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Friday, November 13, 2009

Ginnie Joan's Swanky Speakeasy

It was a hot day. It's always hot in Gero, and today it was blowing more hot air than the mayor on election day. I was sitting at my desk with a pitcher of melted ice, sweating like a hungry fat guy at a hot dog stand where there are only two weenies left.. and he’s third in line. The door squeaked on its hinges and I looked up to see her walking in, the kind of broad that could get a guy into five types of trouble.

"Ginnie Joan's another year old this year, but this time it ain't no ordinary birthday," she said, "We gots to celebrate this one with a bang, and I hear you're the girl to help us do it."

"So what if I am, doll face. I ain't got the time, and you ain't got the dough," I replied, wiping the sweat off my brow and looking around for fall to appear.It was hotter than a $3 radio at an all-night pawnshop but this dame was cool as ice. She reached into her bag and tossed two parcels across the desk before moving to the door, arching her back against the frame "There's plenty more where that came from. You've got two days to get back to me, and keep your trap shut," she said before slinking out.

I picked up the parcels, looking inside and groaning like a cheap plastic chair at an all-you-can-eat buffet. This broad had my number all right - wholemeal pizza dough and freshly made too. I poured the pitcher over my head before picking up the phone and admitting surrender.

When my sister first approached me with her idea of throwing a 1920s/30s themed party for our Mum's milestone birthday this year, I knew it was going to be a night to remember. If you want a cool party organised, just ask my sister (only, you might not want to ask her right now or she might punch your nose flatter than a pancake driving off a cliff). Contrary to the above gumshoe, I eagerly jumped on board and soon we were watching old movies for ideas (watching Kevin Costner in fast forward doesn't make him any less annoying), making many a list and madly emailing each other even more than usual.

Keep your greasy mitts off my Ginnie Joan dollars!

Before too long, invites were sent out to the lucky chosen ones, giving each guest a moniker to use for the evening, and some Ginnie Joan dollars to use in case they need to bribe their way in past The Enforcer (my brother-in-law).

The Enforcer's shift at the speakeasy began early, shifting and moving the usual furniture out of the way to make room for the hired tables and chairs, the "band" and the piano. The band were an unusually quiet lot, but they made up for it by looking the part, framed by red curtains and gold chandeliers. The band and curtains were made by the speakeasy's artist-in-residence, my sister, who also happens to moonlight as a fine little moonshine brewer.

Just some of Ginnie Joan's posters and magazine covers

A couple of pinboards covered in photos of Ginnie Joan throughout the years, and a few photoshop-dodgy-ed up posters later, and we had the swankiest speakeasy this side of Chicago.

The band for the evening, and some Ginnie Joan moonshine

The food preparation began weeks ago, with my sister and I making all the freezable items in advance and storing them safely away until the big day. My sister put in some mammoth baking days for this, and soon we had a chest freezer filled with tasty treats. Cooking the fresh food involved two pretty solid days of cooking before the party, and by Sunday we were knackered but it was totally worth it.

The party was fantastic, with around 60 guests in attendance. I was so impressed by the effort that everyone went to with their costumes! I would love to put up some photos of us all but I'm not so sure everyone would be cool with me sticking their mugs up here so you'll just have to imagine how awesome us ladies looked with our drop-waists and tassels and fishnets and feathers and the men in their dapper suits! I had bought myself a nice feather boa to complete my outfit, but ended up leaving it out in fear of a guest choking on any stray feathers (the mob doc was outta town that weekend).

The night's savoury menu at this lavish juice joint consisted of:
  • Selection of cold platters and dips (which I largely forgot to photograph!!)
  • Party eggs (also totally forgot to photograph!)
  • Smoked salmon and caviar blinis (kinda forgot to photograph)
  • Assorted sushi rolls
  • Salt & pepper squid
  • Lamb koftas with yoghurt dipping sauce
  • Mini quiches - ham, cheese & chives and sundried tomato & feta
  • Spicy chicken sausage rolls
  • Spanakopita triangles (made with puff instead of filo... don't tell George!)
  • Spicy pulled pork buns
  • Butter chicken pastries
  • Mini beef & Guinness pies
No recipes in this post I'm afraid, but perhaps I'll write some up in the near future.

Pastries being warmed, ready to go out on platters to the hungry masses

My only evidence of Party Eggs, and a Caviar Blini

Assorted sushi rolls

Salt & pepper squid, butter chicken pastries, my only evidence of the platters, spicy chicken rolls and the sundried tomato & feta quiches

Spicy chicken rolls, sundried tomato & feta quiches, lamb koftas, beef & Guinness pies and spanakopita triangles

The spicy pulled pork process - rubbed with spices, after being very slowly cooked, pulling it all apart to be put back in slow cooker with homemade bbq sauce, then making the buns!

Spicy chicken rolls, ham cheese & chives quiches, spicy pulled pork buns

We were serving for a good solid couple of hours, before people started admitting defeat and we thought we'd let them rest their bellies in readiness for dessert. The rest period included some entertainment in the form of The Godfather theme being belted out on the piano, and a skit including some of the town's hottest young flappers showing off their dance moves. While all this was going on, my sister and I busily finished off the final touches to the birthday cake we'd been working on for a couple of days by this stage, and arranging the other desserts (provided kindly by some of Mum's sisters) on trays.

In addition to that slice of beetroot chocolate cake that I bought at the Subi Farmers market last week and stored safely away in the freezer for our coeliac guest, the other desserts were:
  • Date slice (no photographic evidence at all! Trust me it was lovely!) (thanks Aunty R!)
  • Banoffee pies, with a twist (thanks Aunty S!)
  • Chocolate and raspberry tarts (thanks Aunty T!)
A chocolate tart, and some banoffee pies (mmm gotta love a twist that involves Cherry Ripe)

Now, the birthday cake/s was a labour of love. My sister came up with the overall design, and then got to work making the key component - an incredible fruit cake (man it's a tasty cake... I was lucky enough to score a big chunk to bring back to Perth with me, and every day is a struggle to stop myself from eating the whole thing.) I meanwhile put myself to good use by sourcing all the icing paraphernalia from various cake decorating stores. Of course, there happened to be a statewide shortage in the ready-to-roll icing we wanted, but I just hit up Jimmy the shoeshine boy for the info I needed. For the right price, Jimmy could tell you were to find a needle in a haystack, and where it had been 'til now, and he sure as hell knew where in town had some o' that fondant. (The Yellow Pages and many phone calls may have also possibly yielded the same information).

The cake process began on Friday with the baking of around 70 cupcakes - chocolate in black paper, and vanilla in white paper. We then got onto decorating the fruit cake. Neither my sister nor I had ever used fondant before, so we were incredibly apprehensive and had visions of it cracking horribly as we tried to roll it on and having to cover up our mistakes with lashings of ganache or icing sugar or just doing the Charleston in front of it to distract people. After watching a few youtube videos to get the process clear in our minds, we got started and it ended up being remarkably straightforward! Luckily the cake was lovely and goopy with all the booze in it, so it was quite easy to get the surface nice and level by plugging any little holes with pieces of extra cake before we did the rolling, and before long we had a mighty fine looking fondantified cake.

Making and decorating the central fruit cake

The piano decoration on top of the white fondant layer involved a bit more work, and I was able to put my engineering skills to good use by drawing up a template to cut the black icing to. Once the black squiggle and black keys were in the right position, we made the lines between the white keys with pieces of licorice before adding some black musical notes, placing some ribbon around the bottom and high-fiving each other a few times.

The high-fives may have been a little premature, as we then spent the rest of the night decorating the cupcakes with alternating black or white fondant, and musical notes. We also decorated some cupcakes to spell out "HAPPY BIRTHDAY", and saved four in each colour to place some gold candles into.

So, while others were shimmying up a storm outside, my sister and I arranged the cake and cupcakes on the previously prepared cakeboard (made and painted by The Enforcer, I believe, and finished off with the musical score by my sister). It was while doing this that I thought that perhaps we should check if the board actually fit through the door. Mild panic ensued until The Enforcer used his rifle as a ruler and confirmed that it would indeed fit safely through the door. Candles were then lit and the cake made its way out to the lady of honour!

Following much gorging of cake and cupcakes and pies and tarts and slice, there was only one duty left of the evening... selling the post-dinner cigars and cigarettes...

Cigars? Cigarettes? Humectant 420?

Big cheers for my sister for organising one hell of a party, and very big thanks to all who attended and helped that classy broad Ginnie Joan celebrate her birthday in style! Happy birthday Mum!


penny aka jeroxie November 13, 2009 at 9:08 AM  

So much yummy food and look at that cake! That is one hell of a party. Bring it on!

Belle@OohLook November 13, 2009 at 9:23 AM  

What an absolutely amazing party!! I can't believe you did it all yourselves, the food looks especially good, and the birthday cakes are so beautifully decorated. You mother is a lucky lady!

Steph November 13, 2009 at 10:42 AM  

I'm very impressed at the effort and planning. It looked amazing! After cooking for a day and a half to cater my own party I'm intrigued by the idea of freezing finger food and was wondering, what can be frozen in advance?

mademoiselle délicieuse November 13, 2009 at 11:27 AM  

I'm thinking you must own some big-arse freezers! Congratulations on that mammoth effort of cake - very impressive results, indeed =)

Rilsta @ My Food Trail November 13, 2009 at 1:58 PM  

OMG you have outdone yourself! What an amazing achievement to plan a party of that size and have all that food and the wonderful cake!! hats off to you and your sis! The food all looks delicious and the cake looked fantastic - you couldn't tell you had never worked with fondant before!!

Your mum must have been proud and is very lucky to have fab daughters to plan such an awesome party for her! I love the invites too! Great work!!

Trissa November 13, 2009 at 2:47 PM  

Hats off to you and your sister!!! Have you thought of doing this professionally? I can't believe you guys pulled it off! And the cake and cupcakes are adorable! Lucky Mom!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella November 13, 2009 at 3:20 PM  

Happy Birthday to your mum! And I love the way you wrote it and the guy at the hot dog stand (I could so picture him). The food looks amazing and that cake? Wow and wow! :o

Conor @ HoldtheBeef November 13, 2009 at 6:21 PM  

penny aka jeroxie - thanks! It sure was one hell of a party, I'm still exhausted!

Belle - thanks so much! She really seemed to have a ball :)

Steph - thank you! Most of the pastry items were cooked and then frozen, so we just defrosted them and then reheated in the pie warmer. The spanakopitas were frozen uncooked, so we defrosted and then baked them. The lamb koftas were frozen raw, then defrosted and grilled. Oh and the salt and pepper squid was deep fried from frozen. All had great texture and tasted very fresh :)

mademoiselle délicieuse - haha, yes we do! My brother-in-law is a dedicated recreational fisherman and my sister loves to cook as much as I do, so they are owners of multiple freezers :) Thank you!

Rilsta - thank you so much, you're too sweet :) hooray for the fondant turning out so well! I'm going to be covering everything with fondant now, hehe.

Trissa - thank you!! Oh man, I'm not sure I have the time, energy or patience to do this professionally but it could be fun to think about. Perhaps not for a little while though :)

Lorraine - hehe, thanks, sorry for putting the sweaty guy in your mind ;) Thank you!!

aunty spanner November 13, 2009 at 8:26 PM  

Conor, you're a star. I'm sorry I missed it. Glad you liked the cherry ripe twist!

Karine November 13, 2009 at 8:59 PM  

Your sister and you seem to have done an amazing job! And I love the design of the cake and cupcakes. So original!

NOELLE November 13, 2009 at 9:40 PM  

Wow! I mean wow! This is what I called a party! Wonderful looking cake. I need some.

Vegetable Matter November 13, 2009 at 10:15 PM  

What an amazing fete! And, your first few paragraphs had me waiting for Humphrey Bogart to turn up -- great writing! You may be the next Raymond Chandler, with a girlie, foodie twist. Bet Bogart would loved the party, too!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite November 13, 2009 at 11:56 PM  

Awesome job ladies! Can I have you come over and cater my BIG birthday next May???

Conor @ HoldtheBeef November 14, 2009 at 12:22 AM  

aunty spanner - thanks aunty! We're sorry you missed it too, and your treats were a real hit! Such good flavour combination, mmmmmmmmm.

Karine - Thank you! We were pretty chuffed with the cake :)

NOELLE - Thanks very much! I'd send you some, but I would probably end up eating it on the way to the post office and you'd end up receiving a box of crumbs. Tasty crumbs, though.

Vegetable Matter - hehe, thanks so much, that makes me smile :) I bet Bogart was there in spirit ;)

Mardi - thank you! For sure, we'd love to come... can you convince some food companies to sponsor our airfares? :D

Mae November 14, 2009 at 1:06 AM  

Wow! Lucky mum! What a great story and yummy pics! The cake/cupcakes looks so perfect!

Cajun Chef Ryan November 14, 2009 at 2:56 AM  

A spectacularly catered affair! Wonderful cake work and your decorating skills are wonderful!

Simply Life November 14, 2009 at 6:17 AM  

YUM! Those sushi rolls and the pastries look amazing! Great photos!

Iron Chef Shellie November 15, 2009 at 5:36 AM  

What a party!! Well done babe!!
I'm very very hungry now after reading all of that... *goes off in search of food*

Conor @ HoldtheBeef November 15, 2009 at 5:18 PM  

Mae - thanks very much! She was a happy lady :)

Cajun Chef Ryan - Thank you very much! :)

Simply Life - Thanks!! Sushi is such an easy crowd pleaser :)

Iron Chef Shellie - Thank you!! Hehe, glad to inspire more Tassie eating missions ;)

boroca November 16, 2009 at 12:38 AM  

That's it.
You are baking goddess.

Conor @ HoldtheBeef November 16, 2009 at 10:37 AM  

Woo! Thanks boroca!! Such high praise :D

Maria@TheGourmetChallenge November 16, 2009 at 11:36 AM  

wow! What a fantastic looking cake. No way that was your first go at fondant. It looks so professional! Great job!

Hannah November 18, 2009 at 11:19 AM  

What a labour of love! The cake looks spectacular. Awesome work. H :)

Conor @ HoldtheBeef November 18, 2009 at 11:22 AM  

Maria - thank you! Fingers crossed this won't be the highlight of my fondant using days, and I've peaked too early ;)

Hannah - thanks!! Still eking out my little supply of leftover fruitcake..mmmmmm.

Agnes November 19, 2009 at 4:19 PM  

Ohmygod! Where do I start? The food sounds amazing, the cake looks INCREDIBLE, the description of all the effort you put in has made ME tired! Well done indeed. :)

Conor @ HoldtheBeef November 21, 2009 at 10:21 PM  

Agnes - tee hee! Thank you!! Hope you have a nice nap ;)

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About Me

My love of cooking is surpassed only by my love of eating, though I never quite recovered from the beef I was served at college. I'll try almost anything once, but it takes a very special piece of offal or beef to get me to try it again.

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