Spicy Green Mango

--Living and eating with a dash of whimsy and a sprinkling of spice--

  • I'm a budding food-tographer turned blogger who's insanely passionate about food..real food...the kind that sprouts from the earth and you have to wash it to eat it. Yes, hearty real food. I live to eat and I eat to live and am loving every bit of it! If you're here, then I suppose we share the same passion! Enjoy!

Posted by Spicy Green Mango 87 comments

Thank you for all my wonderful fans/friends/foodies/blogstalkers for your votes. Here's my 3rd entry for  
Project Food Blog's Challenge on dishing up a luxury dinner sans the fuss! 
Your task is to cast your vote and tell me if  you would have loved to RSVP to this dinner.  Show your love by clicking here on the heart or on my Project Food Blog widget on the right of the screen.  Voting for Challenge 3 begins Monday, October 4 and runs thru Thursday, October 7 at 6pm (PST).

When I think of luxury, my mind immediately takes me back to Hawaii, stirring up memories of me sipping on mai tais and oozing aloha attitude through and through. A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to have a special somebody in my life call this island his home. While the island's azure waters and bountiful fresh produce & seafood left me happy as can be, what I truly miss about our time in Hawaii was what some refer to as the "aloha spirit" (thanks, Liren) or in my case, the "aloha attitude" where smiles are shared liberally, luring you to pause and smell the plumerias.  We had the lifestyles of beach nuts, but the lavish taste buds of passionate epicureans.

I miss walking into a fine dining establishment with sand between my toes, sporting my flip flops after having just stepped foot off the beach and being greeted with a warm, friendly smile--those days made me understand right then and there that great food didn't have to come with all the fuss.

LUXURY sans the FUSS:
The idea behind this type of dinner party is to incorporate casual elements into the evening, while still retaining certain luxurious touches into the menu selection, tablescape décor, and whatever else you feel embodies luxury dining in your book.  I really feel that the simplest details can exude luxury, such as keeping my florals fresh and earthy with special attention paid to what's local and in season. 

And quite honestly, I am not a fan of places that adhere to a strict dress code--it really takes the fun out of eating in my world.  Tell me this:   How am I supposed to enjoy a meal when the lovely dress I picked out for my date also means that I can only nibble on my dinner b/c I'm too self-conscious that my zipper might pop? Or if I'm worried that my hubby is going to strangle himself because his tie is making him feel stuffy and uptight?  Yes, I repeat: strict dress codes TOTALLY detract from having Spicy Green Mango enjoy her meal.  Of course, this doesn't mean I'll show up to your dinners in cut-offs and a stained T-shirt.  Hey, I try to keep it classy, too, you know.

The timing of Project Food Blog’s Challenge 3 couldn’t have been more perfect — it was my hubby’s birthday weekend. When I told him I was tasked with planning a luxury dinner, he was skeptical at the idea, so he asked, “Honey, what am I supposed to wear?  A dress shirt and tie?” And just as those words escaped his lips, I knew he was dreading my reply.  As I sat anxiously brainstorming my dinner plans, I casually replied, “Your board shorts..like the time we were in Hawaii.”  If only I could capture that look of euphoria in his eyes, you could only imagine the huge sigh of relief that escaped his chest. I knew he wouldn’t object to anything else I had in mind. 

I kindly asked the rest of my guests to come as they were--as comfy as can be.  My dear friend, Jenny (also co-founder of a sustainable vintage shop--Retrofit Republic) even came dressed in her vintage pants with elastic waistbands---the woman is serious about her dinners :)

My initial desire was to create a non-frilly tablescape that was masculine, but with subtle touches of softness to freshen it up and make it a festive occasion. I opted for a cool color palette inspired from my days in Hawaii---sage to represent the azure waters of the Lanikai beaches and a soft yellow to symbolize the rays of sunshine. I also really liked that the colors were unisex. As I was shopping for flowers, I realized that the Craspedia Billy Ball flowers I had initially wanted were nowhere to be found, so I had to compromise with another yellow flower that turned out to be equally pleasing. I also opted for succulents b/c I love their natural design and desert allure (a striking contrast from the islands). The basil addition came on a whim as I was hunting for herbs in my parents' garden and was mesmerized by the beautiful stems of cinnamon basil blossoms sprouting among the pepper plants. I realized instantly that these basil had a special spot on my tablescape.



As soon as the sun transcended the horizon and we finished our early jog along the shores of Waikiki, our Saturday mornings in Hawaii were marked by a trip to the city's Chinatown to slurp down a hearty bowl of pho noodles before toting bags of golden pineapples and rosy rambutans from the open-air market vendors lining the stalls near King Street.

Having access to the freshest fruits, vegetables and fish on the island was undoubtedly the BEST part of living in the land of aloha.  As I reminisce about my moments on the island, how could I possibly pass up an opportunity to bring the flavors of the island back to the Mainland? Not a chance!

One of our favorite places in Hawaii was the Ocean House Restaurant  at the Outrigger---the setting is quite possibly one of the most picturesque and romantic spots along Waikiki.  Situated just steps from the beach, on any given evening, you can  listen to locals crooning  live music from the nearby bar, while the ambient flames from tiki torches can be seen swaying in the coconut-scented island breeze. The menu is both inspired by this special place and our recent vacation in Thailand--a co-mingling of two of our favorite beach destinations to date.  

Whatever dinner menu you decide to craft, remember that the best ones will have a story behind them.  It's not only a great topic of conversation, but it layers on a personal touch to your party.  When our guests arrived, they instantly knew what inspired our dinner menu and they were more than happy to partake in helping us relive those days of fine dining.


My sister can whip up the most whimsical designs and I absolutely adore her for that. We tag team b/c I get juiced with an inspiration, incorporate my artistic design elements and and then she takes it to a whole 'notha level.  The fresh meyer lemon cake (thank you, Ina Garten) with whipped vanilla buttercream and the birthday bunting decor was entirely her doing and then I topped it all off with fresh guava leaves from my parent's backyard along with presenting the masterpiece on my lovely wicker cake pedestal.  Her creativity inspires me and it keeps me beaming for more. 

The key lesson here is to commission (um, I mean ask..hehe) an earnest sous chef to also help with the preparation--it makes your life a heck of a lot easier and really gets somebody else to showcase their talents.  My sister professes that she is not a chef, but she can bake and bake well.  I have no complaints in this department, so I obliged.

Five minutes after singing the birthday song, this is what we had left.  Wish I could share it with all of you.


87 Responses

  1. Julia says:

    This is incredible. Who wouldn't want to be a dinner guest for a Spicy Green Mango production?!!!!!!

    So, so wish I could've been there.

  2. @Julia: We missed you! Next time, my dear, there shall be a next time :)

  3. Liren says:

    S t u n n i n g.

    I'm calmed by the aloha spirit of you post. I am in love with how you coordinated this so beautifully, with such ease - the colors are perfect, the food looks so vibrant and delicious! And your photos are just heavenly! Happy Birthday to your Spicy Green Hubby! You know you have my vote :)

  4. Absolutely beautiful! The colors are amazing and I love your theme. The soup is one of my favorites. Oh those photos - my mouth has fallen - they are just eye catching! Best of luck in the challenge - great job!!!

  5. @ Liren: Your words always bring a smile to my face. I know we both feed off each other's creativity, so I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

    @Lisa: Thank you, and please pick your jaw up from the floor :) Hehe. I'm sure you'll need it for dishing up your delicacies. I absolutely LOVE how you open up your kitchen and taste buds to new flavors.

  6. Bryt says:

    This looks wonderful. The decorations, layout, colour scheme etc, it all makes me think of something you would find on a Martha Stewart or Hostess with the Mostess website. Stunning :)

  7. You have such great taste! So many little details all combining to make a very special table. GREG

  8. Debbie says:

    Your table settings and photography is beautiful, well thought out and coordinated to perfection!

  9. This post is breathtaking!! You take such lovely photos that just draw you in. Great job and a big vote for you.

  10. Kelly says:

    This is gorgeous. I'm loving this contest because it's giving me the opportunity to discover so many bloggers I might have not otherwise followed. I think you did a great job and the photography is lovely, it really seems to capture the essence of your evening.

    Beautiful. You have my vote. I think this is going to be such a tough round. So many people did such amazing things.

  11. Danielle says:

    Your table looks so cute and the menu looks tasty too! Good luck in round 3!

  12. Amelia PS says:

    adorable table setting: so festive and summery. Voted.

    see my entry (a fall symphony) here: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/3/view/1094

  13. Simply stunning.

    Just voted for you!

  14. meseidy says:

    Love the post and all the great attention to detail. You got my vote. Hope to see you in the next round.

  15. Artistta says:

    Beautiful photos and place settings. Looks like it was a wonderful meal! You have my vote!

  16. Lori Lynn says:

    Your photos are so charming. And I love those little urchin vases. Best of luck to you!

  17. Trish says:

    Wow, looks like an amazing dinner. Your hubby must have been happy. Beautiful photos. I love the colors and the menu sounds incredible.

  18. Awe, thank you everyone for all your love. I read all of your sweet words and I'm just baffled:). Food bloggers and food lovers are simply the best! I am really grateful for everything.

  19. Isabelle says:

    What a beautiful party! Casual and laid-back, but in such a beautifully casual sort of way. It helps that your photos are absolutely gorgeous and totally capture the spirit of the day, too.
    You've got my vote. Good luck with this challenge!

  20. Heather says:

    What a lovely table! :) Great decorations.

  21. VOTEDDDDDDD! Good luck! Wish you all the best!

    jen @ www.passion4food.ca

  22. Absolutely stunning post! Good luck and hope to see you in round four :)

  23. GORGEOUS colors and concept! You definitely have a vote from me!

    My dinner party was designed to take the diner food from Gooch's diner, where my parents first met over 40 years ago, and elevate it to luxury for their 39th wedding anniversary. Come see if you'd like :)

  24. I really really love the way you decorated for this party, It feels really fresh and definitely tropical! I would love to replicate some of your ideas, and definitely your menu. Great job, definitely got my vote. :)

  25. I love that PFB keeps introducing me to new blogs! It was such a pleasure to peek into your dinner party. And really, who doesn't want to eat great food wearing comfortable shorts? You've got my vote :)

  26. Lana says:

    Beautiful blog you have here! The decor is subtle, very refined, just right color scheme. You and your sister are very talented. Good luck with the challenge. I wish you the best.
    Of course, you've got my vote.
    Go Bears! (my daughter is at Cal):)

  27. great post - love your theme!

  28. Stunning. Really really well done. I voted for you! =)

    Good luck! fingers crossed for both of us to make it through to the next round! =)

  29. edible says:

    Lovely lovely. You could do this professionally! Unlike me, who will need counseling before attempting another dinner party lol! You got my vote :D http://bit.ly/cNNCrR

  30. You knocked this one out of the park! Your setting is beautiful, and your menu captures so many vibrant colors and flavors. You're getting a vote for sure!

  31. @Bryt: Thank you. I like to think of it as a fun and festive version of Martha, mixed with a bit of Giada.

    @Greg,Debbie & Lisa O,Danielle, RhodyGirl, : Thank you very much!

    @Kelly: Awe, thanks so much! I know, I love discovering new blogs and making new foodie friends along the way.

    @Meseidy: Yes, details are always the best part of parties..regardless if you play hostess or guest!

    @Artistta & Lori: Thanks so much!

  32. @Trish: Yes, he was quite a happy camper, indeed.

    @Isabelle: Thank you so much--you're a doll!

    @Heather, Jen & Stay at Home Chef: Thanks, everyone! You are all too sweet!

    @Julie: Awe, that is SOO sweet they're celebrating 39 wonderful years! I will definitely have to take a look at the evening.

    @Cilantropist: Replicate away, but I'm sure you'll add much of your cuteness to your dinners as well. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

    @Lawyer Loves Lunch: Haha, this made me smile! Yes, comfy shorts with elastic waistbands, for sure!

    @Lana: Oooh, a fellow bear cub! Love it! Tell your daughter to study abroad and enjoy every bit of being at Cal! Thank you!

    @Lauren & Jacob's Kitchen: Thanks soo very much!

    @edible: I maybe could do this as a pro..it's so much fun to think of creative themes and see them come to life. But hey, it's all a learning process, so you will do great!

    @Duo Dishes: Thanks, guys!

  33. Lingbo says:

    This is insane! I don't understand how you managed to successfully color match everything (plus the photos are divine) but amazing job, I'm in awe. You got a vote from me, dinner party rockstar!

  34. Winnie says:

    Beyond gorgeous photos of what was surely a spectacular party! Great job :)

  35. Love this post! I voted! Good luck!

  36. This is wonderful, and I can FEEL summer through your photos - they're amazing. As an Australian, I can really appreciate the Hawaiian ethos. When we have our summer dinner parties at home in Australia our guests leave their shoes at the door, and get straight into their swimming costumes. Nothing like a swim to work up an appetite!

    Well done, and I voted for you!


  37. @Lingbo: I purchase cups/plates/vases randomly in with no particular vision in mind, but knowing that one day, they will be put to good use and hoping that they'll somehow all come together.

    @Winnie & Full-time Mummy: Thank you!

    @Fiona: Thanks so much and yes, I am a HUGE fan of wearing flip flops or being barefoot. I really want to visit Australia...one day, it'll happen!

  38. Love the theme-menu-table!
    Great job.

  39. Any time I think my photos are starting to look good, I only need to look at other blogs to be humbled! Great looking meal.. You have my vote!

  40. Marisa says:

    Your table decor is exquisite!! You get my vote for sure.

  41. Outstanding ! I have a wonderful picture of eating with my feet in the sand :) Definitely would have loved to have been a guest at your dinner. You have my vote.

  42. My vote's with you. FUN FUN FUN and great photos.


    ps - check out my N'Awlins dinner and vote for me too http://bit.ly/bjlTA5

  43. Peggy says:

    Your husband is one lucky man to have this dinner for his birthday! Everything was so elegant and uniquely planned! I love the presentation and write-up! Great job and good luck!

  44. Duchess says:

    Simply charming and beautiful! So very wonderful, best of luck!

  45. Marija says:

    Looks amazing!

    Voted :)

  46. Whitney says:

    SO cute! i love the flags and what a fun birthday party! Congrats on a job well done!



  47. Suzy says:

    Just beautiful...I would have loved to be a guest at this party! You've got my vote...good luck!

  48. I'm a fan of your relaxed dress code. The best way to enjoy a meal is in comfort. I would've loved to have been there, to enjoy the delicious food and thoughtful decor (did you put his age on the straw?). Instead, I'm voting. Good luck this week!

    Lick My Spoon

  49. It all looks delicious, food and photos! And virtual calories don't count, do they? (another slice of cake, please!) You have my vote!

  50. I want to go to Hawaii right now...or at least to your next Hawaii-inspired dinner party?? I'm not a dressing-up kinda girl so this is my kind of party! Your table settings and decorations are gorgeous and the food look absolutely amazing. Good luck in PFB!

  51. Everything looks so fresh and beautiful - I love how you have the same color theme running through all the elements. My vote's in. Good luck!

  52. @Debi & Marisa: Thank you and glad you enjoyed it!

    @Curt: Thank you and I, like you, also find humility by touring other blogs. Inspiration is everywhere!

    @Wheels & Lollipops: Cute! I love it! Post a picture on you blog!

    @Lighthearted Locavore: Nice, thank you! I'll check out your NOLA dinner.

    @Peggy, Duchess & Marija: Thank you, ladies!

  53. LOVE the presentation - you've got my vote!! :)


  54. peter says:

    Great idea to combine with a birthday party! And being from Florida, I agree with the casual dress!

    You got our vote, and thanks for visiting our entry!

  55. Oui, Chef says:

    A great idea and execution, you get a vote from me!

  56. Jun Belen says:

    WOW! What an impressive table setting, menu and a lovely post!! Happy Birthday to your husband!! That meyer lemon cake looks so good, I want to have a slice, please. Actually everything looks and sounds so good! Well done!!

  57. Wow, I'm SO impressed! Your party looks completely professional :) The table is beautiful and all the food looks amazing! I'd love to RSVP to this :)


  58. Foodie says:

    Great post, love it!

  59. Jessica says:

    Wow! Love the photos! Looks amazing! Hope we both make it to the next round! :-) You have my vote!

  60. What a terrific dinner party !! Looks like an oasis in a busy world and I would love to have been there! You get my vote!

  61. Anonymous says:

    What a fantastic post--the menu is amazing; the table is perfect; the dress code? Dead on! You sure have one of my votes:)

  62. Fantastic photographs. I am insanely jealous of your skill with the camera. The food looked amazingly delicious as well. You have my vote.

  63. @LickMySpoon: Awe, I saw your dim sum post and realized I have yet to master the art of folding them. And yes, that is his age on the drink straw flags and everything else. Haha. The secret's out.

    @Leslie Uhl: Nope, virtual calories are the best b/c they sure don't count. We had plenty of cake left, so it would have been great to feed more foodies such as yourself :)

    @BigAppleNosh, Peter, Oui, Foodie, Jessica and Deborah: Awe, many thanks guys! I wish I could have invited many more of you!

    @Jun: Thanks, Jun. It's always sooo great to visit your page and drool over your photographic magic. Next get-together, I'll have to bring cake for sure!

    @WeAreNotMartha: Haha, I love your blog name...so clever. Thank you much!

    @onlinepastrychef: Your comment made me smile...a lot! Thank you. My hubby would agree that the dress code was definitely dead on.

    @Joanne: Thank you, but photography is definitely a work in progress. I have no technical know-how whatsoever, except maybe on aperture and ISO but that's pretty much the extent of it. I eat with my eyes, so whatever it decides looks good, that's what you end up getting on this blog.

  64. Would I have RSVP'ed? In a heartbeat. I'd even have worn shorts if required :) Voting now.

  65. @Spud: Haha! Board shorts or stretchy pants, you got it!

  66. Woww !!! Your table is so colourful, it oozes good humour, joie de vivre....AND then the food !!!!
    Congratulations! You have my vote!

  67. Natalie says:

    voted for you! hope we both move forward. :)


  68. Anonymous says:

    Wow!!!!!!!!this is Heaven Luxury dinner!!! What a such creative idea of table setting, color theme, decoration, food, drinks, and What!!! a Great idea of using guava leaves to decorate the cake!!! Yum Yum

  69. Anna says:

    loved everything about your dinner,the pictures are amazing you definitely got my vote and I'm glad I found your site...I'm hooked, good luck in this round.

  70. Wow! Gorgeous! Stunning! I've been rendered practically speechless. Would have LOVED to be at that party. I'd vote for you twice if I could!

  71. Caroline says:

    discovered your blog through Liren and just got to thank her, your blog is gorgeous all around and this dinner party I adore. You really captured the aloha spirit! :) You got my vote.

  72. The food looks amazing and the table setting is just so pretty. Great post and you got my vote. Good luck!

  73. ~Lisa~ says:

    Stunning and beautiful party! Love the décor and the menu. My vote is in for you

  74. Krissyp says:

    Absolutely stunning! You literally just blew my board shorts off :) Amazing menu, table setting, and that meyer lemon cake OMG! Beautiful job, you have my vote.

  75. Katja says:

    I want that Lobster! Yum- I voted for you- Good Luck! Can you vote for me in a different contest? http://ctvr.us/marinamarket It ends on the 10th.

    Thank you!

    licorice, chocolate and other foods to love

  76. Katja says:

    I voted for you- Good Luck! Can you vote for me in a different contest? http://ctvr.us/marinamarket It ends on the 10th.

    Thank you!

    licorice, chocolate and other foods to love

  77. LOVE your decor AND your menu! wow, i'm totally envious of your party decorating skills :)

  78. Anonymous says:

    What a perfect birthday dinner! I love the idea of dressing down, while still having all the elements of luxury! Your table looks beautiful, and the food looks great... good luck!

  79. Butter says:

    Wow, well look at this! How gorgeous is that table setting? You really did an amazing job and certainly raising the bar on this competition.This is my idea of luxury and love your thoughts on dress code :) Your hubby is lucky to have you "not fuss" over his birthday party...lucky guy and I have a feeling he knows it. Great job. Love the presentation of your appetizer...and everything else. And really like your butter shot :) That cake...ooh lala, that cake! I voted...of course!

    - Butter
    (from Running On Butter)

  80. Beautiful!!

  81. Mase says:

    Hi Nut,

    This looks wonderful! It totally has your signature style to it. I'm sooo proud of you. Wish I was there for the party. Maybe next time. Can't wait to see the next party. You've always did have an eye for finding the balance between beauty and structure. - Best, M.

  82. @BAtoParis, Natalie, Anon, Anna, Margaret, Caroline, SSL, Lisa, CookEatLove: Thank you, thank you! You are all soo sweet! I wish I could have invited all of you!

    @Krissyp: Haha! You are hilarious! Love it! Thank you and yes, the cake was deee-lish!

    @Katja, EatDuckIMust: Thank you! The had most of the stuff in my house lying around waiting to be put to good use and the succulents were purchased at Home Depot :)

    @DanasFoodForThought: I love being able to enjoy my food without pomp and circumstance.

    @Butter: Hello Butter..I love your name, BTW. Thanks so much and you would have been the perfect guest b/c you adore all the little details that went into planning this dinner and I love people who can appreciate the heart that goes into putting something like this together. And yes, I too, really like the butter shot.

    @Mase: Awe, thank you nut. Next time you're in town, you know which doorbell to ring :)

  83. Very beautiful! Your food and pictures looks like from a wedding reception :)

    I've been reading all wedding magazines lately because I'm planning my wedding and these pictures could go on those magazines.

    Very nicely done :)

  84. montekita says:

    You are truly an artist Chandara! Love your blogs!!!

  85. Your table is breathtaking!

  86. Congrats Congrats going onto challenge #4!!! Must be exciting for you! Good luck and all the best. Happy Thanksgiving to you! You'll be getting the next vote from me :) Your awesome!

    Have a happy thanksgiving!
    jen @ www.passion4food.ca

  87. Fantastic! This doesn't look like something I'd usually pick up but I will admit that the premise has gotten me intrigued!
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