On December 8th, I escaped the harsh NYC cold in an apartment just southeast of Grand Central Station for my friend Jenn's bao party. I was welcomed with a cup of gin and cranberry punch, and the smell of steamed pork belly buns.
A disco ball and Chinese lanterns hung from the ceiling - illuminating the ice cubes in my drink and the host-made art on the walls. The room was abuzz, as hungry guests made trips to the DIY bao-bar and filled their appetite to the tunes of Beyoncé. They cozied up on couches and exchanged stories of how New York treated them that week - work was busy, Santa Con was obnoxious, the subway was predictably unpredictable. As steam drifted deliciously from the stovetop, I calculated how many more buns I could throw back without regret (the answer is 3 but I had 4).
Dishes were cleared and the night came to a close. Sitting on the subway with a belly full of bao, I couldn't help but dream of doing it all again next year.
Q&A With the Hostess
How many guests?
About 15 friends.
How did you set the mood?
We went to Chinatown the day of to look for 'inspo'. We ended up getting Chinese lanterns and decided to play Mulan on the TV in the background to get us in the Asian spirit.
What was on the menu?
-Gin and cranberry punch
-Soy sauced with chopped scallions
-Pickled red onions
-Sesame marinated cucumbers
How did you get it done?
We started prepping a week before. The pork belly was the biggest task since it needed to be marinated overnight, and baked for a couple of hours to get it really soft. We also wanted to make sure that we would have enough food, so we started writing down additional menu items we might need to make sure that people would be full. We wanted to focus on the main course and of course a signature cocktail. We asked Marisa to bring a dessert so that it would be 1 piece that we wouldn't have to worry about, especially given that the pork belly would be taking up all of the oven space.
Any party tricks?
One thing that I learned from personal experience is to have a signature cocktail out for people to serve themselves. It was a nightmare when I tried to make Pina Coladas using a Nutribullet for my birthday party in October. I was stuck Nutri-bulleting the whole night. A make ahead punch proved to be essential, alongside a regularly stocked bar for people to make their own drinks. It was a completely easy and seamless night.
Another thing that I would also recommend is that for dishes that are less known, or sauces that have special ingredients, I think its nice to have little table cards to show people what they're eating. I didn't do that for this party but I think it would have added a nice touch.
Air your dirty dish -- did anything go wrong that you hoped people wouldn't notice?
I had everyone take off their shoes, but subsequently realized I had mismatched socks. I thought I was being smooth but people definitely noticed! Other than that everything went off without a hitch.
Best part of the night?
My friend Weedee meeting my other friend Vidhi. It was a match made in heaven. And a name that I will never forget. But also it was just so fun to have everyone enjoy the food and drinks and just spend time being merry together.
Written by: Marisa Ortiz, Q&A as told to Seven for Eight
Photography: Marisa Ortiz