Tag Archives: Food

What makes the best fries

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There are some foods you can’t separate.

Peanut butter and jelly. Waffles and fried chicken. And burgers and fries.

I don’t care how full I am, I will order a bag of fries with every burger, period.

The saltiness, the crispiness, the oiliness — fries are the perfect complement to a greasy burger topped with melted cheese and smoky bacon, leafy lettuce and a fresh slice of tomato. You really can’t beat it.

So when Frolic Hawai‘i asked me to blog about my Top 5 favorite fries, I actually had a hard time narrowing it down.

Because it really all depends.

While the basic criteria are simple — texture, temperature, crispiness, taste — the subjectiveness is what muddles the list.

Like nostalgia. Or price. Or when I’m eating these fries. (I’m far less picky about my fried choices when I’ve just come from the beach.)

And then picking just five was heart-wrenchingly difficult.

Truly, there are others that didn’t make my Top 5 list.

Like the crinkle-cut fries topped with Parmesan cheese and truffle oil at Home Bar & Grill. Or the unsalted skinny fries at Kua ‘Aina. Or the Jamaican jerk fries at Ryan’s Grill.

And don’t get me started on fries outside the island. (The fries at In-N-Out Burger [top] — individually cut at the restaurant, cooking in 100 percent vegetable oil, never frozen — are among my all-time favorites.)

So what should we be looking for in the fries?

Here are my criteria: they’ve got to be golden brown, slightly crispy and hot. I like the crunch, though I can deal with a soggy fry if it doesn’t taste like a wad of cooking oil. I’m not a huge fan of steak fries or ones breaded before they’re tossed into a deep fryer. (Remember when Burger King changed their fries? Terrible.) I like them on the skinnier side, fresh is always best, and double-fried makes ‘em better.

And hey, I’m never above a bag from McDonald’s, either!

Got a favorite frites? (I have lots of room on my Favorite Fries list!)

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A ‘Top Chef’ and a top chef cook tonight

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Colin Hazama and Louis Maldonado met at the California Culinary Academy, lived as roommates, and went their separate ways — Hazama back to O‘ahu and Maldonado stayed in California.

Hazama, who’s now the senior executive sous chef at the Sheraton Waikīkī, worked at such top restaurants as Alan Wong’s and Roy’s Restaurant and was selected as a semi-finalist in the 2010 James Beard Foundation Awards “Rising Star Chef of the Year. Maldonado earned a name for himself at Spoonbar, elevating it to three-star status from the San Francisco Chronicle. He catapulted into mainstream fame as being among the Top Four finalists on Bravo’s “Top Chef” this year.

Despite their equally busy schedules, the two friends remained in touch — but had never cooked together. Ever.

Until tonight.

The two are collaborating on a six-course dinner called “From the Islands to the Bay” at Cookspace Hawai‘i tonight, showcasing local ingredients and their individual flair in the kitchen.

I got to talk story with the two chefs about their friendship, their cooking styles and this dinner that’s been a long time coming.

CT: So how did you two meet?

CH: It was in 2001, right after 9/11. (Louis) was actually in a different class. I used to see him at the gym a lot. Yes, I used to go to the gym. (Laughs) We met at one of the dorms drinking one night.

LM: Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened. I think we hung out a few times. We literally saw each other around, then started hanging out. I ended up going to Hawai‘i for spring break that year.

CT: So this is the first time you guys have worked together?

CH: Yeah, we’ve never worked together. This is the first time we’re going to cook together for real. We lived together — we were roommates right after culinary school — but we’ve never actually cooked together.

CT: How do you think you’ll be in the kitchen together?

CH: We are very similar culturally. Even though Louis is Mexican and Sicilian and I’m Asian, our core values are similar. I think he and I are very intense people but very laid back. When I’m at work, I’m very intense. But at home, I’m not. And (Louis) is super humble. He’s not very talkative and not outspoken. But when he’s at work, he’s pretty intense. He and I are not the easiest chefs to work with. (Laughs) We are just very passionate about food in general. That’s why we really connected, too.

CT: How did this collaborative dinner come about?

CH: I did a dinner series at Cookspace Hawai‘i with Wade Ueoka and Chris Kajioka, and I really liked the venue. So I talked to Melanie (Kosaka) and doing something else this year.

LM: When Colin asked me to do this, my main thing was to do a seafood focus. Just like the kind of food we serve at the restaurant, which is 75 percent seafood. It’s what I like to work with, what I like to cook, what I like to eat. If we did a dinner, I wanted to make stuff I enjoy, not just base a menu around concepts.

CT: Anything special about the menu tonight?

LM: I’m bringing some things from the restaurant that I make special using ingredients we get from about three miles from the restaurant. Like our own flour, seaweed, geoduck clams from further north that’s rarely seen outside of California. These things are unique and don’t necessarily make their way to the Islands.

CH: I’m using scallops from Hokkaido. I wanted to do something that would pair differently with the lamb. So I’m using a Chinese smoking method, but I’ll use the regular smoking method with wood chips with sugar and rice.

CT: So Colin, did you watch your friend on ‘Top Chef’?

CH: I never watched ‘Top Chef’ before. When he first told me he was going to be on the show, I was, like, ‘Really?’ I can do media and I’m comfortable with all that camera stuff, but I’m not one to go and do a series like that. I thought it was great that he did it. It gave him even more publicity. And knowing his talent, this was just a great exclamation point on his career.

CT: What was that experience like, Louis?

LM: It’s what you make of it … If you’re there for the right reasons, you’ll get what you want out of it. I was in a good position in my life and with the restaurant that I could leave for two months and my staff could run the restaurant for me. The restaurant needed me to push it up nationally and to the next level.

CT: Did it help your career?

LM: I mean, obviously it made the restaurant a lot busier. But I knew who I was before doing the show, so it didn’t make my food better. If anything, it’s allowed more people to eat my food and business-wise it’s been a good thing. That was the biggest benefit.

CT: Wouldn’t it have been interesting if you two were on the show together?

CH: We probably would have tried to not have been on the same team. Every time I watch the show, I see how the ones on the same teams become the worst enemies. Business is business, but I wouldn’t let it ruin our relationship.

LM: Yeah, it’s a contract to your next career move and there’s the money. But if you know how to cook, you’ll always have a job. If you cook from the heart, you’ll always find something great. (Pause) But (us on the show together) would have made for some good drama!

***

Tonight’s Menu
Presented by Chef Colin Hazama and Chef Louis Maldonado

Light Pupus or Snacks
Local Sourdough toast with avocado, radish, urfa pepper, kampachi
Chicharonnes3 with shichimi, malt vinegar, yogurt poppyseed foam

6-Course Degustation
Shaved geoduck clam, fermented chili, picked herbs

“Ho Farms Salad” with pearl onions, golden kahuku & currant tomato gelee, butternut squash, Gerkin cucumber pickles, crisp purple long beans

Kona Abalone roasted in Sonoma Coast seaweed with porcini bouillon, Kahuku sea asparagus, beech mushrooms

Guinea hen roulade, sweet Kaua‘i shrimp, corn, cabbage, shellfish emulsion

Prickly Ash Sonoma lamb saddle with Hawaiian Vanilla HOP fondue, tea-smoked scallop, peach, cilantro essence

“Pina Colada” — coconut truffle pacojet gelato, kaffir lime, compressed sugarloaf pineapple, ‘ulu chips, mango ice

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Interested in attending tonight’s dinner? Click here for more info.

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5Qs with SF’s Anthony Yang

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Brunch and pop-ups.

Talk about the two culinary buzz words of this century.

Add “San Francisco-based chef” to the entire phrase and you’ve got the morning event of the year, happening this weekend.

San Francisco-based chef Anthony Yang, formerly of Per Se and Michael Mina, will headline “Ante Meridian” on Oahu this weekend, presenting a four-course prixe fixe brunch menu highlighting a mix of seasonal local ingredients and San Francisco flair.

Here’s a peek at the menu: Kona coffee-flavored granola on local organic yogurt with taro-date jam, macadamia nut brioche bread pudding with brown butter roasted pineapple and vanilla creme fraiche, and black truffle waffles.

Yes, I said black truffle waffles.

Yang started hosting pop-up brunch events for his coworkers and friends more than a year ago. Since then, they’ve become so popular, they take place twice a month and often sells out within hours of releasing the menu. (He’s even started a dinner pop-up called, of course, “Post Meridian.”)

I got a chance to chat with Yang to find out more about this weekend’s events — which are, by the way, not sold out. Yet.

1. So you’ve worked for a couple of big names — and now you’re doing these pop-ups. What’s the appeal?

The appeal is my approach to brunch. Brunch is never really the focus for a restaurant, especially ones that are open for dinner. If it is the main focus of a restaurant, I feel like most people are doing the same things. Pancakes that are too sweet, Belgian waffles that are dense and chewy, twelve different types of omelettes etc. I try to refine my take on brunch a little more. Also, for the pop-ups, the fact that you buy a ticket before hand has a lot of appeal to people. After you buy the ticket online, you don’t have to wait in line like every other person waiting for a table for brunch on a weekend. The convenience of just showing up, not having to bring cash and split the bill with your group of friends, and letting us do all the work is what appeals to most people, I would say. And the Black Truffle Waffles!

2. Are you surprised with how popular your pop-up events have gotten?

It’s taken a lot of time and work to build this “brand” that people are beginning to familiarize themselves with. There were some really slow days at first like any business, but I’ve tried to create something that is a little different and approachable to everybody. So not really.

3. Why did you want to become a chef? Who inspired you along the way?

Working in the industry runs in the family, I guess. My parents worked in Chinese restaurants all my life as a kid and eventually bought a small, fast food Chinese place that I worked in growing up. After high school I applied to culinary school at the local community college and went from there. Ive been inspired by so many people along the way. David Breeden, the chef de cuisine of The French Laundry is a huge inspiration. Chris Kajioka from Vintage Cave really inspired me to just go for it. Ron Siegel showed me that you can be a great chef and a nice guy at the same time.

4. How did you come to do a pop-up in Hawaii and what are you most excited about?

Chris Kajioka, Mark Noguchi and Hank Adaniya came to San Francisco a few months back to do a pop-up to represent Hawaii and I helped them with the event. I started thinking how cool it would be to do my pop-up in Hawaii. The goal was to just make enough money to cover my trip. Thanks to Chris, Mark, Hank, and Amanda from UMU, we made it happen after a few brain storming sessions. I’m most excited about eating at all the great restaurants that I keep hearing about and hanging out with good friends.

5.What are you planning to do — and where you planning to eat — while you’re in town?

Nick Erker, who is coming with me to help cook used to live and work on Oahu at Chef Mavro and with Andrew (Le) at The Pig and the Lady. And I’m leaving the planning up to him. He says were going straight to Ethel’s Grill from the airport for lunch. I’ve heard only great things about The Pig and the Lady and I know Andrew from culinary school. I hear Chris Kajioka is doing a pop-up and hopefully we’ll be able to go to that. Eastern Paradise is like my kind of soul food, so were definitely going to get some dumplings and jia jiang mien.

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ANTE MERIDIAN 808 BRUNCH POP-UP
When: Saturday, July 12 (10 a.m. and 1 p.m.) and Sunday, July 13 (10 a.m.)
Where: 2970 E. Manoa Road Honolulu, HI 96822
Cost: $45/person, tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite.

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Your favorite happy hours on O‘ahu

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Last night I met a girlfriend for pau hana drinks at Bevy, a fairly new neighborhood bar in Kaka‘ako. It’s got a solid happy hour menu, with a new selection of tapas, that we had wanted to check out. Items like house-made goat cheese creme on smoked beets with candied pecans. Or cod-and-caper croquettes served with a sweet chili aioli. Or the popular oysters on a half shell (above) with a papaya salsa and ponzu sauce. (And for $1 each, no less!)

It got me thinking about happy hours.

Anyone who has worked in Hawai‘i knows how much we love our pau hana. We love discounted pūpū and drinks — especially if they’re as delicious as the tidbits we feasted on at Bevy.

But what makes a good happy hour?

I say the following:

1. Great drinks. You can’t have a happy hour with lame, watered-down cocktails and a very limited offering of beers. (Unless you’re Shirokiya and you’re serving cold beers for $1.) We want good, solid drinks at a decent price. I’m not going to pay $8 for a colorful cocktail, even if it comes with a sprig of rosemary.

2. Tasty bites — and size doesn’t really matter. I want to say I appreciate the huge portions some bars dole out, even at happy hour. But I don’t care that much about the quantity as long as the food is crazy-good and reasonably priced. I’ll eat a small plate of food if the dish is absolutely delectable — and the price is right.

3. Fun, lively atmosphere. I might be in the minority when I say this, but I like a happy hour to be fun and lively — not dark or drab or dreary. I don’t need to sit in a cave and eat food I can’t see. If I’ve been sitting in a quiet office for the past eight hours, the last thing I want to do is be in a quiet space after work. I want laughter, I want conversation, I want to swear and dance and toss my head backward in a contagious fit of laughter. Period.

4. Parking. OK, maybe this my 39-year-old self coming out. But I hate having to circle neighborhoods for parking or walk several blocks in heels. I’m just too old for that. Give me valet.

I like places like Brasserie Du Vin in Chinatown, located closed to a cheap municipal parking lot. It boasts a robust happy hour menu like baked Brie, beef sliders topped with caramelized onions and a share-able cheese-and-charcuerie platter. Or Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar near Ala Moana Center, with its late-night menu of contemporary Japanese dishes like unagi rice and sukiyaki bibimbap and sukiyaki kim chee pizza. Or Holoholo Bar & Grill in Mo‘ili‘ili with its take on bar classics like a Hawaiian version of poutine and deep-fried pork ribs.

So, according to that criteria, where are your favorite spots for happy hour?

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5 Qs with ‘Iron Chef’ Cat Cora

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I wondered if my interview was ever going to happen.

Not because Cat Cora, acclaimed chef and restaurateur best known as the first female Iron Chef on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” doesn’t do interviews.

It’s because I didn’t think she would ever have the time to fit me in.

Not only does she run seven restaurants, develop multiple product lines, host TV shows, does charity work, and write cookbooks, she’s also a wife and mother to four boys.

“I’ve never been a static person,” she says. “I workout every day of the week, love to explore new places and things and get restless easily. I feel like if I just did restaurants, I wouldn’t feel fulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, one restaurant is plenty for work — let alone seven. It’s important to me that I’m constantly growing into the person I am supposed to be and for me, that means expanding beyond restaurants. Maybe I’m crazy!”

I got to chat with Cora, who will be one of the dozens of talented chefs participating in this year’s Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival held on Aug. 29 to Sept. 7, about her crazy-busy life.

1. You cook, you write, you run a nonprofit, you even have a shoe line. How difficult is it juggling all of these different ventures?

Well, it certainly made my life much busier, and I won’t say it’s easy. But I enjoy being busy. I think you have to work hard and you have to play hard. I guess I just had more time for play!

2. I’m sure you get asked about business ventures all the time. Anything you’ve turned down? How do you decide on what opportunities to take?

I have definitely had to turn things down. Opportunities come up all the time and I have to weigh them all carefully. I ask myself if the opportunity is going to take me away from my family, is it going to conflict too heavily with my other projects or personal life. Sometimes you just bite the bullet and say yes, and other times you have to be reasonable and turn the opportunity down.

3. What has been the most rewarding part of the nonprofit you co-founded, Chefs for Humanity?

There is nothing like visiting a country like Haiti, a place that has been completely devastated by a natural disaster, and being able to bring joy and smiles to the faces of the people there. It is the greatest feeling in the world. Paradoxically, the greatest challenge is traveling to these places and seeing the destruction and suffering. It is a heart-wrenching experience.

4. What does it take to be successful at restaurants?

Being a successful restauranteur isn’t easy. People’s tastes and preferences are constantly changing. You have to pay attention to the changing food trends and really keep up with what ingredients or dishes are becoming popular. I think it’s fun, but I definitely wouldn’t say it’s easy … I definitely have a lot of balls in the air. To be successful in this industry, you have to be willing to work a lot, though, so I don’t think there is anything wrong with being busy, especially when my work takes me to beautiful locations like Hawai‘i! I have a fantastic team to help keep things running smoothly. I always joke and say, ‘It takes a village,’ but the reality is, without a strong team, that juggling can get pretty difficult.

5. What are you most looking forward to at this year’s festival?

Other than being invited to cook in such a beautiful place? Well, I have always been a huge proponent for blending cultures. I learned to cook by mixing my Greek heritage with my Southern upbringing, to create a delicious and unexpected fusion of cultures and flavors. I’m excited to bring my style to Hawai‘i and to use ingredients that I don’t utilize that often in California. I have some really great dishes lined up and I think people are going to like what they are eating!

To see Cora or any of the the other chefs participating in this year’s Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival, buy your tickets here.

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