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5 Qs with Black Seed Bagel’s Dianna Daoheung

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Growing up in Hawai‘i, I wouldn’t say we’re a bagel culture.

Sure, there’s This Is It in Kaka‘ako and Lox of Bagels in Kalihi. But by and large, we’re not like some cities on the Mainland — often near Jewish neighborhoods — where bagels are like glazed donuts or malasadas here. Every bakery makes ‘em — and some are better than others.

That was never more evident than when I lived in Chicago. Bagels and schmear (Yiddish for “cheese” and refers to whatever you spread on a bagel) was my go-to breakfast. Baked fresh at a shop near my apartment, these bagels were fluffy and dense at the same time. I had never had anything like it before.

And I’ve been a bagel dreamer ever since.

So when I got a phone call from Melanie Kosaka of CookSpace Hawai‘i, telling me that New York-based chef Dianna Daoheung of the renowned Black Seed Bagels — it’s literally got a cult following — was coming to Honolulu to offer two master bagel-making classes, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

Not that I wanted to learn how to make bagels. I mean, sure, that’s interesting. But I was going to be able to eat one of her hand-rolled, wood-fired bagels — a Montreal style — so famous and sought-after there are still lines forming outside the Nolita bakery. (Here’s a peek at last year’s menu.)

“We are super surprised and continue to be flattered by people’s reaction,” Daoheung says. “It’s been an amazing year for us. To be recognized for something so iconic is amazing because there are so many opinions and when the majority of them are positive, it’s a great feeling.”

Daoheung, a first-generation Laotian-Thai American, garnered her skills and love for cooking at home, being forced to prep and assist her mom in the kitchen. After graduating from college with a degree in social behaviors and business management, she moved to New York City to work in advertising. That lasted about four years before Daoheung was back in the kitchen, doing what she loved.

She studied at the French Culinary Institute in Pastry Arts, worked as a line cook, dabbled in pastry in San Francisco, and worked as a sous chef in Brooklyn. But it wasn’t until Black Seed Bagels started that Daoheung found her calling: bread.

And now she’s sharing what she’s learned — including the hand-rolling technique that makes Black Seed Bagels so unique — with avid bakers in Honolulu with two classes on Saturday, Feb. 28 at CookSpace at Ward Warehouse. (Both of her classes are already sold out.)

We caught up with Daoheung, en route to Honolulu, to find out what makes Black Seed’s bagels so awesome and what she’s planning to do while she’s here.

1. What’s a Montreal bagel, exactly?

The best way to answer this question is with a comparison. The Montreal bagel is different than a New York bagel because of the following: it’s smaller in size, denser, sweeter, cooked in honey water, and made in a wood oven.

2. How difficult is it to create the perfect bagel?

It’s not difficult as long as you know the basic principles of bread-making. Also, everyone has an idea of what a perfect bagel is and it may not be what the person next to you thinks is a perfect bagel. So if you know how to adjust the water, the yeast and the cooking method, you can make your perfect bagel.

3. What is it about the bagel, anyway? What does it have such staying power?

The bagel has been around forever and is such a nostalgic food for many. It’s also a food that is affordable for the masses and is a versatile product that can satisfy almost any craving — sweet, savory, salty.

4. What’s your favorite kind of bagel?

My favorite kind is the plain bagel. Yes, it sound boring at first, but this is the only bagel where you get to taste the depth of the dough’s flavor. When you cover up the dough with seeds, you get mainly the taste of the seeds. I literally eat a plain bagel every day to make sure the dough is spot on.

5. First time to O‘ahu? What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in town?

I have never been and I’m so excited to bring our bagels to you guys. I’m extremely excited to eat the local foods and see the nature that O‘ahu has to offer.

For more information about the classes, visit CookSpace Hawai‘i or call (808) 695-2205. Follow Daoheung on Instagram @dough_eung.

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#WeekendDish: Okinawan shoyu pork

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I posted a photo on Instagram of Okinawan shoyu pork I had made in my crock pot.

A friend of mine (rightfully) commented, “What makes it Okinawan?”

That’s a good question, one I couldn’t answer. I have no idea.

All I know is the dish — called rafute (pronounced ra-foo-teh-) — is part of the food landscape in Okinawa. It’s made with pork belly, stewed or braised in shoyu and brown sugar. It’s supposed to help with longevity. (Okinawans are believed to have the highest life expectancy in the world.)

The only connection I see between this dish and Okinawa is the pork, a mainstay in the country’s diet. Interestingly enough, up until the 19th century and the introduction of pork and goat to the island, people here used to avoid eating meat. Now, pork is so much a part of Okinawan cuisine, it’s often said that “Okinawan cooking begins with the pig and ends with the pig.”

When the Okinawans immigrated to Hawai‘i more than a century ago, they must have brought along this dish, too.

As easy as this dish is to make, I’ve never actually tried to cook it, mostly because I’m not fond of chopping up large chunks of meat. (I’m a lazy cook, what can I say.) But I wanted to whip up something for Super Bowl Sunday that was quick, easy and would go great with a bowl of white rice.

Okinawan shoyu pork it was!

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There are tons of recipes online, most with the same key ingredients. Some recipes called for miso, others required garlic, still others used sake over mirin. (I used both.)

Most cooks also recommended trimming the fat from the pork butt before cooking it. I decided to leave the fat on, figuring it would only make the dish that much tastier. (And I was right.)

I also used a crock pot instead of a pressure cooker — too high-maintenance — or on a stovetop. I like the idea of combining all of the ingredients, dumping them into a slow cooker, and going on about my day without having to tend to it.

It’s one of those crowd-pleaser dishes. You really can’t go wrong.

*******

Here’s the recipe:

Okinawan Shoyu Pork
In a crock pot or slow cooker

Ingredients:

3-5 pounds of pork butt, chopped into 2- to 3-inch pieces
1 c. shoyu
1 c. brown sugar
1-2 c. water
1/2 c. mirin (sweet rice wine)
1/4 c. cooking sake
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 T. ginger, minced or grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a small bowl combine the shoyu, mirin, sake, garlic, ginger, brown sugar and water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and set aside.

Butcher down your pork into pieces and place them into the crock pot. Pour the sauce over them. Set the slow cooker on low, cooking for about six to seven hours. (The pork will turn a very dark brown, but the pieces should be fork tender.)

Serve over rice.

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#CatEats: Sampling Alan Wong’s Shanghai menu

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I never turn down any opportunity to eat anything created by Chef Alan Wong.

To be honest, I haven’t had a bad dish at his Honolulu restaurant, still considered one of the best eating establishments in Hawai‘i. Even his tilapia — incidentally, on the menu for Valentine’s Day this year — is top-notch. (So good, in fact, it beat out the highly palatable mahi mahi and opakapaka at a dinner event back in 2009, the majority of guests picked tilapia as their favorite. Yeah, he’s that good.)

So when I got invited to sample the menu for his new restaurant last week, I jumped at the chance.

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Wong, a James Beard award-winning chef and pioneer in the regional cuisine movement, has two Honolulu restaurants — his flagship location on King Street and the more casual The Pineapple Rom at Ala Moana Center. He’s opening his third location in Shanghai this summer — and we were able to sample some of the items slated to be served there.

The new restaurant, aptly called Alan Wong’s Shanghai, will open in the posh, five-star Portman Ritz-Carlton located along the renowned Nan Jing Road in the heart of the historic Puxi neighborhood.

The restaurant is a joint venture by Wong and Tama Food International, a Tokyo-based company that manages restaurants and fast food businesses, sport and resort facilities, and hotels. The sous chef who will be training the kitchen staff — Ryuta Sakuri — spent three months in Honolulu, working alongside Wong to craft the perfect menu for this Shanghai restaurant.

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The staff — including Wong — worked for three months in the test kitchen of Y. Hata & Co., whittling down the menu from about 200 recipes that Wong came up with himself. Every single recipe was videotaped and translated into Mandarin. That’s how serious Wong is about making sure this concept is executed correctly.

“It was more than just working with Chef and his whole team,” said Kevin Zhao, the assistant general manager for the restaurant who also spent three months here working with Wong. “He changed the way we live our lives.”

The dinner last Thursday, called “A Taste of Shanghai,” was sold out in 24 hours.

And since I’m not going to Shanghai anytime soon, I figured this might be my only shot to try the menu.

Here’s a glimpse:

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This was one of my favorite dishes: a fun take on a burger, this dish featured pork-shrimp hash as the “bun,” sandwiching smoked gouda cheese with a clever lup cheong jam, lettuce and a slice of tomato. Hard to eat but worth the effort.

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This “Duck Duck” was a crowd favorite. This well-seasoned duck meatball with a subtle serving of foie gras was steamed in rice paper and served with a tangy yuzu ponzu sauce in a saimin spoon. You gotta eat it all at once — and then you’ll want another. At least I did.

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A gorgeous plate, this panna cotta of sorts featured chilled shrimp, uni, ikura and cauliflower with edible flowers. The heat was provided by a kochi jang Asian pear and served with Tsing Tao beer.

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This beauty was actually an experiment. This is what happens when you deep-fry a lumpia wrapper — it puffs up like a pillow. It’s filled with Scottish smoked salmon and a smoked salmon mousse with capers, red onions and ikura.

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Everyone raved about this dish: Alaskan king crab in rice paper and deep-fried, topped with caviar and a truffle sauce.

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The sauce on this dish was addicting: Keahole lobster in its own yellow curry bisque with foie gras butter, spinach and mushrooms. All it needed was a bowl of white rice.

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I enjoyed this all-natural New York strip steak from Niman Ranch with a black bean sambal shrimp that was unusual and exciting.

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We got this dessert delivered by Wong’s new pastry chef, a young energetic Korean-American from California. This was a lilikoi tart with an Earl Grey kanten, caramel meringue and a brown sugar crisp. It was scrumptious — but you had to eat it quickly. It didn’t hold its shape for very long.

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The final sweet offering: a mint macaroon, an almond butter biscuit, a salted chocolate truffle, and strawberries and cream. No better way to end a perfect dinner. And yes, I got that bowl of rice, too.

So if you’re ever in the Puxi neighborhood in Shanghai — and you’re missing Hawai‘i — hit up Alan Wong’s Shanghai. While the menu will be vastly different from the one in Honolulu, the flavors are still unique Wong.

And it may likely be the best meal you have on vacation.

Alan Wong’s Shanghai, 2nd floor of Shanghai Centre, Portman Ritz Carlton, 1376 Nanjing Road West, Shanghai, China.

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#CatEats: Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop in Chinatown

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About six months ago, another new brunch spot opened in Chinatown to rave reviews, particularly from my friends who worked in downtown.

In fact, one of them had gone there three times in one week.

So what took me so long?

Good question.

I have no good excuse. It’s not like I’m never downtown, either. It was just one of those restaurants on my to-do list that I never got around to, well, doing.

And that was a big mistake.

Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop on Smith Street — halfway between two of my favorite Chinatown eateries Char Hung Sut and The Pig & The Lady — is a brunch-focused restaurant with a seasonal menu that features inventive dishes and Southern-inspired comfort food. It’s run by the former chef of Restaurant Epic, Brian Chan, whose parents own Little Village Noodle House nearby. (Another favorite restaurant.)

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Outside the restaurant on Smith Street.

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Inside. We got there early, so there wasn’t much of a crowd.

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Really clever detail here in the decor.

My girlfriend and I wanted to get there early — about 9 a.m. — so we sampled the breakfast offerings, which are only available until 2 p.m.

To be honest, it was hard to pick just one thing to eat.

The stuffed French toast ($10) made with Hawaiian sweetbread, strawberries, Nutella and whipped mascarpone was definitely tempting. (The restaurant only makes about a dozen of them, so you gotta get it while you can.) And then there was the “Milk & Cereal” pancakes ($10), also limited, with seasonal berries and sliced bananas.

But that’s not what we ordered.

No. Instead, we went with our lunch stomachs and ordered from the restaurant’s savory offerings.

And there were a few to chose from, including the creole shrimp and grits with a spicy smoked sausage and red eye gravy and the popular B.L.T. Benny with braised bacon and a truffled hollandaise sauce.

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My girlfriend got the calentado ($12, above), Scratch’s version of a popular homestyle Colombian breakfast dish with rice, beans, potatoes and some kind of beef — usually leftovers from the dinner before.

This calentado, though, was made with a beef short rib braised with cola for 12 hours atop sofrito rice, egg, pico, lime crema, crispy tortilla strips and something called a 142-degree egg. (Clearly not leftovers.)

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I couldn’t resist the smothered biscuit sandwich ($12, above), which came with these tiny smashed potatoes — that are deep-fried, too — that go through a lot of trouble to get this good.

Underneath that glob of chorizo gravy is a buttermilk biscuit with a housemade chorizo patty and a jalapeno-cheddar scramble that was so good, I was actually full — I had eaten breakfast earlier that morning — and I still finished it.

And then this happened.

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The server saw me eye-ing out the pastries. (We were sitting way too close to the bakeshop!) There were platters of chocolate-cranberry scones and bacon chocolate chip cookies. (Yes, I said bacon.)

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Here’s the chocolate-cranberry scone.

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And these are the bacon chocolate chip cookies. I remember them from Restaurant Epic.

We sampled the poached pear muffin topped with a pear streusel and a creamy anglaise (below).

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It was a lot of food — good food — and I was surprised at how much I ate that morning considering this was my second breakfast of the day.

But it was that good.

And just browsing the lunch menu, I could have stayed here for my third meal, too.

Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop, 1030 Smith St., Chinatown. Hours:8 a.m to 2 p.m. daily. Walk-ins only. Phone: (808) 536-1669.

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#FUUD: The Winter Truffle Menu at Chef Mavro

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There are some meals that are unforgettable.

And then there’s the winter truffle menu at Chef Mavro in McCully.

It’s not a meal you’d easily forget — but it’s one you wouldn’t want to.

It all started with this menu:

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I browsed the lineup: steamed day-boat onaga (long-tail red snapper) done Chinese style, a decadent wagyu pavé with a pomegranate-teriyaki glaze, a Waialua chocolate crispy rice bar.

And wine, too?

I felt like Christmas came early!

My husband and I were invited by chef/owner George Mavrothalassitis and his lovely wife, Donna Jung, to sample the winter truffle dinner menu, which is available now through the holidays. (Incidentally, today is the 16th anniversary of Mavro’s restaurant!)

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The menu features the exquisite Périgord truffles (above), often referred to as the “Diamonds of Périgord.” These truffles are characterized by a subtle aroma and an earthly flavor somewhat reminiscent of a rich, dark chocolate. Like other varieties of truffles, these grow underground and are hunted by dogs (used to be pigs). They’re rare, too, scarcer and more desirable than others, making this menu at Chef Mavro that much more spectacular.

And if anyone knows how to use Périgord black truffles, it’s Mavro.

Here’s what we ate — and yes, you can eat this, too:

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I love a good amuse bouche. Chill some carrot soup, add some coconut foam and top with cocoa nibs, and I’m sold.

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This is the vegetable course, a méli-mélo (collection) of root vegetables accented with black truffle shavings, some baked, others braised, and a few raw. As Mavro says, if it’s better not to cook them, they don’t.

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One of the best dishes I have all year is this: the restaurant’s classic Peterson Upland Farm egg and truffle “osmose,” whereby the eggs are stored with the black truffles upon arrival in a hermitically sealed box. Yes, they are sealed together. That way, the eggs are naturally infused with the truffle aroma. (Hence, the “osmose” in the name.) The egg is then poached to preserve the truffle flavor and served in a truffle potato mousseline, topped with pickled shallots, prosciutto ribbons, chervil leaves and even more truffles on top. It is ridiculously, almost criminally good.

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Next, this is the steamed day-boat onaga, done Chinatown style, with ginger shiitake mushrooms, sizzled with grape seed and sesame oils, and topped with crispy fried cilantro and green onions that gave the dish a little something extra. Mavro really knows how to cook fish, can I just say.

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Here’s the lamb loin with a deconstructed basil-infused ratatouille and Provencal socca (chickpea flour crepes), inspired from the French Riviera, Côte d’Azur. It was finished with a nice sweet-spiced lamb jus and topped with some black truffle shavings.

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This it the 100 percent wagyu pavé topped with a well-balanced pomegranate-teriyaki glaze. In one corner is sautéed kabocha (pumpkin) topped with a bouquet of watercress from Sumida Farms. And in another corner are potato mochi cakes with a yuzu-kosho accent in the middle. The best bite had all of the components, trust me.

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Next up: the pre-dessert. (Don’t you love pre-desserts?) This is a champagne gelée with honeydew melon. The perfect palette cleanser.

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We were treated to two desserts last night. This was mine — Mavro knows me! — a Waialua chocolate crispy rice bar with cranberry white chocolate namesake, gingerbread cake with a tangy cranberry sauce, topped with candied almonds. Divine!

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My husband had the rosemary roasted pineapple with semifreddo, a guava gelée, coconut (haupia, more like) sorbet, and sansho crumble. Such a delightfully refreshing dish.

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We even got to sample the popular white chocolate and green tea marquise. Such a lovely dessert.

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And if that weren’t enough, we were gifted with rich dark chocolate and lavender pavé (truffle) that melted in our mouths. The perfect ending.

If you’re interested in trying this decadent seasonal menu, make reservations now! It’ll only be available through the holidays! The four-course menu is $95 per person, the six-course menu is $128 per person. More for wine pairings and black truffle add-ons. Call (808) 944-4714.

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