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  Beijing Scene

The Green House Effect

The Green House catering service brings global warming to Beijing parties

My good friend Susan was stressing out at turning 30 (who doesn't?), and the thought of going out to a big dinner with all our friends just didn't sound special enough. After all, going out to eat in Beijing is like brushing your teeth, you more or less end up doing it twice a day.

Then, out of the blue, an idea occurred to her (a good sign for a brain at 30): "Why not celebrate such a momentous occasion with a catered party in the comfort of my own home?" She immediately picked up the phone and called The Green House.

Beijing's best-known catering outfit, Green House operates out of a busy kitchen in a courtyard on North Ritan Road. It was founded in October 1996 by 34-year-old Brit Tiffany Bown, making it one of the first Western food catering companies in China.

"We started off catering for shops and home delivery," says Bown, who has been living in Beijing since 1993. "Pretty soon people started asking for party catering, and out of that need we began to grow."

One of the brightest feathers in Bown's cap was a massive party catered at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall last summer. The occasion was a group birthday celebration for 60 people. Other special events have included a wedding on a boat in the Summer Palace's Kunming Lake, a reception at the Beijing Observatory, and a party at a go-cart rink. If all this sounds too extravagant for your taste and pockets, Green House also caters romantic dinners for two or small get-togethers.

Which brings us back to my friend Susan, who ended up selecting a savory selection from the extensive Autumn-Winter menu (the menu is updated three times a year).

The order included houmous dip (small tub RMB30); quail eggs with roasted sesame and sea salt flakes (35 eggs RMB35); mini puff pastry pizzas with roasted red onion, feta and rosemary (18 pieces RMB100); dolmades, or stuffed grapevine leaves (24 pieces RMB115); roasted vegetable skewers with anchovy dipping sauce (24 pieces RMB140); marinated salmon skewers with herb mayonnaise (24 pieces RMB200); roasted vegetable and spiral pasta salad (RMB50), mixed fairy cakes (30 pieces RMB100), and chocolate, walnut and hazelnut brownies (30 bite-sized pieces RMB90).

Once at the party, with the food nicely arranged on a living room table and guests arriving, Susan recovered her youthful joie-de-vivre and at once became the hostess with the mostest. The dolmades, looking very much like miniature tamales from my home country in Central America, were delicious, disappearing faster than you could cry "save one for me." The vegetable skewers could only be described as decent. Even after some reheating, they were a bit on the tough side. However, the salmon skewers, which are best served sizzling hot, were divine. Tender and deliciously marinated, with a hint of teriyaki sauce.

Rounding out the evening, and ending the event with a sweet finish on everyone's palate, were the delicious walnut and hazelnut brownies.

The Green House not only serves up an enticing variety of gourmet dishes and snacks, it can also provide party equipment, dinnerware, an on-site chef and wait service, theme decorations, as well as music and other entertainment.

The idea of live entertainment provided by the catering company gives most people flashbacks to bad wedding receptions. Don't worry, Green House's offerings aren't limited to 1980s cover bands. You can choose from a wide variety of entertainment including fire dancers, magicians and Chinese acrobats. The Green House also provides DJ services, live bands and a string quartet. If you have anything else in mind, they can probably book it.

In addition to its catering kitchen, the Green House also houses a tasting room called Cafe 108, which is used for clients to taste food before placing an order. Cafe 108 is also open for lunch, but by reservation only. Reservations must be made before 11 a.m. the same day. Simply decorated with two long tables that comfortably seat eight people, the cafe is an ideal place for small meetings, or an intimate lunch.

"What we offer is good international food and professional, top-quality service," says Irene Deng, 27, client services manager for Green House. "Most of our Western food ingredients are imported. We get sausages and salami from Germany, cheeses from Australia, olives and peas from the U.S. and pasta from Italy."

The Green House
109 Nanhong Apartments, 7 Ritan North Road, Chaoyang Tel: 6506-1973
Hours: 9 am-5 pm weekdays.
The kitchen is open every day from 9 am-6 pm
Food: *** Ambience: n/a Service: **** Cost: YYY


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