Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Step inside for taste of Progress

April 21st, 2016
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PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

The 5:30 p.m. line outside of State Bird Provisions, sister restaurant to The Progress, which is next door at 1525 Fillmore St. in San Francisco. Just like State Bird, there is no signage outside the door and looking at the space, you'd never know there is a restaurant there.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. – Before getting on a 15-1/2 hour flight to Dubai, I took a break in San Francisco and for the last meal of the day April 19 headed out to check out The Progress, sister restaurant and next door neighbor to State Bird Provisions.

It's named after The Progress Theatre that opened in the space in 1911, and today the name stands for sustainability progress as the restaurant serves as a vehicle for 100 percent local production.

Inside The Progress. I noticed the lighting along this wall was perfect for food bloggers a Instagrammers.

For their efforts, chef proprietors Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski—who opened The Progress in 2014—were honored as 2015 Best Chef West winner in the James Beard Awards.

The prix fixe menu changes almost daily and starts with a few wholesome "snacks," that serve as salads and appetizers, then your option to choose four out of about 13 light to heavy dishes of the day to share family style, at $58 per person. There are also about four daily add-on items.

It's a little like State Bird in the offering of a roster of delectable menu items, with add-ons tempting you as they are offered on carts that arrive at your table. There is always a line to get into State Bird because the James Beard 2013 Best New Restaurant winner has such a fun vibe and food to match. The Progess is its more sedate and sophisticated sister.

Here's a look at what was on the table:

THE SNACKS

Marinated parsnips with fig saba.

Yellow snow peas with lemon oil and sea salt.

Beet tartare on seven-pepper cracker.

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Pakistani mulberries.

THE ADD-ON

From options that included Hog Island Sweetwater oysters ($3.50 each), grilled spot prawns ($16 for two), and broiled sardines cured in local sake lees ($6 each), we opted for CA sturgeon caviar topped with a potato cloud ($10 each), below.

progress caviar

progress caviar2

THE MAIN COURSES

Artichoke cavatelli with English peas, bone marrow and bottarga was very lemony. Because of the bone marrow aspect, I was expecting this dish to be a little more savory than it was. It was a treasure hunt for bits of marrow.

Double duck broth featured strips of duck in the broth and diced duck tucked into pillowy dumplings, sharing the bowl with mushrooms and turnips.

Grilled Llano Seco pork shoulder was topped with sunflower seed sambal, pickled carrots and ginger and lettuce for wrapping.

Grilled Spanish octopus with fava hummus, shaved fennel, toasted black rice and preserved lemon was the most assertive dishes we ordered, and my favorite of the evening.

Exciting things cooking on Maui

April 6th, 2016
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PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Rosemary panna cotta with kumquat marmalade and chocolate bark dessert at Hana Ranch Provisions in Paia.

On Oahu, it's easy to develop a myopic view of the Hawaii dining scene, putting Honolulu at the center of the universe in terms of progressive ideas.

But on Maui, where resort restaurants have received the most attention in mainstream media, the food scene is being transformed by a new generation of chefs and collaborators.

Earlier, I popped into a Wailuku popup presented by Rua Catering.

A followup visit found "Top Chef Seattle" fan favorite Sheldon Simeon putting the finishing touches on his new Tin Roof restaurant in Kahului, which opened Monday.

When I was on Maui a few weeks ago, Sheldon Simeon was putting the finishing touches on his new Tin Roof eatery in Kahului.

In the spot that was formerly home to Ko Ko Ichiban Ya, Simeon said he hated to see another mom-and-pop close, "so this is the next generation mom-and-pop," he said. "I hope it'll be a hang-out spot for everyone."

Much more casual than what he had been offering at Migrant, a sample menu included rice bowls, poke bowls, ramen and "kau kau tins" of such local favorites as mochiko chicken, garlic shrimp and chop steak.

Customers will be able to dine in at communal tables or pick up food to go. He also plans to create Chef's Table events that will seat 12.

The setting at Mill House Restaurant on the grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu.

Next up, a peek at the new Mill House restaurant on the grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu, on the day of its grand opening celebration, March 17.

Housed in the plantation's former banquet hall, the restaurant and surrounding grounds and farm are envisioned as the hub of an ambitious development plan that will include several residences.

On the lunch menu there were small plates of root vegetables sourced from the plantation's own farmland, gnocchi ragu, and a range of burgers and sandwiches.

But what I loved most were desserts of "Milk and Honey" olive oil cake and chili-spiced doughnuts with thick chocolate cremeaux.

A coffee-roasted beet salad at Mill House Restaurant.

But the main attraction on that day was a drive to Paia to visit Hana Ranch Provisions, a sustainable restaurant started by Hana Ranch as an experimental key to survival in the 21st century as the ranch moves beyond the commodity business into value-added pursuits.

You can read all about it in our new Crave food section that launches today. Here are the links:

Review: staradvertiser.com/food/simple-local-fare-stars-at-hana-restaurant/
Some background: staradvertiser.com/food/hana-ranch-enlists-help-to-pursue-sustainability/

Forget all that you imagine a sustainable restaurant is. The vibe is more sophisticated than rustic, but it's nevertheless a place that embraces a philosophy of honoring the work of farmers and food producers, respecting nature, and eating food that is certified organic, sustainable and nurturing for body and soul. If successful, the venture could serve as a template for other farmers across the globe.

Hana Ranch Provisions is at 71 Baldwin Ave., Paia, Maui. Daily hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, and 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Its to-go shop offers coffee and pastries from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily. Call (808) 868-3688.

Here's a look:

Your destination.

Pickled vegetables are among the value-added products produced by Hana Ranch.

Great bread is hard to find in Hawaii, and here it's well worth the $5.50 for a bowl of crusty, tender-crumbed house-baked bread served with fresh-churned cultured butter sprinkled with Hawaiian sea salt.

A curry kabocha squash soup ($11.50/$12) warms the heart with its creamy texture and a balance of natural sweetness and touch of spice. It's topped with an ulu chip, pipitas and a drizzle of cilantro oil.

The menu changes with the seasons and availability of ingredients. This wonderful beet carpaccio ($14 day/$14.50 evenings) featured yellow striped Chioggia beets sliced as thin as sashimi and was just as satisfying in their silkiness. Topped with mustard greens and dill, then accented with the sweetness of sliced kumquats. A great introduction to farm freshness.

More salads are available, but you're likely to get your day's ration of vegetables no matter what you order, even with Vietnamese beef meatballs ($15) seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass and chili peppers, served over a Thai-style salad of green papaya slaw, graced with chopped peanuts, cilantro and basil leaves.

Both lunch and dinner menus feature the restaurant's signature Hana burger ($16/$16.50) made with Hana Ranch grass-fed beef, and served on ulu brioche that is comparable to a pretzel bun. The juicy burger is finished with caramelized onions, lettuce, cheddar and horseradish aioli, with more greens on the side.

Kauai shrimp tagliatelle ($32) is a simple, satisfying dish, with the shellfish beautifully arranged, heads on but otherwise shelled—the best of both worlds—over the housemade pasta, all tossed with a Hawaiian chile-spiced tomato sauce.

My favorite dish during a dinner visit was the seared ahi ($35). Again, not a typical favorite because many restaurants also overdo the searing so the ahi often ends up cooked through. Here, the ahi is in block form so stays rare inside. The blocks are arranged with stalks of Kula cauliflower around a bed of braised chicories topped with a soft-poached egg. Every bite felt like magic.

Hula Grill shows its support for farms and the community

March 29th, 2016
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PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Makaweli Ranch tenderloin tartare with pickled ho'io, pecorino, Ululoa amaranth and truffle was my favorite dish of the evening at the "Hula Grill Digs Farmers" farm-to-table event, paired with Ocean Vodka.

Hula Grill Waikiki paid tribute to Hawaii’s ranchers and paniolo during "Hula Grill Digs Farmers," a farm-to-table event that took place at the restaurant on March 23.

Chef Matt Young's menu highlighted the Kauai-based Makaweli Meat Co., with five stations offering food and drink pairings at $65 per person.

A portion of ticket sale proceeds will be donated to the Royal Order of Kamehameha, which supports the Paʻu Riders of the King Kamehameha Floral Parade. June 11, 2016, marks the 100th anniversary of the parade that will begin at Iolani Palace and continue down Kalakaua Avenue to concludes at the Waikiki Bandstand.

Guests included several pa'u riders, including pa'u queen Gayle Fujita Ramsey.

The event is part of Hula Grill’s charitable Legacy of Aloha program, supporting local non-profit organizations that foster sustainability in our communities and/or preserve the Hawaiian culture and the culinary arts.

The view from Hula Grill.

For this paniolo-themed event, even the Lanikai Brewing Co. bottles dressed for the occasion. Excuse the spelling of "paniolo" on the inset caption. I was playing with Snapchat and the booboos are impossible to fix!

A snap of Ocean organic vodka. I promise to get a stylus so my handwriting is better!

A different kind of loco moco, made with burger topped with roasted Hamakua mushroom and bordelaise sauce, with 146-degree poached Ka Lei egg and rosemary arancini. Paired with Deep Island Hawaiian Rum.

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Red curry-marinated Makaweli skirt steak was accompanied by coconut-braised taro, Ho Farms cherry tomatoes, and toasted peanuts. Pairing: Lanikai Brewing Co. Imperial Red Ale with Ginger.

Niihau lamb ragu with handmade pappardelle, tomatoes, melted leeks and Naked Cow Dairy feta. Pairing: Lanikai Brewing Co. Pillbox Porter.

Dessert came in a paper bag, accompanied by a Lanikai Brewing Co. Haupia Imperial Stout and Okole Maluna chocolate gelato milkshake. I promise to get a stylus so my handwriting is better.

hula bag2

State Bird Provisions: Inside nation's best restaurant

March 26th, 2014
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statebirdlegsSquab leg on pancake at State Bird Provisions, named the James Beard Awards Best New Restaurant 2013.Nadine Kam photos

SAN FRANCISCO — Travel is a great barometer as to where Hawaii stands in the culinary scene, and while the food in our state has improved greatly over the past two decades, there's no such thing as resting on laurels because excellence is a moving target.

I was in the San Francisco area, meeting up with relatives in Fremont for a wedding, so only had one night in the city for dinner and my options were Nopa or State Bird Provisions. Being a bit of a weirdo, I couldn't resist the audacity of the latter, which began life with the premise of serving up the state bird, the California quail, symbolic of hardiness and adaptability.

Now that's something you wouldn't see in Hawaii with the endangered nene!

I'm not that keen about eating small birds that are more bones than meat, so thankfully, the restaurant's chef-proprietors Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski moved on to other local, organic and well-crafted ingredients.

And yet ... the restaurant is known for its savory pancakes, so I ordered the confit squab short stack with maple vinegar and candy cap powder, and it was more than enough to change my mind about the appeal of small birds. It was only after polishing off the thigh that I looked down and realized they were still attached to the bird's gnarled claws!

That's the other thing about this place. I had to inhale my meal. As the nation's Best New Restaurant 2013, as deemed by the James Beard Awards committee, it's one of the Holy Grails of restaurants and therefore, I was told, impossible to get into. People must log onto the restaurant's website precisely at midnight 60 days before their desired reservation date to get a seat.statecartOrder off the menu or dim sum style, off carts and trays bearing many tempting delicacies, from single oysters and up. I really wanted the halibut and avocado atop a nori cracker, but I had to eat and run.

But, parsing the words on the restaurant's website, I learned that they do save room for walk-ins on a first-come basis, and I've never had trouble getting into popular restaurants. It helps to show up early as a single or couple, and be willing to dine at the bar.

The trouble came when a 15-minute rest turned into a three-hour snooze and I missed the 5:30 p.m. opening time. I got there at 6:30 and spotted a single opening at the bar, but they said that was spoken for. They did have a two-top available, but that meant eating and running in 45 minutes when the reserved party was due to arrive. Done!

Having got in, I thought that was easy enough, but later I was told walk-ins regularly wait in line two hours to get in.

If you're curious as to what goes into a restaurant worthy of being called the nation's best, great food is a given. Here, it's casual, and I would say not much different from dozens of great restaurants across the nation. But, restaurateurs also have to get the attention of jaded food writers who have "seen it all."

State Bird Provisions wins points with memorable service, delivering contemporary American cuisine dim sum style. Order off the menu to start, but don't pick up enough for your entire meal. It's worth waiting for waiters to appear with trays or pushing carts provisioned with amazing appetizers and ingredients starting at $2. The small plates command attention and there's nothing froufrou or "arranged" about them. The hearty ingredients are filling and I still marvel about the simple, delicious elegance of a salad of hearts of palm, avocado, yuba and tahini.

I started with three dishes, and it was hard to pass up smoked trout and avocado  dip served with chips. Unfortunately, with time flying by, I didn't have time to try the nori cracker topped with halibut and avocado, king salmon tartare with fermented turnips, or pork belly-blood orange salad. Maybe next time I'll make a real reservation.
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State Bird Provisions is in the Western Addition at 1529 Fillmore St., San Francisco. Open
5:30 to 10 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Call 415.795.1272.

statebirdroomIn addition to table seating, a bar on the right side of the restaurant overlooks the food prep.

 

statecrabSpicy Dungeness crab kimchi with yuba and smoked egg. Unfortunately, I think the kimchi flavors overwhelmed the sweet crab.

statebirdHearts of palm salad with avocado, pomelo and tahini-chili oil, $13. I rarely take food to go when I'm traveling, because there's always an abundance of restaurants to try, but this was worth doggie-bagging and it was just as delicious the morning after.

statechipsChips with smoked trout and avocado dip, $9.

stateplateOn my way out of the restaurant, I passed this artichoke, quinoa and chickpea tabouleh on a tray awaiting delivery.

 

Crystal Cruises Serenity, journey of 4 hours

February 6th, 2014
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crystalAt the entry to Crystal Cruises Serenity ship, with first- and second-story lounges.Nadine Kam photos

I'm always looking for different dining experiences, so that's how I found myself on board Crystal Cruises Serenity when it docked in Honolulu Harbor Jan. 25 as part of its "Pacific Ocean Odyssey" voyage to Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan, with stops in Guam and Saipan.

While in harbor, cruise passengers are allowed to invite friends on board for dinner, or you might be able to arrange it as part of a sales tour.

I've heard about Crystal Cruises wonderful restaurants, and have always been intrigued by the idea of cruise dining because it can be several days before the ship arrives in ports allowing the pantry to be restocked, no such thing as emergency shopping. While in Hawaii, I definitely saw regional influences on the menu in the formal Crystal Dining Room.

Once on board, it's very tempting to stow away. Who wouldn't want to head on to Tokyo, without the hassle of air travel?

Only the idea of leaving our pets at home to starve over the next few weeks got us to our feet before the ship set sail at midnight.

cdiningroomThe Crystal Dining Room.

crystalcasinoThe journey to Tokyo takes seven days. When you're not dining, you can spend time in the casino. It was tempting to put some money in the slot machines, but they are locked when the ship reaches Honolulu Harbor.

crystalsalmonSalmon tataki and poke salad with julienne carrots, daikon and beets. (more…)