Sunday, January 24, 2016

Puzzled in Paradise

Aloha from paradise.  For this week’s installment, Boxes and Booze has gone on location.  It was time to discuss another one of master puzzle maker Perry McDaniel’s fine confectionery creations, the “Hawaiian Hijinks Cake”.  In order to fully appreciate the puzzling nature of this finely crafted delicacy I felt compelled to seek out its inspirational source.  Going to Hawaii was challenging work, but someone had to do it.  Perry’s Hawaiin Hijinks is part of the “petit four” series of puzzle boxes he created which includes the “Pineapple Downside Over Cake” featured here previously.  The petit fours all look like deliciously edible tiny cakes in different colors and with small tasty details.

The Hawaiian Hijinks Cake by Perry McDaniel

Because of Perry’s woodworking skill and precision, they hide incredibly advanced and complex sequences of moves which are surprisingly tricky for such small objects.  The Hawaiian Hijinks is likely named for its use of Curly Koa, a beautiful exotic hardwood from Hawaii.  It gives the tiny confection a shimmering, layered appearance which is lovely and appealing.  Crowning it all is a little Hawaiian flower made from maple and bloodwood, with a tiny silver dot on top.  Unlike the other petit four puzzle boxes in this series, the Hawaiian Hijinks opens much like a very traditional Japanese puzzle box. It was crafted purposefully to resemble a “mame” style box, which translates as “bean” and refers to the tiniest of Japanese boxes. The Hijinks is amazing for its tiny, detailed interplay among the sliding panels.  The intricate work is impressive to behold.  You’ll be very satisfied when you finally bite into the secret hidden center of this petit four.

The master maker's mark ...

I've paired the petite sweet with a Hawaiian cocktail which has a secret of it’s own.  The famous “Mai Tai” might invoke images of the tropical Hawaiian paradise … but it was actually invented in California.  There are two competing stories about this cocktail.  It starts with a man named Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt.  In 1933 he opened what would become the very first “tiki bar” in Los Angeles, and named it “Don’s Beachcomber Cafe” (later known as “Don the Beachcomber”).  It became an instant hit with the Hollywood scene.  Rum was cheap, and Gantt was clever.  One of his drinks was called the “Mai Tai Swizzle”, and he is therefore often credited with having invented the drink first.  

I got the bartender here to work with me.  We did pretty well with what he had: The original recipe "Mai Tai" from Vic Bergeron as described by Beachbum Berry

Meanwhile, up in Oakland California, Victor Bergeron had opened a little bar called “Hinky Dink’s” in 1934.  It evolved along with the trends into a tiki bar and was renamed “Trader Vic’s”.  The story, as told by Vic himself, is that in 1944 he mixed up a new recipe for friends from Tahiti.  Upon tasting the drink, one of them exclaimed, “Mai Tai - Roa Ae!” which translates as “Out of this world!” or “The best!” and the drink got its name.  Like most cocktail lore, the truth is likely a bit tinted by colorful liquor and competitive showmen, but most agree that Trader Vic’s original recipe was better anyway so he usually gets the credit.  A great Mai Tai is rum heavy and not too sweet.  It should include aged Jamaican rum, fresh lime juice, curacao (orange liqueur) and almond syrup (orgeat).  It’s really just a fancy daiquiri variation.  Of course, I try to see the daiquiri in everything, so that might be a stretch.  Now I’m going to take off my tie (I couldn't resist) and enjoy these wonderful “Hawaiian” treats.  Mahalo, and cheers!

Relaxing with a pair of Hawaiian originals - Aloha from Paradise 

For more about Perry McDaniel:

For a great Mai Tai recipe (from the new king of tiki, Beachbum Berry):

P.S. Perry McDaniel shared this photo with me from a local bakery of his, which brought some of his wooden confections to life.  Art imitates life and vice versa!

I see a few familiar puzzles here ... tastier than ever! Thanks, Perry!

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