Saturday, September 13, 2014

Aloha Oahu


The loveliest fleet of islands that has anchored in any ocean- Mark Twain

 

Michael Jackson.
And Elvis Presley.
And Bruno Mars and me.
Oh and Magnum PI, too.
Do you know what we have all had in common?
Well it’s not dancing and it’s not singing
Yeah, I’ve heard that Tom Selleck sing.
No, what we have in common is that at one time or another we have all come under the spell of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Waikiki, North shore. Hanauma Bay. Emerald seas. Diamond Head. Yes, Oahu is truly a land of enchantment.

Known as “The Gathering Place”, Oahu plays host to some 5 million tourists every year. And this year my wife and I had the pleasure of being part of that assembly of people enjoying some island charm. My wife and I went to celebrate our anniversary and were joined by our family, 17 in all. Almost two weeks experiencing the big city of Honolulu and the beauty of the North Shore. Together we enjoyed some great times, great ocean fun and of course some great food.
So let’s talk food.


Let's start with Shave Ice
Story goes that this treat came with Japanese workers who immigrated to the Hawaiian Islands and brought this traditional dessert where they would shave ice from large blocks of ice using Japanese swords.
Very cool.

Though you won’t see swords a swinging anymore, this dessert is still made by shaving a block of ice rather than using the crushed ice as they do here in the mainland. The fine, snow like ice absorbs the syrups making a taste sensation that will have you craving for more.
And I encourage you to do so.

Matsumoto’s in Haleiwa makes their syrups on premises. Bikini Beach Cafe hit the right spot on a hot day in Honolulu. And the Old Sugar Mill in Waialua has natural flavors to add to their mix. You can find local flavorings like guava, strawberry, pineapple, coconut cream and lychee.
I don’t know if it’s possible to buy a bad shave ice. These three are the ones we had a chance to visit and they were great.
 
Oh, if you like you can order your shave ice cones with vanilla ice cream which is scooped into the bottom. Or you can get it with sweetened condensed milk drizzled over the top.
Several of us did so. Several times.

Now Let’s Talk Spam
Can you keep a secret? Just between you and me.
I like Spam
But I go a little incognito shopping for it in my hometown. You know sunglasses, hat, and fake mustache. But in Hawaii, you can come out of the tin and go public! In fact besides Hawaii, Spam is a staple across the Pacific. For example it is estimated on average each person on Guam consumes about 16 tins of Spam per year with Hawaii close behind. The residents of the state of Hawaii consume the most Spam per capita in the United States.

Sometimes called Hawaiian Steak, Spam was first introduced during the Second World War when fresh meat was difficult to get to soldiers on the front. Soldiers then referred to Spam as Special Army Meat. Surplus in supplies led to an integration of the pork shoulder meat into local diets.

In Hawaii, Burger King and McDonalds restaurants each feature spam dishes on their menu. I had a breakfast Spam biscuit at the Golden Arches. And there is a larger Spam breakfast offered that came with rice. At a local café I had fried Spam with 2 eggs over medium and toast. Haute cuisine, my friends. So when in Oahu, don’t be afraid to try a Spam dish. You're on vacation, think inside the tin.

And now the Ahi Poke Nachos
This was one of the great dishes we had while we were in Oahu and we had it at the Moana Surfrider Hotel. Also known as the First Lady of Waikiki, the Moana Surfrider is a famous historic hotel on the island of Oahu.
Built in the late 1800’s as the first hotel in Waikiki, the Moana opened its doors to guests in 1901. The first guests were a group of Shriners who paid $1.50 per night for their rooms.
Try finding coffee in Waikiki for that price today.

We went on the recommendation of a friend to sip mai tais at the hotel’s beachside restaurant. We did and accidentally discovered their Ahi Poke Nachos. Never having tried one before and feeling a bit adventurous after seeing it on the menu we decided to dive into one. Their dish is served as a pupu or appetizer but was large enough to feed both my wife and I as a meal. In a word, they were spectacufabulous. My taste buds were doing a luau, they were so happy.

The Ahi Poke Nachos are made with fresh island Ahi, avocado, Maui onions, bonito flakes, nori and generously dressed on top with sriracha aioli and sweet kabayaki. All on a bed of house made fried wonton chips.
Must have. Must eat. Must go.


And on to Shrimp Trucks
Shrimp is my one weakness. The North shore in Ohau happens to be loaded with food trucks with shrimp being the predominant dish offered.

The icon of all Oahu’s food trucks is Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. Being one of the oldest and most written about trucks, it certainly gets a lot of hype. So for visitors from around the world coming to the island, it is practically tradition to make the pilgrimage and do honors. You’ll spot the Giovanni’s truck right off. The white truck is graffitied up by fans from near and distant lands who came prepared with sharpies in hand.

Their signature dish is the garlic shrimp. Lotsa butter. Lotsa garlic. Lotsa large shrimp. What’s not to love? Keep in mind they are in shell so expect a messy meal. But this is one savory dish. Giovanni’s also serves a lemon butter shrimp and a hot and spicy shrimp dish that comes with a no refund guarantee if you find it too hot.. Giovanni’s is very good, but not bomb. You have to go because it is an icon and you don’t want to miss an experience. But don’t miss out on what the other north shore trucks have to offer because there’s plenty.

We enjoyed other truck fare from vendors parked alongside Giovanni’s who are all located on Kamehameha Highway in Haleiwa. Other truck fare we enjoyed included hamburgers at VJ’s Dogs and Burgers. They are genuine Maui grass fed beef and these burgers were bomb. We had a short wait while it was prepared but it was worth the wait. Say to hi to Sara. She rounds out the dining experience with great customer service. Then on to Zane's Simply Shrimp where we enjoyed the coconut shrimp and fish and chips. They came in tasty, generous portions, but a bit on the oily side. And there was the ahi poke at the Okina Café that my daughter ordered. Simply wonderful! We worked our way through all these truck vendors. Then we started over and did it all again.

The next time you’re in Oahu, stop by. And don’t forget the sharpie.

Ted's Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie
I’m a pie guy. I’m a chocolate guy. And now I’m a haupia guy.
Ted gets a standing O for bringing these flavors together into what is one GREAT pie. Haupia is a coconut milk based creamy dessert that is actually a stiff pudding. Ted’s flaky, buttery crust is filled with a layer of rich, smooth dark chocolate custard cream, then filled with another layer of haupia topped with whipped cream. Oh yum! We were recommended to try this pie while on the island and with all our business we almost missed it. But an alert daughter saw them and brought back a couple of pies for all to enjoy. Again, thank you daughter. Somebody raised you right.
You can find Ted's Pies at their restaurant or at select area markets.

They make a great dessert. An even greater main course. I even had a slice for breakfast.

Oahu
The island is called paradise and indeed it was for us. We ate like Hawaiian kings and queens. We surfed its ocean curls. We swam with turtles. Snorkeled and hiked Manoa Falls. We were mesmerized by a lightning storm. And we were held in awe watching the sun draw it's day to an end over the Pacific. With all the laughter and fun and activities, in the end Hawaii was about making connections. Making connections with the ones we love in mind and heart and soul. Weaving the threads that bind us to one another and strengthening what we mean to each other. This can and should happen wherever we live and are. For us, we had the pleasure of Oahu being part of that experience.
Aloha

 
 
 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Taco Truck Tacos

"Food is music inside the body, and Mexican food is a band of Mariachis"
                                                                                          -Pelagia
 
 
I never met no taco I didn’t like.  In fact, I’m headed out to buy a couple of them right now.  Not just any tacos but arguably some of the best tacos I have eaten.  And they make and serve them straight from a taco truck. Are you in?

Did you know that the original taco truck always carried a bottle of castor oil to help patrons with those delicate moments when bowels refused movement? Back in 1866 the food truck was called a chuck wagon and probably didn’t even serve tacos.  Designed to provide a proper cooked meal for long cattle drives that could take months at a time, the chuck wagon offered such fare as  beans, coffee, salt pork and greasy cloth wrapped bacon.

About 1900, food wagons showed up in big cities like New York to service night-time workers. This began a trend that spread across the country to towns and cities everywhere where these mobile kitchens provided hot, affordable meals to people where they worked. 

 Today the food wagon industry has evolved to where a gamut of culinary choices from the simple, gourmet and even exotic can be found. Many are at stationary sites, others rotate their locations and still others notify you daily of their arrival to the musical strains of “La Cucaracha”.  Yes, one can find some fine eating at your friendly neighborhood food truck.

Which brings me back to the best tacos I’ve ever had. 

The name of the truck is San Pancho’s Tacos. And you can find their mobile kitchen parked at 491 Bayshore Blvd in front of Lowes Hardware in San Francisco.  Sal and Ivonne started their food truck business in 2008 to follow their dream of being business owners but because of full time employment and schedules they had to give up that dream for 2 ½ years.  In 2010 they both made a hard decision to give up their jobs to go full time as cook and owners of San Pancho’s Tacos.

Mexican food is just a big flirt with our senses, don’t you think? The aromas awaken your hunger. The palate of colors catches your eyes. The food demands that you engage it hands on.  And the flavors dance with your taste buds till you cry out “Caramba!”  And this is what makes the food at San Pancho’s rock.    Mexican cuisine is part of their family heritage.  Sal’s love for food was kindled as he saw his mother cooking for their large family.

Today you can taste the influence of her kitchen skills through the food that Sal prepares. Ivonne is a gracious person who makes you feel like a guest at her kitchen.

Traditional tacos are usually sold with two corn tortillas. Sometimes that works for me and sometimes it doesn’t depending how dry the corn tortillas are.  At San Pancho’s they are always fresh.  But here Sal and Ivonne serve them in a way I’ve never found before. Ask for your tacos “San Pancho’s style” and besides a great array of fixings on top, you’ll find cheese melted between the two corn tortillas bonding them into a type of quesadilla taco.  Fantástico! Each one served is like a work of art. 

By the way in Mexico, Pancho is a nickname for Francisco. As Sal and friends sat around one day here in the City debating names for the new business the name “San Pancho’s” was born. 

Some of the best tacos I’ve had and they’re right here at Sal and Ivonne’s mobile kitchen called San Pancho’s Tacos.  They are available for catering. 

If you come out, let me know ahead of time and maybe I’ll join you. I’m always up for a taco trip.

Salud!
 
San Pancho's Tacos
491 Bayshore Blvd.
San Francisco, CA
(415) 275-1520

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year 2014


“For unto us a child is born…” Isaiah 9:6

  “The pleasure of a great meal is doubled when shared with one whose company you treasure”- Pelagia

 “Your smile is the best curve to make one’s life staright”- Pelagia
 
 
 
Happy MMXIV!
That’s how our friends in ancient Rome would write it, otherwise known as the 2014th year of  Anno Domini Did you know that the earliest recorded festivities celebrating a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years? And did you further know that the Ball dropping at 1 Times Square in New York City was first held on December 31, 1907 to welcome 1908?
Can you name the two years that the Times Square Ball didn’t drop since that initial drop in 1907 until today?
Try 1942 and 1943.
But let’s look at  2013.  How was yours?
Mine was fast. Very. Fast.
It was like Time sat behind the wheel of my life’s sedan with a lead foot. With eyes wide I watched as a passenger as life blurred by like telephone poles on the side of the road.
No excuses here but was I surprised to see that my last blog post was in May. Between a new job and moving and traveling and medical matters and family events and etcetera, 2013 was gone in a blink of an eye.
That doesn’t mean I havent been eating. I have. I simply havent been writing about eating. But while eating I’ve also been musing. So I wanted to take a moment and share some musings of mine on food and love and friends and family as we close out 2013 and step into 2014.
 

You are going to hear a lot about New year resolutions. Positive life changes. Exercise.  Better behaviors. New starts.  But as a Marriage and Family Therapist I’m going to share with you a resolution that is simple, achievable and a recipe for bringing cheer to life. 2013 was the year that unto us a grandaughter was born. I remember the morning this holiday season when our daughter was leaving for the long drive  home after Christmas.  Her baby, my grandaughter needed to be fed prior to departure abd I held our little princess in my arms bottle feeding her around 4 a.m.  Yes, 4 a.m. She drank hungrily but had stopped feeding for just a moment, locking eyes with mine and smiled. I had forgotten how in love one falls all over again while holding a new grandchild. Babies are truly the kiss of God’s sweet grace. But that moment reminded me of a simple truth that carries across every year. A recipe if you will for good cheer in 2014.
 
 
 All our meals and fine dining and exploration of recipes and restaraunts lose substance unless shared with others.  Friendship with food is the secret to life’s  balanced diet.  In 2014, take the hand of those in your circle of life and together enjoy the world of food, cheer and song. Your life and theirs will be better for it. And don’t forget that your smile is the one curve that will help make your world straight.
 
 
 
 
Thank you to all of you here and abroad who have been a part of my readership.  To all of you I wish a wonderful and magical New Year.
Próspero 2014!
Prosit Neujahr
Feliz Ano Nuevo 2014!
Chu Shen Tan
Che il tuo 2014 sia pieno di tranquillita' e serenita'
Happy New Year!!!

 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Around the World in 49 Miles


“I love to travel but I hate to arrive” - Albert Einstein

If you're afraid of butter, use cream.” - Julia Child 

 

I have a question for you.
Let’s play pretend for just a bit. If you could go to any three places in the world, where would you go? Travel and accommodations all paid for. That’s right, let’s say I found you the money to go. Okay, that’s the pretend part.
So where would you go? Italy? Nepal? Asia? Stay domestic?
Just in case your travel plans are a bit delayed, I want to tell you about a 49 square mile area here in northern California where you can experience the culture, language and cuisine of countries from all over the world.
San Francisco.

The City by the Bay is home to about 112 different spoken languages and as such home to a diversity of culture and cuisine that can give you a sense of travel all while chillaxing in a limited area. San Francisco has long been a place where creative genius has found expression across a range of venues. Consider Santana, the Grateful Dead and Journey.  You can’t forget the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and Lombard Street. Then there’s the fortune cookie, sour dough bread, Ghirardelli chocolate and the Mission burrito.
 
In my next series of posts I’m going to share some of the City’s hot spots for food and fare. Some are destination spots and some are neighborhood favorites. All of them are places where people have converted their dreams into reality through creative genius, hard work and a little luck. So join me as we go explore and travel around the world in 49 square miles.

 
First stop: Mitchell's Ice Cream
I've always supported the idea of starting dinner with dessert. And Mitchell's ice cream is the dessert to start it with. I think I know why; 16% butterfat.
 
Established in 1953, Mitchell's is a family owned business located in San Francisco's Mission district. Their story starts in 1865 when the Mitchell family moved to San Francisco to start a dairy farm. Later in 1913, Mrs. Mitchell had an apartment building built which would face demolition in 1947 when the City of San Francisco  wanted to make room for street expansion. The Mitchell family fought the plans and miracle of miracles, the City agreed to jack the building up and turn it sideways to fit the expoansion plans. Yes, miracles have happened.  Then in 1952, two Mitchell brothers chose to use an empty storeroom to make their dream come true.  They opened an icream shop and now you know the rest of their story.
 
After all these years they have always had only the one shop. And they still hand make their ice cream fresh in the shop almost every day. Mango is their crowd favorit. Mexican Chocolate is my newly discovered flavor.  But the best I've tried so far is Caramel Praline. Yum and double yum.
And did I mention the 16% butterfat?
 
Stop by & visit the San Francisco landmark:
688 San Jose Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 648-2300
 
 




 
 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Charleston Chow


Have you ever time traveled?
I have.
Sounds strange, doesn't it? But go figure.  There we were.  My wife and I were sitting in a horse drawn carriage riding down this city’s cobbled streets; passing homes and churches that have stood since before the American Revolution. Founded in 1670, some of this city’s citizens would go on to sign the Declaration of Independence.   This was where the first shots of the civil war took place and in this city, a black man named Barack Obama stood on a second floor balcony addressing a crowd, asking for their votes to become the next President of the United States.  They would. He did.

Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina.
But here’s another thing you need to know about this city.
The food is fantastic. 
Charleston’s culinary heritage has been forged over time by the diverse influences of French, Caribbean, African and Anglo-Saxon dishes.  
The result is a unique fusion genre called “Low Country Cuisine”.

So much fine dining to explore but alas, all we had was a week in Charleston.  But I didn’t let the time go to waste.
So here are a few of the highlights.

 82 Queen
(843) 723-7591
82queen.com
This restaurant is named after its address. If you are ever in this city and you only have time to try one dish.  Try the She Crab Soup and try it here. She Crab Soup is a Charleston signature dish and restaurants will offer their own version. 82 Queen’s version is a bisque made with blue crab meat, fish stock, crab roe, butter, shallots, heavy cream and their special seasonings. Garnish with a splash of sherry. Amazing! 
And the Carolina Crab CakeFried blue crab patties with roasted garlic and lemon tartar. Unlike other places, the cakes here have less than 10% filler. Amazing all over again. 
By the way, the web site says they’ll ship that soup direct to your door. 
Mmm, mmm good!


 Jestine’s Kitchen
251 Meeting St.
(843) 722-7224
If I had the time I would slowly eat my way through their menu.  
Jestine’s Kitchen is true southern home cooking.  True soul food. 
Our waitress was the greatest.  
I can’t remember her name but you’ll know her by her attitude and sass. If you see her, say “hello”. 
But don’t make her mad.


Refrigerator pickles awaited us at our table. Our sides included sweet mashed potatoes and black eyed peas. For our main entree we had the fried chicken which is their house specialty. 
Crispy crust, hot and tasty.  Large serving, too.
The fried okra was superb. 
The fried green tomatoes with sweet pepper relish were incredible. 
You may have noticed a pattern in my use of the word, “fried”.

The sweet tea was perfectly sweetened. Served in a generous container, I drained it and had a second. Like crack in a glass. Their menu has a section for Greens where they say, “Salad with mixed baby greens and what got picked this morning”.  Love it. Leave room for dessert. They have a specialty that you will not want to miss. Jestine’s Coca Cola Cake.  Yes, they make it with cola.  Sweet, moist and richly chocolate.
It’s the real thing.

Dunkin' Donuts
Friends have raved about these coffee shops for years.  
Visited my first one in Charleston. Now I'm a raver.   
I ordered a cup of their freshly brewed coffee. But here's the difference. They add the cream and sugar for you. 
Real cream.  
And just the right amount of sweet.  I’d be a regular if there was one nearby. 
By the way, DD now offers a breakfast sandwich featuring bacon and eggs on a glazed donut. 
Dunk that in your cup!


So if you ever find yourself in Charleston, enjoy yourself. 
Do a little time traveling.
But remember, when it comes to good eating, there’s no time like the present.
Now go explore.