RSVP to an Elegant Asian New Year
Master florist and event designer Dan Meiners celebrates the Year of the Goat with a bold red palette, splashes of gold and Asian recipes from Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions
Forget about commercialized and over-hyped Valentine’s Day. Thursday Feb. 19 brings a much more exotic holiday to celebrate: Chinese New Year. Why not throw together a China-chic soirée and invite friends over for dinner and cocktails in a glamorous red and gold setting? We asked master florist and event planner Dan Meiners of Studio Dan Meiners and event caterer Lon Lane of Inspired Occasions to dream up the ultimate Chinese New Year celebration.
Meiners and Lane have devised ultra-stylish weddings and some of the most memorable public and private galas in town for clients like Union Station and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The artistic duo did not disappoint with the Chinese New Year challenge, delivering a lavish red décor in Meiners’ studio event space, Pennway Place, and sophisticated and spicy Asian dishes by Lane. Lane took all of North and Southeast Asia as his inspiration for the menu, while Meiners envisioned a “tropical Chinese New Year” for the décor. “We used large, textured tropical leaves [Chinese fan palms] and spray-painted them gold for big drama,” says Meiners. The resulting centerpiece looks like a million bucks but the technique, he says, is “easy and cost-efficient.” Ditto the clusters of red paper lantern globes, hung at various heights that can be replicated easily at home. In fact, Meiners sourced much of his table décor at accessible international markets in town: World Market and Chinatown Food Market at City Market. There he found such treasures as the exquisite tins of Chinese tea that decorated the table and also served as party favors; the foil wrapped chocolate Chinese coins scattered about the tabletop amid a bed of raw jasmine rice, red votives and low planted red ginger; and gold Chinese dumpling-catcher baskets that he displayed decoratively across each place setting.
Asian details like a gold dumpling catcher and potted red ginger define the decor.
Bold China-red was the obvious color choice for a New Year’s table setting, accented with complementary colors like imperial gold and black. All three colors were apparent in Meiner’s personal set of Cartier dishes in the jaguar pattern, which were placed on gold chargers and paired with his set of Ercuis silverware in the Sequoia pattern. Meiners even spray-painted the wooden chopsticks for a black lacquer effect. It is these tiny details that lead to a cumulative impression of big drama. Chinese paper fans spray-painted red and marked with the calligraphy for “goat,” adorned the backs of each gold ballroom chair. Each guest’s name was rendered in Chinese as well as in English on the place card and propped in a silver, fortune cookie-shaped place card holder. A custom printed card, folded into the black linen napkins, explained to guests the symbolic meaning of Chinese New Year and 2015’s Year of the Goat (representing creativity, intelligence and calm).
Lon Lane and his son Stewart, who heads the culinary research and development division at Inspired Occasions, created an equally splendid menu fit for a Chinese emperor. However, they choose to take all of Asia for culinary inspiration, leading to a more diverse, globetrotting party menu. Their party appetizers of free-form maki wrapped in artful, multicolored and edible soy wrappers make for instant conversation starters, with fun mini soy sauce pipettes sticking out of the wraps, so guests can season to their own tastes. These interactive appetizers were composed of avocado, rice, cucumber and pickled ginger in a sesame soy wrapper; and fresh salmon with sushi rice, green onion and cream cheese in a yellow soy wrapper. A curried coconut milk soup with lemongrass, poached chicken and vegetables was served as the next course in carved out coconut bowls with lime and cilantro as garnish.
pork and mango skewers over Forbidden Black Rice (left) and free-form maki with soy sauce pipettes (right)
Lon’s Five Spice Chicken Salad served over Sesame Cashew Angel Hair Pasta [recipes below] is a delicious and portable party dish when served in paper Chinese takeout boxes and placed atop decorative Chinese joss paper. Joss paper, or “gold paper,” is used in China during ceremonial occasions like Chinese New Year and often burned as offerings in memory of the deceased. Another fun and impressive party dish is the bronzed platter of Lucky Pork Shoulder that Lon and his team prepared with mini bao (steamed Chinese buns) or mini pancakes to stuff the meat in and kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage), gochujang (a hot red paste), bok choy and cilantro as the condiments and garnish. And for the pièce de résistance, Lon prepared his dazzling pork and mango skewers served over forbidden black rice studded with red and yellow peppers and grilled pineapple. Forbidden rice is an ancient dish that was originally served only to Chinese emperors and will likewise make your guests feel like royalty.
For specialty cocktails, Lon recommends a golden apple martini served in edible gold leaf-rimmed glasses, a golden Buddha martini (citrus vodka, prosecco, orange juice, ginger, apricot and mango nectar) or a lychee martini garnished with lychee and a piece of dragonfruit. Custom fortune cookies can also be commissioned as surprise treats for guests, with the fortunes playfully tailored to the specific individuals and read aloud for entertainment.
Recreate this elegant Chinese New Year by Dan Meiners and Lon Lane and your new year’s fortune is sure to be bright, happy, chic and prosperous.
Dan Meiners offers complete floral and event design services at Studio Dan Meiners, a 6,000-square-foot event space, floral shop and home and lifestyle boutique located at 2500 West Pennway St., Kansas City, Mo., (816) 842-7244, danmeiners.com. Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions offers full menu creation as well as staffing, décor, lighting and music. Inspired Occasions is located at 6306 Morningside Drive, Kansas City, Mo., (816)444-8372, inspiredoccasionskc.com
Recipes by Lon Lane of Inspired Occasions
Five Spice Chicken Salad
(Serve over the Sesame Cashew Angel Hair Pasta in Chinese takeout boxes)
5 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons Chinese Five Spice
12 small shallots, minced
Zest of 3 oranges
1 small bunch cilantro or to taste
¼ cup honey
1 cup almonds
5 oranges, cut into segments
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
½ cup orange juice
Season chicken breasts with Chinese Five Spice and roast at 350° F for 15 minutes. Chill breasts and prepare remaining ingredients. All should be chopped small. Mix all ingredients and adjust seasoning to taste. Make the day of. Serves 12.
Sesame Cashew Angel Hair Pasta
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
1-1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
¼ cup Asian sesame oil
¾ teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup salted roasted cashews
1/3 cup water
1 pound of angel hair pasta
1-1/2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro, washed well, spun dry and chopped fine
Garnish: chopped salted roasted cashews and fresh cilantro sprigs
In a blender, blend dressing ingredients with salt and pepper to taste until smooth. Sauce may be made three days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring sauce to room temperature and stir before using.
Just before serving, in a 6-quart kettle, bring 5 quarts salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. In a colander drain pasta and rinse well under cold water. Drain pasta well and toss with sauce and chopped cilantro.
Garnish sesame noodles with chopped cashews and cilantro.
Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.