the hinata diaries

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas dinners past and present

Hosting Christmas dinner at our place this Saturday for a group of about 20 friends. Philippe and I have thrown Christmas parties every year since we've been married, and they've provided loads of amazing memories through the years. E.g.:

(1) 2001 - Christmas at Yonghe Villas in Beijing. Maybe this is idealizing it a bit, but my memory of this Christmas is walking through the snow covered hutong to arrive at bright lights, warm food and flowing wine. Had about 50 friends and friends of friends there. Having grown up with the unshakeable belief that every Christmas must have ham and turkey, but that any attempt on my part to make said ham and turkey would lead to dramatic failure, we ordered them from the Kerry Hotel. The shepherd's pie was the sleeper hit of the night, defying our ayi's suspicions that such a bland looking dish could actually be tasty. And I remember Gloria's amazing homemade blinis and choux...

(2) 2002 - Christmas at Spottiswoode Park. Our first Christmas party in Singapore! Ham and turkey from Marriott, which led to the surprising discovery that Sa is pretty adept with an electric knife (quite a terrifying realization actually). Sleeper hit this time round were the cherry tomatoes soaked in peppered vodka, which was responsible for quite a bit of merriment that night. Also remember mango and beet rolls (looked great, tasted ok) and drunken chicken (looked awful, tasted great) and a blue cheese salad, whose noxious pong succeeded in defending itself from all hungry advances. For some strange reason though, my strongest memory of that night was cleaning up after and wishing Seah had made it back from the States in time to come.

(3) 2003 - Christmas at Everton. The insane Christmas party! Ham and turkey from Marriott , rest of food catered from House of Peranakan for a change. Star of the night was Mr Shit, whose shenanigans that night (some of which involved polka music) are the stuff legends are made of and simply beyond words.

(4) 2004 - Two Christmas parties at Everton. 1st was for the Borg 'n' Frog, ham and turkey from Marriott once more. Reasonably sedate compared to the year before, although the evening libation managed to evolve from very civilized wine and champagne to vodka detergent. 2nd was for the new non-Singaporean friends we had grown close to over the year. Breaking with tradition, ham and turkey for this night was from Mezza9, a definite change for the better and from which there is no returning. Highlight of this evening was the arrival of the police at 1am, who were astonished to discover that all that noise had been generated by a sedate looking group of about 10 people. (Nicky, fortunately, had climbed down from her chair and stopped screaming by then. Julien, however, needed a bit of further hushing up.)

(5) 2005 - Last Christmas at Everton before the big move to Tembeling! I can't even begin to predict what the night will have in store for us in terms of events and happenings, but do need to sort out what it will have in store for us in terms of food!

As with my new (and unfortunately still unused) cocotte, planning the menu is really half the fun, and has taken me the better half of the last two weeks. Including a trip to Kinokuniya with June of, under the excuse of there being a 20% off members' sale. Given that it is Christmas, thought the fare should be pretty hearty, may have to crank up the aircon to keep people hungry methinks. So here is the plan so far:

Still undecided, but potentially:
Parmesan and nori puffs, from Jane Lawson's Yoshoku (one of my new acquisitions)
Tapenade (recipe from our Italian former neighbour in Beijing)

Tomatoes in sesame sauce a la Xi Yan
Asparagus, mint and parmesan salad, from an old issue of Vogue Travel & Entertaining

Ham and turkey from Mezza9 (hooray for Christmas staples!)
Potato and lardon casserole, from the Dec 2005 issue of Epicurious

Plum clafoutis from Donna Hay's Modern Classics
And, if I'm really feeling ambitious, a chocolate tart from the same book, to double up as Jean's birthday cake

Given my sorry kitchen management skills, have tried to find relatively straightforward recipes. But then again, they all look relatively simple until you realize the guests are arriving and you're only halfway done and still clad in food-stained clothes and messy hair. So we shall see! Wish me luck!


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