February is generally a loser of a month in this hemisphere north of the tropics. The holidays are over; skies are frequently gray, and spring seems a long way off. That’s why members of Precinct 15 (precincts are what we call neighborhoods here in Carolina Meadows) voted to throw a dinner party in the tropics on February 15. If we weren’t going to be lolling under actual palm trees, we could enjoy a feast of tropical goodies while wearing our best tropical duds and ignoring the chill outside.
The question was, where in the tropics did we want to “go”? There were the usual suggestions, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Cabo San Lucas, Maui, Tahiti etc. In the past many of us had actually visited those places and enjoyed their ambiance and various cuisines. Then a few folks suggested we go someplace truly exotic like Bali and enjoy a Rijsttafel dinner from the Dutch East Indies. (Rijsttafel means “rice table in Dutch and involves numerous Indonesian recipes.) Precinct members voted overwhelmingly for this option.
I approached the Executive Chef of Carolina Meadows, Jody McLeod, and asked what he thought about creating a Rijsttafel dinner. Chef Jody, who had spent years in Asia learning its various cuisines, got a big smile on his face and said, “That would make me so happy.” Now the key to a great meal is a happy chef, so we were ready to go. Chef Jody worked to put together a spectacular menu.
The next steps involved creating décor that would evoke the beautiful island of Bali. Susan Gaca, our talented resident artist, offered to create a large piece of art to set the tone for the evening. She interpreted a travel poster from the Internet and came up with a stunning silhouette of a Balinese dancer. Three dimensional Indonesian masks were assembled and mounted on the Marketplace walls where the dinner would be held. Pictures of shadow puppets added to the colorful display. Table décor consisted of white table coverings topped by large palm leaf placemats. Vases with palm fronds and red lady slipper silk orchids served as centerpieces. Scattered seashells completed the look.
Sixty-eight precinct members attended, dressed in bright tropical wear. Some men sported colorful jackets and wore tropical straw hats while some of the ladies wore flowers in their hair. They enjoyed sensational exotic dishes like Soto Ayam (a broth with bits of shrimp and accents of lemon grass and turmeric), Gado-gado (Indonesian salad), Beef Rendang, Balinese Chicken Satay, Babi kecap (savory pork) and Nasi goreng (rice with sauce and various vegetables). Dinner was capped off by Pisang goreng aka. banana fritters to die over.
Our evening Bali in proved to be a wonderful one. We only wish our visit could have lasted a bit longer.