June 5 , 2009, Volume 9 Number 12
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
June 4, 2009 will probably be one of the most memorable dates for Guam and its people due to two separate, unrelated events - one being the successful selling of the revenue bonds and the other being the official unveiling and sale of the newly-minted Guam Quarter. Both events are significant in that they each will have a major long-term impact on the island, with one addressing and solving years of financial difficulties for the Government of Guam and the other opening a vast window of opportunity by exposing Guam's culture to millions of coin collectors in the U.S. and around the world. It's what you could call a BIG BANG Convergence!
It's certainly a "Big WOW" for the island's leaders as well as the entire population. The Bond Market's ravenous acquisition of the Guam Revenue Bonds-all sold within a half hour with the bonds being "over-subscribed" indicated a tremendous level of confidence in Guam's economic future. I see this all translating into "manna from Heaven" for our beleaguered restaurant industry, as there will be a surge in families dining out once those long-awaited tax refunds and retiree COLA payments reach their intended recipients. Yes, this is certainly a time for celebration!
Speaking of celebrations, this June is also the month for celebrating the Outrigger Resort Guam's Tenth Anniversary. Congratulations to the management and staff for being such a valuable and essential contributor to the island's tourism industry and for being an outstanding community supporter!
We also eagerly await the unveiling of the Westin Resort Guam's complete transformation of its main dining outlet from Cafe Kalachucha to "taste", which promises to be a new, sensational experience in interactive dining. Can't wait!
It's a wonderful time to be on Guam!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
PIC Wins First Place in the Taste of the Marianas Food Festival & Beer Garden
I was once again honored to be invited to be the celebrity emcee for the Professional Chefs Competition at the 11th Annual Taste of the Marianas' final Saturday event held on May 30 at American Memorial Park in Garapan. This year's theme was "BEEF and REEF", since the two major sponsored ingredients were Certified Angus Beef and Marianas Sweet Shrimp. This was a first-ever experience using the locally-grown, farm-raised shrimp that are produced by Saipan Aquaculture Company, which are promoted as "Sweet 'n Fresh" and "All Natural, Always Fresh, Never Frozen!"
The competition was fierce among the five competing properties in the Beef & Reef Chef's Challenge, however the judges awarded the highest scores to first-time winner PIC Saipan, whose two-man team members were chefs Chuzi Rios and Bel Gurundi. Both Rios and Gurundi cook at PIC's Seaside Grill. It was also their first time to compete. Their two entrees were a Flank Steak Stuffed with Basil Fontina Cheese with Shrimp Chablis Sauce and Marianas Sweet Shrimp Cakes and Grilled Flank Steak.
The PIC team (l-r) Darren Ferrall, PIC Exec Chef; Chuzi Rios, PIC Seaside Grill, Bel Gurundi, PIC Seaside Grill, and Kieran Daly, PIC General Manager.
The Fiesta Resort and Spa's two-man team of Pedro Sique and Jay Foster took 2nd place and the Hyatt Regency Saipan's team members, Edwin Oceanar and Alvin Dela Cruz, captured the 3rd place position. The other competing teams were from the Aqua Resort Club and the Palms Resort Saipan. The defending champion from last year's competition, the Marianas Resort, didn't place a team in this year's challenge.
All the teams created spectacular displays with amazing culinary creations. They all performed exceptionally and it was a pleasure to be part of this momentous occasion. Thanks to all the sponsors: Triple J Five Star Wholesale, Marianas Sweet Shrimp, the Marianas Visitor's Authority, and The Hotel Association of the Northern Marianas (HANMI). I've already accepted your invitation to return next year!
SyAqua Aquaculture's Wonder Product - Marianas Sweet Shrimp
Coincident to my duties as the emcee for the Chef's Challenge at The Taste of the Marianas, I was also fortunate to be given a first-hand look at Saipan Aquaculture's Shrimp farming facilities located in the China Town area. I was invited by Paul Zak, who has been trying to get me to come over to see this impressive operation for some time.
We were given a tour by SyAqua's Operations Manager, Rommel Catalma. I will be writing a few in-depth articles in the future about my tour of SyAqua's farm and its product, which is the Pacific White Shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei). Although the shrimp is featured at most of Saipan's major hotels, it is also now available at both the Andersen and Navy Commissaries on Guam. It is featured as fresh, not frozen, and is selling well.
During my tour I was able to witness the shrimp in a number of vast tanks at varying stages of development, from tiny, two week old post larvae stage to full-grown, ready-to-harvest large shrimp that are more than 3 months old.
I was able to observe the diligent care and nurturing of the shrimp, as well as see how SyAqua has met and maintained all the sanitation, health, and cleanliness standards required to assure the quality and integrity of their product, which happens to be the freshest and best-tasting shrimp you can get in this region of the Marianas.
I am sure this product will meet, if not exceed, the taste expectations of Guam's consumers. Once the logistics of distribution have been addressed, I can see major hotels and restaurants on Guam offering both fresh chilled shrimp and live shrimp (in aquarium-like tanks similar to lobster tanks).
I can personally attest to the quality of this shrimp as I've had several opportunities to eat it fresh on Guam prepared by two executive chefs. The difference between fresh and frozen shrimp is remarkable, and you don't need me to tell you that "fresh is always best", do you?
I'm excited for the team at SyAqua as they move forward to increase the production at their Aquaculture facility. They are already able to produce several thousand pounds a month. The future looks bright indeed for this innovative, entrepreneurial enterprise, which exemplifies how we can cultivate dreams into commercial realities.
Jan Z's By the Sea Grill & Bar
Well, folks, it's official. Jan Z's has got its game back! Yes, thanks to Molly McCulley for giving me the heads-up on the noted improvements at Jan Z's, which I was able to validate during a recent Sunday visit for breakfast. We had a Cajun Catch and Eggs ($12); grilled Cajun-spiced yellow-tail tuna and eggs the way you like them. We were able to substitute a single pancake for the hash browns (additional $1.50). I wanted to see if the pancakes were as big as they had been before and yes, they were HUGE! So big in fact we had to take half a pancake home. One of these alone costs $2.50, and a stack of 3 is $5.50. The banana and blueberry pancakes are $1 more.
The service, seating, tables, and outdoor dining deck furniture and floor have improved, too. I even saw a Jan Z's burger carried by a server to a customer and was delighted to see that it was the very picture of the past glory Jan Z's was known for.
Thanks, Jan Z's owners & management for taking our constructive comments to heart. You'll soon find out how many more people you've made happy!
Feeregalo Euro Dining
Leo Palace Resort
471-0001 ext 7180
I'd like to pay tribute to the culinary prowess of Grand Chef Fujigaya, who recently honored me with an exceptional gastronomic adventure during lunch at Feeregalo. I was joined by my colleague, Orleyne T., who was equally astonished by Chef Fujigaya's magical creations.
When you go to Leo Palace, you must have the breads! Their baker, Pastry Chef Oikawa, is among the best, so you'll discover he makes hard-crusted French bread like no one else!
Our first course was a beautiful fatty tuna (toro) carpaccio with a Santa Fe Sauce. The red peppercorns were sweet spice explosions in our mouths. The Santa Fe sauce had the fresh essence of blended vegetable relish, with a southwestern twist. Truly, a big flavor WOW for this one!
This was followed by a thick, rich Pumpkin Soup with a smooth consistency that gave way to the fresh pumpkin's nutty flavor.
We were then treated to a plate of fresh garden greens doused with a fresh oil and vinegar blend that had large pieces of fresh crab meat interspersed. This was another major flavor pop.
Of course, the main course had to surpass even our wildest dreams, with each of us sharing a lobster that was split in two, accompanied by plumb grilled scallops, a generous pan-seared, oven-finished salmon steak, and linguine. Fujigaya had made two sauces, one a fresh marinara I will always remember, along with a tartar sauce I'll never forget. Just awesome!
Our final course, dessert, was a dreamy tiramisu with a banana filled base cake. The mascarpone and cream were perfectly blended into a cloud-like crown. It was a fabulous ending to an extraordinary culinary odyssey, all during lunch.
Domo Arigato Gozaimasu, Fujigaya-san, for this tasting dream from Heaven!
Chatan-Ke Okinawa Dining Bar
Pacific Plaza Building (across from St. John's)
We'd been meaning to stop by Chatan-ke ever since Ebisu Sushi's chef/owner Fumi Nakamura told us he liked going there after work to enjoy the food and awamori (Okinawa-style sake). We also heard about the "Rafute", or glazed pork belly, which is an Okinawan specialty of pork belly braised for seven hours rendering it succulent, delicious and oh-so-tender! We do know that Chatan-ke is open only in the evenings (for now), from 5 -11pm and sometimes later if there are customers, which there usually are. The driving force behind this fascinating eatery is Yuki Kuba, who is the chef/owner filling the mandate of his businessman father who wanted to have a place where he could relax, drink, and eat a few of the things he liked from Okinawa. Here is another vision fulfilled!
The prices at Chatan-ke are reasonable, with food dishes going in the $6-$8 range. These are bar food portion sizes and not intended to be a complete meal. The Rafute ($7) is made with soy sauce, awamori, and brown sugar. It's certainly one of the specialties Chatan-ke can hang its hat on!
We also ordered the Tori Kara Fried Chicken with Ponzu Sauce ($6), which was pretty good and a fairly decent portion. It came with a sweet chili sauce along with the ponzu sauce. We had the Mozuki Tempura (Tempura Mozuku Seaweed, $6), which was completely new to us. It was actually a tasty treat, with an unusual texture afforded by the seaweed, that was interspersed with onions, carrots and bonded by tempura.
The Okinawa Yakisoba ($8), was the largest dish we received and had enough to feed several people (we had leftovers). This wasn't the usual stir-fried version of this popular dish that we see at other Japanese restaurants. The noodles were thick, there were bean sprouts, cabbage, carrots, chicken, bonito flakes, and shredded seaweed. It was very filling with all the ingredients, but very tasty.
The last dish we had was another of their house specialties, Yaki Tebichi ($7), or Pan Fried Pork Feet. This is something that not everyone wants to eat, but for those of us who do, it's feast time! They use a sweet chili sauce on the meat that's covered with sliced green onions. This is a fairly fatty dish, with gristle between the joints which requires either skilled surgical cutting or, if you are like me, it's something you eat with your hands. Some of this style of cooking reminds me of Southern food, which is interesting since Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands are known as Southern Japan.
There are a few other items on the menu like soups, salads, and some other appetizers. There are small tables, a private dining area, and a long bar that seems to be the place where you'll see a lot of regulars perched. There's a big screen tv where they bring in satellite TV from Japan. Some of them have their own bottles of Awamori. In fact, there are more than 40 different varieties of awamori here. It is a drinking bar, and I guess my next visit will give me an opportunity to enjoy some of these traditional Okinawan libations. I look forward to spending more time talking with Yuki Kuba, who has one of those irrepressible effusive personalities.
I now know why he has such a loyal following.
Ita dake masu!
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