March 14, 2008, Volume 8 Number 10
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
Alii! It's been nearly ten years since my last visit to beautiful Belau, and it was my first time to go as the Guam Food Guy. Belau is more than just a Five-Star diving destination, it is a country full of promise and good will; a land of abundant natural resources and produce; a country of deep-rooted traditions and pride; and a place that extends hospitality from the ground up through its people. It defines "paradise" to many, however, like any other small or large country, it has its own challenges, as well as growing pains that are par for the course with new countries.
I was honored by an invitation from the Belau Tourism Association to attend the 2nd Wine & Cheese Event which was held on Saturday, March 8, at the Palau Royal Resort. This was a fund raiser to help in the development of hospitality awareness, and was attended by many prominent people who are supporters of Palau's efforts to organize and prepare for enhancing the visitor's customer service experiences. The BTA is similar to the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association, and is in its infancy. It is an exciting time for the tourism industry in Belau. Over the course of several weeks we will include special segments on my experiences in Belau, a place familiarly identified as "Rainbows End". It is indeed that "pot of gold" people seek at the end of a rainbow.
On Guam, it is Chamorro Month, and there are many events that celebrate and honor our local traditions. This month also has special culinary events that have put the spotlight on both young people aspiring to become chefs who will be contending in the annual Pro-Start Student Culinary Competition next Saturday, as well as established chefs who will be competing in the annual UOGEF/MCA Chef's Cup Competition at the SandCastle on March 26. We will participate in these and will report the results in future newsletters as we have done in the past. It's a wonderful time to be alive and eating in this splendid part of the Pacific!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
GFG Hosts K57 "Tourism & You" Food Guy Show
Saturday March 15
Listen up this Saturday morning for the Guam Food Guy's segment of K57's "Tourism & You" Show, from 10am-Noon. This week's first hour guests will include Tammy Anderson, Public Information Officer for the Guam Environmental Protection Agency who will talk about Earth Week 2008, and Executive Chef Casey Castro of the newly-revamped Central Perk Cafe.
Our second hour guests will include Dr. Jonathon Morris of Maine's Portland Medical Center, and Ms. Sheila Peebles aka "the Wine Lady", who is the Liquor/Wine Team Leader for Ambros, Inc., who will talk about the recent Belau Tourism Association's Wine & Cheese Fundraising Event held this past Saturday at the Palau Royal Resort.
These interviews will offer unique and interesting insights into the people behind the scenes at the island's restaurants. This will be an opportunity for you to hear compelling stories about their professions and their passions, which are often synonymous in this industry for people of their caliber. Your phone calls are welcome at 477-5757 or *57 on your cell phone.
Belau Tourism Association's 2nd Wine & Cheese Event
March 8, 2008
Palau Royal Resort
Wave Dining Restaurant
The Belau Tourism Association (BTA) held their 2nd Wine & Cheese Event to raise funds to support its Grants, Education and Training Programs (GET) that are being developed under the purview of Palau's Ministry of Education and the Palau Community College. The event had a variety of wines provided by Shimbros that were paired with a fine selection of cheeses brought in by Triple J Five Star.
I dont' believe I've seen a wine and cheese event on Guam that was as well conceived and executed as this one in Belau. There were four stations where guests were able to sample their way through cheese and wine pairings, with the first (a cold station) offering Brie and fresh pear slices, Edam, olives, cornichons, and crackers, along with Gouda and mini-sunflower bread. These were paired by a French Chardonnay by Yvon Mau and a California Chardonnay from Wente.
The second station (baked) had Camembert baked in bread and served with a fruit salsa, Gruyere Gougeres, luscious puffy oven baked cheese infused rolls from a recipe provided by Tova Harel Bornovski, author of the famous cookbook, "Taste of Rainbows End", and Goat Cheese warmed on cucumber slices. Here the wine pairings were a French Sauvignon Blanc by Premius along with a new Australian Cabernet Sauvignon made by Little Penguin.
My favorite station was the Fondue Station, where Tova had orchestrated the blending of the Emmentaler cheese with Gruyere, garlic, white wine, and lemon juice to make an exceptional fondue for dipping baguettes and special seasoned bread sticks, one of which had sun-dried tomatoes and herbs. The wines were an exceptional Bordeaux from Premius, and a California Merlot by Stone Valley.
For the dessert station, there was sharp aged cheddar with grapes, smoked provolone, gruyere and emmentaler with apple, melon, and cantaloupe slices. These were paired with a Portuguese port by Cockburn, along with an Australian Spumante made by Trevi. The wine selections were chosen by the "Wine Lady", Sheila Peebles, who was in Belau conducting a workshop called "Wine 101" at the Elilai Asian Grill and a blind wine tasting at the Penthouse Hotel. The collaboration between Tova's cheese, bread and fruit combinations and Sheila's wine choices brought a level of culinary sophistication rarely seen. It was considered by all attendees to be a magical and inspired event, and one that will definitely be repeated, perhaps on a grander scale.
Last Supper In Belau
The Penthouse Hotel
I'm starting this Belau experience in reverse, since it was my last taste of Belau. I had just finished appearing on O TV (Oceania Television Network) where I was interviewed as a special guest. Then I made my way back to the Penthouse Hotel in downtown Koror to have what I had been craving for two days - Fried Parrotfish! I didn't realize that hotel owner Tina Salii's daughter, Yvette, had heard me on TV talk about loving Thai food, so she introduced "spicy" into the feast I would be receiving. I had also said I'd not yet had Demok (Taro Leaf Soup), which was the first thing put down in front of me. This thick, savory, nutritious soup is so good that I'd like to put it in my list of favorite comfort soups. You can literally "taste the green" essence of the leaf.
As I finished my soup, my server brought out my parrot fish, but it was not what I had expected! It was a Spicy Parrot Fish, with onions, garlic, and chilies sauteed and blended in a mouth-watering broth that smothered this beautiful fish with an intimacy typically reserved for true love - and love it I did! I don't think I've ever had a better tasting, seasoned and spiced parrot fish.
Yet that's not the end of the story, folks. As the parrot fish was placed in front of me, I was shocked and astonished when another server placed a huge Spicy Mangrove Crab down next to the Spicy Parrot Fish! The sight of both of these elaborately prepared dishes was a daunting yet exhilarating challenge. What else could I do? I ate, and let me tell you, if you've not been to Belau to eat, you don't know what it is to eat fresh mangrove crab and parrot fish!
Mesulang, Tina & Yvette! You made my last meal in Belau most memorable. I loved my stay at the Penthouse, where the rooms were immaculate, and the service by friendly staff was most gracious. It was like being home.
Central Perk Cafe
I'm not the first person to go to Central Perk Cafe and be dazzled by the exquisite taste and glamorous presentation of food put before me! I was in Houston when George Q. (former line chef at OHG) called me and told me to come over and test drive some of the new dishes they were creating at this completely re-vamped (new owners/management) Central Perk Cafe. That was more than two weeks ago, when they were just opening. Since then, there have been some very lucky people who have been coming in repeatedly to eat their way through Central Perk's Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner menus. The food creations are inspired by Executive Chef Casey Castro, a local guy who's come back to Guam to make his mark, To all you chefs here in Guahan land, you should know that young Casey is a protege of Chef Dean Louie, original chef/owner of Old Hagatna Grill.
I went for lunch and was blown away by the quality of the presentation and quality of the food...it caught me off guard and I literally could not contain my excitement and enthusiasm! The Warm Spinach Salad ($6.75) has real bacon, hard boiled eggs, and a parmesan cheese tossed in a caper olive vinaigrette. The green spinach leaves still had lots of life in them and the blended vinaigrette had me savoring each bite with an unusual glee, almost like they are using some secret potion!
The next dish made a compelling appearance. It was their Golden Crab Cakes ($10.25), served with a star apple buerre blanc and garnished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. These are meaty, 100% crab meat infused with chunks of zesty green and red bell pepper. Casey's father is a local farmer so he really wants to use as much local produce in his dishes and preparations as he can, and can he does! I was intrigued by the use of star apples as a underliner for crab cakes.
Finally, I was prepared to receive the main course. I was originally going to try the Sherry Chicken that everyone was raving about, however, Chef Casey wanted me to try Crispy Chicken Roulade ($19) which is normally a dinner menu item. It was fabulous. This is an outstanding entree, as creative and delicious as dishes I've eaten at "big-name" establishments and better than many. Chef Casey's roulade is an art piece, with the round white plate serving as a canvas. The amazingly moist white chicken breast is stuffed with a shrimp and beet mousse and coated with panko, thus the "crispy" in its name. The roulade had been sliced diagonally to give the diner a window to the inner core, and each of three planks are positioned on a creamy mash of potatoes, which are then joined by grilled local eggplant, bell pepper, crisp asparagus, and roast potato. All of this is garnished by alternating puddles of roasted red pepper and roasted jalapeno emulsions. Dipping pieces of, (yes I'll say it again for emphasis), "amazingly moist white breast meat" into these enchantingly intense sauces will transport you to another place.
Look for more great things at Central Perk Cafe, now serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Monday- Saturday.
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