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May 23, 2003, Volume 3 Number 21

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

When I accepted the invitation to be a judge at this year's Taste of the Marianas' Chef's Competition in Saipan, I didn't really know what was waiting for me. I did know that Saipan is full of surprises, and that I could count on being impressed by Saipan's food experiences. Just ask anyone who visits our northern Marianas neighbor and they'll always rave about the great eating spots there. I believe some enterprising travel agent should create a special Saipan Dining Package which would include airfare, car, and hotel accommodations, along with several restaurant packages from which to choose. A two-day "Eat Your Way Through Saipan" excursion could include a breakfast or lunch at Coffee Care or El Segundo's at the Pacific Gardenia, Phad Thai at Thai House, being serenaded by the dulcet harmonies of the much-adored ARC Trio while savoring haute cuisine at the Aqua Resort's Raraina, and maybe even a SandCastle Show and a relaxing aroma therapy session at Mandara or the ARC Health Spa. Be sure to plan your itinerary to include Sunday Brunch, which most visitors from Guam have extolled the most magnificent meal service at Saipan's Hyatt Regency. I'm inclined, however, to give an enthusiastic nod to the elaborate Sunday Brunch at Aqua Resort's Costa Terrace, which is considered a local favorite. Which ever you choose, you can't go wrong.

In the coming weeks, you can expect to hear more about some of Saipan's restaurant offerings in a series of mini-reviews that will give you a "Taste of the Marianas." Today's review of the Raraina showcases a restaurant created for special occasions that boasts the region's best French menu and that features a trio of live musicians who will sweep you off your feet with sweet melodies.

Finally, we are once again keeping a wary eye on the developing Tropical Storm "Chan-Hom" as it spins its way in our direction away from Chuuk State. Let's pray that this storm will pass leaving us unscathed.

Ken - "The Guam Food Guy"

In Today's Issue:

  • Taste of the Marianas Chef's Cooking Competition Winners
  • G.C.C.'s Tourism & Hospitality Program's Chef's Table
  • Old Hagatna Grill's Wine Dinner - May 24
  • Around the Island : Tony Roma's Caribbean Carnival, Malassadas
  • Raraina Fine Dining - Saipan's "Queen" of French Cuisine

Taste of the Marianas Chef's Cooking Competition Winners

On May 17 the Taste of the Marianas International Food Festival held a Chef's Cooking Competition called Restaurant Showcases: "The Mariana Islands" Theme. The sponsored main ingredient was a Certified Angus Beef Strip Loin that was to be prepared using local ingredients. In a very competitive event the judges voted the following as the top three winning entries:

First Place: Rodrigo Gatela, Pacific Islands Club Saipan "Cassava & Young Coconut Crusted CAB Strip Loin"

Second Place: Arnel Marquez, Aqua Resort Club "Entrecote de Boeuf -'Taga'"

Third Place: Fortunato Bautista, Jr., Hyatt Regency Saipan "Famous of Marianas Beef - 'Hot BBQ'"

Other contestant entries were:

"Strip Loin Roulade on Coconut -Brown Sauce with Chamorro Rolls" by Richard Pambid (PIC); "Saipan Lady-Five Color Beef Rolls in Cream Sauce", by Evangeline Ballen (Hotel Nikko Saipan); "Paupiettes de Boeuf -'Marianas'" by Joelito Bayking (Aqua Resort Saipan); "Mariana Spicy Pepper Steak" by Larry Diestro (Hotel Nikko Saipan); and "Grilled CAB Strip Loin 'Au Jus' and Vegetables" by Jeetendra K. Thakuur (Hyatt Regency Saipan).

G.C.C.'s Tourism & Hospitality Program's Chef's Table

On May 15, a Chef's Table was held by students and cook apprentices taking Chef Clayton Babas' HS245 Food Production Principles Course. The event was attended by GCC Administrators, faculty, staff, invited guests and media representatives. A delightful four-course meal was prepared and served by the students to the guests, with each course being introduced by one of the team. The menu started with a Seared Shichimi Crusted Ahi w/Orange Butter Sauce, an Appetizer that was paired with a Danante Pinot Grigio wine, followed by a Poached Chicken in Ginger Broth Soup. The main entree was Grilled Marinated Kajiki W/Mango Salsa and Ginger Soy with Bitter Greens and Wasabi Mash. This was paired with Danzante Sangiovese. The dessert course was a delicious Molten Chocolate Cake w/Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Cream. Guests were impressed by the quality of the food, its presentation, and the level of service. This course represents one of the excellent hands-on learning experiences available in GCC's Tourism & Hospitality Program.

Old Hagatna Grill's Wine Dinner - May 24

A wine dinner will be held this Saturday night at the Old Hagatna Grill. This month OHG will be celebrating Chile, with wine makers Robert Mondavi and Eduardo Chadwick featuring Caliterra Vineyards. The price is $65.00 per person with a seating time of 7pm. For reservations contact Dave Hanley at 472-5885 or 687-5901. For menu information click here.

Around the Island : Tony Roma's Caribbean Carnival, Malassadas

Tony Roma's has introduced a New Caribbean Carnival Menu featuring several new selections boasting exciting tastes unique to the Caribbean. Among the new entrees are the Pirate Ribs, Samba Chicken, Jerk Chicken, Jamaican Shrimp Dinner and the Kingston Chicken Sandwich. I had an opportunity to taste the Pirate Ribs and Jerk Chicken recently. The same cooking process that made Tony Roma's famous is used to prepare these ribs and chicken, with the difference being the Caribbean-influenced sauce treatment. Both meats took well to this new "dressing" and the spicy "jerk" flavors should appeal to local tastes. During this introductory promotion, Tony Roma's is offering a "Mojito" ( a Caribbean favorite made with Mint, Lime, Sugar, Bacardi Light Rum and Soda) cocktail when ordering one of these new selections. Tony Roma's is located in the Royal Orchid Hotel and affords an excellent view of Tumon Bay.

Auntie M's HOT Malassadas "Bake Shop" is now re-opened at a new location and serving its famous Portuguese donut creations. Auntie M's is now located across Marine Drive from BankPacific's Tamuning Branch. The operating hours for this little bakery offering "A Taste of Hawaii" are 6:30am to 6:00pm, Monday - Saturday. You can look forward to a bigger selection of Muffins, Cookies, and other sweet delights in the near future.

Raraina Fine Dining - Saipan's "Queen" of French Cuisine

Who would have guessed that Saipan is home to one of the region's premier French dining experiences? Raraina is the name of this fine dining establishment located in Saipan's famous Aqua Resort Club, nestled in a verdant garden setting along the coast of Achugao. Raraina means "queen" in the native Chamorro language, and the royal appellation is well-suited to the elegant ambiance and regal service one receives when dining in this exclusive resort restaurant. Although the menu items are French, I believe that the style of dining should reflect Saipan's tropical locale and be called French Pacific. Make no mistake about it, though...this is still a "fine dining" experience, replete with Maitre d'Hotel, candle-lit white clothed tables with plenty of space for privacy, table side Caesar Salad and Flambee preparations, a good wine selection and a trio of balladeers (the famous ARC Trio) who serenade diners with requested favorites. Raraina is certainly the place to go to make the right impression, and especially the destination for that special occasion dinner with that special "someone."

Raraina's menu boasts an exciting and appealing line-up of appetizers and entrees, so many that one has to return a number of times to enjoy the menus broad range of seafood and meat dishes. Starters includes a Venison Terrine with Pistachios and Mushrooms with a Cranberry Orange Relish ($8.00); a Quick Broiled Goose Liver Pate and Smoked Duck on Mesclun Salads and Xeres Vinaigrette ($16.00); Baked Oysters in Champagne ($12.50) and Scallops "Bretonne" ($13.00).

I started my culinary journey with a "Bisque de Homard" (Lobster Bisque, $6.50). Aside from the stunning presentation, it had Avoset cream and was filled with large pieces of sumptuous lobster. Shredded carrot and potato pieces added a nice texture to this rich dish.

Peter, my attentive server, next brought a trolley that carried the large wooden bowl and accompanying ingredients (all in polished steel serving dishes) for my Caesar Salad. He must have spent five minutes whisking and stirring the Egg Yolks, Garlic, Anchovies, Parmesan and other ingredients. The salad is made to taste, so if you want more Garlic or Anchovies, just ask. The Romaine Lettuce is left intact and served as layered full leaves that are coated with the Caesar Dressing and Toasted Croutons.

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Bon appetit!

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