Let’s face it, negotiating a business cocktail party can be strategically challenging, on many levels, and I’m not talking shop.
How do you balance a cocktail plate full of appetizers, a beverage and cocktail napkin, reach for passed hors d’oeuvers, and eat gracefully, all the while holding a conversation with your boss and peers?
That’s the challenge Chris and I had when we went to Newport Beach magazine’s One Year Anniversary party at A Restaurant last week (see story on pge 10). After an hour of denying myself the delectable temptations being offered by the passing servers, I excused myself from a conversation and made a beeline across the room to Chris.
“Have you eaten anything, yet?” I asked, grabbing his lapel like a lifeline.
“No, I’ve been too busy, and there just hasn’t been an opportune moment without looking awkward,” Chris replied, obviously curious by my behavior. “But everything looks delicious. I haven’t even had a drink yet.”
“Me neither. I can’t take it anymore. This calls for a plan of action.” I looked around the room.
“What are you talking about?” he asked.
“Well, I think we should tag-team.”
“Tag-team? What kind of harebrained idea have you come up with now?” he said exasperatedly.
“One that’ll get us fed without being caught with food in our mouths,” I explained with all seriousness. “Aren’t you dying to try the Spicy Tuna Eggplant Tempura, or the Flatbread with Gruyere, caramelized onions and bacon? What about those sliders with arugula? Don’t lie, I saw you eyeing them.”
“You forgot the fig and goat cheese tart with duck prosciutto,” he added.
“Hah! Busted!” I exclaimed. “Chris, trust me. I’ve got a plan, but we’ve got to be covert, like spies. I’d be so humiliated if I got caught with a piece of watercress in my teeth.”
“You’re being silly,” he laughed.
“Oh, am I? Then why haven’t you eaten anything or had a drink?” I shot back.
“I guess you’ve got a point there,” he conceded.
“Thank you. OK, here’s what I suggest: get yourself some appetizers and a drink and head back here immediately. That way you can eat and be worry-free, because I’ll be here to intercept anyone that tries to converse with you,” I said, confident of my strategy.
“I’ll distract them, and when you’re done, you can do the same for me.” I smiled.
“This isn’t exactly espionage, but it sounds like a great idea, and I am hungry. I’ll be right back.”
“Hurry. I’m starving.” I waved him off.
Chris returned with a small plate featuring all the showstopper apps that A was serving and a glass of Wyland Cabernet Sauvignon.
“How come you didn’t go for a signature cocktail?” I wondered. “The Kubler Absinthe Martini looks quite decadent, so does the Ocho Chiliquilla Margarita.”
“Too sweet for me. And I’m a wine guy. You know that.”
“How’s the food?” I salivated.
“Delicious. The fig tart is incredible and the sliders are fantastic,” he hummed.
“Uh-oh, here comes Roger. Quick, turn around and finish, while I talk to him.”
“Hi Roger!” I smiled, quickly stepping in front of him. “How are you? What a wonderful party.”
“Yes, it is. Hey Ch—“
“Roger, have you tried the sliders?” I interrupted.
“Yeah, they’re great. Hey, Chris.”
“Chris?” Roger repeated a little louder.
Chris reluctantly turned around, mouth full, trying to quickly swallow the last of his slider before speaking.
“Hallsosw, Rowgerrrr,” he mumbled, shooting sideways daggers at me.
I watched my brilliant plan disintegrate before my eyes.
“Roger, what’s on the agenda this week?” I appealed, hoping to shift focus and give Chris the extra seconds necessary to finish chewing his food. Thoughts of him choking on duck prosciutto and having to administer CPR to save his life flashed before my eyes.
“Oh, you know, the usual,” Roger offered. “I just came over to say hi. Oh look! There’s the mayor. Excuse me.”
Chris finished chewing with deliberation, simmering all the while. Finally, he spoke.
“She has a brilliant idea…We must be covert like spies,” he steamed. “You…you…that was the most embarrassing…“
“Ummmm, Chris?” I said hesitantly. “You have a bit of arugula right here.” I pointed to my front teeth.
If looks could kill, I certainly would have resembled the finely chopped ahi tuna and eggplant tempura a server shoved in front of me. I thanked him and plucked one off the tray, grabbing another for good measure.
“I’m really sorry. Honestly, I thought it was a good idea.” I dug into the ahi with gusto.
“That’s the last time I fall for one of your crazy schemes. I’m the one that always gets caught in the act.”
“Look at it this way.” I said between bites. “At least you got to eat.” I reached for another spicy tuna. “These are really good, aren’t they?”
“Why do I listen to you?” Chris continued.
“Because if nothing else, I make life interesting?”
“Quit while you’re ahead.” Chris deadpanned, as he handed me another appetizer. “Here, Mata Hari, have some watercress.”