Friday, July 31, 2009

Who wants to be on a cooking show?

I received this yesterday from Sarah Gotto at CBS:

I am a casting assistant with CBS EYE TOO Productions. We’re currently seeking dynamic and charismatic two-person teams for a restaurant competition show. The teams of two must have pre-existing relationships (couples, friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, etc), the combined front and back of house skills to run a restaurant and energetic personalities. Unfortunately, they cannot already own a restaurant.

We would like to inform you and your readers that we will soon be holding auditions in Philadelphia.

Anyone interested in applying can feel free to email us at with the names, ages, occupations, locations and contact numbers of both teammates. Teams should also include recent photos of themselves and a brief summary as to why they would be perfect for the show!

If you have any questions or require further information, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for your time and assistance.


Sarah Getto
Casting Assistant
If you're interested give her a call. I checked it out and it's legit. Good luck!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

G Michael's

German Village is chock full of absolutely delicious restaurants. In terms of really good independents, this small historic neighborhood has the market cornered. G Michaels Bar & Bistro is guided by Chef David Tetzloff, specializing in Italian and low country inspired dishes. All I have to hear is “low country” and you can count me in.

On this particularly comfortable night, we were lucky enough to get a seat outside. If the weather is at all nice I would make a request to sit in the patio section. Our server was very animated and excited about everything they had started serving on the new menu.

Knowing that we were coming here I was all about getting the low country boil. Every year I volunteer at the tournament in Augusta; they cater a buffet on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night for the workers and volunteers. The low country boil, shrimp and grits, and peach cobbler (to name a few) are out of this world. When I looked at the menu I was crushed to see that it wasn’t on the freshly printed summer menu (the low country boil).

To be honest, though, I would have eaten anything off of this menu, it’s that good. I decided on the “Low Country Seafood Trio”, which consisted of black-pepper and sesame crusted tuna, grilled bbq jumbo prawns, and a lump crab cake served on creamy Carolina Gold rice, shrimp enriched hominy, and stewed okra. Without going into a full page rave review, it was as if I had just been teleported to Charleston, SC or Savannah, GA. The G Michael’s idea of a “jumbo prawn” is the size of a newborn puppy. It reminds me off something you’d see in Jurassic Park. It was huge! I would have gotten an entrée portion of any one of these elements of the trio.

Regina had the Pan-seared Alaskan Halibut with a Shiitake mushroom, fingerling potato, sausage, and Vidalia onion hash, asparagus, lemon buerre blanc, and poached shrimp salad . The fish was perfectly cooked, but the shrimp salad that was on top stole the show. My guess is that someone at the restaurant is going to be getting an email begging them for the recipe for that salad.

If you’ve not been, you have to go. If you have, you already know how good it is. While I realize low country isn’t for everyone, I’m a huge fan. I think part of the allure is the low key vibe that the food and the service have. No pretense or much fanfare, just good straight forward food.

G Michael's
595 S 3rd St
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 464-0575

G. Michael's Bistro and Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Greenhouse Tavern

Make sure to check here for more Cleveland posts

The Greenhouse Tavern's opening has probably been the most anticipated restaurant opening of 2009 in Cleveland. Fresh off his success at Bar Cento, chef Jonathan Sawyer opened GHT with a focus on farm to fork as well as using green business practices all while providing classic interpretations at an affordable price.

Located in the current epicenter of downtown dining on East 4th, the restaurant (who's logo looks like the back of the Connecticut quarter), is housed in an old shoe factory that hadn’t been used in decades. A wonderful patio area arranges people in a “bar like” fashion in front of the restaurant so that that they face outward toward the bustling pedestrian traffic that flows through this cozy alley. Between the bar people and the building façade itself is space for traditional table and chair seating.

It’s actually a genius use of space that would make William Whyte proud. The bar people are high enough in the air that they aren’t being looked down on by the passersby; while also providing a buffer to those sitting down behind them. My guess is that there was enough room for a certain amount of tables, but perhaps not another row. I think this a classic case of a great idea resulting from an obvious design constraint. I think the only thing missing is the overhead heaters a la San Francisco, to help stretch the outdoor dining by a couple of months.

The space is narrow with a two story central area, with mezzanines on the front and back wall of the restaurant. On the ground floor is a bar to the right, a communal table to the left, and tables and bench seating toward the back. The layout actually reminded us a lot of a wonderful place we ate last year called NOPA. If you’re looking for the kitchen when you walk in, you won’t see it. That’s because it (and the bathrooms) are in the basement. LED lights with a framework using bicycle wheels hang from the ceiling (a very neat touch).

We were initially seated at table #8, which sits along the back wall. At first I thought it was nice, and then the wind kicked up. Many of the tables along that back wall, which are used for parties of two are affected by the ventilation system. If you sweat tying your shoes or are menopausal I think it would be a very comfortable place to sit; for everyone else it is annoying and downright chilly. We asked to move to another table. They happily relocated us at the communal table. The tall chairs are probably great for people who ordering some quick apps and having a few drinks, but they got pretty uncomfortable for a full meal. When you make your reservation make sure you request the mezzanine. I have sent one of the most finicky people I know up there and heard no complaints at all. That back wall is brutal.

I’m not going to go into the blow by blow on the food, but I will start by saying this: If you are a person that is trying to eat healthy, there is no shortage of things to eat on this menu. We had the mussels, asparagus, english pea fritters, hamburger, black cod, and the chocolate mousse for two. I enjoyed all of these on one level or another. There is a great selection of different things to order, something for everyone. I suppose if I had to describe it I called it refined rustic. Nancy Heller of Fun Playing with Food has many photos of what they have to offer.

If I had one criticism it would be that the water is sitting on the table with no cap. I think I’d prefer if they brought it out when the waiter first arrives, that way I know that it hasn’t been tampered with between the time someone else sat at the table and I arrived. I also noticed that the frites were wrapped in a cone of what appeared to be old drink menus. I don’t know if these were overruns or actual menus that had been circulated. I’m hoping it wasn’t the latter.

Some people have complained that they have to pay for the bread and its accoutrements. I prefer not to get free bread since we don’t eat it. I hate to see it thrown in the trash. If there’s something special coming with the it instead of a pat of Land-O-Lakes and you’re a bread fiend, why wouldn’t you be willing to pay for it?

I thought the service staff was actually very engaging. One guy, in particular, was extremely eager to talk about the food, the beer, the restaurant, everything; it was fun. Leslie at Flying Fig and the servers at Alan Wong’s in Honolulu stand out as servers that fielded every question and answered them like you were talking to the chef.

So what are the green strategies that are being employed at The Greenhouse Tavern? I saw ultra chic LED lights utilizing bicycle wheels in the shade frame, which I thought was a very cool design. From what I’ve read, much of what was used in the restaurant was used or repurposed materials. The urinals were of the waterless variety as well as hand dryers. These were the observations I made. I have to believe that there are other strategies that have been employed that I’m not aware of.

I, for one, am very happy that a place like this has opened in such a visible area of the city. I’m sure there are others that are doing some of these things (sustainable business practices) as well, but I think the visibility alone will encourage other restaurants to adopt and hopefully try to surpass the example that has been set here.

In terms of overall experience, food, and price, I think I’d say that GHT is very similar to L’albatros in University Circle.

Table #8 as it was described above, is no more. A wall has been constructed (where these two seats were previously located), and now blocks the strong breeze that used to come from the vent. I'd even go so far as to say that this little corner has gone from worst to first. It now appears to be one of the coziest places in the restaurant, especially in the winter. Nice job, GHT!

The Greenhouse Tavern
2038 East Fourth Street
Cleveland, OH 44115
(216) 443-0511

The Greenhouse Tavern on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hali'imaile General Store

Make sure to check here for more Hawai'i posts!

The last time we visited Maui we were really torn as to whether to go to Hali’imaile (hah LEE ee my leh) General Store (aka HGS), or not. We relied pretty heavily on reviews from the internet to help guide our choice. It seemed half of the people said that it was a must stop and the other half had some sort of complaint. In the end we had decided not to go. What a mistake.

Hali'imale General Store

Before this trip we looked at the menu much closer and decided it was too good to pass up. It seems to me that especially in Hawai’i, people have expectations that border on ridiculous. Some complaints were that it was out of the way, overpriced, or the food wasn’t that good.

Out of the way? Yes, if you’re staying in Lahaina, Kapalua, or Hana, it’s going to require some time to get there. Then again if you’re staying in those places you’re going to be far away from everything that isn’t in the immediate area. My guess is that at some point in your trip you will be fairly close to Hali'imaile. It's in the Upcountry and the drive is by no means treacherous. Yes, at night it is dark, but it is only a small stretch of road that you have to really travel in the dark. Whether it’s lunch or dinner you can’t really go wrong with a meal there. It’s casual enough to where you can go on a day trip and not have to be dressed up to stop in (you may want to change out of the “Hang Loose” t-shirt in the car, though).

Overpriced? Relative to the dining experience and the quality of the food, no, it most definitely is not overpriced. It’s actually a little less expensive than the nice restaurants at the big resorts. I think price is a relative thing. If you think it’s going to get Zippy’s prices, then you’re mistaken.

So what about the food? This whole reason we go to the ends of the earth to find out about these places, isn’t it? Going in I was cautiously optimistic. From the outside it’s a very cool looking cream colored plantation style building. As you walk in there’s a main dining room at front with high ceilings. In the back there is another dining area which wasn’t quite as airy as the front. I myself would suggest asking for a table in the front of the restaurant. In the corridor along the kitchen that connects the front to the back there are numerous articles, awards, press related to the restaurant (HGS had even been on the Today Show).

Now comes the best part – the food. Bev Gannon,one of the original Hawaiian Regional Cuisine chefs, has put together a menu that focuses on local ingredients. The portions are a perfect size. Entrees are large enough to where you feel you’re getting what you pay for, yet small enough to where you’re not throwing it away or gorging yourself. I think there’s a level of sophistication in the sauces and glazes that compliment the main ingredients without looking overly fancy. If I had one criticism, it’s that the presentation on the desserts was a little too plain.

Bev’s “Famous” Crab Pizza

Macadamia Nut Crusted Fresh Mahi Mahi with Tropical Fruit Salsa, Mashed Purple Sweet Potatoes and Mango Lilikoi Butter Sauce

Grilled Lamb Chops with Black Bean Hunan Sauce and Wasabi Mashed Potatoes

Vanilla Bean Cake

Hali’imaile Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

What would I compare it to on Maui? In terms of restaurants in that part of the island I’d say HGS is on par with Mama’s Fish House. That being said, these are two different dining experiences. HGS is more casual in terms of the experience and it's a cheaper alternative. While Mama’s is more of a special occasion type place... slightly dressier and with higher end service. If you’re in the company of those that are intimidated by fancier dining or higher prices, I think HGS is the perfect place to stop.

Hali'imaile General Store
900 Haliimaile Rd
Makawao, HI 96768
(808) 572-2666

Hali'imaile General Store on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Primanti Brothers (Strip District)

PNC Park (my favorite besides Fenway)

If you do any homework on the Pittsburgh you will ultimately end up with some mention of Primanti Brothers. The original store, which is where we visited, is located in an area of downtown known as “The Strip”.

Overstuffed sandwiches with mounds of slaw and fries (yes fries) are piled high on whatever you select. The “fries on the sandwich” trick, or technically in the sandwich, is a Primanti calling card of sorts. Are they only ones that do it? Probably not. Were they the first? Quite possibly.

The space is tight. If you’re familiar with another fat bomb sandwich spot in Cleveland called Melt – it’s about their pre-expansion size. Calorically speaking, both places probably wreak the same amount of waistband havoc.

Because Primanti’s reputation precedes itself, you can expect a considerable amount of both natives to the area, along with throngs of out-of-towners checking out what all the fuss is about, to be jamming the doorway. Lines can stack up quick.

When you first walk in it’s a bit confusing. There was no hostess (that would take up a valuable couple seats). You have to wait until a table clears and then make sure you make eye contact with the hard working people at the grill. They are the ones that give you the okay to sit down, eventually take your order, and ultimately bring over your food. Versatility reigns here. Think of them as the “Slashes” of Pittsburgh dining.

At the end of it day I’d say that it’s something, as an out-of-towner, you do once. If you’re from the area I’m guessing that there is nostalgic attachment that keeps people coming to this one. There are other outposts around Pittsburgh’s suburbs that are more like conventional restaurants with waiting lists and real waitresses. Like anything I guess nothing’s like the original.

Unlike some places that have gained national notoriety, Primanti Brothers has kept their prices at a very reasonable price point. While these aren’t the greatest sandwiches I’ve ever tasted (partly because I’m not a mixer and like my fries and slaw separate from my sandwich), they give you what you pay for – no skimping here.

What was I doing in Pittsburgh?

We went to PNC Park to watch the Indians…..where there’s a Primanti Brothers inside.

Primanti Brothers (Strip District)
46 18th Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 263-2142

Primanti Brothers (Strip District) on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 24, 2009

Maui Tacos

Make sure to check here for more Hawai'i posts!

As we were leaving The Big Island, we asked the host at the b&b we were staying if there were any must see lunch places on Maui. As he rattled off the names (many of which we already noted) his eyes lit up when he got to Maui Tacos.

"When I lived on Maui [his old haunt was Napili] I used to go there nearly every day. I absolutely love the salsa bar they have there.", he told beamed.

If it's one thing I like it passion and enthusiasm. If he felt this strongly about the place I figured we might as well go. With six locations, five on Maui and one on O'ahu, Maui tacos offers up the usual suspects like tacos (obviously), burritos, enchililadas, etc.

Since we had just been rained out on our morning walk along the Wailea hotel strand, we decided to grab an early lunch so when the rain stopped we would have already eaten. We drove up to one of the two MT locations in Kihei. With only a couple of people in front of us, we were glad to see we beat the rush.

While standing in line you definitely feel overwhelmed with all of the choices when you're ready to order. Since we were at a place with "tacos" in the name we figured we might as well order them. Regina opted for some Mahi fish tacos while I chose the Hard Tacos with beef.

Yes, there are tacos under there

The salsa bar is absolutely loaded with a ton of different options. I don't think this place would be the success it is without all of the salsas. There are probably five different salsas along with a variety of other toppings to go on top of whatever you order. We found that our food had quite a bit of cheese and lettuce and was a little short on the fish or meat. Had the salsa not come to the rescue I think this place would be an average lunch stop at best.

By the time we left the rain had stopped and the line was out the door. Maui Tacos is wildly popular with the locals and tourists that are in the know. If you go, get there on the shy side of noon or you will find yourself waiting in quite the line and possibly eating in your car. Seating (at least at the one we went to in the shopping center) was limited.

I almost forgot, Mark Ellman who founded Maui Tacos actually has a really good cookbook that has a lot of salsa recipes in it. I've actually been meaning to get it. The name of the book is (what else) "The Maui Taco Cookbook".

Maui Tacos
2411 S Kihei Rd
Kihei, HI 96753
(808) 879-5005

Maui Tacos on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Best of the Wurst

While down in Columbus we were staying down at The Lofts across the street from the Hyatt. As a result, we decided to walk down to North Market for lunch both days. I have a tendency to lock onto a certain place and not let go.

Since I love hot dogs I knew what my NM stop was going to be.

A Gold Star for a Cool Sign

The last couple of times I had been there The Best of the Wurst was either closed or had too many people in line. This time I went on both Saturday and Sunday and they were open and had only a few people in line.

It’s a smallish hot dog stand that is run by three people (a girl that was taking orders and two guys that were cooking, one cooking dogs and the other on buns and toppings).

On Saturday I ordered the Italian Sausage. I was a little pissed at myself because there wasn’t really anything about it that blew me away, but why would it? It’s an Italian sausage!

Sunday was much better, I decided on the Blue Cheese Hot Dog which was very good. Topped with blue cheese and horse radish sauce, this is exactly the kind of thing I had hoped for the first time around.

Best of the Wurst is no Hot Doug’s but for Columbus it’s a viable alternative.

Best of the Wurst
59 Spruce St

Columbus, OH 43215

(614) 469-8778

Best of the Wurst on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hot Dog Johnny's in Buttzville, NJ

During the course of one year I spend countless hours on Interstate 80 between Cleveland and New York. I’m always on the lookout for places to eat that aren’t chains.

I recently decided that instead of taking the Northeast extension to Allentown and cutting over on I-78 to get to Clinton, New Jersey, I continued on I-80 and got off after the Delaware Water Gap and cut through on the back roads. What a great decision.

About ten miles off of I-80 at the “46 East” exit (I think it’s exit 12) sits an old hot dog stand in Buttzville, NJ called Hot Dog Johnny’s.

Once you pull up, it’s pretty clear that this place has been here a while (over 60 years). There’s a large gravel parking lot with plenty of outdoor seating around the stand itself. There are a few tables inside for the cold months.

This is actually a great place to go in the summertime. The Pequest river flows a stone’s throw away behind the current stand. They also have the original stand (which looks like it’s about 8x8), from the forties that sits in the back of the property. Hot Dog Johnny’s has also provided swings to help occupy children that may have wolfed down their food or have been cooped up in the car for a few hours.

The hot dogs are unique in the sense that they are cooked in peanut oil. When I opened mine the first thing I noticed was the softness of the hot bun. The finely minced onions added an ever so slight crunchiness that complimented the crispy skin on the deep fried dog.

Hot Dog Johnny’s also offers up mugs of Birch Beer and Buttermilk. I can understand the combination hot dogs and soda. I can’t say that I understand the connection between deep fried meat and buttermilk. If you’ve already had lunch or dinner and are looking for a snack they also serve ice cream.

While HDJ's is a little while off the highway, it is a straight shot down US Hwy 46 at 50mph. Considering most of the garbage that you pass along 80, I think it’s worth the trip.

Hot Dog Johnny's
US Hwy 46
Buttzville, NJ 07829

(908) 453-2882

Hot Dog Johnny's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Veggie U Benefit at Chef's Garden

I have been absolutely swamped with work for a while now (not that I’m complaining). Between that, my Facebook obsession, and the paint stripping project on the incredible molting house, there really hasn’t been a lot of posting on the old blog.

I’m here to tell you that those days are over. We’re pooling all the stray scraps of paper, unfinished drafts, and the numerous food related things we’ve been sitting on for what seems like an eternity.

I am going on record as saying that there will be one post per day until we get caught up. So without anymore dilly dallying let’s crank it up.

Last week we had reservations all set up to attend the Chez Francois Bastille Day dinner on Sunday night. This is hands down my favorite restaurant in Northeast Ohio, (even if it is just on the western edge of it). After we had made the resy Jonathan Sawyer announced his Bastille Day dinner which, too, sounded awesome.

In the end it was a moot point since I had to leave Sunday afternoon so I could get to a 7am appointment in West Orange, New Jersey on Monday. No Chez. No GHT. Just a big plate of jack squat.

Since we missed out on the Bastille Day festivities we decided that we had to go to the Veggie U benefit at Chef’s Garden in Milan, OH.

If you’ve never been out there you’ve got to see it. As far as farms go, this is the cleanest most professionally run place I have ever seen. The stuff they’re growing out here is absolutely mind boggling (it was on par with Stone Barns in my opinion). The quality of this produce is off the chain.

The cool weather really made for a pleasant evening. Since this was my first time attending I can imagine between the heat and humidity of July and the heat and humidity of that many people (we were tickets 810 + 811 bought a week before the event), it had the potential for being a real sweat box. The temperature, however, was perfect.

As you arrived you were given little wine glass for the different wine people in attendance. You also received a blue ticket that represented your vote as the favorite dish of the night.

The chefs were located in a massive ring around the perimeter of the large tented area. The attendees moved around under the tent to sample the various food and wines. There was also a large tent in the back where the chef cook-off took place. We were so immersed in talking with the chefs and eating the food that we didn’t actually watch the cook-off (or any of the demonstrations for that matter).

So who got our blue tickets? We couldn’t decide on one person to give both tickets to, so we gave one each to Jeff Fisher of Touch Supper Club and one to Tim Maxin of Muse at The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Cleveland.

Jeff (who missed first place by 5 tickets) was serving a St Germain Cured Salmon with a savory lemon curd, on a squid ink tuile, with vidalia onion confit, and crème fraîche. Just a very well thought out dish based on ease of consumption, visual presentation, and last but not least – flavor. I thought it was an awesome idea. He also served a Rack of Lamb with heirloom tomato feta compote, and purple cauliflower puree that people loved, as well.

The Chef's Garden Carrot Smoothie from Tim Maxin with Muse Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton Hotel of Cleveland

Tim’s dish was actually very simple called The Chef’s Garden Carrot Smoothie with anise hyssop syrup (a licorice and taste combined with simple syrup) and dried fennel caviar. Poured in a small shot glass the hyssop syrup was in the bottom and the carrot smoothie (carrots that were cooked in orange juice and ginger that were pureed and then mixed with milk and ice cream), then topped with fennel seed. Since the hyssop was on the bottom of the glass it was the last thing to pile onto your tongue as you drank it. The ease of consumption, originality, and excellent flavor definitely made this blue ticket worthy.

If I had to pick out one last highlight it would be talking ice cream with Jeni Britton Bauer. She was very forthcoming about the history of Jeni’s and how she got to where she is today. For example, I had no idea that she had been the pastry chef at La Chatelaine (which is one of my favorite brunch places in Columbus). I also had no idea that she had a previous ice cream stand in North Market called Scream. What an interesting person.

I think the price for something like this is definitely a deterrent for many people. What I’d like to do next year is get a pool of eight or more people so the price goes from $150 down to $100. For a 100 bucks this is definitely worth the price of admission.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hawaii Regional Cuisine in Cleveland - An Interview with Alan Wong

For those who are not familiar, Alan Wong is a pioneer in the movement of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine (HRC). HRC was an idea started among local Hawaiian chefs committed to using their areas’ best produce, fish, meat and poultry in their restaurants. The movement continues today, with Alan Wong being at the forefront of Slow Food, Hawaiian style. Mr. Wong operates 3 restaurants: his flagship location, Alan Wong’s Restaurant in Honolulu, The Pineapple Room in Honolulu and Alan Wong’s Tokyo. In addition to being the winner of the 1996 James Beard Northwest Chef Award for Best Chef, Alan Wong has received numerous accolades, including being named one of America’s Top 50 Restaurants by Gourmet Magazine. His restaurants continue to be top dining destinations and year after year, he has the number one Zagat rated restaurant in Hawaii.

Chef Wong is a staunch supporter of local Hawaiian farmers and makes a point to craft his dishes around quality, local product. His King Street Restaurant hosts an innovative, quarterly offering, called the Farmers Series. In addition to allowing guests to sample some of the best local fare available at these dinners, it also allows the unique opportunity for those same guests to interact and meet the farmers who helped to bring their meal to the table. Alan Wong is a visionary, a teacher, an artist and it was with great awe that my husband and I sat down to interview him during a recent trip he made to Cleveland in early June 2009 to participate in the Five Star Sensation Benefit for University Hospitals of Cleveland’s Ireland Cancer Center.

We’ve decided to provide you with our “Top 11” (10 just wasn’t enough) highlights of the interview. If you find yourself in Hawaii one day, you owe to yourself (and your taste buds) to treat yourself to meal at Alan Wong’s…it was the culinary highlight of our trip and we can’t wait to return.

11. Alan really didn’t like eating vegetables as a kid; he didn’t venture outside of carrots, peas and corn. He has memories of going to school at the age of 4 and being served vegetables for lunch. The pickled beets made him gag, so he would stuff the veggies he didn’t want (e.g. cole slaw, broccoli, etc.) in his milk carton, and then take them out and put them his pants pockets.

10. Hawaii is showing its commitment to the local food movement, through efforts such as farmers markets and sustainable fish. A ban was put into place on snapper fishing for five months out of the year and they have seen great success with sustainable fishing methods for Moi and Kona Kamapachi.

9. Alan Wong’s Restaurant in Japan features proteins from Japan; the Japanese prefer not to ship in proteins from outside countries. He travels to Japan three times per year and noted that the Japanese really know their food. As for their palates, he has found that due to Japan’s distance from the equator, he’s had to tone down the sweet and salty flavors in his food that diners in Hawaii typically have an affinity for.

8. The location of the flagship Alan Wong’s restaurant on King Street in Honolulu was originally to be the accounting headquarters for Zippy’s, a local fast food chain. Francis Higa, one of the founders of Zippy’s convinced Mr. Wong that the location would appeal to local Hawaiians and that if he created the food, they would come to eat it. He was right; this is their 16th year in business at that location and he has no plans to move elsewhere. King Street is “home.”

7. Alan Wong’s infamous Ginger Crusted Onaga with Corn, Mushrooms and Miso Sesame Vinaigrette was born of the cold Ginger Chicken he enjoyed as a child. However, it took many tries and failures before discovering the winning combination that has become the most popular item on his menu today….he tried serving ginger chicken, ginger steak, ginger tuna, mahi, and ono, but nothing took off. Then one night, he tried the recipe on Onaga; it was a hit when they sold 20 that evening. The Miso Sesame Vinaigrette was the marriage of two dressings he had been working on. This dish, he felt, was a classic case of knowing you have a good idea and not giving up on it. With time the opportunity could present itself and who knows – maybe it becomes an all-time favorite.

6. When asked about Oahu restaurants worth trying, that a tourist may not have heard of, Alan cited: Side Street Inn, 12th Ave Grill, town, Hiroshi, RumFire (Chef Colin Hazama), Poke Stop (Chef Elmer Guzman) and Ola at the Turtle Bay Resort (Chef Fred DeAngelo).

5. Besides New York, favorite food destinations for Mr. Wong are Tokyo and Singapore. He’s been to Tokyo over 30 times and he described Singapore as being extremely clean and having excellent street food. If you are willing to get your hands dirty and don’t mind the spice, he highly recommends trying Singapore’s Black pepper crab and the Chili crab. Notable New York restaurants he mentioned were Café Boulud, Spice Market, and Per Se.

4. Creating his cookbook, Alan Wong’s New Wave Luau, took about three years. The complicated process involved adjusting recipe portions to accommodate the home cook, making metric conversions, hiring a recipe tester, tasting recipes made by the recipe tester and then applying necessary changes based on the outcome. The average person doesn’t realize just different a restaurant recipe is from one used for the at home cook.

3. Mr. Wong said that he was once told, “If you don’t learn the operations of the house, the chef will run circles around you.” Branching off that advice, all employees at Alan Wong’s Restaurant have to work their way through the ranks, just as he did. They start with the basics, working as bussers, warming bread in the kitchen, etc. Over time, they move up through the establishment, learning the food, the farmers and the business.

2. With creating a dish, he tells his chefs to practice “Constructive Discontent.” In essence it means to question yourself, but that you also need to know when to stop.

1. Alan Wong took some time to learn about us during the interview. After hearing about my dessert obsession, he shared with me a Hawaiian treat to seek out on my next trip to Maui. It’s called Guri more about it here. This has me already dreaming about my next trip to Hawaii.

On the Fly

We decided to take a trip down to Columbus for the Fourth of July weekend. We got down to Columbus at about 1pm and decided we needed to just get something light for lunch.

Located on the corner of King and Neil is On the Fly, the take-out arm of the wildly popular Dragonfly Neo V. My wife (the falafel queen), scoped this spot out awhile back. They have a simple objective: serve organic, kosher, vegan, meat free street food. Although it's a basic concept, I think it's pretty unique.

But how good could it possibly be? Vegan? C'mon.

In a word - great.

Even though there were other choices such as chili, portabella vegetarian steak, street food salad, and empanadas, we both opted for the falafel. I got mine with the suggested hot sauce. Regina, who doesn't do heat, decided to forego the spice.

The falafel itself, while not the best I've ever had, is not overly "cakey" or greasy. What is really good is the abundance of other ingredients that come with it. From other reviews I've read, they go with whatever is in season. For us it was thin strips of yellow squash and zucchini, as well as the traditional tahini and hummus. The pita looked liked it would be bland, but we were wrong. It had a chewiness that balanced out the crunch of the veggies. The only con was that they wouldn't give my wife extra hummus.

We enjoyed our falafel while sitting outside on their patio that faces King Street. Our experience at lunch, and further research revealing the critical acclaim of their sister restaurant Dragonfly Neo-V, has me thinking we'll be reviewing a dinner there upon our next trip to Columbus.

On the Fly
249 King Ave
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 298-9986

On the Fly on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Please vote for our Banana Bread Macadamia Nut Crunch Ice Cream on Fine!

We owe a lot to Fine Cooking magazine. It was with my purchase of this magazine about 5 years ago that we stepped out of the realm of my wife’s cooking (i.e. jarred pasta sauce, refrigerated mashed potatoes, frozen garlic bread, etc.) and into gourmet home cooked meals. From the first recipe I made, I found the steps in Fine Cooking to be easy to follow, almost always fool proof and resulting in excellent quality meals. I was so pleased that I became a subscriber and quickly bought up the back issues I didn’t yet own. It's also been with the help of Fine Cooking, that my wife has become a much better cook.

So, it came as no surprise when the June/July 2009 issue of Fine Cooking published a terrific article on homemade ice cream, utilizing the assistance of former Chez Panisse pastry chef and author of The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz. Their timing was perfect…right on the heels of my wife receiving a Cuisinart ice cream maker for her birthday. In conjunction with the article, Fine Cooking launched a Create Your Own Ice Cream Challenge, asking for entries that used the issue’s master recipe for the ice cream base provided Mr. Lebovitz, along with your own creative twists. Inspired by our recent trip to Hawaii and a newly discovered love of making ice cream, my wife created her contest entry of Banana Bread Mac Nut Crunch Ice Cream.

The recipe consists of a vanilla infused custard base (vanilla beans, whole milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract and salt). To the freshly churned product, she added chunks of dense, sweet homemade banana bread and chopped, toasted macadamia nuts. When allowed to melt just a tad, this ice cream sent us right back to the Big Island. It was perfectly creamy and the flavor from the banana bread permeated throughout each bite, along with the crunch of the chopped macadamia nuts.

Today, Fine Cooking posted its top 10 finalists for their contest, and I’m proud to report that my wife’s entry made the cut. Over the next two weeks, users can log onto their site and vote for their favorite. The winner will receive exactly what they need to perpetuate this obsession…an ice cream maker! We invite you to peruse the site and vote for your favorite; hopefully it will be the Banana Bread Mac Nut Crunch Ice Cream!

To vote for our Banana Bread Mac Nut Crunch Ice Cream, click on this link and scroll to the bottom to cast your vote. Thanks in advance for your support!