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A Visit to Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel

Friday, 8. November 2013 5:25

Executive Chef Justin Cogley in the kitchen of Aubergine at L'Auberge Carmel.

Executive Chef Justin Cogley in the kitchen of Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel.

Justin Cogley’s first career may have been as a professional figure skater with “Disney on Ice.”

But these days, you can find him spinning circles around haute cuisine as executive chef of Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel.

Cogley, who started his culinary career working at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, developed a passion for fine food and wine as his skating career took him all over Asia, Australia and Europe. At Aubergine, a jewel-box of a restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea, he’s so dazzled diners that he was even named one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs 2013.”

He’s all about local ingredients, even going diving with his cooks to gather their own seaweed for beautifully composed dishes.

Late this summer, I had a chance to experience his skills when I was invited as a guest to stay overnight at the inn and enjoy dinner.

The inn is situated in the heart of the charming village.

The inn is situated in the heart of the charming village.

Housed in a three-story, European-style building constructed in 1929, the charming inn features 20 guest rooms set around a brick courtyard with a bubbling fountain and plenty of patio chairs for lounging.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (8) | Author:

Maui Part IV: Eating Around the Island

Wednesday, 1. May 2013 5:25

Dining in the open air at Merriman's Kapalua.

Dining in the open air at Merriman’s Kapalua.

Merriman’s Kapalua

Thanks to the Maui visitor’s and conventioner’s bureau, which invited me to be its guest on Maui, I was able to sample an array of island eats — from low-brow to high-brow.

Chef Peter Merriman is one of the original founders of Hawaii regional cuisine, and his restaurants have long been a favorite of any visitor to the islands. Ninety-percent of his ingredients are sourced locally, and the seafood is caught sustainably.

With its ocean-side setting, Merriman’s Kapalua restaurant is a great place to watch the sunset while you dine.

An assortment of fried root chips is set down on the table, accompanied by smoked taro hummus, and fresh, crunchy slices of cucumber and radish.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants, Seafood, Travel Adventures | Comments (8) | Author:

Maui Part III: Two Very Different Resorts

Monday, 29. April 2013 5:26

Sous Chef April Matsumoto delivers fresh-made garden smoothies at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.

Sous Chef April Matsumoto delivers fresh-made garden smoothies at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua

When I was invited to tour the organic culinary garden at the posh Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, where I was staying courtesy of the Maui tourism bureau, I was expecting a modest plot.

Not the spacious grove of paradise that the hotel has managed to create past the swimming pools and near the auxiliary tennis courts, which will soon be torn out to enlarge the garden.

Frank the gardener, who’s a former engineer, tends the lush swath fragrant with kaffir lime and lemongrass. All manner of herbs, greens, figs and citrus grow here. Flowers are planted all around, including a shrine of orchids, the blooms of which had been discarded by guests that Frank has then brought back to life. Butterflies flutter all around, landing here and there on the many blooms.

A paradise for people and nature.

A paradise for people and nature.

RitzCarltonKale

The larger of two culinary gardens, which will expand to become even larger in the future.

The larger of two culinary gardens, which will expand to become even larger in the future.

Guests of the resort can enjoy herb garden tours on Mondays. The highlight is when Sous Chef April Matsumoto comes bounding down the garden path with a tray of smoothies for everyone. Made with many of the home-grown goodies from the garden, that morning’s smoothie was redolent of banana, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, kaffir lime, spinach, celery and cilantro.

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Category:Chefs, General, Going Green and Sustainable, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (6) | Author:

Maui Part II: The Island’s Bountiful Agriculture and Aquaculture

Friday, 26. April 2013 5:27

Snails -- being raised for escargot and other gourmet dishes -- on an urban Maui farm.

Snails — being raised for escargot and other gourmet dishes — on an urban Maui farm.

Napili FLO Farm

If former massage therapist Monica Bogar has her way, Maui restaurants will some day spotlight organic snails on their menus.

After all, there’s already a waiting list of restaurants eager for the mollusks she is growing aquaponically in ingenious systems devised by her and her Uncle Tony. I had a chance to visit their homestead on the west side of the island, during my trip to Maui, courtesy of the tourism and conventioner’s bureau.

An urban farmer for the past 12 years, Bogar started her Napili FLO Farm a year ago. She now sells her microgreens, edible flowers and watercress to Maui restaurants such as Star Noodle, Hula Grill, and Pineapple Grill, the latter where Isaac Bancaco is chef and a huge supporter of hers.

Monica Bogar and Chef Isaac Bancaco inspect one of Bogar's aquaponics systems.

Monica Bogar and Chef Isaac Bancaco inspect one of Bogar’s aquaponics systems.

Pick you way through Uncle Tony’s backyard to find a miraculous series of tanks — built from scavenged items, including styrofoam boxes, old fish tanks and a grandson’s former wash tub. “We are aquaponics dumpster-divers,” Bogar says proudly with a chuckle.

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, Fruit, General, Going Green and Sustainable, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (9) | Author:

Maui Part I: Take Five with Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle on Life Post-”Top Chef”

Wednesday, 24. April 2013 5:25

Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle in Maui.

Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle in Maui.

 

To say that life has changed for Chef Sheldon Simeon would be an understatement.

After placing third in this season’s “Top Chef’’ competition on Bravo TV and winning over viewers to be named “Fan Favorite,’’ business has doubled at his already popular Star Noodle restaurant on Maui. Fans, tourists and locals alike now brave as much as a two-hour wait to get into the out of the way restaurant that serves creative pan-Asian street food such as Vietnamese crepes, and all manner of ramen, soba and saimin noodles – 100 pounds in total hand-made every day on site by one tiny, elderly woman whom Simeon affectionately calls “auntie.’’

The crowds at the other restaurant he oversees, Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, aren’t too shabby, either.

When I visited Maui earlier this month as a guest of the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau, I had a chance to sit down with Simeon at Star Noodle, where in between answering questions, he’d graciously accommodate the many diners who wanted to pose for photos with him. The 30-year-old chef, husband and father of three young daughters who was born on the Big Island, chatted about the impact the television show has had on his career that began humbly enough as a restaurant dishwasher.

Q: Why did you want to do “Top Chef’’?

A: I could see the opportunity it brings. It’s been overwhelming at times, but also a blessing. It was a chance for me to represent Hawaii. I wanted to test myself.

Q: What was the hardest part about doing the show?

A: Every challenge was hard. As a chef, I work alone on a dish. If I’m not satisfied with it, I don’t put it out. But on the show, I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m serving this to Wolfgang Puck!’

StarNoodleSign

The dining room has always been packed, but even more so now after "Top Chef'' aired.

The dining room has always been packed, but even more so now after “Top Chef” aired.

Q: Did you practice in any way to prepare for the challenges?

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Category:"Take Five'' Q&A, Chefs, Food TV, General, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (18) | Author: