5 Qs with Black Seed Bagel’s Dianna Daoheung

By February 16, 2015 Food, Musings, The Daily Dish


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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I’m a mom — to chickens

By February 9, 2015 Musings, The Daily Dish


When I met my husband, he already had chickens. They were about three years old by the time I moved in. The coop was already built, and he had figured out, some of it by trial-and-error, how to raise these hens.

I, on the other hand, had never handled a live chicken in my life.

Suffice to say, it was quite an experience to care for these feisty hens.

One was skittish, another a bully, and the third an independent soul. And over the first few months of feeding them and cleaning their pen, I had come to learn their quirks and unique traits.

I had no idea how different each hen could be, how much personality they have, and how quickly I could get attached.

Last year one of our beloved hens passed away. (Read about her here.) And it was so hard watching her suffer. I didn’t think I wanted to do that again.

And then we got the call.

Maxie Asagi from Asagi Hatchery, a family-run hatchery — and the only chicken hatcher in Hawai‘i — in Kalihi, called. She said they had just had a hatch of brown layers, a very prolific breed that will lay an egg a day for years. (Our other chickens are brown layers, too.) If I wanted some, she’d hold them for me.

I hesitated. I wasn’t sure we were ready — and willing — to take on another brood of chickens. Our other two, already five years old, had stopped laying eggs for months. It would be nice to get fresh eggs again. But the commitment, the cost, the attachment — were we ready?

My husband was. He told me to call Maxie and tell her we wanted three baby chicks.

So I did.

IMG_5675Maxie had put aside three baby chicks for us. By the time we were able to pick them up, they were already a week old. And boy, did they come with personalities!

One is big and bossy; she squawks whenever I pick her up. The other is sweet and loving; she settles right into your hand. And then there’s the third one, a darker brown chick that pretty much does whatever she wants. While the others are drinking water, she’ll wander over to the food bowl. When they’re standing next to the heat lamp, she tries to fly out of the plastic bin. She’s definitely her own chicken already.


I don’t know much about raising chickens, just whatever my husband told me. So I went online, reading through forums on BackYard Chickens Community, an online resource started in 1999 and managed by Rob Ludlow, co-author of “Raising Chickens for Dummies” and “Building Chicken Coops for Dummies.” I learned about the importance of proper chick feed and how using dry newspapers to line the crate can cause something called spraddle leg, a deformity of the legs that makes walking difficult, if not impossible.

Spraddle leg? Who knew!

So several times a day, I go downstairs into our covered garage to check on the chicks. I change their dry bedding, adjust the heat, and add more water and feed. I carry each of them to get them used to my touch. And I let them walk — OK, saunter — around. They’re so curious and interested in everything, it’s fun to just sit back and watch them.

I never imagined I would be raising chickens. Never. Then again, I never thought I would be bottle-feeding a baby goat, either.

So stay tuned for more about this new adventure of mine. (I still need to name them and figure out a good hashtag.) I’ll be posting photos on Instagram, so follow me @catherinetoth.

And if you have advice, post it here.

I’ll need all the help I can get!

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5 Qs with Fighting Eel’s Rona Bennett

By February 6, 2015 Musings


I usually wear tank tops and pajama pants when I’m at work.

It’s the perk of working from home.

But if I need to leave the house — and it’s not to surf — I’m usually wearing something from Fighting Eel, a locally designed line that’s beachy chic, simple and uncomplicated but utterly stylish and well made.

IMG_2285And it just so happens one of the owners, Rona Bennett, is my high school classmate. (The other owner, Lan Chung, is my fashion idol. OK, her preschool-aged daughter is.)

The pair started Fighting Eel is 2003, keeping true to their fashion philosophy and commitment to running a successful clothing company from their hometown.

Their line — as well as its sister line, Ava Sky — have garnered loyal fans around the world, many who flock to their four retail stores on O‘ahu. Even Rachel McAdams and Emma Stone have stopped by its flagship boutique in downtown Honolulu for their fix.

“We make clothes that people can wear for a long time,” says Bennett. “You look good but not trendy. We also make everything comfortable so the pieces become your go-to favorites.”

Bennett and Chung just opened their latest boutique in Kahala Mall this month — much to the joy of East Honolulu shopaholics and fashionistas.

I took a moment to chat with my dear friend — you might remember her from my photos of Greece — to talk about the new store, her inspiration and what’s she obsessed with right now.

1. You already run three successful boutiques in downtown Honolulu, Kailua and Waikīkī. Why another one?

We heard a voice saying, “If you build it, they will come.” So far, so good.

2. What are your favorite items from your latest collection? And was there a design you didn’t think would do well but did?

From Fighting Eel, the Dress Brook in leopard. And from Ava Sky, Top Chi in black. As for a design that surprised us, it was the Dress Kenzie (from Fighting Eel). People still ask for it. Also, the crazy T-shirts from FE. I’m glad people ‘get’ us.

3. What can your fans look for in your next collection?

Fighting Eel is going to bring back colors. Pinks, blues, fun prints and nautical stripes. The summer collection comes out in May. Spring II comes out in March; that’s surf-inspired. Summer I is nautical.

4. Where do you get your inspiration?

Music. I put on headphones and work and a million ideas come to me.

5. What are you currently obsessed with — and it doesn’t have to be fashion-related?

I’m obsessed with yoga. I might want to be a yoga teacher/life coach on the weekends. I’m also really into Via Gelato’s cookies and cream gelato. I wish they would open up a location downtown.

Check out any of of Fighting Eel’s boutiques: Downtown (1133 Bethel St.), Kailua (629 Kailua Rd.), Waikīkī (Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, 2201 Kalākaua Ave.) and now at Kahala Mall. Follow both lines on Instagram @fightingeel and @avasky. And visit the shop online at www.fightingeel.com.

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#WeekendDish: Okinawan shoyu pork

By February 3, 2015 Food, Weekend Dish


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!


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


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


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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5 Valentine’s Days ideas for the adventurer

By February 2, 2015 #CatTravels


Valentine’s Day is coming up — and you all know it.

While I’m not big on over-the-top romance, I am a fan of Feb. 14. (Don’t believe me? Read last year’s blog on it.) And lucky for us, it lands on a Saturday. Which means, you’ve got a lot of options out there.

But if you’re planning to impress a woman who’d prefer to watch a sunset from the top of a mountain than at an oceanfront table, then I’ve got five ideas for you. (Anyway, most of the best restaurants are already booked on Saturday.)

Don’t wait. Plan now. And I’m giving you all the info, so no excuses!

1. Tour a farm


There’s nothing cooler than a farm, especially one sells smoothies using ingredients grown just steps away.

That’s what you get when you take the Smoothie Tour at Kahuku Farms, just off Kamehameha Highway on the way to the North Shore.

You ride a tractor-pulled wagon through a 5-acre, scaled-down commercial farm with groves of apple banana trees, rows of pineapple, orchard of starfruit and liliko‘i fruit trees, and fields of eggplant. After this 20-minute educational tour — I’ll be honest, I learned something new about papaya and banana trees! — you head over to the quaint café that sells fresh fruit smoothies, grilled paninis and roasted vegetable soup using ingredients grown at the farm. (The Smoothie Tour comes with a fruit smoothie at the end.)

IMG_4324_2The café is a great place to buy something for your valentine. It sells caramel toppings, body lotions and an awesome liliko‘i balsamic salad dressing — all using ingredients from the farm. My pick, though, is the grilled banana bread topped with housemade ice cream (left). To die for.

Kahuku Farms, 56-800 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku, O‘ahu. Cost is $12 for adults for the Smoothie Tour, $10 for children ages 5 to 12, free for children 4 and under. Grand Tour costs more. Call 808-628-0639 or visit www.kahukufarms.com.)

2. Kayak to the Mokulua Islands



Catching the sunrise from Moku Nui, the largest of the Mokulua Islands in Kailua, is a sight you won’t quickly forget.

So imagine if you’re there — with a bottle of champagne and your GoPro. Valentine’s in the bag!

I’d recommend launching from Lanikai Beach. It’s a much shorter — and more direct — route to the islands than if you’re departing from Kailua Beach. It will take about 30 minutes to get to the island, where you can land your kayak and explore.

The backside — and it’s not super safe, so wear protective footwear and be careful — features a protected cove where you can frolic. (Folks like to jump into the cove from the cliffs overhead. I wouldn’t do it, personally.) And you get a great view of the smaller of the two islands, Moku Iki, which is off-limits to the public. Both are state seabird sanctuaries.

DCIM999GOPRODon’t forget to bring snorkel gear, as this area is teeming with marine wildlife including reef fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles (left).

But go early. The water is calmer, conditions are better, and it’s far less crowded in the early hours. And you get to see the sunrise, too.

Rent a kayak from Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks, 130 Kailua Rd., Kailua, O‘ahu. It costs $59 for half a day for a single kayak, $60 for a double kayak. Call 808-262-2555.

3. Sleep in, eat brunch


I’m a big fan of brunch.

And I would be your biggest fan, too, if you let me sleep in first.

So consider this option: Spend Friday night doing something fun and adventurous. Maybe hit the surf at sunset or spend the evening watching a “The Walking Dead” marathon.

Then get up and get brunch.

My recommendation: Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop in Chinatown, where you can feast on breakfast items like stuffed French toast with strawberries, Nutella and whipped mascarpone (above); smothered biscuit sandwich with a housemade chorizo patty, jalapeño-cheddar eggs and smashed taters; or the popular “Milk & Cereal” pancakes with Frosted Flakes in the pancakes and sweetened milk in the syrup. And top that off with a kim chee Bloody Mary or Tang mimosa cocktail.

Hey, she deserves it!

Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop, 1030 Smith St., Chinatown, O‘ahu. Call 808-536-1669 for reservations or visit www.scratch-hawaii.com.

4. Take a hike


I love being surrounded by trees.

Better yet, surrounded by trees at a summit with a great view.

IMG_8068I can’t imagine a better Valentine’s morning than hiking through thick groves ironwoods or inhaling the smell of eucalyptus and reaching a summit that overlooks the most beautiful mountain range (in my opinion) in the world.

Better if that trail is fairly easy and short — and gives you enough time to head back home and barbecue.

I like Pu‘u Pia Trail in Mānoa, really a trail for everyone. It’s only about 1.5 miles roundtrip, across easy terrain on a well-worn path, with a view of the majestic Ko‘olau Mountains. And it’s easy enough that, if you want, you can backpack with a bottle of mocasto d’asti and maybe some salami and cheese and have a picnic at the top.

IMG_8084It’s a very gradual climb to the lookout point, where you will be surrounded by native koa (left) and ʻōhiʻa trees. Despite the relative ease, the view of Mānoa Valley and the mountains are pretty amazing — and if you’re the only ones up there, it can be very romantic, too.

Directions to the trailhead: Head towards the back for Manoa by going to the end of East Mānoa Road. At the end, make a left on Alani Drive and go to the end of the street to where it intersects with Woodlawn Drive. Park along the road in this area. Follow the sign on the road to the trailhead.

5. Ride a horse


I went on my first horseback ride in December — thanks to my very sweet husband — at Kualoa Ranch. And loved it.

The ride was fun, the scenery unbeatable, and the whole experience relaxing and memorable.

Established in 1850 on the northeastern side of O‘ahu, Kualoa is a 4,000-acre working cattle ranch, stretching from the Ko‘olau Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. There’s a ton of activities here, from ATV tours through its scenic valleys to catamaran rides of picturesque Kāneʻohe Bay with views of Mokoli‘i Island (Chinaman’s Hat) to a glass-bottom boat ride to the secluded Secret Island.

But one of the most popular ways to explore the ranch is by horseback — and that’s what I’d recommend you book for Valentine’s Day.

IMG_2698_2The two-hour tour takes you deep into Ka‘a‘awa Valley, where films such as “Godzilla,” “Jurassic Park” and “50 First Dates” were filmed. You ride single file — led by a seasoned guide — and never faster than a quick walk. So it’s not scary or intimidating.

And you’ll earn extra points if you pack a picnic lunch for later, too.

Two-hour rides at Kualoa Ranch in Kualoa, O‘ahu cost $99 per person, one-hour rides (to the southern half of Kualoa and the ranch’s 800-year-old Hawaiian fishpond) are $69 per person. To book a horseback tour, call 1-800-231-7321 or 808-237-7321 or visit www.kualoa.com.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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