January 18, 2008, Volume 8 Number 3
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
This week was special for me since I was able to catch up with a friend I've known for more than 20 years. His name is Gary Hill and he was visiting Guam to see friends and to handle some property matters. He lived here for about 15 years, and now lives on Big Island of Hawaii in Kona. When I first met Gary we both worked for AK's Commercial Division. He was the kitchen designer for the group and continued on after leaving Atkins Kroll. He worked on numerous kitchen projects, most notably the Hyatt Regency, SandCastle, Leo Palace Resort and the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa. Gary's now retired and is enjoying time traveling and seeing his family. This past year he fulfilled a dream by climbing Kenya's Mt. Kilimanjaro along with fellow adventurers and current Guam residents, Matt Johnson and Lennie Andersen. When I saw a photo of these guys taken at the summit, I didn't recognize Gary at first since he was wearing a beard, which made him look decidedly Hemingway-esque.
A group of us had dinner with Gary at Ban Thai this past Wednesday, where I gave him an autographed copy of my book, "Let's Eat! A Guide for Dining on Guam" and then we crossed the street and went over to Wanjoo Kim's Margarita's Burritos & Barbecue for a few margaritas! We had a terrific time recollecting our past achievements and remembering our former colleagues customers, and some of the highlights of our "colorful" careers! There aren't many people around who can relate to the experiences we shared so it was good for us to re-connect. Believe me, we have some amazing stories between us!
Gary's next big adventure is to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, a distance of some 2175 miles, which is no small feat. He's in great shape and will certainly fill his time making incredible memories. One of the memories he'll have from his recent Guam visit was the fun-filled reunion with friends at Margarita's, as evidenced in this picture of Gary with Margarita's owner, Wanjoo Kim (center), and Guam's Culligan Man, Bob Bullock (left). Let's be sure to recognize and honor the friends in our lives - they certainly add a special flavor to the mix!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
We had the opportunity to go to Capricciosa's Pacific Place location in Tumon the other night. Talk about crowded! The waiting line filled the hallway, exceeding Outback's always long line. We opted to eat outside on the patio deck since that had immediate seating. We ordered the Smoked Salmon Salad ($13.99), Mixed Vegetables ($8.99), The Capricciosa Pizza ($12,50), the Pepperoncini ($16.99) and Garlic Toast ($2.50).
The salad was good, with capers and onions scattered over planks of smoked salmon layed out on a spread of greens. It was, like everything else here, large enough for two (or more) people. The vegetables were sauted with a minimal amount of seasoning. There were potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and zucchini. I had some Pellegrino to pair with the bottle of Santa Cristina' s 2004 Antinori Toscana we shared.
We'd requested a thin crust for the pizza. It had pepperoni, mushrooms, bacon and bell peppers.
The surprise of the night was the Pepperoncini, which was a spaghetti dish filled with tasty surprises, including some "pika" pepper spice that seemed to coat every thing! We'd not had this dish before here and had assumed that it would be meatless as it has been at some other Italian restaurants. This had Italian sausage, bell peppers, and loads of garlic. It was certainly flavorful, and the portion was too big to eat at one sitting, so it made for easy leftovers.
All in all, the meal was pretty good and there was nothing we didn't like, aside from the smokers around us...it was, after all, outdoor seating!
Horse & Cow
We returned to Horse & Cow after a six-month hiatus. We had complained about the change in the quality of the chicken wings which were excellent when they first opened and found out that they were experiencing some problems with their chicken wing supplier. Well, the wait paid off, since the Gourmet Wings with a Lemon Pepper Dry Rub (12 pcs $7.75. ) were fantastic again, so we were extremely pleased.
I also ordered the B.L.T. ($6.75) as a back-up just in case the wings didn't make it. Well, truth be known, the sandwich didn't make it for me, it promised a lot and delivered more tomato and lettuce than bacon, and the bacon wasn't the greatest. They've got to work on that because it could be a winner.
We had the Tuesday Daily Food Special of two Certified Angus Beef Tacos, Beans & Chips, for $5.25. This was a bargain since the tacos were fairly big, filled with tasty beef and a zesty salsa. The tortilla chips were fairly abundant, however the bean dip was a bit dry. This time the wings were the winner for us!
Firefly Bistro Celebrates Ten Years of Culinary Excellence
This month commemorates the 10th year anniversary of Firefly Bistro, which offers one of the island's all-around best dining experiences. It was ten years ago when Chef Veronica "Ronnie" Calvo Perez opened Firefly after operating Cup & Saucer for two years. Cup & Saucer is a popular bakery/cafe adjacent to Firefly, with both comprising the ground floor of the Calvo Enterprises Headquarters in Hagatna, just down the street from the Bank of Hawaii and Designer's Direct. Chef Ronnie started baking when she was nine and has always had a passion for cooking. She is a 1995 graduate of the California Culinary Academy, and has won the last two Celebrity Chefs' Cup competitions. From my perspective, though, her true talent is her ability to inspire her working chefs to follow her recipes and prepare dishes that are as good as she'd make for you herself! [Photo: Chef Ronnie (in pink at left) leads her crew during the 2006 Celebrity Chefs' Cup]
So it was no surprise that we enjoyed a superb dinner at Firefly Bistro on a night when Ronnie wasn't there. It's like they say, the measure of a great chef is when he/she is gone, the food that comes out of the kitchen is as good as the chef''s own preparation. Firefly is renowned for its small tables and intimate seating. It's one of the charming aspects to this cozy, sophisticated restaurant, that I'd certainly classify as "fine dining". The good news is that in February Firefly is going to close to expand its dining room. There will be more space between tables and larger table tops which will add a level of comfort for diners.
For this review, I must confess that we ordered more food than we possibly could eat. This is not a complaint, it's just that the menu has so many wonderful appetizer and main course selections it makes you want to order a little bit of everything! For starters, we ordered the Passion Salad ($9.95), the Firefly French Onion Soup ($5.95), and the Escargot ($8.95). We also ordered a Beringer Founder's Estate Pinot Noir 2005 ($8/glass) and Fetzer Gewurtztraminer 2005 ($7/glass).
For our main entrees, we ordered the Softshell Crab Tempura ($29.95) and I opted for the Grilled New Zealand Rack of Lamb (full rack, $39.95). The half rack is $29.95, and that would have sufficed. (Well, maybe for someone else, but NOT me!!). We were surprised when our server delivered a Mushroom Bruschetta to our table and we learned that it is a complimentary special appetizer diners are entitled to when ordering an a la carte dinner entree on Friday and Saturday nights. This creative bruschetta was irresistible, with the cheese and fresh sauted mushrooms pairing perfectly with our wines. Speaking of which, Firefly has an extensive selection of fine wines from California and Australia, with refreshingly literate wine notes that vividly describe each wine.
I was stunned by the Escargot's appearance. It looked like a thick vegetable soup with a large wedge of garlic toast mounted on the bowl's rim. It was fantastic! It is served as a ratatouille, with a brandied cream sauce. I don't recall having escargot prepared so creatively with a fresh vegetable stew in that savory thick cream sauce.
Firefly's salads are legendary and The Passion Salad is a popular favorite. This salad has mixed greens, toasted cashews, blue cheese, and is drizzled with a zesty passion fruit vinaigrette. It's large(almost intimidating), but easily handled since it's mostly lettuce, cheese and nuts. The scrumptious taste of this salad compels one to eat it.
While Zee was working on that salad, my soup arrived. This is no ordinary French Onion soup. Their version uses Monterrey Jack and Gorgonzola cheeses. The richly flavored broth was unlike any French onion soup I'd ever had, with a certain sweetness. Extraordinary!
The servers at Firefly are among the most personable and knowledgeable I've encountered in a while, especially considering their relatively young ages. Both Shelly and Natasha handled us seamlessly.
The Soft-shell Crab Tempura has a pesto risotto, organic cherry tomato, and a saffron butter sauce. I didn't really eat much of this...just tasted it, and, like everything else, I was impressed by its creativity and originality. Just consider the descriptions...like something you'd expect to find in upscale fine-dining eateries across the globe.
When Natasha brought out the rack of lamb, I could have sworn that it caused a shadow to fall across the other side of the table. Again, another spectacular presentation! There were eight meaty chops standing on end atop a bed of blue cheese mashed potatoes. The sauce was made with rosemary and cabernet. I still remember my first bite of this lamb...it was like ascending to culinary heaven! These were quite thick and cooked perfectly, with a tenderness and succulence that awed me. They tasted more like beef than lamb. I recall using my fork and knife to cut the first pieces off each lamb rib. I then would then go kamayan-style and pick up each rib to finish it off. This rack of lamb is so delicious you'll forget your manners!
We were convinced we could eat no more when Natasha recommended something super special on the dessert menu, which was the Copacabana Toast ($7.95). She described it using terms like rainbow, toasted bread, coconut syrup, and ice cream. Talk about making an impression! When this warm, colorful dessert was delivered I made an audible sound of delight that must have reverberated through the restaurant. I ate as much of this as I possibly could, which came out to nearly most of it. Other great desserts at Firefly are the Crepes and Souffles.
My compliments to Chef Carlton for an extraordinary kitchen performance. Firefly's dinner menu is complex and imaginative, and it takes a tremendous amount of skill to consistently prepare these varied gourmet dishes. Compliments also go to Firefly's manager, Randy Reyes, who easily orchestrates the process and flow of Firefly, greeting and interacting with customers. Firefly's lunch hours are Mon-Fri from 11am - 2pm, and dinner is served Tue-Thu from 6 - 9pm, and Friday & Saturday from 6 - 9:30pm. Reservations are highly recommended as seats fill fast here. Call 477-2565 for information.
Final kudos go to Chef/owner Ronnie Calvo Perez. She has brought her vision and passion together to make the Firefly Bistro "a dream come true!"
You can find Guam Food Guy links and reviews at the following sites:
Also available on Your GUAMCELL web-enabled phone