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April 20, 2007, Volume 7 Number 16

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

It's been an intense week of activities since this past weekend's PHARE Expo, so much so that we must offer an abbreviated version of our weekly newsletter touching on some of the week's highlights. You can expect to see some normalcy return next week, though I'm sure many of you will enjoy this minimized version in this age of "information overload"!

The good news is that there will always be plenty to eat!

Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"


The Week in Highlights

  • Adios Mustafa - Beloved Hyatt GM Bids Adieu to his Beautiful Island
  • Calvo-Perez Retains Title in Chef's Cup Competition at The SandCastle
  • 10th Annual Auction & Wine Tasting - Friday, April 20, Hyatt Regency Guam
  • Mermaid Tavern and Grille Re-Opens in New, Expanded Location

Adios Mustafa - Beloved Hyatt GM Bids Adieu to his Beautiful Island

There was one special silent moment when you could almost hear a pin drop in the huge Hyatt Regency Guam Ballroom. It was near the end of departing Hyatt General Manager Mustafa Issa's speech when he paused in his delivery, fighting back tears and choked up with emotions, he conveyed his love for the friends he has made and for the Hyatt family he was leaving.

This most gracious man, a hospitality icon, is the consummate hotelier, always making his guests feel truly welcome. Over the years that I've known him, I've marveled at his ability to smile often and exude a reassuring confidence about events, whether good or bad, always coming up with a positive take on things.

It's difficult to imagine the Hyatt without him, but that's what was said when he left Saipan for Guam a number of years ago. Now that was an island he certainly loved, and would often find ways to re-visit when he could.

Mustafa is a man with many loves, and that's one of his most admired attributes - that he loves his life, his work, his friends, and those he leads. He also is a man of impeccable taste when is comes to his culinary preferences - he is knowledgeable and articulate about foods and wine, and can speak with authority on the quality of cheese or oysters in Tasmania.

Knowing Mustafa, I am confident that he will embrace the culinary and lifestyle options of Osaka, where he will be managing a property for his beloved hotel chain. I'm sure there will be countless converts to "Mustafa-ism" in Osaka after he's been there a while. We wish you all the best, Mustafa Issa, and look forward to our next reunion.

Calvo-Perez Retains Title in Chef's Cup Competition at The SandCastle

Congratulations to Veronica "Ronnie" Calvo-Perez, Executive Chef, Firefly Bistro, who once again won the coveted Chef's Cup in the 6th Annual Chef's Cup Competition held by the University of Guam Endowment Foundation in partnership with the Micronesian Chefs' Association. The theme for this lavish gala event was "Bella Notte - A Taste of Italy", and it certainly was true to its "beautiful night" meaning with what can only be described as a magnificent performance by the SandCastle's special entertainers who really made magic on ice! [Photo L-R: Ray Gibson, Master of Ceremonies; Ronnie Calvo-Perez, Winning Chef; Gordon Mizusawa, MCA Director]

Chef Ronnie's team's soup course took the top spot in a competition against some of the most elaborate dishes ever prepared at a Chef's Cup event. The name of her dish was "Trio di Zuppa con Tre Bruschetta alle stile di Firefly". It included a literal trio of soups and bruchetta toppings - Radish & Rye with Red Beet, Sweet Pea with Lemon & Mint and Roasted Kabocha Squash with Saffron soups. The bruschetta was placed across the bowl and complemented the soup in its complexity with toppings that included Balsamic Braised Short Ribs, Pine Nuts & Orange Zest; Spicy Shrimp with Sambuca & Tarragon and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes; and Goat Cheese, Olives and Pesto.

Chef Ronnie's Junior Chef was Chris Poliquit, a student at the GCC Culinary Academy. Her Celebrity Chef team members included former Lt. Governor Kaleo Moylan, Julius Santos (I-94 FM) and Phil Mafnas (AK). A surprise appearance by a blond-wigged Al Ysrael along with a bare-chested Kaleo had the audience howling in laughter and disbelief in the skit their team performed.

All teams participating in this event were winners - and worked magnificently together in the SandCastle's kitchen to produce a constant flow of courses throughout the night.

10th Annual Auction & Wine Tasting - Friday, April 20, Hyatt Regency Guam

This is one event you don't want to miss! Tonight at 6pm the doors of the Hyatt's Main Ballroom will open up to a glorious spread of tables laden with desired objects - things you want but maybe don't need, but you've gotta have anyway! The idea is for you to keep adding your name to the list on the silent auction form in hopes of making the winning bid.

You'll have a chance to sample fine wines from displays set up by 10 prominent wine vendors, some of whom will offer specialty beers and imported waters. Hyatt Executive Chef Hermann Grossbichler has created an impressive menu for this 10th Anniversary event that will take you around the world with culinary highlights. Look for elaborate offerings of international cheeses, gourmet sandwiches including carved Champaign Ham with French Brie on an oven fresh baguette or a Swiss Cheese Sausage mounted on a bed of sauerkraut; a carving of Hot Smoked Beef Brisket or Char-grilled Salmon with piquant south of the border Avocado salsa; along with a "Fresh Tuna on Ice" station serving tuna poke, tuna tataki with green papaya mango salad, and sashimi prepared by a master chef. Don't miss the "Flavors from the Mediterranean" where you'll find a signature Penne Pasta with roasted eggplant, olives, capers and anchovies, Pizza by the meter carving, Roasted Leg of Lamb resting on a special Moroccan saffron rice, hummus, Moroccan eggplant salad, Tabbouleh, Spiced Olives, and Classic Greek Salad with Feta Cheese; and, returning by popular demand, Chef Hermann's prized Spanish Paella prepared and served right in front of your eyes! Desserts will not disappoint - after all, this is the Hyatt, home of the finest confectionery team!

You'll also have a very good chance (1 in 200) to win one of two sets of Round Trip Tickets for two to the destination of your choice - Bali, Hong Kong, Cairns, or Manila, courtesy of Continental Micronesia - all you need to do is to purchase a special raffle ticket! All of this and much more will fill your evening with fun. All you need to do is come!

Best of all, your donation for a $70 ticket ($60 if you can buy one before the event at Rexall ) will contribute to the fundraising efforts of the Board of Directors for the benefit of Guam's Girl Scouts. When you consider all that's in store for you, well you are getting your money's worth, if not much more! See you there!

Mermaid Tavern and Grille Re-Opens in New, Expanded Location
140 Aspinall

You can thank Big Show host Travis Coffman for exposing the "soft re-opening" of the Mermaid Tavern, probably the most anticipated restaurant opening that I can remember. (The only other one that could come close would be Y Kusina.)Yes, Travis beat out the Guam Food Guy in going somewhere I'd not gone to yet to eat though I'd been in several times during construction.

The good news is that Mermaid Tavern's back in business and is once again serving it's awesome menu of delicious appetizers and entrees, including such favorites as Hummus with Pita, Baba Ghanouge with Pita, Spanokopita, Dolma, and Smoked Salmon Quesadillas, along with their famous Greek Salad, Gourmet Pizza, Sandwiches, and a new lineup of dinner entrees.

The only thing missing is their family of micro-brewed beers on tap, though they do have a good selection of bottled brews. They expect to have their beer flowing in a few weeks. The other thing missing is the credit card machine, so bring plenty of cash! This'll be remedied soon, too...the place literally just opened yesterday! The new location is 140 Aspinall, right next to Hava Java Cafe in Hagatna.

We stopped by for dinner and found the place already full of people who'd been alerted to the Tavern's re-opening. Owners Nadia & Josh Wood are the dynamic brother and sister duo who have worked tirelessly to convert this new location (previously a bank) to a restaurant. It is much bigger than the original location and has a giant bar - probably the largest in Hagatna - where you can sit and order your beverage of choice and eat your lunch or dinner too.

The foods we tried were the Spanish Garlic Shrimp ($9.50), which has six pieces of shrimp sauted in Spanish paprika and lots of garlic served with a toasted and sliced loaf of bread. We also ordered a small Bowl of Gumbo ($3.95), for which the Tavern is famous. The thick, hearty gumbo had plenty of andouille sausage, chicken, and okra, however, it was just a bit on the salty side. The flavors still brought back dreams of New Orleans' nights!

The Falafel Platter ($12.50) is a superb creation. Did I tell you that Sara Pleadwell is in the kitchen? As you know, she's got this Greek food thing down! The Falafel is served with baba ghanouge (bbq eggplant dip), hummus (ground chickpeas blended with fresh garlic, tahini, and olive oil, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and fresh vegetables topped with a tatziki sauce. This also includes some warm pita bread and a garden salad. The plate has tremendous visual appeal that should please any vegetarian or anyone who loves this genre of food.

I ordered a Spinach and Mushroom Alfredo ($16.50), which offered an impressive amount of fettuccine that topped and blended with fresh spinach and button mushrooms. I ordered it with shrimp (other choice is chicken) and it was perfect in the creamy homemade alfredo sauce. Three pieces of garlic toast accompanied this large entree. I don't think we were able to finish all of this.

There's plenty more to order on the menu. The main thing is to get the word out that the Tavern's back in business in a new, expanded location. I think it's fair to call it a "super-sized" version of the Tavern, with lots of new mermaid art pieces, a private back room, several partitioned areas, and, as I said, earlier, a very large bar. You can go there to eat now, but expect crowds to affect the service times. It's going to be one of Hagatna's more popular destinations during lunch and dinner. They are open from 11:30am-2pm for lunch and from 5-10pm for dinner. Call 472-2337 for more information or employment inquiries - servers should do very well here!

Bon appetit!

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