Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres with three lovely ladies

19 12 2008

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IT WAS last year when I first got wind of what appeared to me as a ‘cocktails and hors d’oeuvres’ tradition hosted by three lovely ladies from one of our engineering departments in the office.  I inadvertently saw the invitation proudly posted on the office wall of one of my friends.  How I wish I were invited.

 

It took a good year.  But in a classic case of ‘ask and you shall receive,’ I finally got invited this year!  The invitation – one of only 20! – was personally delivered to me by my gracious friend Mitzi.  If there’s one thing an invitation does, besides provide the pertinent details of the event (and a map when needed!), is that it sets the tone of the event or party.  The invitation was in a two-tone mix of color and non-color, in a classic font, the simplicity of which was broken only by the one line in cursive that says, ‘Celebrate the Season.’  The paper they used was nice, and the printing passed Spider-man’s exacting standards.  It opened by saying, ‘Please join us for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as we celebrate the season.’

 

The invitation was teeming with old world charm.  Nice.

 

It also helped a lot that I know two of the three ladies who were throwing the party – Mitzi, my fellow engineer, who I have been working with for quite some time now; and the very lovely Leah, who I’ve known from afar for her statuesque bearing and her brains (she’s been to international conferences as a technical paper author!).  Their triumvirate was completed by Alpha, another engineer.  I haven’t met her before but I had heard her name so many times.

 

Upon arriving at their beautifully appointed home, I was greeted by the bountiful spread on the center table as Mitzi, in her ‘party’ top, ushered us in (I was with Spider-man and another engineer).

 

First to catch my attention was the good mix of finger food.  The way the ladies paid attention to the presentation details reflected a couple of things.  It spoke volumes on how well-thought-out the spread was; and how these ladies’ skills elevated simple things like cold cuts and hotdog to something higher.  I actually felt like it was an injustice to just pick them up and directly pop them in my mouth.  They deserved to at least be prettily laid out on a dinner plate before they got devoured.  Some may say that the arrangements were ‘textbook’ party planning stuff, but I appreciated it a lot.  And the thing Leah did to the dips – separating chili con carne from cheese pimiento with multi-colored marshmallows lined up as divider – was just genius to me.

 

Oh, there were mini-sammies (sandwiches!) as well, which, prior to being attacked by the guests, almost looked like a white cake with toppings of fresh berries.

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After getting temporal satiation from the finger food, I trailed my sights to the proteins – a roasted chicken, and sticks upon sticks of pork barbecue!  The roasted chicken was from ‘Sr. Pedro,’ which I prefer over ‘Andok’s!’  The pork barbecue, while not made by any of the three ladies, was still home-made, courtesy of the neighbor.  It was substantial (as in huge chunks of meat) and flavorful, way down to the shreds around the skewers.  That could only mean perfect marination.  And the meat was highly seasoned – a bit tart, a little sweet, and biting with hints of black pepper.  Dunking it in the chili vinegar sauce was just great.

 

Halfway through the evening, I could tell that Mitzi, Leah and Alpha could give Robin Miller and Sandra Lee a run for their money.  These three ladies had put up a considerable spread on a night when they all had come from a full day at work.  Yes, most of the dishes had a good head start.  But still, there is something to be said about how well the party menu turned out.

 

Which brings me to the highlight of the spread (for me!).  It was Alpha’s specialty which she humbly calls her ‘seafood pasta.’  Being a non-lover (is there such as term?) of ‘cream-based’ sauces, I could feel my own skepticism bursting at the seams as I twirled the serving fork and put a conservative portion on my silver paper plate.  It was a good thing I comfortably settled myself on a chair first before I took my first bite because this seafood pasta jolted me with the kind of party it brought to my mouth.  The sauce was just fantastic.  And yes, those of you who adore cream sauces could surmise that this was just a mix of readily available canned ingredients.  But still, it was good.  It was so good.  The fettuccini was al dente.  I could sense the noodles were cooked just right, giving me a good chewing sensation as both the grain and the stretch were in perfect doneness.  It was called ‘seafood pasta’ and rightfully so, as I could see and really pierce with every forkful the fresh squid and the shrimps.  These bounty of the sea – not smelly in a ‘fishy’ kind of way at all – nestled on the sauce that was not too thick nor too thin.  Alpha did a good job ‘eyeballing’ her proportions of the cream and the milk.

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My photo didn't do justice to this wonderful dish - Fettuccini in Seafood Cream Sauce alla Alpha.

 

Rachael Ray has her own ‘You’ll-Never-Be-Single-For-Long’ vodka cream sauce pasta.  It was called so because it was sooo damn good (she says!).  Alpha’s could very well rival that dish!  Her concoction, a well-orchestrated symphony of what she probably regularly stocks on her kitchen cupboard, was a testament to her ‘budding’ culinary skills.  If she is not yet there.

 

Alpha was shy to name her dish loftily.  So I did it for her.  I christened her seafood pasta ‘Fettuccini in Seafood Cream Sauce alla Alpha.’  She talked me through how the dish was made.  True to form, a ‘culinarian’ like her, schooled in the home kitchens, did away with the cups and the measures.  I guess after talking to her, I can take a quick stab at reproducing this dish, in time for the coming holidays.

 

Of course we had to wash down all that food with something!  Mitizi appeared to be in charge of the drinks.  She made available a considerable array of options – white wine, red wine, regular soda, fruit juice, and a fruit punch spiked with gin.

 

I had a glass of the white wine – a lovely Chilean Manta Sauvignon Blanc she bought at the Duty Free Shop – which oozed with hints of citrus and herbaceous notes.  It went nicely with the pasta.

 

I had a great time there – my first cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.  I met new people.  I reconnected with old friends.  I whiled the time away over great food and an even greater company.  That’s hard to top!

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Mitzi (4th from left), Alpha (7th from left) and Leah (8th from left) carry on with a tradition teeming with old world charm - cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Spider-man is sitting leftmost.

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One response

22 12 2008
Lei v(*-*)v

Thanks for this overwhelming write-up. T’was a fun eve… Thanks for celebrating this year-ender activity with us;) Happy Christmas!

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