Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Washoku, By Elizabeth Andoh

In Washoku, Elizabeth Andoh teaches the reader about the art of Japanese cooking. She was born and raised in America, but learned about traditional Japanese cooking after living with her husband's family forty years ago. For this reason, Andoh is able to write about authentic methods and traditions, while explaining it from a westerner's perspective. This book was very interesting for me, as it filled in many of the gaps and answered many of the questions that I had after learning from my grandma. There is nothing like learning first-hand from my grandma; however with the language barrier, it is difficult to fully appreciate the art behind the cooking techniques. This beautiful book is more than a cookbook, but a tribute to the art of cooking harmoniously in the Japanese kitchen.

After cooking several of Andoh's dishes, I've gained a great appreciation for Japanese cooking, specifically Washoku, or the "harmony of food."

Itoko Ni (Soy-Simmered Kabocha Squash with Read Beans)

Unpen-Jiru (Temple Garden Chowder)

Nasu Dengaku (not Andoh's recipe) with Ingen No Goma Miso Ae (Green Beans Tossed in Creamy Sesame-Miso Sauce) and Tosa Ae (Tosa Sea Salad)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Cream Pot

Call me a girly-girl, but The Cream Pot is the nicest place for the girls to get together to have girly food and feel pretty! I was drawn to this dainty place when I saw it from the window of the Hawaiian Monarch Hotel. From the outside, I could see pretty tables, laced curtains, and flowers as I drove by several times. When I heard that the restaurant finally opened, I was anxious to see what this adorable restaurant was all about. With my boyfriend's sister expecting her first child any day now, it was a perfect opportunity to spend some quality girl time with her and her mom.

If the food wasn't good (which luckily, it is) I would come to this place just to sit in it and feel pretty! It has a Japanese-inspired french cottage feel, with wrought iron chairs and tables, terra cotta tiled floors, flowers, rustic wooden doors, and an assortment of french country accessories. The smallest details (like the single carnation resting inside of an empty salt shaker) make this place so quaint and homey. Don't forget to look down on the floor when you enter, you'll see little kitty foot prints in the tiles of the floor!

The menu consists of sweet and savory crepes, belgian waffles, french rolled omelets, eggs benedict, baked eggs, salads, and an assortment of fresh fruit juices. The most unique item on the menu is the Maguro Benedict, which is rice cakes, maguro ahi carpaccio, avocado, shiso, daikon sprouts, and an orange miso shoyu sauce. It looked very delicious, but I had to try the other brunch items first. Maybe on my next visit. In addition to the typical menu, there is a combination menu which allows you to order an entree with your choice of crepe (a smaller portion crepe). This is a good choice for your first visit because you'll get to try several dishes.

I had the Baked Eggs with Shrimp. I have never had eggs prepared in this way before, and it was so delicious! It inspired me to try and make it myself. This dish had four large pieces of shrimp, spinach, bechamel sauce, and a light broth topped off with two eggs cracked "sunny side up" style and baked. It was so delicious to dip the toasted baguettes into the gooey yolk!

The Classic French Rolled Omelet was baked maple-cured bacon, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, potato and gruyere cheese. It was served alongside a seasoned pilaf and a mixed green salad. The eggs were very light and fluffy!! The pilaf was very flavorful, possibly seasoned with butter and garlic.

All three of the crepes that we tried were delicious! All crepes are topped off with fresh cream. I still don't know which one I like the best!

I had the Fresh Maui Strawberry Crepe, which was filled with dark chocolate and fresh strawberry coulis. As soon as the waitress brought it to the table I could smell the sweet smell of strawberries!

The Apple Tatin Crepe was like a delicate apple pie. It included homemade caramelized granny smith apples, and a caramel sauce. Very warm and comforting!

The Kahuku Banana crepe was filled with homemade vanilla custard cream and dark salted caramel sauce. Although this one also contained caramel, it was a completely different flavor when paired with the vanilla custard!

This was such a perfect place for the girls to enjoy quality time together. We couldn't help but feel happy! The service is also excellent. The owner, Nathan Tran, stopped by to talk to us while we waited for our food. He was very friendly and accommodating. He explained that after graduating from UH, he worked in several restaurants in Japan before returning to Hawaii to open the restaurant.

There aren't very many places in Hawaii like this one! I'm so glad that there's finally a place to get a great crepe! Thank you for such a special lunch, Aunty Sharon!

The Cream Pot
444 Niu Street
Honolulu, HI 96815

Friday, May 2, 2008

Nordstrom Cafe

A girl has got to shop..and what a better place to take a break from shopping than the Nordstrom Cafe? After being thoroughly impressed with the new Nordstrom department store in Ala Moana, I knew that I could expect only the best at the Nordstrom Cafe. The excellent customer service and high quality products that you get in the store is mirrored in the cafe. Its the perfect place for a bite to eat in the middle of a shopping marathon!

You may have to wait in line to get a seat at the cafe; however the wait isn't long and you're served cheesy crostini while you wait. Once you enter, you order your food cafeteria style, which is a little different, but it gives you a chance to see all the food. Once I saw all the choices, I had to think twice about what I was ordering. There are several salads, sandwiches, panini, pizza, pastas, and entrees. Once you get your food and pay a server comes to take your tray and leads you to your seat. The servers are there throughout the meal to fill your glass or bring you anything else that you forgot to order. This is first-class service in a cafe!

The food was excellent! I had the soup of the day and the Blue Cheese and Pear Salad.

The soup was an artichoke parmesan soup topped off with a cheesy crostini ($3.75). If you like parmesan, you'll love this soup! And the crostini was sooo yummy!

The salad was organic baby greens, romaine lettuce, blue cheese, pear, candied walnuts, and champagne vinaigrette ($10.50). The candied walnuts were quite large, and looked homemade. These are some of my favorite ingredients in a salad... yum!!

The Avocado Club Panini was roasted turkey, bacon, avocado, tomato, swiss cheese, and roasted garlic aioli pressed between two toasty pieces of country bread.

The blueberry scone was also a great choice!!

Nordstrom Cafe
Ala Moana Center