Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Spice

Throughout the month of November I held a series of dinner parties I called Serendipity Dinners.


The system was thus: I invited a wide variety of people from all areas of my life to dinner on a Friday of their choice. The only stipulation was that they let me know which dinner they wanted to attend by 24 hours beforehand. There were no limits on numbers. The mix of people, and the overall number of people, who attended each dinner would be left entirely to fate.


The other angle for the Serendipity Dinners was in the menu. My policy was that the dishes had to either be old favourites that I hadn't made in years, or new recipes that I wanted to try, or my own off-the-cuff creations: I denied myself the luxury of falling back on my safe, regular dishes.


A few days before the first dinner I steeled myself to the possibility that it would just be me alone with one embarassed person whom I knew only slightly, or that it would be a dozen guys and one horrified girl, or that there would be awkward silences as a bunch of strangers sat around the dining table avoiding each others' gazes.


However the odd thing is that, left alone, serendipity works. Each week I had around a dozen people. Each week I had an almost perfect gender balance. Each week everyone chatted and got on fine. If I tried to interfere, such as suggesting that a potential guest might be happier in one week than another, the whole scheme jarred like a scratch on a vinyl record, then inexorably sorted itself out to the usual numbers and balance.


The menus came out as follows:


November 6

Roasted beetroot and goats cheese salad with a grilled walnut vinaigrette

Dukkuh-crusted salmon fillets with roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes and steamed asparagas

Hazelnut and poppyseed cake with orange and cardamom icecream

Lesson learnt: Too much cardamom makes icecream taste like detergent (fortunately that was a test batch).


November 13

Grilled peach and proscuitto salad in a chilli yoghurt dressing

Spanish-style barramundi, prawn and chorizo stew

Roasted balsamic strawberry icecream with crostoli

Lesson learnt: Grilling enough peaches for thirteen people in a sandwich press is both expensive and time consuming.


November 20

Creamy carrot soup with bavarian rye bread

Balsamic chicken on thyme and garlic cous cous with mixed vegetables.

Chocolate cherry liqueur cake with white chocolate marscapone cream

Lesson Learnt: Never pour hot carrot soup from one saucepan to another while wearing a $600 suit.


November 27

Red onion and rosemary tart.

Porterhouse steak topped with blue cheese butter and roasted pear, with asparagas, brocollini and candied sweet potatoes.

Individual sticky date puddings with hot caramel sauce.

Lesson Learnt: Butter + Sugar + Easy + Yum = Sticky Date Pudding.


The end result of the Serendipity Dinners was that I got to know a bunch of people who I didn't know all that well before, I discovered some new recipes that I will definitely try again, and I got to spend time eating and drinking with my friends. It was indeed a series of happy accidents. If you like the idea, I recommend that you try it.


As long as you invite me.

6 Comments:

Blogger He sings said...

I really loved tis post! Would love to know more specifics on how well you thought each course turned out. Then, maybe you can post your featured and most well-liked ones here (especially the sticky date pudding.)

Joshua

4:13 PM  
Blogger PT said...

interesting idea. i've tried to do something similar like this in the past, but couldn't keep up with the costs. i think i decided to nix the idea as a whole after 3 dinners. any tips/ideas on how you approach these dinners as far as a budget goes??

10:57 PM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

PT, I made a point to not worry about the costs - it's the only way to deal with it all. That said, there are a few things that help keep it all under control.

1. Basing dishes on creativity rather than exotica. For example the ingredients for orange and cardamom icecream (milk, cream, sugar, salt, an orange, powdered cardamom) are cheap and generic - it's the combination that makes them special.

2. Buying things in season (peaches, asparagus) and on special (the chicken breasts were only $2.50 each!)

3. Not overcatering. There was plenty of food but rarely any leftovers.

I'll post some of the better recipes over the next few days. Like I said, interesting but affordable is the key.

11:38 PM  
Anonymous fishgosquish_gill said...

I was fortunate enough to attend two of the dinners and I must say, they were fantastic. I knew you were a good cook Blandwagon but I didn't realise you are an absolutely fantastic cook. I was a bit worried about having you over for dinner after tasting your amazing cooking.

As an attendee, and someone who can be shy (yes, in the wrong group of people I can), I had a great time. The first dinner I knew several people well but still had the opportunity to meet people I hadn't met before or I had only met very briefly at other shindigs of yours. The second dinner I attended (the forth) I didn't know anyone particularly well but the people I knew better were enough to stop me from hiding under the table. I actually believe I enjoyed the last one better, even though I didn't know anyone incredibly well, but that may have something to do with me ending up in the company of four delightful young men when the other women and a few of the men left. ;-)

I think they were a great idea and overall a complete success. I did actually rave about them for weeks after (well, it hasn't been quite a week since the last one, but I am still raving).

12:37 AM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

An unrehearsed testamonial, ladies and gentlemen!

And all I needed to do was kidnap her puppy.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous fishgosquish_gill said...

So you are the reason my dog is sick!

3:44 PM  

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