My friend Steve Rochlin got hooked on Filipino food six years ago, the first time he ate at his mother-in-law's house. After being intoxicated by the exotic aromas and flavors of the Pacific Island cuisine, he holed himself up in his own kitchen, determined to learn its secrets.

The result of hours of experimentation? "I tell my wife that I'm a better cook than her mom," he teases.

On a recent Saturday night, Steve and his wife, Christina Sevilla, invited a number of guests to their Arlington home to experience his cooking prowess. He prepared an array of Filipino dishes to be served buffet-style: delicate lumpia (Filipino egg rolls), chicken adobo (marinated in soy sauce and vinegar), sotanghon bola-bola (pork meatballs over noodles) and his piece de resistance -- pancit canton, a Filipino take on a classic Chinese noodle dish, featuring an abundance of meats, seafood and veggies. "There are a lot of moving parts in this dish," Steve said, "but if you follow the sequence, it's not really difficult to cook."

No Filipino gathering is complete without dessert, so to top off the feast, the couple also picked up treats from Philippine Oriental Market & Deli (3610 Lee Hwy., Arlington, 703-528-0300): bibingka (coconut-cassava pancake), kalamay with buko (sticky cake with coconut) and maja blanca (corn pudding).

While Steve kept busy at the stove, Christina greeted arriving guests with glasses of champagne and offered them fresh pineapple along with papaya soaked in lime juice.

When Rochlin, bearing food, finally emerged from the kitchen, people immediately lined up, ready to fill their empty plates. Sevilla's response to the enthusiastic reception: "Not bad for a guy who grew up in Chevy Chase."

Kasper Zeuthen

Got an excuse to bring people together? E-mail ideas to Please include your name, city and daytime phone number.

From left: Christina Sevilla, Amy Holmes and Filipino foodie Steve Rochlin, whose feast would have made his mother-in-law proud.From left: Mark Neuman and John Hanshaw sip champagne and get primed for the lavish buffet. Later, Josh Meyer watches Joanne Darkey dig in to a plate of adobo and other delicacies.