Archive for May, 2012

Beer and Maui Onions

May 8th, 2012

onionsNadine Kam photos
A display of Maui onions, officially the Maui Kula® onion, greeted guests at a Maui Onion beer pairing dinner May 4 at Hula Grill in Kaanapali.

The 23rd annual Maui Onion Festival 2012 opened May 4 with a Maui Onion and Beer Pairing Dinner at Hula Grill. From appetizer to dessert, all dishes featured the trademarked Maui Kula® onion, known for its sweetness. And the beers were all from Maui Brewing Co.


A tent was pitched on the waterfront lawn in front of the restaurant, where Hula Grill Kaanapali executive chef Chris Schobel started the meal with his own take on the classic beer and pretzel pairing, as you can see below.

hschobelHula Grill Kaanapali executive chef Chris Schobel.

Here's a look at what was on the menu:

onion1Hula Grill executive chef Chris Schobel's take on beer and pretzels included pastrami cured ono and house-smoked peppercorn bacon with Maui onion mustard. Can never go wrong with bacon. It was served with Maui Brewing Co.'s Wee Heavy Scotch ale with Maris Otter base malt and smoked malts for depth of malt flavor and 30 IBU (International Bitterness Units).

onion2Next, Maui onion topped a salad of local greens, tangerines and figs with Maui goat cheese crouton. This was accompanied by pale La Perouse White, made with Belgian Pilsner malt, Belgian yeast and spiced with coriander and local Mandarin orange peel. It was very smooth, at a low 12 IBU.

onion3When they were talking about this dish, I only heard vichyssoise so the texture was strange to me. It all came clear when I learned it was made with breadfruit. That got all of us at the table talking about the wonders of breafruit and how it could feed the world if planted in countries with food shortages. It was topped with fried Maui onions and accompanied by Maui Brewing Co.'s new Liquid Breadfruit, a golden ale brewed with local breadfruit and toasted papaya seeds, set for limited fall release.

onion4Loved the housemade Maui onion sausage in this deconstructed paella that included ginger shrimp and a very small clam. This was accompanied by a Czech-style pilsner using Weyerman's Bohemian Pilsner malt and 100 percent Czech Saaz hops and proprietary Starbourough Czech yeast strain.

I love udon, and in spite of all the courses, I polished off this dish of Kurobuta short rib with udon, topped with Maui onion and herb gremolata. Others thought the Mac Nut Brown Ale (18 IBU) that accompanied it was heavy, but I liked its nutty sweetness and dark chocolate notes.

Last up was a surprising cheesecake topped with candylike Maui onions served with wort reduction. I ate the whole thing. It was accompanied by the Coconut Porter you see in the back, brewed with six varieties of malted barley, hops and hand-toasted coconut.

onion7Hawaii News Now's Ramsay Wharton, left, had the evening to enjoy herself before being put to work as emcee of the Maui Onion Festival events. She's with I'O and Pacific'O chef James McDonald, and food and travel writer Cassandra Anderton of Good Life Vancouver.

Taste of the Nation, Hawaii style

May 7th, 2012

Nadine Kam photos

Alan Wong at work in the VIP tent at the inaugural Taste of the Nation Hawaii fundraiser.

Foodies made the rounds of more than 17 tasting all-star tasting stations during the inaugural Taste of the Nation Hawaii that took place April 29 at the Bishop Museum.

Chefs and farmers partnered to share locally grown and sourced products during the event to raise awareness of childhood hunger. Leading the cause was chef Alan Wong, who participated in Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation California last year, and took to heart the mission of eliminating childhood hunger in America by 2015. Hawaii's child poverty rate is nearly 14 percent and one out of every four keiki in Hawaii go to bed hungry. One hundred percent of ticket sales will benefit Aina in Schools (a program of the Kokua Hawaii Foundation) and the Hawaii FoodBank.

VIP admission was at 5 p.m., and general admission was at 6. I got there at 5 and essentially had an hour to go through the food before I had to be at the University of Hawaii "Revolution" fashion show.

Here are a few of the dishes I was able to sample:

taste cherryThere were a lot of people happy to sample mixologist Joey Gottesman's cocktail  introducing Grey Goose Vodka's Cherry Noir flavored vodka. Cranberry, elderflower, Madagascar vanilla and all the local citrus he could find made for a refreshing, and as you can see smile-inducing blend.

taste wong
Maui Cattle Co. & Otsuji Farms ingredients were featured by Taste of the Nation Honorary Chef Chair Alan Wong in the VIP lounge, where Maui Cattle Co. strip loin and umami sauce was the main course, plated with the help of Conrad Nonaka.

tastebeefAfter a stellar chocolate and wine tasting at Mariposa recently, I've been a little obsessed with the stuff, so much so that I may take a side trip en route to New York this summer to visit Washington, D.C., and stop into Coco Sala, where most of the courses have a hint of chocolate. So it was wonderful to see Dole Waialua Chocolate accompanying steak served up by BLT Steak's Johan Svensson.

Chef Svensson's dish gets paparazzi treatment.

taste rancherKahua Ranch's Tim Richards, representing the Hawaii Ranchers' Association, shows Halekulani's braised Hawaii ranchers veal breast served with blue grits and gremolata.

tastehiltonHilton Hawaiian Village executive chef Jeff Vigilla—in the foreground, with Bali Steak & Seafood chef de cuisine Matt Alleshouse—went all out in his presentation using ingredients from Manoa Honey Co. and Khamphout Farms. He served up Surfing Goat Cheese and Mango Cheesecake, accompanied by a honey-mango cocktail.  As if preparing a dish for the event was not enough, he was up the night before cooking up batches of Mango, Manoa Honey and Lemongrass Jam, filling up small jars so that guests could take home a sample.

tastejamVigilla always comes up with beautiful displays, so I asked him about it and he said he was channeling his inner Martha Stewart. Well, he already could cook and make preserves, so it shouldn't be a surprise.

tastehoneyThe Manoa honey Vigilla worked with.

taste caneI was excited to sample Cane Rush's organic sugar cane juices. I think women gravitate to color anyway. The sugar cane juice falls on the lower half of the glycemic index, measuring the rise in circulating blood sugar a carbohydrate triggers. Anything below 55 is considered low, and the cane juice registers at 43, putting it on par with an orange. Unlike its processed counterpart, the cane juice retains its complex carbohydrates, and minerals such as riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. You can find Cane Rush at health food stores like Down to Earth, Celestial Foods and Kokua Market.

taste cane2Cane Rush's Cherub Silverstein was a temptress with her cool pitchers of Cane Rush juices, starting with plain cane juice, to a gingered version, to the "Hot Kiss" spiced with cayenne, ginger and turmeric with a splash of lemon. So delish! She said people fear the word sugar, but she said the juice is far less concentrated than the concentrated sugar produced from the cane. Most people are removed from the actual sugar cane, but growing up in Waipahu, we sucked on the reedy stalks that served as a form of candy to us.

taste shrimpKauai shrimp went into Morimoto's serving of shrimp tacos with cucumber salad.

taste shrimp headsEach of Morimoto's tacos were accompanied by a single deep-fried shrimp head. Usually, I don't eat the tough shell heads, but these were crisp and easy to devour.

tastetacoTeresa Lemoon with Morimoto's Kauai shrimp tacos.

taste benefitPolly Kauahi, director of Hawaii Foodbank, Inc., was there to talk about the Food 4 Keiki Backpack Program at Kaiulani Elementary School. The program aims to fight childhood hunger, starting by distributing food-filled bags once a month to students from low-income families. The program delivers the meals every Friday.

taste kuahiwiDan and Linda Naksone with rancher Michelle Galimba, center, who was there to answer questions obout Kuahiwi Ranch beef.

taste hamakuaAmong the side dishes in the VIP tent was this dish of Hamakua Hertiage Farm mushrooms tossed with Tokyo negi oil.

tasteHo Farm tomatoes and Big Island goat cheese were served in a crack seed jus in the VIP tent.

taste abaloneRobin Lee of Nobu prepared sake-and-konbu-braised Big Island abalone ceviche with dashi gelee.

taste SALTFrom SALT Kitchen & Tasting Bar's Quinten Frye were plates of Shisato Farms suckling pig porchetta served with Kunia Country Farms baby Manoa letuse, Maui onion, compressed grape tomatoes and smoked carrot vinaigrette.

taste hiroshiI saw Hiroshi Fukui at two events over the weekend. This time around, he served sous vide opah with saikyo miso kim chee sauce, topped with shiso and Big Island ginger, and accompanied by ume musubi. He was partnered with United Fishing Agency.

taste townRoasted eggplant soup was Town's contribution, with Ma'o Farms.

taste cornFrom Sam Choy's Kai Lanai came a seafood and corn cocktail with Aloun Thai melon.

Other chef-farm partners for the event were:
>> Kula Country Farms, featured by Le Bistro's Alan Takasaki.
>>Ho Farms, featured by the Sheraton Waikiki's Colin Hazama.
>>Garden and Valley Isle Seafood and Hamakua Springs Country Farms, featured by Kai Market's Darren Demaya.
>> He'eia Hui, featured by He'eia Kea Pier General Store & Deli's Mark Noguchi.
>> Surfing Goat Dairy and Waialea Agriculture, featured by Roberts Hawaii's Roger Dikon.
>> Kona Kampachi, featured by Roy Yamaguchi of Roy's.
>> Kuahiwi Ranch and Nalo Farms, featured by 3660 On the Rise's Russell Siu.

Niu Valley students helped chefs 'Plate Up'

May 2nd, 2012

niubistroNadine Kam photos
Kainoa Alakai puts the torch to Le Bistro's caramelized apple tart, while Julian Li prepares to join in, under chef Alan Takasaki's watch.

Parents and guardians will always tell you not to play with fire, but a few students from Niu Valley Middle School got a chance to break the rules at Plate Up 2012 Niu Valley March 27.

Several of Hawaii’s top chefs donated their time and expertise to mentor 48 students interested in culinary pursuits, and the students were put to work plating dishes at the tasting event organized by the parent group, Friends of Niu Valley.   Chef Russell Siu of 3660 on the Rise was the honorary host of the school fundraiser that took place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Grand Ballroom.

The kids were so serious about their jobs, such that chefs like Hiroshi Fukui of Hiroshi's Eurasion Tapas, could just stand around and chat. And student Ryan Nakashima, representing Roy's Hawaii Kai, had an easy time rattling off the ingredients that went into the restaurant's contribution of Kona lobster bratwurst. Ingredients like Hawaiian vanilla parsnip purée, celery root and buerre blanc just rolled off his tongue. And trust me, having been in this line of work a long time, I know most adults don't know what those ingredients are, much less how to pronounce them.

In addition to the above mentioned, restaurants and food purveyors participating in the event were Cake Couture, Chart House, Fukuya’s Delicatessen, The Grove, Le Bistro, Maile’s Thai Bistro, Nalo Farms, Sansei Seafood, Side Street Inn and Tiki’s Grill and Bar. Of all the participants, I believe only two—Le Bistro and Cake Couture—are actually in Niu Valley, though places like Roy's and Maile's are Hawaii Kai neighbors.

niuhiroshiChef Hiroshi Fukui didn't have to sweat with students from Niu Valley Middle School plating up his duet of hamachi sushi, below. So yum!


Niu Valley Middle School is Hawaii’s first and only public middle school authorized by the International Baccalaureate® to offer the Middle Years Programme to provide an education rooted in the IB fundamental concepts of holistic learning, communication and intercultural Awareness that enables students to think critically, embrace excellence, express themselves through multiple modes, accept responsibility, appreciate diversity and make a positive difference in others' lives.

Those interested in pursuing careers in the culinary industry were offered a look outside the classroom at the work involved, and went home able to prepare the dishes they learned from scratch. No doubt many of these dishes will appear on the family table on Mother's Day.

Guests who wanted to recreate some of the dishes also went home with a mini "Plate Up Niu Valley" cookbook courtesy of the Friends of Niu Valley.

niukarisaKarisa Hayashi, surrounded by rib and sushi plates.

niuribsAs soon as we walked into the Hyatt Grand Ballroom, we were greeted with plates of Fukuya Delicatessen & Catering's miso-braised pork ribs, one of the hits of the evening. Inside the plastic cup is chi chi dango.

niuhyattHyatt Regency executive chef Sven Ullrich, in lei, posed for a photo with his student helpers Sierra Bassett and Gabriel Seales, with Niu Valley science teacher Scott Brown.

niubeetThe Hyatt's offering was braised Shinsato pork belly with 'Nalo Farms baby beets and local jackfruit slaw. (more…)

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Taking in the pleasure of wine and chocolate at Mariposa

May 1st, 2012

oiallaOialla photo

Chocolate connoisseurs were treated to the decadent experience of sampling premium Oilla and Bonnatt chocolates paired with 12 wines at Neiman Marcus's Mariposa restaurant on April 24.

There's no shortage of food in my life, so I try not to eat too much prior to various food events, but it was a good thing that my friend Candice had the common sense to suggest eating a light dinner before the tasting. If we hadn't done that, we probably would have been in no position to drive home by the end of the evening.

The guest of honor for the evening was award-winning Danish chef and chocolatier, Rasmus Bo Bojeson, who was in town to promote his organic line of chocolate, Oialla, masterfully paired with wine selected by Hawaii’s newest master sommelier Patrick Okubo. Okubo worked at Mariposa before earning his master sommelier title and joining Young's Market (formerly Better Brands).

To start, Bojeson had us crack open a roasted cacao bean to taste his organic Criollo cacao, harvested from wild Amazonian cacao trees, to better appreciate the essence of the unadulterated chocolate. The hull was fairly tough, so we had to bite into it to get at the delicious chocolate nibs inside, which Bojeson said he sprinkles freely on food day through night, on everything from salads to salmon, a combination he especially loves.

cacaoNadine Kam photos
Neiman Marcus's chocolate tasting event at Mariposa started with cracking open a roasted cacao bean and tasting the unadulterated chocolate nibs inside, that go into Oialla's 70 percent Criollo chocolate. It's available in their Epicure department.

The pairings were inspired. The first round had the Oialla chocolate paired with Yangarra Shiraz, McLaren Vale ($26), a dry but fruity bright shiraz, followed by Edmeades Late Harvest Zin 2006 ($16), and fortified Fonseca, Panascal, Port 2008. Of the three, I liked the chocolate best with the Edmeades, with its dessert-like, smooth and elegant concentrated sugar.

From there, we moved to the Bonnatt chocolates, also carried in NM's Epicure section. In the photos, it's easy to imagine devouring the little pieces of chocolate would be easy, but with the intensity of the chocolate and sugar from the wines, it wasn't easy keeping up with Okubo and Janet Candullo of JC Chocolate and Apriori, distributor of fine chocolate.

Usually at such tastings, it's easy to give up glasses to make way for the next batch of wines. Out of 8 glasses, I'll usually end up keeping the two I like. But this time around, I was loathe to give up any of my glasses, especially the tawny ports that work so well with chocolate. Okubo's choices were so novel and inspired, and I tried the various wines with other pieces of chocolate to come up with my own combinations.

There definitely needs to be more chocolate tastings on this level.

cacao4Chocolatier Rasmus Bo Bojeson shows boxes of bonbons, his newest offering.

In creating his chocolate, Bojeson said he was fortunate to have a botanist professor friend who retired to South America, who suggested he take a look at Bolivia when he asked if there were wild cacao trees growing anywhere in the world.

In Bolivia, he found trees—some more than 1,000 years old—grown with no cultivation, fertilization, pesticides or cutting, and producing the creamy, fruity, smooth non-bitter chocolate that we tasted in nib form. ("Oialla" is a popular girl's name in Bolivia.)

Fermented and sorted cacao is then sent to Bojeson in Denmark, where it is turned into simple 70 percent chocolate slabs and tablets with organic Brazilian cane sugar as the only additive.

Oialla was recently awarded a gold star at the Great Taste Award 2011, gastronomy’s version of the Oscars.  Bojeson was also just awarded “Best in the World” at the Gourmand World Cookbook Award in Paris for his chocolate cookbook "Sans for Chokolade."

Oialla Chocolate Criollo comes in boxes of 10 individually wrapped squares for $30, and 20 squares for $50. Visit for more information.

cacao2From cacao bean and nibs to finished, wrapped Oialla chocolate. We were invited to study, smell and snap the chocolate pieces before allowing it to melt on our palates as part of the multi-sensory tasting experience.

cacao3Samplings of Bonnatt chocolates, which were paired with an array of red and port wines, as well as pale Ceretto, Moscato d'asti 2010.

clelgsLook at the legs on the Albala, Do PX 1985, which started with a white grape aged in oak for 20 years until it obtained a molasses hue, and rich, buttery sweetness. This $39 wine accompanied Bonnat Chuao 75 percent dark chocolate.

croyalThe Hungarian Royal Tokaji, 5 Puttonyons 2007 was also a treat, accompanying Bonnat Surabaya 65 percent milk chocolate, both with complimentary creaminess. Noble rot of botrytis dries the grapes to intensify the sweetness.

Opening the senses to Jin Xuan's tea experience

May 1st, 2012

rteamasterNadine Kam photos
Tea sommelier Olina Ou prepares for a tea demonstration at Jin Xuan restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong.

In most of Hawaii's Chinese restaurants, we're accustomed to receiving the house tea. Some are better than others, but whatever it happens to be, that's it. We're offered no other options.

That's not the case in Shanghai, where restaurants big and small usually have a menu of five to eight teas that range from classic oolong to dark, aged pu-erh, which I loved so much I brought some home.

At the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, Jin Xuan restaurant is home to a full menu of white, green, black, flower teas and more, as well as a tea sommelier who can help with selections.

I was fortunate to participate in a tea demonstration and tasting presented by Olina Ou, who, with the help of a translator,  explained the tea ritual and how to savor tea's nuances.

First, we were invited to smell the fresh tea leaves before hot water is added. Then, we were allowed to drink in the scent released with the first brew of tea, before it was poured over the Yixing clay tea pot and porcelain tea cups in a cleansing ritual.rwelcome teaA lunch of dim sum started with the day's special oolong tea, and the day's welcome tea, at left. The plum tea tasted like one of our favorite snacks, li hing mui! You can see I polished off half the cup before remembering to snap a photo.

To serve, Olina poured the tea into tall, narrow tea cups, capping each with the more familiar squat teacup. She flipped the arrangement upside down before presenting it to each guest. Air pressure inside the cup created a vacuum seal that prevented the tea from spilling all over us. We could feel the vacuum as we slowly lifted the tall cup, slowly releasing the tea into the smaller cup.

Once again, we raised the cup to our noses to take in the delicate scent before taking three sips, tasting the tea with the tip of our tongues, at our cheeks, and toward the back of our tongue, all tasked with picking up different flavors.

After drinking the tea, we were instructed to roll the taller cup in our palms, in front of our noses, to pick up the last aromas, which differed every step of the way.

rteaPouring hot water onto tea leaves in a Yixing clay pot.


rporcelainPouring the tea.

Upside down tea presentation. Lifting the top cup broke the vacuum that prevented the tea from spilling into the bottom cup before we were ready to drink it.

The restaurant is on the 53rd floor of the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, at Shanghai ifc, 8 Century Ave., Lujiazui. While there, I also enjoyed dim sum that figures prominently on the menu by day:

ramuseAn amuse bouche of glazed pork.

Heart-warming chicken soup.

rshrimpA beautiful shrimp dumpling.

rtruffleTruffled pork xiao long bao. Much better than Din Tai Fung!

rbeefAustralian Wagyu beef with mushrooms and peppers over thin-sliced zucchini.

rveggiesA spring basket of wok-stirred vegetables and mushrooms.

rpapayaPapaya-filled pastry, with sweet pork pastry in the back. I took one bite of the pork and it was so delicious but alas, by this point I couldn't eat anymore.

rmangoAfter a short rest, I was able to finish a refreshing dessert of mango pudding.

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