Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pressure cocktails



Today's second party for the evening was a dinner at the home of Daniel de la Cruz, Manila's most prominent youngish and highly-collected sculptor who just returned from a successful exhibit opening in Hong Kong, and a very old friend since high school.

He'd gathered a group of mostly wine-drinking guys together and when I arrived midway through dinner, they were already all happily into the wines. The guys know their stuff and a couple of them brought really nice bottles which I so enjoyed with Daniel's cooking.

"I haven't cooked in 10 years," he told us, as we sat around his large and lovely dining table which looked like an antique door re-fashioned into a table. He'd made fettucine with clam sauce a la Daniel, and there was chicken galantina and all kinds of roast meats as well.

FRIENDS AND RESTAURANTS IN COMMON

My old friend Jack was there too, and in fact, he was the one who included me in tonight's dinner. We couldn't talk much across the very large table, especially with everyone else in-between us talking quite loudly, but sometime along the night, he came and sat nearer me and said: "I had dinner with a friend of yours at La Girolle recently."

He meant the new casual French place at the Fort with a chef who worked previously at a famous restaurant in Paris. And even before he told me who he'd dined with, I knew instinctively which friend he meant even if a couple of people I know have already been to La Girolle a handful of times.


THE PRESSURE'S ON

As I was the last one to arrive, I was assigned a seat at one corner and I basically didn't stand up from here until it was time to go -- or at least until it was time for me to go, as I left them all still drinking merrily away. Unfortunately I didn't have the luxury of staying up late tonight as I have my cocktail party tomorrow night and still no preparations have really been done as I've been terribly busy with other things.

It didn't help that one of my neighbors sent me an extra-pressure BBM this afternoon: "It's the grand finale tomorrow." There was a very big smiley face at the end.

Everyone's been teasing me about coming up with something special tomorrow because it's the very last neighborhood party of the year. I still haven't really decided what I'm going to do, but I thought I'd see what inspires me when I wake up tomorrow morning.

I was at someone else's Christmas lunch today discussing my possible membership in a gourmet society when I'd received this BBM message; but anyway, I replied: "You just had to say that, didn't you? I should blog about you."

PARTY PLANNING 101

Of course I put a smiley face at the end. A couple of neighbors are getting a kick out of teasing me, but it's all in good fun and I'm assuming they'll be happy with whatever kind of party I end up organizing.

But for good measure, I did make sure I had a case of good champagne on hand, and I'd ordered an entire leg of the best Parma ham available in the Philippines, from Bacchus Epicerie in Rockwell. And lots of cakes from my favorite bake shop at Burgos Circle in the Fort: Sweet Bella. Sweet Bella's strawberry shortcake is the most delicious in Manila.

THE BEST HOT CHOCOLATE IN THE WORLD

They also have the best hot chocolate in the world, as far as I'm concerned -- better than everyone's favorite Angelina's in Paris. A guy I know thought I was exaggerating about the hot chocolate, but when we went there for a sample cup a few weeks ago, it was he who had the three servings. I wish I could serve this hot chocolate tomorrow night, but it's a cocktail party and not a slumber party.

And tonight, when I told some of my dinner companions that I was hosting the last neighborhood cocktails tomorrow, one of them asked: "What are you doing here? Didn't you have to prepare tonight?"

I'd been busy all day with a Christmas lunch that lasted all afternoon, followed by someone's 70th birthday, and then Daniel's dinner. And at the 70th birthday party, I'd even bumped into some of my neighbors going to my party tomorrow night. There had been so many people but from across the room, they'd made hand signals which I'd read loud and clear: "Your house tomorrow night."

Anyway, to the dinner guest tonight, I replied: "I'm going to start preparing exactly after lunch tomorrow."

OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND

That's me. I work well under pressure and I compartmentalize stuff so that I can deal with everything one at a time and forget about them when it's not their turn. Out of sight, out of mind -- whether it's projects, events or people.

If I'm at a dinner tonight, I'm completely enjoying the party and not planning in my head for my party tomorrow; but I'm scheduling intensive focus time from 130 PM tomorrow when nothing else will come between me and my cocktail party planning for a few hours. This is how I've been able to host pretty nice parties in Paris, London and New York, while traveling, and by making use of whatever resources are at hand.

But I have to admit: the pressure to produce a pretty good cocktail party is on. And it's going to be fun.


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