Archive for the ‘Drink’ Category

Saturday brunch at Mud Hen

By
August 9th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

A cava bar is at the heart of new Saturday morning brunch at Mud Hen Water in Kaimuki. It starts with sparkling wine for build-your-own mimosas and sangrias with ingredients like mango and lilikoi purées, champagne grapes, sliced strawberries, and simple syrups.

Many of us use weekends for catching up on all the errands we can't get to over the busy week. But, it should be a time to restore a little balance and relaxation to our lives. For me, there are few things more relaxing than a weekend brunch, and Mud Hen Water separates itself from the pack with the offering of a cava bar and dishes that are strictly local in inspiration.

Start with a $12 carafe of sparkling wine for build-your-own mimosas and sangrias with ingredients like mango and lilikoi purées, champagne grapes, sliced strawberries, and simple syrups.

With drink in hand, you can start perusing a menu that follows through on Ed Kenney's philosophy for the restaurant, of delivering a "Hawaiian sense of plate," setting it apart from just about every restaurant in town. Don't expect your basic bacon and eggs here. Instead, your locally inspired breakfast will more likely feature biscuit and mapo tofu gravy, waffle-fried chicken wings with spicy guava sauce, and corned beef hash with kim chee. Here's a look:

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It's always nice to share, and Mud Hen allows you to do that with its popular Sea Board, on this visit comprising smoked a'u ku, preserved akule, walu brandade fritter, cheese, soda crackers, bread, starfruit mostarda and pickles, for $22. I loved the varied flavor profiles of the fish, and liked the walu fritter so much I ordered seconds.

Polenta can be one-dimensional in large quantity and tiresome after a while, but the GoFarm Polenta here is topped with Sweetland Farm goat cheese, stewed fruit and honey to make it more interesting. This dish is $11.

One of my favorite dishes was the waffle-fried chicken wings. The batter was feather light and crisp. It's served with spicy guava sauce and slaw ($12). I'm not that big a fan of sweet sauces. I would love to see this redone with prawn paste, as done in Singapore. Now that would be spectacular!

The Eggs Benedict reimagined as biscuit and mapo gravy, with two eggs and bok choy ($13).

Somewhere under that egg is corned beef hash accompanied by avocado and kim chee ($15). Eat separately or mix it all up bi bim bap style.

Fresh fish and lu'au is served with two poached eggs, roasted roots and inamona dukkah ($18). This was another of my favorite dishes. They have a way with roots.

Fresh fruit offered at the cava bar.


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Mud Hen Water is at 3452 Waialae Ave. Saturday brunch runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 737-6000.

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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.

Stage popup at Mari's Gardens

By
August 2nd, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Following a tour of Mari's Gardens, guests at Stage restaurant's Fresh Pop-up Dinner got to try freshly harvested vegetables from the farm grounds, such as roasted beets.

When I think of Mililani, I think "suburbia." The last thing I would expect to find there is a sprawling farm. Mari's Gardens is such a hidden gem that neighbors don't even know they exist, as I learned after getting lost en route. For townies, it might as well be another world, and during a Fresh Pop-up Dinner hosted by Stage restaurant at Mari's Gardens, I did feel like I was in another world, more Napa than Hawaii.

Before dinner, we were welcome to stroll the grounds, where baby lettuces were farming and beets were ready for harvest. Because I got there a bit late, I missed the aquaponic tanks where tilapia and Chinese catfish are raised as much for food as for their contributions to the nutrient-rich water that feed the farm's organic produce.

Dinner under a canopy that kept us dry during a sudden downpour.

The dinner showcased produce from Mari's Garden beautifully, as a demonstration of what farm-to-table dining could look like at Stage restaurant, whose owner Thomas Sorensen, is considering a rooftop aquaponic system to someday fill some of the restaurant's produce needs. Sorensen, owner of the Hawaii Design Center, where Stage is housed, has already been a longtime supporter of green, sustainable initiatives, and his building utilizes many energy efficient systems to serve as examples of what customers might want to do at home to reduce their carbon footprint.

That said, he's also a businessman, and knows the "ideal" is not always practical. Calculating the number of days it takes to grow a head of Manoa lettuce, and the volume that his rooftop can contain, he estimates that every 52 days, he will have enough to last through a single lunch service. But, where there's a will there's a way, and an herb garden might be one way to make such a system work from a green, and a business, perspective.

It's something I have had to think about while trying to raise greens at home. For the amount of water I used on tomatoes—only to see birds attack them at the first sign of ripening—it was barely worth the effort. When they did survive the odds, I had enough to make salads for a couple of days, hardly life sustaining.

Baby lettuce protected from hungry insects.

Baby lettuce protected from hungry insects.

It is amazing work that Fred Lau and his family and staff do, and Stage executive chef Ron De Guzman, pastry chef Cainan Sabey and their staff also did an excellent job. I also appreciated all their effort at delivering 40 meals when it started raining heavily and they had to make multiple trips under cover of umbrella!

I also learned a little bit more about the difficulties of farming during the downpour, because I never realized how fragile a farm ecosystem can be. All I know is, you stick a seed in the ground, it grows, and weeks later, you have food. So when I suggested that the rain will be good for the plants, I was wrong. Here, soil and water pH is constantly monitored for optimal conditions. Rain can introduce too much heavy metal in the atmosphere or make water too alkaline, impeding plants' uptake of nutrients.

Fish are also susceptible to the same conditions, and as much as we often believe that nature takes care of itself, the fish are fragile creatures that require a certain balance in their environmental conditions. Think about that, because so do we. Events like this are a first step toward opening eyes toward the balance between man and nature, and how much work we have to do to prevent excess waste and pollution.

The dinner also turned out to be a post-birthday celebration for Thomas Sorensen, owner of Hawaii Design Center and its in-store restaurant, Stage. He celebrated the occasion with his wife Michele Conan Sorensen.

"Act 1" was Mari's Garden Salad, comprising the farm's Manoa lettuce and roasted baby beets, with garlic croutons and wasabi-lilikoi dressing. The salad also included smoked goat cheese from nearby Sweetland Farms. Wine pairing: Galerie Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Calif., 2014.

Act II comprised beef carpaccio topped with Pecorino Romano, black pepper crème fraîche, crispy garlic, baby arugula, slices of sweet onion and watercress. Wine pairing: Barrymore Pinot Grigio, Monterey County, Calif., 2013.

Act III was seared ahi, accompanied by Mari's Garden eggplant puree, caramelized Mari's Garden negi onions and chimichurri. Wine pairing: Nielson Pinot Noir, Santa Maria, Calif., 2013.

Act IV was a duck duo of roasted breast and confit leg, accompanied by Mari's Garden carrots, Brussels sprout leaves, smoked maple gel and whole grain mustard jus. Wine pairing: Hartford Court Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Calif., 2013.

Embracing the garden theme, the finale was a "Flower Pot" dessert of crunchy chocolate "soil" covering mango ice cream and lychee sorbet, garnished with edible nasturtium, shiso and lavender, and slivers of dried mango. Pairing: Warre's Otima 10-year Tawny Port, Portugal.

Wine pairings were by Jackson Family Wines.

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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.

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.

Boost your whiskey IQ at Avenue's

By
July 2nd, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Avenue's Bar + Eatery bar manager Joseph Arakawa has a lineup of whiskeys, ryes and bourbons he wants you to try.

Whiskey was once man's domain. No more. One more sign women are taking over the world is that whiskey's resurgence is being fueled by females.

It's no coincidence the new face of Jim Beam is Mila Kunis, when over the past few years stars like Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Christina Hendricks have also shared their affection for the spirit.

Since the 1990s, the number of female whiskey drinkers has increased from 15 to 37 percent, due in part to its sweet character, and in part to the allure of crashing the old boys' club, where whiskey has enjoyed a long-standing association with power as the drink of presidents, diplomats, the rich and the mighty.

Full-bodied whiskies are a match for pork.

At Avenue's Bar + Eatery, where chef Robert Paik and bar manager Joseph Arakawa are preparing to host "Whiskey Wednesday" beginning 5:30 p.m. July 13, Arakawa said, "Men love women who love whiskey," and it's no longer unusual to see men at the bar with a fruity drink while women imbibe heavier distilled spirits.

Arakawa will be offering a lineup of 18 American bourbons, whiskeys and ryes, detailing the differences among them while guests enjoy samples with tasting bites Paik created to accentuate the various grain content of the spirits.

Flights will start at $28 for 1/2-ounce pours of bourbon or rye, and $40 for six side-by-side tastings of both. An aged flight, "The Decades," will feature 10-year-old whiskeys.
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Avenue's Bar + Eatery is at 3605 Waialae Ave. Call 744-7567.

Taking his cue from the corn mash-based whiskey, Chef Paik will be baking up some fantastic cakey, griddle cornbread with a light bruléed crust.

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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.

Pastries hot out of the oven

By
July 1st, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Neko pan is one of the delightful new pastry selections at the new BRUG Bakery at Ala Moana Center.

Pastry lovers can get more than their share of daily bread now that BRUG Bakery and Kai Coffee have opened new locations.

First up, since the closing of the Shirokiya store on the Diamond Head end of Ala Moana Center, BRUG is now a solo act, moving into the lower level mauka side of the center between Lupicia and the Sanrio store.

It opened its doors June 25, offering a range of sweet and savory options, including fruit danishes, ratatouille cake, sausage rolls and adorable neko pan, complete with bread tails.

The bakery also has plans to open at Pearlridge in November, followed by the addition of a downtown branch.
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BRUG Bakery is on the mauka side street level of Ala Moana Center, next to Lupicia. Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. Call 945-2200 or visit brugbakery.com.

The Japanese name for this pastry translates as "North Country," in honor of BRUG's Hokkaido roots. The foccaccia is topped with fresh local produce that BRUG Bakery Hawaii president Miho Choi said is evocative of the fresh produce Hokkaido is also known for.

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SECOND SITE FOR KAI COFFEE

Bing cherry and honey ricotta soustenir from Kai Coffee.

Bing cherry and honey ricotta soustenir from Kai Coffee.

Once downtown, the bakery will find company. On the same day of Brug's opening, Kai Coffee opened the doors to its second location in downtown Honolulu's Arcade Building.

In addition to serving craft-brewed coffees ranging from cortados to lattes, the new café also marks the debut of a menu featuring Kai Coffee's own in-house baked goods, which produces dozens of savory and sweet pastries.

In addition to cafe basics such as croissants, scones and cakes, those hungry for a quick breakfast or lunch bite will find items such as banana bread and soustenirs—ciabatta and focaccia breads baked with toppings such as pastrami and onion, Black Forest ham and cheddar cheese, or baked fruit. A few salads and stew selections will round out the menu.

A sampling of peanut butter, honey and chocolate croissants.

Responsible for producing all these baked goods is Antonio Domingo who spent 26 years as executive pastry chef at the Hawaii Prince Hotel, while simultaneously working as a pastry chef at the Hilton Hawaiian Village 24 years, learning on the job after moving here from the Philippines.

"I always liked cooking and baking," he said, knowing it was unusual in the macho culture of the Philippines for a little boy to prefer helping his mom in the kitchen than playing outside.

Coffee love, inside the new Kai Coffee in downtown Honolulu.

Samples of Domingo's work were in abundance during a grand opening celebration ahead June 24, where it looked like a wedding day when local founders Samuel and Natalie Suiter cut into a congratulatory cake baked for the occasion. Only this time, it wasn't Natalie who got splattered by cake. Frosting flew around the room as Sam hacked away, saying, "I always wanted to do that."

Sam and Natalier Suiter made the grand opening celebration look like a wedding day as they cut the celebratory cake.

The couple opened the first Kai Coffee in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa two years ago to showcase the best Hawaii regional and international coffee.

Now with its own in-house bakery, what started as a coffee bar is well on it's way to becoming a full-fledged dining café.
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Kai Coffee's new location, at 207 S. King St., will be open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays. Call 537-3415 or visit kaicoffeehawaii.com.

A view of Kai Coffee from the street.


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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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