And I Can Cook, Too

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

February 26, 2006
Dinner Date

Last night my husband took me on a date to Bacci, our favorite little Italian place. Over Shrimp with Lime and Feta, Lobster Ravioli in Cream Sauce, Puttanesca, and Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, we discussed the past, and what had gone wrong. We discussed the present, and if there was a way to change. We discussed the future, and what a move might mean. But mostly we discussed the Shrimp with Lime and Feta.

Kristin’s Version of Shrimp with Lime and Feta (On a Grill)

6 Jumbo Shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. Lemon Flavored Olive Oil
¼ c. Feta Cheese
5tsp. Lime Juice, divided
6 thinly slice pieces of Lime
4 Mint Leaves, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine the olive oil, 3 tsp. of the lime juice and salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and marinate for at least 20 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the marinade and shake to remove excess oil. Place on a medium high grill for 5-8 minutes (or until done), turning once. Arrange shrimp on a plate in a fan patter, with the tails touching and all going the same direction. Sprinkle the shrimp with the remaining lime juice, feta, and mint leaves. Decorate each shrimp with a twisted slice of lime. Drizzle with more olive oil if desired.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I Won’t Have What She’s Having
There is nothing more aggravating than inviting someone over for dinner and receiving a scroll of food aversions. I have encountered a vegan who is allergic to wheat and “avoiding soy”. So, no meat, no fish, no dairy, no stock soups, no gelatin, no pasta, no bread, AND NO SOY PRODUCTS. Don’t accept a dinner invitation! Eat at home! Come over for Scrabble later!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Olympic Gold
Feb. 23, 2006
The caviar party postponed due to Walters schedule, the rest of the gang decided that a Woman’s Figure Skating Finals Dinner was in order. We agreed that each household would bring a dish representative of the Olympic Games. Sarah immediately announced her intention to make pizza to honor Italy. Jen quickly called dibs on a Caesar Salad. What clever side dish could I come up with?

Savory Olympic Pineapple Rings On The Grill
1 Fresh Pineapple
1tbsp. Lemon Flavored Olive Oil
1 tsp. Rosemary, finely chopped
12 oz Orange Juice
1 sm. can Chicken Broth
2 tbsp Butter
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Salt to taste

In separate pots, reduce the chicken broth and the orange juice by ½. Combine broth and orange juice, add the black pepper and reduce to ½ again. Add butter and reduce until the sauce reaches a thick, syrupy consistency. Meanwhile, Peel, core and slice the pineapple into rings ¾” thick. Brush with the olive oil and sprinkle with the rosemary. Place on a medium heat grill and cook, turning once, for ten minutes or until soft. Pour the juice mixture on to a large oval plate. Place three of the rings side by side along the top of the plate; arrange the remaining two under them. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Farewell, Aloha
Feb. 20, 2006
Hawaii’s a great place to visit, but it can be a tough place to live. I’ve always a love-hate relationship with it. I love the beauty, the weather, my ocean-front home, my ocean-front apartment, wearing flowers in my hair, my fabulous crew of friends, and, well, jetting off to Maui for the weekend. But I have struggled with the 6000 mile distance from my family, the small town mentality, the stigma of being a “suckin’ haole” (no good white person), and the lack of theatre, music, and, well, restaurants. I’ve hoped to move for years, and if I divorce, I will. My husband’s job is the reason we’ve been here so long.

This week my husband called from a business trip on the mainland with the announcement that his job position is being re-located to the East Coast by the end of 2006. Suddenly, marriage or not, moving back to the mainland is no longer just a “theoretically great” idea. Faced with my new reality, I have to ask myself: how do I really feel about leaving Hawaii?

I think I’ll have a Mai Tai.

Trader Vic’s Original Mai Tai

1 ounce light rum
1 ounce gold rum
1/2 ounce orange curaçao
1/2 ounce Orgeat (Almond Syrup)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce dark rum

Shake all but the dark rum with ice. Strain into old-fashioned glass. Top with the dark rum. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Custards Last Stand

Feb. 19, 2006
For the first course of my dinner with Lora, I chose to re-create a recipe for Lettuce Soup over Bacon-Onion Custard. In an effort to lighten the dish up a bit, I decided to use egg substitute instead of whole eggs. Challenge number one was clear: how to make custard on the grill? I toyed with many ideas: putting the raw custard in ramekins and creating a ban marie on the top shelf of the grill, using a pie tin and baking a frittata, but then I thought, “Hey! I’ve got a egg poaching pan! Simply put the custard in the egg dishes and poach it!” It was a foolproof plan.

Confident, I dug in. Once the bacon-onion custard was blended, I filled the poaching pan with water and placed it on the grill. When it came to a boil, I turned down the heat to a simmer. Smiling, I poured in my custard. And watched as it leaked through the holes in the bottom of the egg dishes into the simmering water. Undaunted, I decided that the remaining layer of bacon and onion would be an ample barrier to prevent additional leakage. In went more custard. And out it went again. Taking the pan off the heat, I quickly threw together more raw custard. At this point I could clearly see that some egg had actually poached in each of the dishes, and that would surely prevent any more leaking. With the pan back on the flame, I poured in a third round of custard. And watched as a churning water/boiled egg combo shot up through the dish rack over the eggcups and flooded the cooking custard. I knew that the custard and I were finished. I needed a new plan.

Lettuce Soup with Bacon-Onion Omelet
(serves 6)

For the soup:
Cooking Spray
2 heads Green Leaf or Butter Lettuce, coarsely chopped
½ medium Sweet Onion, coarsely chopped
2 bulbs Garlic, coarsely chopped
32 oz. fat free Chicken Broth
6 oz fat free Condensed Milk
Salt & Pepper to taste

For the omelet:
¾ c. Egg Substitute
¼ c. Milk
¼ c Sweet Onion, fine dice
4 slices Bacon

Turn the grill to medium heat. Coat a small stockpot with cooking spray, and add the onions and garlic. Sautee till soft. Add the lettuce, a little at a time, waiting until each addition has wilted slightly to add more. Once all of the lettuce has wilted, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until lettuce is completely soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Using a stick blender, puree the soup. Add the condensed milk. Return to the heat and simmer, (do not boil.)

Place a large frying pan on the gill and allow it to heat. Add the bacon, and cook, turning once, until it is crisp. Remove the bacon and let cool. Chop into small pieces. Remove all but a trace of the bacon fat from the pan. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Wipe the pan clean. Once cooled, combine the bacon and onion with the egg substitute, milk, salt and pepper, and whip with a fork until blended. Replace the pan on the grill over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add the omelet mix, tilting the pan until the bottom completely covered. As the eggs cook, use a spatula to gently lift the edges of the omelet up to allow raw egg to slide underneath. When the omelet is almost cooked through, turn it over. Rather than fold the omelet once, roll it over and over until the entire omelet is rolled. Remove from heat. Cut the omelet into 6 slices and place each slice in a soup bowl. Cover with hot soup, and serve.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Arugula Stuffed Tomatoes On A Grill

1 Beefsteak Tomato
1 bulb Garlic
2 tbsp shredded Parmesan Cheese
2 Sage leaves
1 slice whole wheat bread
1/2 c tightly packed Arugula
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut the tomato in half horizontally. Using a melon baller or sharp spoon, scoop out the seed and some of the flesh, leaving about 1/3 inch flesh all around.

In a food processor, combine the remaining ingredients and pulse until they are well blended and finely chopped. Scoop the mixture in to both halves of the tomato.

Place the tomatoes on the top rack of a 350 grill, close the lid, and grill for 10-15 minutes. Be sure to check your grill temperature a few times so that it doesn’t get too hot.

Renewal of Vows

February 19, 2006
As I look back at the month, I realize that when I am alone in my apartment, I indulge myself by sinking into the pit of despair. I’ve treated my depression with nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches, (which, yes, were done on the grill, but still), microwaved frozen dinners, pre-packaged salad blends, and, I’ll admit it, Morningstar Farms Corn Dogs. Clearly, something’s gotta give.

As of today I am renewing my vow to live off the grill. As a sign of my commitment I have invited Lora to join me for dinner tonight, which I will cook completely on the grill come rain or shine. Unless big gusts of wind make it impossible. Wish me luck.
Feb. 19, 2006
The above ground imu has arrived! It is fabulous! Large enough to roast a 100 lb. pig! Now all we need is the pig!
Feb. 19, 2006
I am discouraged by the following conversation, which took place at R. Fields, the only gourmet food store on Oahu:

Me: Can you tell me why this tin of caviar is discounted?

First Sales Person: Um, no. I don’t know.

Me: Can you tell me why this tin of caviar is discounted?

Second Sales Person: Um, no, not really. Maybe it’s close to its expiration date. But if we’re selling it, it isn’t expired.

Me: Can you tell me anything about this tin of caviar?

Second Sales Person: Like what?

Me: Well, what color are the eggs?

Second Sales Person: I’m not really sure. Maybe pink?
Feb. 18, 2006
Last night Kim and I went to see our friend Jessie play Charlotte in a production of Charlotte’s Web. Upon our arrival at the theatre we discovered that we’d gotten the time wrong, and the play wouldn’t start for a half an hour. Not being the type to stand around and wait for thirty minutes, I quickly weighed our options. We could stand around and wait for thirty minutes, or we could race to the nearest watering hole, power drink, race back, and arrive just before curtain. Kim was dubious. “Look,” I reasoned, “five minutes there, five minutes to order, fifteen minutes to drink, five minutes back. It can be done.” Convinced, we were off. We arrived at Haleiwa Joe’s to find the parking lot crammed, and a line of people out the door. While Kim looked for parking, I went in to start the futile search for a seat at the bar. Just as I was about to call uncle, I heard my name. Right behind me sat Anne and Richard, not only with a table, but just about to leave! It was at this moment that I decided to re-think my stance on the existence of God. With many a glare from the line of people at the door, the table traded hands.

Kim and the waitress arrived, and we explained our plight. We now had 20 minutes, 15 to drink and pay, 5 to get to the show. Once the waitress assured us it could be done, Kim raised the stakes by order Black and Blue Ahi. This time I was skeptical, but she was caught up in the moment and sure we had the time. Within three minutes our drinks were served, and much to my amazement the Ahi arrived before ten had passed. With 5 luxurious minutes to spare, we sipped our gin, savored our sashimi, paid the bill, and were off. As the curtain rose I sighed with contentment. It just goes to show what you can accomplish if you’re determined.
Valentines Day
Feb. 14, 2006
Clear that I was not going to spend my Valentine’s at a crowded, over-priced restaurant locked in the throes of romance, I invited Kim and Sarah to my apartment for dinner. My plan was to wow them with three courses of grilled amazement. On the 14th, however, the gusts of rain were so strong that grill use was impossible. When I mentioned to Ann that I would have to change my plans, she immediately offered the use of her beautiful kitchen. “Well”, I said, “If I’m cooking in your kitchen, I’m cooking for you.” Thus was conceived a romantic dinner for 5.

The chilly weather inspired me to make something I rarely do in Hawaii: soup. I always enjoy soup on the mainland, but never think to eat it in the heat of Hawaii. Kims favorite is New England Clam Chowder, so with her in mind on to the menu it went. I followed the soup with Curry Rubbed Lamb Chops with Cranberry Orange Chutney. A Spinach, Strawberry, and Gorgonzola Salad and Brown Rice with Garbanzo Beans, Lemon, and Black Pepper made a complete meal.

As I was preparing our dinner, the doorbell rang and in walked a female Barber Shop Quartet. I hid in the kitchen as they sat Ann down, handed her a rose, and began their serenade. The delight on Anne’s face as the group sang was a beautiful sight to see. Perhaps romance isn’t dead after all.

Kim and Sarah arrived and the champagne was poured. After a brief tour through my studio, it was back to the main house for dinner. The soup was delicious, a perfect balance of clamminess and creaminess. The medium rare lamb complimented nicely with the chutney. The salads were ideal side dishes.

As we ate Kim and Sarah and Richard and Ann got to know each other. The conversation turned from the Vice Presidents’ hunting habits to our shared history in improv comedy, to the places we’ve traveled in the world. Romantic? Maybe not. But there was a lot of laughter, and I felt a lot of love. Who needs crowded over priced restaurants when that’s what you have at home?

New England Clam Chowder
2 tbsp. Butter
1 medium Sweet Onion, small diced
2 stalks Celery, small diced
3 tins Chopped Clams
2 Bay Leaves
16 oz. Clam Juice
1 pint Heavy Cream
3 dashes Hot Sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a stockpot, melt the butter and sautee the celery, onion, and bay leaves, until the onion is just starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the clams and stir. Add the clam juice, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the cream, hot sauce, and salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes. Serve.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The other night, the gang was invited around for Red and Jen’s weekly BBQ. Joining us on the lanai was their treasured parakeet, Geoffrey Dingle. Kim and Sarah arrived with Leia the dog and our little family was complete. Geoffrey Dingle is not your everyday parakeet. For one thing, he has his own web site. For another, he has the vocabulary of your average 4-year old. There are few things finer in life than sipping wine on the lanai and listening to Geoffrey yell “Hotstepping Bastard!” at the neighborhood ducks. Needless to say, Jen is fond of her bird.

Kim and Red were the designated chefs for the evening. Steaks and grilled mushrooms were cooking along nicely when the drip pan caught fire. As smoke began to fill the lanai, Big Red turned on the ceiling fans in an effort to dispel it. The fans, however, served the exact opposite purpose, and sucked the smoke into the lanai. Soon it was getting hard to breathe. As Red and Kim tried to control the flames, Jen quickly grabbed Geoffrey and ran into the yard. Sarah quickly grabbed Leia and ran into the yard. I quickly grabbed my wine and ran into the yard. I was immediately praised for my keeping my cool head in a crisis.

To learn more about Geoffrey, go to
Inspired by a Caviar Tart recipe in the January issue of Gourmet, I have decided to throw a Caviar/Vodka party. Where to find good caviar on Oahu...

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Playing With Fire
Feb. 1, 2006
Separating from my husband forced me to ask myself two questions. 1) Can I save a failing marriage? and 2) Where to live? Unable to immediately answer question number one, I decided to focus on question number two. Before I began my housing search, I created list of amenities that I would look for in a home. Nothing fancy, just nice enough to keep me from feeling like a victim. Despite a housing shortage in Hawaii, I was certain to find a place. After all, it’s not like I’m a starving student, or working for minimum wage. Confident that an apartment would be easy to find, I opened the classifieds. I was a fool. As my search progressed, I slowly began crossing items off my list. Eventually, I was down to four criteria: 1) It must be furnished, 2) It must be month to month, 3) It must have a kitchen, and, 4) It must have internet access. Weeks of looking finally confirmed that there is no apartment on Oahu that meets all four. I placed an "oh, what am I going to do" phone call to my friend Derek, who suggested that I look into vacation rentals. So online I went, searching out the perfect, really cheap, vacation rental. Hahahahaha. Meeting all of my outlandish criteria would cost over three thousand dollars per month. For a 300 square foot room. And most of those had no availability. Still, with nothing to lose, I started sending emails asking about monthly rates or specials for Hawaii residents. A day later, I received a message on my phone, "Hello Kristin, this is Anne Marie. I'm responding to your email. I think we know each other." I unknowingly sent an email to friends (whom I clearly hadn't seen in a while). Their recent remodel included an apartment! The lovely studio had it all: right on the water, beautifully furnished, a break on the month-to-month rent, and wireless access. There was only one catch: no kitchen. What to do, what to do? I wanted the apartment, but how could I live indefinitely without a kitchen? Cooking, and eating, is what I do! As I tossed the problem around in my head, I wondered how man cooked food before the dawn of kitchens. The answer, of course, was over an open fire. I knew at once what I had to do. Confident that, if early man could survive on open flame I could too, I raced out to buy a gas grill. Cooking with nothing but a grill had begun. If only question number one was as easy…
Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

Jan. 25, 2006
It was on this day in 1759 that the great poet Robert (Rabbie) Burns was born in Scotland. Known not only for his poetry and his impact on both socialism and liberalism, Rabbie was known also for being a drunken sot. A few years after his death, several of his friends created a ritualized supper to honor their friend. To this day on January 25, Scots around the world celebrate the life and times of the great bard. My friend Kim is no exception. Armed with nothing but our wit and 12 bottles of single malt whiskey, we began.

Randy opened the Burns Supper with the Selkirk Grace.

Some hae meat and canna eat.
Some hae nae meat that want it.
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Randy was promptly toasted with a glass of whiskey. Following the Grace, Kim proudly paraded into the room carrying two large haggises (haggi?), smuggled into the country from England. Kim was promptly toasted with a glass of whiskey. Kim read aloud the poem To A Haggis, after which the haggis was toasted with a glass of whiskey.

It was time to dine. Cock-a-Leekie Soup, Taters and Neeps, traditional Haggis, vegetarian Haggis, were followed by a tasty Tyspy Laird. Mid-way through dinner, Big Red offered us an original poem. Big Red was then toasted with a glass of whiskey. Following dinner, Lora did the honors of presenting The Immortal Memory, an original speech designed to show the relevance of the Bard today. Lora was immediately toasted with a glass of whiskey. At this point in the evening, someone (I think it was Walter) cried out “Wahey!” Walter was toasted with a glass of whiskey.

I’m not completely sure, but The Toast to the Lassies may have come next. Rob delivered an admirable speech on the wonders of women, and the lassies were toasted with a glass of whiskey. In congratulations of a job well done, Rob was toasted with a glass of whiskey. It was up to Robs wife, Shannon, to give the Response to the Toast. Wavering slightly, she did a beautiful job of extolling the virtues of men. We toasted the men with a glass of whiskey and quickly toasted Shannon with a glass of whiskey.

The evening over, we stood to sing Rabbie Burns best-known work:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

It was nice to know that even if we might not remember the end of the evening, we had promised not to forget each other. As we all left the party, I tripped going down the steps. Both I, and the steps, were promptly toasted with a glass of whiskey.

Cock-a-Leekie Soup
1 lg. Onion, chopped
2 lg. Celery Stalks, chopped
4 Carrots, peeled and chopped
1 Roasting Hen
3/4 c Pearl barley
6 Peppercorns,
4 Cloves
6 lg. Leeks, separated, cleaned of any sand, and chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 c Parsley, chopped (use fresh parsley)
1/2 c Prunes, soaked overnight and chopped

Tie the peppercorns and cloves into a sachet.
Place onion, celery, carrot, leeks, barley and sachet into a large stockpot. Rinse chicken, discard any excess fat, and add to pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, skimming top. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour. Remove chicken and debone. Chop the boneless chicken, and return it to the pot. Add salt, pepper, parsley, and prunes. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More Birthday Reveling

Jan. 20, 2006
The day after returning from Kona, my husband and I drove into down for dinner with yet another business associate. Upon arrival at the Sheraton Waikiki where we were to meet our guests, I noticed our friend Big Red sitting at the Sand Bar. Just as the words “There’s Big Red” were coming out of my mouth, I saw that next to him was my friend Vicki, in town from L.A. on business. “And Vicki, “ I said, confused, while looking at Kim and Lora sitting next to her and smiling at me. Just as the words “I wonder what they’re…?” were forming on my lips, everyone jumped up and shouted “Surprise!” I had been had.

The party began with a round of Mai Tais and an embarrassment of gifts. We then marched down the beach to set sail on the Sheraton’s Catamaran Sunset Booze Cruise. As we sailed off, the captain announced that for the next hour and a half all the Mai Tais, Spiked Fruit Punches, and Champagne we could drink were included. Kim immediately dared us to consume our ticket price in drink before the cruise was done. We promised to try. Being out on the water is one of my favorite things, and this was combined with free champagne and the prospect of more whales! I was in heaven.

Ninety minutes later the cruise came to an end, but the revelry did not. Filled with champagne, we wandered down to the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center and the restaurant Okonomiyaki Chibo.

In Japanese, “Okonomi” translates to “your choice”, and “yaki” means to “cook”. Put them together, and you’ve got okonomiyaki, which is sort of a cross between a pizza and an omelet. At Okonomiyaki Chibo, chefs prepare your meal right in front of you, teppan yaki-style. Starting with a basic batter, a pancake like shell is prepared on the teppan grill. Fillings are chosen from a long list of ingredients. While it is open faced it vaguely resembles a pizza, but more batter is poured on the top, and it is flipped over and sealed shut. The whole thing is topped with Okonomiyaki Sauce, which is like a thick Worcestershire sauce, and Japanese mayonnaise. Now, I realize what that sounds like, but I assure you, it’s delicious.

While most of us ordered a traditional-style Okonomiyaki, filled with a combination of scallops, squid, shrimp, sirloin steak, cabbage, green onions, and ginger, Vicki daringly opted for the Pu-monju Okonomiyaki, stuffed with Yaki Soba (fried noodles). Both were absolutely wonderful.

High on wine, sated on Okonomiyaki, my birthday celebration finally came to a close. What a fabulous birthday week it was.

Okonomiyaki at Home

½ c Flour
¼ c Water
1 tsp Japanese Broth (Dashi)
½ tbsp. Yam (Nagaimo), finely grated
½ tsp salt
pinch Baking Soda
1c Cabbage, finely minced
1 tsp Green Onion, finely minced
pinch Pickled Red Ginger (Beni Shoga)
1 Egg

In a bowl, mix together flour, water, and the broth. Add the yam, salt, and baking powder. Mix well and allow it to sit for one hour. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Filling Suggestions
Any type of seafood, cut into small pieces
Any type of meat, cut into thin, small pieces
Any type of vegetables, cut into thin, small pieces.
Japanese Rice Cake (Mochi)

*Kewpie Mayonnaise
*Okonomiyaki Sauce
Seaweed Flakes

Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan on medium heat or set electric skillet to 325°. Lightly oil the cooking surface. Pour ½ of the batter into the skillet, top with the fillings. Pour on the remaining ½ of the batter. Cook until the bottom of the batter is well browned, approximately 5 minutes. Flip the Okonomiyaki and cook the other side until it is browned, approximately another 5 minutes.

*Kewpie Mayonnaise and Okonomiyaki Sauce can be found at

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tips on Truffles

A truffle is a rare, pungent fungus that grows wildly around the roots of oak trees. In Italy and France, truffles are hunted from November to March. Although hunters once used pigs to sniff out the truffles rich, earthy aroma, the pigs did not want to give up their truffles, and hunters have now trained dogs for the job. Both their scarcity and the labor-intensive method of harvesting them make truffles extremely expensive; they can cost up to $900/lb. There are dozens of varieties of truffles, all ranging in size and color. Two of the most common are the White Truffle and the Black Truffle. Black Truffles are found in the Perigord Region of France. They need to be cooked slightly to fully bring out their flavor. White Truffles are found in the Piedmont section of Italy. They are far more pungent than black truffles. They can be eaten raw, and are strong enough to hold up to game meats. Truffles are usually shaved into foods using either a specialty truffle shaver or a rasp. A little goes a long way, and once it’s in your dish you can’t take it out, so start with a little and add to taste.

Infusing either white or black truffles in olive oil makes truffle oil. Truffle oil also comes in white and black, white truffle oil is much more pungent than black. Truffle oil, while not cheap, is significantly less expensive that truffles, and is an excellent way to get the flavor of the truffle without the cost. And as with the actual truffle, a little goes a long way. Truffle oil will use its flavor over time, and as with all oils, truffle oil should be stored in a cool, dark place.

A word to the wise of truffle use: Brillat-Savarin himself called the truffle an aphrodisiac. I’ve seen it make a grown man cry.
The Hotel Next Door
Jan. 20, 2006
Tired of slumming it at Kona Village Resort, one of my husbands’ business associates invited us to dine with he and his wife at the hotel next door. Had the hotel been any other than the Four Seasons we would have declined, but, well, it was the Four Seasons.

The oceanfront Pahu i’a restaurant at the Four Seasons is known for giving non-hotel guests the cheap seats in the back of the room, so we were surprised and pleased to be seated at a prime oceanfront table. As we sipped our wine, we enjoyed the view of whales breaching through the sunset.

After pupus (appetizers) of Pan-Seared Crab Cake with Sweet Corn-Vanilla Sauce and Seared Foie Gras with Caramel Fruit Chutney, I was served the highlight of the evening: Truffle-Butternut Squash Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Shaved Parmesan. Had we been in different company I would have fallen off my chair. As it was it was hard to keep from moaning. The complimenting sweetness of the squash and earthiness of the truffles and mushrooms was downright aphrodisiacal.

Truffle Butternut Squash Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Parmesan
1 ½ qt Chicken Broth
3 tbsp Olive Oil
1 medium Sweet Onion, finely diced
8 oz fresh Wild Mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Dry White Wine
1 14oz box Arborio Rice
1 Butternut Squash, peeled finely diced
1 1/2oz Parmesan Regiano, grated
1/2oz Parmesan Regiano, shaved
1 Black Truffle, for shaving (omit if unavailable)
2 tbsp butter
1-1/2 tbsp Truffle Oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley, for garnish

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Sauté butternut squash for five minutes. Add onions and mushrooms and sauté until soft. Add butter and Arborio rice and stir to coat rice with stir. Add wine, and, stirring, allow the wine to reduce until the pan is almost dry. Add truffle shavings. One cup at a time, add chicken broth into risotto, stirring continually in between ladles and allowing broth to reduce down before the next addition. Continue until all chicken broth is added. Stir in grated Parmesan, truffle oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Top with chopped parsley and shaved Parmasan.
Just Like Living In Paradise
Jan. 13, 2006
The good news? My husband’s corporate retreat was being held in Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii. The better news? My birthday was the same week. The best news? The very low “spousal” rate being offered to those who wished to bring their wives. My bags were packed before the words were out of his mouth. We were off to Kona Village Resort, Hawaii’s only all-inclusive resort destination.

Check in was conducted in an open-air pavilion, without computers, credit cards, or (gasp!) room keys. You’ve heard me right – there are no keys at Kona Village Resort. There are also no telephones, radios, televisions, or electronics of any kind. Lap-top and cell phone use in public is not allowed. Rather than hotel rooms, guests stay in private hales (houses). Ours was the Hawaiian Sands, a two-room suite with an ocean view, and surrounded by enough land and foliage to convince us we were the only people around for miles.

After check-in, we proceeded to the lunch buffet. Needless, to say, I was disappointed to hear the word “buffet”. Having spent years serving them, I avoid them at all cost. My despair turned to delight as we previewed the most stunningly fresh buffet I have ever seen. Las Vegas, step aside. Kona Village Resort has raised the bar. Beautiful salads of spinach, baby lettuces and locally grown micro-greens were followed by equally lovely vegetable offerings: eggplant, asparagus, artichoke hearts, haricots verts, each lightly garnished or dressed with light and flavorful dressings. Pasta salads were presented with creativity and thought. Udon Noodles with traditional garnishes of sesame, fish cake, tamago, and nori competed with tortellini salad served with broccoli and red pepper in the lightest possible black pepper dressing to be my favorite choice. Cold seafood offerings followed the salads. Specialties like Dungeness crab or jumbo shrimp Cocktail took turns on the menu. Oysters, clams, and muscles on the half shell were offered every day, as was Ahi sashimi, which was the beautiful deep red of highest quality belly cut. Fruit soup joined such local fruits as rambutan, dragonfruit, and the requisite pineapple. Hot dishes ranging from Ahi Burgers and Baked Ham En Croute to Moussaka and Rosemary Rack of Lamb were available for those who wanted heartier fare. Finally the dessert table offered a large variety of sweets including Macadamia Nut Pie, Vanilla Mousse, and an Ice Cream Sundae Bar.

Other than eating, my primary activity for the week was whale watching. Late winter/early spring is whale season in Hawaii; thousands of them migrate there every year. During the winter months on the Big Island you can see them every day, slapping, breaching, and diving back into the deep with a flip of their tales. KVR’s Shipwreck Bar provided the perfect location for whale watching, and Barman Corky promised a complimentary drink for every breach we could spot quickly enough for him to turn around and see it. (Fortunately for everyone, whales are fast) Cocktail hour over, we wandered off to dinner. KVR has two dining rooms: Hale Manoa, and their fine dining restaurant, the not-included Hale Samoa. I didn’t find much difference between the two, and opted to have most of our dinners at Hale Moana.

The dining was as fine as we could hope for. Menus changed nightly, and some of our favorites dishes included the Coconut Crusted Scallops, which were perfectly crispy and served with a spicy Thai curry. The Chilled Creamy Cucumber Mint Soup was light and refreshing. Grilled Monchong (pomfret) Over Lobster Fried Rice was surprisingly wonderful, with an unexpectedly generous amount of lobster meat. The Hawaiian Spiny Lobster with Garlic Lime Sauce was sweet and succulent. Each week, the resort offers two alternatives for dining: Paniolo (Cowboy) Night, and the Friday Night Luau. The Paniolo Night was fantastic fun: with live music in the background we dined on falling-off-the-bone BBQ ribs, tender Parker Ranch steaks, and grilled Maine lobsters. Again, the assortment of side dishes was stunning and fresh.

An 8-year resident of Hawaii, I have been to more than my share of Lu’aus, and they are pretty much all the same. Not so at Kona Village Resort. Instead of dried out Teri Chicken and Baked Mahi Mahi, KVR offered a wide variety of sushi, roasted taro (the staple root vegetable of the traditional Hawaiian diet), seared Ahi, and, of course, Kalua Pau’a, otherwise known as roast pig. The Pua’a is salted and laid in an imu (underground oven), covered with banana leaves and roasted over hot lava rocks and kiawe wood. Moist and tender, it is Hawaiian comfort food. Lomi-Lomi Salmon and Fish Lu’au were among the delicious side dishes. Following dinner we were treated to a wonderful performance of dance, chanting, and story telling. KVR boasts it’s Lu’au to be the oldest one on the Big Island, and it is certainly the best I have ever attended.

I highly recommend Kona Village Resort to anyone who is looking for a truly peaceful vacation. The location, and service can’t be beat. And the food, of course, is divine.

Make At Home Kalua Pua’a
5 lb Boneless Pork Butt
3 Tbsp Hawaiian Salt (substitute Kosher Salt if necessary or try Halen Mon Smoked Salt [] and reduce the amount of liquid smoke by ½.)
1 tbsp Liquid Smoke
1 Banana Leaf (substitute 2 whole, unpeeled bananas)
4 Ti Leaves to cover (substitute aluminum foil)

Pre-heat oven to 325°. Liberally stab the roast with a fork. Rub the roast with salt, being sure to rub salt where you have pierced the meat. Rub in the liquid smoke. Either wrap the roast in the banana leaf, or place whole bananas in the pan with the roast. Cover with either Ti Leaves or Aluminum foil. Roast for 3 ½ hours, or until the internal temperature of the meat is 165°. Discard all leaves, shred the meat, and serve hot.

If you’d like your own above ground imu, go to

Sunday, February 12, 2006

On a typical New Year’s Eve, my husband and I would hunker down in our home, sit on the lawn with some friends and neighbors, open a couple of bottles of Billecart Salmon, and watch the Kaneohe Marine Corps’ fireworks display across the bay. This past year, we decided to see how the other half lives and accepted an invitation to dinner at one of Waikiki’s hottest night spots. Although we were a bit concerned about fitting in with the best, brightest, and, well, thinnest folks on Oahu, we decided to give hobnobbing with the cool kids a shot. We spent the day in Waikiki, enjoying a wonderful day of sand, surf, and poolside massage. A quick shower and a change of clothes, and it was time for dinner.

Upon arrival at the restaurant, we discovered that the reservation for our party of six had been misplaced. After a few rounds of “Yes we do” “No you don’t”, it appeared that we had missed the only seating of the evening until a manager arrived. Of course we had a table! It was ready, and it was waiting. There was, however, one remaining disappointment: the dinner that night was a $195 per person pris fixe, which included just one glass of wine. Such a calamity brought on much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, until the manager expertly brought us back down to the ground. Hottest ticket in town…folks dying to get in…best menu anywhere…waiving of the $30 after dinner cover charge…but most of all, promises of special treats for the table. I wondered aloud if the treats would be liquid and, he assured me they would. Soothed, we were finally seated and promptly served an amuse bouche of Ocetra Caviar atop Crème Fraiche on Brioche, paired with a glass of Veuve Clicquot. The Ocetra was absolute perfection, and launched us into a discussion of the pollution of the Caspian Sea, and wondering aloud how much longer we would have caviar to enjoy. Following the Veuve, the manager arrived at our table with a bottle of Franciscan Chardonnay. I don’t normally care for Chardonnay, and this was no exception, but everyone else in our party found it to be a well-rounded Chard with the perfect amount of oak. With our Chard, we had course number one: Lobster Cappuccino. The soup itself was unusually harsh and acidic, but was tamed slightly by the dollop of foamed milk on top. The generous slice of tail meat at the bottom of the bowl was a nice touch, but not enough so to procure the dish any higher accolade than the shrugging of shoulders. We had better luck with Terrine of Foie Gras with Fresh Black Truffle that followed. Served with a traditional balsamic glaze, it was a slice of heaven. Once again, the conversation turned. With the recent changes in European feeding laws, how much longer will we have foie gras? As I vowed to purchase the next full lobe I could find, our chewing slowed as to enjoy the dish just a few moments longer. At this point, a 2003 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir was brought to the table, and with it, Duck Confit en Croute, served with Tarragon Emulsion. As we discussed the over/mis-use of the term emulsion, we bit into flakey pastry, delightfully seasoned confit, and a tarragon emulsion that knocked our socks off. It was an unusual pairing, and a wonderful one. As for pairings, we were thrilled with our Paul Hobbs. It opened quickly and beautifully with a nose of tea and vanilla, had a beautiful deep color, and was wonderful with the food. The wine’s aroma, however, was over shadowed by the distinctive and unmistakable smell of burning hair floating through the dining room. Along with several other tables, we rubbernecked around, half expecting to see someone’s head on fire. Unable to identify the source of the mystery smell, we returned our attention to the table and an herb crusted Chilean Sea Bass with Balsamic Reduction and Frisee. The bass was moist and tender, and a light grill on the frisee added volumes to the flavor of the salad. After a palate cleanser of a lovely Sauterne Sorbet, we were ready for both our next course, and our next wine. We chose a Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon to go with our medallion trio of Bison, Lamb, and Veal with a Pinot/Port Reduction and Ice Wine Infused Demi Glace. The wine was big, bold, and chewy. Unfortunately, so was the bison. Though decidedly more tender and flavorful, the veal was also lukewarm. As we discussed the over/mis-use of the term “infusion”, we discovered that ice wine infused demi-glace is a stunning saucing for a succulent medium rare lamb. Dinner plates were cleared, desert plates were served, and the source of the burning hair smell was revealed! The “Flaming” part of our Flaming Chocolate Raspberry Charlotte was half a brown eggshell drizzled with raspberry liquor and set ablaze. Visually stunning. Aromatically? Several people declared that the smell alone cost their appetite for the dessert. With the smell still in the air, the flavor of the dish was okay, but not much more.

Throughout the evening, I watched as of young, beautiful, skinny, and presumably wealthy singles lined up for admission into the dining room. After dessert, it seemed that the lifting of the barricade was inevitable. Ten o’clock rolled around, and in they came. We tried to blend in. Us: 40-something, fine dining, retirement planning. Them: 20-something, meat marketing, Jaegermeister shooting. They had us out-numbered and we all knew it. Exiting the building, it was impossible not to see the hundreds of people lined up around the block waiting for admission. We ran for the nearest patch of available space we could find. We spent the bewitching hour on Waikiki Beach, watched the fireworks with thousands of others who were ringing in the New Year.

As this New Year’s approaches, I look back and wonder; did we have fun? Yes. Is it an experience I’ll always remember? Yes. Was it worth it? Well…
We did have a very nice time spending New Year’s in Waikiki. But this year, I think I’ll whip up a couple of pupus, open a few bottles of Billecart Salmon, sit on the lawn with my friends and neighbors, and watch the fireworks on the Bay.