Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Around the world via Hawai'i Food & Wines Festival

Nadine Kam photos
Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival co-founders, chefs Roy Yamaguchi, left, and Alan Wong, with executive director Denise Yamaguchi, posed for a shot after addressing the crowd at the Modern Honolulu.

Once again, the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival proved to be a feast for the eyes, mouth, opu and even the ears for those who managed to catch chef Hubert Keller’s stint as a DJ.

The state’s largest food festival opened at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort on Aug. 29 and moved to the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali on Aug. 31 before landing on Oahu, where the event started by chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong began just four years ago.

On Oahu, the festival encompassed a heady four days of farm tours, wine tastings, next-generation kiddie event, Battle of the Brunch chef showdown, and of course, the highlight tasting events featuring cuisine cooked up by our local talent, joined by more than 35 international celebrity chefs.

The charitable event was started as a way of raising funds to benefit culinary education and farming in Hawaii — two issues close to the hearts of the chefs, who have been advocates of sustainability since entering the dining scene a quarter century ago before we really had a word for it.

Back then, it started with supporting the work of farmers and collaborating in bringing something unique and special to the table. Today, it is about so much more: survival, safety, mindfulness, environmental protection, our future. It is about eating local, but the repercussions are global.

This year I was able to make it to two of the signature events, A Lucky Modern Buddha Belly that took place Thursday at the Modern Honolulu, and Corks & Forks on Saturday at the Hawai’i Convention Center.

My pick for food hero was Josh Lanthier-Welch of Ono Pops, who at the Corks & Forks event delivered an amazing Baked Alaska paleta of lilikoi, dipped into Italian meringue, then brûlée’d by torch, for an amazing caramel meets tart citrus flavor, with a fluffy meets creamy texture. So amazing! As soon as I walked into the event, people were raving about it, but I’m not a dessert-first person so decided to check back later. I was a big fan by evening’s end.

Lanthier-Welch said he’s now working on perfecting a Cherries Jubilee pop. Looking forward to it!

Here’s a sampling of what was on the table:

Josh Lanthier-Welch of Ono Pops applies the torch to his Baked Alaska Ono Pop. Seriously good stuff!

The poolside setting at the Modern. With so many people on deck clamoring to get to the food, I felt the water’s gravitational pull and kept thinking, “Don’t fall in, don’t fall in.”

Later that evening.

Philip Johnson of e’cco, Brisbane, offered tender soy-braised beef cheeks with Asian herb salad and crispy shallots. The flavors are nothing new to us.

Byung Jin (B.J.) Kim of Korea’s Bicena, offered up a pungent and spicy dish of urchin and snapper with gochujang ice, below.

Grilling Kona abalone at Nancy Oakes station.

Nancy Oakes of Boulevard, in San Francisco, topped grilled Kona abalone with sea asparagus, hearts of palm, slivers of teriyaki bacon and pickled Maui onions.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Revisiting the Mai Tai at CookSpace

Nadine Kam photos
Tiki’s Bar Grill executive chef Ronnie Nasuti and mixologist Alejandro Alvarado brought tiki culture to CookSpace Hawaii last week.

Retro is in, and when it comes to cocktails, Tiki’s Grill & Bar may have a head start when it comes to the new “It” cocktails, modern tiki-style drinks. Think Singapore Slings, Zombies and the world-famous Mai Tai.

Executive chef Ronnie Nasuti and mixologist Alejandro Alvarado, both from Tiki’s, were in the kitchen of CookSpace Hawaii Aug. 30, where they demonstrated the how-to of the classic 1944 Mai Tai and other cocktails, and simpatico pupu, though of course, with their own spin.

For instance, to the classic mai tai, which includes dark and light rums, orange curacao and orgeat syrup, among other ingredients, Alvarado adds a layer of lilikoi foam.

You can perform a taste test of your own at the restaurant, in the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, 2570 Kalakaua Ave. Call (808) 923-8454.

Alvarado shares the main attraction, the 1944 mai tai topped with his signature passionfruit foam.

Sherri and Lloyd Kandell are fans of tiki culture and exotica, which Lloyd recreates through the music of Don Tiki.

You could not have the potent mai tai without food, and Nasuti’s first offering was the Tahitian lime-marinated “poke,” poisson cru, sprinkled with sea asparagus and toasted, shredded coconut.

Next came furikake-charred ahi sashimi with a takuan-wasabi sauce. Amazing!

The last dish was bacon-wrapped bleu cheese mochi drizzled with kabayaki sauce, bubu arare and nori, not seen here because the chef kept adding and adding. Even at the table, he was adding a splash of truffle oil. In that way, contemporary chefs work much like painters or fashion designers.

Nasuti squeezes lime over ono before finishing the poisson cru.

Alvarado’s lovely to see, lovely to sip “Hula Ahi (Firedance),” a blend of mango puree, orange juice and tequila, with the heat of jalapeño and a rim of li hing powder.

Alvarado also created his “HibisKiss,” incorporating Absolut Hibiskus and housemade hibiscus syrup, and at the end of the evening, guests were sent home with a sampling of the hibiscus syrup, as well as recipe to make it.

Photo courtesy of Tiki's Grill & Bar
In a Facebook post dated Aug. 21, Tiki’s Grill & Bar welcomed “Project Runway’s” Tim Gunn as a guest. Speculation is that he was in town to check on the progress of Hawaii designer Kini Zamora prior to New York Fashion Week, which began today.

So, what can we deduce in light of a number of Tim Gunn sightings around town? I’m sorry, but a person who dresses like Tim Gunn isn’t likely to remain incognito long when he pops up in Waikiki. And I really don’t think he’s here for the beach.

Gunn, of course, is the mentor to the competing designers in Lifetime television’s “Project Runway.” And one of our own, designer Kini Zamora, is still in the game.

Those familiar with the series know up to five finalists are sent home to create Fashion Week-worthy collections, and Gunn typically heads out for hometown visits to make sure the designers are on track. This takes place a few weeks before they are due back in New York City for Fashion Week and the show’s finale.

There are usually three finalists, with one or two more designers thrown into the mix to act as decoys to keep the suspense factor high.

The New York shows started today and the “Project Runway” show is slated to take place tomorrow at 4 a.m. Hawaii time (10 a.m. EST). I managed to get a couple of people into the show in my place and they promised to send photos.

With many media outlets covering the event, we’ll see every collection, though we won’t know the placements of the designers until the show’s finale. I really wish they would time the episodes to coincide with the fashion shows in real time, like they did in the very first season. Otherwise, the finale becomes a bit anticlimactic.

Meanwhile, keep up with official Mercedes Benz Fashion Week happenings at

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Somethin's cooking at The Bar Honolulu at Honolulu Club

Nadine Kam photos
Grilled New York strip steak with red wine jus and harissa spiced fries are a highlight of the new menu at The Bar Honolulu.

If you considered yourself a foodie back in the early 1990s through 2001, chances are you were a fan of Moumen El Hajji and wife Holly Hadsell’s Hajji Baba, and later Beausoleil restaurants in Kahala and Manoa, respectively.

Sadly, after 9/11, business dropped for many, and the couple closed Beausoleil in favor of riding the film and television production boom, providing on-set catering services. Well, that was good for many a TV and film star on productions ranging from “Planet of the Apes” to “Godzilla” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

Well, lucky for us, they’ve emerged from the artificiality of film sets back into the real world, where we can once again enjoy their cuisine, this time at The Bar Honolulu inside Honolulu Club.

It’s a little-known secret that you don’t have to be a member of the upscale fitness facility to enjoy the cafe/bar over to the left of the reception desk. Just saunter in and act like you belong. The great thing about the bar menu is the cost is quite reasonable for the quality of the food offered because the cafe operation is partially subsidized by dues-paying members. Prices range from $4 for Moroccan-style marinated olives, to $18 for New York strip steak and harissa-spiced fries.

Moumen El Hajji and Holly Hadsell are back in the public eye.

Considering the high cost of membership, food here has never been worth writing about, so new owners have taken that into account, and for his part, Moumen said he’s still experimenting and putting dishes out there, allowing diners to vote with their orders, requests and repeat visits. But it’s hard to subtract when he’s a master at blending spices from his native Morocco with favored local ingredients ranging from patis to coconut and lemongrass.

And, the bar is also giving a shout-out to mixologists around town with a menu of drink specialties from the likes of Pint + Jigger’s Dave Newman, Nobu’s JJ Anchetta, Pig and the Lady’s Kyle Reutner, Chandra Lucariello of Southern Wine and Spirits, and Alicia Yamachika of the soon to open Livestock Tavern.

They’ve been operating under the radar for a while, but are prepared to go public with their first big event, the Honolulu Club Brunch Labor Day Edition, taking place Aug. 31, with two seatings, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., at a cost of $35 for members, and $40 for non-members.

There will be mimosa and eggs Benedict bars, lots of fresh fruit and pastry, and a passed menu of gazpacho, frittata bites, crab and lemon bread pudding, shrimp and edamame pot stickers, pork belly buns, and more.

The dress code is casual chic. Call 585-9626 for more information.
The Bar Honolulu is inside Honolulu Club, 932 Ward Ave., 7th floor.

This is the one to order first: crisp chicharrone accompanied by salsa verde and street corn pico. Currently priced at $10.

Thai-spiced chicken lollipops with spicy peanut sauce.

Steamed clams with chorizo.

Ahi tartare with coconut basil crema.

Feta drizzled with lehua blossom honey and spices.

Marinated olives.

Braised shortrib atop horseradish mashed potatoes.

Grilled fish served atop fire-roasted apple slaw.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Kusuma Cooray brings Mughlai specialties to KCC

In anticipation of the opening of the newly renovated Mughal Suite at Shangri La, the estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, University of Hawaii’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiolani Community College and Shangri La will present a series of fall public programs highlighting Mughlai cuisine.

Ka ‘Ikena Laua’e, the fine dining restaurant on the KCC campus, will present a special lunch menu featuring Mughlai cuisine created and prepared by KCC Professor of Culinary Studies and former Doris Duke corporate chef Kusuma Cooray and KCC culinary students.

Mughlai cuisine is a style of cooking developed by the imperial kitchens of the Muslim Mughal Empire. It represents the cooking styles of North India, Pakistan and Hyderabad.

Reservations are being taken for the lunch being offered Sept. 16 through 19, with seatings at 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and noon each day. At $22.95 per person, the lunch will feature:

Appetizer course: Mughlai Murgh (braised chicken with raisins and almonds), curried dal, pineapple chutney, raita and pratha.

Entrée: Shahjahani Biriyani (rice and lamb with saffron, aromatic spices and yogurt), Rogan Josh (curried lamb), vegetables, tomato chutney and pappadams.

Dessert: A Mughlai fantasy and choice of coffee or tea.

Drink: Assorted fruit juices and lassi.

Courtesy University of Hawaii Press
Chef Kusuma Cooray will be cooking up Mughlai cuisine at Kapiolani Community College.

Other related events:

Aug. 25 to Dec. 19
South Asian Cuisine exhibition: A display featuring South Asian recipes prepared for Doris Duke by chef Kusuma Cooray will be on view at the Kapiolani Community College Library, along with materials from the Shangri La Historical Archives. Admission is free.

Oct. 6
Mughal cuisine lecture and Taj chefs demonstration: Executive chef Hemant Oberoi and two master chefs from Mumbai’s Taj Hotel chain will present a Mughal cuisine cooking demonstration and tasting in the Culinary Institute of the Pacific auditorium, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Ohia Building 118. Seating is limited and admission is free. Co-sponsored by Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

The late Doris Duke collected Islamic art over 60 years, forming a collection of about 2,500 objects, many of which are embedded into the structure of Shangri La, including Iranian ceramic tile panels, carved and painted ceilings from Morocco, jalis (perforated screen) doors and windows, and textiles and carpets.

It was her wish that Shangri La be maintained as a center for Islamic arts and culture, kept open for public visits and educational programs.
Ka ‘Ikena Laua’e is in the Ohelo Building, 2nd floor, at KCC. Call 734-9499 for reservations.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lucy's Lab Creamery open in Kaka'ako

Nadine Kam photos
Lucy’s Lab Creamery is in its soft opening phase. The ice cream shop currently has limited hours Thursdays through Sundays.

After nearly a month of social media “teasing,” Lucy’s Lab Creamery finally opened its doors for a soft opening over the weekend.

There was a lot of buzz and anticipation beforehand, such that I had to question the wisdom of toying with potential customers’ desires. After all, what if—after all the buildup—it opens and the ice cream is junk?”

Well, it was worth the wait for flavors like Nutella and Sea Salt Caramel. To date, there are only seven flavors available, and although parents might think of ice cream as a keiki-friendly treat, some flavors are definitely for the 21-and-older crowd only, such as Bacon Whiskey. And Fruit Loop Vodka has kid appeal with its candy-colored cereal topping, but make no mistake, it delivers a potent kick that has thrown adults for a loop.

The ice cream is sold by weight, at $1 per ounce for a keiki scoop, and $2 per ounce for a regular scoop. Most people have no conception of what an ounce of food entails, but a cup each of keiki and regular size scoops added up to $6.

The shop was opened by Prudential Realtor Lee Wang in memory of his late mother Lucy, and a portion of sales will go toward breast cancer charities.

The official opening is yet to come, so hours are limited. For now, keep up to date with hours by following @LucysLabHi on Twitter or

A recent tweet mentioned the ice cream shop will be open 2 to 5 p.m. Aug. 21, and noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 22 to 24.
Lucy’s Lab Creamery is at 435 Kamakee St.

There are only seven flavors available, including Fruit Loop Vodka, and Bacon Whiskey, below.

They were out of ice cream sandwiches when I arrived, so pan de creme, ice cream and jam in a pandesal bun was another option. I didn’t care for the stiff Filipino bread roll, which theoretically should make a nice warm and toasty home for the ice cream. But when heated, the ice cream melts down to nothing and the bread itself was not enjoyable.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

MW Part 2: Reimagining afternoon tea

Nadine Kam photos
A Chinese roast duck sandwich was among the petite morsels served at MW restaurant’s inaugural afternoon tea. In the background is a roast pork sandwich.

The news is all about fairness, so I really don’t like going to the same place or writing about the same place back to back, but news is about the new after all, and MW’s Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka have consistently shown their ability to innovate.

To be a restaurateur today is not only about serving good food and hoping people will follow, but about being top-of-mind, and Michelle and Wade are proving to be Oahu’s culinary power couple, with no shortage of ideas and complimentary skill sets to back them up.

On Saturday morning I was there for Michelle’s inaugural Baker Faire. On Sunday morning I was back for the restaurant’s inaugural Afternoon Tea. And what a tea it was! With Wade’s five delectable, dim sum-size savory bites and Michelle’s nine sweet flourishes, everyone else serving tea in this town may need to up their game.

Those feeling extra hungry could add supplemental items at $5 each, such as a caviar-topped vichyssoise, lobster corn dumpling and foie gras-and-pork bao.

Tea selections ranged from jasmine pearl to lemon mamaki, lychee acai, fruity mango peach and custom MW chai.

Considering the quality and quantity of the food offered, the $35 cost was very reasonable, though I imagine the price may fluctuate depending on offerings at future events. The afternoon tea is slated to take place every third Sunday of the month and it’s best to call early for reservations as guests in swoon mode throughout this inaugural event vowed to return.
MW Restaurant is at 1538 Kapiolani Boulevard. Entrance on Makaloa Street. Call (808) 955-6505.

The tea selection.

In the foreground, spicy ahi “BLT,” and in the background, a seafood summer roll.

Crumpets were served with lilikoi curd and strawberry compote.

Refreshing Ho Farms cucumber sorbet.

Sweet bites, from top, Meyer lemon meringue tarts, MW Candy Bar, Tokachi azuki matcha mousse cake, mango lime chiffon, and strawberry cheesecake.

 Mini baklava.

Macadamia nut praline bars in a bamboo basket, with the baklava beneath.

An add-on of foie gras and pork bao “bun” was not to be missed, topped with a Chinese-style ginger-green onion sauce. Below, creamy vichyssoise topped with caviar.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

MW Part I: The bake sale, seriously upgraded

Nadine Kam photos
MW co-owner and pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka presented her creations during the inaugural Baker Faire at her restaurant.

We’re all familiar with the homespun bake sale, but when MW’s award-winning pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka gathers a few of her besties together, you just know it’ll be a bake sale to remember.

The inaugural Baker Faire took place Aug. 16 at MW, where Karr said she always wanted to do a bake sale.

“There are all kinds of food events around town, but none featuring just pastry chefs,” she said, while presiding over a table filled with her baklava, pineapple crostata and truffles.

Pastries, croissants and bread by Halekulani’s Mark Freischmidt, Kimberly Oi of Pili Group, Chris Sy of Breadshop, Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Cafe, Alison Yokouchi of The Pig and The Lady, and Alejandro Briceno, formerly of Prima and V Lounge, sold for about $3 to $5 per item, offered fair style, with scrips purchased up front.

The event started at 10 a.m. and was scheduled to run until 1 p.m. or until sold out, but if you thought you could leisurely stroll in at 11:30 a.m., you were out of luck. Most people opted for the $40 per box option, so pastries went quickly.

With the event’s success, Karr-Ueoka said she’s hoping to set up another event in October, and one just in time for the holidays in December, aiming for a larger venue.
MW Restaurant is at 1538 Kapiolani Boulevard. Entrance fronts Makaloa Street. Call 955-6505.

Halekulani’s Mark Freischmidt offered blueberry calamansi marshmallows and carrot quinoa bread.

Jason Kim is just getting started on filling his box at the Halekulani table. Behind him, people lined up to get in, purchasing scrips for baked goods at the door.

Celeb chef Lee Anne Wong offered her famous Koko Head Cafe kim chee scones.

Fancy treats abounded, but sometimes you just want a simple, humble M&M cookie, offered by the Pili Group, along with another homespun treat, caramel popcorn.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.