Dear " Guam Food Guy" Reader,
As you are reading this newsletter, I'm attending my niece Nataya's high school graduation in Humble, Texas, which is a Houston suburb. This is more than just a graduation, as it's the first time in nearly two decades that all four of the original Stewart brothers have gotten together. Over the years, we've all managed to connect in various combinations of one, two or three, but never the elusive "four!" The picture shows us along with our father, Bill "Doc" Stewart seated next to me. Behind us are (left to right) Bruce, Lee, and Carl. It's amazing when you consider that we were all on Guam with our Mom, Toni, and our now-deceased brother Terry way back in 1959, and each of us returned and lived on Guam at some point during the 70's, 80's, and 90's. I'm the sole holdout to remain into the new millennium!
Guam remains central in the hearts and minds of all the Stewarts, and Nataya's graduation is yet one more event for celebrating our family's ties with the island. Both Nataya and her elder sister Brieana were both born and raised on Guam through their elementary school years, and they are both full-time ambassadors of the island, eager to share the unique cultural experience of Guam with friends and acquaintances. The most recent example of this "cultural" sharing was Nataya's high school graduation party where her dad Carl barbecued chicken wings local-style for the entire class! You can be sure that folks in this part of Texas often rave about that special taste of Guam's BBQ, which is amazing since Texas is so famous for its own. That just goes to show how a 30-mile long "rock" in the Western Pacific can be on par with the huge state of Texas - certainly a reason to be proud of our island paradise!
From the road,
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
SAIPAN ROUND-UP - A CULINARY AND JUNGLE ADVENTURE!
8TH ANNUAL TASTE OF THE MARIANAS
I recently had the distinguished honor to again judge Saipan's annual Taste of the Marianas, and the particular contest for this 8th Taste was the Chef's BBQ Competition, wherein seven teams from various hotels prepared Certified Angus Beef flank steak in a variety of exotic and creative ways as they vied for the coveted 1st Place trophy and prize.
This event was held on May 20 at the expansive American Memorial Park in Garapan. Entrees were judged on Appearance of the Meat, Taste, Tenderness & Texture, and presentation of Theme. The scoring was very close, and the top three were:
1st: Aqua Resort with Flank Steak "Achugao" featuring local vegetables & three sauces: Chili Coconut, Green Pepper, and BBQ
Team Members: Arnel Marquez and Manuel Fernando
2nd: Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan with 5 Roads to Tropical Paradise
Team Members: Arnel Panieza and Elibo Narra
3rd: Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan with Pacific BBQ Blaze Codes
Team Members: Elmer Esdrelon and Freddie Velasquez
Special thanks to Becky Castro, General Manager of Triple J Five Star Wholesale and David Spitzer, Executive Chef of the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan for event coordination. Congratulations to all the participating teams, including the Pacific Islands Club, Hyatt Regency Saipan, Hafa Adai Hotel, and the Saipan Grand Hotel.
SEE SAIPAN FROM AN ATV!
While in Saipan, I had the most extraordinary personal adventure that I am excited to share with you! I was invited by my friend Chris Nelson of Marianas Trekking to join him in riding two of his newly purchased fleet of Yamaha A.T.V.'s.
I must confess to having been a bit nervous, as I'd never ridden on one before, much less driven one! No worries, it was an absolute thrill of a lifetime as we rode through jungle paths and roads up the hills of Saipan overlooking the azure waters and the coastline behind the Nikko. What a thrill and what a view! Be sure on your next trip to Saipan to plan on having some fun. Go see Chris Nelson for a Saipan adventure tour of cycling, hiking, eco-adventure, and bbq, with a spa treatment at the tranquil garden paradise of the Mariana Resort & Spa - there's nothing like it on Guam!
LOUNGING & EATING AT THE FIESTA RESORT & SPA
During my trip I had the distinct pleasure of staying in the Fiesta Resort & Spa, in one of their newly refurbished rooms. Talk about awesome! Everything was noteworthy, from the modern decor, the ultra-cozy bed (I didn't want to leave the room), the bathroom was a haven of luxury with smart metallic water fixtures, glass topped counters, opaque glass wall dividers and a bath & shower fit for a prince - truly a remarkable design job.
With the property's new branding from the Dai Ichi to the Fiesta, the restaurant names have changed. The former Shimbashi is now the Mai Restaurant and Bund has replaced Jade Garden. I was able to enjoy the Weekend Dim Sum Buffet at the Bund, and if you like Chinese as much as I do, this is THE place to eat some of the best roast duck and other Chinese favorites. Although there were about five or six dim sum choices, the buffet line had much more to offer, including fresh noodles stir-fried to your liking, char-siu pork, steamed chicken - some of the most tender and succulent I've eaten, prawns pouched in a wine broth, sesame beef, sauteed vegetables, and hot & sour soup. You can't beat this for $12.99! I don't know how many Chinese chefs they have there, but Chef de Cuisine Steven Cao is to be commended for his excellent preparations.
PACIFIC ISLAND CLUB SAIPAN'S SEASIDE GRILL
I had an amazing dinner at PIC Saipan's Seaside Grill. It was truly worthy of an entire review but, unfortunately, that will have to wait for another visit. Executive Chef Robert Stern performed culinary magic with a series of elaborate entree presentations that included a couple of innovative creations not on the menu but which incorporated various elements from the menu.
The first appetizer was an chilled Asian Lobster Salad atop Mesclun greens and tossed with a combination of sesame and chili oil. This was followed by a selection of "Sushi Sandwiches" (how's that for something really different?), that combined fresh and smoked salmon with ahi and nori.
I was totally mesmerized by the Crab Cake on Vegetable Couscous which fused two menu entrees, Louisiana Sauteed Crab Cakes ($18), and Vegetable Couscous on Sauteed Spinach with Thyme Vegetable Stew ($16). The crab cake was more than 90% crab meat, and divine. The couscous was a treat, combining the hearty Semolina grain with a medley of vegetables including zucchini, eggplant, carrots, and onion. Two sauces embellished the dish, one was a balsamic teriyaki glaze and I think the second was a chipotle emulsion. The sliced spring onion stems and fresh mint leaves crowning this flavorful stack sated two senses - sight and taste.
They were followed by a somewhat simpler but equally delicious Rolled Mahi. The fish was topped with tomato and baby shrimp gnocchi with a lemongrass and ginger butter sauce. This was an off-menu delight.
For the main entree, Chef Robert presented Australian Roasted Lamb with Sauteed Spinach on Thyme Vegetable Stew. The stew was an aromatic compote of zucchini, eggplant, onion, garlic, and tomato. Additionally, the lamb and spinach was dressed with roasted garlic sauce. The dish more than lived up to the promise of its name!
Dessert was an eye-popping display of a chocolate fantasy created by award-winning pastry chef, Jun Evangelista. A stunning presentation of raspberry sorbet accompanied by two chocolate coated creme brulee pyramids, one white chocolate and the other dark chocolate, along with a glorious chocolate-lace caged tiramisu!
This was a memorable meal, and the overall experience was elevated by the attentive, knowledgeable, and personable expertise of my server, Roselle, who was supported by a competent serving staff.
Kudos to Chef Robert & the PIC Saipan Team!