6th Annual Mango Festival
One event you don't want to miss this coming weekend is the Agat Mango Festival which is now in its 6th year! This is really one of the major local fruit festivals that promises to have something for everyone in the family, with entertainment, arts and crafts, demonstrations, a botanical garden display, mango exhibits, mango dessert contests, tastings, workshops on caring for mangoes, local products and food booths. The booths and concessions will be open on both Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Congratulations to Agat Mayor Carol Tayama for putting together another successful Agat Mango Festival!
Taste of the Marianas
Chef's Competition May 26, 2012
American Memorial Park
It was another spectacular culinary competition this past May with the conclusion of the Annual Taste of the Marianas Festival and Beer Garden. This signature festival is put on by the Hotel Association of the Mariana Islands(HANMI) and the Marianas Visitors Authority, with the competition sponsored by Triple J Five Star. I'm thankful to all three organizations for the kind invitation to once again serve as Celebrity Emcee during the chef's competition. This year's featured product was Certified Angus Beef Shoulder Roll and the chefs were tasked with preparing their version of a Marianas Beef Stew using local ingredients. Unlike previous years, this year was unique in that it required (for the first time to my recollection) the Executive Chef of each competing property to prepare the dish himself without the assistance of the sous chefs or any other staff. He could be assisted only in the set up and arranging of the booth display, but not in the actual cooking. The creative displays were fantastic(as they usually are) and the five competing properties were the PIC Saipan, the Fiesta Resort & Spa, Hyatt Regency Saipan, Mariana Resort & Spa, and the Hafa Adai Beach Hotel.
In a very close competition, it was Mariana Resort and Spa's Executive Chef William Retardo who took first place with his "Gollai Appan Katnen" or Vegetable and Beef Stew. This was Chef Retardo's 2nd first place win in the only two events in which he's participated. He was assisted by chefs Egardo Malabayabas, Emanuel Pancha, Raymond Palacios, and Greg Megofna. This stew will be featured in the Resort's 12th Night Restaurant where locals can try the dish at a special discounted price.
Finishing 2nd was the Hyatt Regency Saipan's Executive Chef Gabriele Colombo, who prepared an excellent Slow Braised Chuck Involtini made with Taro, Raisin, Roasted Farm Tomato, Marianas Spices and Banana Chips. He was assisted by chefs Ricardo Silvestre, Zenn Tomakane, Jo Deleon Guerrero, and Vesh Tappa.
Third Place was awarded to Pacific Islands Club Executive Chef Habib Akbar, who was assisted by chefs Joel Linaogo, Keoni Lizama, and Vinson Guerrero. Akbar prepared a sumptuous Kadon Ka'nen Guaka or Island Beef Stew dish.
Another great year for Saipan's Taste of the Marianas! I'm looking forward to next year's event...can they outdo this one? We'll see!
When on Saipan a must-stop dining destination I recommend is Shenanigans, which I've written about in previous newsletters. For this trip, however, I was accompanied by Zee and she was not prepared for what she was about to experience at Shenanigans! It was my first Saturday visit and I was delighted to be able to eat breakfast(only on weekends from 7:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.).
I ordered from their Classic Mix and Match selection, opting for the Buttermilk Pancake with Creme Anglaise Sauce. Served with whipped cream, maple syrup, and blueberry Sauce. ($7.95), and had Scrambled Eggs w/cheese and Andouille Sausage(3 choices for $8.95). This comes with toast and a really good house coffee. The presentation of this dish was fabulous, with the blueberry sauce forming rings on my pancake that was dusted with confectioner's sugar. There were apple slices garnishing the whipped cream. Fresh tomato slices were on both ends of neatly arranged Andouille sausage slices, and a sprig of fresh basil atop sliced cucumbers straddled my creamy scrambled eggs! I was in food nirvana!
Zee opted for the Morrocan Strudel ($14.95) (Vegetarian Menu, served with soup or house salad). Baked Puff pastry filled with red rice, sauteed vegetables, and tofu, seasoned with cumin, rosemary, cinnamon and ground almonds. Served with curried golden tomato sauce, mango salsa. Before she received this delightful creation, she fell in love with Shenanigans fresh Foccacia bread, served hot and with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Ever the adventurous spirit, her eyes lit up when she first tasted the Morrocan Strudel. This is an amazing creation, full of exciting flavors! It truly is a wonderful dish that won't leave you stuffed!
It was Saturday and we still had time before we needed to check in to our room at PIC Saipan, so we could indulge in a bit of dessert. Zee had been eyeing the pastry display case and was attracted to the Dark Chocolate Ganache on the shelf. Also on the shelf were a Chocolate Cheese Cake and a Cheesecake. Each were available as a slice for $6. Owner Bel Busby got creative and gave us a Trio plate, which was picture perfect! I wish I could include a photo of Zee's ecstatic expression when that first spoon of ganache melted on her tongue!
We returned on Sunday (opting to bypass a large breakfast buffet) and I had the Huevos Rancheros ($10.95), featuring a crispy corn tortilla with refried beans, tomato chili sauce, fried eggs, cheddar and feta cheese. Feta offered a new twist on my Mexican dish...I liked it. Zee had the Bagel and Cream Cheese with Smoked Salmon - $11.95 It was served with fresh tomato, onions, cucumber lettuce and capers. The capers were placed in a carved out cucumber piece! That's impressive! I asked Bel who was cooking in the kitchen and she brought out her cook, Cora Dean, which presented a great photo op! She's awesome!!
Take time to visit Shenanigans when you are on Saipan. Prepare to be indulged!!
10th Annual UOGEF/MCA Celebrity Chefs Cup Winners Announced
It was another night of culinary history for both chefs and guests at the 10th Annual Celebrity Chefs Cup at the Hyatt Regency Guam on May 30. This year's theme was "From Russia With Love" and it proved to be more of a challenge than anyone expected. Though not a serious competition, this fund-raiser has grown in popularity and this year's had some really great moments along with a few disappointments. The one thing that was certain is that there was no shortage of creativity and hard work put in on the parts of the chefs and the GCC students who assisted in the kitchen. The videos were original, fun, and entertaining, and probably amongst the best productions we've seen at this event. I can't say the same thing for some of the chef creations served. As in all things there are winners and losers, and for this 10th Chef's Cup, there was no clear cut winner who would sweep all the awards as has happened in prior events.
However, it was the judge's determination that this year's Judge's Cup would be awarded to Executive Chef Christopher Aguon of Table 35 for his "Tabaka Roasted Duck Breast" hot appetizer, which was served over a parsnip puree, wilted arugula, and vodka-fois gras cream sauce. This would be an ideal dish to have at lunch and certainly showcased Chef Aguon's creative vision.
For defending champion from Team PROA, Executive Chef Geoffrey Perez dazzled the guests with his ice sculpted multi-layered creation, "Cold-Smoked Duo of Lobster and Scallops with Russian Salmon Caviar" which featured "cold-smoked rock lobster and scallops poached in a sweet vanilla butter, and served with a calamansi-laced vodka jelly, pickled red onion, sea grapes, and Russian salmon roe. " This garnered Chef Geoffrey the People's Choice Award(his 2nd in a row!). This was the most complicated creation and had a fabulous presentation. Team PROA worked long and hard to perfect this incredible dish! They were entrenched in the Hyatt's Freezers....they must have felt like they were in Siberia!!
The Westin Resort's Executive Chef Daniel Lenherr and his celebrity team members Vince Mafnas, Frank Whitman, Martin Leon Guerrero, and Maj. Michelle Limtiaco took home the award for "Best Video" , featuring a fast-paced and synchronized spy-themed narrative where a "top secret" recipe is delivered by elevator to the chef in a steel briefcase. Chef Daniel's delicious dessert creation was a "Charlotte Malakoff," a classic recipe made by a French chef for a Russian tsar and his tsarina that consisted of "a sweet almond cream parfait with ladyfinger crust and vodka-macerated strawberries."
Outrigger Resor Guam's Executive Chef David Jones' soup course was "Classical Russian Borscht" which was described as "a hearty classic Russian vegetable soup made with a rich beef broth, crowned with sliced French bread, sour cream, flying fish roe and fresh dill." The soup was delivered in a bowl with an underliner containing dry ice , creating a dramatic misting vision.
Executive Chef Eddie Chien of Delmonico served the main entree course called "Russian Hunter's Braised Leg of Lamb" which consisted of "spiced tender braised leg of lamb served over a saffron rice pilaf in crisp pastry tin and topped with hunter's sauce spheres." This was cute and appropriate since the cover had a heart-shaped image with the letters UOG seared on the top. Congrats to all the chefs, team members and the organizers who pulled off yet another great event supporting the Endowment Fund's mission to raise funds as well as to assist the Micronesian Chefs Association.
Hafa Adai Exchange
Though I've been back to Curry Kebab a number of times since my original review in September 2003, there are still some things I've not tried on their menu. Moreover, I've become more used to eating spicier foods so I can order and eat my food spicy at the Curry Kebab, which is Guam's only exclusively Indian Restaurant. Also, the prices have increased a bit since 2003(go figure). We go to Curry Kebab because we are compelled to by our bodies which crave the deep and rich spices found in Indian cuisine.
We started out with an appetizer, Vegetable Samosas - $6.50 Pastry Stuffed with Spiced Potatoes and Peas. Who can resist this flaky, turnover-crusted pastry filled with wonderful seasonings? Know also as Aloo Samosas(aloo for potato), their flavoring comes from Garam Masala(a mixture of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper), They are hot, however, once cooled you can enjoy with either of the two dipping sauces - the sweet and sour chutney made with tamarind or the mint chutney.
At the same time we had the samosas, we'd ordered the Apple Salad - $7.99, which is something we've ordered often. It's a refreshing, palate-soothing appetizer that has a tart and sweet taste. It's made with onions, tomatoes, and apples that are marinated in lemon juice and vinegar, with sugar water and parsley.
Zee's main course was Chicken Curry ($10.99 ), which she had spicy. I ordered the Beef Chilli Fry - $12.99 (Spicy Stir Fry beef with Beef with fresh green chillies, ginger, garlic, herbs and spices). We had saffron rice(not the Basmati as we prefer). The beef was indeed spicy as was the chicken...both dishes were meeting our yearnings for intense spice! Along with this we'd ordered the Garlic Naan Bread ($4.99). If you are ever uncertain about what to eat at Curry Kebab, try one of the specials, which offers a selection of either Tandoori Chicken or Tandoori Prawns, with a curry of your choice, naan bread, and a salad. You will definitely feel your blood rushing through you veins after you dine at Curry Kebab!
EN Japanese Restaurant
Next to Acanta Mall in the old Stanlee's Bldg.
EN Japanese Restaurant has finally opened and people by and large are very impressed! Great care and patience was taken to build this restaurant, which had previously been home to our good friend Stanley Miller(RIP), proprietor of Stanlee's, which for years was a Tumon landmark destination. The new owners bring a new legacy and restaurant concept, and should be in business for a very long time. There is no existing Japanese restaurant that I can compare EN to as it has developed its own personality and spirit. The aesthetics are quite good, with a very inviting exterior facade with bold and well-defined lettering establishing its brand. Once inside, you will see the amazing artwork and murals of koi on the wall...something that gives a fluidity and animation to this place.
If you are planning on going to EN, you should make reservations. They are open for lunch( 11:30 - 2:00) and dinner (5:30 p.m. - 10:00), and are extremely busy as is any new restaurant on Guam would be. But this is not just any new restaurant. They have studied the market and are creating their own niche by offering a very focused menu of Appetizers, Soups/Salads, Maki, EN's Signature Selections, and Entree's. They have only been open for about 3 weeks and will have a grand opening later in June.
I was able to get a single seat at the counter, which is near the entrance on the right. It's a neat first impression when you walk in as you see the chef's cooking on grills before you see the dining room! This is not a sushi counter, it's a cooking and grilling counter and it's actually fun to watch and interact with the chefs.
For this first visit, I decided to try out a few items to gauge their food. Bear in mind that new restaurants still have service issues that are being worked out in time. I'm not grading or judging this...just the food. I ordered the Kimchee($4.25), which is Chef Kadowaki's original recipe. Chef Kadowaki has marinated his napa cabbage in kimchee base for 2 weeks. It is surprisingly fresh and crisp, but not overly spiced. It's pleasantly light and you can taste all the blended flavors.
I also had the Yakko Tofu( $4.30), another appetizer that is served cold, with soft Kinugoshi Tofu that's topped with shaved dried bonito , grated ginger and green onions. This is a tradition way of eating tofu, however, I guess the tofu may be a better quality. I enjoyed it.
I wanted to try their Aburi Salmon Roll ($13.80), which has Kani Kama Crab, Cucumber, Avocado, Mayo on the inside and Salmon, Ikura, Yuzu-kosho mayo outside. (The MAKI section on the menu features 7 rolls and designates ingredients with "IN" and "OUT" for inside and outside respectively.) This Aburi Salmon Roll is definitely a winner, as the salmon has been torched to partially cook the top and give it a little browning. Every bite of this is quite good and they were smart to feature it on their menu. There is a line of yuzo-kosho mayo on the platter. When you taste this it has a pronounced citrus spice taste. It pairs well with each sushi roll instead of using wasabi, but I did both. Other rolls available are the California, Spicy Tuna, Crunchy, Fire Roll and EN Roll.
The Entree I tried was Chicken Namban($15.00), which features fried chicken thighs dipped in Namban sauce and dressed in a light creamy tartare sauce. Namban is a vinegar (Nanbansu) and the sauce uses sugar, vinegar and red pepper. This is a popular taste in Kyushu Japan and this chicken dish is essentially a Crispy Chicken in a Sweet and Tangy Sauce. The tartare sauce is a tasty, richly flavored sauce that reminds me a little of Thousand Island dressing. Also on the tray are oshinko(pickled vegetables, steamed rice, 'Aka-Dashi' Miso soup (a red miso soup using Red 'Hatcho' Miso paste with tofu and wakame). Along with the Namban Chicken on the plate are marinated asparagus spears, a potato flour fritter(fried but gooey texture), shredded cabbage and a grilled red pepper.
I noticed one of my neighbors eating a Chicken Salad($12.50) which is served in a huge, over-sized glass bowl. Other salads include the Caesar and Sashimi, as well as Green. There are also compelling entrees, such a Hamachi Kama - very popular here - Rib Eye Steaks, Salmon Steak, Black Cod Saikyo, and Okonomiyaki(Japanese savory pancake, Osaka-style).
A must-try dessert specialty at EN Japanese Restaurant is their Green Tea Tiramisu. This is literally divine! The serving ware and plating at EN are superb. They also feature a selection of fine wines, sakes and shochu. I will have to make a return soon with more people so I can try a few more dishes!