La seasonal soiree

Planning to host a Christmas party at home or outside? Here Devanshi Mody offers some tips

The Tea Cup

As Colombo becomes “appartmentalised,” for those who have suffered garden paradise lost, paradise is regained at this charming open-air café wreathed in low-grown tea bushes that lends itself now for private parties. Beautifully wrought garden chairs and tables sit under green parasols. The new menu of refreshments includes chilled tea-soaked towels: swipe your face, rejuvenate and initiate festivities with zesty Zesta lemon-and-mint tea mocktails. A Zesta tea buffet might consume the tea-totaller but party on with new open sandwiches (tandoori chicken, tuna, corned beef, curried vegetables…), sweet and savoury waffles/crêpes, delicate éclairs and utterly fabulous chocolate brownies.

But the highlight of high tea: the just-launched teacakes. Whilst teacakes are toasted buns in England, in Colombo they comprise tea-drenched cupcakes titivated with teasing tea crème: cinnamon, green tea, peach, strawberry, lime-&-honey. The cool crowd swill to chocolate, vanilla and strawberry tea shakes which Chandana, the passionate tea sommelier, has conceived. Sheer magic!

And if magic shows at parties are passé, this venue offers complimentary tea tasting akin to wine tasting after which you could pick up imaginatively packaged tea, spices and Noritake mugs as Christmas gifts from the boutique. Sadly, the garden of tea-don is not for sale…

Cuptails (773823259)

Heads or tails you’ll lose your head with mother-daughter duo Damayanthi and Sanjini’s inebriating cuptails. Toast the seasonal cocktail with edible cocktails: alcoholic cupcakes. Baileys, Kahlua and arrack flavours perhaps want punch. But rum (dark chocolate base) and strawberry margherita (vanilla base) catapult you to tizzy highs. Softer than a whisper, giddier than a girl, these frivolities are the season’s most fun-filled offerings. Need a bite to overcome confectionary hangover?

Cuptails also provides cocktail canapés including dainty vol-au-vents, cheese choux pastries, patties, samosas, rolls, traffic sandwiches etc besides Colombo’s most criminal caramel slices and devilishly decadent dark chocolate fudge. May we be indulged the season’s saccharine sins.

Milk & Honey (5234323)

For the Christmas party aged 6-12. This address even includes a children’s boutique filled with books, toys and clothes should mummies wish to finish purchasing Christmas pressies whilst their kiddies are gadding about the gardens glutting cakes. Products sometimes swing erratically but when good they are amongst Colombo’s finest. Innovations abound, yet it’s classics like rhubarb & orange crumble and carrot cake that one finds oneself plundering shamelessly. Icing-free chocolate-mint vegan cake and marvellous new orange & carrot vegan loaf pulsed with cadju incite lower depths in shamelessness.

But gluttony is excused as this creation almost approaches Christmas cake. And why resist fig & white chocolate cookies, delectable date & oat slices and cereal bars beaming with dry fruit and nuts. After all, dry fruit is not the forbidden fruit. Moreover, low-calorie confections are never forbidden, particularly when we seek pudding and pie in the season to be jolly but not roly-poly- best not to appear at the New Year’s ball ressembling a ball. Milk & Honey’s new iced coffees achieve frothed finesse sans cream, ice cream or sugar, if kiddies are allowed toffee-coffee or Nutella-coffee.

But reserve thrilling lime espresso for a ladies’ coffee morning. Savour the season with new savouries like mini spinach muffins, potato-zuchini frittata and spiced mixed beans (“spiced” by expat standards)...

Hope Cookies

Let’s hope we spare some calories this Christmas for the differently-abled workers making Hope Cookies.

Simon Says (777636623)

Denu says her cheesecakes last 7-10 days. But they generally get ravaged within days. The Happy Cow cheese used is perhaps stout and salty and the base gravelly. Philadelphia cheese options are costlier but creamier. Lemon tastes best although pomegranate-&-pear, peach, passion, strawberry and chocolate are dressed to party.

Rocco Pizza (770517866)

Dimuthu Gamage of if-it’s-pizza-it’s-Dimu-if-it’s-Dimu-it’s-pizza-fame, the man behind Mr Peppino, once Colombo’s most celebrated pizzas, found his creativity constrained. He left Rafaella Giovanni leaving Colombo in despair. But rejoice for Dimu rises anew or rather his deft dough rises on home-delivery pizzas. Expect to order a leaning tower of pizza for Dimu’s new pizzas are as adventurous as him. The pizza party is on the rise!

Heavenly Delights (773070434/777379008)

Christmas is the season of heavenly delight. But no seer would quite have presaged so sweet an interpretation. Or perhaps it’s the not-so-sweetness that renders Krishanthi and Judy’s confections ever so delightful. This season’s dinner parties must surely culminate in their Italian desserts.

Tastefully terse on sugar and egg, cassata layers silky homemade ice cream: almond, chocolate and tutti frutti encrusted with topaz-like apricots and emerald cherries. So irreproachable is this delicacy it could almost be the “Platonic Form” of the cassata. Almond panacotta beckons but the subtle seductions of Sicilian Ricotta cheesecake cannot be resisted. Oh what a tremendous accomplishment of texture. Fine ricotta reclines on the smoothest biscuit bed. Possibly Colombo’s best cheesecake.
For something racier try passion on curd cheese.

And feel also the divine touch of the terrific cookies: Aussie speciality ANZAC cookies (oats & Gordon syrup), almond (made with almond meal), extraordinary peanut butter, or can-never-bore-of-chocolate-chip. Sugar is but a perfunctory inclusion, the feel of the cookie leaves one amazed. Colombo’s cookiest cookies are available at Odel but order yours fresh for transports to heavenly realms.

Lili Dairy Cheeses (722231466)

5-Stars and fine dining restaurants claim they use imported cheeses but investigations reveal many deploy Lili Dairy made locally employing European techniques, empowering village workers and offering farmers the highest price for milk. Pose for your Christmas dinner party pictures beside a holly-haloed platter of feel-good, farm-fresh, preservative-free mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone, Gouda, cottage cheese. Say cheese!

TransInAsia Italian Food City (0722749093)

If a recession-reeled Santa can’t gift you a ticket to Italy then Italy comes to Colombo incarnated as this new delicatessen teaming with Italian Divella products. Hosting a Christmas cocktail? Here’s where to fetch your charcuterie (Parma ham, pancetta, salami), olives, parmesan, chocolate (yoghurt/white/dark/coconut), fruit caramels and biscotti (including sugarfree). Throwing a Christmas dinner party? Then opt for Italian homemade egg pasta like tortellini, fettuccini, tagliatelle, fresh and dry lasagne, pasta sauces (pesto Genovese, pesto rosso, arrabiata, pomodoro), Arborio risotto rice, polenta, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fungi, panna (Italian cream), herbs, traditional Italian Christmas pandoro (golden bread), panetone...

If dinner parties at home are wearisome then facilitate the feast by allowing owner Lalith and his wife who spent 20 years in Rome (they understand Italian cuisine and hope Colombo will enfin understand it too) to cook for you at the little trattoria that partakes of the deli. The enclave can accommodate 20 guests for private dinners and this is possibly the only authentic Italian cuisine in town.

Exciting menus may be tailored. Sigh, the deli isn’t licensed to capture the spirit of the season with Italian wines (although the trattoria’s pasta dishes can be vinous on spirited request). We haven’t known Lankan water to change into Italian wines so no Sherry Christmas. But given the plethoric real fruit jams available (prune, peach, wild berry, blueberry, cherry...), here’s to a Berry Christmas, surely the cherry on the cake!

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