Sunday, February 24, 2008

Benihana with a Dishwasher

Since last week's actual birthday didn't work out so well for me, I tried again last night with a full-on cocktail bash. It was a load of fun! I love to cook and entertain, I like planning, shopping, setting up, and most of all seeing people have a good time.

Trying to revive the old-school cocktail party is becoming a hobby of mine. In days of yore, people would have early-evening parties where friends would drop by for a drink and some nibbles. This party was beyond that -- after all, it was for my birthday, but it did adhere to some of the classic formula: early start and end early(ish) (6pm-10pm), drinks, tasty bites.

The featured drinks were "martinis," which I put in quotes because a true martini drinker would laugh at these, but people liked them and they appropriately lubricated the crowd. As one guest said, "I don't want to feel like I'm drinking."

Pomegranate Martini
1 part pomegranate juice
1 part lemon or citron vodka
1 part triple sec
shake with lots of ice

Thai Chili Martini
1 part pineapple juice
1 part lemon-lychee vodka
1/2 part triple sec
cut a Thai chili in half and crush it slightly
drop the chili in the martini shaker with the other ingredients
shake with lots of ice

The nibbles were great, but I think I was too ambitious with the menu and I had to have Shawnd'rae, Ava, and Susie save me by helping in the kitchen. I really like hot hors d'oveurs that are passed around, and so made crostini with white bean puree', mini beef satay with peanut sauce, and deviled eggs.

After burning myself with a slick baking sheet that slid out of the oven onto my hand, Shawnd'rae, took over with making the crostini. Susie, bless her heart, showed up with a tray full of oysters wrapped in bacon that she broiled up and then passed. As the scent of bacon wafted across my loft, Matt suddenly perked up from the middle of whatever conversation he was in and loudly announced "BACON!" I think there might have been a cheer after that. Anyway, the bacon 'n' oysters were wolfed down by a grateful crowd. When Ava arrived I drafted her into deviling the eggs, and those too were quickly snapped up.

At one point the four of us were working in my tiny kitchen, joined by Mary who was standing in front of my dishwasher warming herself by the steam escaping during the dry cycle. We were running low on plates and martini glasses, so I collected up all the dirties and decided to run the dishwasher. The dishwasher had to be unloaded first, and as I was pulling items out and shifting around my other helpers to put them away, Mary marveled at the speed and deftness with which I was maneuvering, and remarked "Look at this, it's like Benihana with a dishwasher!"

I've gotten the idea that it might be nice to try out the real old-school cocktail hour, which would mean a weeknight party going from like 6-7pm. My plan is to try it on a Thursday or Friday in the Summer, when people are kind of in a "oh screw it" mood about work. Ideally I'd like to do this from 5:30-7:30, to encourage people to get the heck out of the office and have some fun.

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