Eight Guests, Four Courses = $1,300
E ric Shiner, a guest curator for the Japan Society, and Todd Sirikanjanapong, a resident in pathology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, live in a small Chelsea apartment packed with evidence of their shared love for Asian culture: Buddhas, lucky cats, contemporary art. Around the holidays, it also gets packed with about 30 of their friends, who squeeze into the 800-square-foot space for the couple’s annual Christmas open house. It’s a tradition Shiner started when he was in graduate school at Yale, and continued later when he lived in Japan, and the menu is typically Asian- inflected: Thai food, spring rolls, sushi, senbei crackers, and, in a gesture to the Americans, mini-hamburgers, followed by traditional holiday cookies and cakes that he gets at Financier in the financial district. It’s mostly a standing-room situation (this year they’re thinking of getting a heat lamp so people can use the balcony), so decoration is relatively space-efficient: a five-foot silver tree decorated with blown-glass ornaments, stockings hung by the mock fireplace, some festive candlesticks, a single bowl of cranberries on the table, and fresh fir branches arranged around the apartment. For New Year’s Eve, which is also Shiner’s birthday, they’ll typically have dinner out, then bring a group back to the apartment for champagne and dancing while waiting for midnight. “I’m known for my theme parties,” says Shiner, “but for Christmas I stick to the rules.” A sit-down, four-course dinner for eight required some major reconfiguring of the space, a judiciously placed screen, a lot of wrapping and tying to create the holiday-themed string-art panels, and some contortions in the tiny kitchen—but it still came in close to budget.