“Soft Opening” a success

Entertaining friends at your home is not a particularly common feature of Thai living.  Instead, people will meet at a restaurant, bar, karaoke, or bowling alley and socialize there.  Tawn and I really enjoy entertaining and it was an enjoyable part of our life in the United States. 

When we were planning our condo remodel, we made many decisions along the way that would help us maintain this aspect of our lifestyle.  From redesigning the kitchen with a larger refrigerator to setting up the bedrooms so they could be used for socializing, we tried to build a space where we could host friends and family members in comfort. 

After having a small brunch as the first test of our home’s ability as an entertaining environment, we were ready for the next step in the proving trials: dinner for a dozen.  Actually, it ended up being sixteen or seventeen, but who’s counting.  Below: Moments before the first guest arrives, the stage is set.  The condo looks especially nice at night.

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I began prep work for the cooking on Friday evening, while Tawn hosted a small group of his friends.  Originally it was explained to me as, “Eddy and Jack are going to stop by to take a look at the condo.”  It then became, “Eddy and Jack and David are going to stop by to take a look at the condo and maybe have a drink.” 

It further progressed to, “… and maybe I’ll order some Italian food if we get hungry.”  Finally, it turned out as Eddy, Jack, David, Sa, Job, Mon and Ton came over for several hours, drank numerous bottles of wine, ordered pizza, pasta and salad from Pizza Mania, and kept me from getting all the prep work done I had hoped to.

But that’s okay… it was nice to see them and I continued working while people floated into the kitchen to visit for a while, then floated back to the living room.  The only things I couldn’t do involved sauteeing onions and garlic, which I thought might annoy the guests a bit.

When I lived in San Francisco, before Tawn and I moved in together, I lived in a 90-year old Edwardian house on Eureka Street, just above the Castro in a section of town known by longer-term residents as Eureka Valley.  I had two roommates, Anita and Colleen (although both Holly and Nina lived there at various times, too), and we would have parties quite frequently.  Usually, if they involved dinner they were smaller affairs – 8-10 people at the most.  If they were just drinks and appetizers, the numbers would get larger.

I recall these parties as being pretty uncomplicated.  Tidy up the house a bit, light some candles, turn on some Miles Davis or Morcheeba, and wrap a round of brie in some filo dough and pop it in the over. 

Somehow, when Tawn and I host gatherings, it becomes quite complicated. 

Some of it is the food, although we’ve been learning and applying lessons and the food we prepare is increasingly prepared in advance, requiring little work during the party itself.  In fact, by the time the first guest arrived Saturday night, the cooking was done.

Some of the complication comes from the decoration.  I think we put a lot of effort into arranging the house, decorating it, and making it like something out of a magazine.  I’m sure the guests appreciate these thoughtful touches, but I suspect they wouldn’t mind or even notice if they were missing. 

P1030392 For example, we provided party favors for our guests last night: pairs of macarons from the Erawan Hotel bakery, neatly wrapped in a cellophane bag with a festive bow.  Really cute and very thoughtful, but it meant a trip to the hotel, waiting for them to wrap everything, and then an hour Saturday morning tying the bows.

After our parties, Tawn and I debrief and try to see what we can learn to make our lives easier next time.  Hopefully we’ll get a bit better at applying the lessons and not just learning them again and again, because we really like entertaining and want it to be an enjoyable experience for us, too.

 

With that said, let me now regale you with all the cooking that was done!  It was a pot luck dinner but I wasn’t sure how effectively that would work.  First of all, many of our friends have small or nonexistent kitchens.  Second, I’m not sure if a pot luck is really a very “Thai” thing to do.

P1030412 As a result, I over prepared and created two side dishes and extra appetizers in addition to the main course that I had promised to provide.  That’s okay as I wanted to try the recipes and they were pretty easy to prepare.  The menu provided by me included:

      • crudités with homemade basil and sundried tomato dressing
      • baked artichoke-spinach dip
      • Australian brie en croûte
      • mango-cucumber salad dressed with a green curry and rice wine vinaigrette
      • roasted eggplant and zucchini medley
      • lasagna two ways: hearty meat and mushroom-spinach

Right: Chopping roasted artichoke hearts for the dip.

Our guests provided many wonderful accompaniments: a large mixed green salad, fried turnip cakes, a spicy Thai-style sausage salad, and desserts and beverages.  Pot luck is a successful concept here so that means less cooking for me in the future.

 

Below: Lasagna in three easy steps.

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Above: The egglpant-zucchini medley.  Below: The table is set with the appetizers.

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We ended up with a nice mix of people.  In addition to the usual suspects of the American expats and their partners, Roka, Prawit and Kobfa, Tawn’s cousin Paul and his wife Nicha made a visit.  Tawn’s friend and ballet instructor Mae stopped by with her Danish friend, Daniel. 

Vic also brought a volleyball friend of his, Kook, who recognized me and Tawn – it turns out that he works in the same building as Tawn for an advertising company that is under the same corporate umbrella as Tawn’s employer.  Kook had seen us before at the Thailand Cultural Centre, and he and Tawn saw each other in the elevators at work but had never met.

Furthering the coincidences, we discovered that Ken’s partner Suchai knows Kook’s brother.  Small, small world.

P1030472 Right: Ken and Suchai in a rare display of public affection.  Below: Russ, Bill and Vic fuss over the salad.

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Above: The second bedroom/office makes for a nice separate seating area for guests in the background.  Below: Tawn’s cousin Paul (center) shares a story about his experiences working in China for the Central Group of department stores.  Bill is to the left in the group and Kook is to the right on the sofa. 

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In the end, it was a very good party.  As people left, we sent food with them so that we ended the evening with only a small amount of leftovers.  I think on my next trip to the US I’m going to Costco and buying a big box of those Gladware storage containers.  We sent people home with some of my better quality storage containers and I hope I get them back as they’re kind of expensive!

We had our customary debrief while cleaning up: what went well, what could be better?  Hopefully we’ll apply the lessons we discussed…

 

7 thoughts on ““Soft Opening” a success

  1. Wow… you guys are like my brother and his wife. Even if it’s just an “informal” dinner or barbeque, their place is spotless, candles are lit, magazines are carefully stowed away, new soap and candle in the washrooms (even the reading material is current there), new pictures, etc… Even their storage containers are organized.

  2. The food looks sooooooooo good. I loved the zucchini/egg plant medley.  You both are great hosts.  Your friends are fortunate. The condo looks very cosy and inviting.
    When I ask guests to take some left- overs home, I usually pack them in aluminun foil and stick them in a Zip Lock bag.  The containers can get pricey after a while of generously ‘donating’ to your friends.  I’ve learnt my lesson.
    Happy new Year.

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