Many fashion bloggers in Toronto have blogged about Her Majesty’s Pleasure. This coffee/bar/nail spa is located in the center of downtown. From the photos I saw, it was almost too beautiful and too posh to walk in until my friend asked me one day.
I used to hesitate to invite friends over. it wasn’t out of shame because I keep my place clean and organized even though it’s small. But having friends over and cooking dinner for more than 2 people? The idea of making appetizers, meals, and desserts in one night worried me.
Until I went to a couple’s party last year. The wife is Danish. Their condo is not huge but she keeps it open, bright, and comfortable. I asked her many times about the secret of keeping the house clean and charming. She just laughed and said: “Just throw away things that don’t fit in your life.”
She invited 10 people for the dinner. When I arrived, she greeted me with a glass of red, and some cheeses and fruits from the local market.
Dinner was soon ready. There was potato salad, and asparagus with tomatoes and goat cheese. The main course was oven-baked salmon with lemon and dill. She also had a warm multi-grain loaf sliced with butter going around the dinner table.
That was it. Nothing fancy. Nothing overwhelming. But it was the best party experience I’ve ever had.
The food was simple and delicious. The atmosphere was relaxing and enjoyable. I knew only 3 people out of 10 that night but I felt completely comfortable to talk to those I didn’t know. My brain was full of pleasure and detoxified, like going to a SPA. The room was filled with warm, homey, friendly and welcoming. We mingled and chatted. No one was left out.
I was not sure if the others felt like I did that night, or it was just me loving the casual vibes, or the way I told myself: this is what my parties are going to be like.
I have one principle to follow when I invite friends over so I don’t feel overworked or pressured: minimize the effort.
In other words, pick ONE part of the dinner and focus on it. If I want to go fancy on a real-deal main course, for example roasted lamb shoulder with two different sauces, then I make the salad simple and easy. If I want to show off my new baking recipe for dessert, then I go easy on the meal.
Also don’t be afraid to ask friends to bring something small, like fresh fruits. It makes the party preparation easier.
After all, friends are not here to judge but spend time together.
Chicken is the safest main course when I have friends over. It is tasty, juicy, inexpensive, healthy, and easy to cook with. If you are worried about it being dry, this marinated chicken thigh recipe is double fail-proof.
The original recipe is from Epicurious. I used skinless and boneless chicken thighs instead of bone-in, and skin-on ones. It doesn’t have that beautiful juicy and charcoaled skin look, but it is as delicious with this healthier option.
I also don’t own a food processor. So I chopped the ingredients finely instead. I made quinoa to go with it, but you are welcoming to replace it with rice, brown rice, or any kind of starch you like.
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp freshly grated lime zest
- 1 tsp freshly grated orange zest
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced , setting aside 1/4 cup for the garnish
- In a medium bowl, put cilantro, garlic, citrus zest, citrus juices, soy sauce, oil, salt and the rest of scallions in the bowl and mix them together. Set aside 1/4 cup marinade.
- Add chicken and chill at least 20 minutes.
- Preheat broiler. Remove the excess marinate on the chicken thighs, leave them on a broilerproof baking sheet, and broil 5-10 minutes each side until they are beautifully charcoaled.
- Serve it with reserved marinade and scallions.
My first encounter with Chihuly was in Boston. I walked into this building and there it was – a huge unknown sea creature hanging from the ceiling, composed of a thousand small, irregular, organic pieces of glass.
I didn’t know who Chihuly was but I was amazed by this sculpture’s mysterious light and color. So, when the Royal Ontario Museum announced the Chihuly exhibition last year, I made up my mind to go.
ROM displays his art works in the dark. The lack of background light allows the shining glasses to dramatically stand out – illuminated by some direct light and mostly by the sculptures’ own brilliance. I felt like I was watching a movie when I walked by each piece. I gazed at the color and the light. For a couple of seconds I fell into some stories that ran in my mind. Chihuly indeed created a surreal space perfect for one’s own imagination.
I couldn’t help but wonder – if we could reach the depths of the sea, would this be it?
“I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in a way that they’ve never experienced.”
– Dale Chihuly