Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Reflections 2009

This Christmas was, at the same time, the most enjoyable and the most disappointing. Experiencing the wonder of the holiday through our son's eyes was an unforgettable experience. From the Christmas carols at church to the Honolulu City Lights display, he cherished every minute of it. One specific memory I will have of this Christmas was when our son went to see one of my mom's friends. She gave him a present and told him he could open it. Our son held it in his hands, looked at it, and with conviction told her, "No, I am going to put it under the tree. I have to wait for Christmas." Moments like these truly warm a parent's heart.
On the flip side, I posted this tweet about the irony of the season. The few times I decided to brave the mall, I saw nothing but greedy, rude, self-absorbed, opportunistic individuals obsessed with consumerism. Thankfully, I did most of my shopping very early or online, thereby avoiding most of the madness. Still, I find it disturbing that this, the "season of giving", seems to bring out the worst in people. When will we learn to appreciate our friends and loved ones over the spending and sales?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Café Kaila | Honolulu, Hawaii

Let me start by saying that I WANT to like this place, I really do. The food is excellent and I'm all about supporting local businesses, but my wife and I have had one too many bad experiences that will likely keep us from coming back. So what happened? Well, once we waited almost TWO HOURS for our food. Granted, it was crowded at the time, but TWO HOURS?! I could have walked across the parking lot to buy groceries at Foodland, gone home, cooked myself a meal, and consumed it in less time than that. Another time, our waitress seemed like she didn't want to be there and it was pretty obvious she didn't want us there either. Excuse me, but I thought it was nice to have customers in your restaurant. Today was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. The waitress asked my wife if she would like a refill on her plantation iced tea. My wife politely said, "no thank you, it was a little sour." So here comes the kicker... the waitress goes to the back of the restaurant to where the other employees are hanging out and says, "yeah, like I purposely put in the sour sauce." The rest of the staff then went on to make other comments about sour this and sour that, all within earshot of where we were sitting. WHAT. THE. #*$@?! I don't know if we've ever been treated so despicably.

Café Kaila
2919 Kapiolani Boulevard
Honolulu, HI 96826-3503
(808) 732-3330

Wifey ordered the Lox, but asked to sub avocado for the salmon. Everything was really fresh. Like I said, the food is excellent.

I ordered a spinach and mushroom omelette, but ended up with spinach and onion. How you mistake "mushroom" for "onion" is beyond me, but still, it wasn't bad and I probably would've overlooked it had we received better service.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Happy Hearts Mochi + Roy's Restaurant | Honolulu, Hawaii

This past Friday was wifey's birthday and I wanted to do something really nice for her. I started by ordering a sampler from Happy Hearts Mochi. Then it was off to an early dinner at Roy's in Hawaii Kai.

Happy Hearts
748 Hoawa Street
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 382-5714

6600 Kalanianaole Highway
Honolulu, HI 96825
(808) 396-7697

I'm pretty sure this is the best mochi you will find anywhere on this island. It's made fresh and with lots of TLC. Renee (@surfchik4jesus), the owner, was nice enough to wrap it up with a "Happy Birthday" sticker and delivered the package right to my door! You just can't beat that kind of service. I ordered a Sampler with 1 peanut butter, 2 pumpkin and 1 hazelnut chocolate. The pumpkin is a seasonal flavor available around the holidays.

I made dinner reservations at Roy's based on a recommendation from Lesli Ashburn (@macrohawaii).

Even before you order, they bring you a nice little dish of edamame. It was tossed in a sauce that had just the right amount of sweet and spicy.

Wifey ordered herself a Key Lime Pie Martini to drink.

A couple of friends of mine happened to be working that evening so they hooked us up with this complimentary appetizer. There was pork in it so guess who got to eat both ;)

Lesli specifically mentioned a vegetarian sushi that the Roy's in Waikiki had prepared for her, so we had to ask about it. It was packed with bok choy, asparagus, and other veggies and topped with a garlic aioli.

We also shared the Tomato salad. Heirloom tomatoes atop a bed of watercress, onion and goat cheese.

We asked our server for vegetarian entrée options and she said they could do tofu in place of the poached fish. It was topped with a cilantro pesto and drizzled with hot oil. I took a bite and actually preferred this to the fried tofu she had at Alan Wong's.

I ordered their Surf N Turf special and it was just massive. Two "bomboucha" beef ribs, four shrimp skewers, a piece of grilled salmon (hiding in the back), rice, and kim chee. I enjoyed the different flavors of the dish and despite it's size, didn't feel overly full afterwards.

For dessert, we ordered the Caramel Crème Brûlée. The custard tasted very much like dulce de leche.

They also brought out a special birthday cake on a personalized plate, which I thought was a nice touch. This dessert is called their Chocolate Decadence Cake. It was more like a block of rich fudge than a "cake," but it did live up to its name - it was both chocolaty and decadent.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was responsible for cooking Thanksgiving dinner for our family. I pretty much stuck with the planned menu - a traditional theme, with local flavor.

The turkey was done kalua style in the oven. Click here for a copy of the recipe.

To make the cranberry relish, I used fresh cranberries, sugar, crushed pineapple, a mixture of pecan and macadamia that I candied myself, and li hing powder. It's garnished with a couple of orange slices.

The yams were baked in sugar and covered with marshmallow. I dusted the top of the whole thing with cinnamon and li hing powder.

Here's a picture of my kim chee cornbread stuffing. It's made of onion, carrot, celery, fresh thyme and sage, butter, beer, kim chee, Zippy's cornbread, vegetable stock, and salt. Garnish is just a few sage leaves.

Instead of mashed potatoes, I went with garlic infused mashed Okinawan Sweet Potato. This is one of the simpler dishes, made with just potato, salt, butter, cream, and garlic.

Here's the picture of the full spread. You'll see some green beans in there. Those were marinated in a garlic-ponzu sauce and pan fried. They aren't much to look at, which is why I skipped the picture.

Here's the far end of the table. I shredded the turkey and served the white and dark meats separately. The gravy was also homemade: turkey gizzards, onion, carrot, celery, crystallized ginger, beer, shoyu, thyme, water, and cornstarch.

For dessert, I made a pumpkin haupia crunch. It's actually a combination of two recipes: pumpkin crunch from a coworker and haupia topping from @konaish.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

4 Kings | Honolulu, Hawaii

Our babysitter (aka my mom) has been sick, so last week's "date night" was a family outing to 4 Kings restaurant on Waialae Ave. Those of you familiar with the Kaimuki area would probably remember the space as being previously occupied by Green Papaya. It feels very homey, with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Overall, we enjoyed the food at this family-friendly establishment.

4 Kings
3579 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-8820

In addition to Green Papaya's location, 4 Kings has also retained some of their menu items. You'll find lots of vegetarian-friendly options here, which is a big plus for wifey.

There aren't very many places to sit, but we went early enough that we sat down right away. It began to fill up by the time we left, though.

Our son wasn't very hungry so they made him a special rice-only temaki.

I ordered the "spicy Thai noodle soup," which I'm presuming is their version of Tom Yum. The soup was very flavorful without being overly spicy.

Wifey got vegetable tempura and the veggie roll. Yes, I realize now that I should have turned the veggie roll around before taking the picture.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kalua Turkey Recipe


I used this recipe (given to me by my uncle) last year. It's very easy and the turkey tastes amazing - almost as if it came out of an imu. If I were doing a more traditional dinner, I'd brine the turkey for 24 hours and cook it upside down. If anyone's interested, I can post that recipe as well.

Prep the pan:
1. Line an aluminum pan with lots of foil, going from top to bottom and side to side. Make sure you have about two to three feet of foil hanging over the pan on all four sides, which will be used to make a seal.
2. Line banana leaves, if you can get them, in the bottom of the pan. Save some for the top of the turkey.
3. Then line the pan with ti leaves. Save some for the top of the turkey.

Prep the turkey:
1. Rinse the bird inside and out.
2. Take out the neck and the bag of gizzards.
3. Rub Hawaiian rock salt and liquid smoke all over, inside and out. I use Alea Hawaiian rock salt (the red one) and Mesquite smoke flavor.
4. Place the turkey in the pan.
5. Place the remaining ti leaves over the turkey, then the banana leaves.
6. From the sides, wrap and seal the turkey with the aluminum foil. Then do the same with the top/bottom foil. Wrap the foil as airtight as possible.

Bake at 300 degrees for eight (8) hours.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What are your plans for Thanksgiving?

I've been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my family for the past several years. I usually cook the usual turkey, stuffing, yams, etc. Don't get me wrong, traditional is not bad, but it is sure is boring. Being that wifey is back in school, she's also invited some friends over to share the meal with us. Since none of them are from here, I've decided to add some local flair to the usual fare. Here's what's on the menu so far:
• Kalua Turkey with Giblet Gravy (considering a gravy that's either miso-based or has a light ponzu flavor)
• Candied Ginger Cranberry Relish
• Kim Chee Cornbread Stuffing
• Roasted Garlic Infused Mashed Okinawan Sweet Potato
• Li Hing Pineapple and Yams
For those of you who are interested, I will post recipes as I come up with them.

So what about you? What are your Thanksgiving plans like?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ryan's Grill + The Pill Box | Honolulu, Hawaii

Last night, we had dinner at Ryan's Grill, a longtime favorite (when we were first married, we'd have dinner there almost every week). It's been awhile, though, since we'd been back and a gift card from @KaizenHawaii was a good excuse to return.

Ryan's Grill
1200 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 591-9132
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The Pill Box Pharmacy
1133 11th Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-4966

Of all the restaurants that used to occupy the second floor of Ward Center, Ryan's is the only one to have survived. I think that speaks to the quality of food and service.

Our first appetizer was the Jamaican Jerk Fries. Wifey was disappointed that they don't make them like they used to. She remembers them being thin and crispy, with the seasoning evenly distributed throughout. Last night's fries were cut thick and all the spices were clumped in the middle.

The spicy edamame, too, was different. It was sweeter and not as spicy. It wasn't bad - just not what we were used to.

Wifey ordered the Pizza Insalata. It's a four cheese pizza, topped with bruschetta, basil, and mixed greens. She said it was absolutely delicious.

For some strange reason, I was craving fish, so I went with the Spicy Ahi special. Seared to a perfect medium-rare, it was served with an avocado-cucumber salad and furikake rice. This dish was the perfect balance of heat and coolness.

We had a tough time picking a place for dessert, since Little Oven was closed. We finally decided on ice cream from the Pill Box Pharmacy in Kaimuki. They usually have 20 or so flavors for you to choose from. I've tried almost everyone and they are all good.

Wifey and I both had Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. A scoop this size will only set you back $1.50 (and that's including tax).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Extraordinary Desserts | San Diego, California

My brother is getting married tomorrow in Southern California, so my family is here getting ready for the ceremony. We decided to take a break yesterday and drive down to SeaWorld in San Diego. After a visit to Shamu and his friends, we went over to Extraordinary Desserts for a treat.

Karen Krasne Extraordinary Desserts
1430 Union Street
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 294-7001

Extraordinary Desserts is a place that serves extravagantly decorated cakes and tarts. There are two locations, both in San Diego.

You can see the amount of detail that goes in to decorating these desserts. Each of the items is visually stunning.

To order, you select one of the desserts from the display window.

There's something to satisfy just about any palate.

I ordered a SINGLE hazelnut latte. Yes, this massive bowl of coffee and steamed milk is a single. Wonder what the double looks like? Maybe they serve it in a gallon punchbowl or something...

And which of the many treats did I order? It's called the New York Cheesecake crème brûlée. The dessert was basically a graham cracker crust with a cream cheese custard, topped with the classic caramelized sugar topping and decorated in Extraordinary Desserts' signature style. My opinion is that this dessert was far more visually appealing than it was delectable. It was good, but not spectacular.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Alan Wong's Restaurant + Surf Lanai | Honolulu, Hawaii

Last week Friday we had the most epic date night. Thanks to a generous gift certificate for Alan Wong's Restaurant and our Waikiki Gold Card, we were able to indulge in a little bit of awesomeness, without over-spending.

Alan Wong's Restaurant
1857 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 949-2526

The Royal Hawaiian - Surf Lanai Restaurant
2259 Kalakaua Ave
Honolulu, HI
(808) 931-7194 ‎

Dinner was at the prestigious Alan Wong's Restaurant.

Wifey started with the Lychee Colada cocktail. It's a spin on the traditional piña colada with lychee in place of pineapple juice.

As the designated driver, I opted for the Plantation Iced Tea.

We started with the Hamakua Springs Tomato, Beet and Avocado Salad. The Li Hing Mui Ume Vinaigrette is amazing. Neither flavor was overly stated and it brought a whole new level of complexity to the dish.

Appetizer number 2 was the warm asparagus. It was good, but not extraordinary.

They were more than helpful in accommodating wifey's vegetarian diet. Here is a special Ginger Crusted Tofu (basically, it's the Ginger Crusted Onaga off the menu, with tofu instead of fish). Thanks to @ryankanno for suggesting we ask about this specific dish.

Along with wifey's dish came this side of potato.

My entrée was one of their specials that evening: the Surf and Turf. It was a petite tenderloin (cooked medium-rare, of course) with seafood risotto, topped with a poached egg. You can tell from the flavor that the beef was grass-fed and the seafood was fresh. Everything was cooked perfectly; nothing was overdone.

Dessert was Five Spoons of Brulees. An interesting concept, but not quite as satisfying as a other crème brûlée dishes we've had.

We spend the night at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel - a mini stay-cation, if you will. So for breakfast the next day, we decided to check out the Surf Lanai restaurant. The started us off with a nice sized basket of various breads.

Wifey ordered the vegetarian pizza. The crust was very thin and she said it tasted like everything came straight from the farmer's market.

Here are the fries that came with my sandwich.

I ordered the Kalua Pork Sliders. There was a bonus slice of Portuguese Sausage in each one. I love the "gourmet" take on local favorites.