Thursday, December 18, 2014

Naked Cow Dairy's got milk, and more

Nadine Kam photos
Pickles is the face of Naked Cow Dairy, with dairy owners, sisters Sabrina St. Martin, left, and Monique van der Stroom.

The Sheraton Waikiki hosted the second of its new “Table to Farm” wine dinner and farm tour series which began with a dinner at the resort’s Edge of Waikiki infinity pool on Dec. 5, and continued the next day with a luxury bus ride to Naked Cow Dairy for a peek into the workings of a boutique dairy and picnic lunch, with insight into how all the yogurt, cheese and milk we enjoyed, got made.

It’s a real hands-on effort that Sheraton Waikiki senior executive sous chef Colin Hazama, who initiated the project, wants more people to see to gain more appreciation of the work farmers do.

Hazama and executive sous chef Brett Villarmia collaborated on the dinner that included such Naked Cow Dairy products as halloumi, buttermilk, labne, honey butter, yogurt, Pika Moon havarti, white truffle morbier, coconut butter, and more. Spanish wines accompanied the meal.

Chefs Colin Hazama and Brett Villarmia down on the farm at Waianae’s Naked Cow Dairy & Creamery.

Here’s a look at both table and farm:

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Friday night’s meal started with brown butter-seared Naked Cow Dairy halloumi with blistered shishito peppers, toasted almond tahini, Ho Farms tomato jam and a winter salad.

Black cardamom-spiced scallops were topped with chicharrones on a platter dressed with lavender Naked Cow dairy buttermilk, compressed cucumber, and Naked Cow Dairy yogurt.

Garlic and herb-roasted Colorado lamb loin was served with micro-mint Naked Cow Dairy labne, hazelnut dukkah, and pomegranate-pink peppercorn Naked Cow Dairy honey butter.

The cheese course featured Naked Cow Dairy’s Waianae tomme, Pika Moon havarti and white truffle morbier, enhanced by lilikoi kumquat jam, pickled figs and hydroponic cress.

Dessert comprised two offerings: “Berries Wild,” marinated berries served in a Meyer lemon champagne gelee, accompanied by by Naked Cow Dairy Fromage Blanc panna cotta, and “Cookies & Milk,” spiced, toasted Naked Cow Dairy coconut butter shortbread for dipping in smoked Hawaiian sea salt caramel leche, plus raspberry pomegranate jam and mac-nut brittle.

On the farm:

The cows know the drill of heading down the path to and from the milking room.

A taste of Naked Cow Dairy products.

During a cooking demonstration on the farm, Brett Villarmia showed how to make tomato soup, finished with labne (strained yogurt) and gunpowder spice mixture including crushed pink peppercorns.

In addition to a delicious pipikaula muffaletta with un-holy Swiss cheese packed in a metal lunch tin, lunch comprised poutine with buttermilk country gravy over a base of cassava fries.

The Table to Farm Series will continue into 2015; each event will be held in partnership with a different farm, including a trek to the Big Island. Reservations are being taken for the next event, when Hazama will partner with Kai Market chef Darren Demaya for a collaboration dinner highlighting produce from Shinsato Farms and Nalo Farms.

Dinner is set for 6 p.m. March 6, 2015, at Edge of Waikiki, followed the farm tour the following day. The collaboration dinner will feature Nalo greens throughout, with main courses of Shinsato Farms head cheese pork tonkatsu, house-cured Shinsato Farms prosciutto, Shinsato Farms juniper-herb rabbit saddle and crispy rabbit leg, Shinsato Farms lechon kewali, and Nalo Farms country shortcake.

Dinner only is $103 per person ($133 with wine pairings); dinner and the farm tour is $170 per person ($200 with wine pairings). Prices include transportation to the farms, tax and gratuity. Call (808) 921-4600 or visit for reservations.

The hotel offers a special room rate for Table to Farm guests. Call (808) 921-4610 and request the “FarmTour” rate.

Naked Cow Dairy also hosts its own tours, starting at a basic level for schools, to private parties with wine and cheese tasting (21 and older) for $50 per person, to deluxe butter- and cheese-making classes at $150 per person for a maximum of six. Visit

Monday, December 8, 2014

Agu — A Ramen Bistro celebrates one-year anniversary

Nadine Kam photos
Hisashi “Teddy” Uehara shows the Okinawan rafute that was on the menu celebrating AGU’s one-year anniversary.

Agu — A Ramen Bistro celebrated its first anniversary over two days, Dec. 5 and 6, with a glass of champagne to toast the restaurant, and a trio of complimentary appetizers to start meals.

The event started Okinawa shisa (lion-dog) dance, plus music and dance by Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii.

The complimentary appetizers included Jidori chicken liver pate, a collaboration between Agu chef Hisashi Uehara and Thomas Jones, president of Agu’s parent company, Gyotaku Japanese Restaurants.

Jidori chicken liver påté, topped with a layer of lard to preserve moisture.

Next came Okinawan rafute, nine-hour stewed pork belly with brown sugar, and AGUcini, Uehara’s interpretation of the arancini, with rice and components of the restaurant’s signature “Innovative Hot Mess” rolled in panko and deep-fried.

The brown sugar-sweetened rafute.

The Innovative Hot Mess ramen was my pick for favorite food of the year in the Star-Advertiser and Diamond Head Theatre’s Ilima Awards because of the audacity of the decadent creation incorporating pork, se-abura (rendered pork back fat), fresh garlic, black garlic oil, garlic butter, Parmesan cheese, and more. The AGUcini was made a bit healthier with a persimmon salsa.

The AGUcini, served with persimmon salsa, combined some of chef Uehara’s favorite ingredients: rice, pork and Parmesan cheese.

I usually gravitate to heavier tonkotsu ramen, but given the heft of the complimentary appetizers, on this night sought out the lighter Jidori yuzu ramen.

Agu proved popular from Day 1, and coming in early 2015 will be a second location, in Waipahu. Uehara explained they needed a central kitchen big enough to keep up with the demand of making his various, laborious 18-hour ramen broths. In the restaurant’s earliest days, we could not always count on getting the ramen we wanted because if he wasn’t satisfied with the broth, he wouldn’t serve it.

A third location is also in the works.
Agu — A Ramen Bistro is at 925 Isenberg St. (in front of the Saint Louis Alumni Clubhouse). Call (808) 492-1637.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sweet treats await at Choco le'a at Manoa Square

Nadine Kam photos
Choco le'a milk chocolate-covered macadamia nuts made with a blend of Belgian, Swiss and Hawaiian Waialua Estate chocolate, plus chocolate-dipped strawberries and raspberries.

Choco le’a celebrated the grand opening of its first Manoa boutique with an open house and tasting of its artisan chocolates on Nov. 22nd at Manoa Square, 2909 Lowrey AVe.

Patrons filed through all day for a sample of some of their varied, handmade chocolate creations—made with a blend of fine European and Hawaiian chocolate—that whet the appetite for more!

The counter is stocked with such truffle creations as fresh mochi on ganache, caramel with Alae’a Hawaiian sea salt, and Guinness beer. There is also an assortment of chocolate-covered Oreos including mint, peanut butter, and peppermint flavors, and other treats such as fresh dipped strawberries.

Co-owners Erin Uehara and her uncle, chocolatier Colins Kawai.

With the opening perfectly timed for the the start of the holiday gift-giving season, some of the more festive options include specialty Dom Perignon champagne and Canadian ice wine truffles.

In addition, they launched their European-style sipping chocolate that was served with a handful of potato chips. Delicious, but so rich a little goes a long way.

The kama’aina company started with experimentation by Colins Kawai, marketing director for the University of Hawaii Press, who merely wanted to try to wow friends and family by making truffles as a dinner dessert. People liked it, so he tried new flavors, and before long, dinner guests were requesting to buy them.

Soon he was offering his signature chocolate truffle bar for catered corporate events, parties and weddings, and Kawai now co-owns the business with wife Joan, niece Erin Uehara and her husband Chris.

With a mission of “Bringing peace to our world, one chocolate at a time,” a portion of every sale is donated to charitable organizations.
Choco le’a is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Call (808) 371-2234, visit or follow @chocoleahawaii on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Choco le’a makes holiday gift-giving easier with your custom picks of such delectables as milk, white or dark chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, chocolate-dipped fruit including mango, pictured, mochi-centered truffles and sea salt caramel truffles.

The chocolates appear like jewels, ready to be custom packed into gift boxes.

Closer look at the chocolate-dipped fruit.

A tempting array of chocolates awaits at the Chocole’a counter.

The source: the cacao pod.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cocktails, shaken and stirred at CookSpace Hawaii

Nadine Kam photos
Bitters and absinthe that went into sazeracs on the menu during Jennifer Fiedler’s demo at CookSpace Hawaii.

CookSpace Hawaii put students in a holiday frame of mind during a Nov. 21 class presented by Jennifer Fiedler, author of “The Essential Bar Book: An A-to-Z Guide to Spirits, Cocktails, and Wine, with 115 Recipes for the World’s Great Drinks” (Ten Speed Press, $19.99).

Yup, that’s the full title, and the book lives up to its promise as a valuable compendium that will help anyone shake or stir up cocktails like a pro.

My late husband loved a great bar. Me, not so much, but I’d humor him and go along. So it was that we once headed to New Orleans to sample sazeracs in the place of their origin. He was an avid reader and romanticized the louche lives of some of his favorite authors and poets, always seeking out the same experiences, the sum of which I credit for his early demise.

He would have loved to know that thanks to Fiedler, I now know how to make a sazerac, one of the recipes on the menu during the session entitled “Shaken, Stirred and Something Different.” With a lighthearted approach to the bar, Fiedler, a former editor at Wine Spectator magazine, made it all accessible and fun, throwing in some history for good measure, so that I now see the beauty of this creative alchemy.

Jennifer Fiedler shakes a French 75. See recipe at the bottom of this post.

As we sipped gimlets, she launched into her French 75 that she describes as “basically a Tom Collins with the soda water swapped out for champagne,” giving it a festive touch perfect for holidays.

And she pointed out the misguided logic of James Bond’s “shaken, not stirred” martini, which she said defeats the beauty of the drink, for which she said the aim is “to keep clarity and viscosity.”

Shaken cockails would include such “cloud”-causing ingredients as juice, cream or egg whites that when shaken, change the drink’s texture, adding froth and air bubbles.

The class had the opportunity to shake and stir their own cocktails after the demos, and let’s just say as the evening wore on there were a lot of happy, giggly campers.

What, me measure? After measuring in the proper amount of gin, some students skipped the jigger and poured a little extra to make their own version of the French 75, named after a World War I gun as a reference to the drink’s metaphoric lethalness.

Fiedler lights a lemon peel to add drama to garnishing a sazerac.

Presentation of crudite and antipasti platters offered a few ideas for dressing a holiday table.

Make it:

French 75
2 ounces cognac or gin
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
3 ounces sparkling wine, preferably dry champagne

Add first 3 ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe or flute and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a long curling peel of lemon.

Note: Most of us students thought it was too much sparkling wine. A thinner layer would give the drink the festive, bubbly effect without losing the rest of the cocktail.

1 splash absinthe
1 sugar cube
1 splash soda water
2 ounces rye
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

In a rocks glass, add a dash of absinthe and swirl to coat. Discard. In another rocks or mixing glass, muddle sugar cube (or teaspoon of sugar or 1/4 ounce of simple syrup) with soda water. Once dissolved, add rye, bitters and ice, and stir well.

Strain rye and bitters mixture into the absinthe-coated rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Also, a taste of the holidays:

Hot buttered rum
2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vanilla ice cream
1-1/2 tablespoons EACH ground cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and allspice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Dark rum
Black tea, hot

Add first 10 ingredients to a mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer. Refrigerate until ready to use. When ready to use, warm mugs by filling with hot water. Let stand a minute or two then discard water.

Add 1 tablespoon batter to each mug. Top with 2 ounces hot tea and stir to mix. Add 1 ounce of rum to each mug, then top with 2 more ounces of tea. Rum will form a 1/4-inch cream over top of drink. Garnish with whole star anise if desired.

Note: The pumpkin pie spice flavors and the heat of the cayenne are strong and not for anyone with a milquetoast palate.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A busy Restaurant Week for MW

Nadine Kam photos
Washugyu ribeye with potato beignets, balsamic foie gras balsamic sauce and truffle grated at the table. I die. Served with 2009 Kenzo Estate “Ai (Indigo)” cabernet sauvignon, which was my favorite of the evening.

As if restaurant week is not busy enough at MW restaurant, Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka—one of the hardest-working, over-achieving couples in the business—also hosted Kenzo wine dinners on Tuesday and Wednesday, which meant coming up with a completely different menu for the Kenzo Estate wine pairings.

Ok, so they didn’t exactly plan on serving three—if you count regular meal service—completely different menus over the two nights. Wade said the Kenzo Estate collaborative dinner had been planned long before they learned Restaurant Week would take place at the same time.

From left, Kenzo Estate’s Ai, Murasaki and Rindo.

On top of that, there was the stress of making sure their special events dining room was completed for the occasion. I peeked in over the weekend and it still looked like a shell. But hey, I’ve seen many a miracle happen overnight in the retail world, and this was no different.

When this space was explained to me months ago, it sounded like it would be Wade’s own man cave allowing male patrons to enjoy ball games on big screens with manly food on the side. As a versatile special events room, it is perfect for intimate wine dinners and private parties, and no doubt its uses will continue to evolve as the couple sees fit. Watch this space!

And one more piece of news before launching into the dinner recap. They’re bringing back Baker Faire 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 23, at Kakaako Agora, 441 Cooke St. (My post on the inaugural event is here: )

Joining Michelle this month for the all-star bake sale are Jennifer Hee, Jackie Lau and Chris Sablayn (Roy’s Restaurant), Chani Maunakea-Forth (Town), Alison Yokouchi (The Pig and the Lady), Kimberly Oi (Pili Group) and Lee Anne Wong (Koko Head Cafe), plus coffee by The Curb.

They’ll also be introducing Collab Pie! One pie. Eight slices. One from each of the Baker Faire participants. These are in limited supply, so email to reserve your $45 pie. Flavors are subject to change, but as of today the plan is: Canistel cheesecake pie, lilikoi chiffon, pumpkin, mac nut Koloa Rum, chocolate cream pie, ulu sweet potato, starfruit.

Back to the wine dinner. The menu was fabulous, showing another dimension to Wade’s talent in the kitchen. Where MW’s main menu tends to aim for a crowd-pleasing reinterpretation of tried and true local flavors, the dishes he came up with to pair with Kenzo Estate’s Asatsuyu, Rindo, Murasaki, Ai (“Indigo”) and Yui “Unity of all things”) wines were far more refined, with influences from Japan and beyond. A truly world-class meal.

Kenzo Estate was started by Kenzo Tsujimoto, whose claim to fame before becoming a vintner was founding Capcom, which developed such video games as “Mega Man,” “Street Fighter” and other hit game series.

Canapes of ahi tartare and truffle-capped risotto beignets.

A starter of silky, seasonal matsutake chawanmushi.

Seafood salad of one piece each of Kona lobster, Kauai shrimp and Dungeness crab with vegetables, served with 2013 Kenzo Estate “Asatsuyu (Morning Dew)” sauvignon blanc.

Seared peppered ahi over mushroom tsukudani, served with 2009 Kenzo Estate “Rindo” red blend.

Grilled quail with balsamic foie gras sauce and baby green salad with mini brioche croutons. Paired with 2009 Kenzo Estate “Murasaki (Purple)” red blend.

 Intermezzo of lemon sorbet.

Michelle’s dessert of “Strawberry 5-ways,” which she said was really nine ways. But I couldn’t keep up beyond her compressed, frozen, aerated, shaved and pearl treatments. This was paired with 2013 Kenzo Estate “Yui (Unity in all Things)” rosé.

Of course the couple could not let people leave without a sweet finale of mignardises and take-home chocolate chip cookies.

Chef Wade Ueoka thanked his staff and diners after the meal, but we were probably the more grateful.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Shokudo revisits root of Japanese cuisine for Restaurant Week

Nadine Kam photos
Shokudo’s appetizer of big-eye tuna wrapped in avocado, tako in egg yolk vinaigrette, and housemade goma tofu is one the menu for Restaurant Week, Nov. 17 to 23.

Shokudo Japanese Restaurant will be turning out a mix of traditional and new during Restaurant Week that runs Nov. 17 to 23.

A special six-course tasting menu available for the week—at a very reasonable $38 (add $20 for sake pairings) considering all that you get—will highlight the work of new sushi chef Satoru Matsumoto, who brings a taste of Japan to the restaurant better known since its inception as more of an American-style fusion restaurant.

The Restaurant Week menu offers an exciting preview as to what may come with subsequent menus. The menu was featured during a media preview event, and from what I tasted, it marks a promising new start. Any changes will be gradual though, so as not to alienate those whose tastes are more American than Japanese.

Reservations for Restaurant Week and beyond are available by calling (808) 941-3701. Shokudo Japanese is at 1585 Kapiolani Ave., at Kaheka, near the entrance to Nordstrom’s garage.

Hirame, fresh from Tsukiji and thinly sliced so as to be transparent.

 Amazing Hokkaido scallop and masago tempura. The sweetness reminded me of lobster.

Seared filet mignon stuffed with Santa Barbara uni.

The next course was a sushi trio featuring shimaaji, chu toro and Kona kampachi.

Not pictured is dessert, a spin on the restaurant’s renowned Honey Toast, which is the basis for Tempura Bread Pudding, dipped in batter, deep-fried and served with Roselani vanilla ice cream and a sake-caramel sauce. Many at the table asked for seconds, and I like it better than the original Honey Toast.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Kanpai! Iichiko YUZU makes a splash

Nadine Kam photos
Yukie Aizawa pours Yuzu Lady cocktails comprising iichiko BLU, iichiko Bar FRUITS YUZU and yuzu sorbet, in The Modern Honolulu’s Sun Suite during the launch of the award-winning liqueur.

There is such a thing as being too popular. I first tasted iichiko’s Bar FRUITS YUZU and Bar FRUITS UME at Honolulu’s ART after DARK back in May and wondered where I could get my hands on more. They’re so light and refreshing, and with only 8 percent alcohol, just my speed.

As best-sellers in Japan, iichiko couldn’t turn out enough to meet demand, so at the time was slowly introducing the bar liqueur, comprising iichiko’s concentrated barley shochu and fresh fruit, to restaurant clients.

At that time, only a few bars were offering it, but a lot has happened in six months, and iichiko Bar FRUITS YUZU and Bar FRUITS UME can be found at nearly 80 restaurants and bars in Hawaii. They’re that good, and are naturals for cocktails. Bar FRUITS YUZU offers a blend of yuzu and honey, while UME is balanced with lychee.

The Bar FRUITS YUZU recently received a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, one of only 10 winners in a field of 1,474 entries.

Iichiko held a launch party Nov. 3 in The Modern Honolulu’s Sun Suite, announcing that their popular shochu liqueurs will be available in retail stores beginning January, a great way to start the new year!

Bottles of iichiko Bar FRUITS YUZU and Bar FRUITS UME are lined up with a cocktail of Kula Ume-Shu. This was my favorite of the evening, made with iichiko Blu, iichiko Bar FRUITS UME, Kula strawberries, ume paste, lemon juice and simple syrup.

Iichiko USA CEO Kazunori Nishi shared some interesting stats about the brand, as well as the rise of shochu, which surpassed sake in popularity in 2002, with an upward trajectory ever since, which he attributes to people learning that shochu leaves them with no hangover.

Iichiko USA CEO Kazunori Nishi, left, with Akino Watanabe, the company’s director of international sales.

The company was born in Oita prefecture in Japan, where “iichiko” means’s “It is good.”

In Japan, Bar FRUITS YUZU and UME are enjoyed simply, on the rocks. But here, bartenders are finding them fun to experiment with. During the event at the Modern, we were able to sample cocktails pictured on this page, as well as a Lemongrass Yuzu Fizz made with iichiko BLU, iichiko Bar FRUITS YUZU, Pacifickool Ginger Syrup, lime juice and club soda, and Yuzu Pink Drop of BLU, Bar FRUITS YUZU, yuzu sorbet and Campari.

This month, the following locations will be offering tastings or highlighting menu and bar items featuring iichiko shochu and liqueurs:

Through Nov. 16
Shokudo will offer a limited special menu featuring a play on their popular Honey Toast, with iichiko YUZU, along with specialty cocktails made with iichiko Bar FRUITS YUZU.

First Friday,  Nov. 7
HASR Bistro will host a sampling of iichiko Bar FRUITS YUZU from 5 to 8 p.m.

Nov. 15
Ginza Nightclub will host a Yellow Kanpai Night Party beginning at midnight in celebration of iichiko Bar FRUITS YUZU. Dress code is yellow.

Nov. 17 to 30
MW Restaurant will be offering food pairings with iichiko Bar FRUITS.
The Pig and the Lady will be offering specially crafted cocktails made with iichiko Bar FRUITS.

A little shochu gets the party going. Toby Tamaye has a little fun with iichiko USA’s Tetsuro Miyazaki, left.

Before you know it, guests were rolling up posters to accessorize the yellow ensembles we were asked to wear to celebrate YUZU. Lindsey Muraoka in YUZU yellow.

Some of the bites accompanying the iichiko cocktails were a pulled pork slider, mini veggie springroll and scallops with pickled radishes on skewers. Thanks for the food styling, Cory Mitsui! A favorite bite, not pictured here, was a cube of truffled mac 'n' cheese.

For dessert, there were yuzu marshmallow s’mores, and shown, strawberry shortcakes.

The Sun Suite setting, overlooking the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, offered another gorgeous sunset view. I’ve been racking up a lot of sunset photos lately, a beautiful way to close the day.