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Gin Party Planning: A How To Guide

GinPartyHowtoGuide

This is a How-To Plan a Gin Party at Home guide 🙂

Quick Backstory: I planned a surprise Speakeasy Gin Party for Jen’s 25th Birthday Party earlier this month. We live in Bangkok, Thailand, so it was a house party with just close friends and workmates. Everything a complete surprise (with fake decoy) up until he walked in the door… (If someone had told me a surprise party was this much hard work before I started. I’m not so sure I would have gone along with it)

Pre-warning … I didn’t get a lot of great photos. The photos are quite blurry.. a little like the night 😉 I guess after the surprise part was done, the drinks went down a little too quick. It was a great night, and I still wanted to share with you everything from concept to education, so maybe it can help you plan your own Gin Party!

The Concept

We love Gin & Tonics. I wanted something impressive. I ran through a whole list of ideas in my head

  • Gin Party at a great cocktail bar in Bangkok, ie Teens of Thailand (not special enough)
  • Coming up with a Gin Cocktail Menu at Home with printed cards (could be fun)
  • Special cocktail created just for Jens at one of our favourite bars (would that be enough)

Until I combined all the ideas into one.

Private bartender at home.

Special Gin Cocktails for the night.

The end result? The Southeast Asia Bartender of the Year 2016 to bartend in our house and come up with 5 special Gin Cocktails based around Jens favourite flavours, along with a special tasting board to complement the gins – made by me!

GinPartyPlanning

Now we had the idea – I had to execute it.

Theme, check

Decorations

Surprise Cake

Decoy Plan

Coordinating with the Bartender

Sourcing the food.. And hiding it all.. check!

The end result

The Theme

Go with a theme for your party! It gets everyone festive, and creates a bit more fun to plan your food, drink and decorations around. Especially if you’re doing it at home, for a special event it helps distinguish things from a normal dinner party.

I chose Speakeasy – Gin fits right into the Prohibition time and Jens loves getting dressed up in smart clothes. So it was perfect. Our guests on the night wore hats, smart shirts, suspenders and bow-ties. It was a slice of Great Gatsby in our living room.

GinPartySpeakeasyPartySigns

Download a copy of our Speakeasy Designs here

GinPartyHowtoGuideThe Gin Bar in action

GinPartyHowtoGuide

Planning the Cocktail Menu

I was lucky enough to work with our Bartender to create a menu. We discussed things like

  1. Theme for the party? Your cocktails can match your theme
  2. Flavours we were going for – In Jens case, I specified flavours like Rosemary and elderflower that I know he enjoys
  3. Spirits – any types of gins that you enjoy, do you already have some at home? Types of botanicals?
  4. Glasses – Do you need special types of glasses?
  5. Easy Drinking – What’s the aim of your night, do you want things that are easy to drink? Since we were a medium sized group of, I requested one that was easy to drink and the rest to bring us on a discovery of Gin.

We ended up with five different Gin Cocktails each featuring a different type of Gin. If you’re doing this with a group I suggest getting each person to bring a Gin. You can pick some Premium Gins and spread the cost around!

GinCocktailMenu

Download a copy of the Cocktail Menu we used here

Planning the Food Menu

Much like cheese and wine, spirits and food can be exciting to mix and match. That’s one of the things we love about Gin – all the botanicals, mixing them with different combinations, tonics and brands.

There’s a certain subtlety in the art of food and drink that is really enjoyed by the Food Obsessed!

GinpartyfoodThe spread for the night

GinpartyfoodSalami Balls, Artichokes, Pate, Smoked Duck Breast.. and more mmmm

GinpartyfoodGoats cheese and soft cheeses go perfectly with gin!

You can’t have a birthday.. without a birthday cake! Spot the Unicorn candle 😉

How I went about choosing Food for the night

As it was a party, I went for cold cuts and cheese. We’d had previous gatherings at our house where I prepared tapas – but pulling all that cooking and decorating off with a 2 hour timeframe of getting Jens out of the house. No thanks, was not about to attempt that!

Of course if it isn’t a surprise party, this part might be a little more fun for you to put together as you’ll have more time to prepare and cook things before the party. I had to put all the decorations, help the bartender, set the area up, get dressed and get the guests ready.. in two hours. Cooking.. was not on the table. 

  1. I started by creating a list of the different standout botanicals in the Gin’s used, for example if there were strong notes of Apple. I’d write that down
  2. Then I created a list of possible meats and cheeses I wanted to order, ie one hard, two soft. Anything extras, like breads, nuts and fruits.
  3. Then the pairing! Working on a doc I started to google and match different botanicals with flavours that could work well. Then cross matched with online stores and types of products.

It took a good few hours. Plus we live in Thailand and not Europe where cheese and meats and plentiful and easy to obtain. I went all through online suppliers so I could get everything delivered to home from specialist stores.

You can view the result in our Gin Pairing Menu in the link below!

GinPartyFoodPairings

Download a copy of the Gin & Food Pairings Menu here

Let me know in the comments below if you end up hosting your own Gin Party!

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BrunchMain MealPlant BasedSaladsUnder 30Vegetables

Rainbow Roast Vegetable One Pan Dinner

Roast6vegeasypan-Finished

I love a few of  those under 30 minutes, look impressive but easy as sh*t type recipes up my sleeve. Here’s one of those for you.

Besides being a plate of deliciousness, it’s a great way to get veggies in and stretch your grocery shopping out a week. It’s my go-to easy but I still want to pretend I’m eating food/being somewhat healthy meal. 

Six different types of veggies cooked six ways. In fact there’s no real science to this – I cooked it two days in a row, and switched things up both days. If you’ve got a fave spice mix, go for it. Cumin, paprika, tarragon. It’s all on the table (roasted vegetables and herbs and spices, you just can’t go wrong)

You just want to make sure you have,

  1. Lots of different types of vegetables – variety is impressive!
  2. Factor in cooking times and cut sizes for ultimate laziness

It’s really a chuck it all in and pull out dinner at the end kind of dish. It’s somewhat healthy – especially if you’re a high fat – low carber (minus the taters’). If you’re not, well, just call it tasty.

The secret to this dish is being able to put everything in at once, and pull it out in 30-45 minutes, and boom, instant rainbow on a plate. It’s almost like a roast, but with none of the hard work.

Use broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini. Whatever you’ve got in the crisper, just remember – if something takes longer to cook, but it smaller. Cooks fast? Leave it whole or bigger cuts. You’ll get everything cooking relatively evenly.

What makes this taste so good? You’re creating six mini vegetable dishes on one tray. Cut all your veg up, and mix them up straight on the sheet pan. No extra pans, or boards. It’s really that simple.

It’s a throw it in the oven, pour a glass of red and dinner’s done.

Oh and bonus points for lack of dishes.

Yeah, this is one to favourite.

*bonus tip, make double and have a roast veg salad for lunch for the next day.

Roast6vegeasypan-PREP

Throw in some protein for a heavier meal. Sausages or Chicken Thighs, Breast (Larger Pieces) go great. You can throw them in at the same time, just make sure any protein is at a size that will take about 30 minutes to oven cook.

I used some lamb sausages.

Roast6vegeasypan-AddProtein

Roast6vegeasypan-Finished30 minutes later……

Roast6vegeasypan-DishPlate of deliciousness – so many flavours, all in one bowl

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SaladsSidesUnder 30Vegetables

Eat Your Veg: Warm Zucchini, Parmesan, EVOO Side Dish

ZucchiniParmesanGarlic-TopwithOliveoil

Jump straight to Recipe

Sometimes you want something that tastes like it should be bad for you but is bordering on the ‘it’s kinda good for me’.

ZucchiniParmesanGarlic-PrepHere’s your obligatory before shot, plate of vegetables? Nah thanks mate

On our last trip to Europe over the Christmas holidays, J and I spent New Years in Milano, Italy. We gorged on the best pizza, pasta, parma, espresso’s and more! But one dish stood out to me.. Who am I kidding, all the dishes were amazing. But one dish stood out for being seemingly underwhelming on paper but oh-so memorable at taste.

It was a pasta dish with boletus mushrooms and zucchini.

Where’s the meat? If that’s what you’re thinking.. Me too. I rarely find a veg dish that can satisfy me just as much as throwing in a little beef..chicken or fish. But this dish did it.

Handmade pasta, boletus, zucchini pieces and just really really good olive oil. I know, so simple and yet so perfectly balanced and bursting in flavour. Who would think I would be trying to stuff myself with MORE zucchini (and pasta)?

So this is an ode to the zucchini and boletus pasta I had in Milano. It’s missing the boletus and the handmade pasta (I haven’t quite mastered handmade pasta, I guess I’ll need to go back to Milano..) but the zucchini shines in it’s simplicity.

ZucchiniParmesanGarlic-closeup-zoomHere’s the after. Yes please mami – one plate of vegetables for me

Just three main ingredients make up this dish, fresh zucchini, shaved parmesan and a good dressing of extra virgin olive oil.

ZucchiniParmesanGarlic-sideTwirlOlive oil is not your enemy here

ZucchiniParmesanGarlic-sidecloseupOh yeah shake those strips

Call it a salad, call it a warm vegetable dish. Or dish your zucchini up, add some mushrooms and some pasta and pretend you’re in Milano. I don’t care — just enjoy the beauty that is this simple warm zucchini dish. Mangiare! Mangiare!

*zucchini/courgette, whatever you want to call these sexy green vegetables. Just use some nice long ones!


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BreakfastPlant BasedUnder 30

Pina Colada Breakfast Smoothie Bowl

PinaColada-Verycloseup

Jump straight to the recipe

Okay I’m not one of those ‘fruit’s a dessert’ kinda people.

Fruit is not a dessert. Cheesecake is a dessert. Apple Pie is a dessert.

In what world is fruit a dessert?? I’m all for whole foods and plant based eating but as good as raw desserts can be, they’re just not desserts for me, ya dig?

Buuuuut – big BUT here, this Pina Colada Smoothie bowl definitely comes close to ‘dessert’ status. Maybe it’s because I’m such a big fan of coconut, mangos and pineapple.

Maybe it’s because I love Pina Colada’s.

Maybe it’s because this smoothie bowl is just so damn good. Just like the Nalu Bowls inspired: Dragonfruit Smoothie bowl, the frozen fruit here instead of ice cubes is the secret.

PineappleMangoCoconutSmoothieBowlIt’s basically ice cream

This bowl brings it up a notch with coconut milk – and that gives it a slightly ‘icecream’ like texture. It’s close guys.

I already love a good greek yoghurt with granola. But ya know with a really good quality greek yoghurt and a super crunchy granola with maybe some clusters and chocolate in there.

I don’t know. It’s not dessert but it tastes really good, good enough to be your weekday dessert, or breakfast. You choose.

PineappleMangoCoconutSmoothieBowlA taste of Bali at home

Inspired by by favourite Smoothie Bowl place in Canggu Bali, NALU BOWLS. See their Pipeline smoothie recipe here;

NaluBowls-Pipeline

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Comfort FoodUnder 30

Crunchy Coconut Rice Bowl & Crispy Fried Egg

CrunchyCoconutRiceBowl-Cloth

What’s better than a meal that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, has almost less than five ingredients and is the laziest dish to enjoyment ratio you can enjoy?

Nothing.

Sometimes you want to cook a lobster broth that takes six hours to simmer and hundredandtwo spices and the hard work of your first born.

And sometimes you just want something that’s thrown together but feels like it took you way more effort than it really did.

Here’s where Crunchy Coconut Rice Bowl comes in.

Or as I like to call it, The Comfort Bowl.

CrunchyCoconutRiceBowl-Cloth

It’s my version of asian kid white rice with an egg and ketchup in a bowl

(But we’re adults now so c’mon I’m not putting ketchup on my rice anymore.. at least for this dish)

Ok, I admit it, I’m a little proud of this lazy-ass dish. Why? It gets the textural components right.

Nutty coconut rice – check

Gooey egg yolk – check

Crunchy shallots – check

… spicy Sriracha sauce, check!

It’s the best version of egg and rice in a bowl you can get.

Expect many more rice bowl adventures to come, I forgot just how good flavoured rice can be. Onwards with the recipe.

Make this for lunch, dinner, breakfast (I won’t judge).

CrunchyCoconutRiceBowl-Cloth


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BrunchFusionKoreanMexicanSidesUnder 30

Loaded Kimchi Fries with Pulled Pork

LoadedKimchiFries-Feature

Inspired by Kimchi Fries from Coreano, Auckland, New Zealand
Coreano takes authentic Korean flavours and mashes them with mexican street food. I first tried this dish at their pop-up store when living in Auckland, New Zealand.

Who doesn’t love a good fusion dish? Especially one that gets it right. We’ve got pulled pork, spicy Kimchi, and a creamy mexican crema.

It’s tangy, it’s sweet, it’s spicy. The pulled pork is melt in your mouth, the Kimchi is crunchy and a little sour and they come together on a perfect hot crispy french fry.

Are you sold?

Just before I left Auckland, New Zealand, fusion food was getting bigger. One in particular caught my eye, Coreano – blending authentic Korean flavours with Mexican food. Both cuisines are already known for having bold flavours, it was either going to be a hit, or a dud.

If you’re a regular Kimchi eater, you’ll know it’s an acquired taste. It’s a bit like the sauerkraut of the east, a fermented spicy cabbage that once you love it, you’re hooked.

If you couldn’t tell from the mouthwatering combinations, korean and mexican? It works. These loaded fries are a sensory experience, they’re great to look at and taste even better than you can imagine.

All the dressings. From (L-R) Salsa Roja, Coriander, Kimchi, Shallots, Mexican Crema, Carnitas

The loading process, first the carnitas, shallots and kimchi

Grilling the kimchi mellows out the sourness of the cabbage while retaining its crunch and spice. The mexican crema adds a creamy component that calms down some of the heat while bringing all the flavours together in one bite.

LoadedKimchiFries-SideViewGrab a fork and… dig in!

LoadedKimchiFries-SideviewCloseupA little bite of everything in a perfect mouthful

LoadedKimchiFries-Closeup

Time to try it for yourself! These are great for having a few friends over, give each person a DIY plate or just a (almost) lazy dinner for one. If you have all the ingredients ready this is an easy Under 30 minute dish to throw together.

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Vegetables

Crispy Roasted Potato Wedges with Spiced Up Mix

SpicedPotatoes-Closeup

Inspired by travels in Bangkok, a visit to Wishbeer

Living in Bangkok, sometimes you have to hunt to find rare gems. Well we found one! A cosy pub called Wishbeer that specialises in Craft beers. Attached to their pub is a shophouse where they sell all the beers, spirits and glasses they stock on location.

We’d just popped down to pick up some Belgian cherry beers (a few Bacchus Kriek, try them! They’re amazingly rich with a complex cherry undertone) but ended up staying for a few drinks and a bite after discovering the laidback and relaxing atmosphere.

WishbeerEnjoying some beers at Wishbeer

Raclette-at-wishbeerRaclette at Wishbeer

The drinks were flowing so that meant some food to go along with our fantastic beers. While the food wasn’t anything to shout home about, one of the side dishes caught my eye. These chunky crispy roast potato wedges with a side of a mixed bowl of spice.

Potato Wedges at WishbeerThe potato wedges with mystery spice mix

I was sceptical at first (I’m a ketchup and mayo kinda girl) but the wedges won me over. The toasted sesame seeds added a nutty, earthy element and the red chilli flakes gave them a nice kick. With the mix being dry, it allowed the potato to shine and you could appreciate the warm fluffy potato.

These go perfectly with beers – flavours that are fiery but not complex enough to overwhelm the flavours in your beer.

They’d also be a great side for entertaining, they’re so easy to throw together. You can make the spice mix in advance and put your wedges in the oven just before the guests come over. They look great on a table and feel more like a dish than just fries.

A must with these wedges is using salt flakes AND the pink himalayan salt. No subbing the salt flakes! Because the dish is so simple to begin with it comes down to using simple, high quality ingredients. The salt flakes have a fine salt texture, so you don’t get a hit of salt but rather a beautiful layered hit of flavours.

SpicedPotatoes-Extracloseup

SpicedPotatoes-PrepPotato Prep

SpicedPotatoes-SpicecloseupThe spice mix combined

SpicedPotatoes-midviewTry them for yourselves

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BreakfastBrunchEggsUnder 30

Two Cheese, Steak and Roast Potato Silky Frittata

TwoCheeseSteakPotatoFrittata-TopHalfView

A good breakfast sets you up for a good day, and a great breakfast sets you up for an amazing day.

But sometimes you’ve only got 15 minutes to throw something together, so you need something a little decadent that can be thrown together in a pinch.

Well, I got you.

Two Cheeses, Steak AND Roast Potato – oh yes.

Frittatas are great, they’re one pan, low fuss and easy to cook. No complicated flipping, rolling, or poaching. No need to be delicate with this dish. It’s got lots of flavour and hard to stuff up.

So here you go, my quick and easy Two Cheese Steak and Potato Silky Frittata.

The shallots in here complement the steak nicely and add a bit of sweetness and delicateness to an otherwise heavier dish. The Halloumi doesn’t melt down all the way like the mozzarella so you get a nice bite of saltiness. Who doesn’t like a good steak and potato dish? Now you can have the quick version on top of your morning eggs.

The egg beater mix pulls the whole thing together without adding to the richness of the steak and cheese.

Top with some sriracha and a good cup of strong coffee and you’ve got the perfect quick breakfast for a busy weekday or a lazy weekend lie-in.

Twocheesesteakeggfrittata-quartercloseupLook at that silky egg and melted mozzarella.. Mmm mmm!

Twocheesesteakpotatofrittata-sidecloseupEvery bite has a little bit of everything, salty halloumi, fluffy potato and caramelised beef

Enjoy!

Victoria xox

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BakingDesserts

Vanilla, Raspberry, & Lime, Cookie Ice cream Sandwiches

IcecreamSwich-TopVIew

These are decadent ice cream sandwiches that are rich on the cookie and zesty and refreshing on the filling. Ice cream sandwiches are the dessert that I never grew out of as a kid.

I love them in all types of forms. I discovered the ‘bread’ ice cream sandwich when I visited Singapore when I was eight. My cousins took me to get ice cream and passed me a slice of bread with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream stuffed inside and then folded in half. I was amazed, but it’s bread?!

It was one of my first encounters with realising that food doesn’t have to fit a convention. You can fill a piece of bread with something sweet or push the boundaries with adding vanilla to a savoury dish.

My next love for many years was the Peter’s Ice cream Sandwich. I don’t know why it’s so good when it’s nothing fancy! I think it’s what attracts me to to bread sandwiches of Asia, it combines different textures that create a comforting texture in your mouth.

Now’s the next wave. The cookie ice cream sandwich. For this recipe I used a rich brown sugar version cookie from serious eats. In hindsight I used a Thai brown sugar that was a little too strong in taste. You can also make this with pre-bought cookie but I suggest making your own cookies. It makes it more fun!

The star of the show is the ice cream filling. The combination of the raspberries and lime are sensational on the mouth – the raspberries a little tart and where the tartness kicks off and the sweetness kicks in, the lime is there to back it up. You get this collaboration of flavours that’s sweet but not sickly, and wonderfully refreshing.

Use a good quality vanilla ice cream. That’s one thing I would change, the ice cream I used was a generic vanilla (the general range here in Thailand isn’t the best!) and it didn’t hold up well in the cookie sandwich.

It was still delicious. The zesty filling cuts through the richness of the cookie. It’s an ice cream sandwich taken up a notch. A great night-in dessert!

RaspberryLimeIcecreamSandwich

RaspberryLimeIcecreamSandwich

RaspberryLimeIcecreamSandwich

RaspberryLimeIcecreamSandwich

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BreakfastBrunchUnder 30

A Typical Aussie Brekkie – Smashed Avo on Toast

AvoToast-full

Inspired by growing up in Australia

Aussie-Avo-on-toast

The English have the English breakfast, Americans have biscuits and pancakes, the Chinese have congee (rice porridge).

What are we talking about? Breakfast of course!

As an Australian, aside from vegemite on toast. The now trendy avocado on toast is probably our ubiquitous Aussie brekky (breakfast, we shorten everything..). For the record it’s Avo on toast to us. Avocado, it’s a bit of a long word you see…

Avocado on toast has gotten trendy, I’m seeing avocado roses, sliced zucchini and peas and toasted sesame seeds… and it’s breakin’ my heart!

A good avo on toast is simple. Why? Simple flavours get the star of the dish, the avocado to shine.

Aussie-Avo-on-toast

I no longer live in Australia but this version is what signifies a great avo on toast at home or in a cafe for breakfast or brunch for me. If it’s one thing Aussies do well, it’s our avo on toast. You’ll find some fancy flavours and trendy combo’s but this almost ‘standard’ Aussie avo on toast is always making the rounds.

I make one substitution, shallots instead of purple onion. While purple onion and shallots are both sweet, shallots are slightly milder and work well with the other flavours rather than overpowering them.

The red chilli flakes add a bit of zing with the zestiness of the fresh lemon. Top with a poached egg to add a bit of bulk to your dish.

Do me a favour, use a good bit of bread too. Ciabatta is perfect and you’ll impress anyone you make it for with the five star flavours!

I hope you enjoy – I’m imagining the great weather, beachside cafe and a good flat white back home while I eat it 😀

My office view where I enjoy a little taste of home

The perfect morning starter

Aussie-Avo-on-toast

Aussie-Avo-on-toast

Oh yeah, smash it. Smash it reaaaal good

Aussie-Avo-on-toast

A squeeze of fresh lemon and seasoning completes this perfect dish

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