December 5 , 2008, Volume 8 Number 31
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
The Christmas season is upon us and I'm still recovering from Thanksgiving! Actually, I did finally finish off the rest of my turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy and cranberry sauce this past week. I was delighted to finally share some of my cooking with my office team when I brought in a buffet spread of our Thanksgiving dinner (including a Sweet Potato Pie I'd baked) to work. They were generous with their compliments. This sharing embodied the spirit of Thanksgiving for me.
I've since baked my famous banana bread and brought it in to the office this past week. I've had several chefs even tell me it was unusually moist! I guess I'll have to share my recipe one of these days! Speaking of recipes, there are many in our website with some especially suited for this holiday season.
This week's Diner Bytes includes a few of the numerous events and dining excursions of these past two weeks. There doesn't seem to be enough time or space to write about everything so we'll just touch on some of the high points.
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
GFG Top Picks 2008 Featured in October Edition of DIRECTIONS MAGAZINE
The featured lead photo for this GFG Top Picks 2008 article has my friend, PROA Executive Chef Geoffrey Perez holding a plate of their signature Big Feller Trio Platter that includes a sampling of their Hibachi-Style Short Ribs, Spareribs, and Chicken, all doused with their savory Marianas Glaze.
If you've not been to PROA, you're missing something special! PROA is one of the thirty restaurants that made this year's top picks list, although there were another ten or so that should have been included.
If you've not yet received your copy of this edition, look for it at your favorite bookstore. Gracing the cover is a picture of Guam Community College President Mary Okada, and the magazine features great reads on Leadership, Real Estate, Education, and on local families who have passed the torch of their enterprises to the next generation.
Fiesta Resort Guam Retreat
We were able to spend one gratifying evening in the Fiesta Resort, located right in the center of Tumon's hotel row. I'd been meaning to visit here much earlier and am glad that I finally did. Our 8th floor ocean view room was immaculate and stylishly designed, and equipped with all the amenities. I remember when this property was the Dai-Ichi a few years back. I have to say the new owners have made a remarkable transformation.
The balcony affords a splendid view of the bay and its environs. It's amazing how relaxing it is to just sit and gaze out over the ocean and up and down the beach, watching people doing their things. At sunset you can see and hear the paddling teams chanting their stroke cadence - it is a sight to behold - and reinforces why we love living on Guam. The Fiesta is right up against the shoreline so there's nothing obstructing the scenic imagery of paradise. It's a place where families really get the feeling that they are on an island and that it is their own play ground and beach getaway.
My only regret is that on Saturday night we had to walk to the Japan Club's Autumn Festival at Ypao Beach which pre-preempted our having dinner at the World Cafe. We'll have to come again.
Rebirth of Guam Plaza Hotel
November 22, 2008
Speaking of transformations! The Guam Plaza Hotel recently celebrated its "rebirth" on November 22, in an event that was attended by local tourism and hospitality industry leaders, island dignitaries, and invited guests, including the Governor of Guam, Felix Camacho, who congratulated the hotel's President Eric Ichioka and his management team on their impressive investment to modernize their facility.
An elaborate sampling feast was prepared by Executive Chef Kishimoto and his team at the Jia Asian Bistro with wines provided by Pacific Wine & Spirits, who also had well-chilled Carlsberg Beer available for tasting. It is hard to believe that this is still considered an economy hotel since the way it's packaged now puts it on par with a higher level property. Kudos to Eric Ichioka and hotel G.M. Jim Dougan! [Photo: Eric Ichioka, President, City Hill Company; Merle and Russ Robinson. Mills Group]
Lindeman's & Penfolds Exclusive Winemaker's Dinner
Friday, November 21
The Salon, Hyatt Regency Guam
"The greatest wines have implanted in them the ideas of the winemaker as to what they should be. Their character is part of the wine." Max Schubert, former Penfold's Chief Winemaker, from Penfold's The Rewards of Patience, Fifth Edition
A very special and memorable dinner was held on November 21 when invited guests attended the Exclusive Winemaker's Dinner hosted by Ambros, Inc., who had brought in a very passionate wine advocate, Mr. Robert Luckie of Marc Fahey & Associates, to introduce a few of the fine wines produced by Lindemans and Penfolds, two of Australia's top tier wine producers. [Photo L-R: Robert Luckie, Director of Marc Fahey & Associates PTY Ltd, Export Representatives for Lindemans & Penfolds; Marivel Anderson, SPPC; Sheila Peebles, aka, the "Wine Lady", Ambros Inc.; Michelle Gain and spouse Anthony Gain, General Manager, Hyatt Regency Guam]
We were able to enjoy a sumptuous five-course menu prepared by the Hyatt's culinary team, each paired with a selected wine from one of the two wine brands. The 2008 Lindemans Bin 95 Sauvignon Blanc was served prior to seating in the Hyatt's new lobby along with hors d'oeuvres. This was a surprisingly fresh wine, highlighted by aromas of tropical fruit, but not overly sweet.
Another notable experience was the 2005 Penfold Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz which was paired with the Roast Duck Ravioli with Pecorino Romano, Roasted Capsicum & Arugula. This full-bodied complex wine integrated well with the cheese and roast duck, infusing subtle tannic nuances with rich chocolate and spice flavors.
I was most impressed, though, with how the 2005 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz matched up to the Prime Australian Lamb Cutlet with Vanilla Oil Mash Potato, Minted Asparagus and Cabernet Shiraz Glaze. The deep red-purple color of this wine swirled within the glass showing great legs and opening up a concentrated box of spicy plum with licorice hints on the nose, with a bit of vanilla, mint, and blackberry on the palate. It was an intense wine with more body than those preceding it, and though it slightly overwhelmed the cutlet, it was only in a good way where a rare wine has a hard time finding the perfect date.
All in all, everybody enjoyed the seemingly timeless flow of events and experience sharing. There is a unique pleasure and joy that comes with appreciating the well-aged and expertly-crafted fruit of the grape. I have to finish this with another great quote from the introduction of The Rewards of Patience:
"...we must not be afraid to put into effect the strength of our own convictions, continue to use our imagination in winemaking generally, and be prepared to experiment in order to gain something extra, different and unique in the world of wine." Max Schubert
Lone Star Steakhouse
On two different occasions I had two distinctly different steaks both of which were exceptional. The first was the Five Star Filet ($29.99) to which I added the Mesquite-Grilled Shrimp ($9.99), along with my preferred baked potato adorned with the works. This tender filet is bacon-wrapped and seared on top and bottom to seal in the juices. As is my preference, I had it medium rare. The addition of bacon supplements the filet's flavor since virtually fat-free and extremely lean. I hadn't combined the shrimp with a steak in a very long time so I wanted to try it out again and was just as impressed as I was the first time.
The second steak I had was another combination experience, but this time it was the Mesquite Grilled New York Strip (14 oz, $29.99), to which I added the Steamed Crab Legs for an additional $19.99. I really like the New York cut...it's one of my preferred steaks, and it was my first time having the Steamed Crab Legs at Lone Star. These were nice and meaty, with a sweetness that blended well with the butter and lemon. You'd be surprised how much meat there is in a half a pound of King Crab legs! I had to take my time eating this and, of course, was able to share some of those crab legs!
Another prize on this visit was being served by Debbie Crocker. Great name and a great gal - she's been with Lone Star for a while, but it was our first time having her take care of us and this she did quite well with her marvelous, happy personality!
Guam Aurora Resort Villa & Spa
I am especially delighted and honored to introduce to you the return of one of Guam's legendary fine dining restaurant experience, Flamboyan Restaurant at the Guam Aurora Resort Villa & Spa. Long considered the island's most prestigious restaurant for fine French cuisine, or haute cuisine, when it was operating under the Guam Hotel Okura's management, the Flamboyan is now back and has managed to re-invent itself in an even more exclusive and intimate format than before. In fact, it is certainly the most intimate fine-dining experience on the island, since there are only five small tables in the dining room creating a feeling of a high-end salon or parlor rather than a restaurant. The glass walled view of Tumon's sunset and night lights is incomparable from this encapsulated ornately-decorated room.
There are three Prix Fixe Menus all named for French cities, Nice ($60), Toulouse ($70), and Paris ($85). Don't be put off by the price. You will get more than your money's worth here since in addition to excellent, enticing culinary creations, you will also be entertained by a solo violinist who performs both classical masterpieces and contemporary favorites throughout the evening. The music adds an indescribable vividness and warmth to the evening - maybe we should call it "love".
We had the Paris Prix Fixe Menu, which started off with a Saumon Fume a la Tartar de St-Jacques (diced scallops wrapped in smoked salmon with creosa sauce). This lovely dish had salmon roe atop the stuffed smoked salmon with steamed asparagus spears draped on top bracing the roe. The creosa sauce ideally complimented the salmon and diced scallops. It is made with cucumber, red bell pepper, tomatoes, onions, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and herbs. What accompanies this meal that really won me over was the hard French rolls - crispy, crunchy, hard exteriors giving way to hot, soft, supple bread inside, to which you add butter and go to Heaven - awesome!
The next course was another appetizer, Foie Gras Saute au Navet Confit (duck liver on simmered radish cake). This is an extraordinary and sensually compelling combination. Of course, foie gras is synonymous with haute cuisine, and Executive Chef Masaki Hiyama layers his grilled foie gras atop a simmered radish cake, which literally explodes with flavor when you bite into it. It's so good it makes you dizzy! Certainly an edifying blend.
This is followed by a Consomme en Tasse (consomme), which is another French delight that's literally the essence of beef broth. The next course is the Cousin de Sole au Noilly Parfume de Crustase et au Basilic (shrimp on sole with Noilly wine and basilic crustacean sauce). My goodness, what can I say? This could by rights be a main course and it is an option for the main on the Nice menu. It's regal in bearing and has a delicious lobster sauce that goes well with the shrimp and sole.
Separating this course from the main is a sorbet palate cleanser called Granite au Pamplemousse (freshly made grapefruit sherbet).
The Main Course is Filet de Boeufe a la Provencal (prime tenderloin with Madeira wine sauce Provencal style). As you know, the French are famous for their sauces, and this one does the trick with this very tender cut of Prime tenderloin that is crowned by a seasoned bread crumb crust and is accompanied by potatoes au gratin and French cut green beans.
As all great things come to an end, this meal had to finish with a lovely dessert, which is Tambale Aurora (Vanilla Ice Cream and Cheese Mousse with Strawberry and Raspberry Sauce). It is an appealing presentation that supports the refreshing sweetness of the ice cream with that delightful raspberry sauce. I also need to mention that the service was superbly attentive.
Specializing in Authentic Thai Food
Hooray! A brand new discovery! I was delighted to try out some wonderful Thai food at Cham's Cuisine in the Chamorro Village. They have been open for just 3 months and have excited all of their neighbors and other customers. They are located next to Marx Kitchen & Catering and The Shrimp Shack, just off the main dining pavilion and tower. Cham's operated by Chamnong Torres who is helped by her daughter Maria Torres. They know what they are doing with Thai food - it is priced affordably and they serve HUGE portions! I tried two different styles of eating, one was a 3-choice take out and the other was an a la carte to go order.
Since this is a fast food kiosk, they have usually 6-8 hot dishes prepared including curries, noodle dishes like pad thai, etc. from which you can select a one-, two-, or three-choice meal, which was my first order. I selected Pad Ped Gai (a spicy green bean and chicken blend), Thai Spiced Fried Chicken and Red Chicken Curry. As I said the portions were huge and the taste was enormous!
I also ordered one of my personal favorites, Pad Ka Prao (spicy pork with basil), done Thai style which means topped with a fried egg. Chamnong made this from scratch and plated it beautifully. It was medium spicy and absolutely delicious, with more rice than I could eat in two days. Not bad for $7!
Cham's does catering as well and can prepare party dishes for take out. If I were planning a holiday party, I'd surely order from here! Your guests would be thrilled to enjoy some of their excellent Thai cuisine (and your wallet would be happy too!). Their hours of operation are most impressive - they are open Mon-Sat from 10am until 4pm, and on Sunday they are open from 11am-3pm. They even offer free delivery for orders of $25 or more in the Hagatna and Anigua areas.
We'll be hearing more from and about Cham's Cuisine, one of Guam's new rising stars on the Thai restaurant scene!
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