Kitchen Cred Before Mary Nguyen opened Parallel Seventeen, her contemporary Vietnamese restaurant in Uptown, in 2005, she worked as an investment banker and commodities trader. But the self-described “quintessential hostess” knew her true passion was food. Stints at Hapa Sushi and Beehive Restaurant eventually led to executive chef and executive sushi chef positions at Hapa—and those skill sets readied Nguyen for her own place.

Kitchen Tool Nguyen uses this stone plate to sear meat, fish, or veggies. “I heat it up in the oven at 500°, then I’ll put it over portable burners to keep it hot,” she says. “It also has a tray to add water, and the steam keeps the food from burning. It’s fun and interactive.”

Pot Luck “I love doing Vietnamese hot pots for a dinner party. Each couple gets their own hot pot, and I’ll set out platters of veggies, seafood, and meats. You cook the ingredients in the simmering broth and eat them as you go, and at the end you add noodles and have a rich soup.”

Cuppa Tea “I love tea, but I try to avoid caffeine,” she says, while showing off her Asian tea cups with built-in strainers. “I have African rooibos, Argentinean mate, a sweet ginger tea I brought back from Bali, and this great verveine citronelle from Switzerland.”

Swiss Cheese “This is a true raclette oven from Switzerland. You buy a whole round of cheese and cut it in half, and it grills the top part and allows you to rotate the round and scrape off the melted cheese. We had to buy a transformer to use it, since we don’t have a 220 outlet.”

Cocktail Hour “I usually start a dinner party with just wine and beer, unless I’m doing a theme night,” she explains. “I might make margaritas with Mexican food, or I might do this Vietnamese coffee martini to serve with red velvet cake for Valentine’s Day.”

RECIPE: Vietnamese Coffee Martini

3 tablespoons Café du Monde coffee
½ cup hot water
2 ounces Kahlúa
2 ounces Stoli Vanil
½ cup ice
1 teaspoon sweetened condensed milk

Place a Vietnamese percolator* over a pint glass. Fill the percolator with the coffee. Pour the hot water through, allowing the coffee to steep.

Once the coffee has “brewed,” cool it in a refrigerator. Combine 3 ounces of chilled coffee, Kahlúa, Stoli Vanil, and ice in a martini shaker. Shake until frothy. Place the sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of a martini glass, and top off with the coffee martini.

* A French press can be substituted for the Vietnamese percolator.