Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hostess With The Mostess

What a fun-but-exhausting weekend! I'm only now full recovered, and even that's debatable. After a long hiatus from entertaining at our house I hosted two soirees this weekend: a dinner party Saturday night, and an Oscar party on Sunday. I'm beat. Over-stuffed and still a tad hungover, but definitely beat.

I love to entertain friends at my house. It's something I look forward to. I enjoy figuring out the menus, planning, getting ready - everything. I love to create a warm atmosphere where friends can relax and feel comfortable. I'm not a fancy entertainer. I don't do super formal. My style is more laid-back and casual. A place for people to kick back, settle in, talk and hopefully laugh a lot. If I achieve that then I know the event was a big success.

During law school we entertained with regularity. I think it was more out of necessity than anything else - we were the freaks with kids and therefore it was just easier for people to come to us than the other way around. If we went somewhere else we would either a) have to find and pay for a babysitter, or b) leave early in order to get the kids home for bedtime. So people came to our house. Plus, not too many law students HAD a place big enough to accommodate lots of people (including us - our house was small, but it was a HOUSE, vs. a small 1-2 bedroom apartment, and therefore more spacious). And, I think, the young 20-somethings in law school didn't really cook much so coming over to our house for some home cookin' was appealing. Not that I'm a fantastic cook - trust me, I'm not - but I was still able to turn out foods that these people didn't do for themselves. Comfort foods, mostly. Stuff like homemade cheesy scallopped potatoes and big green salads and smoked turkeys.

So anyway, since moving back after law school, our entertaining days seems to have dwindled. I'm not entirely sure why, but I suspect it has something to do with not wanting to have lots of people over during project construction time. And we've been doing lots of projects. The biggest, of course, is the kitchen which has been dragging on for months now. And it's not like it's a major renovation or anything - just some cosmetic upgrades that any do-it-yourselfer can do. Which is why it's so damn frustrating that it's taking so damn long to finish already! (damn rental houses sucking up all the available time, money and more - gah!). Damn!

But a month ago when I realized that the Oscars were right around the corner, and that's been an annual party I've organized for a number of years now, I said FUCK IT and invited everyone over, finished projects or not. And then Mr. Chick told me he'd invited some law school friends over for dinner on Saturday, the day before my big shindig. oooohhh-kkaaayyyy! Now we're in full swing party-wise. Nothing like making up for lost time!

Dinner on Saturday was for 5 adults, plus our 2 kids. I decided on grilled marinated flank steak with a gorgonzola sauce, roasted red potatoes, tossed green salad, and dessert. Our friends, as most friends do, offered to bring something. Not wanting to be a martyr, I asked one to bring dessert and the other to bring the salad. I was handling the main entree, side dish, appetizers and drinks. I had to go to several stores to gather all the necessary ingredients, but it was SO WORTH IT! The flank steak came out perfectly and the gorgonzola sauce was a perfect compliment. SO GOOD! You can never go wrong with roasted red potatoes and they couldn't be easier to make. Add some varieties of wine, some crusty bread for dipping in seasoned olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and you've got yourself a dinner party. We played a game I've never heard of before - the Sultans of Catan - after dinner. It's a fun, stragetic game and I came very close to winning. It was a fun evening and I'm just sorry I waited so long to have a dinner party.

Sunday, the Oscar Party, was all about my girlfriends. No husbands, no kids. Just us girls. We get competitive with our balloting of Oscar predictions and score each others sheets. There is a prize involved, after all. And bragging rights. In years past I've tried to tie the food menu into one of the nominated pictures. It's not always easy, and some years I've really had to stretch to make the link to the film. The year Chocolat was up was easy - chocolate fondue for everyone! When Lord of the Rings was up, I tried to prepare foods in a circle shape. We had a make-your-own pizza bar set up (circles, pizza - get it??) But in more recent years I've abandoned tying the menu into a nominated film. Too much stress. Plus, how does one do a food theme based on Babel? Or The Departed? Much too much of a stretch. And so? I went with a completely unrelated menu and it worked out much better, I think: grilled lemon garlic shrimp with lemon rince, and chicken satay with peanut sauce. Plus 2 different champagne cocktails. See? Random (although you COULD make a argument for the lemon theme tying in with Little Miss Sunshine, but I chose not to). It was all delicious. And empowering for me personally, because this time *I* handled the grilling part, a job usually done by Mr. Chick. He's got excellent grilling abilities and the grill is sort of a guy thing around here. But on Oscar night it was ALL ME. And the chicken was perfectly done - moist and flavorful - as were the shimp. I was quite proud of myself. I can now boast mad grilling skillz to my culinary resume.

It was three+ days of shopping, cleaning, prepping, marinating, cooking, furniture re-arranging, and stressful anticipation, but both parties were smashing successes. I drank one (or two, or three) too many cocktails at each of the events, and I take a little more time recovering than I used to. And no one cared in iota that there is no flooring in the back hallway, or that we don't have any curtains up. Or that the molding for the kitchen is stacked in the dining room. Big deal.

And on that note, we've invited more friends over for another dinner party in two weeks. I need to start thinking of what to serve - I'm off to surf recipe websites for inspiration!

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