Pretty in white.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — After five years of drought, the snow was back and the waterfalls gushing like crazy this winter in this spectacular national park (click on the Instagram video below).
The Ahwahnee may now be known as the Majestic Yosemite (because its former concessionaire Delaware North claims it owns the park’s historic names after trademarking them); and the former “Chefs’ Holidays” event is now referred to as “Taste of Yosemite.” But no matter what you call it, a bevy of stellar chefs were more than happy to be back for this 32nd year, and yours truly was once again the moderator for the two closing sessions of this annual gourmet event.
Every year, I get a chance to meet newcomers who are not only attending their first gala dinner event here, but visiting the park for the very first time, too. That’s coupled with regulars, some of whom have been attending this glorious event for more than seven years.
Each sessions features three chefs or gourmet purveyors who each do a cooking demo. There’s a wine reception where you can mingle with the chefs. And every session ends with a gala five-course dinner prepared by one of the visiting chefs.
A last-minute flavoring addition makes this clam pasta extra delicious.
There are times when I can be pretty predictable. Case in point? If spaghetti or linguini vongole is on a menu, it’s almost a sure bet that I will order it.
First off, I buck the trend in being an unabashed carb lover. Second, clam pasta is a little lighter than a meaty ragu. Third, there’s just something so appealing about a big bowl of tender clams tossed with toothsome noodles that get coated in all those sweet, briny juices.
I’ve made quite a few versions of it at home over the years. But my new favorite has to be the one I saw in the Wall Street Journal last summer. “Spaghetti Vongole” is by Chef Nina Compton of Compere Lapin in New Orleans. If you’re a “Top Chef” fan, you may remember her as a contestant on Season 11.
Dried porcini mushrooms add an earthy depth to this comforting chicken dish.
Rustic and comforting, this is like chicken stew — only made in a roasting pan in the oven.
“Porcini Braised Chicken Thighs” is a little deceptive. It looks like it’s a breezy one-pan chicken dish. But in all honesty, it will probably take you four pans to make it: a Dutch oven to saute the veggies, a cast-iron frying pan to sear the chicken thighs, a roasting pan to cook the chicken through, and a saucepan to heat the braising liquid.
But don’t let that dissuade you from attempting it. After all, what’s a little more time washing dishes when you can then dig in to enjoy such delightful rewards?
This dish is from the new cookbook, “Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking” (Ten Speed), of which I received a review copy. It’s by James Beard Award-winning Chef Naomi Pomeroy or Portland’s Beast restaurant, and Brooklyn writer Jamie Feldmar. You may recognize Pomeroy as a judge on Esquire’s “Knife Fight” and from her time competing on “Top Chef Masters.” I had the chance a couple years ago to dine with her and a roster of other female chefs at Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine Lab, where the food was mind-blowing, and the conversation about molecular gastronomy thoughtful and insightful.
While appreciative of those techniques and high-tech gizmos, Pomeroy, herself, is more old-school. As she joked, her restaurant opened without even a hood.
Her cookbook features nearly 140 recipes. For the most part, they’re not dishes you’ll whip up in less than 30 minutes. But they’re also not so complicated and intimidating that you’ll feel too overwhelmed to attempt them.
Chef Ed Kenney holding the world’s craziest mug at Mahaina & Sun’s.
Chef Ed Kenney’s New Mahina & Sun’s
OAHU, HAWAII — Chef Ed Kenney never in his wildest dreams thought he’d have a restaurant on Waikiki Beach.
The touristy scene just wasn’t his particular cup of tea. After all, his other restaurants — Town, Kaimuki Superette, and Mud Hen Water — are all mere steps from one other in the quieter, residential neighborhood of Kaimuki.
But when Aqua-Aston Hospitality got the idea for revamping an old motel in Waikiki, they wooed him for a year until he finally agreed to open Mahina & Sun’s there in the Surfjack Hotel.
When he first saw the property, it was deja vu. Kenney chuckled, remembering that he once was a regular at a punk rock club that was on the premises.
The social media-sensation of a swimming pool.
The fun artwork.
Movies pool-side at night.
Call it fate. But Kenney’s forward-thinking, Hawaiian farm-to-table cuisine seems right at home in this super cool and funky fun space.
Breakfast is served — by Chef Lee Anne Wong at her Koko Head Cafe.
Honolulu’s Koko Head Cafe
OAHU, HAWAII — Even if you think you’re not a breakfast person, you will be after eating at Chef Lee Anne Wong’s Koko Head Cafe.
The down-home Hawaiian diner entices from the get-go, as I found when I was invited in as a guest two weeks ago.
Three years ago, the former “Top Chef” contestant made the big move to Hawaii from New York, after falling for a local farmer.
Shortly afterward, she opened her lively joint that serves only breakfast and brunch.
Whether you favor sweet or savory, you’re sure to find something to enjoy.
Each day, there is a different dumpling offered.
For us, that meant Breakfast Bruschetta ($6) — toasted bread slathered with macadamia yogurt and garnished with fresh tropical fruit. I’d eat this every morning quite happily.