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Hankering for Hawaii Part III: Marvelous Maui Dining at Migrant and Ka’ana Kitchen

Monday, 21. April 2014 5:26

A visit to Chef Sheldon Simeon's new Maui restaurant, Migrant.

A visit to Chef Sheldon Simeon’s new Maui restaurant, Migrant.

MAUI, HAWAII — This island’s dining scene is heating up with the arrival of two new restaurants last year, including a fun one by “Top Chef Fan Favorite” Sheldon Simeon, late of the ever popular Star Noodle.

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to check out that restaurant plus the splashy new Ka’ana Kitchen — all courtesy of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau.

As anyone who’s been to Hawaii can attest, big-name restaurants here tend to be not only pricey and touristy, but at times all too predictable. Not these two. In fact, I can’t wait to go back again to both.

Migrant

Even before he appeared on Season 10 of “Top Chef,” Sheldon Simeon’s cooking drew lines day and night at Star Noodle. After making it to the final three? The place was bombarded with even more throngs.

And now after being named “The People’s Best New Chef — Northwest & Pacific Region” for 2014 by Food & Wine magazine? Tourists and locals alike are following him over to his new restaurant, Migrant, which opened four months ago, as evidenced by the packed tables on the night I was invited in as a guest.

Dusk at Wailea Beach Marriott.

Twilight at Wailea Beach Marriott.

The entrance to Migrant.

The entrance to Migrant.

The slogan on the menu and servers’ T-shirts says it all: Come to My House. Eat.

Simeon is doing his own style of food here — comforting, Asian-inspired island flavors with little twists here and there. It’s food meant for sharing and enjoying a rollicking time over.

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Category:Chefs, Food TV, General, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (6) | Author:

Hankering for Hawaii Part II: A Taste of Rum

Friday, 18. April 2014 5:25

The tasting bar at Koloa Rum Co. in Kauai.

The tasting bar at Koloa Rum Co. in Kauai.

 

KAUAI, HAWAII –When the future of the last of the island’s sugar plantations turned uncertain, a group of investors got together to try to figure out a way to save them.

Their idea?

Rum. Distilled from Kauai rain water and home-grown sugarcane made into raw crystal sugar.

Producing the 80 proof-and-over spirit did prolong the life of the last sugarcane plantation, but couldn’t save it from eventual closure.

Still, Koloa Rum Co. has proved a success story.

Established in 2009, it remains the first and only licensed distillery on Kauai. Its award-winning rums are now sold in nine states, as well as inf France, Australia and Canada. In San Francisco, you can pick up bottles at Cask stores.

With 22 employees, Koloa Rum now produces seven different rums.

If you fly Hawaiian Airlines to the islands, too, you can even enjoy a Koloa Breeze rum punch for free — even in coach — in a promotion by the airlines and distiller.

Moreover, when you’re on Kauai, you can visit Koloa Rum’s tasting room at the Kilohana Plantation. Free tastings are offered every half hour. You must be 21 years or older to partake, of course. And yes, IDs are checked.

That’s just what I did on a trip a few weeks ago to Kauai, courtesy of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. I’ve enjoyed many a wine tasting. But never a rum tasting, which will definitely jolt you awake at 11 in the morning, which is when I did it.

Making my Mai Tai shot.

Making my Mai Tai shot.

By Kauai law, each person is allowed tastings of only 1 ounce of rum per day. In this tasting, you’re basically making your own Mai Tai shot. Your guide first pours a little Koloa Mai Tai mix into one shot glass for you to taste. Next, a pour of the Koloa White Rum into another glass. Take a small sip to taste the crisp, clear rum that has a slight tropical pineapple finish. Then, pour it into your Mai Tai mix glass. Next, you get a pour of the Koloa Dark Rum, which tastes of molasses, coffee and toffee. The darker rum has more caramelized sugar added to it, hence its color. To create a classic Mai Tai, carefully pour your Dark Rum down the side of the shot glass with the Mai Tai mix and White Rum. You end up with a float of the Dark Rum on top. After you’re done admiring your handiwork, slam it back in one chug for a quick buzz.

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Category:General, Spirits/Cocktails/Beer, Travel Adventures | Comments (7) | Author:

Hankering for Hawaii Part I: Taro and Sweet Potato Chips Fried to Order

Wednesday, 16. April 2014 5:25

Taro and sweet potato chips fried to order for you.

Taro and sweet potato chips fried to order for you.

OAHU, HAWAII — If you’ve spent any time snacking in Hawaii, you’re only too familiar with those ubiquitous bags of taro and sweet potato chips by Hawaiian Chip Company.

They’re irresistible — big, crunchy slices of speckled taro, orange sweet potato and deep purple sweet potato fried up crisp with the taste of their natural root veggie sweetness shining through.

They’re everywhere on the islands — stocked in ABC Stores, Costco, Wal-Mart and Long’s Drugs.

They’re so beloved that whenever we travel to Hawaii, my husband’s sister always pleads for us to tote back a few bags to California for her, since you can’t get them outside of the islands unless you mail-order them.

What the chips are made from.

What the chips are made from.

What’s even better, though — is getting them fried fresh to order.

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Chefs’ Holidays 2014 in Yosemite

Friday, 31. January 2014 5:25

A beautiful day in Yosemite National Park.

A beautiful day in Yosemite National Park.

 

Last week in Yosemite National Park, kids in shorts kicked around a soccer ball, seniors played a game of croquet, and the mules were let out in winter for the first time in decades.

The park may have lacked its usual blanket of snow, but it had an abundance of celeb chefs.

That’s because it was time for Chefs’ Holidays at the majestic Ahwahnee Hotel. The annual event in January and February features acclaimed chefs from all over the country. In each session, three different chefs are featured. Guests get to enjoy a meet-and-greet reception with the chefs, watch each of the chefs do a demo, then enjoy a gala five-course dinner prepared either by one of the chefs or all three of them.

The Ahwahnee -- minus any snow.

The Ahwahnee — minus any snow.

Deer nibble in a meadow behind the hotel.

Deer nibble in a meadow behind the hotel.

Rock sculptures created by visitors to Mirror Lake.

Rock sculptures created by visitors to Mirror Lake.

This was my second time back as a moderator for two of the sessions.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, Food TV, General, More Food Gal -- In Person, Travel Adventures | Comments (6) | Author:

Exploring California Gold Country, Part II

Wednesday, 22. January 2014 5:26

Mushroom cigars at Taste Restaurant.

Mushroom cigars at Taste Restaurant.

In the Bay Area, we admittedly get spoiled by the plethora of restaurants in our midst.

But Gold Country definitely has got it going on with good eats, too.

Thanks to the tourism bureaus in Folsom, El Dorado, Amador and Sacramento for inviting me to be their guest on a three-day trip (including meals and accommodations) to explore the restaurant scene. Here are the highlights:

Taste Restaurant in Plymouth

With less than 1,000 residents and a dusty main street so compact you would almost miss it if you blinked, Plymouth in Amador County is hardly the place you’d expect to find as stylish and creative a farm-to-table restaurant as Taste.

Chef Mark Berkner and wife Tracey, who runs the front of the house, have created nothing less than a true gem here.  It’s lured tourists from afar, locals day after day, and even merited a mention in the New York Times. The couple has a real knack for opening places in what some might deem nowhere’s-ville and turning them into destination dining. Consider that before they opened Taste, they owned and operated the St. George Hotel and its restaurant in Volcano, CA — population 115. Yes, you read that right.

Dining at Taste is a warm, welcoming experience with dishes that will delight.

You can graze on small plates or order a full-on entree. The menu changes seasonally and features house-cured lamb bacon and duck prosciutto.

Sweetbreads and waffles? Yes, yes, yes!

Sweetbreads and waffles? Yes, yes, yes!

The night I was there, the restaurant featured a clever take on chicken and waffles. Only the chicken was swapped out for fried sweetbreads ($14) atop a vanilla-infused waffle all crowned with grilled nectarines, smoked maple syrup and salted peanut brittle. It was down-home yet uptown at the same time. An amazing dish.

The one dish that never leaves the menu is the Mushroom Cigars ($9.5). The crisp, phyllo logs hold a center of crimini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms fortified with creamy goat cheese.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (6) | Author: