By Sol Vanzi
Images by Manny Llanes
It’s almost Christmas, the season for parties big and small. Almost everyone attends social events from class reunions to family get-togethers and office celebrations. For some, the season also means hosting celebrations for children, co-workers, neighbors and fellow, parishioners.
This is the time when the big question is: “What do I serve?” A recent Christmas event at the Manila Hotel provided several ideas which we adjusted for everyone’s budget.
The Christmas tree at the Manila Hotel lobby (Manila Bulletin)
A roast to serve dozens (Manila Bulletin)
Puffs with candy canes (Manila Bulletin)
Glazed candied fruits (Manila Bulletin)
Christmas Carols in the air (Manila Bulletin)
The Hotel’s Christmas Town officially opens (Manila Bulletin)
Santa Claus, elves, beauty queens, and orphans (Manila Bulletin)
KEEP IT SIMPLE
The best advice I ever received was from a famous party-giver, whose mantra about everything in life is: “Keep it simple.”
Party-time is not an occasion to experiment on the rare and exotic. Some of the most fun events I have attended served delicious everyday food: pork BBQ, pancit Malabon, bihon guisado, spaghetti, puto, bibingka, tokwa’t baboy, adidas(chicken feet), grilled chicken liver, cocktail sausages, pepperoni, cheese, and grilled pig’s ears.
During our building’s Christmas open house party, the most popular unit belonged to an artist-neighbor, who served arroz caldo with several accoutrements: tokwa’t baboy, hardboiled egg, salted egg, dried fish, pickled vegetables, smoked fish, fried garlic, chili oil, and ground chicharon.
Another neighbor offered a stack of Arabic flat bread with bowls of olives, herbed yogurt, tomatoes, grilled onions, Feta cheese, lettuce, pickled vegetables and Falafel (chick pea burgers). The bread was brought from an Arabic restaurant for P5 per piece.
The addition of Tex-Mex chili and grated cheddar accommodated lovers of Mexican food as well. Do-it-yourself shawarma, tacos, soft tortillas, and burritos always encourage conversation and guests’ interaction.
Nothing says Christmas better than the colors red and green together.
For instant ambience, use red and crepe paper and/or papel de hapon instead of expensive table cloth to line the buffet. After the party, simply gather up, crumple into balls, and discard.
Add fresh pine or evergreen leaves that have been thoroughly washed. A couple of potted poinsettia plants could serve as centerpiece. Pretty, practical, and will last through the season.
Buy (or make) cheap red and green aprons and bandannas for yourself and whoever else is assisting guests.
Christmas means fruits, gifts, glitter.
Scatter red and green apples on the buffet, either randomly or in large trays and bowls. Mix in for contrasting colors and texture: rambuttan, green native oranges, and small tangerine sweet Chinese kiat-kiat.
Wrap empty boxes of all sizes in Christmas gift wrapping paper and ribbons. Scatter all over the house for atmosphere, along with traditional Christmas tree balls.
Buy red paper bags and fill up with native pasalubong: espasol, chicharon, cornik, yema, broas, sweet sampalok, etc. These inexpensive take home souvenirs are treasured by guests of all ages.
DYI FINGER FOOD
Instead of the usual rice-and-ulam buffet, why not try serving lots of finger food?
Before the guests arrive, prepare small bowls of chichirya(packaged snacks): corn chips, fish crackers, peanuts, cornik. That will keep guests busy and munching while you finish up setting the table and making last minute adjustments.
Hot dog buns sliced crosswise make good tiny sandwiches. Fill up with small meat balls, Cheez Whiz, pork BBQ, sliced cheese, grilled chicken liver and hold together with toothpicks.
Serve street food with plenty of dips: fried hard boiled quail eggs (tukneneng), fish balls, squid balls, and kikiam.
Skewer fresh fruit cubes: watermelon, honeydew melon, pineapple, apples (unpeeled red and green), and mound on leaf-lined trays.
Buy crinkles (soft chocolate cookies) from the neighborhood bakery (P3 to P5 per piece) and wrap individually in yellow or red cellophane to eat or take home.
With advance planning, there is no reason not to be able to relax and enjoy your own Christmas party.