Feeding a Crowd: Chinese-Inspired Birthday

Feeding a Crowd: Chinese-Inspired Birthday

Brie had a birthday back in April. It was a great time – we played Cards Against Humanity Charades and ate ridiculous amounts of food. Fourteen lovely people were in attendance (including fellow Qwertyers Adam & Brandie), but the recipes in this post will easily feed about 20-25 all together.

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I decided to use Chinese food as a theme to build upon because Brie is a sucker for all kinds of Chinese takeout. When faced with a special occasion, she probably picks Chinese food about 85% of the time.

By the by, I made a birthday sign for her out of printer paper and thread because I am pretty much MacGyver. Behold.

Cruddy photo, so I threw in closeups of the digital files I made. Font is

Cruddy photo, so I threw in closeups of the digital file. It says, “Happy birthday Brie!”

It actually wasn’t too terrible to pull together. I found patterns for a kind of “Chinoiserie meets preppy” feel from Shutterstock.com and went with a classic font – Minion Pro. Then I pulled out my paper cutter and went to town.

I also made little food signs (fonts are Mercury Script & Minion Pro), but didn’t have time to actually bring them out and set them up.

foodsign

Now, I used to be a bit of a stickler for “authentic” Chinese food. Snob, more like. “CREAM CHEESE IS NOT CHINESE!” I’d scoff, while sneering at the wontons served in Montana in the 90s.

I’ve since developed an appreciation for fusion flavor efforts and it has opened my world to some tasty treats. The recipes I ended up choosing for the party are all  in this vein, kitchen tested, and tweaked like crazy.

I’m not a fully reformed snob, however. If I’m going out for dim sum (Chinese appetizers), there better be carts and crowds, or else things just don’t feel right.

Enough rambling – let’s talk recipes!

First, the “Brie-tini.” Ingredients are green tea, vodka, mint oil, lime juice, and sugar syrup. We picked a signature cocktail rather than try and stock a full bar to cut down on costs. With one kind of drink plus sodas, beer (fruit lambic and/or hefeweizen are great paired with Chinese food), and water, we were able to buy ingredients in bulk and provide just enough variety to keep everyone happy.

It’s inspired by a cocktail I had at the Four Seasons in San Francisco during GDC (thanks to head Mixologist, Oliver Lee, for letting me in on the ingredients). It’s easy to scale up as needed, and tastes refreshing and sweet. Originally called the “Level-up Tini” for the Women in Games Award Luncheon hosted by Microsoft, I’ve made a few adjustments to the proportions to get things more to my liking. Get the full recipe HERE.

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Too many of these and you’ll end up like the birthday girl.

*Literally* ROFL.

*Literally* ROFL. Don’t worry, we vacuumed. Oh, and don’t ask about the “hat.”

Next up, appetizers!

“Krab” Rangoon – recipe HERE.

wonton

Chicken Potstickers – recipe HERE.

potstickers

Now for main dishes.

Honey Walnut Shrimp – recipe HERE.

shrimp

Hoisin BBQ Pork Sliders – recipe HERE.

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Egg Fried Rice – recipe HERE.

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Veggie Lo Mein – recipe HERE.

noodles

Mongolian Chicken – recipe HERE.

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We also served plain white rice in case anyone wasn’t up for the fried stuff.

Dessert was a combination of an incredibly gorgeous lemon cheesecake with berries made by the ridiculously talented Brandie, and store bought sesame balls (I didn’t quite have enough time to make them fresh). You get only pictures of the amazing cake, unless you can talk her into posting the recipe.

cheesecake

In the end, it was a TON of planning and work, but well worth the effort. A lovely time was had by all and people are still talking about the honey walnut shrimp.

 

Brie-tini

Brie-tini

This recipe is part of the “Chinese-Inspired” birthday party menu from Brie‘s birthday bash.

Want to serve alcohol at your next party and avoid breaking the bank? Pick a signature cocktail! You can buy ingredients in bulk and, with the right recipe, make a big batch in advance to minimize your time away from actual festivities.

brietini

This drink was inspired by a delicious cocktail I had at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. A crowd pleaser, for sure.

I ended up making a weird version of an ice bowl to serve it in – I apologize for not taking pictures. Essentially I took a huge mixing bowl, filled it with water, placed a slightly smaller mixing bowl in it, weighed the slightly smaller mixing bowl down with hand-weights, then stuck the entire thing in the freezer. The end result was a nicely cold punch bowl that didn’t end up getting watered down with ice.  Alternately, you can freeze green tea and mint leaves in an ice cube tray if you don’t want to deal with the nested mixing bowl craziness.

Make sure the vodka and green tea are as cold as possible, without freezing, for tastiest results.

P.S. This recipe makes A LOT. For one drink, go with 1 shot vodka, 2 shots green tea, 1 tablespoon rich simple syrup, 2 teaspoons lime juice, and just a few drops of mint oil.

P.P.S. Designate a driver and drink responsibly, folks.

Brie-tini
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Fresh & sweet, this drink is great for parties on warm nights.
Author:
Recipe type: Cocktail
Serves: 20-40
Ingredients
  • 4 cups White sugar
  • 2 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon Mint extract
  • 1¾ cups lime juice (fresh or pre-squeezed)
  • 15 cups sweetened green tea (we used a few large jugs from Safeway)
  • 7½ cups Vodka (top-shelf yields the best results, but we saved some dollars by going with Smirnoff)
Instructions
  1. First off, start by making a rich simple syrup by bringing 2 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add sugar stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat, then stir in mint extract.
  4. Set aside and let cool (if time allows, refrigerate).
  5. Combine lime juice, green tea, vodka, and cooled rich minty simple syrup.
  6. Stir well.
  7. Taste test.
  8. Serve.
  9. Enjoy!
Notes
Float lime slices and mint leaves in the punch bowl for a more festive look.

 

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Wanna check out the rest of the Chinese-inspired menu? Try one of these!

 

Heavy Rain: Review and Cocktail Pairing

Heavy Rain: Review and Cocktail Pairing

Heavy Rain is a Quantic Dream game released in 2010 for the Playstation 3. It’s the story of a city and its search for The Origami Killer; you control four different characters through a variety of guided scenes. There’s no real freedom in the world, you have the option to fail or succeed at the commands it gives you (not holding a button long enough, pressing the wrong one, or not responding quickly) but you’re not punished for doing poorly, you don’t get frustrated at getting “stuck on a level” – you are rewarded with a unique experience.

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When Cat was trying to lure me into Heavy Rain she kept describing it as an “interactive movie”; which it is – and I believe is officially describes as such – but the word “game” was still thrown around – it really isn’t a game though. Yes, you play it on a Playstation, but there’s no boss battles, no multiplayer, and even though there are several outcomes, you follow a script. If you die, there’s no “GAME OVER” and then reloading at your last save point, the movie plays on and you get a different ending.

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I had a difficult time getting invested at the beginning, but after a month long hiatus it managed to draw me back in after my first scene requiring quick reactions – I was hooked.

Fortunately it’s not a very long “game” –  I completed it in under a dozen hours. I guess that makes it a long movie, or maybe a mini-series – however, I don’t think I could have handled much more. It was very anxiety inducing, the tension and the pressure feeling very real and present.  I have determined that after playing this game, or during, or before – you need a strong drink.

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Really you could just break into a bottle of whiskey and call it a day, but Cat’s found you something a little more sophisticated.

Drink Pairing: Death in the Afternoon

Author: Cat

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Don’t let the champagne fool you, this is a stiff drink. Created by Ernest Hemmingway and named after one of his novels, it’s exactly the kind of thing you need to recover from the intensity of a Heavy Rain play through. Very dry, almost leathery, with a hint of licorice – a hell of a way to forget your troubles.

I’d nearly forgotten that Absinthe was legalized in the United States in 2007 when I first read about this lethal concoction. Be warned, the alcohol content the green fairy carries with her is high, so you’ll want to arrange for a safe ride home at the end of the evening.

This isn’t for everyone – lovers of this particular beverage are artistic, gritty, and likely to be found slumped over their antique typewriters.

The recipe is simple – start with a single shot of Absinthe in a champagne glass. Follow that up by slowly pouring in chilled champagne until the mixture becomes slightly cloudy.  Hemmingway’s instructions then suggest you “drink three to five of these slowly,” but you’ll likely be just fine after two. For my purposes, I used Grand Absente and Korbel Brut.

If you’re really feeling brave, host a game viewing party and play a Heavy Rain Drinking Game.

          Take a drink:

o   When anyone mispronounces Origami

o   When the player fails a button prompt for a simple task (opening a door, brushing teeth, etc.)

o   Every time someone says “Jason.” WARNING: Do not play Press X to Jason during this drinking game. Do. Not.

o   When Ethan blacks out

And if Death in the Afternoon ain’t your style, try a lighter, fruitier Triptocaine. (Recipe courtesy of The Drunken Moogle and retroMixologist.)

deathintheafternoon