So many incredible bays and beaches along Kona’s Alii Drive. Life is short. Take a moment to stop and enjoy the scenery.
The Kam Family enjoyed a much needed “staycation” at Aulani, a Disney Resort this past weekend. We used the occasion to celebrate Avery’s 3rd birthday and took full advantage of most of the resort’s amenities. It was a wonderful two-night stay gifted to us by my awesome mom. More on all of this in a future post. But for now, I share with you a photo taken from our ocean view room #1046. That pool below was definitely a highlight.
To give you an idea of how much fun we had, the first words out of Avery’s mouth when she woke from her nap was “Why are we home? I want to go back to Aulani.” Without question, we’ll be returning and hopefully soon.
As I was preparing to write about local baker Christopher Sy’s incredible Breadshop sourdough breads (country loaf pictured above), it dawned on me that was a foolish idea. Why? Because my post would have said pretty much what HONOLULU Dining Editor Martha Cheng wrote in her detailed Biting Commentary column last year titled “The best country bread you’ve never heard of: Chris Sy’s levain.” I’m joking. There was no way I was going to be able to make the chef and his bread sound that good with my own words, so I encourage you to click the link above and enjoy her piece. I have mad respect for Martha’s work and it’s a great read.
On a slightly more serious note, here’s my take. If you enjoy sinking your teeth into a good piece of bread like I do, you need to give Chris’ country and city loaves a try. Some may argue that it’s ridiculous to pay $7.50 for a loaf, but those people just don’t get it.
This bread has a quality and character well worth the price and enjoyment. The texture (crunchy outside, chewy soft on the inside) and flavor (distinctly sourdough with a smoky finish from being baked in a kiawe wood fired oven) is like nothing I’ve had in Hawaii before. You can see and taste, passion, and pride Chris puts into his craft with every bite.
But don’t take my word for it, the fact that my kids – Ensen (5) and Avery (2) – prefer it over the regular sandwich bread you find in the grocery store is proof positive to me this stuff rocks. The delicious country loaf has become a staple in our kitchen and I have a feeling it will be in yours too after you try it.
So what does it look like and where can I buy this you ask?
Each loaf is carefully wrapped and date stamped for freshness.
Proof that good things come in white packages. The dark crust is not only beautiful, but packs a ton of flavor.
Cutting into a city loaf. As you can see, the texture of the bread is light and airy. Absolutely delicious with or without butter or olive oil.
Breads by Breadshop are made in limited quantities, so follow Chris on Twitter to find out when and where he’s delivering during the week.
The net proceeds raised during the 2012 festival went to the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation ($80,000), Culinary Institute of the Pacific ($80,000), Leeward Community College Culinary Arts Program ($30,000), Paepae o Heeia ($10,000), and Papahana Kuaola ($10,000). Since its inception in 2011, HFWF has raised nearly $500,000 for these organizations.
“In partnership with the tourism industry, we created this festival in 2011 to give travelers to Hawaii and residents alike a world-class food festival featuring top chefs and wine makers from around the globe, while showcasing the bounty of incredible ingredients the islands have to offer,” said Roy Yamaguchi, HFWF co-chair and owner of Roy’s Restaurants. “As a result of the festival’s success the past two years, we’ve been able to fulfill the festival’s equally important mission of providing our beneficiaries funding to support their important food sustainability, cultural, and educational efforts.“
HFWF co-chairs and chefs Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, owner of Alan Wong’s Restaurants, presented the checks during a Mahalo Reception thanking the festival’s partners and participants for making last year’s festival a sold out success.
“The support from the visitor industry and local community has been tremendous and instrumental in our ability to offer unique events that sets our festival apart from others across the country,” Wong said. “The guest chefs love coming to Hawaii to cook, attendees really enjoy the opportunity to learn about where the food comes from and meet the chefs, and everyone leaves inspired by the experience. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”
Through the industry’s efforts in 2012, more than 4,000 visitors and residents from around the world attended 15 events at six venues on Oahu featuring 61 chefs, four master sommeliers, 25 top-tier winemakers and 31 local farmers, artisan food producers and innovators. These chefs and participants shared their expertise and skills with more than 200 culinary students from Kapiolani Community College, Leeward Community College, Maui College, and Kauai Community College who were able to work side-by-side with some of the most respected names in the industry for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“We are very grateful to receive this donation which will help finance the construction of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific (CIP) at Diamond Head, an advance culinary/pastry facility that will offer students new opportunities currently unavailable in Hawaii,” said Conrad Nonaka, CIP director. “The University of Hawaii community colleges offer a two-year associate degree for culinary students through its six culinary training programs on the four major islands. However, the CIP will provide students the opportunity to gain their third year professional certificate, as well as the ability to earn a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree through UH West Oahu.”
“The Bounty of Heeia event allows us to showcase our premise and education programs to a much broader audience that we would not otherwise reach and this generous donation will go towards our aina based education programs increasing our capacity to serve the community,” said Rick Barboza, hanaola director of Papahana Kuaola. “As a member of Papahana Kuaola, I would like to extend my sincerest aloha and mahalo to all the people from the festival, in particular Roy and Denise Yamaguchi and Alan Wong for including our organization in this spectacular event.”
The 2013 Hawaii Food & Wine Festival is set for Sept. 1-8, 2013, and will kick off with an event on Maui (Sept. 1) before returning to Oahu (Sept. 5-8) for the main events. For more information, please visit HawaiiFoodandWineFestival.com or follow the festival via social media on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for updates.
Let me just get this out of the way and say I’m not a huge fan of tripe. I didn’t grow up on it, but occasionally enjoy it in stew and pho. However, after eating this Tripe alla Parmigiana dish at Cafe Julia at YWCA recently, I have a whole new respect for the intestine.
Executive Chef Lance Kosaka, formerly of Alan Wong’s Pineapple Room, carefully cleans and cooks the tripe in a magical way that takes out most of the funk. The result is a tender, delicious, and “broke da mout” dish that I can only imagine would have been even better with a cold beer. Tripe in a rich tomato sauce and topped with cheese and a runny egg kept me going in for more. This day at lunch there were two other non-tripe eaters at the table, yet after trying this, we all agreed that it rocked. I would order it again in an instant.
Since opening in the YWCA late last year, and following the closure of the beloved Downtown @ the HiSAM, Cafe Julia has become a hot spot for lunch, pau hana, and weekend brunch. Chef Lance is doing the kind of food reminiscent of childhood days, but on an elevated level. Not to mention, the historic building in which the open-air restaurant is located offers a casual elegance to the ambiance.
If any of the pot pies happen to be on special, get it. I’m told its a rare site on the menu, so I couldn’t pass up devouring one a couple weeks ago. This was a Mexican-inspired interpretation with beef, beans and a whole lot of goodness in a crisp pastry. So good.
You can also find some great sandwiches here, like the Korean-Inspired Grilled Pork which was quite tasty.
Finally, if you have room for dessert, Chef Lance’s version of an ice cream sandwich is worth the calories. He’s making cookies just like his mom made them for him growing up. What’s not to love about that?!
Cafe Julia can get busy at lunch, so I strongly suggest making reservations, especially for larger parties. Check it out next time you find yourself hungry in downtown.
Cafe Julia at YWCA
1040 Richards Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone : 808-533-3334
Breakfast: Sunday only, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Lunch: Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Pau Hana: Wednesday – Friday, 4-9 p.m.
Parking: One hour validated parking for Alii Palace for diners. It is the closest and cheapest garage located off Alakea Street. Metered street parking is also available along Richards and King streets.
Follow the restaurant on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
I’m going to keep this post short and sweet. If you love ramen, then check out the Shirokiya Yataimura Quality Food Court the next time you’re at Ala Moana Center. Order the Shiroton Charsiu Sibori ramen (pictured above) from the place with the huge “Ramen Noodle” sign and enjoy. I’m addicted!
The delicious and cloudy pork broth is my favorite part of the experience, although the noodles are quite enjoyable too. There are a variety of different options to dress up your bowl of ramen depending on your mood that day. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
I’ll admit I’m not a ramen expert by any means, but I know when I’ve discovered something that’s “broke da mout” and worthy of returning time and again to satisfy my noodle craving.
Yataimura Quality Food Court at Shirokiya
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Boulevard, #2250
Honolulu, HI 96841
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Inside the Vintage Cave dining room which was built with more than 170,000 bricks from Pennsylvania and features original artwork by Picasso and many other artists worth millions.
I have to say 2012 was a hell of year filled with great eating! From Hawaii to Memphis and New York City, those who follow me on Foodspotting, Twitter, and Instagram know very well there was an abundance of deliciousness enjoyed at restaurants off all varieties. I’m sure the last 12 months were equally palate pleasing for you.
But for me, there was one meal that stood out from the rest and that was a 19 course gastronomic experience at the Vintage Cave Honolulu. Let me briefly explain why.
I first met Vintage Cave Executive Chef Chris Kajioka (pictured above with Pastry Chef Rachel Murai) a little more than two years ago when he was cooking at Roy’s Waikiki. Many friends spoke highly of his culinary talents and passion for his craft having worked at many fine restaurants across the U.S., including the three-star Michelin Per Se in New York City and one-star Michelin Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. I never had a chance to taste Kajioka’s food before he left Roy’s to return to San Francisco to cook at Aziza, but did have the opportunity to get to know the chef better on a trip to Chicago in 2010 to promote Hawaii. It was on that trip we dined at one of the best restaurants in the world, Alinea, and from there stayed in touch.
In future trips to the Bay Area, we made Aziza a regular stop to see how Kajioka was doing enjoying many great meals there. About a year later, I learned that he was returning to the Ritz-Carlton to team up once again with Ron Siegel at Parallel 37. After a short stint there, Kajioka made the decision to return home after getting married with no firm job in place.
That got many Hawaii foodies excited with anticipation at what Kajioka might have in store. In the end, he landed the Executive Chef position at The Vintage Cave and has assembled a team that’s doing some amazing things in the kitchen and using some of the best ingredients from Hawaii and around the world.
The result, in my opinion, is a dining experience that rivals any Michelin-starred restaurant in the country in terms of culinary creativity, service, and ambiance. Those who ask me what eating there is like, I can only describe it as “theater on a plate” featuring skillful, modern cooking techniques and delicious flavors honoring Asia, Europe, and beyond. It’s the kind of place where it’s quality over quantity, but after 19 courses that range from one to three bites, you leave satisfied and transformed at how delicious food can be.
That seems like enough of my raving in this post. Let me let the pictures speak for themselves. I was fortunate to be hosted to two tastings prior to the restaurant’s opening in December. The following photos (and this video by Mari Taketa of Nonstop Honolulu) are of a special media dinner served on November 30 featuring a total of 30 delicious bites.
OYSTER hibiscus shiso ginger
HAKUREI TURNIP asian pear yogurt sumac
japan AMADAI kabocha pickled garlic escabeche
BEEF from sylvia prizant spinach sunchoke charred scallion sancho pepper
(Quite possibly the best beef I’ve ever tasted!)
onion rice PORRIDGE samoan crab white truffle
(This dish reminded me of grandma’s jook on steroids. Delicious!)
CHOCOLATE GANACHE charred pineapple aged balsamic sesame
GRAPE and finger lime
(An explosion of deliciousness in your mouth!)
Having eaten at the Cave three times now, the question everyones asks me is “Is it worth the money?” My quick answer is “It depends.” While pricey at $295/person, if you’re they type that will travel to the world for a great meal, this is certainly a must experience. And think about it, you don’t have to factor in the air, hotel and ground transportation into the equation. It’s definitely a meal worth saving up for that special occasion.
If you’re idea of a great meal is quantity versus quality and you’re not into art and theater on the plate, I’d take you’re money elsewhere. Buy that iPad instead or go enjoy your favorite restaurant a bunch of times. Just being honest here as you’ll probably think it’s overpriced and not worth the experience.
If Kajioka and his team continue to do what they are doing, I can see this restaurant becoming a destination for many across the globe. Will it become one of the best restaurants in the country never to earn a Michelin star (since Hawaii doesn’t get rated)? Only time will tell. But knowing Kajioka, he’s going to continue pushing himself (only 29 years old) and his young team and that’s a good thing for Hawaii.
In the culinary world of highly coveted Michelin stars, “Three stars reward exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients. Worth a special journey.” Vintage Cave certainly has the philosophy and the resources to continue striving for this kind of distinction. It has definitely been a treat eating there and I hope I have the chance to do so again in 2013.
Happy New Year to you all and here’s to many more delicious meals with family and friends.
Vintage Cave Honolulu
1450 Ala Moana Boulevard, #2250
Honolulu, HI 96814
(located in the basement of Shirokiya at Ala Moana Center)
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 5:30-11 p.m.; Closed Sundays
Note: Vintage Cave gives priority seating in its bar lounge and dining room to members before the general public. Reservations are required and limited.