Style takes a cue from nature at a dinner party for friends
Recipes in this Story
Sandy Beach Sunrise Smoothie 
Lobster-Truffle Salad with Big Island Corn Pudding 
Pan-seared Mahi Mahi with Eggplant Misoyaki 
Haupia (Coconut Milk Pudding) with Fresh Fruit 
When most of us think of Hawaii, we envision sun and sand. But the fabric of the beautiful islands is complex and varied, embracing mountains, rain forests, beaches, and looming volcanoes, all woven together with a multicultural population and a mélange of customs and traditions.
So when Honolulu designer Michelle Uchiyama gathered friends for a dinner party at a home she designed for a client, she wanted her tablescape to reflect the diversity of her state. "Hawaii is about layers and textures in nature and culture," says Michelle. "The table needed to have that vibe of bounty."
Set outdoors, the rectangular wood table was surrounded by intense natural color--a vibrant green lawn and the sea's aqua-colored water undulating into deep blue. To complement the surroundings, Michelle chose a striking yet soothing palette of whites, blues, and greens. A profusion of natural decorations on the table--coral and orchids, sand and shells--augmented the breathtakingly spectacular views.
The ensemble of dinnerware masterfully mixes materials and forms. On top of woven placemats, textured clear-glass chargers anchor wooden salad plates. Finishing the setting with a dramatic lift, oversized square bowls--with bases that nest perfectly into small salad plates--contribute style with their height and flared edges. Silver rings embellished with lustrous Tahitian pearls from the Pacific's South Seas secure green linen napkins.
Flanking a white rattan hurricane lantern with an open weave, two floral arrangements marry beach and garden motifs. For each arrangement, an inner vase supplying water to orchids and greenery is positioned inside a larger clear vessel. In the larger vase, black sand from the region's volcanoes is layered with beach sand to create a graphic ground for the flowers. To add to the feeling of lushness found in the islands' rain forests, additional adornments enhance the tablescape. Large pieces of white coral rest at the top of each place setting, with silver votive candles sparkling like the sun's glancing reflections off ocean waves. With enough heft to balance the sizable white soup bowls, wooden pineapples--symbols of island hospitality--are painted silver to serve as placecard holders.
"In Hawaii, the ocean always extends an invitation to dine outdoors," says Michelle. "Here, as guests of nature, we only have to travel as far as our own backyard."
Photography: Joe Schmelzer
Produced by Kyle Schuneman
Honolulu designer and hostess Michelle Uchiyama.
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Guests, clockwise from bottom left, Lynette Sanvold, Josh Cardwell, Jason Brand, Florence Chong, and Mark Sandvold toast a friendly gathering and the bounty of artfully prepared seafood.
Wares of various materials work aesthetic marvels when thoughtfully styled. Wicker and slipcovered chairs around a wood table, all from Pacific Home (pacific-home.com), anchor the nature-inspired tablescape. A white hurricane lantern, wooden plates and placecard holders, glass vases, green urchin shells, and silver votives, all from SoHa Living (sohaliving.com), enrich the settings. Napkins, placemats, flatware, glassware, square white bowls, and glass chargers are from Fishcake (808/593-1231). Flowers are by Even Morita of Florist Grand (808/589-1382).
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Here are tips from Michelle for achieving a casual but polished look.
Strong opaque color might be too much for a densely decorated table. Instead, use colored, textured glassware to add interest without overwhelming the setting.
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Gather pieces from nature, and display them in clear vessels. The presentation of specimens in bulk transforms the ordinary into the spectacular.
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Provide a fruit drink as well as wine, then hand out the recipe--printed on pretty cards--as favors.
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Pearls of Wisdom
Gems are table treasures as charms for glasses or napkin rings (below). Hand-forged by Chenoa Salmon through Eclectix Designs (808/349-8180).
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Sandy Beach Sunrise Smoothie
- 8 ounces fresh papaya
- 4 ounces vanilla yogurt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 ounces frozen mango
Combine all ingredients in bowl of blender. Blend at medium speed. Makes 1 drink.
Lobster-Truffle Salad with Big Island Corn Pudding
Big Island Corn Pudding
- 1/3 cup butter
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 cups fresh corn kernels
- 1/3 cup chopped leeks
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1-1/3 cups whipping cream
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons shoyu (dark soy sauce)*
- 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons cornmeal
- 4 large eggs (beaten)
- Lobster-Truffle Salad (recipe follows)
- Grape tomatoes, quartered
Preheat oven to 400°F. In large skillet over medium heat melt butter and olive oil. Add corn and leeks; sauté 5 minutes. Remove half the corn-leek mixture; reserve.
Add garlic to pan, cook one minute. Add cream, chicken stock, shoyu, and basil. Bring to simmer; cook 10 minutes. Using whisk, slowly add cornmeal to simmering liquid. Reduce heat to low; cook 5 to 8 minutes stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
Transfer hot pudding mixture to blender. Cover and carefully blend on low speed. Add beaten eggs very slowly. Continue to blend 3 minutes on low speed. Stir in reserved corn-leek mixture.
Lightly coat eight 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins or custard dishes with non-stick cooking spray. Carefully add pudding mixture to ramekins, filling almost to top. Transfer dishes to baking sheet. Transfer baking sheet to oven rack.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes. (Puddings will start to puff.) Check doneness by inserting wooden pick in center of several puddings; pick should come out almost clean. Carefully remove baking sheet from oven; cool slightly. To serve, run thin, sharp knife around edges of puddings; upend each ramekin over individual serving dish. (Puddings will deflate.) Top each pudding with Lobster-Truffle Salad. Garnish with grape tomatoes. Makes 8 servings.
*Shoyu is a premium, unfiltered dark soy sauce. It has a sharp, clear, meaty-mushroom flavor.
In medium skillet melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add 1/4 pound cooked lobster meat; toss with butter. Heat lobster through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Toss lobster with fresh micro greens, fresh parsley leaves, and kaiware sprouts.* Toss with truffle oil just to coat; season with salt and pepper.
*Kaiware sprouts are tiny daikon radish sprouts. Their delicate heart-shape leaves carry a spicy punch. Look for them in Asian markets. Alfafa sprouts can be substituted, but they will not be as flavorful.
Pan-seared Mahi Mahi with Eggplant Misoyaki
Chef Roy Yamaguchi features this recipe in his book, Roy's Fish & Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. Misoyaki is a miso-based glaze for meat and fish similar to teriyaki. Here, Chef Roy adapts a favorite childhood recipe for Eggplant Misoyaki and pairs it with pan-seared mahi mahi. Serve this dish with steamed saffron rice and edamame. The recipe calls for sake; serve glasses of the remaining sake, slightly warm, alongside the mahi mahi.
- 1/2 cup red miso
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 8 Japanese eggplants, halved lengthwise, or 2 large eggplants, sliced into sixteen 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 1 cup olive oil, divided
- 8 (7-ounce) mahi mahi fillets
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat broiler on high. In medium bowl combine miso, sugar, mirin, and sake. Stir until sugar dissolves. Score eggplant halves in crisscross pattern. Brush with 1/2 cup olive oil. In grill pan over medium-high heat or over medium-hot coals of charcoal grill, grill eggplant, flesh side down, 3 to 4 minutes or until cooked halfway through. Transfer to roasting pan, flesh side down. Brush eggplant with miso mixture; turn eggplant flesh side up. Place under broiler 4 to 5 inches from heat; cook 3 to 4 minutes until eggplant skin is caramelized. Remove from oven; keep warm.
Season mahi mahi with salt and pepper. In large skillet heat remaining 1/2 cup olive oil until oil is hot and shimmering. Sear mahi mahi 2 to 3 minutes per side until opaque throughout. To serve, place 2 eggplant halves or slices on each plate; top with fish. Makes 8 main-dish servings. (Recipe may be halved.)
Recipe adapted from Roy's Fish & Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim, by Roy Yamaguchi with John Harrisson, © 2005 by Ten Speed Press. Used by permission.
Haupia (Coconut Milk Pudding) with Fresh Fruit
Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian pudding-like dessert. Chef Roy dresses it up by piping it into cannoli shells and serving it alongside fresh fruit and puréed mango dotted with strawberry sauce. This recipe needs to chill overnight.
- 4 cups unsweetened coconut milk, chilled
- 2 cups water, divided
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 12 cannoli shells
- Cubed fresh fruit, such as mango, kiwi, or strawberries
- Pureed mango sauce dotted with strawberry sauce (optional)*
In saucepan bring coconut milk, 1 cup water, and sugar to boil. Meanwhile in bowl combine remaining 1 cup water with cornstarch. Add cornstarch mixture to coconut milk mixture; stirring until mixture returns to boil and thickens. Remove from heat. Pour mixture into 8-inch-square pan. Cover with plastic wrap so wrap touches top of haupia. Cool to room temperature. Chill overnight.
To serve, spoon haupia into pastry bag fitted with medium point. Fill cannoli shells; chill 1 hour. Using serrated knife, cut shells in half vertically. Stand 3 half-shells on end on each dessert plate. Serve with cubed fruit and mango/strawberry sauce.* Makes 8 servings.
*To make sauce, puree mango in blender until smooth. Press through fine-mesh sieve; discard solids. Dot serving plate with sauce; place drop of strawberry sauce in center of mango sauce.
Award-winning chef Roy Yamaguchi of Roy's Honolulu restaurant provided the food and recipes for Michelle's dinner.
Find Roy's Honolulu (Hawaii Kai) restaurant at 6600 Kalanianaole Highway, Honolulu, HI 96825; 808/396-7697; or go online to Roy's Restaurant.