I love entertaining, but I’m small-time. My guest list usually includes two people, sometimes three, and never exceeds four. That makes six guests including the Beast and me, which is perfect because I have six plates. The truth is, I don’t think I can cook for more than six. Everything gets so complicated, and I don’t have very big pots. That’s why when the Beast and I were invited to my friend Alex Girl’s birthday party I was ecstatic because if there’s anybody that knows how to hostess, it’s Alex Girl and her formidable mother, Tracy, who owns and operates Pan Bagna Catering. Here’s why they’re big time: first, these two truly love everything about food; second, before you get a chance to say, “thank you for inviting me,” there’s a cold cocktail in your hand; and third, before you get a chance to say, “thank for this amazing looking cocktail,” they’re telling you to eat something from the inevitable gorgeous spread of antipasti that’s been laid out. And then there’s still a dinner and wine to come, and all that good conversation. It’s exhausting, but oh-so-worth-it.
This was the Beast’s first time at Alex and Tracey’s place. I cleaned him up real good-like and he picked out his outfit all on his own. He even tucked in his shirt.
Beast: I need a belt.
Foodie: (As a joke) What about the woman’s Christian Dior vintage number I picked up?
Beast: Yes please. (The Beast fastens it on easily. It doesn’t fit me unless I wear it really high up.)
Foodie: How can this fit you? It’s so small. You know what? Fuck this belt. And fuck Dior too.
Beast: This is an amazing outfit.
As predicted, drinks were in our hands before a thank-you escaped our mouths. Once all of the (very attractive) guests showed up, it didn’t take long before we were chit-chatting up a storm and eating burrata cheese, grilled bread, and deep-fried calamari with an anchovy aioli. Tracey manned the frier and replenished the piles of squid before they even thought about disappearing. Not being of a religious nature, this is my favourite kind of congregating: in a kitchen with charming people, eating and drinking delicious things.
Stuffed with calamari (I ate an unsightly amount), I snuck outside for my first and last cigarette of the night (this statement might be false.) And that’s when I saw a spectacle like none I’ve never been privy to before: seven glorious two-inch thick rib eye steaks grilling atop an open flame.
Foodie: (Back inside) Did you see what’s on the grill?
Beast: Why yes I did.
Foodie: I’m shocked at your composure.
Beast: What did you expect?
Foodie: Savagery I guess, like you naked in the bushes gnawing on meat.
Beast: Please, I’m wearing Dior and my Jack Purcells.
The perfectly cooked rib eyes were thinly sliced and served on top of wild baby arugola with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. The whole thing was topped with shavings of parmigiano reggiano. Everybody cleaned their plates. Several wine bottles dotted the table. I’m embarrassed to guess how many bottles the 14 of us consumed but I bet it’s pretty close to 14. Dessert was gorgeous profiterols covered in dark chocolate. Even sweeter was a game of sorts that a colleague of Alex Girl’s suggested: we all tell each other our favourite thing about the birthday girl. Her closest friends, including her mom, delivered responses both beautiful and heart-felt. It was truly lovely.
Whenever I leave Alex and Tracey’s, I feel very happy, uncomfortably full, and very drunk. Because I live just a few blocks away, I walk home and always think the same thought: I’m going to start entertaining on that level. I can do it! I just need a deep-fryer, matching stemware, a better haircut, and….oh fuck it.
For the record, my favourite thing about Alex Girl–and Tracey too–is that they love to entertain and do it with such extraordinary grace and good humour.