Saturday, October 8, 2011

Peking duck for a birthday dinner

Tonight I gathered 16 friends for a lauriat dinner at LiLi, the Chinese restaurant of the Hyatt Regency, which is supposed to be among the best in town. I used my birthday as an excuse, but actually I just wanted to gather friends and have some fun with good food on a Saturday night.

It was a pretty spur-of-the-moment invite so some good friends were either abroad or already busy; and one was even celebrating his own birthday with family so he obviously couldn't attend mine. But enough friends were able to make it to have a very nice table of 16.

Some of them were very old friends, others I hadn’t seen in quite a while, six of them were part of a large group who all met up for a major foodie trip to Japan -- and, boy, did we reminisce about that -- one had flown in from New York and was flying out again in a few hours; and one couple I’d actually seen three nights in a row. Most knew each other, and those who didn’t found only one degree of separation between them; so there was no complete stranger to the group.


To start off a birthday weekend -- although my birthday isn't for a while, actually -- I had a wonderful lunch at Caruso with my cousin and her family today as well. We had my favorite staples there and nothing fancy: pizza, pasta and pannacotta. I think we stayed for three hours.

And on the way to the restaurant, I had the inspiration to text a senior diplomat from a very important embassy to the Philippines, who I’d just met about a month ago, and ask him if he’d like to join us for the birthday dinner tonight.

He'd actually invited me out-of-the-blue to lunch at Caruso one day and that's how we initially met; and perhaps that's why I remembered him all of a sudden, on my way to Caruso today for lunch. Anyway, he’s very urbane and relaxed, and lots of fun. Because he's not one of these stiff diplomatic types, I didn’t think he’d mind terribly the last-minute invite even if this is a big no-no in the diplomatic world, to invite a top diplomat on a couple of hours' notice.

Well, he happily went and I was so glad I included him because he got along well with everyone. I seated him beside my good friend C who knows his food, wine and golf better than almost anyone I know; and by the end of the evening they were almost best friends and they were planning lunches and golf games. I don’t play golf but I insisted to C that he include me in their lunches because he always has great food in his test kitchen. Just my luck, my diplomat friend loved food, wine and golf as well, so they were talking the whole night.


It was also my friend B’s last night in Manila before flying off to New York very early tomorrow morning; and I was so glad that we could spend time on B’s first and last night in Manila. The talk over dinner was about anything and everything; but we all cracked up laughing when B showed us a text that just came in regarding the unfortunate and ever so premature death of the amazingly inspiring Steve Jobs: “20 years ago, we had Steve Jobs, Johnny Cash and Bob Hope. Today, we have no jobs, no cash and no hope.

Meanwhile, dinner began with a couple of Peking ducks as appetizers, and then we had something like 12 different courses before dessert. Was I feeding an army? Everyone wanted to know. Yes, I ordered almost everything that looked good on the menu since it was my birthday anyway.

Then someone brought a magnum of red wine – a Chateau Siran purchased directly from our friends Edouard and Sevrine, who live in Manila but own Chateau Siran – from the Margaux region and my friend C brought a terribly nice bottle of champagne that went to a lot of toasting. We finished those and a couple of other bottles from the restaurant’s cellar. It was so nice to have this intimate get-together -- a.k.a. birthday dinner -- over good food and wine.


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