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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Polynesian Cocktail Party

I freely admit I have a penchant for Polynesia. It started when I was a kid, going out to dinner with my family at the Asia Fantasia in Dover, NH. I was mad for all the screaming pomegranate-colored walls with images of cascading waterfalls hung on them, the bamboo huts where we ate, and simply enthralled by the flaming Scorpion Bowls and Volcanoes that swirled around us at neighboring tables. It was a mission of mine at a very early age to navigate the things called chopsticks. Most of all, I loved that delicious, perfect quintet with the funny name: the PuPu platter. Apart from the fact that it too arrived on fire, fueled by the preternatural incandescence of Sterno, I treasured the savory chicken wings laced with soy sauce, crispy fried shrimp, sticky spareribs, and spears of beef teriyaki that I remember, as well as the novelty of heating up the bit of exotica right at the table as we went along.

Having recently acquired a platter of our own, Baby and I were duly inspired to create an evening out of the Polynesian fantasia of my childhood. To set up our menu, we started by flipping through The House of Chan Cookbook, a modest volume that his mother had when he was a boy. After we decided what we wanted to serve, we went through old issues of Gourmet, Saveur, and other cookbooks too filling our shelves and also went online to compare recipes. Once we found what we thought would be the best recipe, we made our shopping list. We chose quite well, it turned out--they were all wonderful recipes, executed with little difficulty!

A pitcher of Planter's Punch cocktails from Anthony Dias Blue's incredibly comprehensive guide, The Complete Book of Mixed Drinks, set the mood. Equal parts light and dark rum are evenly matched by orange juice. I couldn't be bothered making simple syrup, and at Baby's suggestion, I just added some pineapple juice into freshly squeezed lime juice to sweetly balance the sour, and poured in a little Cointreau for added kick. And yes, these were served as long drinks, with knotted bamboo cocktail stirrers skewering orange and lime slices and maraschino cherries anchored by two chunks of pineapple, perched on top of the glass. One of our guests surprised us with paper umbrellas to further complete the picture.

PuPu for Eight

Beef Teriyaki Gourmet featured a PuPu platter menu October '08! We adorned with grilled pineapple and maraschino cherries.

Chinese Spareribs from Tyler Florence. We loved this. While the ribs cooked, the whole apartment smelled all gently spicy and warm like Christmas.

Dad's Chinese Chicken Wings not my dad, this is from A real winner.

Chinese Roast Pork I think this was our favorite--it's actually red food coloring that turns the meat pink!

Coconut Shrimp we did not butterfly the shrimp as the recipe suggests, we just fried it, the way the Asia Fantasia would, with Panko bread crumbs added into the mix.

We laid waste to the pints of ice cream that Baby's sister-in-law brought: outrageous Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle, heavenly Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream, both courtesy of Haagen-Dazs, and classic Peppermint Stick from the Adirondack Creamery.

I hope you create your own Asia Fantasia right at home too!

Soundtrack: Afro-Desia, the Exotic Sounds of Martin Denny; Ultra Lounge, Mondo Exotica; Cocktail Mix, Martini Madness; Combustible Edison, I, Swinger; Dancing at the Nick at NiteClub

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