The entrees began to arrive at around 7pm. It worked itself out as the appetizers ended up arriving earlier than the entrees, though the people who brought the entree didn't get the appetizers at their freshest. I suppose they have no one to blame but themselves. I got there at 6pm and we waited a little while before we started to actually dine.
(Houston's - Hawaiian Ribeye)
(Houston's - Stuffed Potato)
It's been a while since I had dined at Houston's steak house. Ironically there is one very close to my brother's new home. I remembered Houston's as a very good steak house, much better than Outback and slightly more expensive. The Hawaiian Ribeye was perfect today. Three guests brought three pieces, two at medium and one at medium well. They were actually family so they went together. It also worked itself out as the guests who preferred their steaks at more well done got the slices closer to the edges of the steak while the guests who preferred their steaks medium got the slices from the middle. I ended up being the one to cut up the steak into thin slices. It was definitely beneficial to have one person cut all the steaks to make sure everyone got a chance to get a taste. We had enough food to fill everyone's stomachs, but it could have been very easy for guests to unknowingly cut up too much of one dish and ending up with not everyone having a chance to taste all the foods.
The steaks were very tender. Even though it was a Hawaiian style steak, it didn't taste Hawaiian. There was only a hint of sweetness to it to help enhance the meat. I personally like Hawaiian style foods, but too often restaurants overly sweeten the food to make it hawaiian, covering any other flavors in the meat or whatever else it's flavoring. Houston's did a fine job in keeping the flavoring under control and letting the meat still speak on their own. The stuffed potato were stuffed with a ton of sour cream, butter, cheese, chives and bacon. It could easily be someone's entire meal all on its own. Fortunately we had plenty of people to split them up.
(Lawry's The Prime Rib Beverly Hills - Prime Rib Slices)
(Lawry's The Prime Rib Beverly Hills - Prime Rib Half Rack)
The highlight of the entire night was the half rack of prime rib from Lawry's The Prime Rib at Beverly Hills. This was actually something that had to be ordered at least 48 hours in advance and cost $150. One of our friend George was in charge of ordering and making the trip to Beverly Hills to pick up the rack. He was also in charge of collecting all the money from the people who decided to chip in on the food. Most of the guests had already rolled in and we were all waiting for the Prime Rib. He finally arrived at the party at around 745pm. Apparently Lawry's had an issue and George had to wait for an hour to get the half rack. Lawry's ended up giving him ten percent off, which amounted to no tax for his trouble.
The half rack was beautiful and it was a perfect centerpiece to a holiday birthday party. I again ended up being the cutter. I just felt like doing it that night. Usually our friend Tim would be the one who ends up doing all the cutting and serving. He was there, and he was glad I ended up doing it that night. I actually really enjoy cutting into that half rack. It isn't everyday that I get to slice prime rib from a half rack. Again the edge of the sides were slightly more well done than the middle, so those who preferred well done meat got the edges while those who preferred their meat more red ate the middle. Lawry's prime rib was perfect. Since we bought the prime rib ala cart, we didn't get any au jus. I didn't miss it though. I thought the prime rib was so juicy and flavorful that no other enhancement was necessary. I'm also one of those foodies who likes my food taste like the food themselves and not be smothered in juice, sauce and everything else and completely overpowering the main ingredient.
(Porto's Bakery - Cheese Rolls)
We also had some vegetarians who were there and Christine kept that in mind. One of the vegetarians brought some tofu which I don't remember where they were from since it wasn't on the list along with cheese rolls from Porto's Bakery. The tofu was spongy and had a good flavor to it. It's really amazing how vegetables could be made to mimic meat like products. Of course it's never the same, but it was still delicious and enjoyable.
Porto's cheese rolls were also a fantastic addition to the meal. It almost functioned as the dinner bun of the night since we didn't really have bread. We had a couple slices from Blair's, but that was no where near enough for the whole group. These cheese rolls had a bit of sugar on top with cheese melted into the rolls inside. It was flaky and crunchy. Combined with the cheese the rolls were just simply delicious. Porto's is definitely one of my favorite bakeries in the area. After this, dinner buns just seem so blahsay.
(Cheesecake Factory - Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake)
No birthday party is complete without a cake. Christine ordered a Godiva chocolate cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory. With all the planning, no one actually brought candles. I suppose we could blame it on the ones who bought the cake, but then to their defense, they didn't realize that it was the actual birthday cake. Instead we used fake battery operated candles and iPhone candles from the iTunes app store. They didn't work very well but it's the thought that counts.
The cake itself was very chocolately, very rich. By that time of the night everyone was stuffed. Though many of us were chocolate lovers, it was very hard for us to devour even half of a slice of this uber rich cheesecake.
The night was fun and everyone enjoyed the wide variety of food. It's hard to go wrong with such a fun selection of food and a beautiful half rack of prime rib as the centerpiece. It was for the most part a fair way to get together where everyone shared the expense. Of course inevitably a few people managed to get into the party without actually bringing anything or paying for any of the foods. It happens. People take advantage of things and bend the rules for themselves with the notion of it really doesn't matter. I suppose we just can't get too worked up over something like that. We just have to brush it off and move on. We ended up playing Monopoly Deal and singing karaoke for the rest of the night. In fact four of us ended up staying with Christine till 8am in the morning playing Monopoly Deal where she managed to not win a single game in seven hours. It was that addicting.
Next time if you are in charge of planning a get together with a group of people, it may be time for you to give scavenger hunt potluck a try. Most potlucks ends up with people not wanting to bring meat dishes while expecting others to bring them. They end up going for a salad that's cheaper or a simple plain desert from a local supermarket. But if you want to have some serious foods and also help alleviate the burden of your guests trying to figure out what to bring, try actually writing the specific dishes to get. It will give them something to do before the party and the party will be guaranteed to be filled with actually good foods. You just need to do a little bit of research on what you want on the menu beforehand.
Read Part I...