Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Last-minute Dinner Party on a Work Night

Lots of the Usual Cigar-Smoking Suspects said the dinner invitation was delivered on too short notice. They got the invite at 2 pm, and couldn't get wine or spirits, cigars or food together by 6 pm.

They missed out! When Chef Jeff, an ER doctor (NOT the sushi chef!) who loves to cook, calls - if you come, you WILL be fed!

It was Wednesday, and as usual, we planned to head to the Honolulu Farmers' Market at the Blaisdell Center. We needed bananas and pickled mango, as well as our usual The Pig and the Lady fix!

The 2 pm phone call changed things a bit. I put the wine in the refrigerator, got out 2 medium-sized and one large container, bought some disposable soup bowls and grabbed some disposable chopsticks

At the Farmers' Market we picked up the fruit we needed, then headed for The Pig and the Lady. Word is spreading about how good the food is, because every seat was taken! But we ordered our food to go. Andrew worried about the soup in our to-go container, but Ted got it home safely by driving like a granny. (No offense to grannies!)

Back at home, we grabbed the wine, bowls and chopsticks, and headed to the Doc's house. We met his friend Gary from SoCal, cracked open the Bonterra organic cab we'd brought, and looked at the poke. Before we could even try to eat it, the Doc handed us paper plates of scallops with capers on air-popped fingerling potatoes. Very good!

At this point, the guys swapped or shared cigars and lit up. Gary asked me if I smoked - maybe something small and vanilla? No way! No flavored cigars for me, and I told him I need to be on vacation and on a nice beach. Then there was foie gras on naan bread or nigiri rice with secret sauce. Excellent. Fresh Kauai prawns with garlic followed - so ono you gotta suck the heads!

I have no photos of this food - I just tucked in and ATE it!

Everyone loved the Bonterra, finished it much too fast, and moved on to other red wines. There was steak with another secret sauce. We needed a rest after that!

The doc said The Pig and the Lady Pho Bo Tai Nam would be our dessert! I headed to the kitchen to heat up the broth, portioned out the rice noodles, onions, herbs, meat and tendon. Ladled out the soup and served it.

Result? Six very happy diners! Gary said he wished he'd had that fragrant, warming soup a couple of weeks ago, when he was sick with the flu. I'm sure it would've helped to heal him!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Last Supper: Plancha Honolulu, and now: Whole Ox

I thought I'd have time to write this before the New Year, but I thought wrong. Life and living it, working and enjoying life got in the way.

I know it takes me a long time to digest things before I can write about them, but this is ridiculous. That second and final supper at Plancha was almost 3 months ago!

Everything was cooked on a plancha - a large metal plate. Plancha was a popup - a short-term restaurant with limited life, hours and seating. We had enjoyed our first dinner there so much, when one of our tablemates offered 2 of his seats for the final seating, we had to return. Once again, it was communal seating, and we said hello to old and new tablemates.

The menu was:
Opihi with papaya seed dressing
Ahi with heirloom beans and salsa verde
Prawns with kochu jang butter and cucumbers
Onaga with peppadew and small tomatoes
Pavlova with fruit

I love opihi, and so does the DH. We shared stories of opihi famine and bounty and of eating them so fresh they might crawl back up your throat, if not chewed well! These were yummy. My favorite was the ahi -along with the beans and olive oil that were so delicious, I could have eaten more of that for the rest of the night! The kochu jang with the prawns was very restrained and just right. DH's favorite was the onaga, which was cooked perfectly. The pavlova came with a raspberry/pomegranate sauce, as there were no lilikoi (passionfruit) to be found.

But I've since found a vine growing in my mother's yard, and have been enjoying lilikoi on toast with The Pig and the Lady kaya, and on ice cream. Even on my oatmeal!

What I liked so much about Chef Bob McGee's cooking at Plancha was that it was NOT sweet. So many local dishes come with such sweet sauces that put me off! Instead, the flavors are restrained, the ingredients locally sourced, and the lamb, seafood and produce just shine!

Which brings us to Chef Bob's latest project, the Whole Ox Deli. As our friend at V Lounge tells us, the name refers to eating the whole animal, nose to tail. There will be smoked meats, charcuterie - bacon, ham, sausage, pate, confit maybe?, sandwiches, butchery classes, whole pig, as well - it all sounds "nokaoink"!

The eating community - as well as the cooking and drinking ones! - have become a part of this project by contributing toward the purchase of a smoker for Whole Ox which could enable USDA inspection. This, via alt online fundraising site indiegogo.com

This is a chef with a big dream, and the communities have embraced it. I'm always fascinated with people with an obsession, or at least a passion for something. And by watching all of this unfold, I've become much more aware of who cares about the food we eat.

Too, Whole Ox will be part of the growing #Kakaako community of places to eat, meet, shop, live and plan for the future!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Pig and the Lady's Hu Tieu Nam Vang: Two Ways to Know Something is Good to Eat

The first way: when you're eating it, you can't stop. You have to tell yourself to pause and BREATHE!

The second way: thoughts of it come to mind, both when you're hungry and when you're not. And this can be DAYS or MONTHS after you've eaten it.

The other night, I was eating ramen that my husband had picked up from a nearby Japanese restaurant. The husband has passed on his chest cold to me, and I needed something hot, salty and wet.

But, it wasn't the soup I'd been daydreaming about.

That soup is The Pig and the Lady's Hu Tieu Nam Vong Vang, Cambodian-style pork and chicken broth with pork, chicken, egg, noodles and herbs. I tasted it for the first time at the Blaisdell Farmers' market last week, and hope they serve it again this Wednesday. It's THAT good. Hot, fragrant and satisfying.

And the people, the Le family, are super-nice. Andrew, Alex, Allison, Mama and Papa and friends.

Next week, they may very well have a new soup, as they've served turkey, chicken and beef soups so far. Also super-ono la lot - pork or beef wrapped in betelnut leaves and grilled. And recently, delicious turmeric rice cooked in chicken broth and served with chicken, onions and herbs with lime.

I'm drooling, and I just ate lunch. (Albeit, the lunch of person at home from work. Translation: leftovers.)

Hungry? Feed your stomach and your soul at The Pig and the Lady!

BTW: The DH is bringing his own spoon, the better to eat more noodles and broth at once. Alex says to bring your own bowl. Think saimin bowl size, not mixing bowl!

See you there!

Edited to correct spelling. Sorry, I was under the weather!

Monday, January 16, 2012

When a picky eater eats your vegetables

Our son has been home from school for the holidays. We do not eat fast food, but his leftovers are in our refrigerator.

We try to eat at least two meatless meals a week. One night I cooked chana masala (chickpeas with tomatoes) and curried ratatouille with 12-grain rice. You know something's good when your picky eater son eats seconds!

First, he tasted some ratatouille off my plate. Then he served himself some, though he passed on the chickpeas and rice. Then he came back for another helping. He did qualify it by saying he wished I'd left out the zucchini! So he was tolerating the 2 kinds of bell peppers!

After his birthday dinner tonight, with all the butter and olive oil, I'm eating a ratatouille sandwich! Bon appetit!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What I don't drink

Tequila - don't like the taste of it. Except in a margarita, where most of the taste is lime and salt.

Gin - don't like the taste of that, either.

Beer - likewise. My friend Sandy had an interesting story about NY Eve. They went with older friends; one was a lady who was sucking down the champagne - she'd never had it before, as she was a beer drinker!

Champagne - its appeal is lost on me. Too many bubbles! I do like prosecco (less bubbles, and tasty!) I like wine better. Like most things in Hawaii, I pick the wine for the temperature. Cooler = meats, soups, stews, heartier, more alcoholic red wines. Hotter days = lighter reds and white wines that go with seafood, pasta.

Soda with sugar - I am a sodaholic. Reformed. I could drink 3 or more a day, but limit myself to one. Sometimes 2. Sometimes none. My soda of choice is diet 7up. Why can't I find it everywhere? Yesterday I had a diet Coke - not my favorite. I prefer diet Pepsi - more tangy.

Right now, I'm drinking something called Neuro Bliss. Purely experimental - I wanted to know what it tasted like, so I bought all the flavors. Yesterday I was drinking Neuro Gasm. The cigar guys were eyeing it up and asked me about it - but the truth is, I did want to try it. Even though it's supposed to help you in that area, I don't need help, so can't say it worked. The last one in the refer is Neuro Sun, with vitamin D. These have sucralose, and at least one of them has fructose, so not sure how healthy these are - probably not. Which brings us to:

Red Bull. Just the smell turns me off! DS is writing a paper, so in the past 2 weeks I've bought him more than a dozen of these, and he's ingested most of them. We were at our favorite pizza place (which is a bar) a week ago, and the pizza cook was slugging down a RB. The mini refer next to the bar is full of regular and diet RB. It is what that generation lives on. I know there is more than one cocktail combining liquor and RB - and how healthy is that? Okay, just a bit unhealthier than the above Neuro drinks!?

I'm sure there are more things, just can't think of them right now. What do you/don't you drink?