This is the fourth post in a series about planning a molecular gastronomy dinner party. Click here to read the first post about the blueprint for the big feast. These posts are also being featured on food52!
Me, in the thick of party preparations, the night before the big feast.
A week or so before the party, I made a to-do list of everything that would need to be done in the 48 hours leading up to the party. Absolutely everything that could be done in advance was scheduled for Friday, and the last minute stuff was listed in the order it should be done on the day of. But now that it was actually time to start cooking, I was nervous. My normal MO for dinner parties is to serve dishes that I’ve made before- many times if possible- to make sure that I really like what I’m about to serve, and to help me feel more confident that I won’t mess it up. For this party, I had only made two of the seven courses before- the herbed beef skewers, and the chocolate cake. (Hey- even if things go horribly, we’ll be able to eat steak skewers and a lot of cake!) I just had to keep reminding myself that, for this party especially, the whole point was to serve new and surprising dishes, and if they weren’t quite what I was expecting, than we had at least had a fun time trying them. I adopted this as my mantra.
As we actually began to cook, there was so much to do that I sort of forgot my nerves. I kept my head down, tackling one task at a time, and using the strikethrough command on my to-do list when I had finished a job (so satisfying!). Helen, Molly, and Andy (my husband) were all instrumental in the process. Molly helped cook and took care of all of the decorations (and had to tell Dustin an increasingly elaborate lie to explain her near two-day absence), Helen took hundreds of pictures of the preparations, and Andy was left to entertain baby Henry. But after many hours, we got it done! Here’s how it played out:
Friday (The Night Before the Party)
Filling the petri dishes with the blood orange gelée
Molly baked the cake
while I worked on the decorations. We had originally planned to make a complete periodic table cake, but that’s 118 tiles, folks. Instead, and to make it more birthday-y, we spelled out
H Ar P Y B I Rf Dy Ds Sn
(Sn = Tin!, perfect for Dustin!)
Molly makes approximately one million platonic solids
from folded cardstock for decorations.
Saturday (The Day of the Party!)
Eeee! Henry and I ate unseemly amounts of cream cheese frosting after decorating Dustin’s birthday cake.
Then we carbonated some grapes! Here’s a video of me laying waste to some dry ice for this:
Preparing the marinade and slicing the beef for the herbed beef skewers
. We didn’t combine the sliced beef with the marinade just then- it only needs an hour to marinate.
Skewering cocktail sausages for our miniature corn dogs. Texas represent!
An hour and a half before the party- time to fry! First up: miniature sage funnel cakes, inspired by a dish at Barley Swine
, a fantastic Austin restaurant.
Next in line for the fryer: mini corn dogs.
Last but not least, fried pickles. Fun fact: these are Dustin’s favorite, and earned him the nickname “The Pickler.”
We need something green.
Checking the to-do list. We have time for a break!
Molly, back at home with Dustin, sent a surreptitious text to let us know they were on their way- time to grill the pork belly and beef skewers! Have you ever grilled pork belly? Crazy, crazy flare ups. I somehow managed not to completely incinerate it.
Helen lined up all the plates we would be using for the dinner, along with all of the components that didn’t need to be kept hot or cold. The just-cooked meat and fried stuff was kept in the oven at 170 degrees- the lowest it would go.
The last to-do! Putting together the petri dish course.
Here we go!