New home for Take a Bite

April 25th, 2014
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Once again, my blog is on the move, with a new URL. For future posts, visit HonoluluPulse.com/TakeaBite

Please bookmark, and thank you for following!

The Easter hen came a-layin'

April 22nd, 2014
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nest   I looked down to find 10 eggs, nine white and one brown.Nadine Kam photos

Easter came a day early for me when I returned home from an early morning blessing and grand reopening celebration at the Louis Vuitton store at Ala Moana Center, to find that recent high winds had blown a bird nest out of my mango tree.

It was a small nest, likely meijiro, and appeared to have been long abandoned, so I tried tossing it in my compost heap, in a repurposed water fountain, from about four feet away. But the winds picked up and blew it off course. As I walked over to pick it up off the ground, there was a huge commotion as I shared the terror of the chicken that came clucking and flying off the compost heap.

I had purposely filled the heap with thorny bougainvillea branches just to keep chickens from digging up the compost. I don't mind their churning leaves and dirt, but in doing so, they also eat the worms that help break down the dried leaves, grass and vegetable scraps.

My whole yard is often overrun by feral chickens, and as much as I try to scare them off, they keep coming back, not only digging up dirt but pavement foundations, causing a lot of destruction. Finally, I set up a trap last week, baiting it with corn and peanuts. The only thing is, the trap attracted the doves that roost in the eaves of my house. They set up camp near the trap, nestled in the ground, none stupid enough to actually enter the trap, but smart enough to enjoy the free meal.

Perhaps the presence of food also made the chicken feel at home enough to start nesting in the compost? The number of eggs roughly corresponds to the time the cage appeared, at about an egg a day, if two chickens are involved. The brown egg would have come from a second chicken.

I wasn't about to allow more chickens to hatch and continue their path of destruction. But then I was faced with the dilemma of whether or not it was safe to eat the eggs. Of course I was going to try out of pure foodie instinct. But as a city slicker, it dawned on me that I knew nothing about how to eat an egg straight from a chicken.

eggThese eggs passed the water test by sinking to the bottom of a container of water.

A craving for eggs usually means heading straight to the grocery store and picking up a carton. So what does the modern person do when he/she has a question? We put it to our lifeline, our Facebook friends, whose responses ranged from, "Don't eat them," to "If there's something inside, isn't that just balut?"

The most helpful came from my sister-in-law Laurie Jacobs, who referred me to two websites http://www.thekitchn.com/kitchen-tip-testing-eggs-for-f-46368 for testing eggs for freshness and embryos http://lancaster.unl.edu/4h/embryology/candling.shtml

The last thing I wanted to find on cracking one open was balut, or, for those not familiar with the Filipino delicacy, the developing embryo.

At any rate, the eggs were dirty from sitting underneath the mother, so I did what came naturally and washed them.

WRONG!

I had to go out again, so I simply left the eggs sitting on the counter for the rest of the day.

WRONG AGAIN!

About midnight, when I had a chance to rest and read up about my eggs, I learned that washing destroys the protective bloom that coats the eggs and prevents bacteria from entering the porous shell. Washing pulls in bacteria, which can grow quickly at room temperature, so washed eggs should be eaten immediately, or stored in the refrigerator.

With bloom in place, eggs will stay fresh in your refrigerator for about 8-1/2 weeks.

Reading on, I had to get out of bed to candle the eggs, holding them up to the light to see whether there is anything solid inside. Satisfied that none of the eggs held chicks, I looked forward to a breakfast of scrambled eggs on Easter morning.

egggGolden yolks are a mark of fresh eggs.

The benefits of fresh eggs is that, compared to typical store-bought, pasteurized eggs, they contain:
>> 1⁄3 less cholesterol
>> 1⁄4 less saturated fat
>> 2⁄3 more vitamin A
>> Two times more Omega-3 fatty acids
>> Three times more vitamin E
>> Seven times more beta carotene
>> Four to six times more vitamin D

There was one more test to perform before actually cooking the eggs. Because I don't peer into the compost heap every day, I had no idea when the eggs started appearing and how old they were. The water test, for freshness, can be performed with a glass of room temperature water.

Place the egg in the glass and see how it falls. If it lands on the bottom of the glass on its side and stays there, it's a good egg. If it stands on one end, it's older, meaning air has entered the shell, but you may still be able to eat it hard-boiled. If it floats, it's full of air and gasses and should be discarded.

On Facebook, chicken expert Sandy Tsukiyama put it much more dramatically and colorfully: "Floats = danger of exploding pilau, but pretty, turquoise-colored, sulphurized contents all over. Carefully wrap in newspaper & dispose asap!"

Finally satisfied that the eggs were edible, I cracked one open, relieved to find a perfect yolk inside, just as described as being more golden than the typical supermarket egg.

Then came a second and a third, and I soon had a perfect Easter breakfast of fresh scrambled eggs. I will make omelettes of the others and hope the chickens come back with more peace offerings.

eggssThe end.

Crab Fest raises funds for worldwide charities

April 11th, 2014
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crabplateBefore: Dungeness crab with potato, sausage and corn, the highlight of the Rotary Club of Ala Moana's annual Crab Fest.Nadine Kam photos

The Rotary Club of Ala Moana hosted its popular Crab Fest April 5 at Kapiolani Community College's Ohia Cafeteria.

The event raises funds to support culinary scholarships at KCC, as well as Rotary's community and international projects in a most delicious way, with all-you-can eat Dungeness crab and all the fixings.

There's a lot of strategizing that goes into devouring a meal like this. Everyone has their own way of eating crab. I like it just fine with the drawn butter that was served, but I also like it with Old Bay seasoning, a taste I picked up in the South, and someone there knew that, so delivered two batches of the seasoning to my table.

Others came prepared by bringing their own ponzu or spicy sauces.

Then there was the matter of "to eat or not to eat" side dishes that included lumpia, deep-fried pork wontons, potato chips, edamame, clam chowder, dinner rolls, corn, sausage and potatoes. The ones who wanted to maximize the crab experience didn't touch those and managed to polish off two to three whole Dungeness crabs.

I had some of the sides, but one crab proved to be plenty for me.

Some people pulled out all the meat so they could devour one whole pile at once, though most shelled and ate as they went along. The work is tiring, so by the time you finish shelling and eating bit by bit, your stomach has messaged your brain that you're full.

Funds raised go to good causes locally and internationally, from the KCC scholarships to helping those in need in Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Kenya with everything from wheelchairs and medical supplies, to kitchen facilities to feed the hungry, establishing micro banks and providing villages with potable water and sanitary facilities.

The club meets noon to 1 p.m. Thursdays at the Ala Moana Hotel.

cchipsDiners were able to help themselves to chips, spicy edamame and pork wontons, below, before the main event.

cwonton

crabqueensA bevy of beauty queens were there to help move raffle tickets.


Non-flash video

crabfestDave and Tamae Erdman prepare to dig in!

cdaveDave came prepared for the mess, bringing a towel he brought back from an onsen in Japan.

crabgoneAfter: This is what was left of the crab at the top of the page, at the end of the evening.

 

 

 

 

Eating SF: Heaven on earth at b. patisserie

April 10th, 2014
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kouign amann
SAN FRANCISCO — When you live in Hawaii, far from any great land mass, you at one point will become a mule. You know the drill. You're getting on an airplane to get off this rock. Friends find out. They tell you beforehand to deliver this to so-and-so, and bring back things. Even if you don't speak to them beforehand, they will find out from Facebook or Twitter posts and text you.

So it is that I received a text while in San Francisco to go straight to b. patisserie and bring home kouign amann. "You have to go! It's orgasmic!!!!"

OK, so it's hard to ignore that many exclamation points, so I made friends with my cab driver and had him at my beck and call on the day of my departure. After dropping me off at the Persian restaurant Maykadeh for lunch, I promised a pear croissant in his future if he picked me up a few hours later and took me to b. patisserie en route to the airport later in the afternoon.

b. patisserie is the work of Belinda Leong and Michel Suas, founder of the San Francisco Baking Institute.

Leong began her career as pastry chef at Gary Danko, before leaving for Europe and working at restaurants and patisseries in Paris, Barcelona and Copenhagen. She seems to have brought back all their secrets because her pastries are divine.

People are particularly enamored by the kouign amann, a caramelized croissant with light candy crunch exterior and fluffy interior, that originated in Brittany, France. The ones I ordered were filled with chocolate, at about $4.50 apiece but soooooo worth the trouble of lugging them onto the plane.

I went straight from the plane to dinner, and they still tasted fantastic 11 hours later as my friends and I surreptitiously gobbled them up after dinner, like drug addicts in the dark parking lot beneath the restaurant.
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If you want to go or have a friend headed to San Francisco soon, b. patisserie is at 2821 California St. @ Divisadero St., Pacific Heights. Call 415.440.1700.

State Bird Provisions: Inside nation's best restaurant

March 26th, 2014
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statebirdlegsSquab leg on pancake at State Bird Provisions, named the James Beard Awards Best New Restaurant 2013.Nadine Kam photos

SAN FRANCISCO — Travel is a great barometer as to where Hawaii stands in the culinary scene, and while the food in our state has improved greatly over the past two decades, there's no such thing as resting on laurels because excellence is a moving target.

I was in the San Francisco area, meeting up with relatives in Fremont for a wedding, so only had one night in the city for dinner and my options were Nopa or State Bird Provisions. Being a bit of a weirdo, I couldn't resist the audacity of the latter, which began life with the premise of serving up the state bird, the California quail, symbolic of hardiness and adaptability.

Now that's something you wouldn't see in Hawaii with the endangered nene!

I'm not that keen about eating small birds that are more bones than meat, so thankfully, the restaurant's chef-proprietors Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski moved on to other local, organic and well-crafted ingredients.

And yet ... the restaurant is known for its savory pancakes, so I ordered the confit squab short stack with maple vinegar and candy cap powder, and it was more than enough to change my mind about the appeal of small birds. It was only after polishing off the thigh that I looked down and realized they were still attached to the bird's gnarled claws!

That's the other thing about this place. I had to inhale my meal. As the nation's Best New Restaurant 2013, as deemed by the James Beard Awards committee, it's one of the Holy Grails of restaurants and therefore, I was told, impossible to get into. People must log onto the restaurant's website precisely at midnight 60 days before their desired reservation date to get a seat.statecartOrder off the menu or dim sum style, off carts and trays bearing many tempting delicacies, from single oysters and up. I really wanted the halibut and avocado atop a nori cracker, but I had to eat and run.

But, parsing the words on the restaurant's website, I learned that they do save room for walk-ins on a first-come basis, and I've never had trouble getting into popular restaurants. It helps to show up early as a single or couple, and be willing to dine at the bar.

The trouble came when a 15-minute rest turned into a three-hour snooze and I missed the 5:30 p.m. opening time. I got there at 6:30 and spotted a single opening at the bar, but they said that was spoken for. They did have a two-top available, but that meant eating and running in 45 minutes when the reserved party was due to arrive. Done!

Having got in, I thought that was easy enough, but later I was told walk-ins regularly wait in line two hours to get in.

If you're curious as to what goes into a restaurant worthy of being called the nation's best, great food is a given. Here, it's casual, and I would say not much different from dozens of great restaurants across the nation. But, restaurateurs also have to get the attention of jaded food writers who have "seen it all."

State Bird Provisions wins points with memorable service, delivering contemporary American cuisine dim sum style. Order off the menu to start, but don't pick up enough for your entire meal. It's worth waiting for waiters to appear with trays or pushing carts provisioned with amazing appetizers and ingredients starting at $2. The small plates command attention and there's nothing froufrou or "arranged" about them. The hearty ingredients are filling and I still marvel about the simple, delicious elegance of a salad of hearts of palm, avocado, yuba and tahini.

I started with three dishes, and it was hard to pass up smoked trout and avocado  dip served with chips. Unfortunately, with time flying by, I didn't have time to try the nori cracker topped with halibut and avocado, king salmon tartare with fermented turnips, or pork belly-blood orange salad. Maybe next time I'll make a real reservation.
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State Bird Provisions is in the Western Addition at 1529 Fillmore St., San Francisco. Open
5:30 to 10 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Call 415.795.1272.

statebirdroomIn addition to table seating, a bar on the right side of the restaurant overlooks the food prep.

 

statecrabSpicy Dungeness crab kimchi with yuba and smoked egg. Unfortunately, I think the kimchi flavors overwhelmed the sweet crab.

statebirdHearts of palm salad with avocado, pomelo and tahini-chili oil, $13. I rarely take food to go when I'm traveling, because there's always an abundance of restaurants to try, but this was worth doggie-bagging and it was just as delicious the morning after.

statechipsChips with smoked trout and avocado dip, $9.

stateplateOn my way out of the restaurant, I passed this artichoke, quinoa and chickpea tabouleh on a tray awaiting delivery.