Monday, July 25, 2016

Tea Drops simplifies art of tea

Tea Drops photo
Tea Drops provide a convenient, portable way for tea lovers to enjoy a their favorite beverage whereever they go. In the cup is a tumeric tea drop. They come in a variety of shapes and flavors.

I love tea, but I'm also lazy, and that's a problem. Because, good tea requires a lot of implements, whether it's a bamboo whisk for your matcha powder or infuser for leaf teas. Then there's cleanup. There are a lot of times I'll pass in favor of an easy sugar-saturated juice instead.

Sashee Chandran also found it difficult to enjoy a fresh pot of tea while working in an office. But, unlike me, she was determined to do something about it, because tea is in her blood. She grew up steeped in tea culture east and west. Her mother is Chinese, and her father is Sri Lankan, raised in the British tea tradition.

"I realized how difficult it is for people to make tea, but there are a lot of people who would drink tea if the process could be simplified, so I spent 2-1/2 years experimenting in my kitchen," said Chandran, who was in town to share her creation at the Hawaii Lodging, Hospitality & Food Service Expo that took place July 13 and 14 at the Blaisdell Center.

Nadine Kam photos
Sashee Chandran spent two-and-a-half years perfecting her recipes in her kitchen.

The result is Tea Drops, organic teas and spices ground fine compressed into a variety of shapes, that can simply be dropped into a cup of hot water any place, any time. The drop dissolves in hot water, and voilá, hot (or cold) tea in flavors such as Cardamom Spice, Chocolate Earl Grey, and Citrus Ginger, all with a touch of organic sugar. (Sugar-free options are coming in fall.)

I have to say I was confused when someone gave me a couple of drops with no instructions. I placed it in my cup, expecting it to dissolve into loose leaves. When it just disappeared, I was like, "What is this?" It all came clear when I was able to sit down with Chandran—how else?—Over cups of tea.

Although tea fanatics in Hawaii prefer their teas sugar-free, Chandran said she loves chai and the British tradition of adding milk to any tea, so her first impulse was to recreate that combination of sweetened milk tea spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.

"I'm the last person who should have been experimenting in the kitchen. I have no chemistry background, no food service background, but I did know how to make a good cup of tea because I've been drinking it all my life. The hardest part was finding the right proportion of tea vs. spices and organic cane sugar to make it balanced."

Tea Drops come in paper or reusable and gift ready wood boxes. When done, the boxes can be upcycled in myriad ways, including finding a second life as a desktop or windowsill planter for your cacti garden.

She made the first batches just for herself, which she dropped into cups of hot water while working at eBay. Co-workers who witnessed it started asking, "What's that?" Pretty soon, they wanted them for themselves and Chandran was in business. With her background in ecommerce, she launched an online shop and within a couple of months was able to leave her full-time job.

Tea has now become part of her philosophy toward promoting a happy, healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Tea Drops all-in-one recipes eliminate the need for teabags and sweetener packets. The boxes are 100 percent biodegradable and compostable. Paulownia wood boxes can be repurposed for storage or used as planters.

She has also been experimenting with adding tea drops to cookies, soups, and making tea-infused soaps.

"I feel like this is the right time for it. People are into organic, they're into tumeric and matcha. There's something for everyone. Each tea has its own medicinal properties."

Turmeric, for example, has been used for centuries to treat wounds and infections. Modern science has shown that its main ingredient, curcumin, has antibiotic and antioxidant properties. According to WebMD, other chemicals in turmeric are anti-inflammatory, considered beneficial for overall health.

Her teas are now available in 200 small boutiques across the nation, including Nic's Island Cafe in Kukui Plaza. They are offered in single-flavor boxes at $16.50 for 10 drops, or a giftable wood box that can be customized with eight drops, for $18. It has been a popular seller during holidays, for both individuals and corporate gift givers looking for something new that also happens to be thoughtful, healthful, time-saving and beautiful.
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Look for Tea Drops at Nic's Island Cafe at 50 S. Beretania St. Call 200-7416. Or visit myteadrop.com.


Tea Drops photo
Ground tea leaves are compressed into different shapes, in just the right amount to create an 8-ounce cup of tea when water is added. The heart shape represents Sweet Peppermint.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Little bites of heaven at Pierre Marcolini



Nadine Kam photos
Macarons have arrived at Pierre Marcolini Haute Chocolaterie at Ala Moana Center.

If you have not yet experienced Pierre Marcolini Haute Chocolaterie on the third floor of Ala Moana Center's Ewa Wing, now is a good time. In addition to the chocolatier’s fine Belgium chocolates, the boutique has welcomed some delicious new arrivals.

Although chocolate is at the heart of the company's business, after tasting their macarons, it's hard to go back to any other. These shimmer in beautiful pastels, some with a mica-like shine, and come in 10 intense flavors ranging from dark chocolate to salted butter caramel to rose water buttercream.

The meringue shells are so delicate, it feels like a bite of air. The cost is $3.80 per piece, $17 for a box of four, and $32 for a box of eight.

Marcolini’s signature Les Coeurs (hearts) are now available in six flavors—passionfruit, lime, matcha, nougat, pistachio and salted buttter caramel—beyond his signature framboise, or raspberry, flavor. A four-piece boxed assortment is $17, the eight-piece box is $28.

Macarons in rosewater, dark chocolate, dark chocolate caramel, lemon tea, cassis, coffee, vanilla, pistachio, and salted butter caramel.

Natural almond and butter, chocolate chip and raspberry Financiers are also new, sold in a six-piece box for $27.

Pierre Marcolini's beautiful chocolate les couers, or hearts, now come in signature framboise, or raspberry, flavor, plus passionfruit, lime, matcha, pistachio, nougat and salted butter-caramel flavors.

A macaron tree in the store's window on the third floor of the center, outside Bloomingdale's.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage is in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

First Look: Peek inside soon-to-open BLT Market



Nadine Kam photos
BLT Steak's Johan Svensson has moved over to sister restaurant BLT Market as exedutive chef.  The restaurant will open in the Ritz Carlton Residences in Waikiki on June 28.

BLT Market executive chef Johan Svensson says he laughs a little bit whenever he hears people talk about farm-to-table dining as a trend.

"I think it's hilarious. From medieval times (5th to 15th centuries), people have gone to small markets or to their back yards for food."

 Corporate farming that arose only in the last century completely changed our relationship with food, such that many children have never eaten a fruit or vegetable fresh from a tree or vine, nor plucked out of the ground. Svensson said he, too, had forgotten the sweetness and texture of a freshly harvested baby carrot until being on the grounds at Mari's Gardens in Mililani.

"It hasn't been until 2013 or so that we've gone back to recreating these markets. People say it's a trend, but I don't think it's a trend anymore. I think it's the way to go."

The kitchen staff was testing out equipment and recipes, including this seared ahi with edamame purée, lotus root and sea asparagus.

Also in the kitchen with Svensson was celebrity chef, restaurateur and Esquared restaurant consultant David Burke.

There's been some confusion among food vendors since Svensson made the move from BLT Steak in the Trump International Hotel up the street to the Ritz Carlton Residences, where BLT Market is slated to open June 28. Deliveries have been going to his old digs instead of his new one, where the chef has been training staff, testing equipment and recipes.

Where BLT Steak's focus was on steak and a raw bar, BLT Market's focus is on local farm-to-table dining.

A video I made of Svensson in action back in 2011 showed he was already committed to local produce and food products, but the commitment will be even greater at BLT Market. Here's the video:


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"What people will need to understand is that it's not like a regular BLT Steak menu, where you can get exactly the same thing, prepared the same way any time. Here, it'll be a menu that's very much alive and completely changing depending on what I can get my hands on," Svensson said. "It's taking me to a new level because I want to be challenged all the time. I never want to be bored."

Svensson, who was born and raised on Torsö (Thor's Island), off Sweden's West Coast, said he grew up with Europe's back yard and market traditions, and moving to New York in 1997 was an eye-opening experience regarding the acceptance of factory farm and global networks necessary to feed American appetites for food on demand.

"I worked 13 years in New York City with a lot of chefs who told me I could get anything, anywhere at all times, and I just thought, 'This doesn't make sense. I don't get this when you can't find this fruit or vegetable anywhere on this continent. It's not a natural thing."

But, he adapted to the American way, and now that he's been running his own kitchens, is able to act on his passion and beliefs.

"All chefs create their own environment," he said.

Referring in part to molecular gastronomy, he said, "It seems that technique has been taking priority. We've gotten to a point where something tastes like food, but it doesn't look like food anymore. We're not taking the time to ask, is it good food? If the answer is no, we should not be putting it on a plate."
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BLT Market will open June 28 in the Ritz Carlton Residences Waikiki, 383 Kalaimoku St.




Sous chef Kevin Corriere puts one of the dishes through the taste test.

Josh Cornatt unpacks the Riedel stemware.

A glimpse of the open-air dining area.


Svensson's duties at BLT Market will extend to providing room and poolside food service for the Ritz Carlton residences, as well as to-go items for Dean & DeLuca, also housed on the property.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage is in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Pressed Juicery's Freeze makes it easy to get all your fruit & veggies

Photos courtesy Pressed Juicery
Pressed Juicery's all-greens "Green 1" cold-pressed juice is turned into an all-natural, guilt-free frozen dessert that is delicious, sweetened with apple, dates and with coconut meat for added texture.

In the evolution of healthful drinking, there was a time we carried around plastic water bottles, soon replaced by Hydro Flasks and bkrs once we learned the hazards and toll of plastics.

These days, you're likely to see the return of plastic. Only the contents have changed from clear to hues of bright reds to dark green, even cream and black.

Yes, our cups runneth over ... with juice, and the juice bars, they keep a-comin'. The latest is California-based Pressed Juicery, which opened its doors June 12 in Ala Moana Centers Ewa Wing, street level, makai side next to the Bloomingdale's entrance.

In an email interview, co-founder and CEO Hayden Slater said, “Growing up in Los Angeles, I was educated about health and wellness trends, but I rarely practiced them in my own life. In the early days of my career, I constantly felt lethargic and stressed and was living on a diet of fast food.

"It wasn’t until I traveled to Southeast Asia that I tried a juice cleanse—it began as five days and ended up lasting for 30 days. I was amazed at how energized I felt, and after returning home I realized I wanted to share this experience with others.

"I think that juicing was a catalyst for healthier behaviors. I began to start my day with a green juice, and that motivated me to make better decisions every day, ultimately leading me to get in better shape and feel great again.”

Juice delivered by the numbers, allowing people to gauge their flavor compatibility. In the case of Greens and Roots, the No. 1s are the most unadulterated flavors. Higher numbers will have fruit juices blended in for sweetness, and lemon for a bright touch of citrus.

With Pressed Juicery, Slater said, "Our main priority is making high nutrition a realistic option for everyone. To that end, we’re focused on creating blends that appeal to a wide range of customers—whether they’ve been drinking cold-pressed juice for years or are trying it for the very first time. We also love to experiment with unique flavors and ancient ingredients; for example, our Greens 5 is a tropical take on green juice that includes pineapple and fennel, and our charcoal lemonade can provide detoxifying effects."

Pressed Juicery's blends have been tested over time in 40 markets nationwide, and they're all delicious, from the all-greens "Green 1," to unique signature blend of Brazil Nut, with the nuts, kale, spinach, romaine, vanilla bean, dates and sea salt.

Well, actually, I'd probably stay away from Greens 4 just because it contains watercress, and that's the flavor that stands out most because I'm not a big fan of watercress.

Nadine Kam photosA flight of greens. Greens 1 on the left has the highest concentration of greens. Next to it, Greens 1.5 has sea salt added. Greens 4, counting toward right, tastes greenest, with the bitterness of watercress. Most people will gravitate to Nos. 2 and 3, with the sweetness of apple and a touch of lemon.

Juices are divided into citrus, roots, greens and fruit categories. Each category has three to five different blends. I'm a fan of the greens and roots. Of course I love citrus and fruits as well, but I'm cautious about taking in too much sugar. Prices range from $7.50 to $9 for 16 ounces.

One thing Pressed Juicery has that no other local juice bar is offering is their juice-based Freeze soft-serve that may change the way we enjoy dessert and offers a palatable way for even the most fruit-and-vegetable averse to get their five a day. The six flavors offered are Greens, Roots, Citrus, Fruits, Chocolate and Vanilla. Each starts with the juicery's standard juice sweetened with dates and with coconut meat added for body.

The Freeze is offered in $5 and $6 cups; add $1.75 for your choice of toppings such as fresh fruit, chia seeds, granola, shaved almonds, shredded coconut, cacao drizzle, almond butter, dark chocolate chips and pink Himalayan sea salt.

With the Freeze, it would be nice to have a place to sit down and enjoy dessert with friends. The company is growing fast, and that's something they'll need to consider in planning future stores as today's juice bars have the potential to become tomorrow's soft-serve parlors.
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Pressed Juicery is open 9 a.m.to 9:30 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Call (808) 949-5272.

Midweek's Rasa Fournier looks forward to her Greens Freeze, which she had topped with cacao drizzle, raspberries, pineapple and shaved almonds.

A diverse line of tourists and locals, young and old, flowed through the juicery all afternoon, four days after its Sunday opening.

The setting, makai side street level next to the lower level of Bloomingdale's in Ala Moana Center's Ewa Wing, around the corner from Shirokiya's soon-to-open Japan Village Walk.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage is in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Icing lessons at Magnolia Bakery Hawaii

Nadine Kam photos
Magnolia Bakery celebrated the launch of its new rainbow-colored Aloha cupcake June 9.

A class in how to ice a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery Cafe turned into confirmation that I should never work at a bakery.

Coinciding with the bakery's launch of its Hawaii-only Aloha cupcake, a coconut cream-filled lilikoi confection topped with rainbow-colored meringue, a bunch of writers and photographers were tasked with recreating the signature buttercream swirl that tops the cupcake.

Pastry sous chef Alison Yokouchi led a session in how to ice a cupcake with an icing spatula she referred to as her "magic wand."

Our initial results were mostly disastrous, and pastry sous chef Alison Yokouchi assured it took her about 20 hours to perfect her skills.

Maybe golfers will appreciate that one also has to be pretty flexible and limber to perfect the swirl that calls for a nearly 360-degree flick of the wrists.


Video link

I ended up digging too deep in the icing and scalping my cupcake. Oh well, with Magnolia here, I have no reason to ever do such work myself.

For those who want to try their hand at the task, Magnolia is offering icing classes for private parties, with a minimum of six participants. Each participant will take home six cupcakes they have created, plus recipes for Magnolia’s best-selling vanilla cupcake and vanilla buttercream frosting. The cost per person is $75.

If you can't get a group together, public classes for set days and times are being planned.
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Magnolia Bakery Cafe is at Ala Moana Center. For more information on the classes, call 942-4132.


This is the swirl we were aiming for.

Yotaro Takenaka with his cupcake finished with candy sprinkles.

Emi Hart was pleased with her creation, after four tries.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage is in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A peek at Japan Village Walk

Nadine Kam photos
Pork ramen is one of the specialties of Kobe-based Gashoken Ramen, among the 30 to 40 eateries that will be a part of Shirokikya's Japan Village Walk, slated to open June 25 on the ground level of Ala Moana Center's Ewa Wing.

A handful of restaurants in the soon-to-open Japan Village Walk at Ala Moana Center, were testing the facilities and recipes June 1 and needed a few guinea pigs to dispatch the food. I was happy to do so while getting a sneak peek into Shirokiya's newest food concept.

Shirokiya's former Yataimura was just a warmup act for this colossal food court, set to house about 30 to 40 different food vendors.

The layout is clean and orderly, but will also be a grid-like maze of boxy take-out counters. It will be easy enough for adults to navigate, but parents will have to hold on to their children, who may get confused by the sameness of the setting—sort of like townies driving around Mililani or Kapolei.

God-san will offer a variety of yakisoba dishes, such as these bentos featuring omelet and shrimp, and omelet, bacon and fried egg.

So far so good as far as the equipment testing. Deep-fried croquettes and tonkatsu were turning out crisp and light. Ramen from Gashoken was perfection. But with many more vendors set to move in, JVW won't be open until June 25, when everyone is confident they'll be ready.

Vintage Cave Honolulu will be introducing Wagyu Plaza featuring six boutique restaurants; Seafood Plaza featuring eight bistros; and Vintage Cave Bakery. The original Vintage Cave remains at its current location in Ala Moana Center’s Diamond Head Wing.

Adding to the foodcentric venue, Vintage Cave Café, is set to open next to JVW in October. The Italian-inspired café will feature an array of seafood dishes, Milan style pasta, Napoli style pizza, Wagyu steak and more, in a room mimicking the look and feel of an Italian Cathedral, complete with dome ceiling, murals, and sculptures from Italy. The 9,000-square-foot venue will seat 150 and include four private rooms.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Beyond burgers at The Counter

Nadine Kam photos
Korean BBQ steak fills one of the new sandwiches at The Counter, and it is da bomb!

If you haven't been to The Counter Custom Burgers in a while, it may be time for another visit. The Kahala Mall restaurant specializing in create-your-own burgers has launched a new menu that includes a handful of options to the beef burger, just because many diners want a little more variety in their lives.

New protein options on the create-your-own burger menu include a jumbo lump crabcake, Southern fried chicken and Korean BBQ grilled skirt steak that's a new favorite of mine. In chef Matthew Lindblom's hands, it's true to local expectations. Order these your way with your pick of dozens of toppings and sauces, or order it their way as described in the photos below.

Also new are:

WTF ("Why the Face" sandwich): A ground turkey patty is topped with provolone, applewood-smoked bacon, pickles, and house mustard on a Hawaiian bun, accompanied by salt &and vinegar kettle chips. Currently $12.50.

Crab Encounter: a jumbo lump crab cake sits atop a salad of organic mixed greens, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, applewood-smoked bacon, scallions and chopped egg, with honey dijon dressing.

Loaded tots:
The Counter's loaded tots are rolled in pimento cheese with bits of applewood smoked bacon, sprinkled with green onions and served with buttermilk ranch sauce.