Dana Marie Roquemore (center) of The Dinner Party Project (Photo Courtesy of Roquemore)
Dana Marie Roquemore, an Orlandoan since 2000, has brought her cultural savvy to many events in the Central Florida community, many of which she founded and popularized herself. What starts as an idea for this stylist and social media influencer quickly moves from concept to must-do activity for many locals.
The Dinner Party Project, aimed at Orlando foodies with a taste for meeting new people and eating local food, is no different. A periodic dinner party at Roquemore’s home has grown to host 10 meals per month for eight people at a time. She recently partnered with a catering company called Farmhouse, which provides farm-to-table dinners.
Roquemore sheds light on food, eating local, and tasty Orlando gems.
What inspired you to start The Dinner Party Project?
The idea really came by way of frustration. I was at a point in my life where I felt like everything was boring, and I just wondered, “What am I doing with my life?” And I thought, well, I love food and I love people. I realized I see people out often, but I don’t know them that well. Like, where they grow up or what’s their story is. So I thought I would just love to throw everyone’s name in a hat and host them and have people get connected over really good food. I started doing it out of my house and cooking the food myself; I’m not the worlds greatest, but I figured I could do it.
What bars, lounges and restaurants do you recommend for people who would like to meet new people?
The Courtesy is a lovely bar that’s always full of people. Credo Coffeehouse is a great place for meeting new people while getting a great cup of coffee and some sweet treats. There is a restaurant called The Table (which is closed for renovations at the moment, but its speakeasy Pharmacy is serving its organic menu) that has communal tables in which they seat people together, in hopes that conversation will happen.
You are inspired by The Ravenous Pig and East End Market. What are some of your favorite dishes?
The Ravenous Pig sources from many local farms and its menu is always changing depending on what is fresh and in season. However, a standard, and one of my personal favorites, is The Pub Burger: meyer natural angus beef, caramelized onions, buttermilk blue cheese, and truffle fries. Delightful! They also have tacos that are to die for! At East End Market, for coffee drinkers, there is Lineage Coffee. I would also recommend grabbing some fresh baguettes from Olde Hearth Bread Co. There are so many shops to choose from, plus beautiful outdoor seating under the sunshine.
What’s important to you when going out to restaurants?
There are a couple of things. First, the ambience. The feeling and comfort you feel when you dine somewhere is priceless. Second, I would say, an emphasis on local food is always welcome. The food always tastes fresh and you know that it is somewhat healthy for you!
“Local” and “healthy” are words that get thrown around a lot. How would you describe your dinners?
I want to offer decadent meals so I love things that are a rich. Chefs like Mike Garcia of The Smiling Bison source local and organic foods and even grow some food in their backyards. When this is the case, we get delicious meals and we can source the food on the menu.
Orlando is such a transient city and it’s often difficult to get people to connect. What has the reception from the community been like for you?
People are pumped to have this in Orlando because it is a twist to sit down with random people. We currently have 350-400 people on the mailing list in less than six months, and it’s all because of word of mouth. I don’t know how people are finding me on Instagram, but they are. We have even been featured on Yelp and Orlando date night guides. We get emails on the daily.
How difficult would it be for a visitor to sign up for an event?
Visitors can contact us in advance so we can see if we have spaces available for when they were coming. We would then send them all the information they need to reserve their spot when they come to Orlando!