Let me begin by saying that, although it resembles one, this was NOT a Deathmatch. A few weeks ago I decided to throw together what I promised would be the last Chinese-themed dinner party before I moved on to bastardizing cuisine from another Asian country. This was the last hurrah…
I will also say that Mr. Panda, to quote Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes from Dirty Dancing, “had the time of his life,” as you will see depicted throughout this post.
Lauren and Aaron were given the task of decorating the house in a “sexy communist” theme, and they succeeded with flying colors (actually, pretty much just red). I had been at work while they were setting up the night before, so when I arrived home to Mr. Panda surrounded by “Communist Funtown,” it was fairly overwhelming.
Because the theme was Dim Sum, I had scheduled the party to start at noon. Of course, no one took me seriously and everything got going around 3:30. In a desperate attempt to preserve the tradition of Dim Sum, and mask the fact that we’re raging alcoholics, Dietz and I purchased fourteen different kinds of tea for everyone to taste- and we only ended up brewing one. Instead we plowed through case after case of wine, a bottle of bourbon, a half gallon of tequila, and countless beers – just like we always do.
We streamed in a “top 40” radio station from China to enhance the mood, and it turns out that people still listen to the Backstreet Boys over there.
When people arrived I greeted them with course number one, Bak Kut Teh soup. This is a traditional Chinese breakfast dish usually consisting of a heavily spiced broth and several different parts of the pig. I chose to just serve broth garnished with cilantro as a meaty beverage designed to coat your stomach for some serious drinking.
Next up was Otis & Marya, who made their own Lup Cheong sausage and did a version of “pigs in a blanket” with steamed dough wrappers. Both a Chinese ketchup and mustard condiment were served alongside. You'll also notice Kate, Gemma, and Alysia starting to get pretty friendly with Mr. Panda...
Leslie, who had per usual gone over the top in helping with party preparations, was next with deep fried shrimp toasts. They were delicious and heavy enough to keep people satisfied for awhile, which was good because now it was Dietz’s turn in the kitchen for what is lovingly referred to as ‘the Congee hour.”
In his usual fashion Dietz had chosen to prepare three different styles of congee with countless garnishes, an enormously time-consuming undertaking right in the middle of the party. Knowing how he works I cleared everyone out of the kitchen and declared it to be a “no fly zone” until the congee hour was over.
During this period, Karl gets the grill going for his BBQ ribs and we start handing around the half gallon of Sauza Hornitos that Gemma and Josh had rolled in with. After destroying the ribs, which were fucking awesome, congee madness was still monopolizing all four of the stove burners, so we fire up the steamer on the grill.
Next up is Stephen with spicy lemongrass pork sausage and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf. This was a very well balanced dish, and I felt bad because just as he finished and started serving, the congee circus was also complete, accompanied by a presentation from Dietz on what the fuck to do with what.
The three kinds of congee were traditional, green mung bean, and black rice with red dates. They were served with a multitude of condiments, including a nuclear but delicious homemade sambal.
Melissa, who is an actual Asian person, was consulted on each dish, and knowing what was being served next I tried to distract her by (apparently, I don’t remember this that well…) licking her boot, because the next course was “Dim Sum Americana.”
Kate and Josh had created what would probably be the bane of any Chinese person’s existence: dumplings filled, separately, with Cheese Wiz, red hot dog, and pimento & ham. They were delicious and yet so wrong in so many ways, which is why I love everything these two come up with for pretty much fucking anything.
At this point Masa shows up and upon being greeted with a cheesy dumpling, realizes he better get drinking to catch up with everyone. It seemed like a good time to have Melissa start on her dish, pan-fried daikon rice cakes, to show him that we did, in fact, have some authentic food to offer. I was getting full, but these were so good I had two servings against my better judgment, of which I have none anyway.
Outside Pieper was steaming up his pig’s head soup dumplings, which were delicious even though they started to fall apart. Honestly, I’ve never made soup dumplings and neither had he, so doing it for the first time for 35 people was quite a challenge.
At this point I get “Iced.”
Courtney finally gets a stove burner and starts searing her duck dumplings. The bottle of Tequila is now gone, and the music is getting louder and louder. Knowing that my palate isn’t long for the world, Dietz and I open two bottles of Nicolas Joly Savennieres, just to say we had something ridiculous. It is one of the funkier wines I’ve drunk in a while, and it was a nice break from slaughtering tequila and vinho verde.
Joel, the only man I know who can pull of salmon-colored shorts, steps up and serves his honey BBQ pork-stuffed puff pastry. These are outrageously delicious, and I’m pissed I didn’t stash a few away for breakfast. The Chinese radio has officially been jettisoned in favor of Heidi as DJ, and things start to go downhill fast.
One of the most amazing moments of the party occurs when I decide to Ice Nolan with a green apple Smirnoff I had in the fridge (the link will explain a lot). Gemma agrees to help, puts it in her dress, and asks Nolan for “assistance.” Nolan pulls his pant leg up to reveal a blueberry Smirnoff duct taped to his leg and officially “ice blocks” Gemma. What made me wonder is just how long he was going to walk around with an Ice taped to his leg - something tells me he would have gone all night.
With the icing out of the way, Nolan begins frying his shrimp balls to serve with a coriander dipping sauce and Szechuan pepper salt. I’m sure at this point everyone is tired of the sound of my voice, but I continue to entertain the entire group from the top of the stairs.
Brad just barely gets his egg custard served before the dance party erupts. As I enter the living room Joel is on the coffee table dancing to Lady GaGa so I decide to join him. Mr. Panda, probably a little sore now, keeps getting it hard as everybody gets in on the fun. I remember lying on my stairs and slugging out of a bottle of Woodford’s Reserve Bourbon in between songs,
I can tell you that somehow I ended up on a couch that wasn't located in my house, and Mr. Panda was there - I can tell you that much. Once I figured out where I was I decided to leave Mr. Panda behind and come back for him, because I was way too out of it to explain the story to a cab driver.
After pissing off the gas station attendant by paying for a bottle of water with a hundred dollar bill, I get a taxi home and gather up the rentals (glasses, tablecloths, etc.) to return to One-Stop Party Shop before my hangover really kicks in. I then proceed to have an epic hangover meal at Po' Boys & Pickles, and collapse into a deep sleep until work starts at 5.
For a less Panda-Centric account, go to Johnny D's Egullet post here.
All photos by Jessica Joseph & John Dennison.