Sunday, March 14, 2010

Standing Room Only...

Last night Husband and I hosted a dinner party. It's been a LONG time since I threw a dinner party. Years. And more years on top of those years. So yesterday morning I woke abuzz with a to-do list a mile long and channeling the enthusiasm (though, I assure you, not the talent) of Julia Child.

On Friday night, I'd attended a grown-up girl's bachelorette party that consisted of an Italian cooking lesson in the home of a retired chef from the North End of Boston (ah, gone are the days when "bachelorette party" requires penis-shaped straws and giant feather boas--although, don't get me wrong--those bachelorette parties were awwwwesome back when I was not old and mother-y). The chef gave us his recipes, cooked his dishes for us while explaining his technique and offering fabulous tips (smash your garlic with the smooth side of a meat tenderizer instead of using a garlic press--totally fantastic tip!), and as things finished cooking, the ladies descended upon platters of garlicky, cheesy deliciousness. It was a scrumptious, calorie-laden evening. I would be lying if I said I didn't have to drive home with my jeans unzipped to accommodate said deliciousness. Moderation? Never one of my strong points. From that cooking lesson, I found two items, a garlic and lemon-juice roasted broccoli and an orzo and lentil vegetable soup, that I wanted to cook to go along with the 40-clove garlic chicken recipe I found from the Barefoot Countessa. At 7am, I bolted out of bed, gathered my recipes and made my epic grocery shopping list (to also include 2 boxes of Annie's shells and cheddar to feed the 4 preschoolers who would be joining).

The day was then a flurry of running to this grocery store and that, because, please if you don't have to go to Trader Joe's, Safeway AND Whole Foods to make a meal work, you simply aren't trying hard enough. Husband went to Whole Foods and bought crostini, but then I realized I need mini toasts, NOT crostini, to go with the tapenades and bruchetta spreads, so he went back and got mini toasts. Because he is full of the awesome.

And of course, at every turn, we HAD to purchase another bottle of wine. Me, based on the label (because that is how you can tell if a wine is going to be good, people; it's pretty picture or witty name!) and Husband, based on some actual knowledge about years and grapes and well-known wineries--whatever. Let's just say if the bottle of wine is named after some guy or a lake or something, and has a picture of a bird or a tree on it, I didn't buy it. If it looked like this, though:

you're damn tootin' I'm buying it because it makes me laugh. I have no idea if this wine was good or not, but I'm sure I'll be buying it again because anyone who calls a wine "Mad Housewife" and puts a doped-up, vacant-looking '50's housewife on the label deserves my $8.99, just for entertaining me. Let's face it, if Anne Taintor started putting her labels on wine bottles, I'd likely never be sober again.

I was good though; did not open the first bottle of wine until right before my guests arrived, as I needed 1.5 cups of dry white for my 40-clove garlic chicken. For the hours leading up to the dinner party, I cleaned and cooked. Ethan sat on the floor while I was chopping vegetables, and blew up his arm-swimmies. Because he was apparently planning on swimming? Who knows. It kept him busy and happy for about 30 minutes.

One glitch pre-dinner party was that after watching me clean the bathroom, Ethan decided that he was going to be ever so helpful and contribute to the clean-campaign. By taking the toilet brush out of its holder and scrubbing, I'm guessing, every surface of the bathroom with it. "I'm helping!!!" he said as I walked into the bathroom to find him scrubbing the outer toilet seat with the toilet brush. GAH!!!!! And since I hadn't seen WHAT all he had already "cleaned," (it was like the Seinfeld episode when Jerry drops his girlfriend's toothbrush in the toilet and doesn't tell her. When she finds out, she locks herself in the bathroom and when she emerges, she says, "now something of yours has been in the toilet, too," and Jerry is nearly apoplectic with the germophobia), I had to clean EVERYTHING again. With the harsh chemically cleaner because, PEOPLE! Just. so. gross. And then I locked the toilet brush and holder away in a closet. Lesson learned, just at the most inopportune time.

Anyway, I managed a shower and a sparkly top before friends arrived. Then the wine and the laughter started flowing. The men took the kids in the back yard and supervised the bug-hunting and exploration that ensued, all while eating their body weight in chips and salsa. The women popped open some wine, and helped me with some of the last stages of the meal preparations. And bless their hearts for being the type of people who can't stand to see another woman dissolve into a whirling dervish in the kitchen--they could have easily sat back and watched me spinning from one counter to the next, trying to figure out what to do next--between the broccoli in the oven, the soup on the stove, the orzo on the stove to go into the soup, but cooking separately so it didn't soak up all the soup's liquid, making the sauce for the chicken, making the Annie's for the kids, steaming the broccoli for the kids, slicing the bread, and setting the table....I might have needed a few extra hands. Thank goodness I'm learning to ask for help--or at least accept it when offered.

My MAJOR dinner party snafu? I totally neglected to consider where the children were going to eat. zOMG, people, there is NOTHING so horrifying in entertaining etiquette as inviting a bunch of people over for dinner and then saying, "Oh, wow; I guess your kids are going to have STAND UP TO EAT THEIR DINNER!"

It was really everything in me not to run and hide in my room when I realized that I had somehow overlooked our seating dilemma. At Hannukah, Sofia and Ethan fit so nicely around his little table for two that it had been a non-issue. And every other night, Ethan just sits in a regular old dining room chair to eat dinner with us. I was mortified. Nothing says, "I really value our friendship" like making your friends' kids stand around a coffee table to eat their meals at your house.

Fortunately, my fabulous friends were great about it and described it to their kids as a great eating adventure--like maybe in some exotic part of the world of course the coolest people eat standing up. Only losers sit at chairs while they eat, duh.

Also? My chicken was awful--bland and relatively rubbery. Mortifying. Next time, I'm not bothering with Ina Garten; I'm whipping up a lasagna and calling it a day. At least I know I can rock the lasagna like nobody's business. It ain't sexy, but it will taste better than rubber-chicken.

But there was enough wine and hilarious conversation to make up for it (I hope!). At one point, while the children were playing in the living room and the adults were laughing at the dinner table, Ethan had to come into the dining room and ask us to "SHHHH!!! YOU'RE TOO LOUD!" Poor kid, all he got out of that was six adults falling out of their chairs, laughing even louder.

The kids, though, had their own little soiree, I assure you. Inside, outside, dancing, jumping on beds, catching worms in the back yard, playing "grown up and baby" (this is apparently why Ethan told us to keep it down--he was the daddy and his friend Piper was trying to sleep because she was a baby), decorating cupcakes---it was like preschool debauchery that left a swath of toys and cups throughout the house, like a 3-year old frat party, minus the beer and the hooking up, obviously.

I woke up this morning to a dining room table that looked like this:

and a kitchen that looked like this:

and even though it looks like almost as many hours of clean up as it was to prepare, and the clean up was done with a splitting headache and a cotton-y mouth, it was so so so worth it.


Becca said...

Fun fun fun!!! I would come to any dinner party of yours even if you specifically told me that rubbery chicken was on the menu! I will be needing that brocolli recipe, btw. Don't you love that the kids are old enough to run off on their own? LOVE that.

craftyisthenewblack said...

The BEST TIME we've had in months! A magical combination of friends, wine, and self-entertaining children. And, people, the chicken was not as bad as she is making out to be and the soup and broccoli were, um, A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

You should have let us help you with the dishes...

Kayla said...

Yay! Sounds so fun. But how does something with the words 40 clove garlic in the title turn out bland?