Only the leaves blowing past my living room window gave evidence of the day’s chill—the weather in my house was a balmy 80 degrees, and not a cloud in sight. Crepe paper Hawaiian flower banners were strewn across the mantle and apple-scented candles were lit in tiki torches—the party vibe was strong, ready to transport my guests from a world of pumpkin spice to palm trees.
A month into fall, the novelty of the beautifully colored leaves and apple cider flavored everything had started to blur into the realities of stormy weather and wet dashes to my car. The forecast kept calling for rain, so I dreamt up a fall luau party to bring a spot of sunshine to a stormy weekend. By blending tropical flowers with colorful maple leaves for decor, and serving up a delicious grilled tropical fish dinner paired with pumpkin mochi cake, I was ready to break out my corn husk hula skirt and throw a Tropi-Fall Paradise Luau!
Crafting a Tropical Autumn Oasis
To set the tone for a spectacular fall luau, I draped the edges of my dining room table with grass skirting and strings of sunflowers, then propped up tiki god totem poles fashioned out of stacked apple picking baskets with construction paper faces. Pinecones became pineapples, once painted yellow and topped with a few spikes of green paper glued into place.
Since pumpkins are aplenty this time of year, I also crafted a simple sea turtle centerpiece to “swim” in the middle of our food display. Cutting a large pumpkin down the middle, I used one half to create a turtle shell with tribal patterns carved into it, and carefully sliced the other half into arm and leg fins, and a cute turtle head. Even more pumpkins were used to make tiki god heads with autumn-inspired jar candles lit inside them.
But I couldn’t be the only one bringing the beach vibes! I had challenged everyone to get creative with their party attire—Trevor and Emily stole the show in their get-ups of matching leaf-print sweater vests, paired with floral board shorts for him and tropical flower leggings with fluorescent rainboots for her. John also rocked the fall luau garb in a “grass skirt” he constructed out of fall leaves worn over a wetsuit—snorkel securely in place.
A Fall-Inspired Luau Menu
An underground spit to roast a full-sized pig would have meant battling the autumn winds—not to mention a huge hole in my backyard—so I served up fresh grilled mahi-mahi crusted with macadamia nuts. The recipe was simple enough to make while my guests arrived and mingled:
- Before the party, I combined roasted macadamia nuts, butter, and panko in a pan and set aside. I also brushed the mahi-mahi with vegetable oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, wrapped the fillets in foil, and placed them in a baking pan.
- Once we were ready to eat, and the oven was heated to 425 degrees F, I baked the mahi-mahi for 5 minutes while warming the butter, nut, and panko mixture until the butter melted, stirring occasionally.
- Next, I pulled the pan from the oven to quickly brush the fish with coconut milk, and to top each fillet with the nut mixture, before baking for another 5 to 10 minutes.
I also prepped some simple teriyaki chicken and veggie skewers to pull in more flavors of the tropics. By simply brushing a teriyaki marinade on kabobs of chicken, bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms, I was able to grill them up nicely in the oven—no BBQing in the rain required. A friend even brought fried spam and rice, Hawaiian classics.
A variety of tropical fresh fruit cut into shells, starfish, and leaves using cookie cutters paired perfectly with a light and fluffy pumpkin mochi cake. And I ordered handmade cookies decorated as a blend of Hawaiian flowers and autumn leaves—they were so cute they doubled as table decor!
Beach Party Games for the “In” Crowd
After our feast, someone turned up the tunes and we danced like our bare feet were in hot sand. With the dance party well underway, I introduced this funny spin on a hula dancing contest:
- I collected a few empty tissue boxes, painter’s tape, and plenty of acorns.
- After filling the tissue boxes with 10 acorns each, I taped a tissue box to the backside of each participating guest’s pants.
- Then, we cranked up the ukulele music and watched to see who could hula the hardest until all of their acorns fell to the floor like out of a wind swept tree.
Once everyone had shaken out their acorns and loosened up their nerves, we set up a limbo stick made from a cornstalk. As the classic Limbo song and other Luau melodies played on the speakers, we all got a little bent out of shape vying for the coveted prize of a vintage tiki head coffee mug to add a little extra feeling of warmth to a fall morning cup of joe.
To cool off after all the dancing and shaking, I filled a kiddie pool with water so everyone could bob for mangos. It was a riot to watch, as we soon discovered that mangos are a bit more challenging to bite than apples—a bit of water ended up splashed about my kitchen, and more than a couple of my friends nearly submerged themselves trying to get the mangos out.
Gifts of Pocket-sized Paradise
Once we had danced our best hula, limboed the night away, and feasted on luau favorites new and old, it was time to call it a night—and come back to the reality of the fall weather outside. But I wanted to make sure my friends took a little bit of the warmth of the tropics with them into the chill as we said “aloha,” so I sent them off with favor bags filled with Hawaiian mango sugar scrub and a Tiki Room-inspired candle to bring a spot of sunshine to their own homes. I hope it becomes a new tradition for my friends to gather together and soak up some chill beach party vibes each autumn at a Tropi-Fall Paradise Luau.
The Elves are professionals at bringing the warmth of paradise to your fall party! Check out our Luau must haves, and keep the party going by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter @Elfster, and sending some Luau love to our Instagram @Elfstergram.
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