Archive for the ‘Contemporary American’ Category

2011 is here, I just turned 27, and it’s been far, farrrr too long since I’ve contributed anything to this blog.  And while I can’t change how fast time seems to fly these days, I can make it a point to share my latest foodie adventures with all of you – and between the holidays and some major culinary indulgence recently, I have a whole lot to say.  I just finished putting together a list of my favorite Japanese restaurants on Oahu for a client (which of course led to me spending about an hour compiling a list of the rest of my current favorites…), and I thought I would start of my 2011 blog entries with it.  So here goes…If you’re in Hawaii you’ve got to give them all a try, if not, this list looks like the perfect reason to book a trip!

TOP SIX – Reservations are a must for these, and I highly recommend sitting at the sushi bar and asking the chef to serve you what they think is      best/fresh that day…you’ll never be disappointed!

  • Imanas Tei: http://www.yelp.com/biz/imanas-tei-restaurant-honolulu this website rates it as being quite pricey, but you can go and have a mid-range meal there easily.  The sashimi platter is the very best…the fish is very, very fresh.  I hear their nabe is also really good.  Amazing delicious and not too formal, this is the perfect go any night of the week kind of place.
  • Sushi Izakaya Gaku: http://www.yelp.com/biz/sushi-izakaya-gaku-honolulu My absolute number one favorite sushi place in all of Hawaii right now.  The fish is unbelievably fresh, their Izakaya dishes are to-die-for and the service and ambiance are wonderful.  The head chef of Imanas is the guy who owns/runs Gaku.  Very limited seating and very popular, so make sure to make reservations.  It is pricey, but worth every single penny, I promise!  Just make sure you give the seared O-toro and the Spicy Negihama Tartare.
  • Hakkei: http://www.yelp.com/biz/hakkei-honolulu Hakkei specializes in Oden which is a Japanese soup similar to Nabe or Shabu-Shabu.  Their focus is much less on sushi (we had some sashimi but that was the only raw fish dish to be seen) and more on warm, comfort type food.  Don’t be mislead though, they change their menu monthly to focus on season ingredients, and each and every dish is creative and exceptionally delicious.  They have three tasting menus or you can just order off the menu.  Very traditional from the food to the ambiance and the staff, I felt like I was back in Japan for a few hours!  Apparently they also serve lunch (check out their website).
  • Ideta: http://www.yelp.com/biz/ideta-restaurant-honolulu Incredibly fresh fish, very straightforward, traditional yet inventive, clean, focused and mouthwatering flavors.  Sit at the sushi bar for sure, the chef/owner is a true master.  This one is a bit off the beaten path and  bit pricey as well, but most definitely worth it!
  • Matsugen: http://www.yelp.com/biz/matsugen-honolulu If you love fresh Soba this is the place to go.  Make sure to try the duck broth with the soba and their fresh tofu as well.
  • Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin: http://www.yelp.com/biz/tonkatsu-ginza-bairin-honolulu Right next door to Matsugen, this place serves Tonkatsu like nothing you’ve ever had before in your life.  Top-grade pork (when you call to make a reservation you can actually reserve the pork as they only have so much and tend to run out as the night goes on), only the freshest ingredients flown in from Japan and an old man whose life has been dedicated to perfecting this dish makes for an unforgettable meal.
Low-Mid Range Favorites
  • Phuket Thai:http://www.yelp.com/biz/phuket-thai-restaurant-honolulu very, very good thai food!
  • Hale Vietnam: One of my very favorite Vietnamese restaurants…you must try the Imperial Rolls if you go! http://www.yelp.com/biz/hale-vietnam-restaurant-honolulu Reservations are accepted here.
  • Covenant Books & Cafe:http://covenantbooksandcoffee.com/ Hawaii really lacks good soup & sandwich places, but Covenant really makes up for it in every way possible.  Nestled in a Christian bookstore, their sandwiches are amazing, and they make a different soup every day that makes you want to melt (they have a soup calendar on their website!).  They also serve an incredible breakfast.  I live for their croissant french toast with flambeed bananas….closed on Sunday.
  • Cafe Kaila:http://www.yelp.com/biz/cafe-kaila-honolulu Cafe type food, really yummy breakfast and lunch place.  Crazy on Sat/Sunday mornings, but always worth the wait.
  • Bogart’s Cafe:http://www.yelp.com/biz/bogarts-cafe-honolulu Very similar to Cafe Kaila
  • Diamond Head Grill:http://www.diamondheadmarket.com/ When I don’t feel like cooking or sitting down at a restaurant, but I want take-out that is healthy and always top-notch, I go to Diamond Head Grill.  They have prepared food available in the market to take home and heat up, or you can order from the grill outside.  Their ahi salad at the grill and their desserts in the market are my favorites.  If you like scones, they have the most insanely good blueberry and sometimes banana scones unlike anything you’ve ever had before.
  • Olive Tree:http://www.yelp.com/biz/olive-tree-cafe-honolulu BYOB, this is the hands-down the best Greek restaurant on the island.  Fat Greek which is down the hill from your house is good as well, but Olive Tree really kicks it up a notch.  VERY busy all the time, so either get there early, order take-out, or be prepared to wait.  There is a wine shop right next door for your convenience 🙂
  • Little Village:http://www.littlevillagehawaii.com/ I know we have a China Town teeming with Chinese food places, but trust me when I say that Little Village is the very best.
  • Mocha Java:http://www.yelp.com/biz/mocha-java-cafe-honolulu Located at Ward Center, this is a wonderful healthy place to go for breakfast and lunch.
  • Himalayan Kitchen:http://www.yelp.com/biz/himalayan-kitchen-honolulu Love this place!  BYOB also (go to Tammura’s down the street for great wine and beer!) We eat here all the time – great ambiance (lots of outdoor seating) and delicious food.
  • Waioli Tea Room:http://www.yelp.com/biz/waioli-tea-room-honolulu If you want to get out of the city and escape into the jungle, this is the place to go.  They serve a great lunch all week, but it is for their breakfast brunch on Saturday and Sunday that I hold out for.  Eating here always makes me feel like I’m on Kauai 🙂
  • Formaggio: http://www.yelp.com/biz/formaggio-honolulu Great french/Italian food and awesome wine list.  Perfect place to go during the week for a quick but great meal and some really yummy wine.
  • JJ Dolan’s:http://www.yelp.com/biz/jj-dolans-honolulu Simple but delicious pizza and beer place located Downtown.
  • V Lounge:http://www.yelp.com/biz/v-lounge-honolulu More artisan style pizza place that is definitely worth a try.
  • KCC Farmers Market: Saturdays from 7:30-11:30 a.m. at Kapiolani Community College…..best Farmers Market on the island, the produce, food, flowers, and everything else there makes it my favorite place to be every single week.
  • Tango:http://www.tangocafehawaii.com/ More in the mid-high range, this place serves excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Tokkuri-Tei: http://www.yelp.com/biz/tokkuri-tei-honolulu another hole in the wall Japanese place, the food here is amazing.  It’s small and very popular, so you might have to wait if you go on a popular night, but it’s well worth it. (Since I wrote this I think they’ve expanded to a larger location, but I hear it’s still packed!)
  • Tsukenaya: http://www.yelp.com/biz/tsukuneya-robata-grill-honolulu this is different than any Japanese food you are used to and its wonderful!  The style of cooking originates from Nagoya in Japan so the focus is less on sushi and more on the robata or bbq style of cooking.
  • Maguro-Ya: http://www.yelp.com/biz/maguro-ya-honolulu Go here for the sushi.  Very traditional and straightforward, I’ve never been disappointed here.  If you like green tea and azuki beans for dessert, theirs is a must-try!
  • Kochi: http://www.yelp.com/biz/kochi-restaurant-and-lounge-honolulu If you are looking for a good place for happy hour and sushi rolls, this is the place to go.  It’s on King St. and I think it’s a bit of a hidden gem.
A bit pricy but VERY worth it:
  • Alan Wongs:http://www.yelp.com/biz/alan-wongs-restaurant-honolulu very pricey (appetizer, food, dessert and alcohol aprox. $100 a head) but SO SO SO worth it.  Alan Wong is one of Hawaii’s very best chefs and I promise that you will not be dissapointed.  If you go to one restaurant while you are in Hawaii, this must be it!  Make sure to make reservations WAY in advance.  Style of food is very pacific rim, fresh and local.
  • Hoku’s at the Kahala Hotel:http://www.yelp.com/biz/hokus-honolulu this is another amazing one, and the location is just beautiful.  It is about a 15-20 minute cab ride from your hotel.  If you go, I recommend going early to have drinks first, and then to dinner…the hotel is breathtaking. Style of food is very pacific rim, fresh and local.
  • Town: Farm-to-table, the ingredients are always fresh, and local and organic whenever possible.  One of my all-time favorites for sure.  http://www.yelp.com/biz/town-honolulu#hrid:kEZQplvbjxjkTEBjAT_4mA/src:search/query:town%20restaurant
  • 12th Ave. Grill:http://www.yelp.com/biz/12th-avenue-grill-honolulu#hrid:_887lbqstrayqaZ6BZSeIA/src:search/query:12th%20ave%20grill fantastic food, totally hole in the wall restaurant.  Right near Hale Vietnam and Town.  Food genre is “New American.”
  • Chef Mavro:http://www.yelp.com/biz/chef-mavro-honolulu One word: unbelievable.  Different than anything you’ll find here in Hawaii, Chef Mavro’s french restaurant is worth the indulgence (both financially and in calories).
  • BLT Steak:http://www.yelp.com/biz/blt-steak-honolulu I’ve heard mixed reviews, but my experience there was fantastic.  I think it’s the best steakhouse on the island personally.
  • Royal Hawaiian Hotel: http://www.royal-hawaiian.com/ just renovated, the Royal is one of Hawaii’s landmark hotels and one of the most beautiful.  Great restaurants but quite pricey – at the very least go for a Mai Tai at their beach front bar because they make the meanest Mai Tai’s you’ve ever had!
  • Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel: http://www.moana-surfrider.com/ another of the landmark hotels in Waikiki – their ocean front veranda is beautiful and a great place for breakfast, tea, or drinks at sunset.  I hear the restaurants are good as well, but on the pricier side for sure.

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Every single week a note about Wine Down Wednesday pops up on my twitter from owner @edstown, and every single week I think “I need to go and do that.”  But, despite my good intentions, I have to admit that yesterday was the very first time I ever actually followed through – something that may not have happened had we not had a nudge from Sky Cameron, a friend of ours who was conducting the tasting for the evening.

What is Wine Down Wednesday you ask?  Pure genius in my opinion.  The middle of the week is generally a bit hairy, no matter which way you slice it.  And what better way to unwind and re-energize for the rest of the week than over a four course wine tasting/food pairing in the company of some really fabulous friends? Pretty much nothing.

So, in keeping with this line of thought, Jacky, Tori, Justin, Haley, 15 wonderful strangers and I joined Sky at town in Kaimuki for an array of Argentinian wines from the Mendoza region (on the western coast about halfway down), paired with four complimentary dishes – all of which was divine.  Here’s what we were working with:

Sky...our fearless wine leader

Wine: Nieto Senetiner, Torrontes Reserva '09 (the ultimate summertime lounging-by-the-pool wine - Torrontes is only found in Argentina) - Food: Salmon skin, risotto cake, apple, fried capers

Wine: Vina Cobos "El Felino" Cabernet Sauvignon '08 (aptly described by Sky as "juicy" this one tasted even sweeter because of the spice in the food) - Food: Pa'i'ai hash (pulled pork), watercress

Miss Haley...the most well behaved (and adorable) two year old who has an incredible palate to boot!

Wine: Pulenta Estate "La Flor" Malbec '08 (from vines that are 5-15 years old) - Food: Porchetta, Mushrooms

Wine: Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Malbec Reserva '06 (from vines that are 50 years old and up - one of Wine Spectator's top 100 wines!) - Food: Grilled leg of lamb with mint infused chili

We ended the evening by sharing a crazy delicious bittersweet chocolate and apple banana panini served with ice cream and some whipped cream goodness. Haley demonstrated how one should most effectively get every single ounce of ice cream out of a dish once a spoon just doesn't cut it. Thank you Uncle Sky!

Remnants of a good time

We were all at one long table which didn’t make for the most ideal social or easy to educate situation, but Sky did an amazing job of explaining things and we had a most wonderful time overall.  We’ve decided that WDW would be a great thing to gather a bunch of friends together and do again (read: completely take over with people we know and have a raucously good time) – hopefully sometime very, very soon.  Want to join us?  Town does WDW every week at 6:30 – just make sure you call ahead for reservations as seating is limited.

On a side note, it has been not only wonderfully fun because of his overall fantastic-ness, but also very educational getting to know Sky because of his extensive wine knowledge.  My notes above only scratch the surface of what he taught us last night, but here is a little more info on Mendoza and the whole wine situation in that area.  Now all I have to do is convince Sky to take me on one of his fabulous wine trips someday!

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Shibi (baby yellow fin tuna), grapefruit, pickled fennel and a whole bunch of other yummy goodness

Saturday, as Lesley and I lazed around wondering what to do with ourselves, I flipped through the latest Twitter posts on my phone for some inspiration and came across a photo from @edstown of that night’s dinner menu at Town which looked incredible.  Lesley had never been there before and I’ve been craving it for months so we decided to splurge a bit and make it a date night – problem solved.

Beet, Arugula, Orange, Chickpea and Ricotta salad

Good thing we made reservations because it was packed when we arrived.  I love everything about this restaurant; the aesthetic of it makes you feel like you are at your friends house for dinner, the food is all farm-to-table (New American type dishes), the staff is great, and everything I’ve ever eaten there has been to-die-for delicious.  And that night was no exception.  We shared a bottle of white Italian wine, bread (I would kill for their bread recipe)/olive oil/butter/olives, a beet/orange/arugula/ricotta salad, shibi(baby yellow fin tuna)/pickled fennel/grapefruit appetizer, fresh ono with fresh veggies and a meyer lemon berry butter sauce, hand cut pasta with eggplant and prosciutto, and finally buttermilk panna cotta drizzled in honey.  If that doesn’t make your mouth water I don’t know what will.

So ono!

Great for lunch as well, I will have to make it a point to not let so much time go by before I find myself back there.  The game plan for next time however is to share an entree so that we can share the apple banana/chocolate panini for dessert….heaven in between two slices of bread I imagine.  Also on the list of things to try is their Wine Down Wednesday event where they have a special menu with wine pairings….For reviews, phone numbers etc. go HERE.

The hand-cut pasta was silky, flavorful and not overly heavy. The leftovers the next day were amazing!

"Milk & Honey" Buttermilk panna cotta drizzled in local honey....perfectly light and refreshing after a big meal!

Cheers to good food and even better company!

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My little sister Gabi sent me this recipe and it sounds amazing. The recipe comes from The Harrison restaurant in New York City.

Here are her comments:

I also added sauteed zucchini and cut up some of those specialty chicken sausages and put them in as well. I also added some extra cheese 🙂 It was so good I even had a few bites for breakfast! It took about 40 minutes, but I’m sure normally it would take about 30. You could really put a lot of things in it, broccoli, mushrooms, peas…


  • 1 bunch standard-size asparagus
  • 1 1/2 cups Orzo
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano
  • 2 tbsp black truffle butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • If truffle butter is unavailable, you can make your own by combining two tablespoons softened (not melted) unsalted butter with half teaspoon of black truffle oil.


  1. In a 5-quart pot, bring salted water to a boil.
  2. Place washed asparagus in boiling water for 1 minute; remove with tongs and set aside, keeping water boiling.
  3. Cook orzo in same pot for 7-9 minutes; drain in a colander. Set aside.
  4. Trim the tough stem ends off asparagus and discard. Cut remaining asparagus into 1/4-inch thick slices and reserve.
  5. In a medium pan, heat oil, then saute garlic until golden brown.
  6. Add asparagus to pan; add cooked orzo.
  7. Continue cooking orzo over low heat and add heavy cream and butter, stirring constantly.
  8. Add cheeses and stir until they melt and combine.
  9. Stir in truffle butter, salt & pepper. Serve in a bowl family-style; top with more Parmesan if desired.

Click here to see this recipe featured in InStyle Magazine!

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I flew home last Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving on Kauai with my family and friends.  Work and what not have been crazy lately, and I was looking for a few days of lavishing in good food, quality family time, long naps, beautiful Kauai, and all the other wonderful things that come with being at home.  My weekend was all of that and more, and I could not be more thankful for all of the wonderful things, people, places etc. in my life.  Here is a sneak peak into my weekend via a few photos…..enjoy!

The morning of Thanksgiving day my mom, auntie and I walked pu'u road...and what started out as what we thought would be a perfect day weather wise, turned into us braving a torrential rain and wind storm. We were SOAKED to the bone by the time we got home...

My great-aunt Ginny came over that morning to teach me how to make my Great Grandma G's famous stuffing - it was a very cool and special thing to share with her.

My mom making her delicious minted iced tea as the onions and celery for the stuffing simmer away.

Prepping the turkey and watching the dog show (with a whole lot of commentary I might add)...a natural combination if you ask me 🙂

Half of the gang! Grandpa, Jeanne and Tom Blagg, Dad

Mom, Grandma and Auntie finishing up the prep in the kitchen before we sat down to dinner. How good does that turkey look?!?

Mmmm brussels sprouts!

Can't forget the gravy! Along with the stuffing, this is definitely Auntie's specialty!

Kara supervising Dad carving the turkey.


Pua hoping that Grandpa shares some of his pumpkin pie...he illegally gave her his leftovers afterward!


Hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend as well!

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Mashed potatoes covered in gravy, mixed with a whole bunch of stuffing and turkey makes for pure Thanksgiving perfection in my book.  This year my mom added a slight twist to her otherwise delicious but straightforward mashed potatoes – crispy shallots on the top!  The shallots added a perfect amount of flavor and texture…definitely a dish to try for any occasion.



  1. 6 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered (see Note)
  2. 4 peeled garlic cloves
  3. 2 cups canola oil
  4. 6 large shallots, thinly sliced (1 1/2 cups)
  5. 1 cup half-and-half
  6. 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  7. Kosher salt


  1. In a large pot, cover the quartered potatoes and garlic cloves with cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the canola oil until shimmering. Add the shallots in a single layer and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until they are golden, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to paper towels to drain.
  3. Drain the potatoes and garlic in a colander, shaking out the excess water. Add the half-and-half and butter to the pot and heat until melted. Remove from the heat. Press the potatoes and garlic through a ricer into the pot and season with salt. Stir and cook over moderate heat until very hot. Transfer the mashed potatoes to a bowl. Just before serving, sprinkle the shallots with salt and garnish the potatoes with the shallots.

Make Ahead

    The mashed potatoes can be made earlier in the day and kept at room temperature; warm over moderate heat, stirring constantly. The fried shallots can be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days; reheat in the oven if desired.


    Yukon Gold potatoes have yellow flesh and a naturally creamy texture, which makes them ideal for mashed potatoes. They’re available at most supermarkets.

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apple-tart_12th-ave-grillAlthough I miss living on quiet, lush Kauai, one amazing thing about living here on Oahu is the huge selection of amazing restaurants we have, and I spend WAY too much money going out to all of my favorites and discovering new ones on an all too regular basis.  Because real estate isn’t the cheapest thing around here, more often than not you will find incredible restaurants, even on the pricier side, in little, hole in the wall spots around town.  12th Avenue Grill is one such restaurant, and when two of my Aunties came into town last week and said they wanted to try it I was quite excited because I hadn’t been there in a while, and I remember my last meal there being fantastic!

The restaurant is up on Waialae – an area that has tons of incredible restaurants.  It is on a side street and from the outside doesn’t look like anything special.  The inside has a warm, rustic, home-style feel and the food is classified as Contemporary American, i.e. upscale comfort food.  We went and had the MOST amazing meal I have had in a long time!  With so many yummy choices – decadent mac and cheese, slow roasted chicken, braised spare ribs and all the rest – it was hard to pick one, but all three of us finally decided on the two specials they had.  Auntie Becky and I had the panko crusted fish and Auntie Bonnie had the lamb…all of it was nothing short of Devine.  At an average of $20 a main course, a meal at 12th Ave isn’t on the cheap side, but I promise you it is well worth the splurge!  We washed it down with a Lemon, mint, ginger martini (a special drink for the evening) which was delicious, and a fresh baked apple tart ala mode for dessert.  The whole experience was so lovely that I must make sure not to let so much time go by without going again!  Go to http://www.12thavegrill.com/index.php for their menu, location, hours etc.

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