Archive for February, 2014

Agu expands menu and horizons

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February 25th, 2014



aguOne of Agu Ramen's "originals," a bowl of kotteri tonkotsu.Nadine Kam photos

Expanding the way we think about wine and food, Agu A Ramen Bistro was the setting for a unique pairing of affordable wines with Jidori ramen and yet-to-be-introduced small plates on Feb. 11. Some of the new side dishes only recently hit the menu on Feb. 21, coinciding with my review appearing in print on Feb. 26.

The wine event anticipates securing of a liquor license in the coming months, and the restaurant enlisted master sommelier Patrick Okubo to help with the pairings. Without knowing what the new dishes would be like, Okubo had his work cut out for him, but the selections he brought in meshed well with the restaurant's mix of deep-fried, spiced and savory flavors.

Agu quickly became my favorite ramen spot when it opened last fall, and here was no reason to believe it would ever offer more than top-notch ramen and gyoza. That was all anyone could expect and that was enough.

But co-owner and chef Hisashi Uehara, a stickler for such time-consuming details as boiling down pork bones for 18 hours to break down fat, marrow, calcium, minerals and proteins to arrive at a thick, opaque broth, wasn't done yet. He had busily been working on new dishes to add to Agu's basic menu, and I have a feeling he's not done yet.
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Agu is at 925 Isenberg St., in the Saint Louis Alumni Clubhouse. Call 808.492.1637.

aguramenI thought it couldn't get better than this shio tonkotsu, but updated versions of the ramen now come with butter, silky se-abura (pork fat), or a mound of  freshly grated Parmesan cheese, below.

agparm

agpatrickMaster sommerlier Patrick Okubo served Secateurs, Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region, S. Africa 2012 ($15.27) with the gyoza and  Jidori kawa (crispy chicken skin). He said, "The high acid played off of the gyoza because of the vinegar sauce and the Jidori kawa because of the tart ponzu sauce.  The high acid sensations cancelled out each other so you could taste the sweet flavors in the food and the fruit in the wine." Chenin blanc happens to be a grape with a natural acidity that compliments other high acid foods.

agyozaDelicious pork and vegetable gyoza with light, thin skins delivering a satisfying brittle crackle.

agchefAgu chef Hisashi Uehara delivers a plate of Jidori kawa, crispy chicken skin.

agwineLincourt, "Lindsey's" Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills 2011 ($22.50) and Buglioni, Il Viggliaco, Brut Rose, Veneto 2011  ($27). 

agsoybeansThe Il Viggliaco, comprising 100 percent Molinara grapes paired best with the piri kara menma  (spiced bamboo shoots, background) because of spice was offset by the wine's 1.2 percent sugar content. Its refreshing acid tones also paired well with the kotteri garlic edamame, and the spice of the Volcano sauce accompanying the mimiga, or deep-fried pork ears.

agporkThe lush sweetness of the Lincourt pinot was a good match for the char siu pork because of the richness without the tannin. Pork doesn't require the tannin that you'd find in darker skinned grapes such as cabernet so the pinot will not overpower the pork.

agpateThe Lincourt also was a good companion for the chicken liver paté that looks like a scoop of chocolate ice cream. The paté made by Thomas Jones, president of REI Food Service, parent to Agu and Gyotaku Japanese restaurants.

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First course: Awash in abalone

By
February 18th, 2014



abatraysShingo Ochi shows two sizes of Kona Abalone. The approximately 4-inch specimens at left are about 4 years old. At right, shells of 1-1/2 year olds measure about two inches.Nadine Kam photos

Kona Abalone is among the most popular vendors at the Saturday morning Farmers Market at Kapiolani Community College because chowhounds find the succulent, lightly salted pieces of grilled locally grown abalone worth a wait in line.

Now, those who could never make it over to the market in time early enough to enjoy the abalone don't have to worry about setting their alarm clock. Kona Abalone has opened a flagship store at the Makai
Market Food Court at Ala Moana.

The shop, at the Diamond Head end of the food court, offers more than the simple grilled abalone sold at the Farmers Market. The store will also sell packaged abalone, including canned and vacuum-packed versions that are travel proofed for premium made-in-Hawaii gift giving.

If you're wondering how they can keep up with demand, The Big Island Abalone Corp. maintains an inventory of more than 4 million abalone on its 10-acre site.

ababentoA sampler of smoked salmon, ocean salad with abalone and two pieces of abalone. Two pieces of the abalone are more filling than expected, and left me feeling light and energized.

abagrillGrilled abalone, packaged and ready to go at prices ranging from $10 to $15 depending on the abalone's size and numbers. For example, one large abalone is $10, two medium size is $11, three smalls are $11, and a pack with three large runs $15.

BIAC raises a premium stock of Ezo (Northern Japanese) abalone. The success of Kona Abalone is the result of 16 years of research that led to important findings about abalone habitat and innovations in farm feeding practices.

CEO Hiroshi Arai said there were many setbacks in the process, but all along, he maintained faith in the viability of abalone he considers to be the best in the world because of the controlled environment in which they are raised, that allow the mollusks to thrive.

The farming system uses a constant supply of pure, cold, nutrient-rich Pacific Ocean sea water, pumped from a depth of more than 3,000 feet by the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA).

BIAC's facilities include a hatchery, a nursery and abalone grow-out tanks, ensuring that BIAC controls the quality of the abalone from the start of the mollusks' growth cycle. The abalone is fed a proprietary red algae (dulse), also bred onsite to optimize the abalone's flavor, nutrition, texture, color, and even shell characteristics.
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Big Island Abalone is in the Ala Moana Center Makai Market Food Court, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. Call 808.941.4120. Open 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays, except center holidays. www.bigislandabalone.com

abaceoCEO Hiroshi Arai shows premium canned Kona Abalone. (more…)

Georgie Pie pop-up coming to FM studio

By
February 12th, 2014



gpkawehiKawehi Haug, left, with Kim Potter, will launch her Georgie Pie popup Feb. 20 and 21 at FM Studio.Nadine Kam photos

Let Them Eat Cupcakes and Fashionista's Market staged a preview of Georgie Pie's monthly pop-up pie shop at FM's new studio space adjoining its 1185 Bethel St. storefront.

FM owner Alyssa Fung is making the space available to other creatives in town, whether it's a food popup like Georgie Pie, a photographer requiring a studio for a day, or designer looking to set up shop, at an approximate rate of $150 per day to start.

Georgie Pie is a division of Let Them Eat Cupcakes, and owner Kawehi Haug—a former Honolulu Advertiser reporter—said she started experimenting with baking pies a year ago as a followup to her cupcake enterprise.

Baking is in her blood, as she says she learned everything she knows from her mom, whose middle name is Georgeanne, Georgie for short.


Non-flash video

Kawehi started selling her pies last fall to test demand, and Georgie Pie will now commandeer the FM Studio every third Thursday and Friday of the month, this month taking place Feb. 20 and 21.

Those are dates to mark in your calender for delicious pies that don't skimp on fresh fruit or other ingredients. You probably never have tried a banana cream pie as divine, rich and thick as Georgie Pie's.

With dinner following the preview, my friends and I went in simply for a small taste, but the nibbling didn't stop because a great pie is a terrible thing to waste. I had to stop one of my friends from devouring the entire slice of banana cream pie before giving me a bite!

Pies are also available by special order. In addition to dessert pies, Georgie Pie offers savory, hand pies filled with beef brisket or beef and potatoes.

Fruit pies run $22 to $26; slices are $4.50; hand pies are $4.50 to $5.50; and savory 4-inch meat pies are $6.
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Georgie Pie popup will take place every third Thursday and Friday of the month at Fashionista's Market FM Studio, at 1185 Bethel St. To order pies, call 808.531.2253 or email georgiepiehawaii@gmail.com.

gpstrawNormandy brie and strawberry jam hand pies represent a sweet take on classic brie en croute.

gpbananaLuscious, dreamy banana cream pie with decadent banana Bavarian cream.

gpsliceKawehi slices one of her creations. It seemed a shame to mar the beautiful golden crust.

gpinsideLayers and layers of fruit in Georgie Pie's signature apple-cranberry pie, with hint of citron.

gpalyssaFashionista's Market owner Alyssa Fung samples the blueberry pie.

gpappleOne of the star ingredients.

gpyuzuStrawberry-ume petite pies topped with brown sugar streusel.

gpsignA sign pointed the way to the event.

 

 

 

 

 

gplemonWe also tried vanilla bean lemonade.

gptoolsTools of the trade, in miniature.

First course: Plenty to savor at Sushi Ginza Onodera

By
February 12th, 2014



onoyellowSushi of yellowtail that was marinated five hours in a light blend of soy sauce, shiitake, mirin and sake and lightly seared. Topped with daikon and aged negi. True bliss, at Sushi Ginza Onodera.Nadine Kam photos

Honolulu has always been a great city for sushi lovers because of our access to great catch and resulting numbers of sushi bars. But Sushi Ginza Onodera is a game-changer in this town because nothing else is comparable. Sushi here is exceptional, accented here and there with a bit of yuzu, ginger, seasoned salt or a brushstroke of soy sauce and fresh grated wasabi to bring out the seafood's best attributes.

For that, you'll pay a price. Onodera's omakase meals are set at $160, $200 and $250. For $160, you get one appetizer and 13 pieces of nigiri sushi. The $200 menu features four appetizers and about 11 pieces of sushi. For $250, you get five appetizers and about 13 pieces of sushi. The $200 menu seemed like a happy medium for the variety of appetizers that are subject to change on a daily, seasonal basis. On the plus side, as in Japan, you don't have to pay a gratuity.

The experience could prove to be a life changer as well. For myself:

Fallacy No. 1: I would rather spend money on fashion than food. Most of us are not millionaires, so we make sacrifices to acquire and do the things we want, whether to travel, take classes, dine out or acquire the latest shoe or handbag. To eat here again, friends tell me I have to sacrifice buying one new handbag, and I find myself willing to do just that.

Fallacy No. 2: I don’t like uni. My late husband loved uni, so it was great when we ordered nigiri sets. He could claim the one piece that I wanted no part of. He often urged me to try it, and I would take a nibble. I never changed my mind. It was always too strong and pungent to be palatable. After trying it in Tokyo last year, I realized not all uni is created equally. There, it was mild and sweet. A local fisherman friend suggested it may be because of the urchins' diet. The purple and bafun uni here are also sweet and creamy, both with distinctive flavor. I ate up every single bit of both, and may have finally become a true believer.

Here is an array from the $200 omakase:

onoyamAmuse: Yamaimo with a touch of soy sauce, okra and shaved bonito, over a layer of delicate cucumber froth.

The appetizers:

onosashimiSashimi of sea bass and yellowtail, marinated as sushi at top.

onoappWhole, thumb-size firefly squid from Kyoga prefecture, Japan, and steamed Big Island abalone at its most delicious, sweet and tender. With fresh grated wasabi.

onosacWaxy shirako, or cod sperm sac with a pinch of scallop-shiitake salt.

onocrabHokkaido hairy crab chawanmushi.

The nigiri+:

ononigiriBig-eye tuna and gizzard shad. (more…)

Farrell's partners with Girl Scouts for cookie treats

By
February 7th, 2014



farrell'sNew at Farrell's, a shake and two sundaes incorporating Girl Scout Thin Mint, Samoa and Tagalong cookies.Photos courtesy Farrell's Hawaii.

Farrell's Hawaii has partnered with Girl Scouts of Hawaii Troop 188 to help them raise funds for an educational trip to Alaska in May.

The restaurant has created a Thin Mint Shake and two sundaes using the Tagalongs and Samoas Girl Scout cookies. All three are $5.95, available on the Farrell's menu Feb. 7 through March 31, 2014. The troop will earn $1 from every Girl Scout cookie shake or sundae sold.

The experience the Girl Scouts will gain will be applied to earning various "Cookie Season" badges. Badges aren't earned for number of cookies sold, but from skill sets they acquire toward becoming leaders. In Alaska, the troop will pan for gold, learn about totem poles and Inuit people, observe bald eagles and migrating whales, and more.
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Farrell's is at Pearlridge Center Uptown. Call 488-9339.

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