February 8, 2008, Volume 8 Number 6
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
"Gung Hay Fat Choy!" is Chinese for "Happy Lunar New Year!" which is celebrated throughout much of Asia as the "real" New Year. t's the Year of the Rat, and in the lunar zodiac, it's the first of a series of twelve animal symbols that repeat in an eternal cycle. These symbols ascribe personality traits as well as conditions for activities during the year. The Rat Year portends renewal and new beginnings, so it would be a good time to have a baby, start a new job, or develop new opportunities. As you can see in the picture below, one of the highlights of each year's celebrations is the Lion Dance, which in this instance took place at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa. Performed by the United Chinese School, the lion dance is a tradition that brings good luck and good fortune to the establishment. The performance also includes gongs, drums, and fireworks. It is hard to miss this and you may have seen it (and definitely heard it) at a number of local establishments during this past week. The lion is usually fed "lettuce" as part of the tradition, which translates into money as payment for bringing the good fortune.
This year has started off auspiciously for me. I was able to take my 2007 vacation in January and February, with a whirlwind tour across parts of America, from Houston, to Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and ending in Honolulu. The good fortune high point for me was being able to spend time with my grandson, Carl Allen Snyder in Clarkston, Washington along with my daughter Avril. I did spend time with other family but it was this 7-year old phenomena that brought me immeasurable joy! The family reunion experience was worth the arduous return trip driving over 300 miles on icy, snow-covered roads between Idaho and Oregon, which was an entire adventure on its own.
The time away from Guam gave me the opportunity to reflect on my life and to consider making beneficial lifestyle changes, some of which will be implemented soon. One thing I do know for certain after visiting the Mainland - I really missed the food we have on Guam. I'm talking about the variety of Asian cuisines we enjoy here every day and take for granted.
It wasn't until I reached Honolulu that I could begin to experience the "tastes of food". Hawaii is a kind of a half-way house between the "bland" mainland and Guam, where eating is the real deal! This is not to say that the food in the U.S. is bad, quite the contrary, the basic food quality and variety is exceptional. It's how well we "color" our food out here that makes the difference. On Guam, we have 16 colors in our food palette, where in the Mainland you're lucky to find 8, and the only reason it's that high is due to Cajun and Mexican cuisine! The truth is that most people over there don't have a basis for comparison to even appreciate the difference. It becomes evident after they've visited our lovely island. I defy you to find anything in the Mainland that can compare to the taste of finadene!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
Guam Marriott Resort & Spa
Although most restaurants will have completed their Lunar New Year celebration feasts by the time you get this newsletter, you can still enjoy fabulous dim sum selections at the Marriott Cafe's Lunch Buffet, from Feb 7-9, with service starting at 11am and ending at 2pm. For those who know, the Marriott is home to that dynamic husband & wife team of Leland and Lifen Feng, who make the best dim sum on island.
The Lunar New Year spread offers a wider and deeper selection of dim sum delicacies you don't normally see. I had such venerable delicacies as Chicken Feet, Steamed Tendons, Salmon on Tofu, Crab-stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms, and a number of buns including Siopao, Pork, Black Bean, and Red Bean. The buffet costs $18 and offers an array of succulent options in the hot line where we had the tenderest roast duck along with lechon, sauteed fish, braised beef, noodle and vegetable dishes. It's the dim sum, though, that many folks crave and consume with abandon.
Hawaii Dining Tour
February 1 - 3
If there's one thing I've learned about being in the business of restaurant reviews, you leave it to the experts when looking for the best places to dine, and in this case it's my Guamdiner partners Gail & Erik who know what good eats are in Honolulu. This was touched on in last week's newsletter when Gail shared the fabulous treats available at Hank's Haute Dogs in Kakaako,Town in Kaimuki, and the elegant Beachhouse at the Moana Surfrider in Waikiki.
Here is a quick take on my dining adventures in Hawaii as I was chauffeured hither and thither by my illustrious foodie guides.
Nico's at Pier 38
1122 N. Nimitz Hwy
Pacific Ocean Producers
It was breakfast and Gail wanted me to come here before she dropped me off at a meeting with a supplier I'd scheduled for this trip. I liked the open air, casual dining attitude of Nico's where everything is served plate lunch-style in styrofoam containers. Their menu reflects local tastes with a range of entrees, including Hoisin BBQ Chicken, Chicken Katsu, Fried Ahi Belly w/lomi tomato and special sauce, Furikake Pan-seared Ahi w/Ginger Garlic Cilantro Dip, and a hearty Beef Stew. For breakfast, I had the Loco Moco ($6.95), with two homemade hamburger patties, two eggs any style and homemade mushroom-onion gravy. This was a taste of Heaven for me, since it had a precious commodity I couldn't find in the Mainland - steamed white rice!
I can't remember if I even talked while eating--that's how good it was....maybe I was just "deprived"! Gail had a fresh fruit cup and Fried Rice ($4.50), made with ham, portuguese sausage, bacon, green onions, kamaboko and egg. It's a place I'd return to in a heartbeat.
Hank's Haute Dogs
324 Coral St
Right after my meeting, I was whisked off to another part of town, though it seemed nearby, where we had to find a parking space. (They have parking meters there - isn't this something we should have on Guam to raise money for the street lights?) Hank's is another one of those rare, unpretentious hideaways that one would probably not even bother to slow down to see when driving past...you'd have to have a purpose to go here and the purpose of going to Hank's is to have an extraordinary hot dog.
did have Hank's signature Chicago Dog ($4.75), which features the "genuine Chicago Vienna all-beef dog with the famous snap!" I had it with the works - yellow mustard, raw onion, very green relish, tomato, dill pickle, celery salt and sport hot peppers. What a dog!! Gail's Polish Dog looked so luscious it had me hankering for one of them, too though I did exercise some restraint--there will always be a next time, I reasoned. We had tasty Sweet Maui Onion Rings ($3.75) that are individually hand-dipped in crispy panko batter. The Hibiscus Lemonade is a recommended thirst quencher and is notably "pretty in pink"!
Of course, meeting Hank (Henry Adaniya) was the ultimate treat, since this humble affable guy is a legend in the world of fine dining. He was pleased to meet me and was delighted to know that our newsletter featured him last week - he said Guam was a market he hadn't considered.....hmmmmm, what would it take to get Hank to come out here and set up a stand?
Mama's Island Pizza
108 Hekili St
Kailua Foodland Marketplace
Knowing full well my passion for Buffalo Wings, Gail and Erik were on a mission to have me try some of Hawaii's best, and of course, if you find yourself recalling the "good old days growing up eating yo mama's cooking", you'll know that nobody does it better than mom! We were going to do take out and Mama's is known for gourmet pizzas and their famous wings. We got the 24 pack ($12.99) along with her rich Blue Cheese Dressing and a Large 14" Pizza with Italian Sausage, Green Peppers, Mushrooms, and Black Olives ($17.99 with cheese plus one topping, additional topping for $1.79). When we got home I had a wing. Then another. Then another. Then another...they were right up there with Chili's. The only difference is that Chili's uses only drummettes. They were close enough to the original Buffalo Wings that I've been seeking. The pizza is one of Mama's Classic Original Hearth-Baked Pizzas, so you know you are in for an experience once you see the picture. After 4 slices, I got the picture! As they say in Hawaii, "Hey Brah, No Ka Oi!"
Michel's at the Colony Surf
It was my last day in Hawaii and just so happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, which accounted for the low turnout on the beach as well as in the dining room of this legendary restaurant, whose motto is "Like Service in Bed"! It's a relaxed upscale fine dining restaurant that embodies the charm, grace, and old-world style of Hawaii's elite and well-to-do. Michel's offers haute cuisine dining with a live harpist playing classical music selections while diners gaze out over the azure ocean and white sand beach just footsteps away.
Highlights of the meal included my starter, which was the House-smoked Lox & Onion Bagel with cream cheese, red onion, capers & tomato ($16). This was large enough to be an entree and I needed to share it with our dining companions. We were awestruck by the freshness and the size of the salmon slices. The cream cheese, toasted onion bagel, sweet red onion, and capers all blended together with the salmon in an overwhelming crescendo of taste! It was as good as it gets!
I was tempted to try the Fresh Ruby Red Grapefruit Brulee ($6). It sure looked appealing.
My main course was the "Treasures of the Sea" Salad ($18), a very accurate description of what was a veritable treasure trove of tastes and textures, and included pan-sauteed Kona abalone, Maine lobster, shrimp & scallops on baby spinach, shiitake mushroom, vine-ripened Kamuela tomatoes & mango in a refreshing lemon-lime vinaigrette. I tried to stretch this out with coffee and sparkling Italian prosecco, since every bite brought on waves of delight and pleasure. The freshness of the ingredients was uncompromised.
I also had a bite of a fabulously delicious entree, the Coconut-Haupia Sweet Bread French Toast ($14), that came with a rasher of meaty crispy bacon and maple syrup. The haupia filling was inside each slice and it's natural sweetness complemented and compounded the pleasantly yeasty taste of the sweet bread. One of our party had the Traditional Eggs Benedict ($16), which looked appealing, however, I wasn't in a egg benedict mood.
Two in our party opted for one of the specials "from the kitchen" featured that Sunday. Corned Beef Homemade Sweet Potato Hash ($16) with eggs overeasy, haricot vert (that's French for green beans, don't you know), Dijon mustard, and a gentle roasted garlic cream sauce to finish. I had a taste and it was bona fide fresh corned beef and the roasted garlic cream along with the green beans and Dijon mustard were worthy flavor sensations. We'd eaten so amply there simply was no room for dessert. I guess I'll have to come back for that! It was a special place for saying farewell to beautiful Hawaii!
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