Outside of the fact that it was way overdue for us to having a little get-together with friends, who share the same preference for good flicks as well as for good food, we really wanted to make sure that everyone dear and near joining us for this event will have a good time – due preparation was our maxim.
O. and I share the same view on a lot of things, when it comes to planning events, however, we have diametrically opposed takes on how to plan and organize; on the cooking and doing end, we’re again on the same page. Take O., with a rather analytical approach, including some heavy weight theory of probability and derivatives supported by a spreadsheet that I couldn’t figure out for the life of it – and I didn’t really wanted to anyway. My coarse of action was a more pragmatic one: let’s see how many people have RSVP’ed and go shopping, amounts we’ll figure out on the fly. In hindsight I guess the right and reasonable thing to do is somewhat a combination of these two so contrary approaches.
Once we had moved the pallets of food to our apartment we thought about the most strategic way to work through our optimistic menu. 24 hours to go, 0 courses down. However, at the end of the night before we already had made good progress, deluding us into thinking we’re in more than good shape. The short of it is that on the next day we franticly worked on getting our planned menu in place, but ultimately just didn’t make it, being short of a few yummy dishes. For the better as it turns out, we ended up with wayyy too much food anyway. Another lesson learned. Consequently we embraced our first guests still wearing our aprons, is that style or what?!
What we prepared: Cheese-stuffed olives; Stuffed hot baby-paprika; Herb-spiced toasted almonds; Vegetable sticks with rosemary aioli dip; Parisienne with tapenade, pesto, hummus and chicken liver paté; Oven dried cherry tomatoes; Yellow cherry tomatoes and mozzarella di buffalo; Chili con Carne; Potato-breadsticks with sesame; Spring-rolls with spicy sweet and sour dip; Basil and lime sorbet; Chocolate-dipped fruits; Earl Grey crème bruleé; Mixed berry panna cotta; Glazed chocolate-cake with physalis; assorted cheeses with fragolaceto, fruits and nuts… and a lot of liquid to flush it down!
Besides the little stress factor upfront, the evening and night went fantastic! We had so much fun and enjoyable moments, which made me thinking, sweet, we could have this every other week!? Well, good food and wonderful guests are indeed a recipe for success! …hm, this is clearly asking for a follow up sometime next year – a Welcome Spring Party?
Although this wasn’t our first party, we are still in the learning process of handling party events with more than just a handful of people. A few random tidbits about what we have learned, observed or still need to figure out for ourselves:
* Returning to the opening, it seems that neither one of us was right-on with his gues-timates: O.’s spreadsheet based method to support analytical consumption profiling to help putting together our shopping list, or mine, simply going by gosh and by god. Although we agreed on dimensions we both felt were needed, in the end none of our methods really worked. Which leads to only one conclusion, it’s the experience that counts – on the other hand, I doubt that anyone reluctantly took home their doggy bags :)
* Why is it that the kitchen inevitably becomes the center of every party? Swerving around them to get from the fridge back to the stove and back became more and more a challenge – at the point when I counted a dozen people in there, I had to take action and kindly re-locate some of them to the living room, where my all-time favorite concert DVD – Robbie Williams at the Royal Albert Hall in London – was playing. Nobody came back into the kitchen for the next hour or so… ;) Side-note: I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of his, but if I had to name one live concert that took me completely off guard and surprised me in a such a positive way…it’d be this one.
* Bath tubs are great in many ways. Besides for what they’re built in the first place, they can keep drinks cold forever. Just pour in two large bags of ice (we ordered it in from these guys: ice-factory) add a thin layer of something to prevent your bottles from drowning, done.
* How to say good bye to the inner urge of making more food than anyone can possibly chew. We didn’t succeed, but again isn’t that why doggy bags are so well accepted :)
* Always be kind to your neighbors – we give our immediate neighbors early notice including a little food-related something…and never heard any complaints whatsoever about our past midnight events…
Herb-spiced toasted almonds
Which we had first at a friend’s party about 2 years ago… perfect for nibbling away.
Mix almonds, olive oil, coarse sea salt (Maldon is not the worst choice…) and fresh thyme in a bowl. The almonds should be lightly covered with olive oil, but not exactly drenched. Season to taste, I like them pretty salty.
Evenly pour them on a baking tray (lined with parchment paper) and toast them in the preheated oven (190°C/370°F) for about 5 to 10 minutes. Watch them carefully, as they tend to easily get too dark and therefore bitter.
Take them out and let them cool of for a few minutes. Best served still warm.
Earl Grey Crème Brûlée
The recipe instructions are basically the same as for the Chocolate version we’ve made a few posts back.
Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F). Cook heavy cream and the vanilla bean (shell & scraped out seeds) in a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the stove and add the tea in a little tea-bag, let infuse for about 5 minutes or to your taste, then remove tea-bag and vanilla bean.
Combine egg yolks and sugar and blend well, until the mix becomes pale and thick. Add the warm (not hot) cream mixture to the eggs and blend well. Return the mix to the pot and stir over low heat for 5-10 minutes (do not boil), until custard coats the back of a wooden spoon, then remove from heat.
Pour the mixture into ovenproof ramekins and align them in a deep baking dish. Add enough water to cover half the sides of the ramekins and bake at 160°C (320°F) for about 25 minutes or until set.
When done, remove from oven and chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or better overnight. Just before serving, add a thin layer of sugar and caramelize with a blow torch.
Recipe source: Mary Beth
Required time: prep. 5 min., baking time 5-10 min.
Ingredients (amounts by guess and by gosh):
coarse seal salt
fresh thyme (just the leaves)
Earl Grey Crème Brûlée
Recipe source: own creation
Required time: prep. 20 min., baking 25 min., serves 4 to 6
500ml heavy cream
a vanilla bean
3 tsp Earl Grey tea
4 egg yolks
fine sugar for caramelizing