Foodbuzz 24×24: Winter Escape, A Tropical Feast
posted in: Parties & Entertaining        date: 01.30.11

I don’t know what causes it, but I’m ready for warmer weather pretty much as soon as Christmas is over. I miss my flip flops and summer dresses, and I especially miss all the wonderful produce in season during spring and summer. Since spring is still a couple months away, I thought it would be fun to have a tropical dinner party in an effort to escape the bitter cold of January. I wanted everything to give off a tropical feel, so I turned our small countertop bar into the drink area, complete with a tray that eventually held fresh pineapple, coconut and strawberries, plus sugar for rimming glasses. I even bought drink umbrellas. What kind of tropical party would it be without drink umbrellas, right? And since I couldn’t wear my flip flops, I used the flip flop coasters Eric’s sister got us for Christmas a couple years ago.

Ready for drinks!

When deciding what to serve at the party, I knew I wanted each dish to make my guests feel like they were enjoying their meal in a place somewhere much warmer. I mainly focused on Jamaican and Caribbean dishes, with a couple of tropical dishes and drinks thrown in for good measure. There were so many recipes I wanted to try, but I was eventually able to narrow down the menu to include:

Coquitos
Fried Plantain Chips with Avocado Kiwi Salsa
Jamaican Beef Dumplings
Grilled Shrimp with Dark Rum Glaze
Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wings
Tropical Rice
Coconut Lime Cake
Coconut Saffron Ice Cream
Luau Coconut Drinks
Pineappleade
Strawberry Mango Daiquiris

Eric and I tried to make as much as we could ahead of time. The night before the party, Eric made the marinade for the chicken wings while I made the ice cream. The pineappleade also had to be made the night before so that it could sit overnight. We made the plantain chips early in the day Saturday, and they stayed perfectly crisp for the party. I prepared the salsa minus the avocado and added it once our guests arrived. I also baked the cake early in the day so that the glaze would have time to seep into it. I cooked the rice close to the arrival of our guests while Eric was grilling the wings and shrimp. Overall, I’m really happy with how everything turned out, and I’m so thankful that our friends were able to join us for our tropical meal. Though it’s not the best picture (hey, I was hungry!), here’s our table setup:

Table Setup

I absolutely love these coquitos, which were a random find one morning while grocery shopping. They’re like baby coconuts and are a little smaller than grapes. They have a hard exterior and soft, coconut-y interior. I couldn’t resist serving them in a piece of coconut shell.

Coquitos

The plantain chips, with a cayenne and lime zest seasoning, were so delicious that Eric and I had a hard time resisting them. It’s lucky we had any left for the party because we definitely snacked on a few while we were cooking other things.

Fried Plantain Chips

As soon as we started cooking these, I knew they’d be my favorite (food) item of the night. The dumplings are simply wonton wrappers filled with a delicious beef filling that includes curry powder, onion and Jamaican hot sauce. We served these with Thai sweet chili sauce, plus extra hot sauce for those that wanted them especially spicy.

Jamaican Beef Dumplings

The glaze for the shrimp made our kitchen smell fabulous. I was so excited about these, and they did not disappoint. They had a sweet and smoky flavor that everyone absolutely loved.ย We served extra glaze on the side.

Grilled Shrimp with Dark Rum Glaze

This coconut cake had the most wonderful tropical flavor. With coconut, limes and coconut rum, you know it was good. Though it took Eric taking the coconut outside and hitting it with a hammer and me carefully peeling each strip, the fresh coconut on top was totally worth it. This cake was definitely a show stopper, and it disappeared in no time.

Coconut Lime Rum Cake

This ice cream is made with coconut milk, coconut sugar and saffron, giving it a truly exotic flavor. I’ve never made an ice cream from David Lebovitz that I didn’t like, and this one was no different. Not everyone was a fan, which I believe had to do with the fact that this ice cream has a much different flavor than traditional ice creams and isn’t quite as sweet. I really enjoyed it, though, and I can’t wait to make something else with the coconut sugar I used in this recipe.

Coconut Saffron Ice Cream

This spin on the classic piรฑa colada might have been my favorite recipe of the night.ย It’s got coconut water, coconut milk, light rum and coconut rum.ย There’s a ton of coconut flavor packed into this drink, and I felt like I was sipping it on a beach when I drank it out of this coconut.

Luau Coconut

And just to show what a fun time we had, here’s a picture of me and my friend Amanda enjoying some tasty drinks in the cutest pineapple cups that my friends Katy and Juli were nice enough to bring.

Tropical party drinks

Thank you so much for allowing me to share our party with you! I’ll be posting many of the recipes soon, and I hope you’ll come back to take a look at them. Spring may be a couple months away, but a tropical getaway is closer than you think!

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COMMENTS: ( 24 )
  • This is such a great idea! I am picturing sunny beaches and steel drums right now! I have never tried plantain chips-those look awesome. Congrats on being selected for the 24×24!

    • Courtney

      Thanks so much, Shanon! The plantain chips were so good! When I went back for more, I found an empty serving dish. That’s one way to know a recipe is a winner, haha. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Looks like a great party! I love the tropical theme. A friend of mine had a birthday party a few weeks ago and insisted that we all wear tropical clothes to get our minds off of the cold weather.
    I absolutely love plantain chips. Can’t wait for some of these recipes!

    • Courtney

      Thanks, Kira! It really does help to forget how cold it is.

      The plantain chips were a definite favorite and disappeared before I could get seconds. I’m ready to make them again!

  • This spread looks AMAZING! What a great idea for a party!

    • Courtney

      Thanks! It was so much fun, like a mini-vacation for the evening.

  • Lindsay @ Peace, Love and French Fries

    mmm, makes me want a vacation really bad!! Can you send me one of those daiquiris? ๐Ÿ™‚ Congrats on being selected for 24×24!

    • Courtney

      Thank you, Lindsay! I wish I could send you a daiquiri, but since I can’t, I promise to post the recipe soon. It will be like a mini-vacation in a glass. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Amazing job, Courtney! I’ve always wanted to throw a party like this in the winter. With a January birthday I never get to do any fun outdoors things, so one year my mom once threw me a beach-themed party complete with sundresses and a giant 3D mural of the beach with palm trees. It was my favorite birthday, and this reminds me of that. I am the same way, craving tropical things and warm weather as soon as the holidays are over. Bring on the pina coladas!

    • Courtney

      Thanks so much, Annie! That birthday party sounds like it must’ve been so much fun, and I can see why it would be your favorite. ๐Ÿ™‚ I really don’t know what causes the sudden change after the holidays, but my craving for warmer weather and all the food that goes along with it hits me pretty much as soon as January starts. Too bad we’ve still got a couple more months before the warm weather arrives.

  • What a fun party idea, Courtney! I love all the details – the coconut bowls, pineapple tops, table cloth, etc. I am with you – majorly craving warm weather!

    • Courtney

      Thanks, Josie! The coconut bowls were an impromptu addition after Eric cracked the coconut. I just thought they were too cute to toss, and I’m really happy I kept them for the party.

  • Amanda Williams

    Courtney-
    Matt and I had a blast at your dinner party! All of the food was fabulous, as was the company! The plantain chips with kiwi avocado salsa were my favorite! Congrats on a beautiful post!

    • Courtney

      Thanks, Amanda! We’re so glad you were both able to make it! I promise I’ll post the recipe for the plantain chips and salsa soon.

  • what a FEAST!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • congrats on top 9 with me! i am so impressed with your food ideas!!! nice job with the presentation, recipes, and entertaining!!!

  • I’m in New York and this post warmed up my body by at least 10 degrees !!!
    Love the idea ! And congrats on making the top 9 !!!

  • You did an awesome job creating the perfect Tropical environment. Congrats to being chosen for 24×24~

  • Now this looks like my kind of feast! That coconut lime cake looks delish! I am with you on wishing for warm weather! Bring it on! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Courtney

      Thanks! It was definitely nice to forget about the cold weather for a night.

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  • Great idea! I’m especially curious about the coqitos… they look so cute!

    • Courtney

      Thanks! They were definitely a good impulse buy.

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