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The Cheap Party: Eight on the Floor


How the Experts Would Redo the Loft
Love cushions, pumpkin soup, and some electro-booty “sugar plum fairy.”

From left: Jung Lee, the before shot, and chef David Chang.  

The Décor

Jung Lee, Fête

I didn’t want to go a very expected route or look too commercial. There were two low tables, and I decided to put them together for a clean square with two people on each side. It’s inclusive and better for conversation. Doing cushions that people share adds to the intimacy; almost like a love seat, but a love cushion. We bought red silk in the garment district (Butterfly Fabric; 212-575-4744) and covered foam. As I was designing, I thought, Wouldn’t it be funny to draw different-shaped butts on each cushion?—this was the little “sit down here.” The party had an Asian feeling, so I got the shoes; they’re inexpensive, and if someone has holey socks, he doesn’t have to be embarrassed. They also make great party favors. I covered the tables with a bamboo-mat window shade, which added texture and made it feel like one table. We got eleven-by-thirteen blackboards because I knew Mawn was a teacher, and guests could write each other notes or draw faces or rate the food (New York Blackboard of N.J. Inc.; 973-926-1600). The red votives (Jamali Garden Supplies; 212-244-4025) add a punch of color. Banking the candles adds a little drama, and we all want candlelight because we all look best in it.

We made the Christmas tree into a chandelier and, because Caleb is an actor, we put photos of early-eighties TV stars on vellum and then cut them out and clipped them on with mini-clothespins in red and green. We did the red and green peppers instead of flowers because it was unexpected but it still feels holiday. You can dry them and eat them afterward, so there’s a lot of bang for the buck.

We got the platters, chopsticks, mugs, window shade, clothespins, and slippers from Pearl River Mart (212-431-4770). We drew Buddhas on the bottom of the white bowls with a marker. It’s a small detail that you see when you get to the table, and it makes you smile.

TOTAL COST . . . $402

The Food

David Chang, chef, Momofuku

This is a simple meal that’s not labor-intensive. There’s a lot of family-style finger food; you can see this on a lazy Susan, being shared with family and friends.

We made pumpkin soup because it’s in season. The whipped tofu keeps it Asian; using dairy would have made it fusion. We were on a budget, and a little shrimp goes a long way. You can bulk it up with herbs and vegetables; for a strictly vegetarian option, you can just do noodles and fresh vegetables. Tofu is a cheap protein that they can fill up on if they don’t want pork; this is a very light, simple dish, and you can put ginger-scallion sauce on anything and make it taste terrific. The pork is low and slow: You throw it in the oven, you don’t have to stuff it or truss it. It will feed a lot of people, and it’s easy and affordable. We twisted the accompaniment; we couldn’t use oysters because of the budget, so I put in rice, ssäm sauce, and pickled peppers. Usually you have a bowl of chiles on the table, but not as part of the dish; you eat it raw. Kimchee is always part of the meal, traditionally.

For dessert, when everyone thinks they’re going to have pie, I serve Asian pears and persimmons. I think dessert is a pain in the butt; for me, it’s all about the company and the wine.

TOTAL COST . . . $148

The Music

Duane Harriott, D.J., Other Music

I created a playlist of holiday music that reflects the couple’s taste in music. They’re avid vinyl collectors, and they love digging for old, rare music—it seems like they’re definitely into vintage music right now, which is great. The mix I made should be played from the beginning of the night. It slowly picks up speed the more festive they become. You can play it at mid to low volume for cocktails, and after. The first half of the playlist would sound nice during dinner.

Sufjan Stevens, “Put the Lights on the Tree”: This beautifully earnest song comes from his brand-new Christmas album. Raveonettes, “The Christmas Song”: another original song from a great Danish pop band that’s fast becoming one of my favorite Christmas songs ever. Donny Hathaway, “This Christmas”: a bright soulful holiday tune that seems to gain in popularity each year. The Davis Sisters, “Christmas Boogie”: an old vocal rockabilly tune from the fifties. Granville Williams Orchestra, “Santa Claus Is Ska-ing to Town”: I couldn’t resist sharing this old ska tune. It’s a bit kitschy, but the song rocks. Rufus Thomas, “I’ll Be Your Santa Baby”: They love to dance, and this is a great mid-tempo tune. Gonzales, “Return of the Sugar Plum Fairy”: an electro-booty bass version of “Sugar Plum Fairy.” This one was kind of a wild card.

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