Feeling a little stressed out lately? Try sitting back and picturing sunny beaches, blue skies, the sound of a gentle surf crashing in the distance and percussive steel drums. Can you smell the sunscreen, see the bright tropical colors and feel the balmy breezes? Are you feeling relaxed yet? Even in the heat of summer, a mental vacation in the Caribbean is an acceptable break from the heat. Dreaming about swimming in the clear, the mere thought of azure waters can have a way of cooling you off right away. So, when you're in need of a little mental rest and relaxation and can't get away for a real vacation, we recommend that you bring the tastes and smells of the islands into your home with a Caribbean-themed dinner party.
Setting the Stage
Depending on the style of your group, you can choose to make this a serene, tropical dinner or a hot, hot, hot island party.
Keeping It Low-Key
- Play a CD with natural surf sounds in the background.
- Decorate with coastal accessories: seashells, coral, raffia-tied linen napkins and natural fabric placemats.
- Make your own seashell napkin rings. Purchase clear acrylic napkin rings in your local craft shop. Glue one large or several small seashells in a cluster to each ring.
- Create a centerpiece of tropical fruits in a basket that has seashells, starfish or sand dollars strung or glue gunned to the outside.
Turning up the Heat With a HOT, HOT, HOT Party
- Choose reggae and steel drum band music as the soundtrack for your party. Both will get your friends into the rhythm of the islands, making it difficult for them to stay seated between courses.
- Decorate with tropical fish or parrot-themed party goods. During the summer season, many stores that sell home accessories feature tropical-themed melamine dinnerware that works great for outdoor entertaining.
- Visit your favorite online or retail party goods store to find palm trees, tropical fish or birds to add to your decor.
- Tell your guests that shoes are optional and cut-off shorts are encouraged.
- By the third round of rum drinks, someone can begin a conga line.
- After the fifth round of rum drinks, begin the limbo contest.
- Hire someone to braid everyone's hair.
Send your guests home with a small, tropical-colored, gift bag containing a bottle of sunscreen, a small bottle of rum, seashells, and a bottle of Caribbean hot sauce. We can often find Tropical Pepper Co. sauce, a Costa Rican sauce, in our local supermarket and we highly recommend it.
The Caribbean, like most tourist locales, has been influenced by the cuisines of many visiting cultures. But there are still many unique elements to Caribbean cuisine that set it apart. Some of these include tropical fruits, certain types of seafood such as conch, hot sauces and rum. For this month's menu I have included each of these items.
Banana Daiquiri - Need we say more?
Conch Fritters - Plan ahead since you'll probably have to special order the conch.
Jerk Pork - Jerk is the wonderful Jamaican spice blend. You can adjust the heat by modifying the amount of chile peppers if anyone in your group is very sensitive to the heat.
Macadamia Crusted Yellowtail with Mango-Papaya Salsa - This recipe blends a number of flavors from the Caribbean.
Caribbean Cucumber Salad - Be careful, this refreshing salad bites back!
Caribbean Johnny Cakes - Although usually served as an "eat on the run" food in the Caribbean, this recipe will add to the educational value of your dinner.
Fried Plantains - Plantains often fulfill the starchy position of potatoes on a Caribbean platter.
Coconut Flan - You can't forget to include coconuts in your tasting of the tropics.