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October 1, 2010, Volume 10 Number 18

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

October's here! As usual, there's more than enough activities going on this month, however, one in particular is definitely on my radar to attend and that is Pastries in Paradise! This year's theme is "A Halloween Treat" and it will take place on Saturday, October 30, from 6-10pm at the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort. The admission fee to sample desserts is $30.00.

In mid-September I had the pleasure of returning to the beautiful country of Belau for business and to attend a BTA (Belau Tourism Association) function. I was quite happy to reconnect with my friends in Palau and to meet new people. I am amazed at some of the changes that have occurred there since my last visit in March 2008. In fact, the very hotel in which I stayed, the Sea Passion Hotel, was still under construction at the time. The Sea Passion is an impressive hotel and a popular spot for divers. I must confess, I brought my snorkel and mask and was determined to get some time in the water (after all it is Palau!), however, I never made it in and had to console myself with gazing at it from the distance just like I do on Guam. The picture of the tranquil lagoon from my room's balcony was my reward for all the hard work I had to do in Palau. The other reward was dining at the Taj as you'll see from the write up and pictures from this exceptional Indian restaurant.

Ken the "Guam Food Guy"

St John's School PTA Healthy Lunch Box Contest
September 27

I had the honor to be one of five judges selected to sample dishes at the recent St. John's School PTA Healthy Lunch Box Contest held this past Monday at the St. John's Parish Hall. The theme of this first-ever event was called "Feed Your Inner Knight" and featured nearly 60 dishes prepared by students and faculty of this preparatory school.

The lunch box event included entrees, side dishes, snacks/treats, and beverages. The judging was based on taste, appearance, and nutrition, which was a key component of this event which used the USDA Food Pyramid guidelines suggesting a daily 2000 calorie intake of grains, vegetables, fruit, milk products, and lean protein.

Photo: L-R Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy; Josef Budde, Hyatt Guam; Christophe Durliat, Hilton Guam; Barry Mead, GCC and Chris Aquilar, Outrigger

As of press time, the winners haven't been announced. Along with myself, the other judges were chefs Christophe Durliat (Hilton), Chris Aguilar (Outrigger), Josef Budde (Hyatt), and Barry Mead, Director of Culinary Arts for GCC. There were some amazing and creative recipes, most of which will be featured in a recipe book that the school is looking to produce. This event should be a catalyst for all schools to develop and build awareness about proper nutrition.

Au Revoir and Bon Chance, Chef Christophe Durliat

After serving as Executive Chef of the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa for eleven years, Christophe Durliat is leaving to pursue other interests with his last day of work on September 30. Chef Christophe is a member of the Micronesian Chef's Association where he has served as President, Vice-President, and as a board member. Christophe is a two-time winner of the Chef's Cup competition and was voted Chef of the Year by the MCA. In addition, Chef Christophe was the mentor chef for the JFK Islanders ProStart team that won two years in a row. The good news is that Chef Christophe is remaining on Guam and we want to extend him our best wishes for success in his future endeavors and look forward to enjoying the masterful culinary creations that he so diligently prepares.

Dining Notes - Margarita's Burritos & BBQ, PROA & Lone Star

Margaritas Burritos & BBQ

Margarita's has launched a totally new menu that features an expanded list of vegetarian entrees and other new foods.

I had an opportunity to sample a few items such as the Vegetarian Taco ($10.99, two tacos with refried beans and Mexican rice) made with broccoli, cabbage, black olives, carrots, crisp romaine, pico de gallo, and sour cream, spiked with a soy-Dijon vinaigrette. I also had the Teriyaki Shrimp Taco ($10.99, two tacos with refried beans and Mexican rice). This delicious taco included grilled shrimp glazed with a homemade tequila teriyaki sauce and served with shredded lettuce and topped with pico de gallo. My plate had one of each for tasting purposes.

I also tried Margarita's re-vamped Kalbi Tacos and this time the beef was more tender and easier to eat than the original. We'll have to go back to Margarita's and try more of their new menu items.

PROA Restaurant

We recently had a dinner at PROA with visiting family and friends. That night PROA featured an item that I wish they'd put on the menu all the time! It was a succulent, flavorful King Salmon Salad Special Appetizer. I have grown to love and appreciate salmon over the years and it was truly a treat to have it so well prepared. You also can't go wrong with PROA's regular salad ($11.95) which features fresh garden greens, roma tomatoes, and pika candied pecans served with a yuzu vinaigrette.

I tried an entree which I'd not yet tried, Chicken Penne Pasta ($14.95), that combines asparagus, mushrooms, two-color bell peppers, a herb Dijon sauce with seasoned chicken breast pieces over a bed of al dente pasta. This was a rich and flavorful meal that pre-preempted my ability to eat any dessert. Next time!

Lone Star Steakhouse

In keeping with my desire to eat healthier selections, I had the Delmonico Steak (7 oz. $13.99) lunch special with a Side Salad ($3.50) sans the cheese or croutons opting to put the calories to the luxurious Ranch dressing and brown rice. This is a very satisfying meal for me as it's difficult to find brown rice at many restaurants. I have to confess that I did indulge in not one, but two, of Lone Star's famous rolls. It's divine how well butter melts when folded within these freshly baked treasures.

Chowon Restaurant
Monticello Plaza

Chowon Restaurant recently opened in the Monticello Plaza in the same location that housed Flamingo II. This Korean eatery is open seven days a week from 11am-11pm and has 38 items on their menu covering traditional Korean favorites. Chowon is owned by Ms. Sung, whose sister owns Tumon's Seoul Restaurant. It's a clean, brightly-lit restaurant with tables that seem to stay filled more often than not.

We decided to do our own self-grill barbecue and ordered the Galbi ($17.99) and Grilled Pork Belly ($12.99). Those delectable Korean side dishes known as banchan were delivered along with the lettuce leaves, garlic, green peppers, doenjang (Korean-style miso), and gojujang (red pepper paste) that we like to use in our wraps.

I remain enamored with the ritual of grilling meat then dipping it into the sesame oil/coarse salt blend. The grills at Chowon don't use charcoal so there's no need for ventilation for the smoke that comes from high heat and grease. The grill pan has a baked enamel finish that transfers heat rapidly and cooks evenly.

I have to come back and try the Spicy Beef Soup with Egg & Vegetable as well as the Galbi Soup with Egg, two dishes I really enjoy.

The Taj Palau - An Exquisite Revisit to an All-Time Favorite

The Taj Palau
2nd Floor PDC Bldg. (across from the OEK)
Koror, Palau
(680) 488-2227 (reservations accepted)
Open Daily for Lunch 11am-2pm and
Dinner 5pm-10pm

When I wrote my first review of Taj Restaurant in March 2008, I titled it "The Taj - A Taste of India in Palau". Apparently, it's a taste I'd been craving for the past two years and on this visit to Palau, I made it a point to eat as much of Taj's authentic Indian cuisine as I could handle and actually did so over the course of three nights! Taj's reputation as a premier dining destination for visitors to Palau continues to grow and increase as satisfied guests are eager to share their positive experiences with others.

The food, decor and service at Taj combine to make this one of the best, if not the best, restaurant in Palau. The dining room is ornately decorated to replicate the home of an Indian aristocrat, with traditional Indian musical instruments adorning the walls along with large dramatic murals. Royal blue with gold patterned tablecloths are draped over tables surrounded by hand-crafted wooden chairs. Sitar ballads fill the background and set an inspiring mood as diners watch one of the chefs prepare skewers of meat that are laid into the large tandoor oven visible through a large glass window.

On my first night in Palau, I arrived after 9pm and wasn't sure what to order, so Taj's GM Robert Scaria decided to surprise me with a sampler tray that had a variety of dishes to eat. This was perfect and included such delights as Seekh Kabab (minced lamb marinated with a delicate blend of special spices that's skewered and cooked in the tandoor), Chicken Curry, Lamb Curry, Goa Fish Curry (mahi cooked in a coconut flavored sauce), Shrimp Chettinadu (a richly spiced gravy), refreshing Raitha, colorful Kashmiri Pulao (aromatic long grain Basmati rice cooked with dried fruits, nuts and saffron). Dessert was a palate-pleasing rice pudding the chef made.

I don't know how to describe the total immersion of flavors I experienced as I ate from dish to dish with few pauses to stop for a drink of my Kingfisher beer. Of course, the garlic naan bread was the requisite companion to this circular feast.

The second visit to Taj took me to a new level when I was told that I would be having Chili Crab, which is fresh local mangrove crab cooked in a flavored spicy sauce. (Prices are small $35, medium $45, and large $55). When they brought out my crab on a stainless steel platter, my jaw dropped and I literally gasped out loud at the sight! This was a gigantic crab, well over four pounds (4 lbs!), and I had to ask my closest neighbors, who happened to be two Japanese tourists, to join me. I implored them, "Please, come help me eat this big crab!!" They agreed after some urging and were outfitted with bibs just as I was. We went to work on this huge, awesome tasting crab which was meaty beyond belief. We had some Keema Naan (naan stuffed with minced meat and spices.) Robert showed us how to dip the sauce from the crab with the naan.

Dining at Taj is like being part of a dynamic performance with all actions moving smoothly as though choreographed. The servers in their brightly colored saris flit back and forth across the dining room tending to customers while the cooks are busy preparing foods in the kitchen. Robert moves from table to table greeting customers and occasionally returns to the dining room with a flaming sword with skewered meats from the tandoor.

My last meal at Taj featured Peshwari Raan ($40.20), which was a tender leg of lamb marinated in rich exotic herbs and spices, barbecued to perfection in a clay oven. This was actually a very sizeable chunk of meat and it took me at least 35 minutes to eat my way through it. I thought I had reached my limit when I was brought out a small sample portion of mahi mahi seasoned with Indian spices and grilled tandoori-style.

As much as I enjoyed the fantastic cuisine at Taj, I sincerely believe that the dining experience is greatly enhanced when the meal is shared with others. I strongly recommend that you dine at Taj when visiting Palau for a sensational dining adventure that will leave your taste buds tingling. It's a celebration of the spice of life!

Bon appetit!

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