Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My first linner party with Don

There are few instances where I use my organizational skills to their fullest. But dinner parties, or things like them, are one of them.

I was hosting my first linner party in London and I was thrilled.

Btw, in case you were confused - linner is the time between lunch and dinner (so between say, 2-5pm). My event was to start at 3pm so we could take advantage of earlier drinking hours and potentially finish earlier so anyone could go to any Halloween parties in the city and not have any issues catching public transportation back home, as I realize my home is located further out of the city than any of theirs (everyone lives in zone 2 or closer to the city center). All about being a considerate host. Yes yes.

My linner party hosting began at the crack of Saturday morning, when I awoke and sped my way to the farmers market and Lidl, shopping list in hand. I had a very specific menu in mind, and I knew exactly what I wanted to buy. I bought with precision and care, knowing who I was going to peruse and purchase from, no time wasted. I was in and out of the farmers market plus Lidl in about half an hour. Precision.

I then went home, put everything in its handy place, closed my bedroom door (no food smells in there), and began my cooking. I was cooking then for the next 5 hours before people came, minus about a half an hour break in the middle where I laid on my sofa and thought about nice things before continuing.

The menu was set and everything was made accordingly:
Lamb chili made from local organic non-GM fed lamb
Butter lettuce and arugula salad with Glastonbury mature cheddar with bleu veins, dried cherries and raisin variety, and honey roasted peanuts with a homemade mustard vinaigrette (all lettuces local, arugula was local, organic, and wild)
Roasted parsnips, red bell peppers, and brussel sprouts (all local)
Garlic bread made from a locally baked ciabatta and Gilroy garlic cheese sprinkle
Skillet potatoes (local, both the potatoes and onions)

Most things turned out well, surprisingly enough. I was a bit disappointed with the roasted veggies, actually, of all things. I couldn't get them to roast sweetly, as I had with the cabbage several weeks ago. For whatever reason the parsnips and brussel sprouts in particular were resistant to my roasting efforts. I eventually got them soft but I felt this was somehow a failure since they seemed dry and chewy instead of caramelized and sweet.

Likewise the homemade vinaigrette was somehow not as good as all the reviewers raving about it claimed. I even let it sit in the fridge for several hours as they suggested. Not as good as they claimed. Either that or I'm biased about vinaigrettes (still not my favorite of dressings anyhow). I'll likely try making something else next time, but I figured everyone coming would prefer that kind of dressing versus everything else.

The chili was fantastic, if I do say so myself. I let myself. I stewed it for hours and hours this time, and took appropriate care to cook it over really low heat. The flavors were subtle and it was just spicy enough. Fantastic.

Everything was warm and ready to go exactly at 3pm, as I'd planned. Unfortunately everyone was late and the first person didn't arrive until 3:30pm. Books was the first to arrive, with wine.

At least I got the table set and extended all by myself, which is something in it of itself because since I've stopped going to the gym I've noticed I don't have the muscle mass to do anything (and I do mean almost anything...lifting things like chairs is starting to become difficult...it's pathetic...I'm going back to the gym this week).

Anyway we chatted for a solid half an hour before Two showed up. Then we all chatted for another half an hour before deciding to start eating. It was a good twenty minutes before Salads and Churches showed up. Oh well, guess I shouldn't have planned so carefully to have the food ready on time. :)

It was a beautiful spread though, if I do say so myself. Despite the hiccups and some of the dishes which could have been done better. I am relatively pleased.

Overall people were very happy with everything. The chili was praised for its flavor composition and people liked elements of the salads (the honey roasted peanuts in particular were shocking for their sweetness).

I admitted during the dinner that surprisingly, nothing had been made with butter. The only thing I have in my fridge that resembles this is the slightly salted vegetable oil spread I use in substitute. Kind of funny to think that vegetable oil spread made garlic bread that good. Oh the power of science.

And everyone brought something with them, which was amazing. Churches brought a bottle of cava and quinoa salad from Whole Foods, Salads brought a bottle of rose and rum truffles for dessert. Two brought a sweet potato pie which we baked and then ate for dessert. It was gluten free and sugar free as well. Try putting that into the middle of a group of women!

One of the most amazing things about this linner party though? My apartment was left in almost the exact condition it had been found in before the cooking began! Many of the girls helped clean up after the meal was over and almost all of the dishes were washed before they left. Leftovers were stored in tupperware and things were put away. No trash was even found in the recycle bin! (This is a constant problem whenever there are guests over at my house...for whatever reason people never notice how the plastic bag is for trash and the standing bin is for recyclables). Amazing, absolutely amazing. I've never had a dinner party like this before. So good!

Also something we noticed during dinner - most of the continents were represented at the party. We had America, different parts of Europe (Finland and Germany, plus Turkey depending on where you consider Books from), India, and Australia. Quite a diverse group! We've decided from this conversation that we need to befriend girls from Africa and South America in the near future. Internations, here we come!

The conversation flowed and after we'd had our fill we decided to take a walk to the pub around the corner and have another bottle there. We chatted there for another several hours before calling it a night.

Pretty successful first party together, I'd say. This is just fuel to the flames for me hosting more, and soon. I don't think December will work that well since now others have gotten the bug for hosting (Churches wants to have a night of her own at the beginning of next month, as does Two), but January will be another month for get togethers. I love me some good food and good friends!

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