By Ernest Barteldes
I used to celebrate my birthday, like most New Yorkers I know do, at a bar or restaurant. After all, it is incredibly convenient because there is no cleaning involved and if the location is easy most people will come and it’s understood that at the end of the evening everyone is responsible for whatever they consume – leaving your personal cost very small.
We still do Renata’s birthday that way – the last time we held it at River Dock Café, a moderately priced place at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in St. George that mostly specializes on seafood but whose menu also includes various other items. Being located at the terminal, our guests did not have to worry about directions – just step off the ferry and there you are.
I do feel, however, that a party in a restaurant or bar feels a bit cold – you sit around the table and talk to the people on your left and right and that is pretty much it – there are few shared experiences at all, and you don’t really feel like it’s a real party because most of the time you don’t even get to select the music. So I decided, a few years back, to have my own birthday at our St. George apartment (the only time we really have people over the entire year except for a few occasions when a couple or another drop in for a visit.
Some guests that live in Queens or Brooklyn tend to grumble about having to schlep to Staten Island, but my reply is that they only have to do it once a year – I would do (and have done) the same for them if they decided to host a house party at their own homes.
When I send out the invite, I ask guests to bring something to drink and tell them I am handling all the food. It does sound like a hard task, but over the years I have devised a system of looking for easy recipes that take minimal preparation time but with lots of flavor. I also cheat a little and get some frozen items from Trader Joe’s (their mini-pizzas are pretty awesome and go fast when served), so there is plenty to eat at all times.
This year I decided to make the theme a little tropical, and made some Maui onion dip (served with potato chips), spicy edamame, guacamole (with tortilla chips), marinated seafood (cooked, southern Italian style), Hawaiian sweet and sour ham (actually made with SPAM) with rice and also introduced a Hawaiian appetizer made with bacon, pineapple and a chili-based sauce that almost everyone declared the evening’s favorite – there was none left over at the end of the night.
There were a total of 16 guests who all arrived and left at different times. Some of them were not (for many reasons) drinking, so I had some soda and juice available. There was plenty of wine and beer, and some Polish guests were nice enough to bring some vodka – it was a fun night that even included some live music provided by yours truly and Gary J Moore of Allergic to B’s.
I just wish our apartment were bigger so we could have even more people over.
(From Hawaiian Recipes)
½ lb. sliced bacon, cut into thirds
1 (20 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained.
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup chili sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Wrap each chunk of pineapple with a piece of bacon and secure with toothpick. Place in a shallow baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, mayonnaise and chili sauce, pour over the bacon wrapped pineapples. Bake, uncovered for 25 minutes until bacon is crispy and sauce is bubbly. Serve warm.