Gourmet Style

The Sweet Life: Throw a Dessert-Tasting Party!

“Prep these pears the day before.  Then you can just chill out and enjoy the party.” —Chef Fred DeAngelo

Cake stand, plates and forks, from Williams-Sonoma.

Photo by Olivier Koning

Ever notice how we call our loved ones things like Sweetie, Sweetness or Sugar? We whisper sweet nothings, too. Perhaps sugar produces such euphoria that a comparison between love and dessert is apt. Why not delight your loved ones and invite them over for a dessert-tasting party? After all, dinner guests can be hard to please—one’s a vegetarian, one’s a carnivore—but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t like dessert. If you do, I guess you won’t call him Sweetums.


Pinot Noir Poached Pears

Serves six

1   bottle pinot noir            
1     orange        
1     small piece fresh ginger, peeled       
½     cup honey               
3     star anise
2     cups water               
6     Bartlett pears           
1     vanilla bean           
1     cup mascarpone cheese   
1½ ounces sugar *              
6     ounces chopped macadamia nuts


Chef Fred DeAngelo prepares to poach the pears (left). Later, he fills the pears with a macadamia-nut filling.

Photos by Olivier Koning

* For serious baking, it’s best to weigh ingredients. If you don’t use a scale for cooking and need help converting ounces into, say, cups, there are conversion tables available on the Internet.

Photo by Olivier Koning


Fred DeAngelo is the chef/owner of Ola at Turtle Bay Resort, 57-091 Kamehameha Highway, 293-0801. Ola won Best New Oahu Restaurant, silver, in the 2007 HONOLULU Magazine Hale Aina Awards.


1.  To make the macadamia-nut filling:

Toast the chopped macadamia nuts, then cool. In a small bowl, mix the mascarpone, sugar and four ounces of the toasted nuts (reserve the rest for later). Seed half the vanilla bean pod and add the seeds to the filling. Mix well and refrigerate.

2.  To poach the pears: 

In a medium-size saucepot, juice the orange, and place the juiced halves in the pot. Add the wine, honey, sliced ginger, star anise and water, and bring to a slow simmer. Peel the pears, place gently into poaching liquid and cook until tender. (A sharp knife will pierce the pear base with little resistance when done.) Remove the pears from the pot, place into a deep pan and cover pears with poaching liquid. Refrigerate overnight. This will intensify the color.

3.  To assemble: 

Remove the pears from the poaching liquid, place liquid into saucepan and reduce until syrupy. From the bottom, core the pears with a paring knife, and then fill the cavity with the macadamia-nut filling. Drizzle with pear reduction and top with the remainder of the toasted macadamia nuts.


Party-Planning Tips

• Contrast salty and sweet with a cheese, a rich chocolate dessert and a tart, fruit-based recipe. “People put things out in more than one spot; create several vignettes and spread things out to encourage your guests to move about,” says Stuart Kotake, director of catering and conference services at the Kahala Hotel & Resort.

• Expect each guest to use three or four small plates. Some desserts—petit fours, truffles, pecan pie tartlets—can be served with just a napkin. Place plates and napkins near each dessert vignette.

• Bring things out in stages. “Don’t use big platters; rather, make a couple of small platters, so as the food gets nibbled, you can easily refresh with a new platter,” says Kotake. Make sure the first courses are dishes with a “shelf life.” Kotake suggests a baked brie with raspberries, kept on a chafing dish, which will stay warm and gooey the whole party. 

• A chocolate fountain is an easy way to create an edible centerpiece. Offer unusual dried fruit, such as cantaloupe or honeydew; decadent, warm cookies; salty mini-pretzels. Have a container with bamboo skewers, rather than using forks.

Napkins and plates, Williams-Sonoma.  Napkin-ring holder, Pier 1 Imports.

Photo by Olivier Koning

Haupia Crêpes

Serves six
12     crêpes (recipe follows)       
2     cups haupia filling               
4     cups of diced fresh fruit, such as strawberry, pineapple, kiwi and banana
2     ounces sugar
2     ounces unsalted butter           
3     ounces limoncello (a lemon liquor)

Crêpe ingredients:
2    cups all-purpose flour           
1     ounce unsalted butter, melted, cool   
2     cups whole milk                 2     large eggs               
½     teaspoon pure vanilla extract       
3     ounces powdered sugar       
A pinch of salt               
Nonstick cooking spray

Haupia-filling Ingredients:
2    cups coconut milk           
3     ounces sugar               
2½    ounces cornstarch           
4     ounces water   

Vanilla comes from certain type of orchid—here’s the seed pod, or vanilla bean pod.

Photos by Olivier Koning

1. Crêpe method:

Combine flour, powdered sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Combine melted butter, milk, eggs and vanilla in a second mixing bowl, using a wire whisk to mix well.

Add liquid mixture into dry mixture a little at a time until well blended, dissolving all lumps. Refrigerate the mix.

Lightly spray the cooking spray into a 6-inch nonstick pan and place over medium heat. Ladle 1.5 ounces of batter into the pan and swirl to cover the entire pan. Cook until golden, about 30 seconds, flip crêpe over and cook an additional 15 seconds. Place cooked crêpes on parchment paper or waxed paper to cool.


2. Haupia method:

Bring coconut milk and sugar to a slow simmer in a sauce pot. Mix the cornstarch and water, then slowly whisk into the coconut milk, until thick. Remove and pour into a deep dish to cool. Refrigerate.


3. To assemble: 

Place a dollop of haupia onto a crêpe, fold in half, then half again, forming a triangle shape. Continue to assemble all 12 crêpes.

In a large sauté pan, heat butter, add in sugar and fresh fruit, deglaze with limoncello, and then add in the prepared crepes to heat them. Place heated crêpes onto a plate and top with the fruit sauce from the pan.

TIP:  Crêpes are incredibly versatile. Try some of these tasty ideas for alternate crêpe fillings: jam, ice cream, Nutella, cinnamon sugar with a little butter, or whipped cream and chopped nuts.


From the raw ingredients (left) to pouring the batter into a ramekin (center), to the final dusting (right), chocolate is a delicious experience.

Photos by Olivier Koning



1. Method: 

In the top of a double boiler or in a large, heat-proof bowl fitted snugly over a saucepan with 2 inches of simmering water, melt butter and chocolate, stirring until smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer on high speed until mixture is pale yellow and forms thick ribbons, 7 to 10 minutes.

Prepare a steamer. Line four, 6-ounce ramekins or glass cups with plastic wrap. 

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold chocolate mixture into eggs.

Divide mixture evenly between prepared ramekins, tapping sides sharply to remove any air bubbles. Place cups in bottom of steamer; cover and steam until pudding has risen about ½-inch and has formed a light crust, 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool. 

To serve, invert ramekins onto individual dessert plates; carefully remove plastic wrap. Leave the “clouds” at room temperature to soften slightly, about 15 minutes, or microwave until warm, about 15 seconds. Dust with cocoa powder and garnish with a dollop of whipped cream.

Chocolate Cloud

Serves four
5     ounces unsalted butter, chopped
10     ounces dark semisweet chocolate
4     large eggs, room temperature
Cocoa powder, for dusting
Whipped cream, for garnish  

Photo by Olivier Koning


Glenn Chu is the chef/owner of Indigo, 1121 Nuuanu Ave., 521-2900. Since the restaurant opened in 1994, Indigo has won many HONOLULU Magazine Hale Aina Awards.

Plate, Pier 1 Imports.  Napkin and fork, Williams-Sonoma.

Photo by Olivier Koning

Tip: Chef Chu servies his chocolate cloud with freshly made whipped cream. It’s easy; just make sure the cream is colder than 50 degrees. If it’s warmer than that, you’re on the path to making butter. 

Espresso cup, Williams-Sonoma, Dessert spoon, Pier 1 Imports, Bowl, chef’s own.  Plates, stylists’ own.

Photo by Olivier Koning

“This recipe is quite versatile.I have made lemongrass, passionfruit, mango, vanilla bean and even Kona coffee crème brûlée.”—Chef Glenn Chu


Steamed Ginger Crème Brûlée

Serves four
1     tablespoon unsalted butter 
3     tablespoons minced fresh ginger
6     tablespoons sugar
2     cups heavy cream
4     large egg yolks
4     teaspoons minced candied ginger
8     teaspoons sugar







1.  Method:

In a large sauté pan, melt butter over medium-high heat until it begins to bubble.  Add ginger and 3 tablespoons of sugar; cook until sugar has dissolved and ginger flavor has been extracted, about 2 minutes. Add cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl; discard ginger and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, stir together egg yolks and remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, taking care not to incorporate a lot of air bubbles. Slowly add egg yolk mixture to cream mixture, a little at a
time, stirring constantly.

Prepare a steamer.

Divide mixture evenly among four, 4½-ounce ramekins. Place ramekins in the bottom of the steamer; cover and steam 10 minutes. Carefully remove steamer lid; place 1 teaspoon candied ginger on top of each custard. Replace steamer lid; steam until firm, about 5 minutes.

Remove ramekins from steamer; let cool.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, sprinkle 2 teaspoons of sugar evenly over top of each crème brûlée. Using a hand-held kitchen blowtorch, caramelize the sugar until browned and bubbling, 20 to 30 seconds. Or, place ramekins in a roasting pan filled with ice. Place under a hot broiler until sugar is browned and bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes, watching carefully not to burn the sugar. Serve immediately.

Tip: If you’re now carrying a torch for crème brûlée and want more options on this classic dish, read Elegantly Easy Crème Brûlée and Other Custard Desserts, by Debbie Puente, or Crème Brûlée: The Bonjour Way, by Randolph Mann.

Photos by Olivier Koning


J.J. Praseuth Luangkhot, chef/owner at J.J. French Pastry, 3447 Waialae Ave., 739-0993. Chef JJ provides pastries for Chai’s Island Bistro, another Hale Aina Award-winner in 2007, for Best Bistro/New American Cuisine.

 Stir  it up!

Key Lime “Martini”

Serves six
12     ounces fresh-squeezed Key Lime juice (bottled is okay, too)
12     egg whites
3     cups sugar
3     cups cream

1. Method:

Whip cream until it forms soft peaks, and set aside.

Combine sugar and egg whites, and whip until stiff. Add lime juice to egg-white mixture, and mix until combined.
Fold whipped cream into lime/egg-white mixture.

Pour into martini glass, then chill for a few hours or until served.

Garnish with fresh fruit and a mint leaf, or perhaps a twist of lime.

Best Beverage BETS

•  Look for sweet wines, such as a moscato, Sauterne or reisling.

•  Choose a fortified wine, such as sherry, Madeira or port.

•  Festive sparklers: Champagne, or Rosa Regale, a light red bubbly that marries well to chocolate, strawberries and other fruit.

•  Hire a college student to staff a “coffee bar,” and make espresso and cappuccinos for your guests. “Chocolate is really enhanced by the flavor of coffee,” notes Stuart Kotake, director of catering and conference services at the Kahala Hotel & Resort. Or, dress up regular coffee with Baileys, amaretto and freshly whipped cream.

•  Nestle a pitcher of cold milk in a bowl of ice next to a chocolate cake or brownies.

What to pour

Pomegranate elixirs are so last season. When it comes to cocktails, red has been surpassed by pink as the color du jour. There’s Pinky vodka, watermelon cosmopolitans, mojitos made with raspberry-flavored rum. The editor of Bartender Magazine even came out with a whole book on the subject of rosy libations, called The Pink Drink Book. We’ve included a recipe below for a pink beverage made with Sence, a nectar made from Bulgarian rose blossoms.

Photos courtesy of Sence

Vanilla Rose
3  ounces Sence rose nectar
1½  ounces vanilla vodka (such as Stoli)
3-5  drops fresh lime juice
Shake well, and pour into a martini glass.

Sence is carried at Foodland and Times Supermarket Kahala.

Cake stand and plates, Williams-Sonoma.

Photo by Olivier Koning


Serves six
12     ounces marscapone cheese
6     ounces sugar
6     egg yolks
6     whole eggs
6     tartlet shells (store bought, or, create
your own with a basic sugar cookie recipe)
Mixed, seasonal berries (such as blueberries, raspberries or strawberries)

 1. Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine first four ingredients together in a bowl, using a whisk, and fill tartlet shells with resulting custard. Drop in the mixed berries, studding each tartlet for color and flavor.
Bake for 10 minutes. Serve warm, with ice cream, or at room temperature. Can be made a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator.



Sugar-Free Options

If you have guests who are unable to eat sugar, it’s thoughtful to have some sugar-free treats on offer as part of your dessert-party menu.

Sweet Nothings bakery has all sorts of sugar-free goodies, such as brownies and turnovers. We liked the chocolate-covered mint patties ($14.95 per pound). 1218 Waimanu St.; 593-1234.

Godiva makes a variety of sugar-free options, including chocolate bars. A boxed assortment (see photo) is $25
at Neiman Marcus. Ala Moana Center, 951-8887.

Photo by David Croxford


•  Rent a soft-serve ice cream machine from Ohana Frozen Drink Rentals (685-6262). “We include delivery, setup, pickup and cleanup,” says owner Scott Eden. The $160 per day rate includes the first container of mix.

•  Order a decadent, flavored cheesecake, like Godiva Chocolate. HONOLULU  readers awarded a silver Hale Aina Award in 2006 to the Cheesecake Factory, 2301 Kalakaua Ave., 924-5001.

•  Buy a chocolate fondue sauce, then dress it up with amaretto or Grand Marnier. Serve with lemon bars, fruit, or individual-size, still-warm brownies.

•  Plan to prepare extra food so that you can send each guest home with something sweet wrapped in parchment paper, like a lemon bar or a piece of cake.