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December 7 , 2007, Volume 7 Number 48

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

The airwaves are filled with Christmas songs and the papers are filled with holiday specials and gift guides, so it definitely must be the season for giving. Although there are numerous examples of sharing and giving, especially donations made to the less fortunate, I was able to again participate in a special Christmas event that really highlights the spirit of these "holy days".

This event was last Saturday's Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Guam Marriott Resort & Spa, during which there was a Ribbon Cutting of the Giant Ginger Bread House. Special attendees were Guam's First Lady, Mrs. Joanne Camacho and Dr. Marjorie Reiss, who represented Rainbows for All Children Guam. The Marriott's General Manager, Scott Sibley, hosted this event which also featured Cantate performing traditional Christmas carols. Mr. Sibley joined the first lady and Santa Claus in giving out individual Ginger Bread houses to a group of Rainbows kids

I was struck by the looks of surprise and wonder on the faces of these kids, with some of them smiling gleefully and others a bit shy, but all aware that they were the center of attention and that there were many camera flashes as posed pictures were taken. It was during the course of having dinner that I saw how many of these kids truly enjoyed the royal treatment and the lavish buffet prepared by the Marriott. They were the honored guests, not just tag-alongs to a hotel function their parents were attending. This was their moment of celebration and of recognition.

To me, the true gift given to these kids was more than the beautiful Ginger Bread houses made by Executive Chef Michael Devlin and his team - it was that special feeling of being honored on this night that was the greater gift. It was truly their night to be in the spotlight! Kudos to Team Marriott for making this a very special Christmas for these kids.

Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"

Le Tasi Bistro
New Marina Hotel

If you do a Google search on "Le Tasi Bistro" you will see a unanimous outpouring of praise and accolades for Chef Bertrand Haurillon's superb French Provencal cuisine contributed by many sources, from travel sites to personal blogs. It also illustrates that I'm not the only one who champions the fine experience of dining here at this quaint little bistro with its old world European ambiance.

We had dinner a few weeks ago and I had the small Salade Maison ($4.95), which is a mixed green salad tossed in olive oil dressing and topped with blue cheese and toasted glazed walnuts. Though I usually get the Caesar salad, this was my first time having the Salade Maison (house salad) and I was impressed with the amount of blue cheese included.

I had a bite of Zee's Bruschetta con Tomate e Basilica ($6.50). I don't think there's a more flavorful bruschetta on island. Bertrand's toast is topped with roasted garlic, tomato and basil, and he adds a few flavoring ingredients to accentuate the sweetness of his tomatoes - sea salt and balsamic vinegar really do the trick!

Chef Bertrand's Pate de Campagne( $7.50) is an edifying homemade pate with a smooth creamy consistency and taste that puts you in the heart of Provence!

I was in the mood for steak and what Chef Bertrand makes is a Steak au Poivre (12 oz New York, $18.75) and it comes smothered in a green pepper sauce and served with my favorite au gratin potatoes and fresh vegetables. It was ideally prepared medium rare and I marvelled at the care that was taken to pamper this steak to this sensational perfection. There are bigger steaks out there in the world, but this was just enough to satisfy my palate! Make it a point to visit Le Tasi Bistro for a romantic holiday dinner.

Thai Kitchen
Cen-Tam Building

One thing about Thai cuisine is that every restaurant has its own personality and taste. If you haven't been to Thai Kitchen, then you a missing one of the island's special tastes, since Toy McGurk has been preparing extraordinary dishes consistently for well over a decade.

The two dishes I had were Garlic Shrimp ($13) and Pad Bai-Kra Proa (pork with egg, $11) Thai Style. The plump shrimp are stir-fried and covered in garlic chips. They are accompanied by Thai-style finedene which is fish sauce with boonie peppers...yummy! If you are into intense flavors, this is a good dish to have.

The Pad Bai-Kra Proa is something I like to eat at any Thai restaurant, but Toy makes it unforgettable! It's saturated in flavor and spice, and the heat of the peppers permeates along with the flavor of the basil. The crispy eggs are perfect companions to this spiced meat, and when blended with the jasmine rice, it becomes a dish that never goes into the leftover bag.

Sereno's Italian Ristorante
Ohana Bayview Guam

It had been a while since I'd stopped by for dinner at Sereno's...and I must admit, all of the romance of my earlier visits returned in full force, even though I was dining alone! Sereno's is such a pretty place and when the music plays softly in the background and you sip on your wine (I had a bottle of the Villa Antinori Toscana 2002 - a noble wine and perfect for accompanying the courses of my menu) you are so comfortable you don't want to leave!

I started out with the Mixed Insalate ($6.50), which is a huge salad made with baby greens, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, red onions, roasted peppers and a toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola dressing. I was a bit intimidated by its size fearing it would fill me up and not leave room for the rest of my dinner. I managed to eat my way through it...the Gorgonzola and walnuts are so well blended you can taste them more than see them.

The salad was followed by a new appetizer, the Crispy Stuffed Risotto Cake ($6.50). This was a surprising treat, since it is a risotto (made with fresh mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil) battered in panko and then deep-fried to a crunchy crispness. There are two cakes that are served with a marvelous roasted garlic cream sauce that's sprinkled with parmesan. A fried basil leaf serves as edible garnish...I love these fried basil leaves!

I must have been on a roll, since I fantasized about having a pizza (my excuse is I was making up for missed meals!) so I did have the 8" Sausage & Grilled Peppers Pizza with 3 Cheeses. I had a few pieces of this rich crusted cheesy feast spiced with Italian sausage before I decided to take the rest home.

I then had another dish I'd been craving...the Penne Pasta ($14.75) made with grilled chicken, spicy Italian sausage, spinach, roasted peppers and ricotta cheese in marinara sauce. I should warn you that this is a large entree - it's a meal in itself, and it has all the zesty vibrancy you want in an Italian pasta with marinara sauce and lots of cheese. The white creamy ricotta cheese atop is served cold and you blend it together with the rest of the dish. Again, this is another one that I sampled and took home - that's what I get for dining alone!

I had been saving up space for the final highlight of my dinner, which is a new item recently added - the Herb Crusted Double Cut Lamb Chops ($25). This comes with a choice of white rice or mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. Actually, the broccoli was steamed just right, and I had mashed potatoes, which were well-seasoned, however the portion seemed disproportionately large (maybe it was because I was already close to capacity). Again, this is a meal in itself!! I concentrated on he vegetables and the lamb, which went through a process of pan-frying and then finished in the oven. The herb crust had a nice baked flavor with a rich mushroom pan sauce. The lamb was tender and cooked medium as I wanted. I was satisfied and didn't mind not having the Osso Bucco I had thought about having prior to arriving....guess I'll come again soon for that! Great service was provided by Dee and Arlene, who team-tagged my table. Both are quite knowledgeable on the menu and the wines. They sure know how to make a guest feel welcome!

Central Perk Cafe

I had been meaning to re-visit Central Perk Cafe ever since it was acquired by new owner Carmen Mesa earlier this year. Part of the motivation to visit came from Travis Coffman, who insisted I try an omelette. Well, I arrived a little after 2pm and was gratified to find that they were still serving breakfast along with lunch. Moreover, I found out that they just launched their new menu and have extended their hours of operation so you can drop by Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm and Saturday from 7am-5pm.

On my server Gina's recommendation, I ordered the Green Tea Smoothie ($4.50). This is both refreshing and flavorful, and made with skim milk or you can ask for soy milk. I sipped this lightly and saved it for my dessert.

I ordered a Pastrami Combo (build-your-own sandwich and a bowl of the soup of the day - which happened to be chicken noodle). The combo is $7.50 and I had toasted multi grain along with Swiss cheese, spicy mayo, lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, red onions, pickles, and cucumber. It was a good sandwich and the soup was so big that I had to take most of it home.

I ordered the Build-Your-Own Omelette, made with three eggs, and added Portuguese sausage, cheddar cheese, bell pepper, and onion. I didn't have any toast since I had the sandwich. I just wanted to taste it to see if this omelette was as big and tasty as Travis said and it was. I did finish the omelette and the only thing I added was a dash of Tabasco. This is a creation of Ken Acfalle, who I know from Santa Fe and who has also cooked at House of Chin Fe.

Since I was on a breakfast kick, I went ahead and ordered the Wheat Waffle ($3.25). Honestly, it's one of the better waffles I've had's thick, has a nice flavored batter. I don't know what it's flavored with, but it tasted a bit like blueberry. With syrup and coffee (I'll have to come back for breakfast during breakfast time to have coffee) this would be a great meal. I ate a quarter of it and took the rest home to eat later. I do recommend this waffle and give a nod to the food and cozy ambiance of Central Perk Cafe. Thanks to Wendy the cook, Gina, and Ken for the great hospitality and service, and to Carmen for energizing all of these positive changes!

Bon Appetit!

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