June 28, 2013, Volume 13 Number 12
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
Whew!! Have I been travelling lately!!! I just flew into Houston late last night early this morning from Seattle after having driven nearly 300 miles from Clarkston, Washington where I'd spent some precious time with my family! You've heard the saying "Put Family First"? Well it's true, and I did (and am doing) just that!! I flew into Seattle from Narita where I rendezvoused with brother Lee and later was joined by brother Carl, his wife Michele, and their daughter NaTaya along with her hubbie, Tyler. The dinner we had a Spencer's (in this newsletter) was with that family group.
We all caravanned (except Tyler) to Spokane where we all attended my daughter Avril's wedding to Cathlin. It was the first time my grandkids (Emily, Rachel and Carl) met Uncle Lee and Carl, as well as Michele and NaTaya. My grandson Carl was thrilled to finally meet his namesake. It was a special and beautiful wedding ceremony held in the magnificent cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. The reception was held in Spokane's historic Davenport Hotel, which I could easily see rated as a 5-star experience (we stayed there). As you can see from the family collage, we celebrated our family with cheerful greetings, happy tears, mirthful laughter, and "missed-you-so-long" embraces. We created valued memories that will last forever (with many posted on FaceBook).
On the 30th I will be in Ohio attending the Stewart Family reunion, something I'd not attended in maybe 7 years or so. Yes, this holiday is about getting closer to my family, especially since I live so far away on the beautiful paradise island of Guam!
Ken, the Guam Food Guy
MCA Presents Maila' Ta Fan Chesa
June 28, 2013
Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort - Ocean Sirena Ballroom
Tickets - $40
The Micronesian Chefs Association (MCA) will be holding its 2nd annual Maila' Ta Gan Chesa tonight at the Sheraton. This must-attend event will feature seven of the island's top chefs who will collaborate to prepare an array of appetizers, desserts, and beverages using fresh local produce. Among the produce (fruits and vegetables) that will be served are Kalamansi, Lemmai (breadfruit), Ates (sweet sop), Laguana (Sour sop), Mint (Yetba Buena), Kamuti (sweet potato).
Featured chefs include Chris Aguon, Table 35 Restaurant & Bar; Eddie Chien, Delmonico Kitchen & Bar; Rey Dasala, Sea Grill Restaurant; Peter Duenas, Meskla Restaurants; Daniel Lenherr, The Westin Resort Guam; Ivan Mendiola, PROA Restaurant, Tumon; and Geoffrey Perez, PROA Restaurant, Hagatna. You will be totally delighted when you taste and sample all of the wonderful creations these chefs will place in front of you! It will be a feast for the eyes and for all of the senses, showcasing the island's delicious produce. The MCA recently won Guam Visitor's Bureau's prestigious Golden Latte Award for the Best Local Tourist Promotion for last year's Maila' ta fan Chesa! I am so jealous I can't be there with all of you!! It will be an awesome, one-of-a kind Guahan celebration!
Breathe - Thoughtful Breathing Enhances Life
Linda Frank, Yoga Instructor, Special to GuamDiner.com
As a practitioner and teacher of the many facets of yoga, I have discovered the magic in the use of breathing. All of us have the tendency to take our breathing for granted, but without it I wouldn't be writing this article at the moment...in fact, I wouldn't be doing much of anything.
In yoga we learn to breathe correctly from the diaphragm, and to monitor our stress levels through the breath. Are we in a hurry and therefore driving too fast and getting ticketed? Yes, I'm guilty of that, but I finally got 'it' after my last ticket. No matter how much in a hurry I am, I'm now working on 'Making haste slowly'. I do this by slowing down my breath. How many of you, when behind a slow moving car or in a line at the bank hold their breath? And then get more irritated? Next time, try breathing in and out of the nostrils, counting each breath from 30 to 1, letting the exhalations be a little longer than the inhalations, and guaranteed, you'll become more relaxed.
How many of you eat while you're doing some of the following activities? Listening to the news, engaged in animated conversations at a social gathering...while driving...in other words, not really paying attention to what you're putting into your mouth. As a result, you're probably overeating, not chewing the food properly, and consequently, not digesting the food well.
I've had wonderful opportunities at Yoga Trainings and Retreats to learn better eating habits which I would like to share with you. The following are optimal practices for eating.
Sit while eating, not in your moving car seat, but in a place which has a lovely, quiet atmosphere. Before indulging give thanks for your food, the people and things in your life. Notice if you're feeling stressed by witnessing your breath. If you are breathing rapidly, slow it down, may be with your eyes closed for a few minutes to help calm your nervous system. Eat in silence. Chew your food slowly. When you're at a gathering, see if you can still practice some of the tips. Such as sitting in a secluded area, and if sitting with others, make sure they are of the optimistic nature. Even if you take a couple of these suggestions to heart, you will soon discover the importance of mindful breathing and eating. They both go hand in hand, or rather hand to mouth quite nicely.
A Walk Down Guam Restaurant's Memory Lane
Just for some fun, let's take a short trip down memory lane, and see if you can recall any of the following restaurants that used to grace our island:
Jim's Island House, Surgose's Italian Kitchen, Istimewa, Kimchi Cabana,
Latte Restaurant, M's Steak House, Crow's Nest, the Captain's Table, Azuma Restaurant, China House, Malesso Inn,
Yakitori House, The Panciteria, Salzburg Chalet, Joe & Flo's Mexican Restaurant, Rocco's Italian Restaurant,
Tina Marie's, The Tapa Room, Galleon Grill, Kurumaya Restaurant, Ivory Gourmet Cuisine, J&K Hong Kong Restaurant,
Latino's Italian Restaurant, Signature Lounge, American Cafe, Andok's Fast Food, Cool Spot, Mongolian BBQ,
Pim's Place, I Natibu, Epicure, Furusato, Papa John's, Greek Freak, The Brig, Ocean Bay Chinese, Sobroso's,
Shanghai, Melanzanne, Yakitori Grill, The Pill Box, College Cafe, Joyful Chinese, La Mesa's, Chianti, Flamboyan,
Planet Noodle & Cafe, Downtown Deli, Bolsa, Wing's, Josephine's Chamorro Kitchen, Wet Willie's, Genji, Tom's Table, Gu's Shanghai Bistro,
Isabel's Cafe Nouveau, Mini Cafe, Coral Palace, Creations, Shiranami, Lotus Garden, Mimi Ramen, Hale Kai Seafood, Planet Hollywood,
Korean BBQ, Le Creole, Claret, Pacific Grill, Y Kusina, Shakey's, Bully's, Firefly, Kiyo Sato, and Amantes. Do you remember their locations?
This clearly shows you how more than 60 restaurants have come and gone (there are many more) over the years, with some leaving this past year. My career in food service on Guam has given me a unique perspective on and a direct involvement with most of these restaurants. Many are like long lost friends and old acquaintances.
We don't have rosaries or graveyards for restaurants - just for restaurant people. Now there's some food for thought!
Spencer's For Steaks and Chops
Hilton Seattle Airport
17620 International Boulevard
Seattle, WA 98188
If you ever have a layover in Seattle, there's a place you may want to put on your "bucket list" of fine dining experiences, and that is Spencer's For Steaks and Chops. I had not heard of Spencer's prior to brother Lee suggesting we meet up with brother Carl's family at Spencer's in the Airport Hilton. While Lee and I waited drinking an exceptional Washington State Pinot Noir, I perused the lounge area in front of the restaurant (which is situated just steps away from the front desk) and noted may accolades (they've won an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator for having one of the most outstanding wine lists in the world----4 years in a row!!). Wine Enthusiast and Trip Advisor were some of the more notable awards. We also saw the menu and yes, this place definitely qualified as a fine-dining establishment with a heady selection of appealing appetizers and entrees, spare no expense! When Carl, wife Michele, daughter NaTaya, and son-in-law, Tyler (the two young ones live in Seattle), finally arrived, we ordered some drinks and were moved from the lounge to the dining room.
We hadn't decided on dinner and initially didn't consider Spencer's due to budget constraints (large group, huge bill!), however, since we were there, and I didn't know if I'd have the opportunity to return, I thought it would be great if we could try some of the appetizers and menu items, and share them!! What a wonderful way to taste food, especially since I have started my exercise program (more on this later).
The first to come were the Hood Canal Oysters (Washington grown apple-ginger mignonette) 12/$28. These were so extremely fresh and the mignonette was a creative twist on the traditional shallot, cracked pepper and vinegar condiment. They also provided mini Tabasco bottles, too. The apple ginger blend seemed to have a little basil as it reminded us of a pesto. Definitely worth the $2 + each price tag. This raw oyster eating experience was a first for Michele, NaTaya and Tyler, and they were instant converts!
Next to come was the Grass-Fed Steak Carpaccio (spiced granola, caper vinaigrette ($14.50). Spencer's features USDA Prime Beef from Stockyard's Beef of Chicago, so the Carpaccio was nothing short of excellent in taste and freshness, with creative adornments by Chef Clay Blake. Again, this was eaten and enjoyed without hesitation---no complaints over raw beef!!
The Boneless Ribeye Steak (14 oz USDA Prime - $41) was brought out and we gleefully cut that up into edible bites that disappeared off the forks! We ordered a combination of three accompaniments for sides (any 3 for $19) and were served Sweet Potato Fries, Broccolini (w/roasted Garlic) and Sauteed Mushrooms. There was plenty for all to share. The mushrooms and broccolini were at the top of their game, and Tyler and NaTaya relished these along with their cherished sweet potato fries.
The final entree, Double-Cut Pork Chop (14 oz. Marinated Duroc, $38), was served and we each had slices of this awesome meat and I was lucky to get the bone. There's no doubting the high quality of this chop---it must have come with its own papers! The service at Spencer's was flawless and impeccable, with every detail and wish attended to. We all enjoyed this shared dining experience. Be sure to look up Spencer's when in Seattle...you may see me there again!
PROA Restaurant - Hagatna
Across Skinner Plaza (former TGI Fridays)
PROA's Hagatna location is a super-sized version of PROA's legendary Tumon location. The Restaurant is an amazing remake of the original T.G.I.Friday's building, which really has no recognizable reminders. It's all dazzlingly new and aesthetically appealing with local arts and themes. It is spacious beyond intimate, with plenty of room for large groups and parties. There's no rubbing elbows like in the original PROA. PROA Hagatna had some start-up challenges that took some time to correct. They have been inundated with customers and have had to work their way through service delivery issues. The food, once you finally got it, was delicious and people raved about the fantastic flavors and original creations. PROA's owners and management team have been on the ground listening and responding to the myriad issues. This is what makes PROA different and stronger than most restaurants - the owners care very much about their customers feelings and reactions. They do every thing they can to make things right.
Aware of the concerns raised by disappointed customers, I knew it would only be a matter of time for this large and powerful organization to settle into a working excellence mode. PROA had to develop new recruits and personnel to a level of proficiency achieved by their corps of hearty veterans trained in the Tumon trenches. This can't be done overnight! How easily people forget some of the complaints from the first opening, but they still came back for more of the magic grub PROA's kitchen wizards kept kickin' out! Just to get a whiff of those Marianas Glazed BBQ Ribs would be enough to make one salivate and crave for satisfaction!
For this newsletter, I wanted to showcase some of the new menu items PROA's unveiled. Some of these photos were taken during an MCA Board Meeting and I can't say that I've eaten all of them. I did have a bite of many, though.
The Achote Fried Shrimp on a Stick with a Chorizo Sweet Potato Empanada and Calamansi Culantro Avocado Sauce ($10.95) is an excellent starter trio, which is a trend PROA adopted earlier. Give the people more by giving them less. That's the best way to eat a variety of items! The empanada will have you screaming for more!
Another appetizer I had during a separate visit were the Proa Style Hibachi Chicken Tacos with Peppery Papaya Salsa and Pupulu Drizzle ($8.95). These are actually very tasty and are shareable. The little crispy won ton wrappers are no match for the overflowing papaya salsa'd chicken, with red rice over and under. I like the playful creativity Chef Geoffrey and his team have put into their menu creations. Names and titles have alliteration and food is a mouthful of delightful words. Entice and delight - a culinary strategy that starts with a menu description creating an expectation that's met and or surpassed by the experience!
The "Short Rib Duo" Tender Braised Bone-In Short Rib and BBQ Boneless Short Rib Caramelized Garlic Mash Potato with Sauteed Vegetables is more than a mouthful to say and eat! This is about meat and getting plenty of it! It's a creative dish, for sure, but it all comes back down to MEAT! When you taste these distinctly different dishes, you may want to order one or the other. I know I really liked that Bone-in Short Rib!!
The "Pork Two Ways" has both Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin and a Crispy Pork Belly with a Red Rice Risotto Cake and a Sauteed Cabernet mongo bean pan sauce - ($21.95). I will have to try this dish as I just have the photo. Looked good, though!
The same goes for this Char-Broiled Red Dirt Marinated Carne with Sauteed Tropical Spinach and Fried Fontina on warm crusty bread ($15.95), which I will have to also try out one day! There's a load of spinach in this! I have to avoid this volume of carbs for a while, but can probably order it on a salad!
I did have the Crispy Cornish Game Hen with Rosemary Baked Red Potatoes, Sauteed Green Beans, Roasted Garlic and a Thyme Brushed White wine Mustard Jus ($18.95). This could be a comfort dish. They've done well by taking the noble game hen back to a time in its past when it was thus celebrated by great chefs! Savory flavors from spices and seasonings do wonders when you add lemon, olive oil, garlic and sauces to a roasted fowl.
One special dish prepared by the PROA team to accommodate Zee's vegetarian preference was a Ratatouille with Fettuccine. It's not on the menu, is loaded with veggies like eggplant, onions, zucchini, and peppers, with a marinara sauce.
I had a lunch special the day of our visit. It was a masterful Pan-Seared Smoked Norwegian King Salmon served on a bed of Lobster Saffron Rizzoto! I don't remember the price (maybe $21.95), but I do remember how perfectly cooked that salmon was, with a butter cream sauce. One of the things I urge people to do is try the PROA Lunch specials. They've been consistently awesome for me!
If you have room, save a little room for dessert. Try the Warm Molten Chocolate Cake or Coconut Banana Fritters---you can't go wrong with either (just a small bite!).
The new Hagatna PROA has an expanded Patisserie with large state of the art refrigerated display cases where you can purchase a variety of confectionary treats. There is also a full-service bar where games can be watched on large screen TVs. There's no question about PROA's future prospects. They have a winning attitude and have translated that into a winning business model. We'll be doing PROA for a very long time indeed!
Ken the Guam Food Guy
You can find Guam Food Guy links and reviews at the following sites:
Also available on Your Docomo Pacific web-enabled phone