The Ultimate Summer Party

Cool cooking for hot nights.
From upper left: Tropical Trifle, watercress soup, Pacific dinner salad, baby romain with shrimp, peppered goat cheese and hearts of palm salad. Photos: Kent Hwang

Cooooool. That’s what we all want to be during these long, hot, summer days, which, in Hawai’i, extend into September and October. It’s time to enjoy a tropical drink on the la-nai as the sun sets on the horizon; time to dine leisurely with family and friends around a table laden with delicious food. But who wants to slave over a hot stove while the party is gaining momentum? With our Ultimate Summer Party menu, everything is cool: the food and the hosts.

They say that the perfect hostess is like a duck: paddling like hell under the water, but calm and serene on the surface. This party is about paddling hard before the party, then sitting back and enjoying yourself. You’ll cook at home early in the day, wrap it all up and put it in the refrigerator until party time. When your guests arrive, enjoy the sunset with a glass of Tropical Punch. Ready for dinner? Pull the serving trays out of the refrigerator and be a part of the party. Cool, huh?

Begin with the best and freshest Island-grown produce and seafood available at farmers’ markets or your supermarket. With quality ingredients, there’s little you have to do to be a star cook. So stay cool as you throw our Ultimate Summer Party.

Setting the Table

Keeping with the theme of simplicity, make this a buffet. Place the platters of food in a logical way, with appropriate condiments alongside. Plates should be at the beginning of the buffet, napkins and utensils at the end, so guests won’t have to carry them as they serve themselves.

Resist the urge to use paper plates; use china or porcelain instead. While cleanup may be easier with disposables, real plates are a sign of a sophisticated gathering. If you have them, use oversize dinner plates. Standard, 10-inch dinner plates are often too small for a buffet, as foods get crowded together and sauces run over each other. Using a bigger plate is much more elegant.

Cloth napkins are always a classy choice, as well. And pull out the silverware. Utensils can be wrapped in napkins, tied with ribbons or nestled in napkin rings. If your menu is such that everything can be eaten with just a fork, all the better.

Get out your prettiest and biggest serving platters and have some fun arranging your food. Make sure your platters fit in the refrigerator. Use ti leaves, cabbage or lettuce leaves to line platters. Garnish with microgreens (tiny salad greens), corn sprouts or anything edible. No matter how you do it, the bright colors and freshness of the food will speak for themselves.

Choose serving utensils that are as pretty as your table setting and food. Too often, a kitchen tong or cooking spoon is used for serving; look for attractive serving spoons and tongs in metal or wood or bring out items from the silver chest to dress up the visual appeal of the table. After all, we eat with our eyes; everything around the food counts, too.


Flowers are a must, adding to the ambience and glow of the party. Tropical gingers, heliconias, anthuriums and orchids will all add to the Island flavor. Keep strongly scented flowers away from the food, so they won’t compete with the appetizing aromas.

Getting the Refrigerator Ready

For this Ultimate Summer Party menu, you will definitely need lots of space in your refrigerator. Clear out the old jars of condiments, sauces and dressings that have been there and served their purpose for one meal or another. Make room for the fresh and new.

Shopping tip: Almost all of the fresh ingredients used in our Ultimate Summer Party can be found at the Saturday Farmers’ Market at Kapi’olani Community College, 8 a.m. to noon.

Special thanks to:

The Westye Group, distributors of Sub-Zero
Wolf, Fisher & Paykel and Dacor appliances.

The Compleat Kitchen
Shot on location at the new Sub-Zero/Wolf showroom
938 Pi’ikoi Street, Honolulu