Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Detox epilogue: A slow comeback

 Nadine Kam photos
On my first morning back from Blue Tree Cafe's juice cleanse, I have the last juice, the tomato and celery Virgin Mary that I had hoarded from yesterday, and a fistful of raw unsalted almonds. I believe the total calories is about 350.

At Blue Tree Cafe, one of the mottos about their juice cleanse is that “It will change your life.”

I do feel great, lighter and energized though I was correct in that the 1,500 calories a day would not result in weight loss for a petite person.

Time will tell how much this will change my diet. I’m not one to be concerned with diet in the first place. Obviously, I eat for a living so don’t shy from trying new things. But, while on the cleanse I did become aware of how much social dining I do, and how that leads to extraneous meals when I want to hang out with friends, when we all eat—not because we’re hungry, but because we want to hang out and talk.

In having to resist foods, I think anyone who initiates a juice cleanse will realize how little food the human body requires, and how much most people overeat on a regular basis. For the most part, eating today is more a sensory than survival instinct. It takes very little food to stay alive.

At this point, a bowl of ramen would be too much for me. I would only be able to manage a few spoonfuls of broth and a few noodles.

I’m not naturally a snacker. I don’t keep much food at home because I simply don’t crave it. Yet, I know now that I do a lot of mindless eating, picking up on cookies or candy in the office, not because I’m hungry or even want them, but because they’re simply sitting within arm’s reach. In the process of not eating, I’m surprised by how much I can resist.

Unlike many people I know, I don’t crave bread, pasta, pastries, candy or cookies. My downfall would be fat, seafood, meat, french fries or anything potato. If I could curb those appetites, cut back on extraneous and mindless eating, and make a more concentrated effort to get enough fruit and veggies, that would go a long way in reducing my junk food intake and living more healthfully.
So, that’s the plan for 2014 and beyond.

Lunch: An ear of corn and three celery sticks, about 130 calories.

Through the juice cleanse, I craved solid food and longed for the end when I could eat again, but yesterday I realized I couldn't just jump back into normalcy, which would surely lead to heartburn as the stomach amps up the digestion process.

What to eat? After the accomplishment of a cleanse, you don't want to return to old habits right away and put toxins back into your body.

Because I was too full to finish my juices over two days, I managed to carry a Virgin Mary over, and drink that for breakfast. I thought about making oatmeal, but was too lazy, so just grabbed a fistful of almonds.

The night before, I had gone shopping and because I craved fat, wanted to buy an avocado for lunch today, but they were all too green. I spotted corn and thought it would be easy to boil that and bring for lunch, to ease my way back to carbs. The fiber is a continuation of the detox process, though nutritionally, a sweet potato or yam would have been a healthier choice.

I have carrots at home. I buy celery, onions, kale and chicken to go into chicken soup later today, to ease back into protein.

I chop the veggies ahead so I can start the soup when I come home from work. Can't wait to have a taste of chicken, though it will be about 1-1/2 ounces per helping. I plan to have two servings, spaced out over a few hours.

The great thing is that, having started and ended when I did,  I just have to maintain healthy thoughts for 2014. The hardest work has been done.

Chopped onions, carrots and celery for chicken-kale soup.

The finished chicken-kale soup. I end the day at about 800 calories. Between lunch and dinner I snack on five holiday dry-roasted macadamia nuts and a banana.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Detox Day 5: Potluck No. 2

Nadine Kam photo
On Day 5 of my Blue Tree Cafe juice cleanse, I walk into another potluck situation. Aware of my own food weaknesses, it's interesting to see the choices others make.

Last day, hurrah! I can’t wait to start eating tomorrow, but then I’m struck by the thought that I need a comeback plan. I remember vaguely that on the first season of TV’s “Survivor,” the castaways ended their restrictive diets with a big juicy burger, and promptly threw up. Their bodies could no longer handle the grease and fat.

Opposing forces. Fried chicken vs. kabocha and purple sweet potato. Every potluck has this dynamic of good and evil that forces us to choose.

I think I might ease into it tomorrow by having an avocado for lunch and making chicken soup with kale and squash for dinner. I need to go grocery shopping after work.

In the meantime, I start the morning at 7:30 a.m. with yesterday’s unfinished “Carotene Cure,” and head to Blue Tree Cafe to pick up my last day’s ration of cleansing juices. Because I had this one juice “banked,” I may bank another overnight to ease my way back to real food tomorrow.

Detox Day 4: Succumbing to temptation

I look so happy with my first bite of food in four days. More importantly, my skin looks good from consuming so much liquified fruit and veggies. — Candice Kraughto photo

Today is the day of brunch with visiting friends. I pick up blueberry scones, blueberry and almond danishes and some savory buns at Liliha Bakery before heading out to Cookspace Hawaii.

The table is set with mostly carbs and sweets. The boys are making french toast and on the table are various breads, fruit-topped panna cotta, white chocolate bark with cranberries and nuts, macarons, and, looking very tempting, mini muffin pan frittatas. OMG! I have a lot of willpower when it comes to carbs and sweets. Other people always tell me how much they crave bread, pasta or chocolate, but I could live without any of that. Instead I find fatty, savory foods irresistible.

My food vs. box of Liliha Bakery sweets and savories.

Felled by frittatas.

Melanie Kosaka's frittatas are studded with mushrooms and bacon, two more favorite ingredients. I'm thinking, well, if I can have a little to-go, they could keep two days, right?

We sit down to eat, 13 people with their plates. Me with my "Honey Badger" and "Very Verde." Today's Honey Badger seems to have more cayenne than the last one, so I'm wondering if the spice will upset my stomach without food in it. Meanwhile, everyone is exclaiming how good the frittatas are and asking for the recipe.

Yum, tako!

They're telling me I'm a sadist or masochist by attempting a cleanse during the social season. I still think the timing has been good. I'm lucky to be sitting next to someone whose diet over the past eight months has been very restrictive. She eats a small tangerine and one piece of sake-marinated tako, also tempting. It smells so wonderful. She's a little freaked after drinking a bit of fruit smoothie that she learns has some cream in it because she's not supposed to have any dairy products.

Some of the ingredients at the smoothie bar.

The smoothie bar had been set up, partially, to accommodate the two of us.

Realization 6: The act of trying to eat more healthfully does have an impact on the people around you because it gets them to think about what they're eating, and consider what they could tolerate, drop or curtail in their own lives.

I start to think one little piece of frittata won't hurt me. What is one little piece of egg after more than 300 ounces of fruits and vegetables and 4,500 calories over the last three days. A friend offers a piece of the frittata on her plate and I eat about 2 inches worth. I use the My Fitness Pal app to figure that's about 42 calories.

Temptations abound.

Cooking at Cookspace Hawaii.

I look so happy everyone takes my picture. It was worth every nibble. If this is the only bit of food I've had in four days, I think that's pretty good and reflects a healthful attitude toward food. I think anything is OK in moderation, and in the bigger picture, I'm starting to realize how much social and mindless eating adds up. I often eat things for the sake of the motor pleasure, even when I know it's not going to be worth the calories. Now I know how much I can resist, and going forward want to focus only on what I really do want to eat.

Fruit-topped panna cotta.

Because I had such a late start on my meals, at noon, or maybe that small bit of frittata was more filling than I thought, at midnight I realize I'm not really hungry and cannot finish all the drinks. I skip the Carotene Cure in favor of the almond milk. Maybe I'll have the Cure tomorrow morning, and carry over one drink on New Year's eve as a meal replacement to ease me back into the world of solid food.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Detox Day 3: Mind over matter

Darlene Kam photo
What I'm missing: Spicy shrimp plate from Andy's Kahuku Shrimp.

I wake up late at 10:30 and start checking my emails and texts. The phone rings and it's my mom, asking me if I want to go eat shrimp at Andy's Kahuku Shrimp with her and my sister. Very tempting, but I can't eat while detoxing, so I have to pass.

Just the night before, a friend told me she gave me credit for being out and about because she wouldn't leave her house if she couldn't eat.

I find myself going out because so many friends are in town just for the holidays. One of my friends at Anna Miller's last night was in from D.C., and tomorrow, friends from New York and Shanghai want to celebrate with a potluck brunch at Cookspace. Torture! I love brunch but won't be able to eat anything!

I do have a lot of willpower though. I've read about the Stanford Marshmallow Experiments in which children were offered a marshmallow or other treat, then told they would receive one more if they did not eat it before the researcher returned (usually 15 minutes.) Most of the kids ate the marshmallow.The ones who could display patience and willpower in anticipation of greater payoff grew up to be more successful than the others. I was the sort of kid who would have waited for that second reward.

By this point, I'm not anticipating weight loss. Because I'm not hungry on this juice cleanse, I guessed that it packs more calories than my goal of limiting my intake to 1,200 calories a day. I don't always stay within that restrictive number, but I try to stay close. The big exception is on days that I'm reviewing a restaurant.

So, I ask when I pick up my juices at Blue Tree at 11:30 a.m. and the cleanse drinks amount to about 1,500 calories a day, a lot for me, but less than recommended for most women, and half that for a man who might typically consume 3,000 calories a day.

There are other benefits besides weight loss though. I notice that with friends who occasionally juice, their skin is smoother, less ruddy and less dry. When I comment on it, they say they're back with green juicing. After just two days, I feel my skin is looking glowy and less dry too. Happy.

By the time I return home it's noon and I'm so hungry. I guzzle down "A Perfect Start"—the day's whole menu is a repeat of Day 1—with a straw.

Realization 5: I drink much faster with a straw. While at work, sipping the drinks took an hour to two hours apiece. With the straw, it disappeared in a few minutes. Ditto the much thicker "Blue Tree Blend." So, if you're guzzling down Cokes and Big Gulps with your fast food, try removing the lid and sipping and see if that slows you down.

I scheduled as little as possible over the weekend, deciding to catch up on my reading, because I didn't know how I'd feel by Day 3 and 4. If Wednesday hadn't been Christmas, I would have started then so I could finish up on Sunday. People who have done this cleanse say it started getting harder on Days 2 and 3. It hasn't been hard on my body at all. What's hard is the psychology of missing and longing for food, the heat, the warmth, the fat. A friend who did this detox earlier said she craved salt. I crave fat, as usual.

It's funny that one other benefit of the cleanse is supposed to be heightened senses, but what I sense is any presence of food. Dieters must always feel this way, and the acute awareness of food one can't have is supposedly the reason most dieters fail.

Friends want to go see "Anchorman: The Legend Continues." I wonder if I should bring the "Virgin Mary" but I don't want to go to the restroom during the film so leave it at home to finish it later, along with the almond milk. The friends have popcorn with Coke. I'm not tempted by the smell of popcorn because theater popcorn is like cardboard to me.

Usually, after a movie, we would look for somewhere to go for a snack or dessert, not because we're hungry, but just to hang out. It's 10:30 p.m., past the time one should be eating and there's no point this time because I can't eat anything. Extraneous eating avoided ... this time. But this is not typical. Once again I'm reminded that all the social eating I do on a regular basis really adds up.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Detox Day 2: Temptations begin

Nadine Kam photos
Jamm Aquino photograph's my Day 2 meals.

I feel guilty that I only had 2 glasses of water yesterday, so the first thing I do when I wake up is to drink a glass of my hydrogen water before heading back to Blue Tree Cafe for Day 2 of the Renew cleanse.

I’ve arranged for SA photographer Jamm Aquino to take photos of the juices, which range from the vibrant orange of “Carotene Cure,” to the translucency of “Honey Badger” and white of almond milk. They look so pretty when backlighted.

Barista/juicer/martial artist James tells me Honey Badger is his favorite and I look forward to this first drink of the day, comprising apple, lemon, ginger and the spice of cayenne. Very yummy.

While there, I take a look at the menu board, where most of these juices are $6.95 if you were to purchase them singly.

I start drinking the Honey Badger at 10:30 a.m. and I’m ready for my first potty break at noon. Walking through the office, I’m hyper aware of the scent of co-workers lunches and everything smells wonderful, from meat to mustard. I’m hyper aware of food, and even though I’m not hungry at all, I want to pop things in my mouth. I guess the childhood oral fixation never goes away. Maybe we’re hardwired to pop things in our mouths.

Realization 4: I have a lot of restless energy and do a lot of social eating. Even if I’m not hungry, if I’m sitting with a bunch of people and there’s food at the table I will eat it as a way of staying active while sitting through lunches that can last from noon to 5 p.m., before moving on to dinner at another location.

I'm slated to go to the one-year anniversary party for Flag-J tonight at the Modern. I figure it will be easy not to eat. It'll be a little harder meeting friends at Anna Miller restaurant after the party. It's hard to watch other people eating and not participate. It just seems rude.

At 1 p.m., I get up again to move my car. By the time I walk back, I’m ready for another restroom break. It’s so annoying.

Very Verde.

At 1:30, I’m still not hungry, but I better start drinking again, or I’ll never complete the day’s regimen. Next up is “Very Verde” and I’m looking forward to this blend of kale, avocado, spinach, banana, coconut water, hemp, chia seeds and apple. I taste more banana. I wish there were more avocado. I guess I’m craving fat, but I’m enjoying this lunch. This is what I would typically order at Blue Tree, though I’d have it with a curry chicken wrap or chicken sandwich.

At 3 p.m., I start on the Green Lemon Aid of kale, celery, ginger, apple and lemon. At 5 p.m., I head home for a change of clothes before going out to the Modern. I consider bringing one of my juices along in case I get hungry, but I'm juggling camera, video and clutch and don't want to risk dropping a jar on the ground. Of course I start feeling hungry as soon as I get there. I remember what James had said to me that morning. He said the body can't differentiate between hunger and thirst, so if you feel hungry, drink more water.

Falafel at the Flag-J party.

At the party, there was a Mediterranean food setup, with the likes of hummus, crudite, falafel, pita and pesto. Not bad for dieters but I still can't have any. I really miss the mouth-feel of food. I always thought drinking all our nutrients or getting them in pill form would be so convenient, but neither delivers the satisfaction of chewing and savoring whole foods.

I couldn't indulge in cheese or even a healthful selection of vegetable crudités.

I leave the party at 9:30 because I have to meet some Leeward side friends at Anna Miller's at 10:30. Stop off at home to change and pick up my next two drinks, more kombucha Hydrator, this time with chia seed, and the Carotene Cure. At Anna Miller's I look at the menu. If freed from detox, I would be ordering the bacon avocado burger. Alas. One of my friends orders lemon meringue pie. My other friend orders a grilled cheese sandwich with fries. It was relatively easy to resist a taste of each. I finish both by the time we leave at 12:30 a.m.

I finish up this post while drinking the last concoction of the day, again the calcium- and vitamins D- and E-rich almond milk, that includes dates and agave. This drink is said to promote a healthy heart and enhanced immune function. It makes a soothing finale.

I end up at Anna Miller's, house of pies, and resist eating anything.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Detox: The new year cleanse starts now

My day's "meals" on one of Blue Tree Cafe's juice detox plans are clearly marked and numbered.

2013 did not feel like a good year to me. Every high was tempered by the blow of losing my husband to lung cancer in April. Grief takes a toll on mind, body and spirit in a way in which I totally understood how, when the elderly lose a spouse, the grieving survivor often follows soon after.

I have spent many months working on mind and spirit, but still have trouble sleeping, getting only four or five hours a night. And my diet has been a steady stream of restaurants. I haven’t cooked once since he died, down from three to four times a week.

I wanted to start the new year clean, so headed to Blue Tree Cafe, where a five-day “Renew A” juice cleanse is one of handful they offer. This particular one is geared toward any newbie to detoxing. You get six smoothie/protein drinks per day, at about $40 per day. Pick them up your jars in the morning and you’re set. There is a bottle deposit you get back when you return all the bottles.

For me, the day after Christmas was the perfect time to start. It’s the slowest time of year for me, and I haven’t gone out on New Year’s Eve since I met Chris more than 20 years ago. He always said he didn’t want to risk being out on the road on “Amateur Night.” I just have to keep friends at bay with promises of going out after the new year, and in cases where there is a party or getting together with a friend moving to Korea, I’ll just not eat or bring my smoothie along.

I’ve never been on a liquid detox diet before, so don’t know how my body will respond. I think I’ll be OK because when I do drink smoothies, I feel full for hours.

Last supper: Oxtail soup and french fries at Likelike Drive-Inn. Detox that!

I decided to have one last hurrah on Christmas Day. After heading to the movie theater to watch “The Wolf of Wall Street”—a good movie but perhaps an hour too long due to all the gratuitous sex, orgy and drug scenes (We get it OK! Has every director caught Peter Jackson fever and become overindulgent on the editing?—my friends and I headed to Likelike Drive-Inn (one of the handful of places open late Christmas Day), where at 10 p.m. I ordered the oxtail soup.

I didn’t think it was that heavy, but as happens when I have a heavy late-night meal, I woke up starving. Usually, I don’t feel hungry in the morning so don’t eat breakfast, but with my stomach already rumbling, I hoped the detox drinks would be enough.

I had called in my order on Christmas Eve. They told me they had five other pickups starting the day after Christmas and had already put in their produce order, but it would be fine if I could arrive after 9 a.m. Perfect.

When I got there this morning, the numbered bottles were already sitting in the refrigerator, ready to go and arranged nicely in a recycle bag.

First up was the light green “Perfect Start.” I didn’t have a menu, so everything would be a surprise. It was a sweet surprise, a refreshing, eye-opening blend of pineapple, cucumber, green apple and mint. So far so good. I started drinking at 10:30 a.m.

It was a work day at the paper, and at a certain point, I had to leave my desk and talk to someone about a deadline. Of course the day after Christmas, there were new boxes of candy around, and while talking to the person I mindlessly picked up a Mauna Loa milk chocolate-covered macadamia nut. I took a 1 centimeter bite of the chocolate before realizing I wasn’t supposed to eat anything outside my Blue Tree drinks.

Realization 1: It just demonstrated how much mindless eating I may be doing throughout the day. I wasn’t even hungry. I was just standing around talking, and it was there within reach. I toss the uneaten candy away.

Holiday gingerbread display at Sheraton Princess Kaiulani

Nadine Kam photos
The Sydney Opera House is the newest addition to the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani's Santa's Gingerbread Village. 

Adding to the festivities of the holidays, the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani's Santa’s Gingerbread Village is open for viewing through Jan. 2 in the resort’s lobby.

The village stands more than 14.5 feet high and more than 28 feet long, constructed with 320 gallons of icing, 150 pounds of dark chocolate, 50 pounds of white chocolate, and 100 sheets of gingerbread.

Executive chef Ralf Bauer’s edible winter wonderland took nearly half a year to complete. After years of perfecting the gingerbread buildings representing the quaint mountainside villages of his native Germany, including medieval churches, bell towers, train stations, a carousel, a skating rink, German Village with its castle, Swiss chalet and Alps, Bauer moved on to creating such iconic Hawaii landmarks such as Kawaiahao Mission Church, Moana Surfrider and Aloha Tower, as well as other world-famous landmarks such as Washington D.C.'s Washington Monument, the Eiffel Tower, London's Tower Bridge, and Nara, Japan's Yakushiji Temple.

Non-flash video

This year, he added the Australia's Sydney Opera House, which took three months to complete, as he engineered its sails of rolled sugar dough.

Bauer was assisted by pantry chef Amie Tungpalan, executive sous chef John Hightower and the hotel’s engineering department.
The hotel is at 120 Kaiulani Ave. Call 922-5811 or visit www.princess-kauilani.com.

The village started with executive chef Ralf Bauer’s desire to recreate the mountainside villages of his native Germany.

The Aloha Tower in gingerbread, and incongruously, with snow!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Haiyan benefit dinners slated

More than 20 of Hawaii's top chefs are coming together to present an evening of food, drink and entertainment Nov. 25 at the Blaisdell Center, during the "Chefs for Hope" fundraiser for the Haiyan typhoon relief effort in the Philippines.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for VIP tables with table service, at $5,000 for 10 people, as well as reserved seating of $1,500 for 10 people.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for those purchasing $100 grazing tickets.

All funds raised will be donated to the Salvation Army. See the image above for participating restaurants, entertainers and drink purveyors.

Tickets are available at the Blaisdell box office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 22, 23 and 25. Tickets are also available at Chef Chai at Pacifica. Call 585-0011.


Photos courtesy Hy's
Adobo bone-in shortrib at Hy's.

Hy's also hosts relief dinner

Hy’s Steak House will also be hosting a Typhoon Haiyan Relief Dinner on Nov. 26.

Executive chef Erwin Manzano, who was born was born in the Philippines at Cagayan Valley, Naguilian Isabela, will create a Filipino-inspired three-course dinner with proceeds supporting the fundraising efforts.

Seating is limited. First seating will be at 5:30 p.m. Call 922-5555 for reservations for the $75 per person dinner.

Options are:
First course (choose one): Beef vegetable lumpia, pako (warabi, pohole) fern salad, or scallop egg drop soup 

Second course (choose one): Adobo bone-in shortrib (osso bucco style), pan-seared monchong, or Surf 'n' Turf of prime tenderloin and sauteed shrimp with coconut milk sauce (ginataang hipon).

Third course (choose one): Leche flan, halo-halo, or vanilla ice cream or sorbet. springroll

Springrolls created for Hy's Haiyan relief dinner.


Panda collecting donations

Panda Restaurant Group Inc., parent company of Panda Express, is will collecting donations in each of its 1,650 Panda Express, Panda Inn and Hibachi-San locations to assist victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which recently devastated the Philippines.

Panda also will match 100 percent of in-store and corporate donations collected through Dec. 4. The funds will be distributed to the American Red Cross and the Tzu Chi Foundation, an international non-profit humanitarian organization, to support their direct efforts to help victims of the typhoon.

Giving is one of Panda's core values. Since 2011, Panda has raised $1.6 million in collected and matching donations to aid victims of natural disasters including the tornado that hit Moore, Okla., in May, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Donations will assist the American Red Cross' efforts. Donations sent by Panda to Tzu Chi will support its disaster response center in the Philippines, which is delivering supplies and providing relief to devastated regions that now lack access to basic necessities and clothing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mariposa reopens in time for the holidays

Nadine Kam photos
Mariposa at Neiman Marcus has a new look, but some things haven't changed, like informal lunch time fashion shows.

Mariposa restaurant was temporarily closed beginning early October to refresh its look, and reopened on Nov. 11, just in time for holiday shoppers who need midday or evening respite from the laborious task.

I took a peek over lunch Nov. 16, to find new carpet in springtime green, and lighter chairs to match. Otherwise, artwork and ceiling fans are still in place to keep breezes flowing around the room.

I was reminded that the restaurant hasn't had a facelift since the store opened 15 years ago, in September 1998, so it was due. Time sure flies!

Here's a look at a few of the new lunch dishes. Otherwise, the menu hasn't changed much, so you'll still find all your old favorites, from the Mariposa corn chowder, to composed salad, and Laksa seafood curry.

Grilled shrimp "cocktail" with avocado, fennel, orange slices and seaweed salad in Maui pineapple-golden tomato gazpacho is a tasty starter, and only 190 calories.

By popular request, Mariposa poke has been added to the menu, with hamachi, king salmon and ahi over brown rice. It's a starter that can also double as a meal for the fashionable who want to maintain their figures. It's 280 calories.

Rosemary and garlic-roasted pork chop is also one of the new menu additions. It's topped with pistachio gremolata, and served over risotto Milanese, $20.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Restaurant Week Hawai'i underway

Nadine Kam photos
Cream puffs and fruit tarts in the Kapiolani Community College Ka 'Ikena Laua'e fine dining restaurant, among the restaurants participating in the 6th annual Restaurant Week Hawai'i.

During Restaurant Week Hawai'i, why not start at the source, Kapiolani Community College, which turns out many of the individuals who make our local culinary scene run?

The goal of Restaurant Week is to realize a vision of an advanced culinary campus—the KCC Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head. Graduates of Hawaii's first four-year culinary program will go on to serve Hawaii's restaurant and hospitality industry and, ultimately, the greater community.

A portion of the proceeds from Restaurant Week Hawaii will support the KCC Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head, so there was no doubt that Ka 'Ikena Laua'e would be among the 97 restaurants on four islands participating in the event that encourages diners to get out and patronize restaurants. In return, the restaurants offer discounts and specials to help defray the usual cost of dining out.

At Ka 'Ikena Laua'e, patrons who mention "Hawai'i Restaurant Week" before placing their order receive a 10 percent discount off lunch.

Alas, while the week ends Sunday, the school's dining room is only open through Fridays, so tomorrow is the last day to get this particular deal on a three-course meal (about $25 per person) that starts with a choice of vichyssoise or goat cheese tart, choice of five entrees, choice of dessert and beverages.

The students are doing a terrific job what is essentially a working laboratory that makes you feel as if you are in a commercial restaurant.

Here's the full list of Restaurant Week participants: www.restaurantweekhawaii.com

Ka 'Ikena Laua'e is in the 'Ohelo Building, 2nd floor, 4303 Diamond Head Road, open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays during the school session, through Dec. 4. The reservation line 734-9499 is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Here are a few of the dishes:

The vichyssoise.

Goat cheese tart with salad of lettuce and tomatoes.

Fisherman’s Stew of fish, shrimp, lobster and clams stewed in a light saffron broth with leeks
potatoes and tomatoes, served with spicy rouille and garlic crostini.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Food Network seeks Hawaii outsider

The Food Network is casting for a show about new restaurant owners and is looking for people who are moving or have moved from the contiguous 48 states to Hawaii, and have recently purchased or leased a restaurant or a building that you are going to transform into a restaurant. The episode will be part of a new tropical TV series.

If you feel you fit the criteria, plan to open a restaurant within the next six weeks or so, and want to participate, they are requesting that you send your information ASAP. Filming begins in January 2014!

To apply: send your phone number, email, city of residence and location of restaurant, along with photos of the restaurant and you and your family, or you and your business partner to: RestaurantBuyersWanted@gmail.com

First Course: Dagon delivers taste of Burma

Nadine Kam photos
The green tea salad is beautifully arranged, with a center of chopped lettuce surrounded by peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, green and yellow split peas, fried garlic, tomatoes and sunflower seeds, topped with a paste made of young green tea leaves. It's all mixed together at the table. To have it the Burmese way, they ask if you want chili pepper and fish sauce on it.

Here are more photos of dishes served at Dagon Burmese restaurant to go along with my column in the paper today.

Among my favorite dishes was the green tea salad, which my guest Dr. Tin Myaing Thein, executive director of Pacific Gateway Center, who hails from Burma, colorfully described as the Red Bull of her university days. Due to the tea's caffeine content, she said, "This is what did it for us and kept us going for exams.”

The PGC's Lemongrass Cafe, an incubator for immigrant restaurauteurs, was a long-time home to a Burmese pop-up by Aye Aye Maw, where many a local foodie was introduced to the national dish moh hinga, a fish-noodle soup that is a another favorite of mine. The rice noodle soup is thickened with fried rice powder that gives it a lot of flavor and body, a comfort food along the lines of jook and ramen.

One other must have is the coconut chicken noodle soup, topped with crispy won ton strips. The Burmese complain that it isn't as sour and spicy as they prefer, and truthfully, owner Khun Sai said he studied American preferences before opening his first restaurant. We tend to like our dishes more savory, fatty and sweet. But, lemons and chili pepper flakes, chili sauce and a Burmese chili-sesame paste are available for those who need to make any adjustments.

If you want an idea of what Burmese cuisine is like before you go, start by pulling out a map. Burma is bordered by India, Laos, Thailand and China, and the influences are all on the menu, from coconut to masala curries and stir-fries. That's quite a broad spectrum, and the amalgamation makes Burmese cuisine quite unique.
Dagon is at 2671 S. King St. in Moiliili, near Spices, across from Sushi King. Call 947-0088
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays to Mondays.

Savory coconut milk-chicken noodle soup, finished with won ton crisps, cilantro and slices of hard-boiled egg. Love this. In Burma, this is a portion for one, like ramen, but the richness of the coconut milk makes it a share dish for most locals. Try it first. You may find you can eat the whole bowl.

Moh hinga, a rice noodle soup with fish broth, is Burma's national dish. It's finished with crispy fried split peas that add texture when it's all stirred together.

A chili-sesame seed paste adds heat for those who want more spice in their dishes, the Burmese way.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Big Island Candies celebrates new Ala Moana store

Nadine Kam photos
A limited-edition, chocolate-dipped Hello Kitty design graces T-shirts at the newly open Big Island Candies store in the new Ala Moana Centercourt.

Big Island Candies hosted a couple of events to celebrate the opening of its new Ala Moana Center store, in the renovated street level Center Court, that has welcomed other retailers such as Swatch, Minamoto Kitchen, Papyrus, Island Sole and Freaky Tiki Tropical Optical.

Events started with a store blessing and official opening the morning of Nov. 15, followed by a cocktail reception Nov. 17, with chocolate dipping on site.

The new 1,800 square foot store is packed wall-to-wall with the company's signature chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies, plus a range of chocolate-covered to red velvet brownies, and other chocolate-dipped versions of island treats such as dried ika, arare, li hing mui and iso peanuts.

New products include Mika ume shiso-filled milk chocolates, toffee-coated chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, pineapple shortbread, and chocolate-filled shortbread "Manju."

Many of the goodies are packaged in gift boxes for easy holiday shopping, including a design by Sig Zane.

Prices start at a reasonable $6.50 for a package of chocolate-covered animal crackers, or $12.50 for a box of Mika chocolates.

The gleaming new store is dressed for the holidays, with plenty of edible gift items packaged and ready to deliver to friends and family.

Sharita Solmerin was dipping Big Island Candies signature shortbread cookies in milk chocolate during a cocktail reception that took place Nov. 17.

A little bit of chocolate with ika might turn non-seafood lovers into believers.

Macadamia nut shortbread dipped in a creamy blend of white chocolate and matcha green tea.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

First Course: The Pig & the Lady at home in Chinatown

Nadine Kam photos
The pho tsukemen served at the grand opening of The Pig & the Lady was terrific. Loved the texture of the silky noodles with the crunch and burst of salt from the fried shallots and garlic, and fantastic slow-roasted brisket. 

After two years of pop-ups, The Pig & The Lady, or, The Pig & the Le Family, has a true brick-and-mortar home at Lemongrass Cafe at 83 N. King St., partnering with The Pacific Gateway Center in developing programs to promote its mission of supporting and assisting immigrants, refugees and low-income residents.

As part of their partnership, TP&TL will be employing participants in the PGC's work training program and using produce they are planning to grow on their farms.

The dining area was built with community effort as well. Le took time to thank Daniel Anthony of Mana Ai for donating five beautiful, communal handcrafted mango wood tables. Someone I was talking to suggested the tables would be great for an Oktoberfest party. Other decor was the work of Fishcake.

At the bar.

The new restaurant will continue serving Vietnamese street food-style lunches and tasting dinners—based on Le's food memories—that have been hits with its pop-up and farmer's market clientele ever since TP&TL first popped up at Hank's Haute Dogs.

The restaurant hosted a private grand opening party Nov. 12, before opening to the public on the 13th.

For now, the restaurant is only open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., offering popular dishes from the farmer's markets and expanding its selection of banh mis (Vietnamese sandwiches), and noodle and rice dishes.

A few new additions featured at the grand opening party were:
>> P.L.T. melt banh mi: Fried portobello mushroom filled with cheddar, sprouts, local tomato and "Srirancha" sauce (Sriracha and ranch dressing).
>> New noodle soups: Including Vietnamese posole and pho tsukemen.
>> Doughnut- and Specaloos-flavored soft serve ice cream.

Dinner service will start on Dec. 12, when the restaurant will be serving Southeast Asian-inspired food.

Future events include the ever-popular “Dinner and a Movie” and “Trough Dinners,” and an oyster bar is in the works.

Chef Andrew Le and the lion.

Chef Andrew with his sister Allison and mom.

The ingredients for Vietnamese posole soup with chickpeas, pig head, shishito pepper paste, lemongrass and radish, before the broth went in.