Showing posts with label Honolulu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Honolulu. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Heavenly Island Lifestyle Restaurant at Shoreline Waikiki Hotel {Media Dinner & Restaurant Review}

Like many bloggers, I get periodic requests to attend a media event or try out a new restaurant. I don't do it a lot. Often it is due to time constraints, sometimes due to the type of restaurant--for a mostly-veggie-with-some-fish-thrown-in blog, I get a lot of steakhouse and meat-centric invitations. ;-)  When the email for the new Heavenly Island Lifestyle Restaurant came through, I was immediately attracted to the philosophy and the menu. A 'health-conscious menu reflecting the richness of Hawaii and using local and organic ingredients' is something I can get behind. So, I asked if I could bring my favorite foodie friend Natalie along, and Monday night we met up with a dozen or so bloggers, food and travel writers, and other foodie types to check it out.

*Hotel & hotel room photo provided from Shoreline Hotel Waikiki & Joie de Vivre

Heavenly restaurant is at the Shoreline Hotel Waikiki, a hotel that was purchased and renovated as a boutique hotel by the popular Joie de Vivre Hotel group about a year ago. Both the hotel interior and the restaurant have a beachy, surf chic feel. I neglected to get (iPhone) photos of more than the food (yes, I have a one-track mind and stomach) but Natalie got a lot of great interior shots (check her photos out on Twitter @asknatalie and Instagram asknataliehawaii). 

The restaurant had a soft opening about a month ago and has been serving breakfast and lunch. Monday night they were very brave to host a media dinner on their very first night of serving their dinner menu. We were welcomed with a variety of tropical fruit mimosas (mine was mango) and given an extensive tasting menu with shared plates of thirteen of their menu items. The actual restaurant menu was provided with the details of each dish with local and organic items clearly called out. The back of the restaurant menu features the different local vendors that the restaurant sources the bulk of their ingredients from.

Plating of the dishes was fun and in keeping with the surfer chic vibe of the restaurant. The pupus--appetizers came out on wooden boards inscribed with the restaurant name. Heavenly's take on a bagna cauda featuring a miso paste instead of garlic oil for dipping had a small glass "vase" filled with a bouquet of fresh veggies for dipping. The poke came with a kale salad, a chunk of fresh ginger and a grater to add the amount of ginger you like. Being a big ginger fan, I appreciate being able to add a lot to my dish without worrying about any less ginger-loving dining companions. The guacamole was chunky and fresh and served with cilantro, taro chips and corn chips. I think the chip amount could be increased a bit--especially for sharing. It's hard to make mushrooms look pretty but the meaty Hamakua mushrooms made this mushroom addict very happy. The standout appetizer dish for me was the Kona 'Kanpachi' Coconut Ceviche. The kanpachi (aka kampachi, amberjack, yellowtail), was fresh and buttery, the disks of Big Island hearts of palm added a nice crunch beneath, while the coconut oil, cilantro and lime made a flavorful dressing. 
There was a bit of a wait between courses but given the number of dishes for our group, the fact that this was their first night of dinner operations, and that they were serving a decent-sized crowd of customers too, the kinks in service speed were expected. It looked like food was coming out in a timely fashion for the bar and smaller groups. The service was friendly, my water glass was constantly filled and the (organic) wine was plentiful. We had good company at our table including John Henry, the Regional Managing Director for Joie de Vivre, fresh off the plane from San Francisco, Will McGough a free-lance travel writer (Wake and Wander) on a hiking adventure through the islands, and @saGEMom, from Hawaii Mom Blog and Sage and Savvy, a local blogger who I have followed on Twitter from a while now but had not had the pleasure of meeting until last night.   

Green Cobb Salad was next up--I didn't get a great shot of it mixed up but hidden in that forest of green were lentils and quinoa and the herby green dressing was light and complimented it well--another favorite dish for me. (I hid my pre-mixing photo in with the main dishes above.) Speaking of our Main Dish and "Rice, Pho & Pasta" courses, there was sauteed Shinsato pork with (more yea!) mushrooms and onions in a very lickable ginger sauce. The Makaweli Ranch ribeye came out tender and was sizzling in a decadent truffle sauce with local veggies. If you regularly read this blog you know I am no longer a  regular meat eater but, I make an exception for tasting menus and I had a bite of each of the meat options to try them out. (How I suffer for my art!) ;-) I also had a bite of the patty on Heavenly's Organic Veggie & Beans Loco Moco. Loco Moco is a Hawaii classic and Heavenly's take on it--with a 10-grain rice and black bean mixture and a ginger and soy glaze instead of gravy, was fabulous. The egg was cooked perfectly--as you can see from the photo as it was cut open. I would return for this Loco Moco--but for my veg-friendly soul, I would ask to order it with more vegetables and no patty. I would have liked a bit more herb flavor or acidity to balance all of the creamy in the Kuhuku Shrimp Ravioli but I liked the cauliflower on top. It could also be that even sharing plates, I was getting pretty full by the time the pasta hit the table so was looking for something that 'popped' more in flavor.

As stuffed as we were getting, we did manage to squeeze in tastes of the three desserts. I liked that the House Made Kona Coffee Tiramisu was not too heavy and that there wasn't an overpowering harsh rum flavor that you get in some tiramisus. In this one the coffee and chocolate flavors were at the forefront. The 'Pina Colada' had coconut sorbet on the bottom and a Maui Gold pineapple shave ice on top with jelly cubes (coffee jelly?) in between--a good combo of sweet and tangy and not too heavy. Having a love for both crème brûlée and ginger--I had a feeling it would be my favorite dessert and I was right. The ginger was present without being overpowering and it was light and creamy.

As we were enjoying the last bites of dessert, our host "Mild" (Makoto Hasegawa), Heavenly's manager, brought out the Executive Chef, Keigo Yoshimoto (see center photo of first collage). Chef Yoshimoto is the chef for the Aloha Table Group --including Aloha Table and Goofy Cafe & Dine (both in Waikiki). The chef's attention to detail and Mild's attention to service made for an overall delicious and fun evening. 

Would I return on my own dime to Heavenly Island Lifestyle? Yes, definitely. The freshness of the food, the fact that I can get a meal that is on the healthy side, and the support of Hawaii's local agriculture and businesses will bring me back. (Plus the Kona 'Kanpachi' Coconut Ceviche, Green Cobb Salad, and Heavenly's Loco Moco especially would draw me back to Waikiki for their all day breakfast or a light lunch or dinner.)

The Details: 
Heavenly Island Lifestyle
Shoreline Hotel Waikiki
342 Seaside Ave, IF
Honolulu, HI 96815

Open 7AM - 12PM

Note: My friend and I were hosted at a media dinner by Heavenly Restaurant and Shoreline Hotel Waikiki, a Joie de Vivre, property in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lazy Food Blogging Week and an Auku'u for Admiring, Not Eating...

I am having a lazy food blogging week and instead I'm enjoying some time with my niece who is visiting from Oregon...

This lovely Hawaiian Auku'u (the Black Crowned Night Heron) was kind enough (or secure enough in the bush he was hiding in) ;-) to let us get close and get good pictures. Isn't he (or she?) pretty?!

There will be a Jamie Oliver recipe post for I Heart Cooking Clubs, of course Souper Sundays always goes on, and I'll eventually get around to visit, but a light food blogging week means that I can spend time here.... (Don't hate me!) ;-)

(Kailua Beach Park)

Another picture of my fine feathered new friend...

Hope you are having a good week too!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Things I Am Loving This Week: Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate! & The Hawai'i Chocolate Festival

This "Things I Am Loving This Week" post is dedicated to my one true love... CHOCOLATE. And this past Saturday afternoon where I spent time indulging in all things cacao with my good friends Corinne and Julie at the Hawai'i Chocolate Festival.

Due to it's temperate climate, Hawaii is the only state that is able to grow cacao and February was declared by the governor as "Hawaii Grown Cacao Month." Supporting the emerging cacao industry, the Hawai'i Chocolate Festival celebrated all things chocolate with local chocolatiers, chocolate makers and chocolate products to sample and buy all in one place. The $20 advance tickets got us into the festival and 10 chocolate tasting samples of our choice. We did a quick scoping to see what was available and then started tasting.

A few quick photos from the show and some of what I bought and brought home--I'll apologize in advance for the pictures--I didn't take a lot to begin with and some were from my iPhone. It seems when you get me around good friends and good chocolate I get distracted and my priorities shift to just enjoying the day--but you'll get the idea of all the chocolate goodness we enjoyed. ;-)

My sample truffles Lilikoi & Butterscotch Liqueur from Choco le'a--a new favorite find (that's their table above which had the longest lines all afternoon for good reason). Mainly a catering and chocolate event company (favors, all you can eat chocolate bars at weddings and events, etc.), their truffles and gift boxes were amazing. You'll see more of them in my purchases below. (BTW: Choco le'a stands for "Chocolate Pleasures" and Collins Kawai--owner and artisan chocolatier certainly provided us with a lot of pleasure!) ;-)

One of two kinda "creepy" chocolate dancer/models, moving through the show and offering their chocolate-covered marshmallows from their hats. A little nerve-racking to find one creeping up behind you but they were more interested in the men. ;-)

Pretty chocolates from Sweet Paradise Chocolates in (from top left), Lilikoi Cream, Mango Mojito and Red Velvet. Good but replaced in my heart by Chocole'a's flavors which stand out more.

Sweet Paradise's booth, they had hot chocolate "shots" and assorted chocolate-dipped strawberries to purchase, along with some of their gift boxes.

In addition to the chocolate, chocolate desserts and even chocolate beer and vodka to taste, there were chocolate things to buy like chocolate pearls, chocolate-mint soap and lip balm, and even plants like chocolate mint and this beautiful chocolate orchid with it's brown flowers that have a faint chocolate smell.

This was a Chocolate-Dipped Cheesecake Bonbon from Tiki's Restaurant, one of the several chocolate desserts we sampled --along with chocolate mousse, chocolate pots de creme, Chocolate-Haupia Ono Pops, and Raw Chocolate Tart.

I didn't take pictures of that many of the different booths but my friends from Madre Chocolate and Ono Pops were there and a bunch of chocolatiers and other vendors both familiar and new. It is great to see so many local island businesses growing with chocolate and chocolate products. We had a blast trying all we could.

Of course I had to take some bars home--two new Madre Chocolate bars--a Hawaiian Dark Chocolate and a Pink Peppercorn & Smoked Salt Hawaiian Dark Chocolate. A new company Manoa Chocolates had a Dark Chocolate Bar with Dried Pineapple that we tried there and liked so I brought one of them home. Finally Waialua Estate had a new special Single Origin Extra Dark Chocolate bar that seemed like a must-try. I have not opened these yet, (willpower and rationing) so I'll have to report back later about them.

Finally I had to buy two sampler boxes from Choco le'a--the boxes themselves are adorable. One had two chocolate-dipped Oreos and two truffles--melon mochi and lychee (with an actual piece of lychee in the truffle). For the second box I succumbed to peer pressure and bought a box of assorted (strawberry, lemon, blueberry and plain) mochi truffles because Julie and Corrine did. ;-) These little gems with the chewy mochi inside of the dark chocolate are the stuff addictions are made of. Delicious! (The website for Choco le'a is coming soon.)

We left a bit "chocolated out" (yes it's true!) and were resorting to licking the salt off of the Frito's one group had to dip in the chocolate fountain on their table.

I'd love to tell you I went home and ate carrots but we had to come down from the chocolate high quickly and needed real food so we headed to nearby and recently opened La Tour Cafe, where I indulged in the very tasty La Tour Burger--Wagyu beef, pesto, roasted onions and tomatoes and Havarti cheese and served with crispy pommes frites with garlic aioli. It was an afternoon very full of good fun and delicious indulgences.

So that is a lot of chocolate to love this week! What things are you enjoying?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Things I Am Loving This Week (Going Loco for Local--Real Hawaiian Burger, Apple Banana Jam & Tomato Salad)

Things I Am Loving This Week, (my semi-regular Tuesday post featuring those (mostly) food-related things I am enjoying and want to share), is going loco for local today! There is a lot to love this week--and all made from a bounty of delicious Hawaii ingredients from the farmers markets.

First up, I love a good burger! Many people would define a "Hawaiian Burger" as just a burger with a piece of grilled pineapple on top, My definition of a REAL Hawaiian Burger is one that is made with all locally grown or locally produced ingredients from the state of Hawaii, like this gorgeous, delicious, giant burger. (And with no pineapple--I love it but not on my burger!) ;-)

We have:
  • grass-fed ground beef from Maui
  • grilled sweet Maui onions
  • locally grown Nalo Farms baby romaine
  • North Shore Farm's fresh sweet yellow tomato
  • guacamole made with locally grown avocado and lime
  • an olive bun baked by Ba-Le bakery (OK, the ingredients of the olive bun aren't local but it was baked here!)
  • Oils of Aloha macadamia oil for grilling, and some Hawaiian Alaea salt (red clay salt) to season.

Fresh, juicy and delicious--served with a few more North Shore Farms cherry tomatoes for a little color. The Maui beef was so perfect and moist--it just needed a touch of the red salt to season it perfectly. A taro bun would have been good here, and a bit more local but the olive buns were really fresh, soft and flavorful. A great way to indulge while supporting Hawaii farmers and producers.


I like bananas, but I love small, sweet apple bananas so I used some extra-ripe ones from the farmers market to make some Banana Jam from "Sweet and Sugarfree: An All-Natural, Fruit-Sweetened Dessert Cookbook" by Karen E. Barkie, a little book I purchased for $1 at a library sale. (Yep--love that too!) Just mashed banana and lemon juice (I added cinnamon to mine) cooked down into an thick, sweet spread. The simmering concentrates the banana flavor and the warm jam is delicious on top of toast (or in this case a bagel thin) spread with nut butter. I made one half with almond butter which was great, and the other half with peanut butter--even better. Peanut butter + mashed banana = good, peanut butter + warm banana jam = a little piece of heaven!

Barkie says, "Fruit jams are easy to make and so full of naturally concentrated fruit sweeteners that once you have tasted homemade, you will never again settle for sugar-sweetened jelly. Ripe and juicy fruits, blended to a sauce and heated over low temperature, yield rich, condensed jams and spreads. Fruits can be combined into an endless delectable jams, satiny smooth or dotted with ripe and juicy chunks of fruit."

Sweet (Apple Banana) Banana Jam
"Sweet and Sugarfree" by Karen E. Barkie
(Yields 1/3 Cup)

"A very concentrated jam"

2 cups ripe mashed banana (mash banana with a fork)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
(1 tsp ground cinnamon) optional

Blend ingredients together until smooth. Heat to a boil in a saucepan; turn to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens.

Notes: Barkie recommends this with all types of fruit--from blueberries to mangoes, plums to papayas. It's a nice, quick way to make a natural fruit jam and it makes the kitchen smell incredible when it is cooking. I plan to make more.


Finally it is Raw Foods! week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, so we are making no-cook Mark Bittman recipes. You have to love that for summer. I was feeling extremely low-effort and wanted to use some more gorgeous North Shore Farms tomatoes (I went a bit tomato crazy at the market this weekend!) so I decided to make the simple Ethiopian-Style Tomato Salad from "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian." This quick salad takes local ingredients to exotic Ethiopia, which just happens to be the destination for Regional Recipes this month, hosted by my good friend Joanne at Eats Well With Others. I love a good multi-tasking recipe that I can use in more than one event. ;-)

Bittman says, "If you have time to chop tomatoes, you have time to make this salad, which also works as a relish to eat with sandwiches and salads. The light, fresh-tasting, oil-free dressing features turmeric, which which turns the salad a lovely sunset color. You can use almost any spice mix you like here instead."

Tomato Salad, Ethiopian Style
"How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman
(Makes 4 servings)
Time: 15 minutes, plus time to chill

3 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 Tbsp minced jalapeno chile, or more or less to taste
1 tsp ground turmeric
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped

Put the lemon juice, onion, jalapeno, and turmeric into a medium serving bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the tomatoes and toss to coat.

Chill for up to 30 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasonings and serve.

Notes/Results: Excellent! This is a great, little salad--full of beautiful bright color and flavor. I used both red and yellow tomatoes which made it even more colorful, and made the recipe exactly as written. The sweet tomatoes, combined with the turmeric, lemon, red onion and the little kick from the jalapeno is complex for such few ingredients. It is perfect as a side salad and since Bittman said it was good as a kind of relish with sandwiches, I took some and topped a Maui beef patty and toasted olive bun with it for a knife & fork-style burger. OK--Yum! Healthy and delicious, I will definitely make this salad again.

There you have it--a bunch of wonderful local ingredients and delicious dishes to love this week.

The Ethiopian-Style Tomato Salad is being linked to IHCC Raw Foods! and also being sent to Joanne for Regional Recipes--Ethiopia. This entire post, full of good local, natural food is going to be linked to Two For Tuesdays Blog Hop Carnival at my pal girlichef's blog where real food is being celebrated each week.

So, what are you loving this week?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Things I Am Loving This Week (Exploring a New Farmers Market, Local Ice Pops & a BLT Salad for Bacon Lovers)

It's time for the Things I Am Loving This Week, my semi-regular Tuesday feature with the (mostly) food-related items and experiences that I am enjoying and want to share. This week it starts at the new(ish) Hawaii Kai Farmers Market--where great local real food and real food products like OnoPops abound, and ends with a bacon-lover's BLT Salad, made from some of the fresh produce I picked up on my market visit.

I love exploring a good farmers market--it is the best way to kick off a Saturday morning in my opinion. This past weekend I finally managed to make it to the new (OK, it has been open over a month, but still pretty new), Hawaii Kai Farmers Market at Kaiser High School. Although I usually attend the KCC farmers market on Saturdays, I have been getting a bit weary of fighting the large crowds and I was happy to have a new market open up so close to my home. The market has a little over 30 vendors currently, many from the Hawaii Kai area, and like the KCC market, the items the vendors sell must be made or grown here in the islands. This market is also green-inspired with vendors using environmentally-friendly serveware, and there is an easy to follow recycling system in place. Unlike some of the other farmers markets, it really emphasizes a spirit of community with live music, a cafe tent with tables and benches, and a keiki (kids) corner with crafts and a bounce house to play in.

It was a breezy and somewhat grey morning at the market, but there was a decent size crowd (they were expecting about 1000 that morning.) There was a nice blend of some favorite and new vendors to chose from. Otsuji Farms (the farm is behind the high school where the market is held) was there with plenty of greens and other veggies. (I bought basil, cilantro, corn & baby romaine.) They also had their well-known $10 veggie box where they put $13 of whatever is fresh that week into a box and sell it. Naked Cow Dairy had their flavored butters and also fresh yogurt, a new item they are carrying. Although their curry compound butter is my favorite so far, I tried and bought some of their butter with toasted coconut, thinking it would go well with fish and on the ears of the sweet corn I picked up

Of course it is always nice to have some island flavor with Kona coffee, fresh pineapple, (wait until you see what I do with my pineapple later in the week!), orchids, sugar cane and coconut juice. The group from Downes Grounds were very friendly and offered coffee samples in little eco-friendly ceramic tasting cups. Their Kona coffee is very smooth and has good flavor, which they say is from the sun-drying. Although I am not drinking much coffee these days, I bought a 1/2 lb bag for $13 for my freezer and a couple of ripe mangoes too. I also nabbed a large GMO-free papaya from another vendor and that and the pineapple rounded out my fruit purchases.

Northshore Farms was at the market with their bright tomatoes (and parsnips and leeks), and were serving not only their famous pesto pizza, but their fried green tomatoes too. This will make my mom very happy on her next visit in September--she loves her some fried green tomatoes ;-) I bought some of their sweet cherry tomatoes and a few Heirloom tomatoes too.

My breakfast was a veggie crepe (mozzarella, organic baby spinach, tomatoes, sweet basil and green onions) and Eau de Jouvence or "Water of Youth" (a blend of organic lemon juice, organic cane sugar, fresh mint and strawberries with orange blossom water) from Le Crepe Cafe. Both were delicious--although I am not sure I looked or felt any younger after the water. ;-) My meal was enjoyed at one of the community tables available under the cafe tent, while listening to a little live guitar music. The plate, serveware, and cup are all compostable and there are recycling bins at one end of the tent that make it easy to sort. It was so nice to enjoy a bite to eat at a table without needing to juggle a plate and my market purchases. I even got a chance to sit and chat for a few minutes with Pam Boyer and Ann Suite, the founders/owners/operators of this market and the one in Haleiwa on the Northshore. They are pleased with the growth since they have been open and they look forward to adding more vendors including more organic produce and more food options, especially breakfast items.

The sun finally came out as I was leaving the market, purchases in hand. There were plenty of people coming and going, and I wouldn't be surprised if they surpassed their estimated attendance for the day. Anytime you can bring a community together, support local farmers and vendors, and get fresh, healthy, real food, it's a good thing. I will be back.

Hawaii Kai Farmers Market
Saturdays 9am-1:00pm
Kaiser High School Parking Lot
Lunalilo Home Road
Hawaii Kai, HI 96725

After sampling their salty-tart Ume-Thai Basil flavor, I had been wanting to try more locally-made OnoPops and I was happy to see them represented at the farmers market. As the label says, these are "Fresh Local Hawaiian Paleta"--paleta means popsicle in Mexico, and they are made from locally sourced ingredients, many in some very creative combinations. OnoPops is a family business started by two brothers (I'm not sure whether it is Joe or Josh in my picture), and it's great to see their business growing and find them in more places.

There were 17 different flavors of ice pops for sale Saturday and I took home a half-dozen to try; Guava-Tamarind, Fresh Lychee, Honeydew Mint, Mango-Habanero, Kalamansi-Coriander (all water-based) and an Apple-Banana Banana Cream Pie (dairy-based). I love that they are made with natural, pure ingredients sourced from local growers and amazed at the variety of unique flavors. I have only tried 3 of the flavors I bought so far (I am allowing myself one a day!) The Apple- Banana Banana Cream Pie was creamy and delicious, the Honeydew Mint was cool and very refreshing, but my favorite so far has to be the Mango-Habanero. It has the perfect combination of sweet creamy mango with a nice kick of the chili at the end. A fun and tasty treat.

So, what to do with farmers market bounty like ultra-fresh local basil and baby romaine, tomatoes so sweet they are like candy, and a creamy avocado? Make Mark Bittman's BLT Salad of course! It's Better With Bacon week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and once again I am cooking out of "Kitchen Express." (While I love all my Bittman books, this is hands down my favorite for its simple, quick recipe sketches.) This is an indulgent salad to love.

Bittman says, "The avocado dressing really sets this apart"

BLT Salad

Fry a few small cubes of slab bacon for about five minutes or until crisp. Puree an avocado, a handful of basil leaves, a clove of garlic, juice from one--or more--limes, about one-quarter cup of olive oil, salt, and pepper together in a food processor or blender; if you like thinner dressing, add a few drops of water. Mix a head of Bibb or romaine lettuce with sliced tomatoes and chopped red onions. Add the bacon to the vegetables and dress with the pureed mixture. Serve with warm, crusty bread.

Notes/Results: Yum! The combination of the fresh vegetables with the crisp bacon topped with the creamy basil-avocado dressing is fantastic and really makes this simple salad special. Rather than buying slab bacon, I used my favorite nitrate-free pepper bacon and I also chopped some extra avocado to add to the salad.
Bittman knows bacon! Here I thought his Pasta with Breadcrumbs and Bacon was my favorite bacon-filled dish from "Kitchen Express"--but this delicious salad certainly holds its own. I will make this again, especially the creamy dressing.

You can check out the other wonderful Bittman bacon creations the other IHCC participants made by going to the website and following the links.

So these are the Things I Am Loving This Week, and since they all represent wholesome, natural, real food, I am linking this post to Two for Tuesdays Blog Hop Carnival, hosted by my friend girlichef along with some other wonderful bloggers. If you want to see and read about "real food"--go to one of their sites and follow the links.


So what are you enjoying this week?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Things I Am Loving This Week

It’s Tuesday and time for the “Things I Am Loving This Week”—those (mostly) food related things that I am enjoying and want to share.

When life gives you unique opportunities you should take them, especially when they involve food. I had the chance to attend my first underground” restaurant dinner Sunday night. Actually we were not underground, in fact we were far above it at a beautiful house in the hills above Honolulu. The dinners called “Spork!” are put on by a dedicated group of foodies to celebrate unique food, focus on emerging chefs and bring together a group of people who enjoy eating and sharing ideas. The setting, menu, chefs, and many of the diners change with each monthly event. The dinners are invitation only, you have to be on the mailing list or be brought by a friend, and the first 50 people or so that respond can attend. The cost varies based on the meal--in this case it was $65.00 (on the higher side due to the costs of seafood). You can take pictures, tweet or blog about it, as long as the location stays a secret and the privacy of others respected (i.e.: food photos are OK, people photos and names are not). Each dinner has a theme; ours was seafood, and several courses (ours had five, plus canapes). The menu planning and cooking are shared by some of Honolulu’s newest talent from its best restaurants and the event is BYOB.

There were many things to love about the evening—the beautiful location and the consideration of our host who had a bunch of shawls available for those of us at the outdoor tables (breathtaking views of the city lights but very windy and chilly for a Hawaii evening). There was the conversation with friends—old and newly made. In addition to food talk, there were plenty of amusing stories about how we all weathered the tsunami warnings the day before. There was the guest bartender who made an opening cocktail for each of us (I drank mine before I got a picture—sometimes I can only focus on the greater need!) but it was a refreshing lemon drop with a grilled chili pepper garnish. Finally there was the food—and what wonderful food it was!

Our menu included canapes of cod brandade, ogo (seaweed) flamiche (similar to a quiche) with bright pearls of roe, seafood boudin (sausage), and an escabeche with tako (octopus). Next we had a single scallop ravioli with lemon confit, and artichokes in a delicious bacon broth, followed by a plate of cured ahi--gorgeous slices of ahi with a salad made of fennel, tangerine and capers. Then came my favorite dish of the night a kettle of clams and mussels in a gorgeous flavorful pistou and served with perfectly crisp fries. A bite of the succulent mussels with the sauce soaked into the crispy fries was a little bit of heaven. (I may request this as my last meal ever!) The main course was thick slices of pink grouper, served with braised treviso (a milder radicchio), and a creamy parsnip puree garnished with a tangy wine sauce. Finally we enjoyed a dessert of manju, a Japanese sweet with a spongy outside and filled with sweet bean paste, a circle of yokan, a thick jellied dessert, a crisp cookie wafer and a cup of warm sencha (green) tea.

What an experience! The food was all delicious. I left full and satisfied but not overly stuffed. An amazing dinner and much thanks to our host, the team who put it together, the incredible chefs and my friend Nat for “hooking me up.” I hope to make it a regular thing. ;-)

From artfully prepared food to semi-convenience food! My next love for this week are these Oroweat Sandwich Thins that I have finally been able to get here after seeing them for months on the mainland and in magazines. They are whole wheat and multi-grain “buns” but super-thin and 100 calories each and I am loving them many different ways; toasted with PB&J, as the bun for a veggie burger, or as in last nights low-effort dinner as crust for healthy mini pizzas with veggies and chicken sausage.

Doing a quick calculation my hearty dinner of a simple salad with two pizzas with the tomato sauce, sausage, chard, onions, garlic and mushrooms (sautéed with the sausage), artichoke hearts and garnished with some red chili pepper flakes and a tiny bit of fluffy "microplaned" grated Parmesan was about 415 calories. Topping the pizza and dressing the salad generously with the lower calories ingredients and lightly with the higher calorie, higher fat ingredients keeps the calorie counts low. Toasting the thins first before topping them makes for a crispy pizza crust. These sandwich thins have 5g of fiber and 5g of protein. There are a few more ingredients than I normally like in them but overall the sodium is fairly low 230mg and the sugar is at 2g so for a quick and easy sandwich I think they stack up well.

So far my goal of cutting back on areas where I have issues with excess (mainly cookbooks, magazines, tea and bath products) is not going as well as I hoped. I have continued to add a few new cookbooks as well as a few new teas to my “collections." Oh well! Since I am crazy about trying different teas, I can't stop buying them. Currently I am loving these two teabag teas:

The first is this Cucumber White Tea from Tazo. Cucumber tea might sound odd but it is less "cucumbery" and more refreshing and delicate. It is a blend of white tea, lime peel and lime essence oil, dandelion leaves, black Darjeeling tea, cucumber, peppermint, lemon myrtle and other natural flavors. Tazo calls it a “replenishing tea” and I find it to be quirt calming when I am feeling stressed. The combination just works well together and it is equally good iced.

This Organic India Tulsi Tea in Chai Masala is my current work and study tea. I really love chai and this one is a good one. With a blend of tulsi, black Assam tea, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, clove, nutmeg and mace (all organic), it is nicely spiced. Tulsi (also known as Holy Basil) is a sacred plant in India that is said to be infused with healing powers. It is supposed to be energizing and good for stress relief—two good things for life right now. ;-) A cup makes for a great little break in the afternoon.

Whew! So that is my list of the "Things I Am Loving This Week."

How about you? What kinds of things are you enjoying?