What's Cooking in Carolina?

Mainly creative menus and recipes (usually healthy) and always from scratch with tips for party planning, theme parties, weddings and decorating tips so you can give swank parties or dinners to delight your guests from a part time caterer, owner/operator of a coming soon Entree Vous, but mainly a cook and eater who grows much of her own food and loves to laugh.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

How to Throw a Tropical Party on the Lawn

A summer nears and the weather draws us outside any excuse to throw a party will work. You don't need to be an expert to impress your guests. Remember to keep your theme in mind and plan a time line. (You can't do everything in the last few hours, so plan your menu and decorations with this in mind.) Here are a few ideas that may spark your creative juices and get you started.

Diane needed to give a reception. We decided on a date in early June. (We are in NC therefore the landscaping is showing good color by then, but it usually isn't unbearably hot yet.) We settled on a Luau theme and menu. We started at a local Target store for a few seasonal decorations to get our inspiration. We purchased some paper napkins in a wild tropical stripe with coordinating plastic beverage tumblers and floating candles that looked like hibiscus blooms. With the color palette established, we went to my party rental store and ordered a tent, tables, chairs, linens, and dishes.There were 6 guest tables.
We used round clothes to the ground in each of the bright colors found in the paper napkins: cobalt blue, light blue, raspberry,orange, bright yellow. For the food service area, we chose one round 48" table flanked by 2 serpentine tables with pale gold linens.
Our tropical atmosphere was well on it's way. (Keep in mind that it doesn't cost anymore to get colorful linens than just plain white.)

Now on to the centerpiece and table decorations. We started with one of those therma-lite urns that you can find everywhere now. Ours was purchased at the grocery store. The urn was about thigh high and large enough inside to accommodate a one gallon palm, also purchased at the grocery. We bought pineapples, oranges, mangos, grapes and those cool little baby bananas (also available at Chinese markets). We placed the urn in the center of the 48"table, popped in the palm using crumpled newspaper around the tree to secure it and insure that it stays straight.
We took the back end of an old wooden spoon to make a few holes in the dirt around the tree. A couple of hours before the guests arrived, we inserted tall stems of ginger and bird of paradise into the holes in the dirt. We then added some small wooded dowels,leaving 4 to 8" sticking out. The dowels allow you to prop the fruit around the base. The pineapples and larger fruits go toward the center, with bananas and grapes hanging over the sides. We purchased a second palm cut the fronds scattering them around the table to accent our white serving platters. We also used red banana leaves under some of the food displays (between the platter and the food).Once the food was out, we finished the look with more fruit and those colorful plastic tumblers. We filled them partially with water and used them for the floating candles. This was problematic, as every time the table got a little bump the water put the candle out. A much better ides for the future would be to use play sand. The centerpieces on the other tables were a snap. We just put one tall and 2 short tumblers in mixed colors with sand and the smaller hibiscus candles. A little sand and a few flower petals sprinkled around the base and there you are.

The best part of the plan is the recycle after the event. On the day of the party you have one large arrangement to do, nature has already started it for you. It should really only take 15 minutes to create a fabulous showpiece that towers over your guests like something in the lobby of a fine resort.When you dismantle the thing, you eat half of it then put your palm and your new urn on your porch or in your sunroom. We spent around $50.00 at Target, the urn was $65.00 and the two palms were $15.00 each. Rental costs depend on your guest count. We do recommend that you rent a tent for an outside event. It is worth the cost to not have to worry about the weather. You have enough to do. We are a big fan of renting the linens and dishware. You don't want to spend the next few days after an event digging your way out of the mess. Take out the trash, put away the left-overs and let the rental staff pick up the dirty linens and dishes. COOL!

To view the menu for the party go to

link to www.swankcatering.com/island_theme_party_menu

The recipe for The Lime Sauce to go with the coconut shrimp:
1 cup sour cream
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 small shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 T sugar
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper, preferably habenero, very finely diced
salt and pepper to taste

Combine in small bowl, mix well, refrigerate until ready to use.

We have to tell you about the cake. Who, but Diane, would have thought to put a bright orange cake on a hot pink table cloth. It was beautiful and wonderful. One person got out of her car from yards away and told us all she could see was that cake; that it was positively glowing.

This is our first blog entry: we plan to periodically write articles about party planning, theme parties, wedding planning, menus, recipes, and decorating tips for parties. We like to share our creative ideas so that you too can execute beautiful, swank parties with wonderful foods to wow your guests. We hope you enjoy our ideas and give us feedback including input to what else you would like to hear about.

Take care and until the next time,
eat, drink, laugh, love!
Pookah and Di


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