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Tea Drops simplifies art of tea

By
July 25th, 2016



PHOTO COURTESY TEA DROPS

Tea Drops provide a convenient, portable way for tea lovers to enjoy a their favorite beverage whereever they go. In the cup is a tumeric tea drop. They come in a variety of shapes and flavors.

I love tea, but I'm also lazy, and that's a problem. Because, good tea requires a lot of implements, whether it's a bamboo whisk for your matcha powder or infuser for leaf teas. Then there's cleanup. There are a lot of times I'll pass in favor of an easy sugar-saturated juice instead.

Sashee Chandran also found it difficult to enjoy a fresh pot of tea while working in an office. But, unlike me, she was determined to do something about it, because tea is in her blood. She grew up steeped in tea culture east and west. Her mother is Chinese, and her father is Sri Lankan, raised in the British tea tradition.

"I realized how difficult it is for people to make tea, but there are a lot of people who would drink tea if the process could be simplified, so I spent 2-1/2 years experimenting in my kitchen," said Chandran, who was in town to share her creation at the Hawaii Lodging, Hospitality & Food Service Expo that took place July 13 and 14 at the Blaisdell Center.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Sashee Chandran spent two-and-a-half years perfecting her recipes in her kitchen.

The result is Tea Drops, organic teas and spices ground fine compressed into a variety of shapes, that can simply be dropped into a cup of hot water any place, any time. The drop dissolves in hot water, and voilá, hot (or cold) tea in flavors such as Cardamom Spice, Chocolate Earl Grey, and Citrus Ginger, all with a touch of organic sugar. (Sugar-free options are coming in fall.)

I have to say I was confused when someone gave me a couple of drops with no instructions. I placed it in my cup, expecting it to dissolve into loose leaves. When it just disappeared, I was like, "What is this?" It all came clear when I was able to sit down with Chandran—how else?—Over cups of tea.

Although tea fanatics in Hawaii prefer their teas sugar-free, Chandran said she loves chai and the British tradition of adding milk to any tea, so her first impulse was to recreate that combination of sweetened milk tea spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.

"I'm the last person who should have been experimenting in the kitchen. I have no chemistry background, no food service background, but I did know how to make a good cup of tea because I've been drinking it all my life. The hardest part was finding the right proportion of tea vs. spices and organic cane sugar to make it balanced."

Tea Drops come in paper or reusable and gift ready wood boxes. When done, the boxes can be upcycled in myriad ways, including finding a second life as a desktop or windowsill planter for your cacti garden.

She made the first batches just for herself, which she dropped into cups of hot water while working at eBay. Co-workers who witnessed it started asking, "What's that?" Pretty soon, they wanted them for themselves and Chandran was in business. With her background in ecommerce, she launched an online shop and within a couple of months was able to leave her full-time job.

Tea has now become part of her philosophy toward promoting a happy, healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Tea Drops all-in-one recipes eliminate the need for teabags and sweetener packets. The boxes are 100 percent biodegradable and compostable. Paulownia wood boxes can be repurposed for storage or used as planters.

She has also been experimenting with adding tea drops to cookies, soups, and making tea-infused soaps.

"I feel like this is the right time for it. People are into organic, they're into tumeric and matcha. There's something for everyone. Each tea has its own medicinal properties."

Turmeric, for example, has been used for centuries to treat wounds and infections. Modern science has shown that its main ingredient, curcumin, has antibiotic and antioxidant properties. According to WebMD, other chemicals in turmeric are anti-inflammatory, considered beneficial for overall health.

Her teas are now available in 200 small boutiques across the nation, including Nic's Island Cafe in Kukui Plaza. They are offered in single-flavor boxes at $16.50 for 10 drops, or a giftable wood box that can be customized with eight drops, for $18. It has been a popular seller during holidays, for both individuals and corporate gift givers looking for something new that also happens to be thoughtful, healthful, time-saving and beautiful.
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Look for Tea Drops at Nic's Island Cafe at 50 S. Beretania St. Call 200-7416. Or visit myteadrop.com.

PHOTOS COURTESY TEA DROPS

Ground tea leaves are compressed into different shapes, in just the right amount to create an 8-ounce cup of tea when water is added. The heart shape represents Sweet Peppermint.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Little bites of Marcolini heaven

By
July 15th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Macarons have arrived at Pierre Marcolini Haute Chocolaterie at Ala Moana Center.

If you have not yet experienced Pierre Marcolini Haute Chocolaterie on the third floor of Ala Moana Center's Ewa Wing, now is a good time. In addition to the chocolatier’s fine Belgium chocolates, the boutique has welcomed some delicious new arrivals.

Although chocolate is at the heart of the company's business, after tasting their macarons, it's hard to go back to any other. These shimmer in beautiful pastels, some with a mica-like shine, and come in 10 intense flavors ranging from dark chocolate to salted butter caramel to rose water buttercream.

The meringue shells are so delicate, it feels like a bite of air. The cost is $3.80 per piece, $17 for a box of four, and $32 for a box of eight.

Marcolini’s signature Les Coeurs (hearts) are now available in six flavors—passionfruit, lime, matcha, nougat, pistachio and salted buttter caramel—beyond his signature framboise, or raspberry, flavor. A four-piece boxed assortment is $17, the eight-piece box is $28.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Pierre Marcolini's beautiful chocolate les couers, or hearts, now come in signature framboise, or raspberry, flavor, plus passionfruit, lime, matcha, pistachio, nougat and salted butter-caramel flavors.

Macarons in rosewater, dark chocolate, dark chocolate caramel, lemon tea, cassis, coffee, vanilla, pistachio, and salted butter caramel.

Natural almond and butter, chocolate chip and raspberry Financiers are also new, sold in a six-piece box for $27.

A macaron tree in the store's window on the third floor of the center, outside Bloomingdale's.

Wagyu and Seafood Plazas need to step up their game

By
July 13th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Wagyu striploin, pictured, and ribeye are among the best offerings at Wagyu Plaza, at a cost of $35/$20 for ribeye, and $32/$19 for striploin. This is the $19 portion. You can guestimate the size by the size of the lemon round and pat of butter. (It's smaller than you'd imagine from the photo.) I asked for medium rare but got well done because it continues to cook on the sizzling platter. It doesn't help much if you order rare. A friend ordered that on another occasion and it turned out well-done.

The idea of $45 steak in a food court setting was so audacious, it had to be good, real good to appeal to people more accustomed to paying closer to $10 or max $15 to eat in such an environment.

So, I had some hope that Vintage Cave's Wagyu Plaza and Seafood Plaza at the new Shirokiya Japan Village Walk would be able to bring some of the mystique and extravagance of the original, exclusive Vintage Cave restaurant to this high-concept food court.

Unfortunately, it doesn't. The only thing high-end about the plazas are their prices, starting at about $19 and running up to $45 in the center of a mass feeding frenzy.

Ugh, for what amounts to about $50 to $100 for two, there are a lot more pleasant places I would rather be, with a lot better food.

Food is one thing; untrained staff and lack of customer service is another. They did not consider that people might not finish and want a to-go container. They did not consider people might not be willing to hunt down drinks then bring them back to be rung up, and many other basics better executed by other outlets offering $8 food service.

My full review is in this week's Crave section. This is just a brief sampling.
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Shirokiya Japan Village Walk Wagyu and Seafood Plazas are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Wagyu katsu is $19 for 100 grams or 3-1/2 ounces, $32 for 200 grams). Even considering the smaller portion, it doesn't look as delicious as in the menu photo below, and is a big meh, not nearly as marbled and juicy as wagyu at other restaurants in town.

plaza meat

Pork katsu fared better.

Wafu burger was plain and undistinctive.

I was satisfied with a $22 tempura bowl with white rice (there's no other starch option). For the price, it included one piece of shrimp, white fish, a mixed fritter of scallops and chopped shrimp, and eel with the muddy taste of lake fish and catfish.

The saffron rice in a dish of paella from Seafood Plaza was delicious, but the shrimp was bland. Mussels and clams were decent. The dish did draw a lot of stares and comments of , "That looks so good," while I was eating. That's how close everyone passes by while you're dining.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Chefs pop up at Avenue's

By
July 12th, 2016



PHOTO BY SEAN MORRIS

Berkley Spivey, left, and Eddie Lopez, were in the kitchen at Avenue's Bar + Eatery for a one-night only Chef's Pop-up.

The restaurant pop-up invigorated the food scene beginning around five years ago, but as some of the more successful young chefpreneurs have moved into permanent spaces, it's been a little quiet on the pop-up scene.

So Avenue's Bar + Eatery shook things up a bit with the reunion of its executive chef Robert Paik, and his fellow Vintage Cave teammates and alum, Berkley Spivey and pastry chef Eddie Lopez.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Now in between gigs while waiting for Senia to open, pastry chef Eddie Lopez shared some of the beautiful tarts he's been baking on the side, during a preview event.

Lopez said it takes him only 15 minutes to layer the apples in his caramel apple tart, down from one hour when he started making them. He sells them through social media.

Now in between gigs, Spivey and Lopez said they missed the liveliness and "what will they do next?" excitement that marked the pop-up scene, and wanted to bring back some of that energy.

They were right about bringing the excitement because there were 200 on the wait list for their July 11 Chef's Pop-up event, hoping for a last-minute cancellation.

Spivey and Lopez presented four courses featuring ingredients and recipes that showcase their skill as chefs as well as a bit of personal inspiration, based on their roots.

Spivey grew up in the South, while Lopez grew up in Chicago, mindful of his Mexican heritage, and for guests, it was a treat to discover Lopez's work beyond pastry, as he presented a complex 32-ingredient mole served with grilled tako.

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Avenue's Bar + Eatery is at 3605 Waialae Ave. Call (808) 744-7567. Next up for the eatery is Whiskey Wednesday on the 13th. Visit avenuesbarandeatery.com for more information, or see my prior blog post at: takeabite.staradvertiserblogs.com/2016/07/02/boost-your-whiskey-iq-at-avenues/

Here's what was on the menu during the pop-up:

Snacks included zucchini sable and delicious smoked celery root macaron.

The first course was Spivey's Maui Cattle Co. cured beef ribeye carpaccio with buttery squid ink crumbled brioche, micro greens, horseradish, lime and mustard seeds.

Then Lopez presented octopus with burnt onion, black mole and cilantro like a work of abstract art. I could eat a tub of that mole!

Spivey's second dish was pork with variations of cabbage, including cabbage sauce, with white beans and brown butter.

Lopez's dessert comprised butter popcorn ice cream with dehydrated chocolate mousse and peanuts.

The presentation ended with mignardises of a pineapple gummy and strawberry-thyme shortbread cookie. I loved the combination of fruit and herb.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

4th of July Four Seasons-style

By
July 6th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Glen Almazan oversaw a raw bar featuring crab claws and snow crab legs, and different kinds of poke.

All across the nation, the 4th of July is celebrated with an All-American backyard bash. In Hawaii, the beach cookout is another popular option. So the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina made it a double celebration when it hosted a grand opening party for 500 with a backyard barbecue extraordinaire, complete with a view of the resortwide fireworks show at the end of the evening.

Guests were welcomed with cocktails and treated to music by Tahiti Rey while enjoying food from a raw bar, seafood paella, bone-in prime rib, roast pork, and grilled corn on the cob which my friends and I were calling magic corn after enjoying a version of it during a visit to the resort's Fish House restaurant. (This was a pared down version, so you'll just have to go to the restaurant to get the full impact of just how good it is.)

Fireworks above the palm trees.

In addition to his welcoming remarks, Jeff Stone, founder of The Resort Group behind the development of the Four Seasons property, formerly the Ihilani Resort. Looking to Maui for inspiration, he said he envisions Ko Olina as "Wailea on Oahu," as a draw for travelers, with the aim of creating another economic engine for Hawaii.

Well, they certainly started with a bang!

Biggest wok ever.

Welcoming cocktails.

A table set with bone-in prime rib and tomato and arugula salad.

Roast herbed potatoes and a view of the beachfront lawn.

More prime rib making its way to other stations across the lawn.

Paella for 500.

Grilled corn being plated for service.

I had a view of the fireworks from the adult pool deck.

PHOTO BY MELISSA CHANG

Gangsta pose at the end of the night with Sean Morris, with Four Seasons caps added to our red, white and blue outfits.


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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

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