Showing posts with label party. Show all posts
Showing posts with label party. Show all posts

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gala Parfait: Pool Party

I've never been good at juggling.
At some point I guess I just stopped trying because after bruising so much fruit, I thought hey better to just eat this apple.
But in life I grew pretty adept at it. An over-achieving high school student who opted for a full college course load plus three jobs, sometimes a band... to a full-time career, a food blog, busy lifestyle... and sometimes a band. But age and energy are funny things. I remember when five hours of sleep was enough, and hangovers lasted but a few pesky morning hours. I recall lightning quick reflexes and prose that spilt from the pen with ease.

You may have noticed the Chocolate of Meats lightening in load. I suppose that's natural. Sure, life gets in the way sometimes, but also it's become a saturated market - The numbers don't tug at my conscience to use this forum to keep my public up to date with every happening about town (but that's what Twitter is for, right?). I enjoy it when I can, or when the experience rings with a truth I am called to share. I'm looking at blogger responsibility in a new light.

So back to juggling. If you follow ChocoMeat then you've also probably noticed me increasingly mention my podcast The Table Set with Greg of Sippitysup and Andy of Wind Attack. We were invited to participate in this venture by the venerable Joy the Baker, which in all honesty is when I threw out the analytics and stopped questioning whether I had something to offer the world or not. Of course I did, and no longer just through my bourbon-stained blog. Thank you, Homefries.

The point of all of this, really, was to express that The Table Set has been allowing me to explore ChocoMeat's interests on a larger scale. Now once a week I get to talk about parties. Thoughtful entertaining, from small to large scale. Creating experiences. And of course what drink to pair it all with.

Our premiere podcast was about throwing a winning pool party. So when we discussed actually throwing a first-ever Table Set event to tie up summer, what better way?? Check it out.

For the party, I whipped up this version of the San Francisco prohibition classic Pisco Punch, made by infusing Pisco (a strong Peruvian spirit made from distilling fermented grapes) with fresh pineapple in place of traditional pineapple gum syrup. While you can discard the pineapple after infusing the Pisco, if you want a REAL party, toss them in the punch bowl like I did. Just warn your guests!

Pisco Punch
Adapted from Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club via New York Magazine

2 (750-ml) bottles of pisco capel
2 pineapples
4 limes, zested
32 oz simple syrup, chilled
2 white grapefruit
32 oz fresh lemon juice
2 l club soda
mint sprigs for garnish, optional
fresh hibiscus blossoms for garnish, optional

Make the pineapple Pisco: Cut pineapple into 1/2-inch chunks, and put into a large covered jar. Add the Pisco. Cover, shake to agitate, and refrigerate for 3 days.
Make the lime syrup: Add the lime zest to 16 ounces of cold simple syrup. Cover, shake to agitate, and refrigerate for 24 hours. Strain away zest and store in refrigerator.
Make the grapefruit syrup: Add the grapefruit zest to remaining 16 ounces of cold simple syrup. Cover, shake to agitate, and refrigerate for 24 hours. Strain away zest and store in refrigerator.
Make the punch: In large bowl, combine pineapple infused Pisco and all of the pineapple chunks, lime syrup, grapefruit syrup, and lemon juice. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Pour in the club soda and add a large ice block into bowl just before serving. Garnish with mint sprigs and fresh hibiscus blossoms.

Listen to the Table Set here!
Download and subscribe on iTunes

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gala Parfait: Octo-Q

One byproduct of co-hosting The Table Set that I'm really enjoying is that - as it is a podcast about entertaining - I am hosting gatherings more than ever! I recently co-hosted one of my favorite bashes to date, and forged a new friendship with an old familiar face.

Some things are just fated. Natalie and I went to art school together in Eugene, Oregon, but didn't really know each other. When I waited tables at Portland's uppity Pearl District hot spot Bluehour I recognized Natalie dining with the PICA and Wieden+Kennedy power lunchers. (I later found out Natalie too had worked at the restaurant before me). Five years later, I discover that we are both working on flip sides making a DEVO record in Los Angeles. We couldn't ignore this any longer. We joined forces. A barbecue on Natalie's Hollywood Hills deck was decided upon almost immediately. A blending of our friends; food lovers, art lovers, and music lovers... But what would we serve?

Ever since Natalie's recent trip to Chile she told me she's been obsessed with finding out how to make octopus tender and flavorful like she had tasted there. What she knew was that barbecuing is part of the secret. The proposal: An octopus BBQ?! Obviously I was down for the challenge, so we started to brainstorm the plan. Octopod culinary research went underway. A smoker was purchased and assembled. In the meantime I whipped up an invite to encapsulate the vibe. Natalie only has a turntable, so we would ask guests to bring a record. Other secret surprises were concocted.

Like any proper party, we needed to conceptualize a cocktail that would stand up to the smokey char of a crispy tentacle. Natalie brilliantly suggested the inclusion of smoked ice(!) Several tests on her part found that smoking water over cherry/mesquite wood and then freezing it produced subtly satisfactory results. In the spirit of the wood we ran with cherries and I made a brandied batch to muddle with orange in a Smokey Cherry Old Fashioned.

Macerating the cherries before tossing with hot water and submerging in Brandy.

The afternoon of the party, I was led up the steps to Natalie's deck by the scent of tantalizing smoke. Crows were eying the smoker, cawing at me as I approached the house. Inside I could hear a commotion. "Hello?..." I called stepping gently toward her open door, like a marked slasher victim. The grisly scene I walked into was not what I expected.
Whack. Whack. Whack. It takes 99 from a hammer to properly tenderize an octopus, they say. Natalie was just finishing up, and wiped her brow following the workout. The beast beneath her was HUGE, and the gravity of our endeavor finally sank in. "WOW," was all I could say.
The marinated creature went in a boiling pot next, where it began to reanimate and coil about in the simmering liquid. Then Natalie took a blade to it and carved it up for the grill.
Out back she gave me a peek of the little guys she had jerkifying in the smoker, spicy marinated buggers peppered with crackling chilies. While she breaked for costume change, I set up the bar.
Sure, our guest list had grown (and still was unbeknownst to us), but Natalie insisted on china and silver (bless her!) We set the table for... 15 or so, with a back-up stack of plates on the sideboard.
Our first guest arrived, which meant records, and cocktails! To have enough glasses for all, I picked up a couple crates of Kerr half pint wide-mouth mason jars, which make a pretty swell old fashioned tumbler. (Naturally I failed to photograph a finished cocktail, I was too busy cranking them out!)
The Smokey Cherry Old Fashioneds and a lovely contribution of cheese and salumi from one guest busied our happy hour revelers while we continued to ready for the main event.
We plucked the jerked octis from the smoker and joined the table with the tasty dishes our guests provided.
Michael's spicy shrimp were a hit. Luckily some cucumbers were handy to quell the heat.
The spread of vegetables was staggering... From kale salad to watermelon n' feta to spiced potatoes to fiery Sriracha slaw. I made two salads - One of chickpeas, chorizo, and arugula, and another of radicchio, Italian parsley, apricots and shaved fennel with a minty olive vinaigrette.
Natalie stood watch at the grill, turning the big boy's legs.
The flavor was robust and delicious. "Next time more char," Natalie said, tugging at the outer skin. Regardless, everyone waited with patient curiosity while I sawed the leggies into medallions.
What to drink with grilled octopi? Well I leave that to the experts. Luckily Whitney of Brunellos Have More Fun and DomaineLA was present with a few fitting bottles. My favorite was La Dilettante, Domaine Breton‘s 2009 Vouvray moustillant. A delicious crisp chenin blanc with light, moussey bubbles.
"Hey, that's from the store!" Whitney called at another guest's contribution of Causse Marines Marcillac, a... funky, earthy, inky red. Joy the Baker's fabulous peach & blackberry cobbler dessert (gobbled up before it was photographed) was geniously paired by Whitney with a Frantz Saumon Gamay Moelleux, a sexy, lingering yet tangy pomegrante, strawberry and pine masterpiece. (Read Whitney's account of the BBQ here).
But the cherry on top was our secret surprise guest, Luz Elena Mendoza, singer of Portland's beloved Y La Bamba. She graced the hushed patio with a short set of passionate arias ripe with duende.

Come dusk, we walked up the hill to a nearby viewing point and sat with circling ravens, watching as the sun sunk into the ocean. The way every perfect summer dinner party really should come to a close.

For those hoping for some more in depth octopus cooking tips, here are Natalie's four simple steps to making killer tentacles at home!

Just do it.