Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Foodie Visit

I have to apologize for the delay in getting out this latest post. Suffice to say life has been interesting and challenging.

My dear friend, Tina Ho Wing, from LA and her daughter, Elisa, were here for a short visit Tina's graduated from a culinary school, has been a buyer for Wolfgang Puck's Food Network shows and is a culinary arts instructor at an LA high school. Tina has VERY discerning tastes and is a wicked cook and baker although very humble and down to earth about it all.

Tina's been to Hawai'i many times since her Mom is from here and she has an extensive network of local family and friends. From the airport I proffered Nico's Fish Market, Sam Choy's BLC or Young's Fish Market. Without a moment's hesitation Tina opted for Young's. This is the best direct-from-the airport choice for ex-pats or anyone who loves Hawaiian food. While Tina reminded me that L and L is populating the mainland with new Hawaiian Barbecue franchises we agreed that there's still something to be said for laulau freshly made and freshly steamed. I admit that I haven't been to a pa'ina lately and have gotten by on frozen laulau. Young's reminded us of how superior the real deal is. The juices from the laulau practically spurted out when we cut into the bundles with a fork. It had the perfect ratio of pork to luau leaves. It's no wonder Young's is the best place to go on O'ahu for Hawaiian food if you don't have a luau/pa'ina in your near future.

The second day was my choice. It was a delicious dilemma. We narrowed our options down to a plate lunch but of course it had to be something a bit out of the ordinary, likely from that new food genre of gourmet plate lunch. Although Sen. Barack Obama recently gave a nod to Zippy's and Rainbow, I wanted something more. I'd tried Kelvin Ro's baked goods before at KCC so I checked out Diamond Head Market and Grill ("DHMC") a day before Tina was to come in. It was one of those, where have I been all this time, moments. I know, I know, people will say, "What??? You are only discovering this place, now?"

DMBC is a small storefront on Monsarrat Ave. It's divided into a smallish deli on the left and a plate lunch counter on the right. Kelvin Ro, formerly the owner/chef at Kahala Moon, is the owner/chef of DMBC and does catering on the side. We loved the myriad and imaginative choices for entrees, sides and desserts on the Deli side in particular: from duck confit to take home and heat for a special dinner to mochiko salads in plastic clamshell containers. The desserts were alluring: Lemon Crunch Cake (just like Alexander Young Hotel's but with the addition of a bright lemony filling), Liliko'i Cheesecake (Tina's comment was that while it tasted "tropical", truthfully, not that much of that distinct passion fruit flavor) and about a dozen other offerings. Maybe the most intriguing of the plate lunches was the Kim Chee Fried Rice for breakfast which Tina will save for a future visit.

From Waikiki we went on up Tantalus Drive to the Gift Shop at the Contemporary Art Museum. We intended to have tea and yet another dessert from their award-winning Cafe but unfortunately were too full to eat another bite. The grounds are beautifully kept with a spectacular view of Diamond Head. Don't forget to spray yourself with bug spray at the Entrance because the mosquitoes can be bothersome.

The last day of Tina's visit we decided to check out the restaurants at McCully Shopping Center. Just a bite to eat because Tina and Elisa had been feted at Nobu's (!) by her cousin, Dr. Edward Ho, and his gracious wife, the night before. I highly recommended Phuket Thai to Tina based on my past pleasant experiences with both of their restaurants. That turned out to be Tina's pick. So glad we went there because it was the perfect ending to her visit for us. We shared the special of Thai Green Curry Chicken with Green Papaya Salad, Sticky Rice (absolutely critical) and Thai Iced Coffee. It was exactly the kind of light meal we both craved and it was perfectly executed.

I made a Thai Red Curry Pork at home a couple of days after our shared meal and included some fresh bamboo shoots from the Kailua Farmer's Market. I've posted about this little gem of a food find before. The market is held in the parking lot next to Kailua Intermediate School on Thursdays at 9 a.m. Bamboo shoots have to be boiled for 20 minutes in water to extract the bitterness but the resulting flavor is outstanding and the texture is much more crisp than the canned product.


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