Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dinner with friends at home

Just when I thought things were going to slow down between Christmas and New Year's Eve, it turned out to be exactly the opposite. It's been one event after another, and I still have to find that evening when I can stay quietly at home and perhaps turn on the television set or watch a DVD. The only place I get to watch movies these days is on airplanes, and thank goodness I do a lot of flying or I would be hopelessly behind what's happening in the world.


Last night I had some friends over for dinner. You might almost say that the evening was all about spur-of-the-moment opportunities. For dinner proper, I had some wine friends over along with a lady I had not seen for over 20 years since we both lived in Tokyo and I used to attend cultural receptions she organized.

This dinner had been planned by the wife of my wine friend and I over a wine dinner last month, and we'd both blocked out the date on our phone calendars before saying goodbye. But we'd both been tipsy as we'd inputted the dates on our phones, so I was never really sure if we were going to push through or not, and I'd been too busy to follow up. However, a few days ago, we finally got around to talking about it.


We would probably have had dinner at a restaurant, as we usually do; but when we were discussing the details recently, I suddenly felt like inviting everyone over and cooking dinner instead -- so that's what I did.

I often have friends over for dinner when I can, so it's not a very big deal. And although I like pretty dramatic backdrops, I tend to serve food quite simply. That's what happens when you have a stressful day job and still want to entertain your friends at home every so often -- you're forced to compromise and think in simple terms and work around time and effort constraints.

But these friends coming over were real foodies who seem to eat very well every single day. And in spite of the fact that the week between Christmas and New Year's usually turns Manila into a No Man's Land with everything on quiet mode, I was having an uncharacteristically busy week with little time to blog and even less time to focus on cooking dinner. So it was just a little more stress than usual in terms of planning.

But in the end everything turned out well enough although I personally felt I could have done much better if a couple of work things hadn't suddenly come into the picture.


And before dinner -- as in literally before I was about to light the candles around my house -- my old AIESEC friend Anthony sent me a message about something and I ended up spontaneously inviting him over as well. Unfortunately he couldn't make dinner but he was in my general area and free at that very moment, so I said: "Why don't you come over for pre-dinner merienda instead?"

This just meant putting out the cocktail fare a little earlier, after all. It was 6 PM and there were still so many things to do about dinner; but I just couldn't let this opportunity pass up as Anthony and I both so rarely have a free evening to catch up at the same time. So he came over for drinks and ham and cheese, and then he literally walked out the door just as the dinner guests were arriving.

"I'm the first batch," he told them. Yes, it was sort of a pass-the-baton evening with the first batch leaving exactly as the second batch was arriving. But what a fun evening it was.


We began with champagne and prosciutto ham, with slices of Pecorino Toscana and freshly-baked bread. Then for dinner, I did a mango and arugula salad, truffle and white cheese pizza, truffle pasta with Spinossi noodles, and rack of lamb.

Everything was washed down with several bottles of very nice wine, with a 1986 Margaux as the finale. Then dessert was a luscious strawberry charlotte cake from Sweet Bella bakeshop in Burgos Circle at the Fort. The cake is not at all cheap but it's so worth it.

By close to midnight my blood pressure had shot up from all that very good wine and I was starting to feel the effects of too many late nights and too many very early mornings; but I was so happy that everyone had been able to make it and that we'd sat very relaxedly around my dining table instead of in some cramped restaurant with the waiters looking at their watches and wondering when we would leave.

I resolved to invite more friends over in 2012. But along with eating healthier, sleeping earlier and not spending too much on clothes, that's another story, and it's called New Year's Resolutions 2012.

Just another evening in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




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