Tuesday, August 28, 2012

CPK's on healthful 'New Adventure'

Nadine Kam photos
Cedar plank salmon + corn succotash from California Pizza Kitchen's "New Adventures" menu that debuted Aug. 27.

California Pizza Kitchen launched its New Advenuture menu items with a tasting of dishes at its Kalakaua Avenue location, focused on healthful dishes inspired by global cuisine. It's quite a feat to offer up dishes that embrace the best of two worlds: healthful and delicious.

The two don't often go together in the restaurant world. I was discussing with friends how I cook at home with very little salt and fat, so it's how I find balance from all the restaurant meals I ingest. I applaud CPK's effort to address appetites of those who want to eat more healthfully without feeling they're making any kind of sacrifice.

One of the best examples is the guilt-free, fire-roasted chile relleno, which does away with the deep-fried breading and heavy cheese. Yet, it's more flavorful than ever with the poblano pepper stuffed with a combination of diced chicken, eggplant, cheese, corn and black bean salsa, mushrooms and spinach, then topped with avocado salsa verde and cilantro. It's currently $12.10, and I would not have guessed that it was the a low-calorie dish, at 380 calories. They had divided the pepper below into thirds for tasting portions, and I was feeling a little bad about having two helpings. I didn't feel quite as bad when I found out that added up to a mere 250 or so calories.

On the other hand, I was surprised to find a deceptively simple salad of quinoa + arugula ($10.30) had nearly as many calories, at 610, as a platter of cedar plank salmon ($18.60) served with white corn and spinach succotash and crumbled feta, at 640.

The salad ingredients seemed harmless: feta, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, toasted pine nuts and asparagus, so no doubt it was the light champagne vinaigrette that added calorie-dense oil to the mix. This is how people misjudge the calories in food. It looked like the lightest offering at the table.

One more reason to check out the Waikiki restaurant, at 2284 Kalakaua Ave., kama'aina get a 15 percent discount. Call 924-2000.

Fire-roasted chile relleno is surprisingly low-cal, at 380 calories, considering its full-flavor deliciousness.

Servers wore T-shirts to mark the occasion. On the right, the T-shirt described all the ingredients in a quinoa + arugula salad ($10.30).

The room.

Shrimp scampi zucchini fettuccine, 550 calories, with lemon, garlic, white wine and parsley, without the butter. I liked it, but if I were ordering again on my own, I'd probably opt for the chile relleno or salmon. The shrimp and zucchini were great, but fettuccine didn't pick up enough flavor.

Not new, but a CPK classic, key lime pie with a Graham cracker crust, $6.75.

Step outside to the color of Waikiki and Kalakaua Avenue. The photo's blurry because this cockatoo was moving right up to the lens and I didn't want my finger taken off. It's owner assured me cockatoos and blue-gold macaws are friendly and told me I'm only afraid because the two birds I do have, a sun conure and African gray, are the most ornery of the bird kingdom. "It's their nature (to want to take your finger off)," she said.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Best in smoked meat at 'Up in Smoke'

Nadine Kam photos
Judging the pork entries—and there were way more than this—at the 4th annual "Up in Smoke" smoked meat cook-off Aug. 18 at Aloha Stadium were 3660 on the Rise chef Russell Siu in the foreground, and Craig Nagano with his son Kyle.

I just couldn't say no when Fresh Catch asked me to be a judge in its 4th Annual Smoked Meat Cook-off Aug. 18, inviting "backyard chefs" to bring their secret recipes to compete for cash and prizes including a grand prize of a Las Vegas vacation for two.

The event took place in the Aloha Stadium Salt Lake Blvd. parking lot, where there were a couple dozen tents devoted to all things smoked: beef, pork, tako, mouflon sheep, goat and macadamia nuts. I hadn't had mouflon since my days dating a hunter. Smoking the meat on site on the Big Island was necessary for preserving, moving and divvying up the game, and everyone's process is elevated to an artform. At home, it wasn't so mythical. Our diet also consisted of teriyaki dove meat from birds he shot in the backyard for practice.

I was told I would be judging smoked fish, but when I got there and saw all the pork samplings, I couldn't resist. When judging, there's always the fear you'll fill up before your work is done, but given the 1/2-inch to 1-inch sampling portions of the delectable smoked meat, I figured I could get away with tasting some of it before the contest started.

A handful of entries in the Smoked Beef and Anything Goes categories.

When Fresh Catch chef/owner Reno Henriques started the competition four years ago to honor the work of hunting friends, judges had to try all the entries. Now it's divided into more manageable beef, pork, fish and "anything goes" categories. Based on my sampling at the tents, I would say the pork is the most difficult category to judge because of the range of flavors involved. Some of the marinades used were more soy based, some sweeter, some very spicy, yet each was so smoky delicious, the winner just had to come down to personal preference after all the other criterion had been met. Entries were judged for flavor, tenderness and appearance, with 75 percent of the vote weighted toward judge's picks, and 25 percent for people's choice.

One of the smoked salmon entries. Judging was blind so we weren't able to match teams with their entries.

The 1st place Pork category winner and 1st place People's Choice would then compete in the "Up In Smoke" throw down challenge with the Vacations Hawaii Las Vegas Getaway Vacation grand prize, valued at $3,500-plus.

While waiting for contest results, attendees could grab a bite from Fresh Catch and other vendors, as well as ogle the more than 70 classic, street rods and vintage cars that were part of the concurrent "Nobody Cares" car show. A portion of the funds raised from the event will be donated to the Hawaii Chapter of the National Kidney Foundation.

A couple of the best fish entries. Loved the Guava Smoked salmon belly on the right, enough to be able to find them at the Farmers Markets. It was the second choice of the other judge, who deemed it "too easy." The salmon bellies sell for $12 a pound. Guava Smoked's winning smoked pork sells for $10 per pound.

I also liked this dynamite-style salmon dish topped with smoky mushroom, surimi and lup cheong, but I'm afraid the salmon itself wasn't smoky enough for a smoke challenge.

Hunters were well represented.

Below is the winners list. Alas, because of the backyard nature of the offerings, you can't easily find most of these, although some people do offer their specialties by the pound. For instance, you can find 1st place Pork winner Guava Smoked at the Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market on Tuesdays, and at the Blasidell Farmers Market on Wednesdays.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Yogurtland teams with Sanrio for free offer

Sanrio photos
Free frozen yogurt will be served up courtesy of Yogurtland and Sanrio Aug. 21 at the Waikiki Yogurtland location.

Fans of Hello Kitty may want to drop by Yogurtland at the Pacific Beach Hotel, 2490 Kalakaua Ave. on Aug. 21.

Hello Kitty and Sanrio are wrapping up their cross-country “Summer Vacation” celebration launch with a party hosted by Hello Kitty and Badtz Maru from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Yogurtland Waikiki.

Guests dropping in that day will be treated to free frozen yogurt served in a specially designed Honolulu Yougurtland cup accompanied by a Badtz-Maru spoon.

Additional co-branded items will be available for purchase, including a Hello Kitty plush toy ($13.50) dressed in a Yogurtland uniform, along with key chains ($3.99 each), buttons, tote bags and coin purses showing Hello Kitty, Badtz-Maru, Little Twin Stars and TuxedoSam.

Spoons based on the Sanrio characters.

Rubber keychains available while supplies last.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I prefer abalone wriggle-free

Nadine Kam photos
Live abalone on the plate at Sushi Ii.

New at Sushi Ii, in the Samsung Plaza, is a generous and decadent amuse bouche of fresh abalone.

When I dropped in to see what's new on his chalkboard, sushi chef/owner Garrett Wong asked me if I liked raw abalone, I said, "Sure!" I was thinking a few pieces of sashimi and wasn't paying much attention to the prep going on behind the counter.

So I was surprised when he presented a bowl of about a half dozen of the living, writhing mollusks. I thought a little about the possible foot action of the abalone as it slipped down my throat, then gamely took a bite of one of the crunchy creatures ... then another, noting the still wriggling half that remained.

Talk about omnivore's dilemma. Like most of us in a constant state of food denial in some form or other, I have no problem eating meat, seafood and poultry—especially poultry because I hate the neighborhood chickens who dig up my garden—but I don't want to do the killing myself, particularly if it's by my own teeth.

I don't like to boil lobsters or crabs, because I grew up crabbing almost every weekend and can still remember the sound of their clawing at the pot of boiling water over my mother's stove. Yet, I enjoyed visits to Kickin' Kajun and Raging Crab.

I think if society ever reached a point when the only conscionable way to eat meat is to personally kill an animal, as writer Michael Pollan attempted in his seminal book, we'd have a lot more lacto-ovo vegetarians.

After devouring the single abalone, I apologized to Wong, saying I was too squeamish to finish the rest, but I guess that's true of many people, so he's always prepared to cook them up, when the baby abalone become soft and tender and you can't stop at one.
Sushi Ii is toward the back of the Samsung Plaza, 655 Keeaumoku St., Suite 109. Call 942-5350.


Not long afterward, I was invited to the Aug. 3 grand opening of AirBuggy, a jogger stroller and infant shop at Waikiki Beach Walk, where Kaiwa catered the event, offering up more grilled Kona baby abalone, and other specialties:

Kaiwa's Mitsue Momoi with shrimp crostini.

Duck-wrapped asparagus and rare wagyu beef.

Grilled garlic wagyu over bean sprouts.

Pipikaula, ahi and salmon poke.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bon Appetit! A tribute to Julia Child at the Kahala

Nadine Kam photos
The Kahala executive chef Wayne Hirabayashi, left, with one of his interns from the Kapi 'olani Culinary Arts Program, general manager Roseann Grippo and Hoku's manager and event coordinator Dante Camara

Julia Child's 100th birthday is being marked by celebrations around the country in honor of the woman who awakened the first foodie stirrings in many an American housewife in the 1960s, by sharing her passion for French cooking in her debut cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," written with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, and television programs including "The French Chef," which premiered in 1963. She opened the door to what was then the unfamiliar, paving the way for every generation of chefs to come.

The Kahala Hotel has devoted a month of menus in honor of Child and the glories of French cooking, highlighted by "A Tribute to Julia Child" James Beard Foundation benefit dinner Aug. 12; and the Aug. 18 "Kahala Food and Wine Festival: A Celebration of France"; and participation in the national Julia Child Restaurant Week ending Aug. 15, but that here will continue through the end of the month. During the Aug. 12 dinner, special guest Mitchell Davis, executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation in New York will share his personal anecdotes and reminisces about Julia Child.

The hotel hosted a media preview Aug. 7, with executive chef Wayne Hirabayashi cooking up Julia's boeuf bourguignon in the hotel's lobby, dressed to replicate Child's mid-20th century kitchen, from blue pegboard for her pots and pans, to hand-painted cabinetry and vintage appliances.

As nice as it would be to taste food as Julia cooked it, Hirabayashi said the recipes had to be adapted because, frankly, our tastes have evolved over 50 to 60 years and most of us would be unable to stomach the amounts of butter and cream she used in her recipes, not over several courses anyway. He marveled that she died two days shy of her 92nd birthday in 2004, living to old age in spite of those ingredients we've come to consider bad for us. We surmised it had a little to do with a combination of enjoying life and great meals accompanied by red wine.

Chef Hirabayashi's boeuf bourguignon.

An area of The Kahala's lobby has been redone to replicate the ambience of Julia's kitchen. General manager Roseann Grippo said many of the utensils and equipment came from her home, though her kitchen does not look like Julia's at all.

One of the countertops was set with a vintage Hamilton Beach milkshake mixer, circa 1940s and other mixers and kitchenware from the era.

Julia's presence in books and photos.

The Kahala's pastry chef Michael Moorhouse's cake celebrating Julia will be done up in three rectangular tiers during the James Beard dinner Aug. 12.

Moorhouse had two close encounters with Julia Child. One was at the James Beard House where he was representing the Drake Hotel's Restaurant Lafeyette. He remembers she attended the dinner with her husband Paul and wore a Chanel suit. The second time, he was lucky enough to get her autograph.

In talking up the five-course dinner benefiting the James Beard Foundation from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Aug. 12 in the Maile Ballroom, general manager Roseann Grippo tempted us with promise of a "three-story" cake created by pastry chef Michael Moorhouse, but he clarified later that it will be a three-tier cake and he's experimenting with Julia's recipe for a Chocolate Marquise cake with orange buttercream between the layers, and fondant finished with a fleur-de-lis flourish.

But before dessert, guests will enjoy:

Hors d’Oeuvres:
>> Escargots and Shrimps a la Bourguignonne in Puff Pastry by chef Warren Uchida, Kapiolani Community College Culinary Program instructor.
>> Kona Crab Beignet, Local Mango Mustard and Sumida Farms Baby Watercress from chef Colin Hazama of the Sheraton Waikiki.
>> Smoked duck rillette, li hing cherries, gingered apricot gel, peppered almonds from chef Ryan Loo, returning home from the W Hotel Seattle for the event. He's also offering Five Mother Sauces served with appropriate sides.
>> Wines: Vine Cliff Vineyards Napa Valley

Amuse bouche:
Big Island Abalone Confit Poke, uni, morels, Waialua asparagus, Meyer lemon from chef Loo; paired with Armand de Brignac, Ace of Spades, Gold Brut NV.

Homard Aux Aromates with Beurre d’Estragon and Citron (Butter poached Kona Maine Lobster with Beurre Blanc with Tarragon) Waipoli island greens and Champagne Vanilla Bean vinaigrette from chef Uchida; paired with Hartford Court, Russian River, Chardonnay, 2010

Demi main:
Slow-cooked Hawaii kampachi with lapsang souchong, lime pickle puree, kiawe white honey lavender buttermilk Ka’u orange and Ho Farms tomato marmalade from chef Hazama; paired with
Domaine Laroche, Petite Chablis, 2010.

Peach carpaccio with lemon-basil sorbet from Hirabayashi; paired with Foley, Steel, Chardonnay, 2009.

Main course:
Tournedos Rossini (beef filets) with foie gras, truffles and Madeira sauce, Molokai sweet potato balls sauteed in Plugra butter, buttered peas, Wailua asparagus, and braised Manoa lettuce by Hirabayashi; paired with Guigal, Crozes Hermitage, Syrah, 2007

Point Reyes blue cheese soufflé with date chutney and hazelnuts from Moorhouse; paired with Edmeades, Late Harvest Zinfandel, 2006.

Classic strawberry bioche birthday cake and strawberry sorbet by Moorhouse; paired with Schramsberg, Cremant Demi-Sec 2007

The cost is $325 per person. Call 739-8760.

The tribute will continues with the "Kahala Food and Wine Festival: A Celebration of France," open to the general public from 7 to 10 p.m. Aug. 18, at a cost of $100 general and $150 VIP entry an hour earlier, with advance reservations. General admission at the door will be $125.

During the event, 10 chefs will offer up their Paris-meets-Hawaii take on classic French dishes, such as chef Hardy Kintscher's (Michel's) escargot Hamakua mushroom papilotte and chef Kanani Lincoln's (Hale Aina Catering) honey-soy duck beast with celeriac puree, li-hing cherry demi glace and Shinsato pork papardelle with turned vegetables and fine herbs.

Other participants: Chai Chaowasaree (Chai's Island Bistro), Russell Siu (3660 on the Rise), Colin Nishida (Side Street Inn), Goran Streng (Tangö Contemporary Cafe), Kevin Hanney (12th Ave Grill and SALT), Ronnie Nasuti (Tiki's Bar & Grill), William Chen Beachhouse at the Moana Surfrider), and Jon Matsubara Azure).

For those who prefer being in the kitchen, Kahala's "Université Pattiserie–Better with Butter" will offer the ins and outs of French cooking, from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturdays at Hoku's. Classes coming up are:
Aug. 11: French desserts
Aug. 25: Braising and basting techniques.
Sessions will be followed by Tea in The Veranda lounge from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The cost is $85 for adults (includes graduation certificate, apron and The Veranda Classic Tea experience). Call (739-8760 or e-mail restaurants@kahalaresort.com for reservations.

Check the www.kahalaresort.com for details on nightly "Parisian Pleasures" dinners at The Veranda, "Better With Butter" teas Aug. 25 and 26, the Hoku's Chef's Table: A Grand Experience offered Thursdays andSundays, "Bounty of the Seven Seas: The Regions of France buffets Friday and Saturday evenings at Plumeria Beach House, and more.

Here's a link to all the events:

From Young’s Market Company of Hawaii, general manager Philana Bouvier and master sommelier Patrick Okubo were there to share wines, including the Chateau Lassegue Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2006 accompanying the boeuf bourguignon.

Seared ahi niçoise with pumpkin and tomato.

A selection of macarons from Moorhouse had fillings of pistachio and apricot, lilikoi and chocolate yuzu.

Sitting atop the display stove top were Le Creuset French ovens.