It took quite a bit of experimenting before Ina Ayala could figure out a system on how to best throw a dinner party. “As a newlywed in Hong Kong and being young and inexperienced, everything was by trial and error,” she says. “What I learned is that even if you serve the best food or wine, it’s the mix of people that matter.” Hong Kong was the perfect locale to get her feet wet in the world of entertaining. “It’s home to such a diverse crowd of locals and expats, so it was never difficult to put together a very interesting mix.”
Ina considers herself a relaxed and spontaneous entertainer. “My husband and I tend to go for weeks just staying in, and then we have a burst of energy and decide that we want to entertain that weekend.” This spontaneity reflects itself in her decorative choices. “I am definitely not the chintz and floral type,” says Ina. “I like things with an organic and handcrafted vibe.” This means a mix of natural materials like pottery, wood, stone and bone, and then combined with glass and silver to give it interest. “We like our guests to feel very at home,” she says.
On her speed dial for such occasions are her parents: her mom, to borrow materials from, and her dad for menu advice and help on how to source hard-to-find ingredients. With family such a big part in her preparation, it was no surprise that her dinner was a small ladies’ dinner with family members. “When family members are together, there is non-stop kwento and laughter. We are a light-hearted family who love to eat and talk, and talk and eat,” she says.
If the gathering is one of friends, Ina says that the seating plan is key. “Spending a lot of time deciding who sits beside whom will pay off. We like to make sure everyone will be at ease with familiar faces but also gets a chance to meet someone new,” says Ina. This leads into the best part of the meal when conversation is flowing and people are having a great time. “This, to me, is what entertaining is all about – a chance for everyone to press that ‘pause’ button, to spend quality time enjoying each other’s company and conversation while indulging in delicious food and drink.”
A MENU FOR LADIES’ NIGHT AT INA’S
“I like using local produce – because of farm to table freshness and to support local businesses,” says Ina.
Welcome Drink: Cucumber Lime Basil Prosecco Spritzer
Pica Pica: Baked Malagos Camembert Topped with Santol Jam in Filo Pastry
Homeade Melba Toast
Baked Kale Chips
Soup: Chilled Herb Zucchini Zoup
Main: Salmon on Cedar Plank
Mango Chili Salad on Adlai
Dessert: Buko Sherbet with Pineapple and Chopped Cashews