Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I go pro for a night

I have never been one to have a party catered. If people come over, I cook for them. In fact, there have been only three such events we've ever hosted. The first was a graduation party, with food by The Cannoli King, the second was my Dad's birthday party, where a giant In-N-Out truck parked in the driveway, and the third was an auction prize from that bastion of foodies, my daughter's school. All of these worked out nicely, but I have to say this last one really made me rethink my whole do-it-myself party stance.

The scene is my house. It is quite clean. There are flowers and candles in the appropriate places. In honor of my husband's birthday, we have invited a group of friends over. An hour before the guests were due to arrive, I was not in the kitchen presiding over a hot stove and a sink full of dishes in my stained t-shirt and sweatpants, barking orders at my husband about vacuuming and filling up ice buckets. Nope. I was not cooking*. I was opening the door for the caterers, showing the bartender where to set up, and heading for the bathroom to take the first relaxed shower I have ever had in the history of hostessing at my house**. It was sheer bliss. And you should have seen the looks on my friend's faces when, not only did I personally greet them upon arrival***, but these lovely creatures in crisp white aprons began passing little bites of prosciutto-wrapped asparagus among them. Bite after bite of gourmet goodies appeared before us, each tastier than the last.

At the end of the night****, a single male friend of ours took me aside and asked:

Who are your caterers? They're HOT!

"Of course they are," I agreed. "They're moms."

Hands down, it was the best return on a charitable contribution that I've ever had.*****

When auction time came around this year, I was invited to join the catering mom squad******. It was enormously gratifying to see the price escalate as we enjoyed cocktails in the ballroom on the night of the auction. Yay, us!

And it was equally terrifying to get the call: Party for 25 on July 11. Uh oh.

The week before, I planned and practiced. My husband was totally fine with this.
The day before, I prepped and packed. My husband was less fine with this, as I stayed up really late and kicked him by accident when I finally did get to bed.
The day of the party? I reverted to my old ways.** But, after a short delay...

Platter of assorted cheeses*******

Ahi Tuna Tartare on Tortilla Chips

Chocolate Mousse Shots with Salted Carmel and Whipped Creme Fraiche

We rocked!********

* OK. I admit I didn't think they would actually bring food, so I made a cheese platter and a big pot of gumbo just in case, but it was all done WAY ahead of time for a change.
** I usually take the first ring of the bell as my cue to fling the sponge at my startled husband and make a mad dash for our room to start getting ready.
*** My husband has perfected the art of both greeting and then having long conversations with people I have invited that he doesn't know in my absence. He barely looks awkward anymore.
**** As the caterers were cleaning the kitchen!!!
***** Far, far exceeding the KCRW messenger bag and the guest passes from the zoo.
****** Strangely enough, someone had dropped out. Offended by my cheese platter or a portent of how much work would be involved? Who knows...
******* Clearly, when in doubt, I whip up a cheese platter.
******** Don't take my word for it. Direct quote from our client, via e-mail: "THANK YOU GUYS SOOOO MUCH for the amazing food. It was fantastic. Can't thank you all enough. You rock."

This post officially sets the record for footnotes. In order to avoid any more, I will put the recipe for the dessert pictured here in its very own post.

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