Shelby's Social Diary
A sheikh, a belly dancer and the Symphony maestro — this dinner party hit thehigh notes
Who would have guessed that it would be soft-spoken oilman Thurmon Andress who would jump to his feet to test his gyrating skills with that of the very accomplished belly dancer Tanya? Surely, someone else among the 14 dinner guests at our home would have been lured into the spotlight by the comely dancer.
My husband, Shafik Rifaat, doesn't count. He's from Egypt, where shake your booty was created and home of the world's greatest belly dancer Fifi Abdu.
I would have put my money on Houston Symphony music director Hans Graf, who is accustomed to being in the spotlight from his familiar perch on stage at Jones Hall. After all, the Middle Eastern dinner was somewhat in his honor and that of his wife, Margarita. We were reciprocating for two incredible Austrian-inspired dinners at their Houston aerie.
Tanya came with the dessert — a surprise for the dinner guests.
Our guests had a few surprise for us as well — namely restaurateur Paul West, who arrived at our high-rise home in full sheikh attire including makeup, fake nose and facial hair. Without his wife, Vicki West, by his side, we would have never recognized him. He picked up the convincing costume, which he wore the entire night, in New York. In a party mood, attorney Jim Ware donned a Saudi Arabian headdress or ghota while Thurmon accented his thoroughly western attire with a red fez.
Fifteen minutes before the hungry crew was set to arrive, I was standing in the kitchen still in my cooking pants and T-shirt. Shafik had collapsed on the bed for 10 minutes of R&R. It was at that moment that we both swore that we would never do the Middle Eastern feast thing again. We throw one of these labor-intensive evenings no more than once a year.
It takes that long to forget the effort required to first core and then stuff 32 vegetables, prepare stuffing and then wrap 90 grape leaves, sauté 32 lamb chops, chop three bunches of parsley for the tabouli, chop myriad onions and garlic for the various dishes, make the hummus from scratch, cook the okra and lamb, stuff 16 Japanese eggplants with the veal/pine nuts/yellow raisin mix, make the yogurt and cucumber sauce and the tahini sauce for the lamb.
We wised up this year and ordered the desserts from Shatila in Dearborn, Mich., and served spanakopita from Costco (truly just as good as homemade and hours less work).
Shafik worked in the kitchen from 2 p.m. Sunday until 10 and started again at 2 on Monday and didn't put away the thoroughly stained apron until 6. Guests arriving at 7. (I did my part by doing the grape leaves and cooking the couscous and the lamb chops).
Dinner was a major success with the happy diners consuming just about everything on the table. Sharing in the rare feast were Susan and Dick Hansen, Dancie Ware, Lilly Andress, Mary Lynn and Steve Marks and Phoebe and Bobby Tudor.