Mark your calendars and save the date for June 28, when the Micronesian Chefs Association will hold its 2nd Maila Ta Fan Chesa food and beverage tasting the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort. You will be treated to some of the island's top chefs creating unique appetizers, drinks, and desserts made with Sweet Sop, Calamansi, Sweet Potato, Sour Sop, Bread Fruit and Mint. Tickets will be available soon and will be distributed by MCA members. Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!
Ken, the Guam Food Guy
(The GuamDiner.com staff would like to wish Ken a Happy Birthday!)
Hilton Team Reunion
May 24, 2013
It was a very special night indeed for the group of former Hilton managers who had worked as part of the team inspired by the leadership of Christian Schucking, who was Hilton's General Manager from 1980 - 1984. Christian returned to Guam along with his wife Carmen for a short visit to catch up with old friends and to see how the island has changed. I was tasked with getting the team members together for a soiree at Issin Japanese Restaurant, which is owned by former Hilton Genji Manager Tom Iizuka. Other team members were Mark Oku and Nena Ratuita, who had been Executive Housekeeper for what seems like forever! She's now Executive Housekeeper at the Outrigger. Iizuka-san treated our group to an elaborate Japanese feast, with the freshest and best sashimi, tempura, beef tataki, and other treats along with a selection of fine wines washed down with San Pellegrino. There were many warm memories shared. It was a night that seemed to last forever as no one wanted to leave. It was a reunion of old friends who value, love, and respect each other for being part of a team that made Hilton history. It was a night of recollections and reconnections. Zee and I were extremely grateful and honored to be a part of this special reunion of friends. I've been part of the Hilton story myself since 1973, both as a guest and a vendor, but more so as a friend! And so it continues! Auf wiedersehen, Christian and Carmen Schucking!
Taste of the Marianas Certified Angus Beef Chef's Competition
2013 May 25, 2013
American Memorial Park
I was once again honored to be invited to attend the Professional Chefs Competition at the Taste of the Marianas, now celebrating its 15th year! I was asked to both judge and be an emcee for this year's unique competition, the theme for which was to create the All American Cheeseburger. This competition has primarily been sponsored by Triple J Five Star so Certified Angus Beef is a constant. Other sponsors are HANMI (the hotel association of the Northern Marianas) and Marianas Visitor's Authority. CAB Chuck Ground Beef was to be seasoned and prepared by each chef. They also were tasked with having to make their own buns from scratch as well as to use real potatoes for French fries (not frozen fries). There were some amazing booth displays (as is always the case in Saipan). These chef teams take great pride in their craft and profession. They never fail to impress me with culinary agility and imagination. Team Hyatt's booth boasted a 67 pound burger that they later cut up and fed to the assembled masses! The participants were the Marianas Resort, Hyatt Regency, Fiesta Resort, Saipan World Resort (2 teams) and Pacific Islands Club.
This year's first place winner was the Marianas Resort and Spa's Emmanuel Pancha and Richard Meimban, who created the North's Best Burger and built a House of Burgers to show case it! (The house was made completely from bread!!). Their burger's ingredients included honey molasses glazed bacon, caramelized onion, grilled lettuce, roasted tomato with sea salt, sauteed mushrooms, and smoky tomato mayo.
The Hyatt Regency Saipan came in second place with their "Five Alarm" Spicy Burger made with red onion , garlic, parmesan cheese, creme fraiche, shredded romaine lettuce, curly lettuce leaves, tomatoes, coriander seed, black pepper, paprika and chopped green chili. Team members Benjamin Babauta and Victor Norita later cut up and doled out the huge burger in their booth to an appreciating crowd. Third place was claimed by the Fiesta Resort and Spa's Hermie Cornejo and Afredo Capacio, who made a tasty Texas Chili Burger.
I am so looking forward to next year's Taste of the Marianas! It's become an annual tradition for me! Biba Marianas!!
Hyatt Sunday Brunch Giovanni's & Teppanyaki
Hyatt Regency Saipan
"Braggin' Rights!" That's what Hyatt Regency Saipan has when it comes to their famous Sunday Brunch! Unquestionably the best Sunday Brunch in Micronesia, Hyatt's Sunday Brunch is an unabashed feast of food and flavors, with live cooking stations, a live sushi station, superb prime rib, an entire suckling pig, fresh pastries and breads, desserts galore, and healthy imaginative salads, and food inspirations from around the world. It is remarkable that such an elaborate buffet can be developed and sustained on this small island in the Pacific! It has to be one of the most scenic locations with a view overlooking the water park and lagoon. The price is only $42.00 for this all you can eat feast, which features free-flowing champagne and coffee. Spend a weekend in Saipan and make the Hyatt Regency Saipan your Sunday Brunch destination!
VIP House Chinese Restaurant
B-2 American Grocery Building B
VIP House Chinese Restaurant has opened a smaller version of its larger Tumon location (VIP House Seafood Chinese Restaurant) in one of Dededo's busiest spots - next to American Grocery. The good thing for consumers is that the prices are reasonable and the food is both tasty and fresh with generous portions. They do have fast food (1-2-3 choice options for lunch, but you can order a la carte).
We went for dinner one night and were greeted warmly by Mrs. Chiu who recognized me. They have new staff who are still learning the business so don't try to be too demanding. I asked for Hot Green Tea and got a glass of hot water with a tea bag. Just sayin'.
We ordered the Spring Roll (3 pcs/vegetable), Vegetable Chao Mein ($8), Yang Chow Fried Rice ($7.00), Sauteed Chinese Broccoli with Garlic ($8.00), and the Kung Pao Chicken ($8.00). The food began to come out quickly after a few minutes passed. There were other customers and it seemed that each table was getting food delivered.
The Spring Rolls were crisp and nearly greaseless. I was surprised by how good they tasted. The Vegetable Chao Mein was hot and fresh out of the wok! Not a lot of vegetables other than cabbage and carrots, but still tasty nonetheless. The Fried Rice was another surprise. The photo doesn't do this dish much justice as it seems smaller. This is enough rice for four people! It was light and fluffy and fresh, and the shrimp I had were plump. One of the better fried rice dishes I've had in some time.
The Chinese Broccoli was as good as it gets and also filled the platter. I could hear the giant jet wok in the kitchen roaring like a 757 so I knew there was a chef in the kitchen making some magic because the food was flowing out!
There was a slight delay in my Kung Pao Chicken as the server may have forgotten to list it on our order. It didn't take any more than a few minutes for it to be delivered piping hot. This Kung Pao Chicken was my favorite dish of all since it had that spicy Sichuan sauce, lots of chicken, red bell pepper, peanuts, and would you believe zucchini? This was wok cooked perfectly. There was plenty left over and I was able to make a 2nd meal out of this dish and the fried rice.
VIP's menu is still a "soft opening" menu with limited selections. I will have to return for the roast duck, salt & pepper shrimp, Shanghai Steak, and Ma Po Tofu. Maybe they'll serve my hot tea in a tea pot!
Tokyo Mart Re-Opens after Total Makeover!
DNA Plaza (next to Cost-U-Less)
646-6615 10 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Tokyo Mart is back in business after having been closed several months for renovation. They have a whole new look and are offering customers an expanded selection of produce, dry goods, beverages, and fresh produce. I think the words should be "more and better"! They need to insert in their title "Super" somewhere, because you'll be impressed with all the improvements! If you go from now until the 14th of June, you'll receive special pricing on many products during this soft opening period. They have opened up a new "$1.99" Corner, where you can buy instant foods, snacks, sauces, drinks, desserts, and seasonings for $1.99 ea.!
They have expanded and improved the bento box offerings with a larger display case. You can get Hana Bento, Chamorro Bento, Nori Bento, Cold Natto Noodles, Healthy Bento with brown rice, Mapo Tofu bento, Poki Bowl, Regular Bento, Okonomiyaki, Curry Bento, and one of my favorite, the Japanese Fried Chicken Bento. They have expanded their sashimi and fish selection, and now carry some Certified Angus Beef steak cuts. One of the things that caught my eye is their wide display of deli items such as Salame Milano and Fontina Cheese, Mortadella, Soppressata, and Genoa Salame, all in the Citterio fresco brand. They also have Tri-heads from Grow Guam, the local hydroponic farm. I also noticed an entire end cap full of European imported oils, sauces, jams, jellies, crackers, cookies, and more. All of this on top of their regular selection of Japanese food products (frozen, fresh, dry goods), and sundries. Check out the new Tokyo Mart - you will be as "super surprised" as I was, and if you shop soon, you'll get some super savings!!
Ruby Tuesday's New Menu Items
Guam Premier Outlets
I am always one who applauds a restaurant for making improvements as well as for changing up their game. That's what has been trending for some time at Ruby Tuesday at Guam Premier Outlets. They've recently launched some new exciting menu items that are labeled "Chef Inspired Selections" and I just had the opportunity to test drive some of these intriguing creations.
There are a few appetizers however the one I had was the Key West Coconut Shrimp ($9.99). These are described as light, crispy and being served with a special key lime sauce. There is truth in advertising...they are also tasty, with a rich toasted coconut flavor coming through each bite of the crisp panko crust every time you bite. The key lime sauce is an enhancement, with key lime being one of the more intense limes.
Since Zee's doing the vegetarian regimen, we had the Fresh Guacamole Dip $11.99 (made to order) with ripe avocados, fresh pico de gallo, salsa and unlimited crisp tortilla chips. The first bite of this fabulous guacamole tells you all you need to know - this is wonderfully fresh! The pico de gallo, salsa, and chips all work in concert to deliver a balanced, flavor, and hearty appetizer (or meal if you are watching your calories!). I sampled on some of these and did my best to resist eating too much of this for fear of filling up!
For her main course, Zee opted for the Veggie Trio & Garden Bar ($14.99), and she chose three sides (Sugar Snap Peas, Roasted Spaghetti Squash, and Fresh Steamed Broccoli). This meal allows a garden bar trip or a bowl of soup. The Roasted Spaghetti Squash has become a favorite of hers. It's actually a deliciously easy way to enjoy any number of sauce toppings or eaten plain.
The new menu selections are quite appealing, however, I had been in a steak mood so ordered the Black Fire New York Strip ($23.99). This is a premium cut of steak and is topped with a proprietary blend of spices that are akin to a blackened steak flavor, with Cajun accents and bits of heat. I ordered it Medium Rare and it came out seared to perfection. It was tender and succulent...it even seemed juicier (maybe because the spices had some influence on my palate. I had this with a fully loaded baked potato (a premium side for $1 more) and fresh grilled zucchini (another winner in my book! - these are among the tastiest I've had in any restaurant). Ruby likes to resonate "FRESH"!
Next on the tasting course was another "new" entree, the Hickory Bourbon Salmon - $20.99, which has a griddled salmon filet glazed with a tangy bourbon barbecue sauce. The salmon was cooked to a perfect temperature, so I was already happy but made happier by the marriage of that barbecue glaze to my salmon, especially where the sauce caramelizes. For sides I had two "Premium" sides - the sweet potato fries - they need no introduction...everyone just loves these, and the Baked Mac 'n Cheese, which is decadently delicious, and oozing with rich cheddar cheese!!
Another new entree the chef's dreamed up was a delightful Cajun Jambalaya Pasta ($19.99). This eye-popper is gorgeous and will have you salivating with just a few glances. It is full of seasoned shrimp, chicken and a spicy andouille sausage. This is one of my favorite sausages, and when sauteed with onions and peppers in a spicy Cajun Cream sauce, it is easy to see how this could be a personal favorite. I happened to have this as a leftover and it was more flavorful since the spices were more absorbed.
My last dish to try out wasn't a new one but it was new to me. The Ribs & Bacon Wrapped Shrimp ($23.99) boast a half rack of baby back ribs paired with bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp, with both brushed with a peach bourbon barbecue sauce! That's a flavor and taste one can easily become addicted to! I finished off the shrimp and had a couple of meaty ribs. These will be great left over! The sides accompanying this dish were steamed broccoli and onion rings, and I want to point out that Ruby's onion rings are top of the line! They are greaseless, crisp, well-battered, and easy to bite. Zee did a little filling up on these rings too!
We really did what we intended to do at Ruby Tuesday's------try out the new menu items that proved to be as tasty and delicious as they were promoted to be. I also need to thank our service staff for really rising to the challenge of serving us as we munched our way through these courses. Gail Sanchez and Stephen Torres are customer service ambassadors. Believe it or not, they are not exceptions at Ruby Tuesday...they are the rule!!
Ken the Guam Food Guy