Category Archives: Travel Adventures

“Soaring Plates” on Maui

Grilled lamb chops by Chef Jonathan Waxman.

Grilled lamb chops by Chef Jonathan Waxman.

 

MAUI, HAWAII — They came. They soared.

That’s just what six chefs did for “Soaring Plates,” the gala dinner held a week ago to culminate the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival’s celebration on Maui. I was lucky enough to join in on the fun as a guest of the Hawaii Tourism Bureau.

The dinner was held at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, on its the newly finished grass patio overlooking the ocean on Ka’anapali Beach. About 350 guests took their seats at boldly black-and-white striped tablecloths just in time for a dazzling sunset.

A festive night under the stars.

A festive night under the stars.

Chef Francois Payard with Chef Jose Garces.

Chef Francois Payard with Chef Jose Garces.

The six-course feast kicked off with a starter by the resort’s Chef Gregory Grohowski of miso-cold smoked Maguro tuna with salmon roe, flower petals and yuzu Japanese mayo that did taste a little like a kicked-up version of the mainstay Kewpie Japanese mayo.

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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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A Visit To Hall Winery

Merlot grapes on the vine at Senza Hotel.

Merlot grapes on the vine at Senza Hotel.

 

Love big, bold Cabs? And big, bold art?

Head to Hall Winery in St. Helena the next time you’re in the Napa Valley.

There, you’ll relish both in the sprawling winery estate created by Kathryn Hall and her husband Craig Hall.

Kathyrn Hall comes from a grape-growing family, as her parents owned vineyards in Mendocino. But it took awhile before she delved into it, herself. After graduating from Hastings Law School and U.C. Berkeley, she embarked on a career as an attorney; worked on Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign; joined Safeway, where she developed one of the nation’s first and largest affirmative action programs; and eventually became the U.S. ambassador to Austria (she’s fluent in French and German).

Along the way, she met and fell in love with Craig Hall, founder of Hall Financial Group, who was equally accomplished, having bought his first apartment complex at age 18 and became a millionaire by the age of 21. At one point, he was the youngest co-owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

After marrying, this power couple decided to move to the Napa Valley to make wine. And what wine it is — garnering more than 170 scores of more than 90 points by noted wine critics.

A tasting of Hall wines.

A tasting of Hall wines.

A comparison of Cabs.

A comparison of Cabs.

The Hallmark Tour ($40, an hour+ in length) is a great way to get acquainted with the winery, as I found out when I was invited as a guest on it recently.

You check in at the host stand, then are given glasses of chilled Sauvignon Blanc as you await the tour to start. It’s a nice way to cool off on a warm summer day in Wine Country, too.

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48 Hours of Eating in Richmond, BC

Fried fish stick with spicy mayo, spicy chipotle, and garlic sea salt seasonings -- at the Richmond Night Market.

Fried fish stick with spicy mayo, spicy chipotle, and garlic sea salt seasonings — at the Richmond Night Market.

 

RICHMOND, BC — When I told friends that I was going to Canada for the weekend, I couldn’t blame them for looking at me dubiously.

But then again, Richmond, British Columbia is just a two-hour flight away from the Bay Area, so it’s not as crazy a proposition as it seems. Add to that the fact that the U.S. dollar will buy you 30 percent more in Canada right now, and it’s a no-brainer, right?

Indeed, when the Richmond Tourism Bureau invited me as their guest on a weekend eating adventure, I was game to see just how much ground we could cover in two days. The answer: a lot.

Richmond is an island with a population of 210,000. Of that, 65 percent are Asian. As a tourism official explained: the Chinese were drawn to this area because the name of the city sounded like “rich man,” and made them think they could become wealthy here.

Of the 800 restaurants here, half are Asian. As such, it’s no wonder that you’ll find some of the finest Chinese food around in this city, plus a whole lot more.

Fisherman’s Wharf

My complimentary accommodations at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel were more than fine, but, ah, my kingdom for a kitchen, especially when I saw the incredible seafood for sale off the boats on the wharf. Fresh uni at three for $10! As well as King salmon, and head-on wild shrimp.

The bustling wharf.

The bustling wharf.

The fresh catch for sale.

The fresh catch for sale.

Fresh uni!

Fresh uni!

Steveston

This charming historic fishing village, just steps from Fisherman’s Wharf, may look familiar to fans of ABC’s hit show, “Once Upon A Time,” as much of it is filmed here.

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Take A Load Off At El Molino Central

A trio of pork tacos at El Molino Central.

A trio of pork tacos at El Molino Central.

 

When a noted chef tells you the name of a restaurant he thinks is the very best in the Bay Area, your ears can’t help but perk up.

And when he reveals that it’s an unassuming taco joint, you really get intrigued.

Such was the case when I recently interviewed Chef Louis Maldonado for a story in the San Francisco Chronicle Food section about his favorite places in the Healdsburg area.

Maldonado, former chef of Spoonbar in Healdsburg and now culinary director of Mugnaini Imports in Healdsburg, was effusive in his praise for El Molino Central in Boyes Hot Springs. So much so that when I found myself in the area last week, I just had to try it, paying my own tab at the end.

The back of the restaurant.

The back of the restaurant.

El Molino Central is a tiny place with a tamale-sized kitchen. Inside, there’s barely room for two small tables, and the counter where you place your order. Lest you think you’ll have to eat your food standing up, you will find a cheerful patio in the back with picnic tables, covered by a trellis and a revolving ceiling fan. You’ll have to walk through the compact kitchen to get to it, though — or go out the front door and walk around the building to the back.

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