Table for Six: Meetup's Culinary Cupid

Kathy "Meetup" collects things in sixes: Chinese serving spoons, typewriter-key wine charms, aqua dessert bowls. As a natural hostess, she gathers these often-unrelated, yet always-entertaining details with a certain sort of dinner party in mind.

She created Table for Six a year ago in order to share food and conversation -- and to meet new people (or a certain someone) in the Valley. For each dinner party, Kathy presents six courses around a central theme; she carefully plans, types out and posts each course on her highly-decorated refrigerator.

The six thing began years ago, with a six-course dinner party Kathy and her father hosted.  They spent days researching, shopping, cooking and ultimately had a dinner Kathy cannot stop talking about today. She wanted to recreate the same atmosphere, but instead with six singles (three men, three women). Upon discovering Meetup, she knew she found a place for what she calls a culinary "compatibility experiment."

And so Table for Six was born. Her latest event, held tonight, is Valentine-themed.

Each potential Table for Sixer must apply by filling out a short questionnaire. Kathy uses the information to play one of her favorite roles, along with chef: matchmaker.

As a former psychiatric nurse with her own share of experience in the dating game, she just might have an inkling as to how guests will interact. "I'm looking for people who are fun, who like socializing and who love great food," she says. "And then I let the chips fall as they will." 

The cooking part takes a little more work.

Weeks before a Table for Six dinner, the bubbly planner can be found at Valley specialty shops such as Penzey's, Lee Lee's, Pro's Ranch Market and ABC Baking Co. finding odds and ends for the variety of food she has planned.

Even though Kathy has never been formally trained in cuisine, her laissez-faire attitude and brazen optimism result in dishes her guests often rave about. "Cooking is a science," Kathy says. "You get the best ingredients, follow the recipe and everything (hopefully) comes together."

As an omnivore and self-proclaimed food hobbyist, she prides herself in trying everything from oxtail soup to cilantro-and-tequila sorbet (both of which were on her latest menu) and asks the same from the five guests who attend.

One year and six (there it is again) dinners later, Kathy says that while she hasn't made her own match, she's met a solid group of friends who share her love for good conversation and even better food.

Her latest dinner is entitled, "Cupid's Cocina, La Comida de Amor." The recipes were taken from Like Water for Chocolate and Elote, a recipe book by Sedona-based chef Jeff Smedstad (formerly of Los Sombreros). 

When Kathy returns the french-stamped plates and heart-shaped cookie cutters to their proper places in her cupboard, she knows they won't collect dust; she is already planning for her next dinner. 

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