How to Throw a Luau Party

Always wanted to throw a luau? A luau can go from zero to bad theme restaurant in no time. Here's how to throw a party full of island-inspired authenticity. (Hint: Do not buy toy ukuleles in bulk.)
luau

Don't: Grill in a grass skirt!
Do: Don an island-print apron. Look for floral half-aprons or pinafore styles with mix-andmatch tops and flounces.

Don't: Plop hors d'oeuvres on platters decorated with grass trimmings. Do: Line serving platters with large leaves, like banana or palm. Use pineapple tops, slices of citrus and edible flowers to garnish food.

Don't: Resort to the Mr. Pineapple Head centerpiece.
Do: Whip up a tasteful floral combo that mixes island blooms, fruits and foliage

Don't: Limbo. (If you do, know that it's not a luau activity; it originated in Trinidad!)
Do: Ask a talented friend to hold a hula lesson. The dance's core step, the kâholo, is sure to get hips swinging to the tunes

ISLAND MENU

From simple snacks to a stunning main course, this menu upgrades your typical backyard spread to something a little more exotic.

Mini Hawaiian Sandwiches

Mini Hawaiian Sandwiches

In a bowl, combine chopped rotisserie chicken, macadamia nuts, canned lychees, red grapes and just enough mayonnaise to bind. Season with lemon zest and serve on miniature cocktail rolls.

 
Tropical Ham-and-Pineapple Kebabs

Tropical Ham-and-Pineapple Kebabs

In a small bowl, combine equal parts melted butter, pineapple juice and jarred apple butter; season with cider vinegar and allspice. On skewers, thread alternating cubes of baked ham and pineapple. Baste with the apple butter mixture and grill until heated through.

 
Surfin Nacho Boards

Surfin' Nacho Boards

Make a salsa of chopped ripe peaches, jalapeño, red onion and cilantro; season with lime juice and shredded coconut. Arrange tortilla chips on a baking sheet and top with the salsa, then sprinkle generously with monterey jack cheese and bake until bubbling. Top with coarsely chopped cooked shrimp.

 
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Drinks

Try a batch of Ku'u Pua (koo-ooh poo-ah), courtesy of The Cocktail Handbook authors Amie Fujiwara and Jesse Greenleaf. Meaning "my flower," it's also the title of a slack-key guitar medley that inspired Fujiwara to create the cocktail.

 

ALSO TRY:

 

ALOHA FASHION

Hawaiian shirts aren't just those things you talk your dad out of wearing on vacation. The classic shirts and dresses are full of artistry. We asked Dale Hope, author of The Aloha Shirt, what features will keep you looking classically cool.

Fabric: Buy garments made of fabrics woven from cotton, silk, rayon or a blend. "Polyester is bad," Hope says. Plus, it wasn't yet invented in the aloha shirt's heyday.

Design: Seek clean lines and detailed motifs: Hope's favorite iconic prints include canoe and surfing themes. Ladies, take inspiration from traditional Tahitian pareos, featuring white flowers on red or navy backgrounds.

Fit: Look for a body-conscious fit in shirts and dresses -- despite the cliché, a mu'umu'u should hug a woman's curves. And say yes to coordinating his-and-hers sets!

Buttons: Faux wood ultimately prevailed, but good vintage shirts often have buttons made of natural materials. "In the '40s, it was coconut shell," Hope says. "The '60s brought bamboo from Japan."

AHH...KICK-BACK TUNES

An authentic soundtrack -- replete with ukuleles, marimbas and, yes, Elvis -- means instant island atmosphere. DJ Mark Riddle, host of the Polynesian- and Hawaiiancentric Quiet Village podcast, told us how to make a luau sing.

Vintage: Channel 1950s and '60s Americana, Riddle says. Hence Elvis Presley: "The movies Blue Hawaii and Paradise, Hawaiian Style are considered time capsules. They were filmed at famous Hawaiian locations that no longer exist.

Mellow: You might not know it by name, but the exotica genre is what you hear when you think of all things tiki. Try Hawaiian Sunset, Volumes I and II, by vibraphonist Arthur Lyman -- one of exotica's pioneers -- to lend "that dreamy Hawaiian feel." His music "represented a romanticized version of the tropics," Riddle says.

Modern: Modern Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiw'ole is most famous on the mainland for his ukulele-kissed version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," but Riddle favors his more vintage tunes, like "'Ulili E.".

 

 

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