Menu for a Tropical Tea

Enough reminiscing! What would I finally serve for a Tropical Tea?!

Start with Pimm’s Punch (not to be confused with Pimm’s Cup). I first had Pimm’s Punch at Bettys in York. It was a hot day, we’d been walking and waiting for hours, and this hit the spot. It was so refreshing. I don’t know the secret ingredient in Pimm’s, but it’s brilliant. If you have a sense of humor, skewer the fruit garnish with a little umbrella pick!

Then, present a tropical fruit platter. Try to have the fruits all sliced similarly (and thinly): papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, mango, honeydew, some orange slices (minus the pith), a few strawberries, and all of it sprinkled with finely grated lime peel (and maybe a little lime juice).

Follow with “sandwiches,” except you don’t have to use bread necessarily. For instance, macadamia-crusted goat cheese can be served “open faced” on Belgian endive, topped with a dollop of mango-papaya preserves. Offer at least three kinds of sandwiches, of course, for essential variety.

Scones next, made with dried apricots and lemon peel. Lemon curd and Devonshire Cream accompany the scones , of course, but instead of the traditional strawberry jam, use something tropical – like papaya butter, or pineapple preserves.

Finally, dessert! Coconut bars, shortbread cookies sprinkled with tropical sugars, banana bread tea loaf, and something(s) spectacular… like a Hawaiian twist on Eton Mess, or individual coconut crème brulees, petite Key lime tartlettes, or a spectacular pineapple-rum cake, layered with coconut cream, and topped with toasted coconut flakes.

And what beverage goes with all these delectables? Tea, of course. Offer Yorkshire Gold for the purists, pineapple-infused black tea for the adventurous, and my favorite – Rejuvenation (herbal) tea – for anyone needing some aloha spirit revival.

To set your table island-style, use anything that reminds you of palm trees, the beach, tropical flowers, Hawaiiana, and warm sunny days. You know how you never want to leave your Hawaiian vacation? Well, you won’t want to get up from your Tropical Tea table either. Sounds perfect!

In a macadamia-nutshell:

Pimm’s Punch

Tropical fruit platter

Sandwiches – Macadamia-crusted goat cheese on Belgian endive, topped with mango-papaya preserves
Cherry tomatoes stuffed with curried egg salad
Kalua pork lettuce cups with poi garnish
Mauna Kea shrimp with peanut sauce

Apricot-lemon scones with Mock Devonshire Cream, lemon curd, and pineapple preserves

Desserts – choose at least three:
Coconut bars
Shortbread cookies sprinkled with tropical sugars
Roy’s Banana-macadamia bread tea loaf
Eton Mess Aloha-style (meringues, chopped fresh pineapple, whipped cream with
chopped macadamia nuts, all topped with toasted coconut chips)
Individual coconut crème brulees
Key lime tartlettes
Pineapple-rum roulade cake, layered with coconut whipped cream

Teas – Yorkshire Gold
Pineapple-infused black tea
Rejuvenation tea
Milk and sugar cubes

Enjoy! Aloha! And mahalo nui loa for reading my blog!

Tropical Tea

I had tea with my mom and sister last week and we got on the subject of, well, of tea parties. My sister wanted to know what was my most memorable tea? That was easy: the tea I had sitting on the Banyon Veranda of the Moana Surfrider (now it’s called the Beach House Veranda) in Waikiki.

When our kids were still pretty small, my husband and I took them to Hawaii – first Maui, then later that week, Oahu. I had found a real deal on the Internet that made the Oahu part of our trip do-able. By the time we landed in Honolulu, got our rental car, and got to our hotel, it was the early part of the afternoon – but late enough that I knew we had to feed the kids and fast (or we’d have screaming menehune on our hands). Unfortunately, the hotel we checked into was not what it had appeared to be on the Internet. The walls were uncovered cinder block, the open air hallways looked out over the local red light district, the kitchenette needed its aluminum stove liners replaced (yes, it was that kind of kitchen), and the linens on the bed felt gritty. The neon lighting did not add to the ambiance – but did make us think about leaving them on all night to keep the cockroaches hiding. Gosh, the lobby pictures on the Internet never hinted at what we’d find in the rooms – ! And we were just a block from Waikiki Beach! I should have known better – but at least, I learned quickly.

Anyway, both kids were hungry and we decided that the first thing we’d do would be to get them some decent food. Then we’d tackle the problem of accommodations.
Back in the car, and out on the road again, up Kalakaua Avenue, and there we were, in front of the First Lady of Waikiki – and they had valet parking! We hopped out of the car and went searching for food. A place this refined would surely have something appetizing for keiki. And then I saw the placard: Afternoon Tea on the Banyon Veranda. Forget the kids, I needed soul-rejuvenating, and tea on the Veranda was going to do it (plus, they had a keiki menu). As we waited for a table, I thought to ask the concierge what the availability was… alas, they had absolutely no rooms.

I returned to the placard to wait for our table, and was greeted by name by the hostess. How did she know my name already? She led our family to our table and promised my starving kids that their tea would be out directly. My husband excused himself to wash up, just as freshly squeezed pineapple juice arrived for my son and daughter. I only got one sip: it was the most amazing thing any of us had ever drank, and the kids knew something good when they got it. Meanwhile, where was my husband? Our grown-up tea was delivered, but I was trying to be polite and not eat without him. The kids went ahead without him, but I waited – patiently, not so patiently, where was he?!

My husband finally returned – all smiles. Wait, did you drink a mai tai without me? In response, he handed me a room key – to the Moana, of course. When he’d excused himself, he’d gone back to the Front Desk to double check on room availability. The staff listened to his story of woe, re-checked their rooms, and noticed that a reservation was going to be cancelled in 10 minutes if the person booking the room did not show up. So, my husband waited, the guest never showed up, my husband registered for the room, drove back to the dive hotel, collected our luggage, checked out, returned to the Moana, checked our luggage with the bell captain, and finally, returned for tea.

That day, my husband became the ali’I of aloha – he lives aloha. Mahalo to my big kahuna!

Shortbread Cookies

This recipe comes from Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ classic, The Silver Palate Cookbook. It’s simple and delicious, and my vanilla-ice-cream-preferring son is crazy about these cookies – especially with a simple butter cream frosting (right off the back of the C&H powdered sugar box). My daughter, on the other hand, who can smell a dish and tell you which spices are included, prefers them with a little sprinkle of sugar – no frosting. These cookies have seen every birthday party I’ve ever given, every Christmas, and every Valentine’s Day, too. This is an amazingly simple but elegant cookie.

¾ lb. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. confectioners’ sugar
3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
½ t. salt
½ t. vanilla extract
¼ c. granulated sugar

Cream butter and confectioners’ sugar together until light.
Sift flour and salt together and add to creamed mixture. Add vanilla and blend thoroughly.
Gather dough into a ball, wrap in wax paper, and chill for 4 to 6 hours.
Roll out chilled dough to 5/8-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch long heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Sprinkle tops with granulated sugar. Place cut-out cookies on ungreased cookie sheets and refrigerate for 45 mins. before baking.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Bake for 20 mins. or until just starting to color lightly; cookies should not brown at all. Cool on a rack.
Makes 20 cookies.

(For the record, I skip the initial chilling for 4-6 hrs. It’s easier to roll out the cookie dough on the cookie sheets with a piece of wax paper over the dough. I roll out the dough to about 3/8-inch thickness, cut out the cookies, reroll the scraps, cut out more cookies, and then I pop the cookie sheets in the refrigerator for about 20 mins. Then I bake them, usually for about 13-14 mins. I take them out of the oven just as they are starting to turn golden around the edges – ideally, they hardly turn color at all. When I make these cookies for any Hawaiian-themed or tropical event, I use pineapple- and palm-tree shaped cookie cutters and I sprinkle them with Tropical Flavored sugars – Mango or Vanilla Macadamia Nut – from the Maui Culinary Academy. The extra flavor is subtle but works well with these elegantly simple cookies.)

California Coastal Tea menu

In addition to showcasing local California ingredients, this menu also catered to my vegetarian guests…

Domaine Carneros Brut Cuvee (sparkling white wine)

Yorkshire Gold Tea
Good Earth Original Spiced Tea
Milk and sugar cubes

Avocado sandwiches: Sliced California avocados and microgreens served open-faced on whole wheat bread, sprinkled with California walnuts
Cucumber sandwiches: Thinly sliced cucumbers and chopped watercress served open-faced on white bread, sprinkled with grated Meyer lemon peel (from my tree in the backyard)
Blue cheese and pear sandwiches: Thinly sliced Pt. Reyes blue cheese with sliced pears served open-faced on oatmeal bread

Cream scones with chopped California raisins
Mock Devonshire cream
Fresh organic strawberries grown locally at Tanaka Farms
Tanaka Farms Organic Strawberry Jam
Store-bought lemon curd

Sugar-glazed (Meyer) Lemon Cake
Assorted See’s Candies (Dark Bordeaux, Coconut Bonbons, Dark California Brittle, Marzipan)

Rancho de Philo Triple Cream Sherry (from California)