Category Archives: Restaurants

A Visit to Koko Head Cafe, Tin Roof, and the Huge Shirokiya Village Walk

Breakfast is served -- by Chef Lee Anne Wong at her Koko Head Cafe.

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.

Fruit-topped bruschetta.

Fruit-topped bruschetta.

Each day, there is a different dumpling offered.

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.

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Take Five With Chefs Graham Elliot, Lincoln Carson, Michelle Karr-Ueoka, and Rory Hermann

Chef Graham Elliot, who is hilarious. Note the shirt.

Chef Graham Elliot, who is hilarious. Note the shirt.

 

MAUI, HAWAII — This year’s Maui portion of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival featured an impressive line-up of illustrious chefs.

I had a chance to sit down with four of them last week: Graham Elliott who’s become one of the most recognizable faces, thanks to his stints judging “MasterChef” and “Top Chef”; Rory Hermann, director of culinary operations for Sprout Restaurant Group in Los Angeles, which includes Otium, Bestia, Republique, Barrel & Ashes, and the Rose Cafe; Lincoln Carson, one of the nation’s premier pastry chefs who worked for eight years with the Michael Mina Group, and now has his own Lincoln Heavy Industries Pastry & Hospitality Consulting company in Los Angeles; and Pastry Chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka, who owns MW Restaurant in Honolulu with her husband, Wade Ueoka.

They were all part of the festival’s “A Chef’s Paradise. The walk-around evening repast, held on the lawn at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, featured cocktails, wines, and creative bites.

The chefs talked about their favorite Hawaiian ingredients, their guilty pleasures, and more. Carson and Karr-Ueoka also confirmed that they will be partnering with Michael Mina to open specialty food boutiques in his The Street, a gourmet food hall, in the newly transformed International Market Place in Honolulu. Look for The Street to open sometime in the first half of 2017. It will join Mina’s StripSteak, which opened its doors there earlier this summer.

Elliot's dish of Hawaiian Kajiki (blue marlin) crudo with toasted coconut, Maui lilikoi, and whipped avocado.

Elliot’s dish of Hawaiian Kajiki (blue marlin) crudo with toasted coconut, Maui lilikoi, and whipped avocado.

Graham Elliot

Q: What’s it been like for you to be on all of these TV cooking competition shows?

A: It’s super fun. I get to be myself on them. I want to educate people about cooking. If you have a contestant on “MasterChef,” the worst thing you can do is s–t on them about making something awful. Instead, I try to tell them how it could be better.

Q: Your favorite Hawaiian ingredient?

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Two Birds One Stone — And A Whole Lot Of Good Eats

"Ham & Eggs'' done the Two Birds One Stone-way.

“Ham & Eggs” done the Two Birds One Stone-way.

 

When celebrated chefs and best buds Doug Keane and Sang Yoon joined forces to open a new restaurant in St. Helena this summer, they wanted to do something no one else was yet doing in the Napa Valley.

They wanted to shatter the mold of the usual Mediterranean-inspired fare or Cabernet Sauvignon-favored food so readily found in this region.

The result is the spectacular Two Birds One Stone in the Freemark Abbey winery.

Keane of the Healdburg Bar & Grill, and Los Angeles-based Yoon of Father’s Office and Lukshon, met while competing on “Top Chef Masters” a few seasons ago.

It wasn’t just their free-flowing banter that made them hit it off, but also their love for Asian-inspired cuisine with punchy flavors and plenty of acidity.

Chef Doug Keane in the kitchen.

Chef Doug Keane in the kitchen.

I had a chance to check out the menu recently, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. It’s a California-style yakitori, taking liberties with traditional Japanese food to reinvent it with flair, yet still preserving its soul.

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Miminashi: A Taste of Japan in Napa

Miminashi's onigiri -- one of the best I've ever had.

Miminashi’s onigiri — one of the best I’ve ever had.

 

When Chef Curtis Di Fede first visited Japan nearly three years ago, he was smitten.

So much so that he’s been back nine times since then.

It also prompted him to leave his partnership with the Southern Italian restaurant Oenotri in Napa in 2014 to strike out on his own to open his own version of a Japanese izakaya, Miminashi, this summer in Napa. I had a chance to try it recently, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

The space is moody, incredibly dim, and intimate with its substantial, block wood tables and simple wooden chairs. It makes you feel as if you have stumbled inside a special little place that only insiders know about.

The grill.

The grill.

That’s especially true because the entire doorway is made up of hand-carved wood. You have no clue as to what lies inside until you pull open the door to reveal one of the most dramatic ceilings I’ve ever seen. It’s made entirely of wood, pitched like a temple, soaring upwards and narrowing the higher it ascends.

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Memories of Mint Chip Ice Cream

Mint chip ice cream made with plenty of fresh mint leaves.

Mint chip ice cream made with plenty of fresh mint leaves.

 

When I was a kid, Baskin-Robbins may have touted its 31 ice creams.

But in my book, there were only two that really mattered.

Chocolate chip. And mint chip.

OK, so my palate was not very expansive at that time.

But I knew what I liked.

And to me, you couldn’t go wrong with vanilla ice cream with crunchy bits of dark chocolate throughout. Or its green cousin with an unmistakable hue and a taste as invigorating as a light wind blowing across your face on a warm summer afternoon.

As an adult now, I still love those two flavors. But I am more finicky. I so appreciate a mint ice cream that gets its flavor from real mint leaves, not just a bottle of mint extract.

So when I spied this recipe for “Mint Chip Ice Cream” that infuses a heavy cream-milk base with a heap of fresh mint leaves, I was smitten from the get-go.

theresalwaysroomforchocolate

It’s from the new cookbook, “There’s Always Room For Chocolate: Recipes from Brooklyn’s The Chocolate Room” (Rizzoli), of which I received a review copy.

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