Now that Food52's Editorial Assistant Brette Warshaw has stocked her First Kitchen, she's ready to throw parties in it: no-stress weeknight parties for anyone, anytime, and (almost) every kitchen. You're invited.

Today: A game plan for a Tiki party -- on a Wednesday in February.


Shop the Story

How do you get a group of work-worn, dark-eye-circled, backpacked-and-hunched-over people over to your apartment on a bitter, cold Wednesday night?

You could tell them, with a wink, to wear flip flops and sunglasses. (That didn't work -- there was a MILFs and pool boys party around the corner last week. I'm still in college.) You could tell them that they'll be eating with their hands. (But to be honest, they'd do that home alone anyway.)

Or you can tell them you'll feed them piña coladas and pineapple upside-down cake. They'll come running.

Buoyed by sugar and alcohol, the middle-of-February Tiki Party was on.


The Menu

My Favorite Piña Colada (x 20)
Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts
Fish Baked in Foil with Fennel and Lime
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

The Plan

The night before: Pineapple time. I sliced the pineapple for the piña coladas. I made Mom's Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, which freed up my oven for the party. And I was able to scrub my kitchen free of sticky pineapple juice well before I expected company.

My Mom's Pineapple Upside Down Cake

As soon as I got home from class: Instead of cooking one whole, big, takes-an-hour-to-cook fish, I decided to serve one small fish per guest. This would shorten my cooking time -- to around 25 minutes! -- and would make the party feel more refined, more personal. Some rubbing, some mandoline-ing, and the fish were ready for their packets; I stuck them all, sealed and ready, in the fridge.

Fish Baked in Foil  Fish Baked in Foil 1

Next: To go with the fish, I cleaned some baby potatoes. These would be boiled and dressed with parsley, garlic, cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, and lots of black pepper.

A half hour before my guests arrived: Onto the water chestnuts. I readied a batch -- "readying" equaling painting bacon with mustard and brown sugar and rolling water chestnuts in it -- and put them on a baking sheet.

Fifteen minutes before my guests arrived: Water chestnuts in the oven. Bacon smell everywhere. 

Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Party time: Water chestnuts, out of the oven. See your friends' eyes grow wide, see them grab, see them fight -- and then force them to make a new batch for themselves. Turn on the blender; serve them piña coladas

My Favorite Pina Colada

While your friends are bacon-wrapping and chutney-dipping: Focus on the main event. Throw the fish in the oven once your last batch of water chestnuts are out. According to Mark Bittman, they'll be ready eight minutes after they start sizzling; hang out by your oven with a piña colada and your ears peeled.

Once the fish are in: Boil your potatoes. Ready your dressing.

Five minutes into the fish-sizzle: Seat your guests at the table. Dump the potatoes into a bowl; toss them with your garlic, parsley, vinegar, and olive oil. Pull your packets out of the oven, and put one in front of each guest. No silverware allowed.

Fish Baked in Foil with Fennel and Lime

When the bones are picked clean, and everyone is beachy and sticky and happy, whip out the pineapple upside-down cake and some vanilla ice cream. And embrace the fact that you just threw a weeknight party -- and you have one bowl to clean.

Looking for another tropical, tiki, middle-of-winter recipe? Lime n' the Coconut Cheesecakes are the answer.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Amanda Shulman
    Amanda Shulman
  • Kitchen Butterfly
    Kitchen Butterfly
  • Brette Warshaw
    Brette Warshaw
Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


Amanda S. February 19, 2013
I think Tiki parties should be thrown every day of the week.
Brette W. February 19, 2013
More party ideas to come. Wish there were more days in the week!
Kitchen B. February 19, 2013
Oh my, what a primer for success. Leaves are coming out of your book - I'm going to find a good weeknight :-). Well done Brette.
Brette W. February 19, 2013
Thank you so much! Stay tuned for more ideas :)