Holiday Lunch With The Team

As December starts to wind down, it is also the season for parties…colleagues, vendors, friends…every day there are multiple parties and drinks. But what I like the most is our group’s own gathering. It’s becoming a tradition in my group at work that we go out for a sumptuous lunch in one week and an after-work drink in another.

Here are some quick tips to make the holiday group outing a success:

  • Decide on the activity. Is it a group lunches or afterwork drinks?
  • Decide on the guest list. Immediate group? other guests?
  • Pick a date early. It’s best to start booking places in early November. Most of the places in Manhattan office area are booked by end of November.
  • Decide on cost and payment options. More and more companies do not sponsor employee holiday events anymore. Establishing a reasonable cost and informing people on the payment method is important. “Going Dutch” is fairly common these days.
  • Send out a calendar invitation early. Hold the time on your invitees’ calendar early. When organizing a large group outing, it’s hard to accommodate everyone’s time. Putting a date out first will get people to agree on a time suited for most people.
  • Pick venues convenient close to the office and easy for commuting.
  • Calling several venues and negotiate the price. It’s best to call up a few places for quotes on events.
  • Manage the invitee response and confirm with the venue on final guest counts
  • Go out and have fun!

Just to add a bit of fun, this year I decided to flex my muscle in PowerPoint and create an invitation card. I grabbed some public images from the web or from my own photo stock, played with some fonts and colors, and created these fun DIY e-invitations! I then attach it to the email calendar invites at work. This works well if you are working in a large firm that does not permit the use of external email or e-card services, and you don’t have to export work contacts to those e-card web sites.

Here’s the card for the event with the menu on it. Some of us are marking down our favorite dishes and plan to order them in the future.

This year’s lunch is set in a mid-town Chinese restaurant, Grand Sichuan Time Square. If you like spicy food, this is the right place to be. Personally I think it’s the most authentic Chinese restaurant in Manhattan. The menu is extensive and the flavors are complex. We had a group of about 23 people and they sat us down in the back room with three tables all to ourselves. I called the restaurant a week ahead and got their menu to select the dishes. The chef reviewed my selection and we discussed some changes. By the time we showed up in the restaurant, all the dishes came in sequence for the three tables and all we did was to eat, chat and enjoy!

Here are the photos of some of the dishes we had.

Cold cucumber with scallion sauce. This is a cold appetizer, very refreshing and perfect to cool off your tongue after eating spicy food. :-) The pork’s belly cooked in brown sugar and soy sauce was rich and succulent, I am sure the doctor will not recommend to eat often, but it was soooo good!

Here are a few more of the dishes from the meal: Chong Qing spicy chicken which is deep fried with fragrant chili peppers; Braised beef; Tea smoked duck with plum sauce; Hot bean paste braised fish. (clockwise)

The radish soup dish was quite interesting. It was cooked with pork bones and daikon radish. The radish was cooked just soft enough to absorb all the delicious soup but firm enough to be taken out and served on a dish. The photo above is the radish with some bean paste sauce. The clear consomme soup was served separately after the appetizers and the first dish. It was a great way to cleanse the palate and start eating again!

The food and service were excellent and the price was friendly on the wallet. I think we will continue this tradition next year.

Cheers to good food and good company!