Sunday, August 5, 2012

How to throw a Surprise Party

Yes, I did it! Me, the most cynical, no-nonsense and absolutely non-fuss types, threw me ol' husband his big 40th (haven't stopped rubbing in the age since!). What's so special, you ask? Let me lay out the challenges here:
  • Am married to a hotelier, whose entire social circle comprises of hoteliers - both family and friends!
  • Been married to G for 12 years, out of which I can barely remember any significant flurry of activity for any event - birthday or anniversary! (to put that in simple words - large parties were never our thing. Kids parties we have, but the other events are much more private)
  • G is somewhat a difficult guy to get hold of - erratic work days, and hectic schedules. Not to mention my own work and travel schedules!
  • Am terrified of cooking large numbers. Let me explain : I can make a mean biryani for four. But tell me to double the quantity, and I swear I can ruin it. It is plain simple math, right? Its jinxed, I tell you!
  • Then why cook you ask? Oh! The pains of having a gourmet living in your house!! Eating out is a scary thing for me - more on that in a later post. But it would suffice to say that home cooked party food for G is the equivalent of a super excited boy opening presents for Christmas.
So I get all 'wifey' this year, and decide that for once, I would don the 'romantic' hat, and cook up a storm for not only my soon-to-be-forty (yup! rubbing it in again) husband, but also for the extended family and his good friends. Not an easy task, considering that the whole family is like the desi version of Masterchef Australia (minus the accent and the drama) when it comes to critical analysis of food! But with a deep breath and a lot of prodding from my sister who is some kind of a wizard in churning out awesome (not to mention delicious) parties, I decided to give it a shot.

The first thing ofcourse was to get the guest list right. I wanted all the closest guys in, and the ones who would ring in the party. Getting the telephome numbers out of G's blackberry was not an easy task, since he is usually with it all the time. This is where a wily nine-year-old daughter can do wonders. Got the numbers of the school time buddies (who we haven't met since our wedding). Called up everyone, invited them for a secret party, and made them swear to secrecy.

Next was the menu. Knowing the way we love to eat in Delhi, snacks are as important as the meal itself. Sometimes more than the meal - because in cocktail events, by the time we actually get to the meal, taste buds would have been sleeping away in intoxication. Snacks are also a way to ensure that the guests are in a happy, sing-along mood in time for cake - cutting.

A few quick tips for surprise parties:
  • Paper napkins and toothpicks are a better alternative to plates and forks, but leave prominent dustbins for disposal too (else you'll be fishing them out of their well hidden crevices days after the party is over)
  • Easy to assemble, but colorful snacks are a treat to the eyes and the palate. I had a 'papdi canape platter' and cheese pineapple cherry sticks.
  • The ready to fry variety offered by McCain is fantastic for the kids - the smileys ofcourse being the best one
  • Vegetable sticks (I had carrots, radish and cucumbers) and toasted pita bread triangles with dips are a superb snack option (also keeps finicky eaters happy) I had a curd and mint dip, a coriander and pomegranate chutney and some cocktail sauce (equal quantities of bottled mayo and tomato ketchup - a hit with kids)
  • Sheekh kebabs are an easy, yet satiating option for non vegetarians. Get your supply from a trusted source though. I prefer the half done variety which I then shallow fry at home.
  • Ofcourse the usual bowls of masala peanuts and potato wafers did many rounds
  • While the drinkers were pretty much at home thanks to G's bar, the non drinkers had Appy fizz (which in a champagne glass, looks exquisite) and a fruit punch in addition to the fizzy drink options. Setting the bar counter with the right number of glasses and ice is also important.
  • A good way to ensure you have enough ice cubes for the party is to start freezing ice cubes a day before. Empty out the ice cubes from the trays into a cleat plastic bag, and refreeze. Keep filling out the trays and removing the cubes into the plastic bag till you have the required quantity.
  • If your fridge is not large enough to hold bottles of cold water for all the guests (believe me, in summers, you end up needing quite a bit), have one of those picnic water coolers - the one with the tap. This keeps cold water cold, and all you need to do is to put in water and ice and you're done! Also saves the million times someone will open the fridge for water!
  • I use the microwave to heat up the food before laying it out for the guests - this ensures that the food is warm for a considerable amount of time - including refills
  • For desserts, I usually have one cold and one hot - this time it was kulfi and hot malpua.
  • I had a floor seating for the kids, separate unbreakable glasses and snack plates, and an unobtrusive corner for them, so that they stay out of trouble, and they too enjoy the party without too many 'rules'.
The result : By 3 am, G was ready to crash, after thoughtfully helping me clear up the table and put away all the perishables into the fridge. But he was grinning like a child, and clearly, it was a birthday he would remember for a long time. Happy birthday G!!


19 comments:

  1. Wow! Good for you to be able to pull that off!! Really interested in your padi canapés recipe!! :D

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    1. Thanks Mom(Aa).... its quite simple really - its how beautifully the platter looks that counts. You need Papdi (the dahi papdi kinds), and you need Indianized toppings. I had boiled cubed aloo mixed with tamarind chutney and some rock salt, another one with a tangy fruit chaat, and yet another one with crumbled paneer, raisins and mint chutney. I spooned these toppings on to the papdi, and topped off the canapes with nylon sev (the thinnest sev you can find)... Voila!

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  2. oi shabash.. thats just brilliant :) congrats on what sounds like an awesome birthday bash and give my wishes too

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  3. Wow...as someone for whom throwing parties are highly essential, the tips are certainly handy...and I have to add- the spread sounded lip smacking...kudos!!!

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    1. Thanks Chitra .... I am sure you are much more seasoned than me in parties - i have very little practice!!

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  4. Wow, what a menu. I liked the snacks spread a lot. I cannot pull it off so hats off for doing that. Your husband must have been really cheering like a small boy getting to open presents.. :)

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    1. Thanks GBTP .... believe me - I never thought I'd pull it off too - but I guess when one wants to surprise a loved one, we tend to pull through! And yes he was ecstatic!

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  5. What love! It is so much fun planning for loved ones, na?!Love your style of working and the menu!

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    1. Hehehe!! thank you Arch! Appreciate the warm words.

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  6. Great post, and thanks for the tips! :P

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  7. No I dont agree.. where is the surprise of Inviting BIKRAM for this surprise party toooo :) that should be one of the tips he he he


    Bikram's

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    1. Oho!!! Done ji ... next time, surprise invite to Bikram is on the to-do list!! :-)

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  8. Wow, lucky G! I've never thrown a surprise party before, and I doubt if I'd really be able to do it this well.

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    1. Believe me - I am certainly not the one to be taking cues from here - I have never done it before either, and if I am not held at gun point, I never will do it again - just not my cup of tea! But my sister is a genius with this kinda thing - will be my pleasure to get her to give us tips - what say?

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    2. Hmm, sounds good. You should totally convince your sister to give us inferior party planners some good tips. Perhaps a guest post from her? :)

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    3. wow Sumitra! thats a wonderful idea!! She is not a blogger yet, but this is a great way to introduce her to the world of blogging - thanks!! Will definitely have a guest post from her!

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