Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Life of Bread explored at Cookspace Hawaii

Nadine Kam photos
Chris Sy's breads included dark pumpernickel, clockwise from top right, country, city and semolina loaves, served with Plugra and Organic Valley cultured butters and white and red Kauai salt.

Cook Space Hawaii was host to chef Lance Kosaka and Chris Sy for a combination demo/dinner exploring the life of bread. That is, how to enjoy bread as it runs its course from hot-out-of-the-oven fresh-baked form, to slightly stale to hard as rock state, the idea being that while in Asian cultures every grain of rice is considered precious, in bread-eating cultures diners would never dream of wasting a single crumb.

The event was part of the new demonstration space's summer cooking series "Get Fresh LIVE," demonstrating the alchemy that takes place when chefs and food producers are able to work together and inspire one another. The chefs are allowed to pick their collaborator. While other chefs in the series have chosen to partner with the farmers, Kosaka, executive chef of the Skybar, coming next spring, chose Breadshop's Sy, because he's found that most people don't know what to do with bread beyond making sandwiches or buttering it up as a pre-dinner ritual. Throughout Europe, bread is enjoyed throughout the meal.

Sy, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Chicago, said he was inspired to start experimenting with baking bread after reading an essay on bread in "The Man Who Ate Everything," by Vogue magazine food critic Jeffrey Steingarten.

Chris Sy with a loaf of his pumpernickel. He's worked in kitchens from the Chicago Area's Trio, to New York's Cru, Aux Vieux Four in France, and The French Laundry. He returned home and worked at Chef Mavro and Town before starting his craft bakery Breadshop.

Throughout the meal, I kept thinking about how my late husband would have loved every minute of this dinner.
His mother was from Belgium so he was raised in the Old World European tradition of setting the table with French loaves, cheeses, crêpes, leek quiches and savory stews. In all the time I knew him, he was never without the basic pleasures of the table, and life—a baguette, bottle of wine and cheese.

Sadly for him, until Sy came along, Oahu never had decent bread. Sy talked about the high temperature and moisture needed to achieve the combination of chewy, toothy interior and crackly crust. He uses a pizza oven and said that to produce such bread takes eight to 16 hours, a commitment most restaurants cannot afford, which is why we get lifeless generic table bread and why so many connoisseurs line up at the Pig & the Lady at Farmer's Markets for Sy's creations.

The last event in the Fresh LIVE series will take place 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 23, featuring Wade Ueoka and Ho Farms. The cos is $85.

The Cookspace Hawaii classroom is in Ward Warehouse, 1050 Ala Moana Blvd., above T&C. Call 808.695.2205. Visit for more classes and information.

Find Breadshop online at

Sy and chef Lance Kosaka work on the bread and tomato salad.

Open-faced grilled cheese canapes start with grilled cheese of compté and gruyère over Sy's pumpernickel, topped with arugula and prosciutto for a tasty appetizer that's easy to duplicate the next time you entertain.

Kosaka explained the Tuscan panzanella salad is no more than deconstructed bruschetta, with the a couple days-old bread softened by the blend of olive oil and tomato juices, and tossed with basil and Italian parsley. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and allow them to sit for a while to coax the juices out.

Bread is broken into bite-size "crumbs" and stirred with pasta, anchovy, cauliflower, broccoli, olive oil, garlic, chili flake, mint and cheese in this pasta dish.

Olive-oil pan-fried bread topped with Madre chocolate for dessert, with a light sprinkling of salt. So wonderful!

Lance and Chris toss the pasta. In the foreground are some of the fresh greens that went into the meal.

Guests were greeted with a choice of mango or calamansi coolers from Cheryl To of PacifiKool, known for its ginger libations.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Panya Bistro & Bakery reopens at Hokua

Nadine Kam photos
Laksa served up at the newly reopened Panya Bistro & Bakery at Hokua.

What did you miss most after Panya Bistro & Bakery closed its doors at Ala Moana Center for its move to the former P.F. Chang spot at the Hokua, the desserts or savory dishes like spicy dumplings and laksa?

Chances are it was both, and now they're back, opening its doors to the public on Aug. 9, after a couple of private preview celebrations Aug. 7 and 8.

The bistro and bakery started by sisters Alice and Annie Yeung had spent 10 years at Ala Moana Center, winning the hungry over with light, Japan-style breads, pastries and confections, and a full menu of appetizers, salads, noodle and dumpling dishes, sandwiches, curries and more.

The decor of the new restaurant closely resembles that at Ala Moana, including some recycled and some new lights, the difficulty being that, 10 years after the original design, similar replacements were hard to find.

In speaking to the press at a preview event on Aug. 7, the sisters said that the endeavor marks, "another new start for us with a lot of things we carried before," simply because customers won't let them get rid of old favorites, although they said they have many more dishes they are planning to add to the menu.

Panya Bistro and Bakery founders and co-directors Alice, left, and Annie Yeung.

On this day, they brought back many best sellers, including my favorites: spicy wontons and laksa!

Although the new space measures a large 3,200 square feet, half of it amounts to kitchen and bakeshop, which means seating may feel cramped, but having the bakery on the premises means baked goods will be at their freshest at the time you order them. They're also dropping the self-serve format because being away from the fast traffic of the mall, they believe servers will be able to handle all pastry orders.

For big, morning workplace orders, they're hoping customers will call ahead the day before to allow them to prepare the desired products.

Glad to see them back!

Panya Bistro & Bakery at Hokua is at 1288 Ala Moana Blvd. #116. Meal service hours are 7 to 10:30 a.m. for breakfast, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for lunch; and 4:30 to 10 p.m. for dinner service Sundays through Thursdays, and 4:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Pretty cakes all in a row.

The decor closely resembles that of the former Ala Moana location.

Slurping good spicy won tons topped with green onions and sesame seeds.

Gyoza too.

Crab meat and salmon crostinis.

Smoked salmon sandwich.

Spicy fried rice.

A selection of desserts awaited at the end of lunch, including cream puffs, chocolate and banana mousse, panna cotta and a green tea roll with azuki bean filling.