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.