Archive for the ‘Culinary education’ Category

Detox Day 4: Succumbing to temptation

December 30th, 2013
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I look so happy with my first bite of food in four days. More importantly, my skin looks good from consuming so much liquified fruit and veggies. Candice Kraughto photo

Today is the day of brunch with visiting friends. I pick up blueberry scones, blueberry and almond danishes and some savory buns at Liliha Bakery before heading out to Cookspace.

The table is set with mostly carbs and sweets. The boys are making french toast and on the table are various breads, fruit-topped panna cotta, white chocolate bark with cranberries and nuts, macarons, and, looking very tempting, mini muffin pan frittatas. OMG! I have a lot of willpower when it comes to carbs and sweets. Other people always tell me how much they crave bread, pasta or chocolate, but I could live without any of that. Instead I find fatty, savory foods irresistible.

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My food vs. box of Liliha Bakery sweets and savories.

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Felled by mini frittatas.

Melanie Kosaka's frittatas are studded with mushrooms and bacon, two more favorite ingredients. I'm thinking, well,  if I can have a little to-go, they could keep two days, right?

We sit down to eat, 13 people with their plates. Me with my "Honey Badger" and "Very Verde." Today's Honey Badger seems to have more cayenne than the last one, so I'm wondering if the spice will upset my stomach without food in it. Meanwhile, everyone is exclaiming how good the frittatas are and asking for the recipe. I give in to the frittata. I think I could have put this off another two days if not for the distress of the cayenne.

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Yum, tako! I would have liked to eat a piece of this too.

They're telling me I'm a sadist or masochist by attempting a cleanse during the social season. I still think the timing has been good. I'm lucky to be sitting next to someone whose diet over the past eight months has been very restrictive. She eats a small tangerine and one piece of sake-marinated tako, also tempting. It smells so wonderful. She's a little freaked after drinking a bit of fruit smoothie that she learns has some cream in it because she's not supposed to have any dairy products.

The smoothie bar had been set up, partially, to accommodate the two of us.

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Some of the ingredients at the smoothie bar.

Realization 6: The act of trying to eat more healthfully  does have an impact on the people around you because it gets them to think about what they're eating, and consider what they could tolerate, drop or curtail in their own lives.

I start to think one little piece of frittata won't hurt me. What is one little piece of egg after more than 300 ounces of fruits and vegetables and 4,500 calories over the last three days.  A friend offers a piece of the frittata on her plate and I eat about 2 inches worth. I use the My Fitness Pal app to figure that's about 42 calories.

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Temptations abound.

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Cooking at Cookspace Hawaii.

I look so happy everyone takes my picture. It was worth every nibble. If this is the only bit of food I've had in four days, I think that's pretty good and reflects a healthful attitude toward food. I think anything is OK in moderation, and in the bigger picture, I'm starting to realize how much social and mindless eating adds up. I often eat things for the sake of the motor  pleasure, even when I know it's not going to be worth the calories. Now I know how much I can resist, and going forward want to focus only on what I really do want to eat.

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Fruit-topped panna cotta.

Because I had such a late start on my meals, at noon, or maybe that small bit of frittata was more filling than I thought, at midnight I realize I'm not really hungry and cannot finish all the drinks. I skip the Carotene Cure in favor of the almond milk. Maybe I'll have the Cure tomorrow morning, and carry over one drink on New Year's eve as a meal replacement to ease me back into the world of solid food.

Restaurant Week Hawai'i underway

November 21st, 2013
By



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Cream puffs and fruit tarts in the Kapiolani Community College Ka 'Ikena Laua'e fine dining restaurant, among the restaurants participating in the 6th annual Restaurant Week Hawai'i.Nadine Kam photos

During Restaurant Week Hawai'i, why not start at the source, Kapiolani Community College, which turns out many of the individuals who make our local culinary scene run?

The goal of Restaurant Week is to realize a vision of an advanced culinary campus—the KCC Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head. Graduates of Hawaii's first four-year culinary program will go on to serve Hawaii's restaurant and hospitality industry and, ultimately, the greater community.

A portion of the proceeds from Restaurant Week Hawaii will support the KCC Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head, so there was no doubt that Ka 'Ikena Laua'e would be among the 97 restaurants on four islands participating in the event that encourages diners to get out and patronize restaurants. In return, the restaurants offer discounts and specials to help defray the usual cost of dining out.

At Ka 'Ikena Laua'e, patrons who mention "Hawai'i Restaurant Week" before placing their order receive a 10 percent discount off lunch.

Alas, while the week ends Sunday, the school's dining room is only open through Fridays, so tomorrow is the last day to get this particular deal on a three-course meal (about $25 per person) that starts with a choice of vichyssoise or goat cheese tart, choice of five entrees, choice of dessert and beverages.

The students are doing a terrific job what is essentially a working laboratory that makes you feel as if you are in a commercial restaurant.

Here's the full list of Restaurant Week participants: www.restaurantweekhawaii.com

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Ka 'Ikena Laua'e is in the 'Ohelo Building, 2nd floor, 4303 Diamond Head Road, open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays during the school session, through Dec. 4. The reservation line 734-9499 is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Here are a few of the dishes:

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The vichyssoise.

kccgoatGoat cheese tart with salad of lettuce and tomatoes.

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Fisherman’s Stew of fish, shrimp, lobster and clams stewed in a light saffron broth with leeks
potatoes and tomatoes, served with spicy rouille and garlic crostini.
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Life of Bread explored at Cookspace Hawaii

August 14th, 2013
By



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Chris Sy's breads included dark pumpernickel, clockwise from top right, country, city and semolina loaves, served with Plugra and Organic Valley cultured butters and white and red Kauai salt.Nadine Kam photos

Cook Space Hawaii was host to chef Lance Kosaka and Chris Sy for a combination demo/dinner exploring the life of bread. That is, how to enjoy bread as it runs its course from hot-out-of-the-oven fresh-baked form, to slightly stale to hard as rock state, the idea being that while in Asian cultures every grain of rice is considered precious, in bread-eating cultures diners would never dream of wasting a single crumb.

The event was part of the new demonstration space's summer cooking series "Get Fresh LIVE," demonstrating the alchemy that takes place when chefs and food producers are able to work together and inspire one another. The chefs are allowed to pick their collaborator. While other chefs in the series have chosen to partner with the farmers, Kosaka, executive chef of the Skybar, coming next spring, chose Breadshop's Sy, because he's found that most people don't know what to do with bread beyond making sandwiches or buttering it up as a pre-dinner ritual. Throughout Europe, bread is enjoyed throughout the meal.

Sy, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Chicago, said he was inspired to start experimenting with baking bread after reading an essay on bread in "The Man Who Ate Everything," by Vogue magazine food critic Jeffrey Steingarten.

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Chris Sy with a loaf of his pumpernickel. He's worked in kitchens from the Chicago Area's Trio, to New York's Cru, Aux Vieux Four in France, and The French Laundry. He returned home and worked at Chef Mavro and Town before starting his craft bakery Breadshop.

Throughout the meal, I kept thinking about how my late husband would have loved every minute of this dinner.
His mother was from Belgium so he was raised in the Old World European tradition of setting the table with French loaves, cheeses, crêpes, leek quiches and savory stews. In all the time I knew him, he was never without the basic pleasures of the table, and life—a baguette, bottle of wine and cheese.

Sadly for him, until Sy came along, Oahu never had decent bread. Sy talked about the high temperature and moisture needed to achieve the combination of chewy, toothy interior and crackly crust. He uses a pizza oven and said that to produce such bread takes eight to 16 hours, a commitment most restaurants cannot afford, which is why we get lifeless generic table bread and why so many connoisseurs line up at the Pig & the Lady at Farmer's Markets for Sy's creations.

The last event in the Fresh LIVE series will take place 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 23, featuring Wade Ueoka and Ho Farms. The cos is $85.

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The Cookspace Hawaii classroom is in Ward Warehouse, 1050 Ala Moana Blvd., above T&C. Call 808.695.2205. Visit www.cookspacehawaii.com for more classes and information.

Find Breadshop online at breadsbybreadshop.com

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Sy and chef Lance Kosaka work on the bread and tomato salad.

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Open-faced grilled cheese canapes start with grilled cheese of compté and gruyère over Sy's pumpernickel, topped with arugula and prosciutto for a tasty appetizer that's easy to duplicate the next time you entertain.

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Kosaka explained the Tuscan panzanella salad is no more than deconstructed bruschetta, with the a couple days-old bread softened by the blend of olive oil and tomato juices, and tossed with basil and Italian parsley. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and allow them to sit for a while to coax the juices out.

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Bread is broken into bite-size "crumbs" and stirred with pasta, anchovy, cauliflower, broccoli, olive oil, garlic, chili flake, mint and cheese in this pasta dish.

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Olive-oil pan-fried bread topped with Madre chocolate for dessert, with a light sprinkling of salt. So wonderful!

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Lance and Chris toss the pasta. In the foreground are some of the fresh greens that went into the meal.

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Guests were greeted with a choice of mango or calamansi coolers from Cheryl To of PacifiKool, known for its ginger libations.

Get fresh with garmers and chefs at Cookspace Hawaii

July 9th, 2013
By



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Nadine Kam photos
Sashimi covered with transparent petals of konbu and yuzu gelee, created by Vintage Cave Honolulu chef Chris Kajioka at Cookspace Hawaii on July 7.

Vintage Cave Honolulu chef Chris Kajioka and Big Island farmers Pam and Kurt Hirabara of Hirabara Farms were in the house at Cookspace Hawaii July 7, as part of the new demonstration space's summer cooking series "Get Fresh LIVE," demonstrating the alchemy that takes place when chefs and farmers get together to collaborate and inspire one another.

The exciting new space is the brainchild of longtime foodie and entrepreneur Melanie Kosaka, who's able to tap into a who's who of culinary expert who offer their time and talent to opening up meaningful discussions of food and food production, beyond the glut of superficial "look where I'm eating" social media postings.

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The appetizer dish, as at top, plated for individual diners, with kanpachi sashimi.

During the event, mixing cooking demonstrations, talk, tasting and dining, Kurt related that his attitude toward farming changed when he heard chef Alain Ducasse's belief that, "The chef is not the star, the produce is."

From that moment, Hirabara said he realized he had to step up his game, while saying that as a chef, Kajioka feels it's his job not to screw it up.

Pam said they could have planted their fields with tomatoes, but in choosing to work with a select group of chefs, have been willing to accommodate their requests and experiment with different crops, that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, whether due to climate, soil conditions or the kinds of pests that they attract or repel.

The farmers admit to being a little stumped when Chris requested a conehead cabbage. Kurt said his response was, "You gotta be kidding me. Why grow the lowliest of vegetables, that we toss with kalua pig" because it's so down to earth?

Chris's rationale: "If cabbage isn't good when it goes in the pan, I can't do anything about it."

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Kurt Hirabara of Hirabara Farms plays around with the Caraflex, or "conehead" cabbage that was the produce star of the evening.

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Chef Chris Kajioka demonstrates the simple task of charring the sweet, tender cabbage.

As for serving up the humble ingredient in his high-end restaurant, my view is that anyone can slap meat on a plate and make it savory, but it takes skill to make vegetables sublime. So few in Hawaii are able to do this. The handful of times I have been at Vintage Cave, the cabbage dish has been my favorite.

What Kurt found in growing the Caraflex cabbage Chris sought, is that it contains less sulfur than other cruciferous vegetables, and it's leaves are more tender and sweeter than other cabbages.

Now, he grows the cabbage exclusively for Chris, meaning you and I can't buy it at the market, and competing chefs can't get it either. That doesn't mean he's above withholding some for his own cooking experiments, and when Chris found out, Kurt said he exclaimed, "You mean you're using MY cabbage?"

Of course, true to Chris's description, the cabbage is pointy, and Pam said that when their workers first saw them, they were horrified. "They thought they had done something wrong."

As for growing great vegetables in your little patch of urban Honolulu, good luck. The farmers said they've found the same rule for growing great wine grapes applies. Greens I grow in sunny Liliha tend to be bitter, and they said the greater the differential between day and night temperatures, the sweeter greens turn out to be, also developing a beautiful glossy sheen.

"The sad thing is, a lot of greens grow anywhere so people are fooled into thinking if it's growing, it must be OK," Pam said.

The next "Get Fresh" event takes place 6 to 8 p.m. July 27, with chef Colin Hazama, senior executive sous chef of the Sheraton Waikiki, and Lesley Hill of Waialea Agricultural Group. They will be showcasing Big Island kampachi, hearts of palm and spices. Cost: $85.

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From left, chef Chris Kajioka with Cookspace Hawaii's Melanie Kosaka, and Kurt and Pam Hirabara.

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Charred Hirabara Farms Caraflex cabbage topped with dill with anchovy bouillon.

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Beef cap with peppercorn, black garlic, spring onion and charred broccoli.

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The beef cap plated for individual diners on ceramic ware created by local ceramist Daven Hee. Also on the plate are slices of Hirabara Farms potatoes.

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In memory of Christopher Neil

June 6th, 2013
By



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Nadine Kam photos
My late husband, Christopher Neil, during one of our lunches at Du Vin.

Yes, I've been absent from this blog for a while. Maybe you read in the paper or heard that my husband Christoper Neil died, and I have been dealing with all the personal matters that follow with the passing of a loved one.

For as much as I've been in the public eye, we were very private, so most people never knew we shared 22 wonderful years together. And, strangely enough, he never accompanied me much on my restaurant reviews, remnants of a time when we were the outlaw Romeo and Juliet of our two newsrooms, he at the Honolulu Advertiser, me at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and the Honolulu Newspaper Agency library was the neutral turf between the two competing newsrooms. The library was where we met, and it was a good thing, because for our entire careers, he worked nights and I worked days, and although I had seen him a handful of times before he introduced himself, after that, I rarely saw him in the building.

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Sometimes I would see him peeking into our newsroom from the top of the library steps. It's only now that someone who once worked for us told me that he was looking for me, and when she'd tell him, "She's not here!" he'd run away. But I was there, I did see him and wondered what he was doing there. I never put two and two together.

Because of the competition between the two dailies, once word got out that we were together, he was banned by our management from accompanying me on my restaurant reviews. He was never a foodie anyway. Yes, he had excellent taste and enjoyed good food, but he was too sophisticated to spend his time chasing trends, the next chef, the next hot cuisine. He appreciated the good things in life on his terms, at his leisure.

My favorite story about getting to know him was when, after a couple of botched attempts to go to concerts together—he had invited me to Los Lobos but I couldn't make it, I had invited him to Dread Zeppelin but he couldn't make it—we ended up at some dive bar on Kapiolani Boulevard. I don't even remember the name of it. As we looked at the menus, he said, "I heard the sardines are good here."

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Christopher at a restaurant in Kailua, where we lived for 10 years.

At that time, I was the first and only daily newspaper restaurant critic in town and most guys would have tried to impress me with their good taste and knowledge of food. Not Chris. He was neither pretentious nor ever went out of his way to impress anyone. He was just real and honest to a fault. I was so enamored that in my review of Manoa's Cafe Brio one year, I spelled his name out in the first sentence of every paragraph.

Chris had a beguiling mix of swagger and sensitivity. A rock star is what many people called him. He had an aura and energy that drew people in, irregardless of age or gender. Even those who only met him once came away with strong opinions about Chris and after his passing they were able to detail all the particulars of their meeting.

He cultivated a tough facade, but I knew him to be a kind, sensitive soul. "A soft touch," is how a colleague described his generosity. He was a selfless individual in many big and small ways. Even when he was sick, he put my needs and feelings above his own, so if I came home after a hard day he would ask, with great concern, if I was all right and would do everything possible to make things right. If I even mentioned in passing, that I was hungry, he'd jump out of bed to make me cheese and crackers, when simply moving caused him great pain.

After Chris became sick with lung cancer, whenever he felt sorry for himself, he often thought of students he met in his college dormitory at Kent State, before he moved on to earn a Philosophy degree at Boston University. At school in Ohio, able-bodied students were paired with handicapped students, many of whom had but a few more years to live. Yet, they worked so diligently toward their degrees. He admired their tenacity and the experience taught him a lesson in the strength and capacity of the human spirit. He had also learned early, growing up in Connecticut, about the inequities of life and the arbitrary nature of wealth and poverty, as well as the generational continuity of both states. It made him a crusader for equality and the idea that every child deserves a chance to succeed in life.

Neither I nor doctors could keep him alive, but I do want to keep his spirit alive.

Since the death of his friend Alex Lee, an aspiring chef who was killed outside a bar in the early 1990s when he was in his 20s, Chris and I had always talked about establishing a culinary scholarship once we retired and had some spare cash. I can't think of a more appropriate time than now to make his wish come true, which is why I have established a culinary scholarship at KCC's Culinary Institute.

For those who wish to contribute, checks can be made out to UH Foundation, with the notation "Christopher Neil scholarship fund," and sent to:

Linh Hoang, Director of Development
UH Foundation, Kapiolani Community College
4303 Diamond Head Road, ‘Ilima 212
Honolulu, HI 96816

Or use this button:





Thank you so much for allowing me to indulge my memories of Christopher.