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: http://eatinhawaii.blogspot.com/2014/08/mw-part-i-bake-sale-seriously-upgraded.html )

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 marthac@gmail.com 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.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Kobe + Cabernet a winning combination at Outrigger Canoe Club

Nadine Kam photos
Beef Wellington was on the menu when Snake River Farms and Signorello Estate teamed up for a “Kobe and Cabernet” dinner at Outrigger Canoe Club.

It was a meat and wine lover’s dream come true when Snake River Farms teamed up with Signorello Estate to present a dinner highlighting their respective premium beef and cabernet.

I was able to attend a dinner that took place Oct. 29 at the Outrigger Canoe Club for interested members. A second dinner took place Oct. 30 at the Plaza Club.

It was an opportunity to learn more about the vineyard and the Signorello Hopes Cuvée chardonnay and Padrone created in honor of owner Ray Signorello’s late parents, as well as learn more about the American-style Kobe beef from Snake River Farms.

Snake River Farms is a premium brand produced by Agri Beef Co., and marketing director Jay Theiler told of bringing the first wagyu cattle from Japan to the Northwest in 1988. The wagyu were bred with angus cattle to grow significantly larger than other breeds, averaging 1,500 pounds. It’s the wagyu genetics that give the resulting beef its juicy, fatty quality, he said, dispelling rumors of massaging and indulging the cattle with beer to get the desired marbling.

The wagyu are believed to be descendants of water buffalo used in Japan for farming. They had gone unrecognized as a food source by the Japanese, until Dutch traders, hungry for meat, decided to eat the animals, a eureka moment.

Also on the menu was Snake River Farms kurobuta pork, the “black” Berkshire hogs that are the highly touted pork equivalent to Kobe beef.

If you eat at restaurants like BLT Steak, Vintage Cave, Budnamujip, Stage and Michel’s at the Colony Surf, you are already enjoying these premium meat products.

 Delicious wagyu filet mignon steak tartare with quail egg, white truffle oil, dijon aioli and Asian pear.

Sous vide Kurobuta pork belly with frisee and orange-citrus vinaigrette.

Flame-broiled wagyu New York steak with green peppercorn demi glace, wilted baby spinach and fingerling potatoes.

Lee Anne Wong photo
Chef Lee Anne Wong, who also attended the dinner, took a photo of the wagyu-angus hybrid—which appears to have some of the water buffalo physical characteristics of its ancestors—when she visited Snake River Farms.

A stunning sunset preceded dinner at the beautifully sited Outrigger Canoe Club.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hopping from 'Table to Farm' with Sheraton Waikiki's Colin Hazama

Nadine Kam photos
Chef Colin Hazama joined Ho Farms’ Shin Ho in welcoming diners for a two-part, two-day culinary adventure that took them from the Sheraton Waikiki to the North Shore farm. A clearing was made where long beans grow to make room for a picnic tent and table and cooking demo.

Sheraton Waikiki launched its ambitious new Table to Farm wine dinner and farm tour series last weekend, an event that started Friday night with a dinner crafted by Sheraton Waikiki executive sous chef Colin Hazama, followed by an optional excursion to Ho Farms the following day to see where and how the meal was sourced.

For a memorable culinary and mini travel experience, it is well worth the $170 to $200 (with wine pairings) cost and two-day commitment.

“There’s nothing that connects you more to the people and a culture than food,” said Food and Beverage Director Brian Hunnings, noting the Sheraton’s obligation as a visitor-oriented company. “Supporting local and doing the right thing is so important to us, and to do that we have to do things that are not necessarily easy.”

The oceanview setting at the Sheraton’s Edge of Waikiki infinity pool.

There were many details involved in bringing the event out of the dining room and into the outdoors at the Sheraton’s Edge of Waikiki, where a pink-purple sunset was the backdrop for an elegant, veggie-filled meal. There were vans to rent for the tour the following day, and a clearing was made on Ho Farms for setting up the tent and tables for a picnic lunch set in a field where long beans grow.

For Hazama, it was important to show the work farmers do because most people are so far removed from the land. Bringing them to the farm might help everyone become better stewards of the land.

Just 100 years ago, most people were living off the land, whether by fishing, farming or maintaining an ample backyard garden. Modernization changed everything, but slowly, people are waking up to the idea that some of the old ways are better for our health and well-being, as well as the planet.

Hazama has worked with Ho Farms since 2008, requesting items apart from the tomatoes, cucumbers and Japanese eggplant that are its staple crops. Some of the specialty items he requests for the Sheraton Waikiki are spring onions, cilantro flowers and rainbow chard.

Here’s a look at both farm and table:

Friday night’s meal started with vodka-cured kampachi with white soy dashi gelee, finger lime caviar, shaved watermelon radish, Ho Farms pickled baby carrots, and lemon basil pesto, accompanied by NV Canella Prosecco, Veneto.

A “Taste of Ho Farms Salad” showcased Ho Farms pearl onions, golden Kahuku and currant tomato gelee, butternut squash, deep-fried heirloom okra, long beans, and preserved Meyer lemon mustard vinaigrette. I love the intense tomato flavor of the gelee! This was served with 2012 Fantini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo.

Fish ’n’ Chips got healthier with the Kona Brewing beer-battered onaga accompanied by Ho Farms Chinese long bean “fries,” along with housemade pickles, calamansi lime pickle vinegar and Ho Farms pomegranate beet ketchup. It was paired with 2012 Jermann Pinot Grigio, Collio.

Next, cassava-crusted Kauai shrimp was served with spiced butternut squash gnocchi, applewood smoked Ho Farms swiss chard, Wailea hearts of palm and Ho Farms baby cucumber pickled mustarda, and garlic yuzu crema. This was accompanied by 2013 Santadi Villa Solais Vermentino, Sardegna.

We finished with a slice of Big Island Meyer kemon goat cheesecake with dark chocolate aubergine truffle, Kula strawberry, and Ho Farms ice cream banana confiture. No one could have guessed that there was creamy eggplant inside the chocolate! This was paired with NV Canella Bellini, Veneto.

On the farm:

We were allowed to taste the fresh produce out in the Ho Farms fields, including flavorful cilantro flowers, that most of us had left on the plate during the previous evening’s dinner, when we thought of it as an inedible garnish. Now, those of us who love cilantro love it!

Photographing tomatoes before they are packed for supermarkets.

Third-generation farmer Shin Ho shows the cucumber seedlings.

 During a cooking demonstration, Colin showed the one-year, house-cured prosciutto lardons that he later sautéed with kale and shimeji mushrooms to top the chilled Ho Farms butternut squash soup we enjoyed for lunch.

Everyone wanted seconds of the delicious soup, also finished with a swirl of Ho Farms coriander crema.

The rest of our picnic lunch came packed in metal lunch boxes. Tour-goers Ethan, Kailee and Tammie Chang show their lunch boxes.

Tucked inside the lunch box was a three-pepper Muscovy duck prosciutto sandwich, with small jars of Ho Farms pickles and pomegranate-beet ketchup we could enjoy on the spot or later at home. There was also a container of shichimi-dusted tapioca puffs that I had taken out.

After leaving the farm, we made a detour to Kahuku Superette, where chef Hazama had to introduce us to one of his favorite guilty pleasures, crisp, garlicky shell-on opae poke. Yums! No garans this pitstop will be part of future tours.

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 Naked Cow Dairy.

Dinner is set for 6 p.m. Dec. 5 at Edge of Waikiki, followed by a 10 a.m. meeting time on Dec. 6 at Aloha Landing for a farm tour. Guests will return from Naked Cow Dairy at approximately 3 p.m.

The Dec. 5 collaboration dinner will feature chefs Hazama and Brett Villarmia executing a menu that will feature brown butter-seared Naked Cow Dairy halloumi, black cardamom-spiced scallops with lavender Naked Cow Dairy buttermilk, garlic- and herb-roasted Colorado lamb Loin with micro-mint Naked Cow labne and pomegranate-pink peppercorn Naked Cow honey butter, an artisanal cheese tasting, and dessert of cookies and milk, including spiced toasted Naked Cow coconut butter shortbread and smoked Hawaiian sea salt caramel leche.

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 Naked Cow Dairy, tax and gratuity. Call (808) 921-4600 or visit flavorsofhawaii.com for reservations.

The hotel also offers a special room rate for Table to Farm guests. Call (808) 921-4610 and request the “Farm Tour” rate.
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 nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.