Archive for the ‘Wine and spirits’ Category

Fish House rolls out taco truck

September 8th, 2016

PHOTOS BY GLENN YOZA / Courtesy Four Seasons Resort

Chef Ray German's tacos will star during Taco Tuesday, when the Four Seasons food truck appears at Ko Olina's Lagoon 1.

When I wrote my formal print review of Fish House at The Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, I mentioned there's nothing stodgy about the restaurant, the opposite of what one might expect from a brand built on connotations of grace, elegance and discernment. Well, the fun vibe continues now that chef Ray German has introduced Taco Tuesday.

Beach goers don't need to bother getting dressed for the occasion when they can enjoy tacos from the Four Seasons Food Truck every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lagoon 1.

Items on the menu include tacos al pastor, North Shore shrimp tacos, Hulihuli chicken tacos, elotes (Mexican street corn) and "Guacamole Madness," at prices of $3 to $4.75 per item. (Love that corn! Wondering if the truck can make a town run one day a week? A month?)

In the hot sun, you're bound to get thirsty, so rehydrate with agua fresca of watermelon lime mint ($1.50), or head over to happy hour at Fish House for cocktails priced at $3 at 3 p.m., $4 at 4 p.m., and $5 at 5 p.m., plus a special 50 percent off food menu offered from 3 to 5 p.m. daily.

A sampling of what's on the menu.

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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Saturday brunch at Mud Hen

August 9th, 2016


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:


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.

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

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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Stage popup at Mari's Gardens

August 2nd, 2016


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.

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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Boost your whiskey IQ at Avenue's

July 2nd, 2016


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.
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.

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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Bills introduces new happy hour

April 11th, 2016


I appreciate the green touches on Bill's new happy hour menu. Korean fried chicken, recently $6, has the chili sesame sauce on the side to give diners more control over how much heat they can take.

Bill's has introduced a new happy hour menu in keeping with its Aussie roots. For us, that means seeing a lot more greens on the plate than we're accustomed to seeing, and all the fresh fare left me feeling a lot less guilty than usual about nibbling on deep-fried pupu.

The menu encompasses five small plates and four flatbread pizzas. Some are on the regular menu, but they are priced a few dollars lower at happy hour, from 3 to 6 p.m. daily.

I love the restaurant's beachy vibe and high ceilings, which helps make this a pleasant place to spend an afternoon.

Bills is at 280 Beachwalk Ave. Call (808) 306-9241.

No, Bill Granger's not from here. You can tell by the sweet-ish poke, accented not only by sesame seeds and sea asparagus, but buckwheat, which one of my birds loves. The avocado and shimeji mushrooms on the side are a plus. Recently, $8.

I enjoyed the blanco pizza topped with caramelized fennel, sausage, ricotta and basil; recently $9.

If there is a downside to seeing more greens on the plate, it's that I felt more justified to indulge in calamari when pairing it with all that cilantro.

Happy hour cocktails include the hibiscus margarita, left, and traditional 1953 mai tai with Flor de Cana rum, pineapple, Bols orange curacao and Whaler's dark rum. Recently, $6 each.

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