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Archive for Wednesday, September 3, 1997

HAWAIIAN LUAU MAKES A BIG SPLASH AT ALVAMAR

September 3, 1997

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A Hawaiian luau makes a big splash at Alvamar Country Club.

They leied it on and didn't stop until the last tiki torch went out.

The kitchen staff at Alvamar satisfied the appetites of more than 150 impromptu Hawaiians at the club's first luau, held during the Labor Day weekend.

The feast came complete with tropical fish balloons and glass fish bowls with live inhabitants that served as centerpieces for the occasion. A "volcano," ice sculpture and palm trees completed the look, but the piece de resistance was the food.

"It takes something like this to get people fired up," said diner Don McDow, who left his Hawaiian shirt at home but not his spirit. He jumped up and crooned lyrics to island songs, provided by musicians John Lomas and Keith Bowsher, between the main course and dessert.

"I can't stand not to sing," said McDow, warbling on a full stomach.

Conch fritters, coconut fried shrimp, fresh mahimahi in banana leaves, Alaskan snow crab, a salsa bar, teriyaki kabobs, jerk chicken, fried rice, two smoked pigs and an array of fresh fruit tempted serious noshers.

Sounds like a mouthful, and it was. Executive Chef Lee Jennings and his staff spent three days assembling the buffet.

"Everything's fresh," Jennings said. "We have every fruit that's in season."

Jennings ordered purple potatoes from Hawaii just for the occasion, but also included Kansas staples like yellow wax beans.

"I think we've got it all here," he said.

Sous Chef Leland Oxley carved the macaw and toucan ice sculpture using a chainsaw and Japanese carving tools. He started the piece in the Alvamar kitchen but, with temperatures hotter than a Kansas August, quickly moved to cooler quarters.

"The ice was melting faster than I could carve," Oxley said. "So I moved it to the freezer, and my shoes were filled with ice chips, which isn't so bad when the kitchen is so hot."

Oxley has created ice carvings for two years, but he's concentrated on culinary sculptures even longer. One of his creations for the luau was a "palm tree" created by attaching palm leaves to a base of stacked pineapples. Other delicacies included strawberries circling a watermelon and a carved cantaloupe bird.

While the grass-skirted wait staff took most diners to the islands, one was firmly planted on Jayhawk soil.

"It's just fun to see this many people out in Lawrence after a big football win," Bob Billings said. "This is a spinoff of that."

Billings declared the luau a success and gave a thumbs up when the term "annual event" was mentioned.

"I know the chefs work really hard, and that would be great," he said. "Maybe we'll even make it weekly."

The luau and its exotic dishes can be recreated on a smaller scale in local kitchens. All of the food on the buffet can be purchased in local grocery stores and Asian markets.

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