As you know, last Friday I played host to the Ratebeer Toronto Christmas Party, 2003 edition. We are seeing an increasing number of such events around here, but it seems to me that many people are unaware of what goes into such things. This could be a problem, as it might make the whole prospect of running an event seem rather daunting. So it is the purpose of this column to shed some light on the behind the scenes workings of a Ratebeer party.
<P>The first thing that needs to be done is to set a date. I set the date specifically in mind to coincide with the party in DC that Argo0 and Kathy were hosting. Why? Because I wanted to try and spur a series of simultaneous bashes. The Texans stepped up with a bash, even if they were a little bit on the slow side when it came to the whole simultaneous party thing.
<P>Now, I in my haste picked a time that turned out to be a bad one. My roommate had issues with the timing as a function of being right before exam week. My boss wouldn’t give me the day off so I lost several hours of key preparation time…but it was all good.
<P>This being a Ratebeer party, the next thing that sprung to mind was beer. I needed to make sure to bring in some special stuff for the event. To that end, I secured a bottle of Cantillon St. Lamvinus from hey_kevin. Mr_kimchee chipped in with a Sawyer’s Triple, and several of us began planning a raid of Premier Gourmet in Buffalo the weekend before the party. Naturally, it can’t all be serious business, so we quickly arranged for some comedic relief, in the form of crappy Cuban lager from joey_capps and the slightly pungent Antonio’s Garlic Pils, courtesy again of mr_kimchee.
<P>The next bit of advanced planning was the menu. We have the resources of a professional chef, so that definitely helps, knowing you can make just about anything. But it was my party, damn it, and I wanted to have my own food. Thankfully, I have a lot of good recipes and was able to settle on a mushroom soup, bok choy & buckwheat dumplings and homemade lasagna. I left dessert in the capable hands of Doug Shoemaker.
<P>Generally speaking, twentysomethings in a two-bedroom apartment aren’t equipped to cater parties for 20 people, so I had to arrange some plastic cutlery and paper plates. I also got plastic water cups. For beer glasses, I actually have plenty that we could have used, but mr_kimchee had number that he was looking to get rid of (actually, his wife was looking to get rid of them). So he brought about 15 glasses and that meant a lot less cleaning of my own glasses the next day. Sweet.
<P>The Sunday before the party was cleaning day. I hate cleaning days, and try to have as few of them as possible. I spent about three hours in the bathroom, knowing full well that although the place wasn’t going to be scrutinized, there had to be a significant reduction in grunge. Of course, you can’t clean the entire bathroom that far in advance because some stuff will just get dirty again. More on that later. I also arranged in advance for Doug to bring some extra folding chairs, as my supply amounted to five or six less that I figured I’d need.
<P>Although it was my intention to spend Monday and Tuesday cleaning and organizing, I didn’t. I have the procrastination gene – not as much as some people do, but I figured I’d rather sit on my arse and do everything at the last minute. That way I’d probably do a half-assed job and therefore spend less time overall on the cleaning.
<P>Wednesday night was the company Christmas party. I reckoned I’d stay for dinner then get on my horse back home and get to some of the stuff I’d blown off on Monday and Tuesday. Well, I figured since I wasn’t keen on the venue, and dinner didn’t start ‘til 6:30, I’d hit Smokeless Joe’s for a couple and then head over. Genius plan. I had a good buzz going by the time I got to the company party and started dipping into the open bar (they had Hoegaarden and that was good enough for me). Dinner was slow and I’d had seven or eight beers by the time I left. Now I was officially behind schedule.
<P>So Thursday morning I was up at 6am, cleaning the fridge before work. We have a turtle, which means we have worms in the fridge, and worms live in dirt. Six months worth of spilled dirt had mixed with miscellaneous fridge scunge. It was awful.
<P>Thursday evening I left work and headed for the market to stock up ingredients for the feast. Mr_kimchee came by as soon as I got home and we got to cooking up the food (at least the lasagna and stuffing for the dumplings). I attempted some late-night clean up but decided I could do it in the morning.
<P>Of course I didn’t. I waited until I got off work. Daboskabouter came by early to help move furniture around. We had to get the cats and guinea pigs out of the way to avoid major allergy problems. We had to get all available chairs we could find set up in the living room. Mr_kimchee still had to make the soup and the dough for the dumplings. And I still had leftover vacuuming and bathroom work. Yes, folks, the bathroom stuff you can’t do ahead of time – sink and toilet. Nothing like scrubbing the toilet twenty minutes before guests arrive. That’s why hosts of parties have no qualms or modesty soaking up praise after the event.
<P>In the end, most everything came together. We had a couple of no-shows and late cancellations (and a couple of unannounced guests) so we had enough food and seating. I cleaned out my beer fridge and all the food I chucked from the big fridge allowed for sufficient space for all the beers. Guests found the place, despite my lack of directions or address posted on the Events page. And because everybody was so awesome and polite, nothing got busted (not even a cat food dish) and the clean-up was quick and painless.
<P>And that is what you didn’t see at the Ratebeer Toronto Christmas Party.