Archive for the ‘Random Raves & Rants’ Category

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money,” just one of the great lines Ron Finley delivered during his inspiring TED talk. The other one that I vividly remember was at the end of this presentation when he told the crowd to “Go grow some shit!”

If you’re looking for a fresh perspective on food sustainability and how a little creative thinking can do amazing things for a community, this is a must watch. As the video description on the YouTube site says:

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”

Have a watch and let me know what you think. As I watched this, it also made me think about the great work the folks out at MAO Organic Farms in Waianae are doing to put the youth on Oahu’s westside  on a path for success through working in the Earth. Very inspiring stuff!



IMG_2027Inside 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.

IMG_2362For $295/person (exclusive of tax, gratuity, and wine pairings), the tasting menu is a creative and dazzling feast for the senses.

IMG_2035OYSTER hibiscus shiso ginger

IMG_2042sweet smoked PAIN AU LAIT

IMG_2036fish skin CRACKER black bean clam lime

IMG_2039MERINGUE tomato basil

IMG_2356vanilla bean macaroon CAVIAR

IMG_2358cold smoked TORO red onion jicama
KONA KAMPACHI lemon radish shiso
UNI ham film black truffle
AMA EBI fennel
AJI smoked onion pear


IMG_2361HAKUREI TURNIP asian pear yogurt sumac

IMG_2046golden osetra CAVIAR smoked tuna gel

IMG_2053HOKKAIDO IKURA potato green apple cress

IMG_2055charred CABBAGE leaves miso konbu dill anchovy
(One of my favorite dishes.)

IMG_2059jidori EGG YOLK celery root truffle ham parmesan
(Another of my favorite dishes.)

IMG_2061FOIE GRAS maple syrup corn blueberries celery

IMG_2058japan AMADAI kabocha pickled garlic escabeche

IMG_2366PORK BELLY & NECK berbere jus kale chips

IMG_2367bread from CHRIS SY white soy wakame
(We’ve become big fans of Chris’ Breadshop artisan breads.)

IMG_2064HIRABARA FARMS pineapple vinegar

IMG_2069BEEF from sylvia prizant spinach sunchoke charred scallion sancho pepper
(Quite possibly the best beef I’ve ever tasted!)

IMG_2369onion rice PORRIDGE samoan crab white truffle
(This dish reminded me of grandma’s jook on steroids. Delicious!)

IMG_2072SHIO KOJI ice cream
(This was my first time having a savory ice cream. Oishi!)

IMG_2371blackberry sorbet PEPPERED BEET AIR mascapone sponge
(As one who loves beets, this was an amazing dessert!)

IMG_2077CHOCOLATE GANACHE charred pineapple aged balsamic sesame

IMG_2078CANELE rum glace
(I’m told the only place in Hawaii doing canales.)

IMG_2374BLACK TRUFFLE macaroons

IMG_2373My apologies for forgetting what this one was called, but delicious!

IMG_2375RASPBERRY meringue

IMG_2376GRAPE 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)
Phone: 808-441-1744
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.


While enjoying a beautiful piece of my father-in-law’s prime rib on Christmas Day, someone suggested trying it with a little horseradish “in the bottle over there” from Safeway. They were pointing to the devil in the bottle pictured above.

I was warned that it was hot, but I’ve had potent horseradish before so I didn’t think that innocent bottle could contain something too strong. Boy was I wrong.

My first taste of this wasn’t pretty. I choked, allowed the potency to clear my sinuses, then teared up like a little girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Whoa did that burn. But damn was it good! So I went in again and enjoyed the experience a few more times. It was a great accompaniment to the beef. Delicious!

If you like horseradish and you like it HOT, I highly recommend you try this brand/bottle from Safeway. Don’t say you weren’t warned. It’s addicting.

Favorite Gangnam Style Videos

Posted: September 11, 2012 by Nathan Kam in Random Raves & Rants
Tags: , ,

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few weeks, you know that Korean rapper PSY and his “Gangnam Style” has been sweeping the nation globe. It’s also swept into the Kam family household with a relentless grip that just won’t let go. Ensen and Avery love it. I can’t get enough of it. Why? I really don’t know and I have no idea what the guy is rapping about. But being half Korean myself, the catchy beat, ridiculous horse dance (which we’re trying to perfect) and humorous video all likely have something to do with it. And based on the more than 140 million views of the original video on YouTube below, I’m obviously not the only one.

The only one in the family that hasn’t been bitten by the bug is Kelly. But I’m intent on changing that. How? By finding more and more crazy and creative remixes of the song on YouTube. Here’s a few of our favorites at the moment. Bet you can’t watch just one! 😉 Please share yours in the comments below.

Pretty entertaining Hawaii parody…

And another Hawaii version…

A more “girly” version which Avery likes…

One for all the Oregon Ducks fans out there…

For the headbanger in me…and you…

Okay, this one is hilarious…”English language” version…and don’t be alarmed by the name of the video…it’s quite innocent…

And finally, a baby gangnam style…

Hope you enjoyed these as much as we do. Now don’t forget to comment with your favorite videos and links.



Honestly, I’m not counting on anyone ever buying a print out of my gallery, but hey, you never know who might desire pictures of Hawaii, delicious food, average gardening, and fat cats adorning their walls. I must say though that I love the idea of being able to turn Instagram photos into pieces of art with the click of a button. And there are some incredible galleries out there with killer images by Zak Noyle, Tino Valdez, and many others. BTW, if you happen to come across a great Metallica gallery, please do let me know. \m/

So what the heck does a guy who enjoys pork belly, a good steak, chocolate, and a cold beer know about good health? That’s a legitimate question and one I asked myself as I was invited to join the HONOLULU Family team of bloggers a couple weeks ago. What could I really bring to the table? What could I share that other families would care about? Afterall, I’m not a gym rat, not as athletic as I once was in high school and college, and not nearly as active outdoors as one who lives in Hawaii should be.

But all of that aside, and after consulting Kelly and some friends, I decided to accept the challenge of writing the weekly Good Health blog for the magazine’s website. Why? After really thinking about it, good health has many different meanings. It not only has to do with eating smart and physical activity, but also mental and emotional well-being. All things that we as a young family are dealing with and striving to get better at on a daily basis.

Going back to the original question, “what the heck do I know about good health?” Well, you’ll have to read along each week to find out. I’ll be sharing personal stories and experiences about our home garden, eating sensibly, keeping the kids (and ourselves) active and mentally stimulated, and practicing good hygiene to name a few things. I’ll also be reaching out to family and friends and interviewing them about their tips and best practices for all things related to good health.

Needless to say, I’m excited and humbled to have this opportunity. But even more excited for the chance to learn from others along the way on this journey. I appreciate your honest feedback offline, comments online, and support!

Here we go!

A Better Way to Tie Your Shoes

Posted: July 23, 2012 by Nathan Kam in Random Raves & Rants
Tags: ,

I happened to come across this video from a TEDTalk back in 2005 and had to share it. I’ll never tie my shoes or any knot the same way again. Brilliant! 😉