Big Island find: Zest Kitchen in Hawi

Hawi—the second-to-last last stop before you hit the end of the world, aka the lookout at Pololu Valley—wasn’t where I expected to find one of my favorite cafés in the islands. But a year ago, while visiting friends, that’s exactly what we found. In August 2010, friends from New York road tripping on Hawai‘i Island told me they found this place called Zest and were … Continue reading Big Island find: Zest Kitchen in Hawi

Kaua’i Grill Part I: The gala dinner

Over the past decade, brand-name chefs who have gone global with their food, conquering new cities like culinary Alexanders, have been scrutinized—is it really possible to run an empire and retain the quality and innovation that made the name in the first place? Alain Ducasse, Nobu Matsuhisa, Gordon Ramsay, and, closer to home, Roy Yamaguchi, are some of the kitchen stars who have turned into meteor showers. Continue reading “Kaua’i Grill Part I: The gala dinner”

Have you been to 12th Avenue Grill lately?

Big Island boar in broth with Hamakua mushrooms

Honolulu’s original contemporary American bistro turned five this year. And 12th Avenue Grill is only getting better. A dinner two weeks ago, with three discerning eatizen joes and a jane from San Francisco in tow, elicited surprised cries of delight. As usual, the specials were all instant winnahs. Like this starter of Big Island boar in a broth with gnocchi, hamakua mushrooms and other stuff (I just wanted to enjoy dinner and didn’t take any notes, gah). It is a quintessential “chasseur” dish that signals autumn is finally here.

Continue reading “Have you been to 12th Avenue Grill lately?”

Philadelphia: Don’t waste space on cheesesteaks

Deceivingly simple looking rabbit stew at Kanella in Philadelphia. When someone tells you he’s taking you to a Greek-Cypriot restaurant in Philadelphia, you expect rustic, hearty Mediterranean food—some grilled fish, melitzanosalata, baklava—right? Well Kanella is a Greek-Cypriot restaurant and that’s not what was served. OK, yes, those things are on the menu, but executed at another level from the Greek joint you normally go to. And after reading this Philadelphia Inquirer review, anyone would expect more. Continue reading “Philadelphia: Don’t waste space on cheesesteaks”

Holy Tarte Tatin! Chef Mavro’s ‘Julie & Julia’ special starts Aug. 7

Julie & Julia beouf bourgignon

NOTE 9/4/09: Due to popular demand, Julie & Julia dinner has been extended through September, Tuesday-Saturday. Check the Chef Mavro blog for updates (and see how George Mavrothalassitis makes beouf bourgignon. Thing of beauty).

Yeah, recessions suck. But they also spur all kinds of good (and delicious) things. Like last winter’s Souper Tuesdays at Town, Hiroshi’s insanely cheap $35 Locally Grown Dinner,  and now Chef Mavro‘s Julie & Julia-inspired three-course dinner. Continue reading “Holy Tarte Tatin! Chef Mavro’s ‘Julie & Julia’ special starts Aug. 7”

Town: So pig-headed!

Pig head at the Town barFrom day one, Town‘s Ed Kenney and David Caldiero have been talking of locavorism, house-curing meats, house-made pasta, and other seductive culinary promises. From the first lunch they prepared for me in spring 2005 (before they served their first customer!) to dinner last night, this pono pair has delivered. And not just to so-called foodies, but to the community, as unflagging participants in fundraisers, as the commercial partner of MA‘O Farms and as an affordable spot for the people (check $12 Souper Tuesdays—organic greens and washtub-size bowl of house-made soup).

Four years on every time I go to the restaurant there’s something new and intriguing to try on the daily-changing, local-farmer-supporting menu. Last night it was pig head. Continue reading “Town: So pig-headed!”