It's great to be back home on Guam! Although we may complain about the long journey from here to the Mainland (as in my recent trip to Houston), it's a lot faster than our first travel "adventure" to Guam in 1959. Who could have known then what seeds were sown when my baby brother Carl (who was just a year old toddler at the time) arrived on Guam? How about the seeds of insistence by his Guam-born 2nd daughter NaTaya to have an Island-style Guamanian fiesta at her wedding reception in Kingwood, Texas?
While I was able to attend this event on July 9, I wasn't fully aware how much of Guam I would be bringing with me to the fiesta table. Let's just say that I have a much better appreciation of the work that caterers do. They are paid to produce volumes of delicious food. For us, it was a labor of love. Our reward was the gratitude of more than 90 guests, most of whom were being introduced to Guam's diverse cuisine.
There was chicken kelaguen, spicy daigo cucumber salad (daikon radish & cucumber marinated in kimchi base & vinegar with donne salii), shrimp patties, pancit, red rice, bbq chicken, bbq steak, fried lumpia, gyoza, titiyas, finadene, and potu. We even introduced some of our friends and family to the local tradition of "make a plate" with zip lock bags, foil, and to-go boxes.
The "money dance" raised eyebrows and much needed-revenue for the newlywed couple. Yes, it was a fantastic, memorable cultural experience for all who attended. The real blessing and gift of the entire event was to witness the love bond between my niece, NaTaya, and her handsome husband, Tyler Doyle. Their life journey together has just begun!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
Desperados Has Opened in Tumon! (Marty's Redux)
Ocean Plaza Building, 2nd Floor
Patience and timing have finally paid off for veteran restaurateur Phil Martineau, who opened this new eatery with claims of to the "best Authentic Mexican and TEX/MEX food available on Guam." The hours are limited to dinner Tuesday to Sunday from 5-11pm. You can dine in or call for take-out.
I did have an opportunity to pop in while contractors were putting in the finishing touches last weekend. The menu has the standard nachos, taco salad, several types of Fajitas, a Desperado burger, and house specials include Chingalingas, Chimichangas, Taquitos, Des Burrito, California Burrito, Grilled Fish Tacos and Culiacan Shrimp.
They are still awaiting their liquor license. It's hard to imagine eating anything Mexican without a cold cerveza or margarita to wash it all down!
It does sound promising, and no one has Phil's (Marty's) many years of operating experience.
Guam Premier Outlets
With hopes of having a very light and healthy meal the night before I was to emcee the Nissan 7.5K/2K Race, we went to Ruby Tuesday to graze on their endless Garden Bar. Well, there were a few new things on the menu, so I opted to try something from the Premium Seafood side of the menu.
The Trout Almondine features mild Rainbow trout filets hand breaded and lightly fried to perfection, topped with lemon-butter sauce and crunchy almonds ($17.99). This comes with made-from-scratch Garlic Cheese Biscuits and two signature sides. I had the steamed broccoli and the brown-rice pilaf.This was a light and pleasant meal, though you can tell the difference between locally-caught seafood and imported fish. In this case, it's the novelty of having rainbow trout (which when locally caught fresh in the States would be understandably better). I like lemon-butter sauce and it worked well here. Next time I'll forego the cheese on my rice. The garlic cheese biscuits are wonderfully petite, packed full of flavor and minimizing on carbs.
They wanted me to try something else that was new on the menu. Would you believe a Lobster Mac 'n Cheese appetizer ($10.99). It would have been fine to just take a bite or two for sampling sake. However, the thought of leaving all that lobster meat in this baked casserole didn't sit well with my conscience. The melted cheddar cheese and macaroni noodles were just begging to be eaten - who could resist? Suffice it to say, if you are a Mac n' Cheese fan, then you won't be disappointed in this value-priced (you get a lot of lobster here, folks) dish. If you don't like lobster or can't eat it, they do have a plain Mac 'n Cheese version.
The other item they asked me to test drive was the Tiramisu ($6.99). This, like the Lobster Mac 'n Cheese, is quite rich and also shareable. I think four people could get more than enough to enjoy of this tiramisu, which has more cake layers than most. I recommend coffee with this full-flavored dessert.
PROA's on everyone's short-list of must-try restaurants. It seems that an inordinate amount of culinary magic and wizardry is performed in the kitchen, where ordinary food is completely transformed into heavenly morsels of epicurean delight.
Though I do recommend first timers to try out PROA's BBQ plates and other regular menu fare, I prefer to order from their daily lunch specials menu, knowing full well that I won't be disappointed!
Today's lunch appetizer special was really different! It was a Crispy Tofu Steak with Seared Salmon and Miso Sauce ($8.95). Forgive me but, "OMG!!" This was an unexpected treat! The secret is in the combining of pickled onion with the tofu. This was delicate and savory, with the salmon complementing marvelously. I could enjoy this in an expanded version as a main entree.
Speaking of main entrees, I was totally blown away by what I'd hoped to be a manageable and reasonably portioned dish. Today's sandwich lunch special was a Fork Tender Corned Beef Brisket with Toasted French Baguette, Sauteed Onions and Mushroom, with Side Salad and Shoe String Fries ($11.95). This was towering decadence! The brisket appeared wall-thick (there was no missing this) and you didn't have to worry about that familiar slogan from the burger war ads, "Where's the Beef"? The tenderness of the brisket was notable, as it had been cooked for hours. I could have shared this or taken half home, but decided to forge ahead and eat it all! I couldn't eat all the shoestring fries though they are the tastiest little darlings.
"Amazingly inventive" should be put on a placard over PROA's kitchen - they filled me up so much I had no room for one of the always stellar desserts. Sorry, Mark! This was Geoffrey's day!
Savvas Greek Cuisine & Grill
6730 Atascocita Road
Humble, TX 77346
One of the rewards of my work as a food explorer is finding the unexpected gem of a restaurant in the unlikeliest of places, in this case a phenomenal authentic Greek restaurant behind a Walmart in Humble Texas!
I was actually in search of some good ole Texas barbecue that Sunday evening at the regular neighborhood barbecue joint, Tin Roof BBQ, however, they were closed, so I drove a little further down the street and saw the Savvas Greek restaurant sign just down from Ling's Oriental Buffet. They were just about to close so I ordered to go. I was so impressed with the interior dining area, kitchen set-up, and their prodigious menu, which seemed like an encyclopedia of Greek cuisine, that I promised myself a return trip with more people to enjoy a Greek feast! I ordered from Lisa Savvas, co-owner with her Greek husband, Larry, who wasn't there at the time.
I ordered the Lamb Gyro Sandwich Basket ($6.95) which came with Greek salad and Lemon Potatoes; Horiatiko Loukaniko (a Greek country sausage) in a warm pita bread with tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and tzatziki or spicy chef sauce for $6.95; Spanakopita ($3.95) which you will recall is spinach and Feta cheese baked in a flaky phyllo dough, plus small orders of Hummus (chickpea & garlic) Dip and Tzatziki (Greek yogurt, sour cream, garlic and cucumber) Dip, both for $3.95 which came with grilled pita bread.
I was so moved by this evolving Greek food fest that I bought a bottle of Tsantali Makedonikos ($21) a Greek red wine. And, I even ordered some Baklava ($3.25) baked fresh that day. I love Baklava which is ground walnuts and cinnamon baked in delicate phyllo and drenched with honey syrup. Sadly, there was a bit of confusion with another take-out order and my dessert didn't make the journey home so I did not get to try it. (I promised I'd let Lisa know when I returned to Texas and I'll get some then).
I was very pleased with the quality and taste of all the items I brought home, and was able to share bits and pieces with my nieces. The country sausage was new to me. The hummus was perfect as was the tzatziki. The fresh-baked airy crunchiness of the Spanakopita was a marvelous savory prelude to what promised to be an awesome Baklava.
The red wine was robust with a distinct taste that came from the terroir. It was rich with fresh fruit notes, and a soft finish. It paired well with all that I ate.
I definitely have to return to this family run restaurant which I've heard is a favorite for many Continental employees who are regulars. It is clear that I just barely scratched the surface of this superb Greek treasure trove in Texas!
Manhattan Steak House
DINE & RIDE VI
Guam Marriott Resort
It's Dine & Ride time again at the Marriott's Manhattan Steak House! This is the sixth year for this seasonal promotion that runs from now through October. You can win a Harley Davidson motor cycle as the grand prize in a drawing.
Qualifying for the drawing is easy - every time you dine at Manhattan Steakhouse, Guam's premier fine dining steak house, you get an entry - what could be easier or tastier?
Mermaid Tavern and Grille
There are some new eats the Mermaid Tavern and Grille amongst them is the Santa Fe Quesadilla ($10.50) with corn, cilantro, red peppers, and jalapenos with mozzarella. I ordered this the other day along with their new Mermaid Burger ($9.95 ), that has a large Certified Angus Beef patty served with chipotle mayo and choice of toasted bun (I had the honey wheat) and provolone. I can't remember the precise order of arrival, but I do know that it was the burger that I had a hard time putting down.
I did get a bite of the quesadilla. The guacamole was fresh and quite good. I thought the quesadilla was fine but it lacked something. Perhaps it was the missing red bell peppers (I guess they were out). I took the three remaining pieces (they use a pretty large tortilla) home where I intended to add my own bell pepper.
One of the chefs dropped a hint that the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($10.50) is the one to have. I'll have to tackle that one next time!
Islander Terrace 'French Bistro Night'
Sundays 6-9pm ($29.95 + 10%)
Hilton Guam Resort & Spa
The Hilton was famous for its long-running French Night on Thursdays at the Islander Terrace. It was an extraordinary night, busier than the other theme nights, and was the pride and joy of then Executive Chef Christophe Durliat, himself a native Frenchman. They sauteed frog legs, crafted specialty dishes and in general put on a big production.
As all things must pass, so did those culinary "glory days", and the big extravaganza buffets changed with the times. Moderation and focus have become key words in today's modern food service environment. So, with this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to try out the new French Bistro Night to see what kind of culinary experience awaited. I wasn't disappointed.
Hilton's Executive Chef Christopher House demonstrates an ease and competence when it comes to making mass produced foods palatable. I had specific flavors I was expecting for certain preparations, namely Beef Bourguignon, Coq Au Vin, Duck a l'Orange, and Lamb Stew. All met my expectations. The lamb, beef, and duck were all cooked to a gentle tenderness.
I also had the escargot and the French Onion Soup, which had the requisite rich and deep onion blend in a rich broth. Other hot line entrees include Smoked Pasta with Salmon, Herb Crusted Salmon, Pork Chop with Mango Demi-glace, Sauteed French Beans, Basa Almondine, and Steamed Vegetables. There is also a carving station for Roast Top Sirloin au jus.
The bistro concept offers a more relaxed and less formal approach to dining. And, as with all buffets, it is a matter of balance. You have to cater to a wide range of taste preferences. The Islander always has a prodigious salad and appetizer bar from which you could easily create an interesting vegetarian meal. And, I give them credit for utilizing local produce when available. You can also expect an abundance of baked rolls and breads, cold cut meats and cheese.
Last, but not least, the dessert area offered several popular French desserts including Crepes with fresh blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries and toppings, as well as Profiteroles (that's the fancy French word for creme puffs), Blueberry Tart, Raspberry Tart, Orange Charlotte, Apple Pie, Tapioca, Mini Blueberry Scones, and Jalousie (which is a French pastry that combines elements of both a turnover and a strudel). Oo la la! Magnifique!
I don't know whether the menu selections change every week, however, I'm sure that Chef House will see to it that something worth eating will be there for your degustation. In the meantime, a la prochaine!