Summer Vacation at Home

Create a girls' night in with tropical drinks and fresh bites
Monica Hart

Photos by Brooke Clark | Monica Hart

If work and kids’ sports schedules eclipse some of your summer travel plans, you still can create a sunny and glam vacation getaway vibe — at home. On the summer entertaining must-have list: a few exotic ingredients, small tropical bites, luscious sips, fresh island flowers and succulent garden ideas. So here it is: From a DIY portable salad bar and a frothy hibiscus cocktail to tiny terrarium takeaways, go exotic at home and create your own girls’-night-in party just like Northwest entertaining and design expert Monica Hart. Oh, and by the way, this all looks fabulous — but it’s incredibly simple.

The Menu

  • Wild hibiscus and mandarin blossom drops with thyme
  • Ahi rosemary skewers
  • Roasted rosemary and truffle macadamia nuts in mini DIY parchment cones
  • DIY salad bar (topped with grilled prawns and papaya)
  • Homemade lemon, thyme and Parmesan crackers
  • Petite lemon and vanilla bean mango sorbet ice cream sandwiches

Wild Hibiscus and Mandarin Blossom Drop

DIY Tropical Cocktail Hour

If you’re looking for the kind of cocktail that sweeps you away to exotic climes — it’s this wild hibiscus and mandarin blossom drop with thyme simple syrup.

  1. Each guest gets a mini martini shaker of her own (from Cost Plus).
  2. Pre-fill each shaker with a cocktail — minus ice.
  3. Pre-rim glasses with freshly squeezed lemon juice and dip rims in vanilla bean sugar. Make vanilla bean sugar by storing a few vanilla pods in a container of superfine sugar. I always have some on hand.
  4. Garnish glasses with berries on fresh, woody herb stems. I used raspberries on woody flowering thyme stems from our garden.
  5. Refrigerate mini shakers tray-ready for when guests arrive, add ice and shake and serve.

Wild Hibiscus and Mandarin Blossom Drop

  • ½ shot of good vodka
  • ¼ shot of Hangar 1 Mandarin Blossom flavored vodka
  • ¼ shot of Hangar 1 Fraser River Raspberry flavored vodka
  • 1 teaspoon of wild hibiscus syrup
  • ¼ shot of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ shot of homemade thyme simple syrup (Make syrup with 1 cup sugar, one cup water and a few thyme sprigs. Simmer on the stove for a few minutes, cool, strain and chill. It’s great in ice tea, too.)

Ahi Rosemary Skewers

Tip: I love serving martini drops in pretty vintage stemware.

Ahi Rosemary Skewers

I call it tipsy cooking. Much of what I make and bake has a little somethin’ somethin’ in it, if you know what I mean, and this delish Ahi bite is no exception. The Ahi is cubed, skewered and marinated just before guests arrive. This dish is simple.

Whisk together a little quality olive oil, fresh lemon zest and lemon juice, gray salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and add a bit of Pernod, which is an anise liqueur. About ½ of a teaspoon should get it done. I like to grill these bites on strong rosemary stems picked from our kitchen garden.

Tip: If using herb stems, remove the leaves and soak in water for several hours. (I leave a few leaves on one end, keeping that part off the grill.) These Ahi rosemary skewers cook quickly. Serve hot, but still pink in the middle.

DIY Salad Bar

DIY Salad Bar

DIY Portable Salad Bar

Talk about fresh! This mini kitchen garden is only an arms-length from our kitchen door and it’s loaded with fresh greens. This was perfect source for my grilled prawn and fresh papaya salad! Once the guests arrive, pick the leaves just before tossing the salad, or let them snip their own salad ingredients.

  • This salad bar measures 24 inches by 30 inches, and it’s 3½ inches deep, making it easy to move around.
  • The frame is made of untreated lumber and a few sheets of mesh or window screen, attached with a staple gun, to hold in the soil.
  • Ball finials give it some flair. You can build your own portable salad bar, or have someone handy do it for you! You may even be able to talk your local hardware store into cutting the lumber.

Flower Ice is Nice

Dress up the first thirst-quencher with fleur glace. I greet my guests with refreshing flavored sparkling water on ice, glammed-up with gold chevron straws and ice cubes that have fresh garden herbs and edible organic flowers frozen within. You can grow your own edible organic flowers and herbs, or pick them up at your favorite market.

Lemon and Vanilla Bean Mango
Sorbet Sandwiches425_Hart_Spr14__2649

Store-purchased sorbet makes this do-ahead dessert an entertaining go-to.

  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 3 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of vanilla bean sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • Dash of salt
  • 3 ½ cups of flour
  • 1 pint of store-bought mango sorbet
  • 1 cup macadamia nuts toasted, cooled and chopped

Cream butter and add lemon zest, vanilla sugar, vanilla and vanilla bean in a mixer and process until smooth. Whisk the flour and salt together and add to the butter mixture; don’t overmix.

Divide dough in half, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Roll out the dough on a floured board. Cut into cookie size with a small fluted cookie cutter. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes, or until just golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Build your sorbet sandwiches and roll in chopped nuts. Freeze until ready to serve.

Monica Hart is a Northwest home, garden and design expert who loves fresh menus and stylish entertaining. Read more on her website at La Famiglia Design

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