Sadly for decades, homemade "Polynesian" food meant ghastly suburban gastronomy: Charred meat in sticky, salty marinades, tragic deep fried shrimp, and neon-colored fruity rum drinks--perfectly, nay desperately, suited for washing down broiled rumaki--bastardized versions of the recipes created by master mixologists like Joe Scialom and Don Beach. But by the mid-1980s, underground culture hunters had discovered and fallen in love with tiki via the music of Martin Denny and vintage clothing, a fantasy detour on the path carved by punk and set to work revitalizing the style.
Trader Vic's vision was revived and bamboo backyard bars became cool again as whole segments of Gens X, Y and Z surfed the waves, embracing and mutating pre- and post-World War Two exotica into total sensory celebrations with their own tribal drumbeats. Thankfully that included upgrading Americanized island fare from flaming fried pu pu platters and cloying cocktails to a current palate with authentic flare, carrying the Tiki torch and maintaining the aura of gustatory adventure and frolicsome innocence that characterized the mid-century lure of the South Seas.
Thursday August 19 to Sunday August 22 in San Diego, at Tiki Oasis,post-modern potlatchers celebrate all things tiki in floral prints and authentic bark cloth garb, decorated with shell necklaces and wallet chains, their tattooed skin glistening beneath SPF 50+ as the longest-running gathering luau celebrates its ten year anniversary with a vast array of exotic events, many of which are designed for the whole family. Explains Tiki Oasis co-organizer Baby Doe von Stroheim:
There is something for everyone at Tiki Oasis and this is explicit in the daytime activities. We have a Tiki Tots craft room where kids can partake in fun tasks like making tikis out of toilet paper roll, a Pin-Up class where woman can learn the art of retro style make-up and hair tips, a Car Show with pimped-out tiki mobiles and a class where you get to meet a real live mermaid! Not to mention our rum and foodie classes to get you inspired to keep the Aloha going all year round.
Every year Tiki Oasis sells out, and this year is no exception. But some events are free and open to the public, like the Friday night mixer at Bali Hai restaurant , Saturday's car show and book signing with Derek Yaniger, and Sunday's tiki marketplace and ukulele fest. And then there's the Tiki Art show benefiting Keep A Breast Foundation which is open to all the entire weekend, with an artists and models reception on Saturday afternoon. These free public events are held at the San Diego Crowne Plaza Hotel.
If you want to try your hand at throwing your own tiki event, mixologist Martin Cate, who's doing one sold out Tiki Oasis symposium on pairing rum and chocolate and another on the history and art of punch, offers this recipe:
The Top Notch Volcano by Martin Cate
Adapted from a recipe at Smuggler's Cove San Francisco
(serves one, but can be multiplied into a punch as desired)
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz pineapple juice
1 oz Trader Tiki Passion Fruit Syrup
.5 oz maraschino liqueur
1 oz silver rum
1 oz aged demerara rum
Combine all ingredients into an ice filled cocktail shaker and shake and strain into a goblet filled with fresh ice. Top with fresh grated cinnamon shaken over an open flame to toast the spices as they land on the surface of the drink.
Should you wish to go beyond rum punch, Tiki GoGo's Kelley Hawks--whose seminar at Tiki Oasis is also sold out--has a fresh take on tiki cuisine, catering for parties and events in the San Francisco and Bay Area using healthy often locally sourced ingredients.
Grilled Mahi -Mahi and Mango Satay with a Mai Tai Dipping Sauce
Mai Tai Dipping Sauce
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2cup dark rum
2 TBSP Orange Curacao
2 TBSP soy sauce or tamari
2 TBSP Hawaiian White Honey
1 TBSP fresh lime juice
2 tsp fresh ginger grated
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Pinch of red chile flakes
Mahi -Mahi & Mango Satay
1 pound fresh Mahi - Mahi, skin removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 large or 2 small unripe mangos, peeled and cut into I inch pieces
Grapeseed oil or cooking spray for the grill
Makes 2 dozen skewers
To make the dipping sauce, combine all ingredients together in a 1 quart container.
Warm sauce over medium high heat in a saucepan on the stove.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 -12 minutes.
Divide the dipping sauce in half and let cool.
To make satay, soak 24 six-inch bamboo skewers in cold water for at least 30 minutes.
Season fish with salt & pepper
Arrange fish on skewers with mango pieces,using only one piece of fish & 1 piece mango per skewer
Place fish skewers in shallow bowl and cover with half of the sauce.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for atleast 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat, or prepare an outdoor grill. Brush with oil
Remove skewers from marinade and discard that marinade.
Grill 1 minute on each side. Serve with reserved dipping sauce.
On the flip side, Americana archivist Charles Phoenix who's giving one of his delightful slide shows at Tiki Oasis, shares his kitschy, creative Thanksgiving experience, replete with a tiki turkey loaf and mashed potato volcano that moves beyond any home-ec class Gidget ever took.
Martin Cate explains tiki´s re-burgeoning popularity:
Tiki is spreading like wildfire across the globe. People are falling in love all over again with the charm, mystique and escapism offered by tiki for the same reasons it took off originally over 70 years ago: It's a break from the ordinary, a vacation in a glass at the bar on the corner.