 5am after a Berlin night out where you met up with Jordie with hugs and applause and bald-head rubs. For me, it was on a grey day, on a day trip away from Paris, in a small stone-lined town with a family I had never met.


30th birthday: say no more

nicolle rose borrero

My friend, Charlotte Bruce, knows how to throw a damn party. She holds nothing back because what the hell is more important than getting together with your family and friends and having the best time? She also knows how much I like being a part of a party. So when her sister’s 30th birthday started to creep up, she reached out to me to put something together.

Oh, it should be, like, a few people, or something. Want to cook for it?
Duh. How many?
Well we have 55 RSVPs right now, so… figure on 50?

Immediately I reached out to those more talented than I, to come through, and help me get this celebration off the ground. Thrown in maybe the best backyard in the city, in my opinion, Amelia Telc stood at the helm of the kitchen and Nicolle tended bar and clandestinely snapped some pics of the nonstop fun get together. XO for these, Nicolle. — J.H.



By Quinn Rose Levine 


I watched The Wedding Planner in September. Half joking, but also, half seriously. I had a 180 person wedding coming up and asked myself, “What Would J Lo Do?” Putting together a large event, let alone a wedding, is pretty exhilarating. Anything can go wrong. And on top of that, it’s the most important day of their lives. It is what little girls dream about and plan while they are playing dress up, lining up their stuffed animals as their guests while they wed their Ken doll. So, obviously, the pressure is on.

Closely observing J. Lo in the opening scene, she keeps it together and keeps things moving along while dealing with a drunken family member and a crying bride second-guessing her decision. J.Lo's perfect hair and lavender power suit never fall out of place as she makes everything happen on time and perfectly with ease and grace. In addition to that, she creates a bond and trust between herself and the families involved.

Planning someone else’s wedding is extremely personal. You, a total stranger, become a voyeur. For the short time you are acquainted to the couple, you have to quickly understand family dynamics and all the preferences and dislikes of the bride and groom. That, my friends, is what makes you a great wedding planner. All the fluff, the flowers, china, the string quartet, that’s all the easy and fun part. Keeping everything together and having complete control is what sets you apart from all the other planners.

Getting to know the immediate family is an extra bonus. I want to get in there, nuzzle right up onto Grandma Marie’s bosom. I find that getting to know all the family quirks is going to give you a leg up on the big day. Diving right in and gently massaging them to open up to you so that you know by the time the wedding rolls around, who needs the most hand holding, who needs their Chardonnay glass full at all times, and to make sure Grandpa takes his insulin shot before the cake cutting ceremony. It is a dance of sorts, a tango. Super calculated, but filled with surprising improvisation.

You have two families coming together to celebrate the union of their most precious children. Right?!? Yes, but there are so many other things at play. Emotions are through the roof. Throw in an open bar, the highest expectations possible, and toss in 10s — sometimes 100s — of thousands of dollars. Basically, your ass is on the line.

And you know what? That’s why I love it. Call me a masochist. Don’t get me wrong; I love making a space look drop dead gorgeous and creating the day that the bride and groom will remember forever. Making something out of nothing is a creative challenge and like a puzzle. But, the real thrill is taking all those curve balls — drunk uncles, the scene stealing Mother of the Bride, broken restroom trailers, torrential rainstorms and so on. Keeping calm and dealing with everything as it comes is an art all in itself. Like a firm slap on the ass that stings so badly, but you take it and kind of like it...really like it.


By Mary Eannarino

Counter Service contributor Kate Reuterswärd's recent piece on life without a dishwasher really struck a chord with me — I, too, live in a dishwasher-less apartment and feel like I spend 80% of my time at home with rubber gloves on, poised for battle at my kitchen sink. I love having dinner parties, but just the mere thought of the clean-up post-soirée is enough to make me consider calling the whole thing off. Enter my Dish-Washing-Dinner-Party-Clean-Up playlist. For me, it's the perfect balance of "pump-up" and "cool down"; energizing enough to convince me to tackle the mountain of plates, wine glasses, and that tricky ceramic casserole dish with the gratin now permanently baked into the sides, and relaxing enough to help me wind down after an evening of playing host.

Fade — Kanye West
Killa Cam / Roll That Skit — Cam'Ron
People Don't Get What They Deserve — Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
There He Go — ScHoolboy Q
Rhymes Like Dimes — MF Doom

Listen to the full playlist on Spotify...