FUUD: The hot pot craze

By October 14, 2011 Food

It seems like every new restaurant popping up lately has something to do with boiling water.

Shabu Shabu King recently opened near Puck’s Alley. Hot Pot Heaven recently earned an Ilima Award. And Hanaki Japanese Restaurant in Manoa ditched the typical sit-down format and teishoku menu for hot pots only.

Let’s face, hot pots are hot.

The question is, why?

How did a thousand-year-old dish — usually served during cold months in climates hardly similar to Hawaii — get so popular so fast?

The thing is, hot pots and shabu shabu have been around for awhile. But lately — and I mean, since Sweet Home Cafe opened a few years ago — the concept has become all the rage.

Don’t believe me?

Try to get into Sweet Home Cafe for dinner without waiting longer than an hour.

So what is it? The healthy style of cooking meats and veggies? Is it the variety of dipping sauces? Is it the ambiance, the long lines, the feeling that you’re part of the cool kids who swish their beef tongues and chicken testicles in lightly flavored broths?

I know why I’ve loved hot pots — shabu shabu, huō guō, lāu, whatever — for a long time.

It’s simple. It’s fast. And it’s good.

You grab whatever ingredients you want, be it thinly sliced beef or baby bak choi or pork blood. And you cook them in the broth of your choice. In less than a minute, you’re dipping fully cooked beef slices into a rich ponzu sauce and eating it with a bowl a hot white rice.

What could be better than that?

Well, one thing: dessert. And this shave ice concoction at Sweet Home Cafe — with fruit jellies, mochi balls and coffee-flavored flan — is worth the 90-minute wait, sometimes in the rain.

So where’s your favorite hot pot restaurant? And what do you make of the craze?

Sweet Home Cafe, 2334 S. King St. Hours: 4 to 11 p.m. daily. Phone: (808) 947-3707

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Today’s happy shot

By October 13, 2011 Food, Happy Shots

You know what made me happy today? This chicken cutlet plate lunch from Rainbow Drive-In. Gravy all over.

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Did the Cooking Channel pick the right spots?

By October 13, 2011 Food

On Tuesday the Cooking Channel’s popular Food(ography) show turn its spotlight on Hawaii.

The show — which re-broadcasts at 11 p.m. Oct. 16 and 8 a.m. Oct. 23 — explores how people and societies are shaped by food, to tell the story and passion behind each dish. The network visited just Oahu and Big Island eateries.

So here’s the lineup:

• An award-winning Mai Tai prepared by star mixologist Christian Self at the Modern Honolulu (formerly the Waikiki EDITION hotel
• A visit to the award-winning Alan Wong’s Restaurant
• A kitchen visit with chef Ed Kenney of town (pictured above)
• Plate lunch from Helena’s Hawaiian Food
• A visit to Paradise Cove Luau
• Farm-raised Wagyu beef from Merriman’s Restaurant in Waimea
• A “seafood odyssey” at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel’s Manta & Pavilion Wine Bar

Other eateries that were pitched to the network:

KCC Farmer’s Market
• Two Ladies Kitchen
• Hilo Bay Sugar Shack
The Coffee Shack
• Big Island Grill
• Pine Tree Cafe

Now, looking at what was aired, I have a few suggestions.

If the show is focused on the culture of food, I don’t see how a commercialized luau show or a Mai Tai would fit into that.

So if you had to pick 10 restaurants on Oahu and the Big Island that should have been featured on the Cooking Channel, which would you pick?

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Great Debate: public vs. private schools

By October 12, 2011 Musings, The Daily Dish

Now that my friends are having kids — and those kids are growing up fast! — the question has often come up:

“What school should I send my kids to?”

Translation for some: “Should I take out a second mortgage, move in with my in-laws and find a second job to pay for private school tuition?”

Parents — and potential parents, like me — have strong opinions about where they’re going to send their kids.

Most private school graduates will tout the benefits of their pricey education, pointing at smaller classrooms, more challenging curriculum, better facilities, more support and opportunities, and a strong network of alumni that will undoubtedly help their children well after they graduate from high school.

But talk to public school graduates — or survivors — and they’ll have different opinions about education. They’ll talk about an environment that fosters individuality and socialization, less pressure to keep up with uber-rich classmates, dedicated teachers, and the belief in the concept of, “You get out what you put in.”

There are no guarantees that a private school education will lead to a more successful person. And vice versa. Sure, I have friends who went to Punahou and Iolani and are now lawyers, doctors and business owners. But I know public school graduates who are those, too, and went from, say, Roosevelt High School to Ivy League schools.

So what’s the problem?

Cost.

Tuition for Punahou, for example, is $18,450 for the 2011-2012 school year. That’s more than most colleges. And if you start paying that tuition for a child in Kindergarden and, assuming that tuition never goes up, you’ll pay $239,850 in just tuition by graduation. (Iolani’s tuition is $16,900.)

It’s more at boarding schools like Hawaii Preparatory Academy on the Big Island. Tuition for high school is $20,800 — it’s less for other grade levels — with an additional $41,200 for boarding costs.

Those costs add up.

But to be fair, most Hawaii’s independent schools charge less than $9,000 per year for tuition. But that’s still more than some folks can afford — and a public school education is the only option they have.

But when you do have an option, what do you do?

What would you do?

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Bungee jumping: I’ll pass

By October 11, 2011 #CatTravels, Musings, The Daily Dish

I consider myself pretty adventurous.

I’ll try almost anything, from interesting appetizers to funky nail polish to inverted roller coasters (though I’ll do that only once).

But there are a few things I won’t do. Never. Not even if you paid me.

One of those things is bungee jumping.

I can’t see the fun in jumping — willingly! — from a bridge or crane or some unsafe structure with just an elastic cord strapped to my ankles. What’s the thrill is free-falling into a gorge, staring death in the face, then flying back upwards, then back down again, until the energy dissipates — and you’re lower back and neck are permanently tweaked.

No. I won’t do it.

And yeah, I saw that woman — Frances Gabe, a colon cancer survivor — who celebrated her 91st birthday with a bungee jump at the Big Fresno Fair yesterday. But even she admits it’s not for everyone.

And it’s certainly not for me.

Is there something you absolutely will not do, not even for money?

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