Archive for September, 2012

Go Italian to feed a kid

September 30th, 2012

hungerRomano's Macaroni Grill photo / #macgrillgive

To counter all the effects of dining out for a living, I try to be kind to my body on "off" days, sparing myself from salt, sugar and fat overloading.

I could never do all the work involved in going as far as making the mac nut ricotta in the raw vegan Living Lasagna at Licious Dishes, but I really love Sylvia Thompson's lasagna and it inspired me to sub the usual layers of pasta with layers of sliced zucchini. To make the slicing task easier, you can use a mandoline, but I find it just as easy to use a knife for a small quantity.

My husband sounded leery about the idea and likes the pasta, so in a first pass, we compromised. I did the bottom layer with pasta, and middle and top tiers with zucchini, and neither of us missed a thing.

The beauty of any lasagna recipe is that they're quite forgiving, and this doesn't have to be vegetarian at all. You can muse a meat filling if you want, but you an feel a little better knowing you've included more vegetable than you would have otherwise.

I'm sharing this recipe after being invited by Romano's Macaroni Grill to share an Italian recipe toward a goal of ending childhood hunger.

The restaurant partnered with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to connect kids to 1 Million Meals, 500 meals per post. According to Share our Strength, one in five, or 16 million children, go hungry in America on a regular basis.

The long-term cost to society are:

>> Nationally: According to a report by the Center for American Progress and Brandeis University, “hunger costs our nation at least $167.5 billion due to the combination of lost economic productivity per year, more expensive public education because of the rising costs of poor education outcomes, avoidable health care costs, and the cost of charity to keep families fed.”

>> Individually: The center also calculated that “the impact of being held back a grade or more in school resulting from hunger and its threat resulted in $6.9 billion in lost income for 2009 dropouts in 2010 and that high school absenteeism led to a loss of $5.8 billion, also in 2010. In total, food insecurity led to a loss of $19.2 billion in (lifetime) earnings in 2010.”

>> Your cost: “it cost every citizen $542 due to the far-reaching consequences of hunger in our nation.” If the number of hungry Americans remains constant, “each individual’s bill for hunger in our nation will amount to about $42,400” on a lifetime basis.

Readers can also visit the restaurant and donate $2 to receive $5 off their next meal. For more information, visit

Here's the recipe:

Spinach Lasagna with Zucchini and Ricotta
3 sheets lasagna pasta
1 large onion, small dice
6 cloves garlic, chopped
Olive oil
1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, unfrozen
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 pound zucchini, sliced thin
15-ounce Ricotta
2 eggs
1 24-ounce jar Mario Batali vodka sauce (or your favorite tomato/spaghetti sauce)
Grated Parmesan to taste

Boil the pasta; remove to a plate. Spread about 2 tablespoons of sauce in a 13-by-9 Pyrex baking dish. Spread pasta on dish
Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil. When caramelized, add the spinach. Season to taste.
Layer one-half of filling over pasta. Beat eggs wih ricotta, and layer half of this mixture over vegetables, followed by a layer of one-third of the sauce.
Layer half of zucchini strips.
Create another layer of filling, ricotta, sauce and zucchini.
Cover zucchini with remaining sauce and sprinkle Parmesan over all.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 servings.

Karai Crab heats up the scene

September 26th, 2012


I was excited by the possibility of heat and spice promised in the name Karai Crab, but it's only after I sat down and saw the restaurant's crab logo and that fiery furnace of a mouth that I felt a little scared by just how much heat would arrive.

I like spicy food, and can practically drink Sriracha, but things are a quite a bit hotter here. I slipped in before a media preview Sept. 21, and this half order of "No Mess" (that is, peeled) shrimp nearly killed my tastebuds with its so-called "medium" cayenne-pepper heat. If this was medium, I don't know if I really wanted to explore spicy (habanero heat) or extra spicy (ghost pepper heat).

Luckily, I had ordered mussels with habanero sauce before trying the cayenne, and I liked the habañero much more, which here, is more of a glowy, citrusy heat than a burning one like the cayenne.

karai cayenneNadine Kam photos
No Mess shrimp really absorbed the heat. I and my dinner companion could only manage one apiece, so the rest went to waste.

I was afraid to tackle the ghost pepper heat, but took a tentative bite later on at the media lunch that followed the restaurant's blessing. And I liked that too. Even so, it did have a sting so I had to alternate between dipping pieces of king crab leg in habañero and ghost pepper sauces that were served on the side, along with garlic butter.

Before visiting the restaurant, I wondered how it would find its niche, considering its latecomer status as the fourth crab restaurant to open within six months. But, the flavors are delicious and they're working to differentiate themselves from the pack with chef's specials and new sauces that will keep visits interesting over time. And, you can see the clean presentation, sans plastic bags:

karaidungenessDungeness crab is tasty, if not quite as cute as Karai Crab's logo, top of page.

karai maileAfter a blessing by kahu Cordell Kekoa, from left, Karai Crab manager Garrett Kamei, executive chef Miles Miyamoto and Michael J. Robinson from Kapiolani Medical Center untie the maile lei. A portion of proceeds from food service through Sept. 30 will be donated to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.

karailaFor a person who writes about food, Lindsey Muraoka of the Honolulu Pulse blog Food La La is really squeamish about pulling a crab apart getting her hands dirty. She tackles a Karai Combo ($25) with crab legs available separately at market price.

karaiclamsLike the other shellfish, you can add one of six seasonings to an order of clams, then add spice, or no spice if you can't take the heat.

karai saltpepperI was lucky to be dining on a day they were experimenting with salt-pepper shrimp in the kitchen. Everyone in the restaurant at the time was lucky to get a sample of the crisp shrimp that was just as good, if not better, than the Chinatown originals, though without the sprinkling of green onions, garlic and chilies. If it's not on the menu by now, they'd better add it quick!

karai cornAn order of corn is $3, and the portion is small, but it's really sweet and not soggy at all.

karaiKing crab legs added to a Karai combo bowl of shrimp, clams, crawfish, mussels, potato, corn and sausage.

karai cornbreadBacon-jalapeno cornbread is good for cutting the heat of the chilies.


Karai Crab is at The Willows, with separate makai building and entrance, 901 Hausten St. Call 952-6990.

First course: 53 By the Sea now open

September 14th, 2012

53oystersNadine Kam photos
Oysters that are part of the 53 Seafood Showcase platter. This was the grand opening selection. The actual $30 seafood platter will be portioned for two.

Now open on the site of the former John Dominis restaurant is 53 By the Sea, Honolulu's latest Italian restaurant helmed in the kitchen by a Japanese chef, Hiroshi Hayakawa.

No one who's ever been to John Dominis will see a trace of the former restaurant here. It's given way to a $16 million Mediterranean-style chapel-looking building that will also serve as a wedding venue marketed to Japanese lovebirds.

The 200-seat Italian restaurant is on the ground floor, and a ballroom staircase will lead to the Terrace by the Sea. The two-story, 18,825-square-foot building features two wedding chapels and six banquet rooms in an unbeatable setting right on the water's edge in Kakaako, with a straight-ahead view of Diamond Head.

Whereas the former restaurant was built close to the water, with waves splashing against glass walls, the new restaurant is raised, with glass doors and outdoor seating for those who want to actually feel the ocean breeze and take unobstructed photos.

The restaurant is open for dinner, and lunch service is set to begin around Sept. 26. During a media reception this morning, the restaurant offered a sampling of its menu, with entree prices ranging from $18 for spaghetti Bolgonese, to $42 for grilled Maine lobster with fried island vegetables.

*Note that the dishes below were presented in group portions, and not the actual individual portions.

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53exteriorThe exterior of the new 53 By the Sea restaurant built on the site of the former John Dominis restaurant.

53staircaseThe ballroom staircase leading to the wedding chapels.

53chefChef Hiroshi Hayakawa.

53ppProsciutto and Pecorino.

53steakAmong the beef offerings is grilled Black Angus filet mignon.

53pesto scampiBow-tie pasta and pesto scampi.

53penneSeafood penne.

53escargotEscargot-stuffed mushrooms. (more…)

HFWF Day 3: From farm to table at the Hilton

September 12th, 2012

hfwfabaloneNadine Kam photos
A tray of abalone—prepared by Mélisse, Lemon Moon Café and Sure Thing Burger's Josiah Citrin—ready for deliver to one of the VIP tables at the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival's Day 3 "From Farm to Table: A Makahiki Festival," that took place at Hilton Hawaiian Village Sept. 8.

It may have been raining elsewhere on Oahu, but the sun shined down on Waikiki and evening three of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival Sept. 8 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, where more than a thousand guests dined in the open air.

The event was themed "From Farm to Table: A Makahiki Festival," paying tribute to the Hawaiian  harvest season, and highlighting  a sustainable future for Hawaii, with 22 celebrity chefs—many noted for promoting “farm to table” sustainable sourcing and cooking practices—enlisted to turn their talents to local produce, seafood, poultry and meat products.

While last year's food was a little meh to me, perhaps a little more familiarity this year was helpful. Many of the dishes were stellar, and when people asked me which was my favorite, I really couldn't pick one. So many were delicious. And unfortunately, with the scope of the selections, I was only able to sample about a third of what was offered.

You would think I would head to the visiting chefs stations first, but with our local chefs offering such dazzling selections near the entrance, I filled up fast. And silly me, the goal is variety, trying as many different dishes as possible, but I liked Hiroshi Fukui's monchong so much that when servers brought a batch to our table, I had a second helping!

For chef groupies, the event is a dream come true. You'd have to make many trips to San Francisco, L.A. and New York to hit up each of the chef's restaurants in person, and even then, the main man may not be around. But here, they were all heavily involved in preparation and giving attention to anyone who wanted to talk food and get a snapshot with these culinary stars.

It was definitely an amazing night to remember!

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hfwflobsterJon Matsubara's roasted Kona lobster was one of the many delectables offered up near the entrance to the event, where most of the local chefs were positioned.

hfwfmatsubaraMatsubara, of Azure restaurant at The Royal Hawaiian, offers up his roasted Kona lobster with anchovy and marrow butter, topped with sea asparagus, Ewa corn, Ho Farms tomato and baby rocket.

hfwffenigerSusan Feniger of Susan Feniger's Street, and Border Grill, served up chilled Korean noodles with grilled skirt steak.

hfwfleeanneLee Anne Wong shared two dishes incorporating pa'i'ai, not dissimilar, but 250 years apart in terms of preparation, as she explained in the video near top of page. I particularly loved the way the pa'i'ai picked up the flavor of the smoked marlin in the old-style preparation. Chances are, you'll be seeing more of her soon. She's pulling up stakes from New York and will be moving to Hawaii by next summer.

hfwfpaiaiWong worked with Daniel Anthony of Mana 'Ai, who was making more pa'i ai on the spot.

hfwfwaxmanJonathan Waxman of Barbuto, New York, does some heavy lifting, removing fish from a grill.

hfwfjosiahAll the chefs, including Josiah Citrin, of Mélisse in Santa Monica, obliged fans who wanted to have their photos taken with them. (more…)

HFWF Day 2: Geek and foodie culture meet

September 12th, 2012

hfwf2kitchitNadine Kam photos
Brendan Marshall, founder of Kitchit, the home of bespoke dining, makes a bid for investor dollars during Sept. 7's "Afternoon with 500 Startups: Battle of the Food Geeks,"  for investor dollars.

A day session on Day 2 of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival Sept. 7, aimed to show the connections between food, agriculture, community and technology.

I had an early lunch meeting that day, so couldn't make it to the first event,
Building a Sense of Plate and Place."  Ed Kenney was the moderator of a panel that included presenters Keone Kealoha of Malama Kauai, Michelle Galimba of Kuahiwi Ranch, Mark Noguchi and special guest Josh Feathers, who shared their stories on building food communities.

Afterward, there was a smackdown that pitted Masaharu Morimoto against Ming Tsai, as a prelude to "Hawaii in a Bowl: From Poi Bowl to Pho Chefs" lunch featuring pa'i'ai from Mana Ai, phó from Charles Phan of The Slanted Door, fish from Colin Hazama of The Sheraton Waikiki, abalone from "Iron Chef" Hiroyuki Sakai, and creations by Side Street Inn's Colin Nishida, and Foodland's Keoni Chang.

crabI had a lunch meeting at Mariposa before heading to The Modern for the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival's day event. I had the soft shell crab salad, so wasn't particularly hungry when I arrived.

hfwf2sakaiThen I heard Chef Sakai was serving abalone, and I couldn't resist trying it, having missed out on chef Chai Chaowasaree's abalone the night before.


Then, in the afternoon, the "Battle of the Food Geeks" pit a handful of food-oriented startups in a pitch war to gain favor with Dave McClure and his panel of chef judges: Sang Yoon of Lukshon and Father's Office; Susan Feniger of Border Grill and Street; Lee Anne Wong of Cooking Channel's "Unique Eats"; event co-founder Roy Yamaguchi of Roy's Restaurants; and Christina Grdovic, publisher of Food & Wine magazine.

McClure is a founding partner of 500 Startups, an Internet startup seed fund and accelerator program based in Mountain View, Calif. One tends to think of old-time geeks as building their Internet companies over pizzas and Chinese takeout, but as geeks have become successful, they've become eager students of  the better things in life, and McClure said, "We're not accustomed to working with food startups but ... All of a sudden, food has become a geeky pursuit."

Who knew, only five years ago, that so many would take so much pleasure in photographing their food and sharing those pictures on several social media sites? They want to take the next food startup to the next level.

hfwf2colinAlso couldn't pass up Colin Hazama's skewered fish.

First to present was Brendan Marshall, founder of Kitchit, the home of bespoke dining. The former investment banker is seeking to democratize private dining by giving restaurant chefs a way to connect with people who want to hire them for a dinner party. So chefs like Marcel Vigneron or Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen could come to your house and cook for you. Of course, the most famous can also command appearance fees of $25,000 or more on top of the price of your meal. Of course the question raised by the panel was, what's to stop a client from just calling the chef? Which is, of course, how things are done in Hawaii.

Also presenting was Tealet's Elyse Peterson, whose site puts tea lovers in touch with premium tea growers, cutting out the middle man to offer the buyer a purer and less expensive product. Then came Abby Sturges of Culture Kitchen, which packages recipes and ingredients for authentic ethnic cuisines to destinations where such ingredients are hard to come by.

It was interesting to sit there and consider if you would back any of these businesses with your own dollars.

hfwf2tealetElyse Peterson talks up Tealet before the judges.

hfwf2phoIngredients for Charles Phan's phó. A dish was made for me, but I got up to take a photo, and when I returned, someone else was eating my phó.

hfwf2townRelaxing after the morning session were Town's David Caldiero, left, and Ed Kenney, with his mom Beverly Noa and wife Kristen.

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