Archive for June, 2012

On the table: Lucky Belly

June 27th, 2012
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bellybowlNadine Kam photos
Lucky Belly's savory Belly Bowl with pork belly, smoked bacon, sausage and onsen egg, in what else but a pork broth accented with sesame and miso.

Got a chance to stop for lunch at what is sure to be the Chinatown Arts District's newest foodie destination, Lucky Belly, now open at Smith and Hotel, in place of Mini Garden.

The brief menu comes in groupings of three: a trio of ramen options, a trio of appetizers, salads and sandwiches for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, with dinner service to start up around mid-July. I'm waiting for that before I do a full review.

Right now, it looks like they're off to a good start.

luckyninaNina Wu holds up her giant Lucky Bowl, Lucky Belly's basic ramen, at $8. The broth now is pork, but a vegetarian bowl is on the way.

lgyozaShrimp gyoza with Chinese won ton flavor, edmame and avocado puree and ponzu sauce.

loinkAfter lunch, a thank you on the receipt.

luckystThe new sign on the corner of Smith and Hotel streets.

Aloha from Château Aiguilloux

June 27th, 2012
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alohatastersNadine Kam photos
Among the first in Hawaii to sample the Aloha Wines of Chateau Aiguilloux's Anne Lemarié and Mattheiu Arbouin, center, were, from left, Randy Kuba, Michael W. Perry, Dr. Glenn Miyataki and Robin Campaniano.

It was a treat to run away from the office at midday June 26 for a gathering of wine lovers to introduce a boutique line of Aloha Wines, a collaboration between oenophiles Randy Kuba and Dr. Glenn Miyataki and Château Aiguilloux from the Languedoc region of Southern France.

The gathering at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room was hosted by Dr. Miyataki and Robin Campaniano, with the Anne Lemarié, second-generation winemaker from Château Aiguilloux in town to present their Aloha-branded Rose 2011, Tradition 2010, Les 3 Seigneurs 2010, and Anne-Georges 2009.

The project has been six years in the making, starting when Dr. Miyataki, then president of JAIMS (Japan-America Institute of Management Science) was teaching a class in management in China. Anne was one of his students and asked if she could interview him for a project she was working on. He learned of her wine roots and before you know it, he was in France, staying with her parents, who purchased Château Aiguilloux in 1982.

Wine was then a new endeavor for François and Marthe Lemarié. He had been working as an engineer in Africa and she was a teacher on the Ivory Coast when they met. They started small, with the philosophy of sustainability and conviviality maintained to this day.

During the lunch, Anne told me they never approached winemaking as a vast commercial endeavor. "It was always about sharing, to sit down with friends and nice food."

She said that when she started talking to Glenn, she learned about the similar Hawaiian values of hospitality and aloha. "He talked about welcoming people, opening doors and enjoying food together, and we started thinking about how we could bring these ideas together."

With the wine part taken care of, here in Hawaii, Kuba and Miyataki have launched the Aloha Wine Club to work with winemakers who put heart and soul into their endeavors, and share their wines and spirit of aloha and giving with local wine aficionados, many of whom happen to be movers and shakers in the community.

Kuba said, "Our mission is to learn about wine and how it pairs with food because it brings us together, spreads the concept of aloha within our businesses and extends to the world."

Bottles of the Château Aiguilloux wines will be available to members for now, but in time, they hope to make them available to the larger wine community. Visit www.AlohaExcellence.com to join.

aloharoseChateau Aiguilloux's Aloha rose served with Pineapple Room's seared ahi tataki with lemon aioli and Castle Vetrano olive tapenade. The refreshing rose comprises 40 percent cinsault, 30 percent grenache, 10 percent syrah, 10 percent carignan and 10 percent mourvèdre.

alohaahiIt was noted that roses are not particularly popular in Hawaii, but I find it perfect for summer. In France, Anne said, they are a popular with fish, salads and fruit.

alohaStudent and teacher, Anna Lemarié and Dr. Glenn Miyataki, are now working together to promote the spirit of aloha and conviviality.

alohaaAnne-Georges is the wine named after Anne and her brother by their parents. It's a Concours des Grands Vins de France Macon 2012 gold medal winner comprising 50 percent carignan from 60-year-old vines, 30 percent syrah from 25-year-old vines and 20 percent grenache from 18-year-old vines. It is aged two years in new oak barrels. Described as having the rich hues of cherries and plum; nose of dark fruit, currants and blackberries; hints of black olives, vanilla and licorice with a touch of black pepper; plus soft velvety finish, I enjoyed this best with the shortribs below.

aloha shortrib
The other two reds were paired with braised shortribs and baba ganoush were the Aloha Tradition 2010 and Aloha Les 3 Signeurs 2010. The Tradition is made in the traditional method of vat aging with no wood. My favorite drinking wine was the Les 3 Seigneurs, "Wine of Three Kingdoms," with 65 percent carignan, 25 percent grenache and 10 percent syrah, aged in third-generation oak barrels to give it a smoky nose to balance its bright cherry and berry flavors. It is a Concours des Féminalses de Lyon 2012 silver medal winner and Concours des Grands Vins de Corbières 2012 bronze medal winner.

alohadessertWe chose our own desserts, and most of us opted for the strawberry tiramisu because we'd never tasted a strawberry tiramisu before. It was comparable to strawberry shortcake.

Ikemen brings Hollywood style to Yataimura ramen

June 22nd, 2012
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ikemen1Nadine Kam photos
Ikemen CEO Max Kawabata with his Back Draft dip-style (tsukemen) ramen, $11 at Shirokiya's Yataimura through July 4. Chewy Sun noodles are served with char siu pork and tonkatsu broth stirred with green onions and ground beef chili paste. The close up is below.

Max Kawabata already has six restaurants in Japan, with cuisines ranging from izakaya fare to barbecue.

It would have made sense to repeat one of his successes when he made his move to Los Angeles, but why go the easy route? Not one to repeat himself, his Hollywood debut came via ramen, and Lady Gaga, among other celebs, is a fan.

You can check it out firsthand during the two weeks Ikemen has set up shop at Shirokiya's Yataimura.

Although Ikemen offers the soup ramen most familiar here, its specialty is tsukemen, or dip-style ramen, in which the noodles are served at room temperature and dipped into a warm Ikemen pork broth.

The tonkatsu au jus, as it's called, is then enhanced with other ingredients in variations of the basic ramen. Inspired by the change of address—right at 1655 N. La Brea and Hollywood Boulevard—names of dishes are inspired by Hollywood. These would include the Johnny Dip (a basil-enhanced, pesto-style broth), the fiery Back Draft, and most amusing, the Ghost Buster, a cream of mushroom broth with a marshmallow reduced in flames and stirred into the broth on the spot in an homage to "Ghostbusters" Stay Puft Marshmallow Man!

Bring your friends so you can try the various broth selections. They were all good, I finished every last noodle, which is amazing considering I've never been able to finish a bowl of ramen anywhere else. I'm hoping they pick up so many fans here that they'll have to open an Ikemen outpost here, though with Kawabata at the helm, it may morph into some other restaurant entirely!

The stylish Ikemen team will be at the Yataimura through July 4.

ispicy

izebraZebra dip ramen ($9) is Ikemen's top seller in Hollywood, with the tonkatsu au jus spiked with roasted garlic flavor.

itorchJimmie Heabea, a k a Jimmie Heaven, torches the marshmallow that gets stirred into the Ghost Buster ramen ($12) in front of him.

puftWho you gonna call?: The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man goes from benign to evil in "Ghostbusters."

ikementorchAnother view of the torching by photographer Craig Kojima.

ibrothDipping broth options, from left, are the Johnny Dip (pesto), Zebra and basic Ikemen dip of tonkatsu au jus with green onions and topped with fresh-shaved bonito, made from the stacked fish below. A side order bowl of Adachi bonito flakes is $3.

ibonitoIkemen general manager Takashi Adachi prepares, smokes, ferments and dries the fish through a process passed down through his family for more than 200 years. Before serving, the fish is passed through a katusobushi machine, reducing it to fine shavings.

One hazzard of meal sharing

June 21st, 2012
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atagNadine Kam photos
Alaska Airlines found tag attached to my camera.

It's almost a miracle that I got my camera back this week, 10 days after leaving it on the Alaska Airlines, the last leg of three flights en route home from Bradley, Conn.

I had my camera out to take photos of the first-class meal to share here and with my friends on Foodspotting. There was a little camera-size niche in the arm rest, and I kept thinking I'd better not forget it there. But, after 15 hours of traveling, my only thought when we landed was, "I've got to get out of here," and scooted out of there as quickly as possible, even though the flight attendants had reminded, "Check your seats for anything you may have left behind."

One day later, I was out eating again and dug around in my purse for my camera and thought I'd simply left it at home. But at home when I couldn't find it, I realized I never did grab it out of the plane niche.

Alaska Airlines has an "Ask Jenn" feature on its website that allows you to report items "Lost on Board." I figured it would be turned in because any finder would likely have no use for an inexpensive, already out-of-date Panasonic Lumix that requires its own battery charger. But I described the camera as being silver, and was amused upon its return to find it's actually black!

aporkAppetizer of smoked pork tenderloin with mango salsa. Northwest and California wines were complimentary. On planes I tend to drink water only.

Luckily, I had described some of the last photos taken, including the dinner, and clouds over Seattle.

I guess I never looked at the front of the camera, because I'm always looking at the screen in the back!

I laughed about it with the person I picked it up from at the airport, and she said, "That's OK, people don't even know what their bags look like."

So, before you leave on your summer vacation, take note of what your possessions look like, and maybe take a few photos of them before you leave, just in case!

I had been a little miffed to find myself on Alaska, when I had booked through Delta and expected to be on a Delta plane with the plushy first-class section, and not the commuter style. But I was happy to note Alaska's meal was better than Delta's and I'm not sure whether they would have gone out of their way to return my camera.

acodEntree options included a grilled chicken breast with sesame teriyaki sauce served with pineapple-coconut rice and asparagus, or this delicious potato-crusted cod with pineapple-curry sauce, red skin mashed potatoes and julienned vegetables.

brownieDessert of chocolate brownie and vanilla bean ice cream.

cloudsClouds.

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Pedal power goes into Manoa Chocolate

June 20th, 2012
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chocoNadine Kam photos
Manoa Chocolate Hawaii founder Dylan Butterbaugh, with Megan Gallagher, left, and Tia Apilando.

Manoa Chocolate Hawaii hosted the grand opening of its Kailua factory on June 16, from afternoon through evening, with no shortage of chocolate aficionados clamoring for a taste of its 60 to 72 percent premium chocolate bars.

Founder Dylan Butterbaugh became fascinated with the process of making chocolate in small batches with friends about two years ago, and after much trial and error and invention, created his boutique chocolate with aims of raising Hawaii's profile as a producer of upscale chocolate.


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The operation is as green as can be, with people power going into the winnowing process that separates the husks from nibs of the roasted cacao beans. Now that it's summer, Dylan is something of a Tom Sawyer or Pied Piper for friends of his younger brother Carson, who are gladly putting their muscles to work grinding the nibs and pedaling the Dora the Explorer tricycle that powers the winnower. (A vibrating back massager keeps the beans moving.) Their reward is a taste of the remnants of the chocolate tempering process.

I got a chance to try my hand at grinding, and it was interesting to note the vast difference in flavor of the nibs and the first pass at the freshly ground chocolate, which was sour, fruity and bitter. The grinding releases the cocoa liquor, a complex combination of more than 300 chemical compounds that give a particular region's chocolate its particular flavor profile. This is the essence of the cacao and Manoa Chocolate celebrates the differences by importing beans from all over the world, producing single-origin chocolate bars for our side-by-side comparisons.

In store that day were chocolate bars made with cacao beans from Samoa, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Peru. Hawaii regions currently being represented are Waiahole and Hamakua, and Dylan has high hopes that with his operation, more growers will be inspired to plant cacao trees and contribute to a viable industry in the islands. He has access to an acre on the dry side of Waimanalo that he intends to plant with cacao.

Nothing could be sexier than the combination of Hawaii and chocolate, he said, and I agree!
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Manoa Chocolate Hawaii is on the second floor at 315 Uluniu St., in Kailua, above Cinnamon's restaurant. Call 343-3040.

cacao podOn display: A cacao pod and cacao beans in various stages of production.

choc2The chocolate is conched and tempered before it can be molded into chocolate bars.

choco1Lisa-Marie Tam was among the first customers of the day. Her chocolate necklace pegged her as an aficionado.

chalkboardA chalkboard showed the origins of chocolate available that day.