A few parties for Ben
...because one isn't enough for this guy. This guy with the smile. This guy, whose honest definition of a good time is hanging out with family and friends, maybe cooking some food and drinking a little wine...certainly playing a few games. So that is what we did. Ben turned 30 on the 8th of December, and because he is my best friend and I know how hard he works, I took it upon myself to plan a weekend of family, friends, food, wine and games.
We begun our celebrations on Friday night at Longplay in North Fitzroy. Here we drank cocktails named after Susan Sarandon and watched True Lies in the private cinema out the back. 90s Arnie movies make Ben happy, so we watched one together and remembered that they don't make movies like they used to. Thank you to the incredibly helpful staff at Longplay, what a wonderful space. You're all class. I thoroughly enjoyed my pisco sour.
Dinner was at 400 gradi, with superb margherita pizza followed by an ice-cream cake in the shape of a toadstool from Messina. And as a thank you to these friends who came for a drink and slice of pizza, I cleaned out our local Supermarket's stock of Ben's favourite biscuits and gifted packets. Ben was spoilt with tickets to see the Foo Fighters live next February (watch this video!), so Malt'o'Milks with a personalised message from the birthday boy seemed only polite.
The following day was aggressively wet, which was less than ideal for our friends visiting from Sydney, so we grabbed our gumboots and umbrellas and set out for a soggy but delicious tour of the Mornington Peninsula (mental note, write a blog post on my favourite local spots!). The four of us ate cronuts and drank beer, and gazed at grey, lovely Melbourne all the way across the bay.
Saturday night we had a dinner date with mum and dad at Abla's, the famous lebanese restaurant in Carlton. Ben and I had been wanting to visit for years, YEARS!, and his 30th was a great excuse to plan ahead, book a table and share a lovely bottle of Lebanese red wine. Ben's parents were in Hong Kong, otherwise they would have joined us (which is simply another reason to return). The banquet included many great plates, such as my favourite lamb and pinenut cigars and Abla's famous chicken rice dish. Articulating how marvellous our meal was is a difficult task. Abla's serves home-style cooking that is refined, elegant and comforting. It's more wonderful and special than most because of the presence and passion of Abla herself, who visited our table (as she does every seat), and smiled sweetly while I gushed. We left our dinner date on a Lebanese coffee-high and with a copy of Abla's Lebanese Kitchen cookbook tucked under Ben's arm, a momento that will serve as both a reminder of this weekend and welcomed instruction for how to make those slow-cooked chicken wings.
Sun, sand and frisbee! That was my intention for Sunday, having organised a bunch of friends to come around to our place for a beach picnic. However the weather gods decided to throw a tantrum and forbid a beach visit. Instead we hung out inside, swapping frisbee for what would surely be now considered "retro" nintendo and a picnic lunch indoors. And it was rather lovely. Our visiting friends helped us prepare the food (thanks, Damien and Sarah!) and Dad delivered five (!!) loaves of his bread, which made things super easy. And so we sat back, ate sandwiches and played Super Mario Brothers.
On the menu:
♥ Sourdough Sandwiches with: butter, dijon mustard, ham or prosiutto, brie and my homemade pickles (which were a success!) or a vegetarian option of basil pesto, roasted eggplant and peppers and buffalo mozzarella. ♥ Snow Peas ♥ Fruit Salad ♥ Crisps (little packets of Red Rock Deli chips) ♥ Coca Cola in glass bottles and ♥ Chocolate Olive Oil Mousse (recipe link).
This mousse is my present favourite dessert recipe for a party (and indeed we made it (recipe x 5!) for Dad's 60th last month). The flavour is divine, sweet but delicate and with a loving lick of olive oil. Always receiving rave reviews, this recipe is practically impossible to mess up. Though I did mess it up this time around (it was a cold egg yolk/mixture seizing situation), resulting in a "chunky mousse". But the chunks of chocolate were quite nice, actually. Oh, and we topped the little jars with chopped toasted hazelnuts and pistachios plus orange zest.
After lunch, my brother taught us all how to make cocktails - an old fashioned, which is Ben's favourite, and a negroni, which we both adore. Jackson enforced a strict "bar shirt" policy for Ben, before taking over my kitchen to light matches, bend spoons and use my pretty teacups to pour liquor. I so appreciate my brother, he is a unique blend of awesome. Ben thinks so too.
Old Fashioned for one
1 teaspoon White Sugar
A few drops Angostura Bitters
1 Orange Ice
1. Put the sugar in your glass and add the bitters. Muddle them together.
2. Add the ice and bourbon and stir until the sugar dissolves.
3. Peel a long strip off your orange, removing any white pith. Curl the peel and add it to the glass.
Negroni for one
30ml Sweet Vermouth
1. Fill your glass with ice
2. Peel a long strip off your orange, removing any white pith. Curl the peel and push it int the glass surrounded by ice so that it freezes and stays curled.
3. Add the capmari, sweet vermouth and gin to the glass. Taste and adjust flavourings as desired, maybe adding a squeeze of orange if you're so inclined. I like mine heavy on the campari.