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Monday, December 29, 2008

Cheap Eats in Waikiki

There are lots of wonderful places to eat on Oahu but finding reasonably priced places right in the tourist zone of Waikiki is a challenge. In fact, finding a really tasty meal for under $10 is almost impossible. Here are a few of spots that not only fit the bill but are worth seeking out. Gyoza No Ohsho This tiny restaurant in the King's Village Shopping Center serves gyoza, ramen and some rice bowls. But the thing to order, not surprisingly, is the gyoza. Japanese gyoza are like a smaller, thinner more delicate version of Chinese potstickers. At Gyoza No Ohsho there are 6 to an order for $3.95, served in a cast iron skillet. The dumplings are available in the traditional style, fried and steamed, and there are also boiled and cheese varieties. They are juicy and flavorful with a pork and ginger filling and have a very thin and delicate wrapper. Dip them in a combination of soy sauce, vinegar and chili oil, if you like. The ramen is ok, but I think you're better off with ...
Friday, December 26, 2008

Cookbooks and chocolate and spatulas!

The Menu for Hope campaign has been extended until December 31st, allowing you a little more time to give back and maybe win something wonderful. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on a prize of your choice. At the end of the campaign, raffle tickets will be drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim. If you got what you wanted this holiday season, think about the children of Lesotho, Africa, and help them get what they really need, healthy meals. This year I am offering the Baker's Delight (prize code UW18) a fabulous baking kit designed for a home baker or professional pastry chef with brand new cookbooks, a selection of artisanal American chocolate and a set of silicone spatulas. The package contains four of the years' best baking books: * Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes, and Confections for Everyone by French pastry chef extraordinaire Francois Payard * Baking for All Occasions by much loved author Flo Braker * T...
Thursday, December 25, 2008

Helena's Hawaiian Food: Restaurant Review

If you want to experience authentic native Hawaiian food, as opposed to the fusion of Hawaiian, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese that is common today, you must eat at Helena's Hawaiian Food. I've been going to Helena's since 1977 and while Helena is sadly gone and the location has changed, the food is exactly the same as it ever was. Absolutely delicious. But don't just take my word for it, Helena's was actually recognized with a James Beard award for outstanding American regional cuisine in 2000. To say Helena's is an unassuming little place would be an understatement. You eat here, you don't dine. It's the kind of restaurant where they don't clear the tables until customers come in the door. Despite the posters and photographs on the walls, it has zero ambiance with mismatched plastic plates and formica tables. It's all about the food which arrives on small plates that are intended to be shared. While you may have had kahlua pork before, y...
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Town and Downtown@the HiSAM: Restaurant Reviews

I've had a lot of great meals in Honolulu, but if I had to pick my favorite dinner so far, it would be the one I had at Town. Town is in Kaimuki, a funky neighborhood packed with good restaurants. The bistro menu features mostly local and organic ingredients and the wait staff is knowledgeable about many of the purveyors. The space is cozy and contemporary though a bit noisy. Aside from the Hawaiian ingredients used, it feels like a restaurant you would find in San Francisco with Mediterranean style selections such as hand cut pasta, risotto, slow-braised meats, a couple of fried appetizers, and cooked and raw preparations of fresh local seafood. But often the dishes have a twist, making them unique and fresh. I loved the mussels cooked with fennel and tomato. So what was the twist? A broth made with the white vermouth Cinzano and a bit of pastina in the bottom of the bowl. The gnocchi was tender and gooey with cheese and chewy oyster mushrooms, but there are only 12 orders ava...
Sunday, December 21, 2008

Favorite Things 2008

Here is a mishmosh shopping round up, just in case not everyone on your list is covered. I'm including a couple of things I've already reviewed this year, and a of couple new ones. FYI, if you're the "stay-at-home-and-shop" type, today is the last day for 2-day shipping on Amazon . Months after writing about it , I am still in love with my Zojirushi 1lb mini loaf breadmaker ! It's so easy even my very first loaf was stellar. I'm having fun experimenting with different kinds of flour, gluten, nuts and seeds. Smaller loaves mean fresher bread, everyday. For someone with a small household or not much counter space, this is the ideal bread machine! I received a Kuhn Rikon Noir Forged 6-inch Santoku Knife in the mail to try out and I adore it. I even brought it on vacation with me! It has a slightly non-stick surface, a very sharp blade and is not too heavy. The Santoko is a great option instead of a chef's knife. This knife, plus a bread knife a...
Saturday, December 20, 2008

Plate Lunch, Redux

When you come to Hawaii, you have to try a plate lunch. Plate lunches are the ubiquitous "blue plate special" in Hawaii. They consist of some kind of protein like breaded chicken or pork cutlet, beef teriyaki, fried mahi mahi, etc., two scoops of white rice and one scoop of Hawaiian style macaroni salad (which is about equal parts macaroni and mayonnaise!). While tasty, filling and relatively inexpensive, usually somewhere around $5, traditionally they are not very healthy and not very fancy. But that's not always the case. In fact, plate lunches can be healthy, and sometimes surprisingly sophisticated. Many take out places and drive-ins are offering a choice of brown rice and green salad in addition to the standard white rice and mac salad. There are healthier choices of protein as well, even a fast food chain like L & L Drive Inn now offers " Healthy Plate Lunches " with garlic shrimp, garlic ahi or mahi, salmon patties and grilled chicken. In Honolulu...
Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More Cookbooks for Giving or Keeping

There were a lot of important restaurant cookbooks that came out this year A Day at El Bulli , Alinea and Thomas Keller's Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide come to mind. I am not opposed to serious books, but the books I turn to again and again tend to not be the weighty ones. Just like cooking and eating, I like cookbooks to be fun . Today I am recommending two fun books, two thoroughly enjoyable non-cookbooks and two local San Francisco Bay Area cookbooks, one of which actually is a restaurant cookbook, but also much more than that. And by the way, I did not choose all these books because they have orange covers that complement my blog, really, it was pure coincidence! You didn't think I wouldn't mention my own book, right? I am so proud of my first cookbook, New Flavors for Appetizers ! The recipes are very much my style and by that I mean fairly healthy, easy to make, big on flavor, short on fuss. Since writing the book I have made recipes such as the crostini with ...
Sunday, December 14, 2008

Win the Baker's Delight/Menu for Hope

Once a year food and wine bloggers put together prizes for the Menu for Hope raffle, with the proceeds going to charity. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on a prize of your choice. At the end of the two-week campaign, the raffle tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim. This year I am offering the Baker's Delight (prize code UW18) a fabulous baking kit designed for a home baker or professional pastry chef with brand new cookbooks, a selection of artisanal American chocolate and a set of silicone spatulas. The package contains four of the years' best baking books: * Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes, and Confections for Everyone by French pastry chef extraordinaire Francois Payard * Baking for All Occasions by much loved author Flo Braker * The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread: Cakes, Cookies, Bars, Pastries and More from New York City's Favorite Bakery , your source for bakery treats like Amy's sig...
Friday, December 12, 2008

Malasadas

Hawaii offers a variety of delectable sweet treats. A couple you have to try when you're here are haupia, a firm coconut pudding and malasadas, a Portuguese style doughnut. Portuguese recipes took hold in the islands because laborers from the Azores came to Hawaii to work the plantations in the late 1800's. Perhaps doughnut isn't the best description because malasadas don't have holes. They are made from a yeast dough, fried and tossed in granulated sugar. The best ones are fluffy and light with a slightly tangy, yeasty flavor. They must be eaten when they are piping hot! The most famous place to get them is Leonard's in Waikiki but there is also a Leonard's truck that can be found in various locations. Having heard about another place in Honolulu called Champion , I decided a taste test was in order. While I was rooting for the underdog, I can definitively say, Leonard's really are the best. Champion's malasadas are a bit cheaper at 60¢ rather than 70...
Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cookbooks for Families & the Cocktail Set

An odd combination, I know, but I promised something for everybody! I'm sure after the kids go to bed there are plenty of parents who could use a cocktail. Even though I don't have kids, I know when recipes appeal to the kid in me. The books I'm recommending fit with my style completely. The recipes are creative, fun, generally pretty healthy, and most importantly, delicious. My first pick is Toddler Cafe : Fast, Healthy, and Fun Ways to Feed Even the Pickiest Eater. What could be better than getting a child interested in a variety of delicious healthy foods? The Toddler Cafe is filled with fun recipes for of course, toddlers. But I bet even adults would be tempted by pea green Lilly Pad Pancakes and Knock-Knock Gnocchi made with instant mashed potatoes (almost identical to my recipe, great minds think alike!) If you know someone with a picky kid, this book will surely help get them excited about new flavors and textures. Real Food for Healthy Kids : 200+ Easy...

Cookbooks for Bakers & Wannabe Bakers

Given the current state of the economy, it feels somewhat odd to be making shopping recommendations this holiday season. But I can still get behind buying food and drink, cookbooks, and cooking utensils. I dare say each will undoubtedly go to very good use. In the cookbook category I'm recommending a variety of different books, hopefully something for everybody. Today's installment is for bakers and wannabe bakers. Check back tomorrow for cookbooks for families and the cocktail set... My first pick is The Art & Soul of Baking . This massive book is nothing short of amazing. For beginners or for master bakers, it has the tips, the techniques and the recipes to ensure success. It is super practical and yet indulgent at the same time. Learn about yeast and quick breads, pastries, pies, cookies, cakes, tarts, fruit desserts, custards and puddings, plus souffles, cheesecakes and more. Even how to stock your pantry is included. Recipes include classic brownies, pot pies, Danish p...
Monday, December 08, 2008

Seagull Diner: Movie review

Last week I went to see Kamome Shokudo or Seagull Diner, a quirky little Japanese film about a woman who opens a diner in Finland, and the relationships she has with two other Japanese women and her Finnish customers. The three main characters, single Japanese women who have found themselves in Finland are funny and endearing in their mannerisms. The film isn't a comedy in the strict sense of the word, but there is a lot of humor. Food plays an important role in the movie. The cool and wary Finns are attracted to the diner when the main character bakes cinnamon buns and in another scene, there are experiments with onigiri or rice balls using local ingredients like reindeer meat. Through various forms of comfort food, the film explores the character of the Finns, love, identity, and friendship. Ultimately it is food that brings everyone together. I really enjoyed this film. The three main characters are played by wonderful Japanese actresses but the rest of the Finnish cast ...
Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fresh from the tree...

What was the photo in my last post? Donna of Wine Stained Cloth guessed it--it's a fresh nutmeg , covered in mace. The seed is found inside the fruit and the red veins are mace. When peeled, the mace dries in about a week then it can be ground and used as spice. After the mace covering is removed, the pod can be cracked open and inside is the part of the nutmeg that is ground and used as spice. Freshly ground nutmeg is wonderfully fragrant and adds a distinctive spicy flavor to a variety of baked goods and desserts such as pumpkin pie, gingerbread and custard. It is also used in eggnog and mulled wine or cider. Often paired with cinnamon, it is also used in savory dishes in some parts of the Middle East, Greece, and in Caribbean and Dutch cuisine. I like a tiny bit added to bechamel sauce and also to spinach. At home I use a microplane for grating whole nutmeg. I don't know if it is any stronger in the fresh form, but I'll let you know when I try it....
Saturday, December 06, 2008

Kapiolani Farmer's Market

Today I went to the Kapiolani farmer's market . It's in the parking lot of the local community college also home to a spectacular cactus garden . There are a lot of fresh prepared foods, fruit, vegetables, herbs and even meat and seafood. In lieu of breakfast, I nibbled on panko fried green tomatoes with wasabi lime sauce and a slice of divine pesto mozzarella pizza with tomatoes from North Shore Farms . I'm really not doing much cooking in Hawaii, except for breakfast, but I did pick up a few items. For $3 I got 2 big bunches of apple bananas, which never taste as good at home as they do in Hawaii. They are tangy and very creamy. I also got some spicy kimchee sausage and a bunch of radishes for 50 cents, to have with bread and butter. Some of the more exotic items I saw were tropical flowers like ginger, plumeria and heliconia, fern-like Asian greens, samphire, fresh hearts of palm and the item in photo above. It fits in the palm of my hand and parts of it are edible...
Friday, December 05, 2008

A Virtual Hug from Hawaii

Hawaii is such a peaceful and relaxing place to be, I wish I could send the delicious breezes, soft air and the sound of the waves to everyone reading this post. But most of all, I wish I could send the gift of health to Barbara of the blog Winos and Foodies. Barbara is battling cancer and food bloggers around the world are sending her their best wishes, prayers, and tantalizing recipes to cheer her on and speed her recovery. Because I am away from home, coming up with a new recipe would be a challenge, so I am sending a collection of links to past recipes that are fresh, healthy and Asian inspired: Tofu & Celery Salad Asian Slaw Dressing Vietnamese Summer Rolls Shrimp & Mango Kebabs To see more posts dedicated to Barbara, head to Bron Marshall's blog . A big thanks to Bron and Ilva of Lucullian Delights for organizing this effort....
Thursday, December 04, 2008

Jimbo: Restaurant Review

I am crazy about noodles and eat them just about every chance I get. In Hawaii the noodles to indulge in are Asian. You can find Vietnamese pho and bun, Chinese noodles and dumplings and Japanese noodles. When it comes to Japanese noodles there are three kinds I know and love--ramen, soba and udon. I've got a favorite spot for soba I'll be reviewing soon, and a number of ramen places on my list to check out. But when it comes to udon, I recommend Jimbo where they make the chewy thick white wheat noodles daily. There are many ways you can tell a good restaurant, a bench out front with people always waiting to get in is a pretty dependable sign. Jimbo is a pretty little Japanese restaurant that specializes in udon. The menu is enormous because you can have noodles hot, cold, in soup, in salad, in sauce, stir fried, in a pot, and with an almost endless array of optional rice dishes. I had a hot bowl of udon soup with sansai and wakame or mountain vegetables and seaweed. Wit...
Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Aloha, everyone!

I know some people come to Hawaii for the sheer natural beauty. The sun setting over the ocean, the waves lapping at the shore and the warm soft air are delicious. But truth be told, it's the funky side of Hawaii I love the best. My first stop from the airport was to Ethel's Grill . It typifies what I enjoy about Oahu. It's cheap, friendly, funky, pure local goodness. Last year I showed the waitress a restaurant review I had written of Ethel's on my iPhone. This year she not only recognized me but remembered my name. The mix of Asian cuisines and local ingredients, with specials like a post Thanksgiving Turkey Loco Moco make me fall in love with Ethel's every time I visit. Lunch was an order of fried hamachi kama (the rich, oily collar of the fish), sticky garlic chicken and rice and a big platter of Ethel's crazy delicious ahi tataki with slivers of soy marinated garlic and crunchy bean sprouts. It all came with bowls of egg drop miso soup, a crisp iceberg...