Thursday, September 25, 2014

'Best Barman in the World' shares his craft at Halekulani

Nadine Kam photos
Colin Field, hailed as the “Best Barman in the World” by Forbes magazine, spoons spuma of celery over a Bloody Mary-style cocktail during a demonstration at Halekulani. He has no names for creations he served during a media presentation, believing—in European fashion—that the naming tradition is not to be taken lightly, so takes time.

Even the “Best Barman in the World”—so heralded by Forbes magazine—is not spared from critics. One who doesn’t mince words once asked the Ritz Paris Hemingway Bar’s Colin Field, “Why does your brain stop when you put the glass down?” referring to the discrepancy between his prowess at the bar with a less than inspiring menu of food to go with the drinks.

Field noted that, for a long time, even the best bars gave little thought to small bites, putting out little more than nuts, crackers or popcorn.

With that criticism, Field set out to change the way bars operate and collaborated on the development of the French-inspired L’Aperitif bar at La Mer. It’s one of the places where his work comes to life via cocktails paired with neo-classic French amuse bouche ranging from foie gras with rose petal marmalade, to sumak shrimp with sweet chili aioli, setting the bar menu apart from others, where there is often no connection between food and cocktail.

Accompanying Field’s cocktail was Vikram Garg’s fabulous accompaniment of beef carpaccio, wrapped around tofu and olive tapenade.

Field is in town to showcase his work and philosophy during an “Art of Style” experience taking place 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 26 in Halekulani’s Lewers Lounge. Patrons will be able to enjoy an interactive demonstration and tasting experience led by Field, with cocktails paired with an amuse bouche designed by executive chef Vikram Garg.

Tickets are priced at $160 per person inclusive of tax and gratuity. Limited seating is available for this event. For Dining Reservations, call (808) 923-2311 and for more information, visit

More of Field’s libations, featuring tequila, agave and yuzu, with a rim of Hawaiian black lack salt.

Chef Vikram Garg said that his first thought upon learning of the tequila cocktail was ceviche. Saying, “The sweetness and heat of this cocktail excited me,” he created this amuse of baby scallops with coconut cream and sauce of roasted tomatoes, onions and jalapeños.

Field will continue to serve as a guest bartender at L’Aperitif from Sept. 22 to 26, where patrons can put his skills to the test.

During a media presentation, it was evident that to earn the title of “Best Barman in the World,” one must be something of a psychologist and mind reader. He noted that most people have no idea what they want to drink, but circumstances—whether one is on a romantic date, a business meeting, or in need of relaxation—will determine what they are seeking.

“It’s important for bartenders today to being aware who you are, to ask, ‘For whom am I making this cocktail for?” he said. He studies dress and behavior to guide his recommendations.

Colin Field infused Maker’s Mark bourbon whisky with kiawe wood smoke.

He brought along all the tools of his trade, including artful glasses, a rounded shaker of his design that allows ice to move all around, puka-filled ice tongs that hold no water, and a smoker for imparting smoke to liquor.

“I particularly love cocktails, and love taking them out of the cocktail glass and putting it into a wine glass,” he said, while also noting a trend toward mismatched glasses that he said started in Europe with Madonna’s dinner parties.

The smoked bourbon was served on the rocks with a perfect bite of aged Parmesan, maple syrup and arugula.

L’Aperitif has begun aging its own bitters in countertop oak barrels.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

First course: Slurp popup brings ramen to Vino

Nadine Kam photos
Slurp’s tan tan ramen with chashu, Tokyo negi, chopped choi sum and 7-minute egg. This sesame-garlic-miso combo was my favorite of the day.

Since Vino opened, chef Keith Endo has been associated with the restaurant's Italian and Mediterranean bistro fare. Now he returns to his local roots with the introduction of Slurp, a lunch-time ramen popup within Vino at Waterfront Plaza (Restaurant Row).

The breadth of offerings rival that of a full-size ramen shop, with a range of classic to specialty bowls, that cater to multiple cravings, starting with basic shio, shoyu, tonkotsu, miso and tan tan versions at $8.95 per bowl. All include chashu, Tokyo negi and choi sum.

Chinatown duck ramen is one of the specialty bowls available at Slurp, more reminiscent of Chinese noodle shops than traditional ramen.

There are also some exciting specialty offerings including a kim chee miso stew ramen ($9.95); crab ramen ($16.95) that bears strong resemblance to Vino’s parent Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar’s Dungeness Crab Ramen with Asian Truffle Broth; and a couple of more Chinese- than Japanese-inspired options of Chinatown duck ramen ($14.95) with five-spice broth, and oxtail soup-inspired braised oxtail ramen ($12.95) with cilantro and mustard cabbage.

All feature thin Hakata-style noodles created for the popup by Sun Noodle.

Add-on toppings are a 7-minute egg ($1.25) and bamboo shoots ($2), and side accompaniments are chicken yakitori ($1.50 per stick), pork belly hoisin bun ($2.95 each), kim chee ($2) and gyoza at three for $2.95 or six for $5.45.

To go with your meal, consider liquid slurps of mango, lilikoi or lychee house sodas, ume seltzer, and lemongrass ice tea, or a full range of wines by the glass and bar offerings (it is the domain of Chuck Furuya, after all).
The popup, inside Vino at 500 Ala Moana Boulevard, is open from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays. Call (808) 524-8466.

Crab ramen in a truffle broth with Tokyo negi and spicy jalapeño.

Pork belly hoisin buns are a generously sized side offering, at $2.95 each.

Meaty gyoza, at three pieces for $2.95, or six for $5.45.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

At the North Shore Food Summit

Nadine Kam photos
It’s nice when this can be your office for the day, as it was when the Turtle Bay Resort hosted North Shore Food Summit events Sept. 12.

Participants and speakers from a cross-section of the food system industry gathered for the second annual North Shore Food Summit that took place Sept. 11 and 12 at Waimea Valley and Turtle Bay Resort.

The event focuses on the goal of sustainability and the health of Hawaii’s people by restoring ancestral abundance and encouraging a diet built around such nutritious foods as taro and ulu.

I had hoped to make it both days for Thursday’s farm, lo’i and fishpond tours, but for townies, it’s a big commmitment to get to the North Shore early, and I was only able to make it to Friday’s talks, but it was eye-opening to hear of the work being done on the North Shore, and I would recommend that anyone involved in the food industry try to attend next year.

Among the Friday sessions was one that attempted to connect small restaurnts with small farmers who might be able to grow unique products per demand. With the growth of juice bars, there’s increasing demand for fresh local fruit for making more exotic fare such as starfruit and mountain apple juices. Oh my mouth was watering as I thought about sweet mountain apples with their rosy notes. And I don’t care much for the rubbery texture of starfruit, but I’d try it in juice form.

 North Shore Food Summit Friday panelists, from left, Town’s Ed Kenney, James Beard award winner Michel Nischan, and Chef Action Network and “Top Chef’s” Spike Mendelson.

In addition to the partnership opportunities, the summit introduced the University of Hawaii West Oahu’s Food System Assessment Project that aims to map what’s in food system, where food is being grown, and where it is going—whether exported or consumed locally—an examining the implications for people and the land.

On day two of the conference, participants could select from four tracks addressing such topics as growing our farms, growing ancestral abundance, growing our community and growing our health.

Musician Jack Johnson is a strong supporter of environmental and food sustainability issues that go hand in hand.

Halfway through, participants enjoyed a bountiful and delicious farm-to-table lunch provided by Turtle Bay Resort chef Conrad Aquino. It was such a treat to enjoy so many vegetarian dishes including a salad of kabocha, soybeans and cilantro, and curried lentils and vegetables. I wish more restaurants offered such dishes in Honolulu.

In the middle of lunch I saw this guy who looked like Jack Johnson walk in, but I was thinking, “Nah, couldn’t be. Why would he be here?”

I was with Sean Morris, who said, “Well, his nametag says ‘Jack.’ ”


North Shore edibles were a treat for the soul and senses during a fabulous Friday lunch cooked up by Turtle Bay Resort”s chef Conrad Aquino and his staff. Dishes included curried lentils and vegetables, and below, a pumpkin salad and salad of greens and beets.

Later in the afternoon, James Beard award-winning chef Michel Nischan facilitated a discussion of “Food as a Catalyst for Healthier Living,” with panelists Washington, D.C.-based chef Spike Mendelsohn of Chef Action Network and “Top Chef”; Town and Kaimuki Superette chef/owner Ed Kenney, who is also founder of Hawaii Food Action Network; Kaiulani Odom of Kokua Kalihi Valley; and cooking instructor Gigi Miranda.

During the session, there was mention of Jack Johnson’s Kokua Hawaii Foundation, so we were finally convinced it was the musician philanthropist, and in talking with him after the session, he explained the natural progression from his initial environmental concerns, to working with children.

One of the foundation’s programs is ‘Aina in the Schools, a farm-to-school initiative that connects children to the land, waters and food, focusing on fostering healthy eating habits, encouraging environmental stewardship in a way that supports farmers and their produce.

“We started with environmental education,” said Johnson. “There are a lot of choices people can make as consumers, and if we start talking to kids early, plant that seed, they can make those educated decisions when they get older.”

More edibles, garlic shrimp and scallops at top, and furikake-crusted opah.

Macadamia nut tartlets for dessert.

So a funny thing happened during the session on healthy eating, when a kid came up to me and started gnawing on my LeSportsac purse charm. I guess he thought it was candy, another thing kids should not be eating!

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Around the world via Hawai'i Food & Wines Festival

Nadine Kam photos
Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival co-founders, chefs Roy Yamaguchi, left, and Alan Wong, with executive director Denise Yamaguchi, posed for a shot after addressing the crowd at the Modern Honolulu.

Once again, the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival proved to be a feast for the eyes, mouth, opu and even the ears for those who managed to catch chef Hubert Keller’s stint as a DJ.

The state’s largest food festival opened at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort on Aug. 29 and moved to the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali on Aug. 31 before landing on Oahu, where the event started by chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong began just four years ago.

On Oahu, the festival encompassed a heady four days of farm tours, wine tastings, next-generation kiddie event, Battle of the Brunch chef showdown, and of course, the highlight tasting events featuring cuisine cooked up by our local talent, joined by more than 35 international celebrity chefs.

The charitable event was started as a way of raising funds to benefit culinary education and farming in Hawaii — two issues close to the hearts of the chefs, who have been advocates of sustainability since entering the dining scene a quarter century ago before we really had a word for it.

Back then, it started with supporting the work of farmers and collaborating in bringing something unique and special to the table. Today, it is about so much more: survival, safety, mindfulness, environmental protection, our future. It is about eating local, but the repercussions are global.

This year I was able to make it to two of the signature events, A Lucky Modern Buddha Belly that took place Thursday at the Modern Honolulu, and Corks & Forks on Saturday at the Hawai’i Convention Center.

My pick for food hero was Josh Lanthier-Welch of Ono Pops, who at the Corks & Forks event delivered an amazing Baked Alaska paleta of lilikoi, dipped into Italian meringue, then brûlée’d by torch, for an amazing caramel meets tart citrus flavor, with a fluffy meets creamy texture. So amazing! As soon as I walked into the event, people were raving about it, but I’m not a dessert-first person so decided to check back later. I was a big fan by evening’s end.

Lanthier-Welch said he’s now working on perfecting a Cherries Jubilee pop. Looking forward to it!

Here’s a sampling of what was on the table:

Josh Lanthier-Welch of Ono Pops applies the torch to his Baked Alaska Ono Pop. Seriously good stuff!

The poolside setting at the Modern. With so many people on deck clamoring to get to the food, I felt the water’s gravitational pull and kept thinking, “Don’t fall in, don’t fall in.”

Later that evening.

Philip Johnson of e’cco, Brisbane, offered tender soy-braised beef cheeks with Asian herb salad and crispy shallots. The flavors are nothing new to us.

Byung Jin (B.J.) Kim of Korea’s Bicena, offered up a pungent and spicy dish of urchin and snapper with gochujang ice, below.

Grilling Kona abalone at Nancy Oakes station.

Nancy Oakes of Boulevard, in San Francisco, topped grilled Kona abalone with sea asparagus, hearts of palm, slivers of teriyaki bacon and pickled Maui onions.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Revisiting the Mai Tai at CookSpace

Nadine Kam photos
Tiki’s Bar Grill executive chef Ronnie Nasuti and mixologist Alejandro Alvarado brought tiki culture to CookSpace Hawaii last week.

Retro is in, and when it comes to cocktails, Tiki’s Grill & Bar may have a head start when it comes to the new “It” cocktails, modern tiki-style drinks. Think Singapore Slings, Zombies and the world-famous Mai Tai.

Executive chef Ronnie Nasuti and mixologist Alejandro Alvarado, both from Tiki’s, were in the kitchen of CookSpace Hawaii Aug. 30, where they demonstrated the how-to of the classic 1944 Mai Tai and other cocktails, and simpatico pupu, though of course, with their own spin.

For instance, to the classic mai tai, which includes dark and light rums, orange curacao and orgeat syrup, among other ingredients, Alvarado adds a layer of lilikoi foam.

You can perform a taste test of your own at the restaurant, in the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, 2570 Kalakaua Ave. Call (808) 923-8454.

Alvarado shares the main attraction, the 1944 mai tai topped with his signature passionfruit foam.

Sherri and Lloyd Kandell are fans of tiki culture and exotica, which Lloyd recreates through the music of Don Tiki.

You could not have the potent mai tai without food, and Nasuti’s first offering was the Tahitian lime-marinated “poke,” poisson cru, sprinkled with sea asparagus and toasted, shredded coconut.

Next came furikake-charred ahi sashimi with a takuan-wasabi sauce. Amazing!

The last dish was bacon-wrapped bleu cheese mochi drizzled with kabayaki sauce, bubu arare and nori, not seen here because the chef kept adding and adding. Even at the table, he was adding a splash of truffle oil. In that way, contemporary chefs work much like painters or fashion designers.

Nasuti squeezes lime over ono before finishing the poisson cru.

Alvarado’s lovely to see, lovely to sip “Hula Ahi (Firedance),” a blend of mango puree, orange juice and tequila, with the heat of jalapeño and a rim of li hing powder.

Alvarado also created his “HibisKiss,” incorporating Absolut Hibiskus and housemade hibiscus syrup, and at the end of the evening, guests were sent home with a sampling of the hibiscus syrup, as well as recipe to make it.

Photo courtesy of Tiki's Grill & Bar
In a Facebook post dated Aug. 21, Tiki’s Grill & Bar welcomed “Project Runway’s” Tim Gunn as a guest. Speculation is that he was in town to check on the progress of Hawaii designer Kini Zamora prior to New York Fashion Week, which began today.

So, what can we deduce in light of a number of Tim Gunn sightings around town? I’m sorry, but a person who dresses like Tim Gunn isn’t likely to remain incognito long when he pops up in Waikiki. And I really don’t think he’s here for the beach.

Gunn, of course, is the mentor to the competing designers in Lifetime television’s “Project Runway.” And one of our own, designer Kini Zamora, is still in the game.

Those familiar with the series know up to five finalists are sent home to create Fashion Week-worthy collections, and Gunn typically heads out for hometown visits to make sure the designers are on track. This takes place a few weeks before they are due back in New York City for Fashion Week and the show’s finale.

There are usually three finalists, with one or two more designers thrown into the mix to act as decoys to keep the suspense factor high.

The New York shows started today and the “Project Runway” show is slated to take place tomorrow at 4 a.m. Hawaii time (10 a.m. EST). I managed to get a couple of people into the show in my place and they promised to send photos.

With many media outlets covering the event, we’ll see every collection, though we won’t know the placements of the designers until the show’s finale. I really wish they would time the episodes to coincide with the fashion shows in real time, like they did in the very first season. Otherwise, the finale becomes a bit anticlimactic.

Meanwhile, keep up with official Mercedes Benz Fashion Week happenings at

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her onTwitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.