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Hawaii Part 4: Four Magnificent Meals on Maui

Thursday, 1. December 2011 5:25

Dessert at Mama's Fish House in Maui is something to remember.

MAUI, HAWAII — You’re probably accustomed to restaurant menus that list the farms where the produce comes from and the ranches that raise the pork and beef starring in the dishes.

But how about a seafood restaurant that lists not only where the fresh fish it serves comes from, but the name of the fisherman who caught it and the method used to land it?

That’s what you’ll find on the menu of Mama’s Fish House in Paia on the north shore of Maui, which has been including that information since it opened 39 years ago. At a time when upscale restaurants on Maui were all steak houses, Vice President Karen Christenson’s parents opened this beach-side restaurant to spotlight seafood because it was cheaper then — and because the fishermen conveniently delivered.

Today, you’ll find descriptions on the menu such as “Deep-water ahi caught by Shawn Boneza trolling the north shore of Maui; seared in ginger and panko crust with kalua pig rice pilaf” ($40) and “Papio caught by David Wallace while adrift over deep sea ledges near Kaupo; upcountry style with caramelized Maui onion, tomato and jasmine rice” ($38).

How’s that to make a dish sound even more enticing?

The beach is right outside the door at Mama's Fish House.

The entrance to the restaurant.

Recently, I had a chance to dine as a guest at four wonderful restaurants on Maui, including Mama’s Fish House, as part of my trip to Hawaii, courtesy of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

They take their fish seriously at Mama’s Fish House, a bustling tropical outpost with dining rooms decorated with outrigger boats and shells, as well as views of sand and palm trees.

Fresh fish that arrived at the restaurant that morning.

The fish come in whole and are cut and stored in a separate room at the restaurant.

Chef Perry Bateman, who has been at the restaurant an astounding 20 years, turns out about 1,000 meals a day. Everything is made from scratch, too.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants, Seafood, Travel Adventures | Comments (20) | Author:

Hawaii Part 2: Chefs Who Pioneered Hawaiian-Regional, Fine-Dining Cuisine

Tuesday, 29. November 2011 5:25

Fabulous ginger-crusted onaga at Alan Wong's.

HONOLULU, OAHU –  Alan Wong. Sam Choy. Roy Yamaguchi. George Mavrothalassitis. And Peter Merriman.

Together, they make up a large part of the culinary cognoscente who first put Hawaiian fine-dining on the map. In their hands, the unique ingredients of the islands have been elevated to new heights with sophisticated techniques and glorious ethnic influences.

On a recent trip to Oahu, courtesy of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, I was invited to dine as a guest at two of these pioneering Honolulu restaurants. They did not disappoint, either.

In 1995, the flagship Alan Wong’s restaurant opened in an unlikely spot: the third floor of a rather non-descript office building. It boasts no view of the ocean or beach, just cars whizzing by on the street or kids skate-boarding after dark.

But when the elevator doors open to the restaurant, you step into a warm, inviting and always busy dining room full of couples and families celebrating birthdays as befits this special occasion place.

The menu offers a la carte choices, as well as two tasting menu options — a five-course menu sampling and a six-course chef’s tasting menu. The former is a roundup of some of Wong’s signature dishes, while the latter features newer dishes.

My husband and I opted for the $75 five-course, though the cooks threw in a few extra goodies.

Soup and sandwich go glam at Alan Wong's.

Wong’s food is full of whimsy and bold flavors, as evidenced by the famous “Soup and Sandwich,” which features chilled Hamakua Springs tomato soup in a martini glass that’s playfully juxtaposed with a grilled cheese kalua pig sandwich. Yes, in Hawaii, you can get great tomatoes practically all year-round. Eat your heart out, mainlanders. Bite into the crisp sammy and prepare to swoon as tender, smoky pig meets gooey mozzarella.

Ahi done up like a sea anemone.

Another inventive take was the ahi, which comes wrapped in slivers of wonton wrappers, then is deep-fried until it looks like a golden sea anemone on your plate.

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Hawaii Part 1: Bright and Early at the Honolulu Fish Auction

Monday, 28. November 2011 5:25

The action gets going at 5:30 a.m. at the Honolulu Fish Auction.

HONOLULU, OAHU — Long before the sun comes up six days a week, Pier 38 is a frenzy of activity even in deepest darkness.

As early as 1 a.m., fishing vessels that have been 200 miles out in international waters pull into port to unload their formidable fresh catch at the Honolulu Fish Auction, the largest such auction in the United States. (The only other one is in Maine.)

The fish — bigeye tuna, swordfish, mahimahi and others — are weighed and tagged with the name of the vessel that caught each one. Then, the fish are put on display in row upon row of ice-heaped pallets inside an expansive warehouse kept at a frigid temperature to maintain the integrity of the seafood.

Fresh, whole opah. Can you guess why it's also called moon fish?

The male mahimahi have square heads, while the females have rounded ones.

At 5:30 a.m. sharp, the auctioneer rings a brass bell to signal the start of bidding on that day’s bounty from the sea.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, General, Restaurants, Seafood, Travel Adventures | Comments (22) | Author:

Melissa Clark’s One Dish Wonder

Thursday, 27. October 2011 5:26

With only five ingredients, this dish delivers big-time in flavor.

On time-pressed weeknights, I like nothing better than a one-pot dinner that cooks up in mere minutes and leaves you soulfully satisfied far, far longer.

Melissa Clark’s “Sauteed Scallops with Tomatoes and Preserved Lemon” is such a dish.

It’s from her new cookbook, “Cook This Now” (Hyperion), of which I recently received a review copy. Its 120 recipes are arranged by season and month to take advantage of your local farmers market offerings. I’ve already got half the pages bookmarked, as these are wonderfully straightforward recipes that not only entice with their flavors but with their ease of preparation.

This particular recipe by the famed New York Times food writer has only five ingredients (not including salt and pepper), but tastes like so much more.

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Category:Fruit, General, Recipes (Savory), Seafood | Comments (21) | Author:

Chez Panisse 40th Anniversary Public Lunch on Maiden Lane, Oyster Time & More

Tuesday, 23. August 2011 5:25

The Alice Waters-designed T-shirt by Levi's. (Photo courtesy of Levi's)

Chez Panisse Joins With Levi’s For A Special Event in San Francisco

Make a lunch date at 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 24 at San Francisco’s tucked-away Maiden Lane (between Grant Avenue and Stockton Street) to enjoy locally sourced, organic box lunches from Chez Panisse and the launch of a cool new T-shirt collection by the iconic restaurant in collaboration with Levi’s.

It’s all to celebrate the 40th anniversary of  the landmark Berkeley restaurant.

Proceeds from the sale of the all-organic T’s will benefit the Edible Schoolyard Project, the organization that Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters established to integrate kitchen and garden education into grade-school curriculum. The T’s feature designs by such celebs as Waters, herself, as well as Sofia Coppola, David Byrne, Dave Eggers and Maira Kalman. Beginning Aug. 24, the shirts also will be available in select Levi’s stores around the country and online at

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, General, Going Green and Sustainable, Restaurants, Seafood, Wine | Comments (9) | Author: