Invited to a Hawaiian Dinner Party
Your Cocktails Volcanic
Your Hostess: Maria Cristina
weather is warming and the flowers are in bloom. Why not string
a few together and make a lei? And while youre at it,
string together a few fabulous recipes and host a Hawaiian dinner
party! Your first venture into exotic cuisines neednt
be an elaborate luau with a roast pig, kayaks and blowfish hanging
from the ceiling, and limbo poles set up in the backyard. An
intimate dinner party for two couples is enough to make for
a memorable night. Youll have a swell time and gain
popularity in your social circle. Here are my personal
secrets to creating your own tropical fantasy (minus the waterfall).
Set A Faraway Mood
Slip into something more tropicala grass skirt is a swell
idea, but not for the cook! A Hawaiian shirt with an unusual
design makes a nice conversation piece, and a Guayabera shirt
in swimming pool green suggests its party time. Fill a
vase with fresh orchids as an exotic centerpiece for your tableand
gals, yank out one blossom to accent your hairdo. A fresh coconut
here and there will also add interest to your setting.
Youll find them in the produce section of your supermarket
or in a Hispanic bodega. Keep some of the coconuts whole, but
coax the grocer into halving a few for you, if you want to serve
drinks in them. And if youre fortunate enough to have
a backyard, invest in a few "tiki torches," available
at hardware stores or any Home Depot for about $15. Flickering
torch light is dramatic and much more becoming than outdoor
flood lights, and the citronella oil used in the torches keeps
mosquitoes at bay. Finally, set up a boom box wherever youre
hosting your meal, and spin some island favorites.
The cocktail hour is a delightful and crucial feature of your
Hawaiian Dinner Party. It further sets the mood and whets the
appetite for the tempting delicacies to come. Your main course
will be challenging enough, so take a shortcut with the hors doeuvres
and stop by your local Chinese restaurant (mine has the charming
name of "Me and My Egg Roll") for waxed paper packages
of homemade fried won-ton noodles (the kind that usually come
fresh, wide and extra crispy, and shouldnt cost more than
50 cents each. Serve the noodles with duck sauce from the "ethnic"
section in your local supermarket (spoon the saucy into a serving
bowl firsteating out of jars is sophomoric). If youve
got a crystal punch bowl, consider a rum punch with tropical
juices. A gin rickey, although not tropical, is another excellent
choice, as it is a light, refreshing drink. The piña colada
is heavenly, yet tends to deaden the appetiteand
youve worked so hard on dinner! (Perhaps you can offer
mini coladas as cocktails, or even whip up a batch to serve
with dessert.) Dont forget the frivolous garnish,
which will likely wind up in your guests hair. Pretty
your bar with paper umbrellas, maraschino cherries, tinned pineapple
rings, and mermaid swizzle sticks. And pick up some hand-embroidered
linen cocktail napkins at a tag sale or flea market, or bid
for them on eBay.
Your Luscious Little Luau
Start scanning the cookbook shelves in used book stores for
Polynesian cookbooks. For my dinner, I worked from an old cookbook
of my Moms with the title Exotic Eating! The Complete
Book of Oriental Cooking. The dust jacket promised me I could
take "family and friends on surprising and delightful adventures
into new realms of flavor and daringly different combinations,"
and boy did it deliver! I wont pretend that for my dinner
party I duplicated an authentic Polynesian meal, but I did offer
chopsticks and didnt serve Wonder Bread. However, I also
committed the culinary sin of mixing the cuisines of several
Pacific countries, choosing dishes from Vietnam, Indonesia,
China and Hawaii. Didnt seem to mattereveryone ate
Here follows the menu:
Grilled Teriyaki Tuna Steaks
String Beans in Coconut Milk
Cold Cucumber Salad
Chilled lychee nuts stuffed with pineapple (tinned of course)
Masala Chai Tea
A final cooking tip: dont be a martyr to Fifties technology.
Invest in a food processor. When it comes to slicing and
dicing fresh vegetables and herbs, what takes hours with knife
and chopping block takes nanoseconds in the Cuisinart.
After an appropriate time has lapsed for digestion and conversation
you might brew some Masala Chai tea, a combination of black
tea and exotic spices, like cinnamon, clove and cardamon. Its
available at Indian markets and smells divine. A nice ending
note for a stunning evening.
As I get older, with marriage and monogamy on the horizon, my
decision to live dangerously through cooking has been immensely
satisfying, and keeps me out of trouble. I hope this Hawaiian
feast ads a little spice to your life too. Bon apetit and aloha!
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