Category Archives: Seafood

Hawaii Eats: Pacifico On The Beach, Maui

The impressive mahi mahi Wellington at Pacifico on The Beach.
The impressive mahi mahi Wellington at Pacifico on The Beach.

Lahaina, Maui, HI — If you’re lucky enough to be on Maui from now through Saturday, you can enjoy the inventive dish that landed Assistant Executive Chef McKenna Shea of Pacifico On The Beach victory on the Food Network’s “Chopped” last month.

For the past month, the inviting beachfront restaurant has featured that special abalone salad that helped her trounce three other chefs and score the $10,000 prize.

Admittedly, she was initially befuddled upon opening up the mystery basket to discover abalone and ube cheesecake. Who wouldn’t be, right?

Not only that, she had never worked with abalone before. But harnessing the skills she’d learned from her mentor, Pacifico’s Executive Chef Isaac Bancaco, she set to work.

The "Chopped'' special abalone salad.
The “Chopped” special abalone salad.

Visiting Maui last month, I had a chance to dine at Pacifico, a 28-year-old restaurant that Bancaco was hired to revamp a year ago. Don’t be surprised if some of the fresh catch of the day was actually caught by Bancaco, who’s an avid fisherman, too.

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Dining At Afici

A spectacular uni pasta at Afici in San Francisco.
A spectacular uni pasta at Afici in San Francisco.

Few good things resulted from the pandemic. But one of them is surely Afici.

This South of Market fine-dining restaurant in San Francisco grew out of the pasta-oriented pop-up and takeout that Executive Chef Eric Upper of Alexander’s Steakhouse did during shutdown. A New York City native who worked at Auerole in New York, and Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas, Upper had the opportunity to lean into his Italian heritage, having studied Tuscan cuisine at Lorenzo de’ Medici School in Florence.

The pop-up proved so popular that it led the Alexander’s Steakhouse Restaurant Group to open Afici last summer.

The result is a stylish restaurant featuring inspired Italian specialties not found easily elsewhere, including house-made charcuterie made exclusively with prized A5 Wagyu.

I had a chance to experience Afici last week, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

Afici's bar and lounge.
Afici’s bar and lounge.

With the wacky weather of late that’s brought snow to the Bay Area, it was an especially nice touch to be greeted at the host stand with cups of warm ginger-infused tea.

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A Visit to Monterey’s Coastal Kitchen

Seared ahi with sunchoke puree, apple sabayon and diced apples -- at Coastal Kitchen.
Seared ahi with sunchoke puree, apple sabayon and diced apples — at Coastal Kitchen.

When Chef Michael Rotondo left San Francisco during the pandemic, it was surely Monterey’s gain.

The former executive chef of Parallel 27 in the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton, former executive chef of Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, and the U.S. Bocuse D’Or “Most Promising Chef” of 2008, moved south to open Coastal Kitchen in February 2022.

That new fine-dining restaurant at the Monterey Plaza Hotel is right next to its long-time casual restaurant, Schooners.

Unlike the latter, though, there is no outdoor dining space. The white cloth-draped tables inside Coastal Kitchen’s warm-wood dining room are spaced out amply, though.

The dining room.
The dining room.

This is a tasting menu-only restaurant. In fact, it’s thought to be the sole tasting menu-only restaurant in Monterey. At $145 per person (with an additional $95 for wine pairings), it delivers a lot for the buck.

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Canned Tuna and Salmon Get Globally Inspired

Freshé Sicilian Caponata tops fresh kale.
Freshé Sicilian Caponata tops fresh kale.

Henry and Lisa Lovejoy take seafood seriously and responsibly, having founded EcoFish in 1999, a New Hampshire company that sells sustainably-caught frozen and canned seafood nationwide.

It was the first seafood company certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. Its seafood advisory board also includes some of the globe’s leading marine conservation scientists.

Freshé is the company’s line of single-serve, easy-open, tinned seafood designed to be a protein-packed small meal to take on the go to enjoy wherever and whenever.

They are all built around either certified sustainable tuna or certified sustainable aquaculture salmon.

They come in six international varieties, which I had a chance to sample recently: Provence Nicoise (wild tuna), Sicilian Caponata (wild tuna), Barcelona Escalvada (salmon), Moroccan Tagine (salmon), Aztec Ensalada (wild tuna), and Thai Sriracha (wild tuna).

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Shaking Up Shakshuka

Shakshuka -- with a twist.
Shakshuka — with a twist.

Whether for brunch or dinner, many of us have eagerly spooned up the delectable Middle Eastern dish of whole eggs cracked open and cooked gently in a chunky, bubbling sauce of tomatoes and peppers.

Now, this one-pot dish known as shakshuka gets turned on its head in this clever take that swaps out the eggs for fresh fish and shrimp instead.

“Seafood Shakshuka” is from “The Mediterranean Dish” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.

Egypt-born Suzy Karadsheh, founder of The Mediterranean Dish blog, who now makes her home in Atlanta, offers up 120 sunny recipes that draw from her heritage, as well as from the flavors of neighboring Greece, Italy and Morocco.

Loaded with beautiful color photos, the book tempts with recipes that include “Anytime Falafel,” “Harissa, Red Lentil, and Tomato Soup,” “Braised Chicken, Mushrooms, and Poblano Peppers with Pomegranate Molasses,” and “No-Churn Tahini and Hazelnut Ice Cream.”

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