Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Garden of Good & Evil: Year Three and an Ode to the Eves

These were the leftovers if that tells you anything about the kind of party it was.

And this was the evolution of the spread if that tells you anything about what kind of party it was.
And the two singing and dancing lovemuppets were my co-celebrants if that tells you anything about what kind of party it was.

It was supposed to rain all day long and we never felt a drop. Equal numbers of friends showed up in yoga pants as in maxi dresses. Both claiming room for cake. Two different pitchers of alcoholic nectar and a jug of cucumber water never seemed to run out. Stevie Nicks was on rotation with Animal Collective and the potatoes I roasted when I was perhaps a little toasted came out perfectly. That's what kind of party it was.

The Garden of Good & Evil party is an annual ode to my girlfriends disguised as my birthday party. The first two years I co-hosted with my much beloved friend Caroline who is now living in Telluride. I got really lucky this year when it turned out two kindred spirits who also happened to be Geminis liked the concept. And so. Hadley came bearing the best mango salsa and homemade hummus and craft supplies. Molly L brought cheese plate skewers and a general's eye for detail (that's her supervising the hanging of paper lanterns above).

Ah, but what is that concept? The garden part is pretty obvious. Wicked Park is a little bit of magic right in the city and it loves a soiree. The Good is meant to be something wholly holistic. Deep stretching, yoga, a little revival for your insides. My own guru of sorts, Mary Beth Janssen came down two years ago to lead the Good.

Yes, this is all very hippie dippy. I love hippie dippy. An afternoon where the only thing anyone is allowed to bring is flowers or wine unless they are moved to cook in theme (or bring a pineapple- thanks Alexis!). Then we all sit in the grass telling dirty jokes, drinking spiked lemonade, making new friends and then there's cake. Fini.

This year, due to the alleged rain, we were fully prepared to make vision boards in the living room in lieu of yoga. But when the guests arrived and the sun stayed out, I'll be the first to admit I got a little too excited and wanted to break out the wine to celebrate our Good fortune. So HC is the only one who really got her stretching in this year. In the spirit of self love and preservation, we weren't too hard on ourselves. Or at all.

This is the enchanted beverage station. I'm only half kidding when I use names like that. I mean there was a swan champagne cooler courtesy of the Milwaukee Duo...that's basically the definition of enchanted. The main party beverage has traditionally been Wicked Lemonade which is the ever-so-glamorous concoction of Crystal Light Raspberry Lemonade with Black Cherry Vodka, sparkling water and some fresh raspberries in every clear plastic dixie cup. Look friends, you know I love my frou frou fancy cocktails and my dark syrupy bourbon but there is no shame here. We aim to please in bulk. Apart from a rather unfortunate incident involving a nonexistent water:lemonade:vodka ratio two years ago and an enthusiastic group of GG's (who will all promptly disown me), it's only been beneficial by the barrel. This year we also managed copious amounts of sparkling wine and a delicious sangria a la Ellie.

Lest you think all that colorful seating went to waste though, you would be wrong. The Evil refers to more of a pleasantly dark sense of humor than anything actually demonic. Sparing a mixed audience the details, it was kind of like a tupperware party hosted by Bacchus. Only instead of an actual nymphic creature we got Samuel who was pretty darn close and just the most adorable person ever. I might be inclined to whisper more about this over a glass of wine but for now that is all I feel at liberty to share. Onward! To the feast!

At this point in the afternoon, I was leaving my camera all over the place so the only snapshot I have of the spread I snuck inside to prepare was taken with my phone. Alas, better than nothing. Tradition dictates a large salad bar is a popular way for friends to be able to customize their meals.

Earlier in the day, HC and I grilled up almost ten pounds of free range chicken breasts that had been marinating overnight in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and rosemary. To that we added a couple varieties of mixed greens, sugar snap peas, sliced sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, roasted golden beets, homemade croutons, walnuts, dried cherries and some of Jo's fresh eggs hard-boiled and ready to be shelled. Those are good friends who can't come to the party but give you eggs their chickens laid. They were also in the cake. Magic chickens.

We did three dressings- Lemon Vinaigrette, Pop's Caesar and a Spicy Ginger Peanut. Lizz modeling her plate so helpfully above also showcases the aforementioned baby potatoes that were on a whim thrown into a baking dish, coated with live oil and put in the oven with full sprigs of rosemary resting on top. This could have gone terribly awry but instead went terribly delicious. Those potatoes might be foolproof. As the fool, I would know.

When I got back outside to start corralling people in for the salad bar, I remember just surveying the crowd in the yard. I hear from a lot of people that it's been particularly hard to make new girlfriends in the city. I could see that but I also feel like I need to recognize I'm sitting on a treasure trove of awesome females. Some newer to me than others but all just wonderful. There is nothing that makes me happier than when they meet each other and fall in genuine like.

Going through the pictures afterward was a stream of "Doh! Of course you two love each other!" It's easy for women in their early twenties and thirties to get caught in a cycle of being set up and setting others up for romance. Love that- appreciate it! But being set up with a friend is a whole other kind of thing I forget about too often. Anyone else notice that? And then friends move away and it starts all over again.

I feel like an auctioneer going "Beautiful NEW mother of one, fresh to Miami Beach, culinary school grad and all around Grade A girlfriend material- who's got a match for farmers marketing and play dates and dog walking with strollers?" I'm ranting now. Chime in any time if you know what I'm talking about.

That was where I was going with the ode to the Eves. I'll be honest- year 27 had a couple proper rough patches. Mischief that was only managed by the presence of friends in walking and/or Internet distance. So here is a piece of cake for you. You beautiful, fully imperfect, hilarious bunch of hooligans. I don't care what year it is, you are some of the most charmed pieces of my life and I am very grateful for you.

Please do forgive the colorful mess of a frosting job on your confection.

It was done by your colorful mess of a hostess. Who is currently still fighting back vanity in sharing this photo everyone else thinks is terribly apropos and I think the only picture taken of me during the whole of the party (I am an excellent camera dodger. Blasted Instagram, Shecky). Not my most polished but accurate and happy.

Now here's a quick tutorial on how to make your own rainbow chips. My own inspiration was Ashley Rodriguez's significantly more professional tutorial at Not Without Salt. I'm telling you essentially the same thing but so you can see that if I can handle this, you can too.
  1. Start with ramekins filled with while chocolate chunk for as many colors as you plan on making. Melt in the microwave via 30 second increments.
  2. Stir in 2-3 drops of food coloring to start with. You can always add more.
  3. Spread on to parchment paper laid on a tray or cutting board.
  4. Freeze for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Chop.
  6. Ready for frosting.
I'm going to advocate adding them to vanilla cream cheese frosting to go with this chocolate cake recipe from I Am Baker. Bold statement: All frosting should be cream cheese frosting. Do not flinch when five or more friends swarm the bowl to take care of the leftovers.

And speaking of leftovers, how much prettier does a whole heap of dirty dishes look with those lovely flower arrangements all over the place?


joner said...

again, loving the blog entries. (And the re-telling of fabulous party). I can still taste that icing...

We Are Not Martha said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, if I didn't love my life in Boston so much, I'd be in Chicago in a SECOND! I hate that I can't attend your amazing garden parties. And you're so right about meeting new girlfriends; I love that you're playing friend matchmaker!


HadleyRuth said...

Absolutely perfect day, love reliving it all just now. And yes Joner.....ahh the icing :)

TKTC said...

Joner: Icing party. We'll just lay out a lot of different foods and see what we can get to be amazing with frosting.

Sues: How about next year I give you and Chels ample notice so you can come IN for the Garden Party? Because that would really be the most fun.

Hadley: I would be in total bliss if we could do a version of that every weekend. So serious.

Anonymous said...

I love that you are my friend and I love we get to celebrate like this. Thank you for being incredible.

RebeccaC said...

Thats it. I'm moving home. I can't take it anymore. Thank you for the plea to the Universe on my behalf. If I've not said it enough: I.ADORE.YOU.
Paper lanterns and free range chicken and mixed florals....DIE!

Janine at Rustic Kitchen said...

What a lovely soiree, especially with Honeycat showing off her yoga flexibility. xo