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Hi everyone!
How cute is my new apron?! I am so excited that I just had to share it with everyone and all of the other cute aprons that Anthropologie has. I love to cook and bake in an apron. First of all, it makes me feel super cute and second of all, it saves your clothes from getting cheese, flour sugar, tomato sauce, etc. all over them. I love slipping an apron on over what I am wearing and getting to work in the kitchen! I got my apron at the Anthropologie at Cherry Creek Mall and it was super inexpensive at only $32. They all range from $24-$38 and are all different styles and patterns. They are a perfect gift for someone special or for yourself (mine was a gift to me from me!)

Check out all of the aprons that Anthropologie has to offer here!

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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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Peace Cookies i.e. Peanut Butter Kisses

Last Monday, my week got off to less than a stellar start.  As I was getting in the elevator to go and meet a client, I miss-stepped and realized one of my greatest fears since moving into an apartment building: my keys falling through the 1/2 inch space between the hallway floor and the elevator into the black abyss below.  It was like a movie; me standing there, helpless, with my arms full, a look of total horror on my face and pity on the faces of those in the elevator watching it happen, as if in slow motion.  The best part is, it was the wrong elevator.

In total despair (without a way to 1 go meet my client, 2 get back into my house, and 3 go anywhere in my car) I went down to the lobby and by the grace of something found the Resident Manager working late.  He called the security guard to help us assess the situation, and my heart dropped when the ONE security guard who absolutely despises me (because I do naughty things like move furniture after “official furniture moving hours” and the such) walked around the corner.

Despite our differences in the past, he was quite helpful and nice throughout the process of me, on my hands and knees, trying to fish my keys out of the elevator shaft with a string and paperclip (which didn’t work of course).  After waiting what seemed like hours for the locksmith (what real estate agent doesn’t have an extra key in a lock box my resident manager wanted to know!?!), I thanked the guard for his help and gave him the container of freshly baked Peanut Butter Kiss cookies I had intended for my client, for which I received a very unenthusiastic thank you.  Whatever, you can’t win ’em all right?

But I am happy to report that I was just downstairs in my lobby and oh how the tides of security guard vs. resident contention have turned!  As I headed for the elevator he says “don’t drop your keys!” and then “hey, where did you get those cookies?”  When I replied that I had made them he says, “wow, those were really good, thank you!”

Note to self: when being a rebellious homeowner, make sure to come bearing cookies.

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Photo Credit: LeiChic.com

The Fourth of July is just days away – time to dust of the old BBQ, invite some friends over and have a party!  I’ve been getting recipes galore from Food & Wine etc., but the latest one from Lei Chic caught my eye.  I can make a pasta salad any day, but my grilling skills really leave something to be desired.  Thanks to Lei Chic, I can take a few notes from Wayne Kauppi, owner of Kaimuki’s Hog Island BBQ and a champion of slow-cooked meat, for a few grill-to-oven techniques.

The Heat
Kauppi recommends a kettle grill fueled by mesquite charcoal. Get the coals glowing red-hot, then put on the lid and starve the fire to bring the temperature down. This creates an even glowing charcoal bed and prevents flare-ups that would char your steaks. Keep the cover on while cooking, using the vents to control the heat. Meanwhile, bring your indoor oven to a not-so-piping-hot 190 degrees.

The Meat
The best cut for the grill is the rib eye, Kauppi says, because the fat marbled in with the muscle makes for a juicy steak. If you want a leaner cut, try the filet mignon. Apply a dry rub to the meat and allow it to rest before cooking.

The Feat
You’ll want to begin cooking about an hour before you plan to serve the meal. Do check the steaks during the cooking process, but don’t cut into the meat often—it’ll cost you too much juice.

Put steaks to be well-done on the grill first, searing the meat for no more than five minutes on each side. Place each steak on an oven-safe plate. Transfer the plates to the oven and leave the meat to slow-cook for about 45 minutes. The low temperature will continue the cooking process without evaporating water, meaning the plates will fill with the juices of the steak.

Next, repeat the searing and plating process with the medium steaks, but oven-bake the meat for only 20 to 30 minutes. Finally, sear your rare steaks. This set of steaks will be in the oven for only ten to 20 minutes.

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Every Saturday I stock up on my essentials at the KCC Farmers Market – but there is a huge bounty of fresh, local produce and products that I never purchase, simply because I am not quite sure what to do with it.  Enter the Hawaii Farmers Market Cook Book series.  I have yet to get either volume 1 or 2 (why I have no idea), but after leafing through the latest edition at the FM last weekend, I think I may just have to pick them both up.

The collection of 75+ recipes are contributed by the likes of Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong, Sam Choy and other top-tier Hawaii chefs, showcasing how to use the fresh goods you can get at our Hawaii farmers markets, as well as tips and advice.  And better yet, the recipes are all super easy thanks to the book’s editors’ stipulation that all recipes contain no more than five ingredients, plus cooking oil, salt, pepper and the assigned featured food items.

Buy them HERE on Amazon.com

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While I forgot to take a photo of the Apple Tortoni in the midst of all the madness, I did get a chance to snap a picture of the full moon reflecting off of Waikiki bay...it's a shame my phone doesn't have a flash, otherwise you would also see Diamond Head all lit up in the backdrop. So beautiful.

Years ago, I got involved (read: wrangled – what happens when you are the vice principal’s daughter…) as a volunteer in the annual Island School Auction (my high school Alma Mater) as their day-of, on-site event coordinator.  When a girlfriend with Type 1 diabetes discovered this two years ago, she asked me to sit on the planning committee for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Annual Gala Auction.  Last year I suggested that we incorporate a Dessert Auction into the JDRF Gala as an additional way to raise money.  They have been doing this at the Island School Auction – as part of the silent auction portion – and it is wildly successful every single year.  Our first go round at last year’s JDRF Gala went wonderfully, and so I found myself, with Tori thank goodness, on the committee to plan and execute that portion of the night again this year.

We have been calling and begging for dessert donations for the past few months and spent a good portion of the day yesterday picking them all up and getting them to the Royal Hawaiian in one piece.  But of course, life happened, and I arrived 20 minutes late with three of the desserts, and poor Tori had to watch as one of the star donations slipped off the display table and onto the ground in a giant mess of chocolaty sadness.  No matter, we persevered and by the end of the night all nine of our desserts (one of which I baked) sold for upwards of $60 each.  It was a success to say the least.

The rest of the evening was fantastic – the food was outrageously good (all tailgate inspired finger foods as the theme was sports related) and the setting – an indoor/outdoor venue right on Waikiki beach at the Royal Hawaiian – was to die for.  It was all so fun (and exhausting) that I was in bed by 11 last night and woke up at 10:15 this morning – and only got out of bed then because I had work to do before my open house this afternoon…All of the hard work was completely worth it of course, and since I didn’t get to eat the Apple Grand Tortoni that I donated AND because I still have a bag of apples that need to be used, I just may have to find some time this week to make another one 🙂

Apple Grand Tortoni

From “Another Taste of Aloha,” I first had this tart when my mom made it over memorial day weekend.  A good variation to your standard apple pie, the crust is thick yet flaky, and the cream cheese filling topped with the thinly sliced, cinnamon coated apples on top is a perfect balance.  The recipe calls for it being served either warm or chilled, and personally I prefer it warm…I do imagine that it would be divine with ice cream as well.  Just make sure you put a large piece of slightly cupped tin foil on the rack below the one you are baking it on as the juice from the apples leaks out of the spring form pan and makes for quite the smokey mess if there is nothing there to catch it!

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and flour.  Mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and 3/4 of the way up the sides of a deep 9″ springform pan.

Filling

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3 to 4 apples (depending on their size – for larger ones I use 3, for smaller ones 4)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup almonds, sliced (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Beat cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, and egg until smooth.  Pour over crust.  In a large bowl, mix apples with sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice.  Pour apple mixture on top of cheese mixture and sprinkle with slice almonds.  Using a wooden spoon (or your fingers), push crust down on sides even with apples.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 400 degrees for 25 minutes (it is important that you are careful about the baking times/temperatures or else your run the risk of burning it). Serve warm or chilled.

*This is an excellent dessert to bring to a party as it travels very well in the spring form pan and can be easily released and served in perfect condition.  Also, I imagine it would be quite delish for breakfast 🙂

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Dusting the top with powdered sugar makes it look quite beautiful!

As my Tuesday work-day wore down, I was informed that Sky (one of our friends who is a wine distributor) had some “crazy stupid expensive bottles of wine open” from a tasting earlier that day, which needed to be consumed ASAP.  I wasted no time RSVP’ing to what I could see was quickly turning into another fantastic dinner party at the D’Olier residence.  Because drinks and food were covered, I offered to bring dessert and based on rumors that there would be a to-die-for dessert wine that needed some chocolate goodness to go with it, I went home on a mission.

I bee-lined for Nigella Lawson’s “How to Be a Domestic Goddess” and found  an entire section dedicated to chocolate.  Cookies, cupcakes, brownies – no, not right.  And then there was chocolate mousse cake.  Yes, yes yes.  I rushed out of the house and $40 later came home with slabs of gourmet chocolate etc. and got to work.  With the ipod blarring and my mixer whipping eggs and chocolate into moussey glory, I discovered that making this cake is quite possibly the most cathartic activity I’ve experienced in a long time – much needed in the midst of a very crazy week!

With minutes to spare before Tori picked me and Carol up, I had just enough time to wrangle the cake out of the water bath I baked it in (note to self: buy a turkey baster asap) and onto a tray for careful transport.  Following a delicious Greek dinner from Olive Tree in Kahala and some AH-Mazing wines, it was finally time for dessert – which between the wine and the cake turned into some kind of wonderful I never even knew existed.

Whenever I make something for the first time I am always super nervous to serve it – and because the cake had risen

Mmmmmm....SO delish. Although I clearly need to invest in and carry around a camera so I can properly capture these moments.

more than I had expected I was a little worried that it had overcooked and dried out.  Not so fast.  With fresh, sliced strawberries (with a little bit of sugar on them) and vanilla ice cream standing by, I sliced into what is quite possibly the most moist, perfectly balanced (between light and airy and ooey gooey fudgy), decadent chocolate cake I have ever seen.

As I served, Sky unleashed his perfect-for-chocolate dessert wine which is apparently impossible to find, prepared in a crazy cool way (freezing the skins without freezing the pulp anyone?), and hand carried back from one of his trips to Italy.  Liquid heaven in my mouth – the perfect amount of sweet, not too syrupy, it was mind boggling how good it was (I must get my sticky little fingers on at least a case of that stuff like yesterday).  And, much to my delight, the cake tasted even better than it looked – evidenced by Tori who sat there unabashedly licking her bowl when she was done, and Carol (the chocolate cake queen) simultaneously serving herself seconds.

The next night, as we polished off our portion of the leftover cake, Carol announced to me that she thinks it’s going to be hard for me to ever top this – and that the only thing left to do is make it again and again – like every single week preferably 🙂  Not gonna lie, it may just have to happen.

Nigella’s Chocolate Mousse Cake

Ingredients:

  • 11 ounces best bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 ounces best milk chocolate
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 8 large eggs, separated
  • scant 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 9 inch springform pan
  • heavy duty, extra wide aluminum foil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put the kettle on to boil.

Line the inside of the springform pan with foil, making sure you press the foil well into the sides and bottom of the pan so that it forms a smooth surface.  This will prevent water getting into the cake when it is cooked in its water bath.

Just out of the oven.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a microwave or double boiler, and let it cool.  In another bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugars until very thick and pale, as creamy as mayonnaise; the mixture should form and fall in ribbons when you lift up the whisk.  Stir in the vanilla and salt and then the cooled chocolate mixture.  In another, large bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Lighten the chocolate mixture by briskly beating in a dollop of the egg whites before gently folding in the rest of them.

Pour the cake batter into the foil-lined springform, which you have placed in a large roasting pan.  Add hot water from the recently boiled kettle to come about 1 inch up the sides of the cake pan and carefully put the roasting pan with its cargo into the oven.

Cook for 50 minutes – 1 hour (I stopped at 50 minutes).  The inside of the cake will be damp and mousse-like, but the top should look cooked and dry.  Let it cool completely on a cooling rack before releasing it from the pan.  This calls for a little bit of patience, because you will need to peel the foil gently away from the sides.  Just go slowly and remember that this is a very damp cake, and you won’t be able to prise it away from it’s foil-lined base – though it’s easy enough to tear off excess foil once you’ve set the cake on its plate.  Dust with confectioners sugar if you want, and serve with creme fraiche and maybe some raspberries (I went with fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream).

Enjoy!!

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