“Will you be having one of these parties at every destination you visit?” was the most common question I fielded at our buzzy Grantourismo launch party in London on Thursday night. Maybe. For us, entertaining away is one of the most fun things to do in a holiday rental.
The motivation for the question was the fact we’d hosted a pre-launch soiree in Dubai last week, then the cocktail party here at our chic HomeAway holiday rental in Battersea this week, so naturally it might be assumed we were establishing some kind of crazy pattern of party-throwing.
“No, definitely not!” I immediately responded, surveying the mess in the kitchen as Terence and the chef from catering company Kitchen Angels were prepping canapés. “Although we might host the occasional small dinner party if we make friends…”
Food is an essential component of the kind of travel we do – whether we’re shopping the markets for local produce, dining out, or doing a cooking class – and it’s an important aspect of our grand tour this year.
Let’s face it: eating out is most travellers’ favourite thing to do when they’re away, and the ability to cook and eat in is one of the most enjoyable aspects of staying in a holiday rental. Whether it’s simply a couple laying out a spread of local cheeses and cold cuts for a sunset drink on the balcony before going out, or a family or group of friends grilling up a barbecue by the pool, being able to entertain is one of the big advantages of choosing a holiday rental over a hotel, and it’s a big cost-saver too.
This explains two of Terence’s personal projects this year: to devise a simple breakfast eggs dish based on a local dish or local ingredients that anyone can cook up in their holiday rental; and to learn to cook a quintessential dish that’s unique to each of the places we visit, to perfect it, and (if and when the chance arises) to cook it for the person who might have taught him how to cook it or for new friends or neighbours who know the dish. Entertaining on a larger scale, as we have done in Dubai and London, was not part of our original project, but now we’re kind of warming to the idea…
In contrast to the Dubai party, for which Terence and I did all the cooking, for the London party, HomeAway hired caterers Kitchen Angels, to free up our time to socialize, and in keeping with our sustainable travel theme, we asked them to do British canapés created from local produce.
Terence also devised several canapés of his own inspired by the local produce we’d tried in London this week and the British food we’d been eating. This is what he prepared for our London party:
* Smoked trout tian on blinis
This was a modification of an old recipe Terence loved from Tetsuya in Sydney. His justification for transporting it here: “The smoked trout in London is wonderful so I combined it with a local fresh goat’s cheese, Childwickbury goat’s cheese, that is light and lemony. I added local capers, anchovies and herbs as well, and this was bound with egg yolk. I simply served these as a small ‘tian’ or tower on the blinis. These disappeared so fast we had to whip up a second batch!”
* Smoked mackerel on celeriac purée with bacon chips on oat chips
Terence wanted to do smoked eel but couldn’t find any in time so he substituted eel for some lovely mackerel: “I don’t see celeriac much in either Dubai or Australia (apart from in restaurants) so I wanted to work with it… and the highlight of my night was the chef tasting the seasoning of my celeriac purée and declaring it “perfect”. I was quite chuffed. Correct seasoning is so important with mash, purees and soups – and it’s a common mistake to over- or under-season these. I served the mixture on the oat chips with the mackerel and bacon chip on top.”
* Pork pâté with bacon powder & red wine reduction
Terence loved the pork pâté we tried at The Ginger Pig and wanted to work with it: “I toasted some local bread, cut bite-sized squares, and placed a slice of pâté on top. On top of this I added a little brush of red wine reduction. I’m increasingly interested in texture in dishes, in the way that Thais use different textures for ‘mouth feel’, so for this, I simply blended up some bacon crisps and sprinkled this over the pâté to give some flavourful crunch.”
Truly British Cocktail
50 ml gin
dash elderflower cordial
apple juice to taste
In a tall glass, pour the gin over some ice, add a dash of elderflower cordial. and top with apple juice. Stir well and garnish with a slice of local apples. (We actually garnished with strawberries and mint.)
The London launch party was loads of fun, and, like the Dubai do, what made it especially so was the opportunity to meet people we’d only known via Twitter or the blogosphere – and what a lovely bunch they were! It was also great to meet other travel writers, editors, and travel industry folk, who we’d been in touch with through our work before but had never met in person, and to be able to share travel tales and tips.
So now, after our successful London and Dubai parties, I’m kind of liking the idea of hosting some sort of social gathering at our holiday rentals when the opportunities arise… what do you think?