But the boogie man recession has us on the ropes with the funds needed to properly entertain, so we called out the troops to help us put together a pot luck dinner party.
It coincided with Chinese New Years, so we had a fun theme to riff on.
You can see our kitchen in it's every day state, the real way we live as opposed to the fluffed up magazine life we see in our mind's eye.
It's a large kitchen, actually comprised of the original 100 year old kitchen and a bedroom that has been done away with.
The stairway goes up to the camel back, a second floor just on the back of the house, where Alberto's office is.
Alberto is a playful scamp, as he dons his chef hat from Argentina, and decorates his face with his Fu Manchu look with a burnt wine cork.
He did wash his face and change into a dashing red shirt for dinner ha ha.
He's preparing the Long Life Noodles with chicken and mushrooms.
It was Alberto's idea to have a kitchen
party, to make a chef's table in the
kitchen since we had a rather large
group of 14 to seat.
We had to shift some things around,
which is my speciality as the middle
of the night furniture mover.
Wine glasses were hauled out. I used to have about 60 glasses, but got rid of most of them. Now I have odds and
ends that I mix and match to complete a table setting.
I also have a collection of Edwardian
silver plate flatware that is our
everyday silverware. I have never babied it, throwing it into the dishwasher everyday. On special occasions like this, I polish it all, and it always comes out looking
fabulous. It's mostly a matching set,
though I have added pieces that have
a similar look over the years.
Our usual sit down dinner is for ten people, but we have been known to
do a seated dinner for 50, using all of our own things, by mixing and matching.
We started shopping a week before
the party. Alberto also constructed
a table top at this time. Two days before the party we started food prep, and shopping for decor. Some of that shopping took place around the storage shed, and from my magic closet and cupboards, and from the garden.
I knew the color scheme would be red, because of our Chinese New Years theme. I wanted to get quince branches for an entry bouquet, and red tulips and red and pink carnations for the table. Alas, even the reliable flower department at Whole Foods didn't have anything except some sick looking over priced tulips. But they did have perfect Clementines that I really had to have. Not to worry.
Wal Mart and Sams usually have pretty good basic flowers at an inexpensive price.
Because I was on a recession budget here, there was no running to the cute boutique flower shop.
But Wal Mart had nothing today! And I was running out of energy and time.
So I went to faux! I got all my flowers at Wal Mart for around $20.! I also picked up red cocktail napkins and a couple of plastic tablecloths and the tiny paper parasols used for "kookielau" drinks, and some gold stickers I needed too, and some great plastic martini glasses for the saketinis.
I also picked up some red envelopes and wasabi green place cards from The Stationers, a terrific shop on Magazine Street. A couple of more red linen napkins from Belladonna finished the decor shopping.
I started the decor in the dance parlor where the front door is.
The entry table got a stack of red envelopes.
It's a Chinese tradition to give each
person a red envelope with money it as a good luck token to insure prosperity for the coming year.
You give an even number of bills; odd numbers are considered bad luck.
I usually get the traditional envelopes you can find in Chinatown, but the local Asian market didn't have any.
So I got pretty red envelopes and wasabi place cards suggested to me by Jane at Stationers.
I picked up some funny money at the Asian market with 5,000 dollar bill denominations, and put four of them into each envelope.
I added little gold stickers on the front and the back of each
envelope to add a little bling to the bling.
I moved our kitchen table into the empty dance parlor, centered in the room under the chandelier.
The table is an old rusty thing I
dragged into the house from the street years ago.
The kitchen table really looks good in this room. It coordinates with my rusty cart which I paid good money for.
The dining chairs came into the dance
parlor from the kitchen too, placed
in pairs in the corners, to provide a
couple places to sit down with a drink.
The center table became the saketini bar, with a huge arrangement on it.
I dragged a garden urn from the yard and cut some bamboo poles to size to make an arrangemrnt.
This bamboo is left over from the wedding decor I did years ago for our dear friends Joe and Sabina.
Add the mini paper parasols, and the faux Chinese lantern flowers from Wal Mart, and stuff the uber trendy Foo dog into the urn, and a red Chinese tassel to gild this overblown lily.
Clementines in a Lucite shell bowl, red napkins, and giant confetti add to the mix. I found some animal candle sticks, and they seemed perfect, a monkey and a fox illuminating the Year of the Ox. The little gold frame has a sign in it that says "Happy New Year 2009" in beautiful calligraphy. It was actually a very special greeting card from friends in Key West. I'm telling you, I use everything!
I moved onto the living room. Beyond vacuuming and dusting, the only thing I did in here was a vase of red and pink carnations on the coffee table.
Alberto loves to build things, and he
really loves to make things for me. We are lucky to have a funky garage,
and off street parking in the middle
of New Orleans. I also have my own shed that holds all the party decor, and holiday decorations.
We used to have a dance studio where
we gave weekly dance parties.
We also did many tango festivals,
that required a unique decor for two
dinner dances given during those
festivals. I keep everything if it doesn't get trashed, knowing that some day I'll recycle it.
Anyway, that's why we have so many
folding chairs. They were part of our dance studio supplies.
The garden pedestals came in from outside to use under the table top Alberto constructed of three pieces of plywood.
We were going to use saw horses, but
they were too wide.
I used a king size piece of quilt batting I had left over from doing
some fabric treatment on bedroom walls. I folded it half to make the
table top extra luxe. An extra long
banquet tablecloth was the perfect size for our chef's table in the kitchen.
The next thing to do is my favorite! Time to set the table.
I do this the night before, actually going in the wee small hours of the
It's quiet, and I'm very mellow after
the hustle and bustle of the busy few days leading up to the party.
All the dishes and glasses have been washed, and the silver polished.
I have so many sets of dishes, and for this party I chose what I call my catering plates, a set of simple white heavy china with a gold rim.
A red runner made from two folded
plastic tablecloths goes down the length of the table.
Five small silver glass julep cups are filled with a dozen carnations in each, half red, half pink.
I use a pair of pruning shears to cut apart the flowers that come in a bundle of six attached flowers.
Using individual stems makes a better looking bouquet.
Each person's place has a plate down with a red linen napkin simply folded on top of it.
Silverware is placed on each side of the plate, fork tines down, an old Euro custom I've been doing for years. A pair of new chop sticks
is placed on top of the napkin.
Then the place card.
Small white ironstone salt cellars,
and small and large divided dishes
go down the center of the table, to be filled with mustards and plum dipping sauces later.
I fidget and fuss and have such a great time doing all of this.
The over size confetti squares get
tossed down. After all it is a New Years celebration!
But wait! What else can I add???!!!
I've asked the guests to please wear red, but sometimes my wishes are
not obeyed ha ha. So I remember the boxes of Mardi Gras beads in the shed.
Local lore has it that all the houses in New Orleans are tilting because of the weight of all the Carnival beads that we catch every year, and then stash in attics. I had a pristine unopened bag of red beads waiting for this party.
Each person got some beads to put on, thus able to wear something red for the overall festive effect of this themed party.
Even the crappy baker's rack in the kitchen got cleared
off for the night. I can't part with this thing, because it
houses all of our cook books, dish towels and napkins,
and has the all important, albeit mini size, junk
Tonight it's the dessert buffet.
The vintage cake stand and platter awaits the dreamy
sinful pies that Julie contributed. The vintage majolica pitcher with the caranations, has a plum blossom on it!
Everybody brought such delish offerings!
Chris and Joe brought Spring Rolls that were
the perfect appetizer served at the saketini bar
in the dance parlor.
Jessica and Thomas made the best saketinis I ever
had! Vodka, sake, and a paper thin slice of cucumber.
Mitchell made a tasty fried rice.
I did the braised ox tails, and they were really good. It was a two day
cooking process, and I will do it again!
Barbara and Edwin made a fantastic
Todd and Thomas were in charge of bringing the wine, and they got into the spirit of the theme, by wrapping the wine bottles in what they called
Jessica brought the Chinese green beans and all the saketini fixings, and Jon brought the magic.
The island in the kitchen is piled with platters
waiting for the food to come out. I had lots of
chopped parsely and green onions on hand for
We love the way the big chef's table looks in our kitchen.
Can you see the island in the back of the shot was used as a serving buffet?
Even my office got a little change - this fab wing chair usually lives a corner of the kitchen near a window. I've left it in my office for now, because Cholo and I really like it here.
The best thing about a party are the people! We invited 14, and we were 12 that night.
The age group was varied, the converstaion great! It was very late when the party broke up.
It took a few days to break it all down. We washed the dishes that night, and sent everyone home with red envelopes, oranges, and left overs. They left us with gratitude for gracing our home with their good company.
You can do this too! All this red would make a great Valentine's table setting for two to twelve.
If you don't serve Chinese food, just remove the chopsticks. If you want less bling, don't use the
confetti or beads.