Saturday, May 05, 2012

Artist's Haven "May the Fourth Be With You" Party or How to Cook for an Unspecified Large Number of People.

One of the most common complaints you hear about Nacogdoches is that there is nowhere to go and nothing to do.  A number of people I know and respect are working hard to change that.  Some of those folks have been working on an idea dubbed "Artist's Haven" - that is setting up a locus for like-minded people to spend time together.  It's not some fruity Cape Cod art commune knock-off where people swish around drinking chardonnay.  The idea is to create a space for art, sure, but also have somewhere to go that isn't a complete dump or college cesspit.  The lynch pin for the Haven is founders Heather and Ryan's monstrously large apartment.  The place is so damn big you could set up one of those kiddie choo-choos to get from one side to another.  The photo above is the kitchen, centered in the middle of the apartment, and has a gas fucking stove, multiple sinks, and counter space, lots of counter space.

I signed on/volunteered to make food for the event.  I had been onboard for a previously planned party but due to logistical bullshit fell through (which I was secretly glad because it was a zombie themed party and everyone knows I have a severe dislike of zombie pop culture).  No big deal except this May the Fourth Be With You party had less than a week to be planned.  Fock.  The hosts came through with an excellent DJ Keith "Fatbaby" Williams who did magic DJ stuff for about five hours and I can't remember disliking one track (which is surprising considering I'm such a cranky fucker).  The word was put out via social media.  I kind of kicked around food ideas (sort of, not really) but only really cobbled together a meal idea while shopping for the party.   Ryan had picked up stacks of sirloin earlier in the week so I figured, okay fajita-esque, that's easy.  Here's a run down of the pros and cons of the party and some suggestions for you folks if you're going to feed a whole bunch of people but you don't know how many or who eats what:

  • Fajitas - or some kind of sliced meat thing put on tortillas - are an excellent option.  If you don't know who eats what or won't eat what you can easily make everything separate and on the side - I made the peppers and shallots apart from one another and bowled them apart so people could pick and choose.
    • I didn't think of condiments like cheese and sour cream and that jive but frankly they weren't missed.
    • Take the extra time to warm your tortillas (especially flour).  They stay warm a long ass time and don't have that weird gummy texture that tortillas out of the bag do.
  • I was thinking there would be an early (smaller) group of people coming to eat so I also had a large salad and a couple of non-meat options:
    • This would have been awesome if there had been the first round of guests.  As it was I think two people ate salad.  Stupid salad.  
  • If I had been smart I would have put the food out in different intervals (again a time and unpreparedness on my part) or remembered to have dishes that can be keep warm over a long period of time - I've worked on food for events at the museum and forgot about that.
  • The hummus got no love.
    • The awesome pretzel chips I found on sale also got little love but people love the shit out of tortilla chips.  Have to remember that people go toward the familiar.
  • Cooking at the Haven is fucking boss, especially since it's my dream layout for interacting with people.
  • Roping off the business end of the kitchen was a good idea and gave myself some breathing space.
  • Paper plates are fuckin sweet.
  • Making a sauce out of rum, Dr. Pepper, butter, and Sriracha at one in the morning for a counter full of drunk hungry people was really fucking fun.
    • Favorite interaction:  "Wait?  You're making a sauce?  Right now?" "Yeah, why the fuck not?" "Ooooo."
    • Drunk people are easy to cook for.
  • Jambalaya is absurdly easy to make in large batches.
  • I actually barely drank any booze at a party and feel good about myself.  What the fuck is that about?  
Here are some random thoughts on what I need to do for myself for the next party:
  • Bring my own gear.  I have a knife roll thanks to an old friend. There were a number of times I got kind of cross-eyed trying to look for stuff in an unfamiliar kitchen. 
    • I also want to figure out how to make a crash kit for spices, salt (Samwise was a smart motherfucker), and assorted stuff I have at arm's reach in my house.
  • Punk rock my chef's jacket so people won't think I'm a professional.  Fuck, put on a chef's coat and have cooking related tattoos and people think you're some kind of cook person.  Albuelita J is not a professional - he's just a guy who makes food.
  • Have cooler of my own because BYOB means drink everyone else's booze.
  • I'm definitely going to make a slow-cooked dish or two for the next event.
  • Wear my boots.  My brogues didn't do shit for my footial comfortitude.
  • Do as much as I can - prep, etc - the day before.
  • Figure out how to make finger food.  
    • Figure out where to get enough fingers to feed a large group.
  • Buy a shit-ton more spices and work on blends to sell to folks.
  • Find a hat that's kind of cool.
  • Figure out the industry secret of keeping one's ass crack from going tropical.  I wonder if you learn that at the CIA?
So yeah, all in all, people were happy and said nice things about the food and that made me feel good about myself.  It was also awesome to be part of something actually kick ass.  Thanks to my friends who made this possible and thanks to the folks who showed up and got their nom on.

I have the antidote for sale to the highest bidder.  

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