Oh man, many little good things happened/were accomplished today, but none inspired me to write a post until the ever magical and most-fun-person-to-eat-with-in-the world, Robyn, made an appearance in my mailbox. Via a box of chocolates. Wait! But not just any chocolates, but the most picture perfect set by Pierre Herme.


And then I turned to my dad, who was clearly confused by my excitement, and declared, “hoooooo, these are so amazing, I’m not going to share them with anyone in world!” He didn’t look like he gave a hoot, so I continued, “but I might share them with you…because, you are cool like that, dad!” And then he looked really confused, so I went back to oohing and ahhing over Pierre Herme’s strategically designed box.

I don’t know even where to begin! With names like Mathilda, Mogador, Cho Chocolat, Ispahan, Azur, Lou, Ouvre-toi, I can barely decipher which type of chocolate is what, but there are hints of pralines, caramel, rose, cirus, and nougatines to come. I think I’ve gone to fairyland. I’m going to taste these bit by bit and do a post on all of them at once, though till then, I’m going to savor the chocolately scent for as long as I can. Thank you SO MUCH Robyn!

And that’s the end of the really delicious chocolate part, but if want to know what I did with the rest of day, read on!

OK. So I woke up late after a post-Christmas pre-New Years potluck party with all my high school friends. We had Zippy’s Chili, poke, Zippy’s Fried Chicken, lots of hummus and pita, garlic-shoyu edamame, CPK pizza, brownies, Ted’s Pumpkin-Hapuia pie and plenty of other good stuff. Ah, how much I miss potlucks!
Well I was still half asleep on the living room couch when I heard the doorbell ring. Our couch is not so strategically placed within feet of our completely see thru door, and when I looked up groggily, I saw…the FEDEX MAN. oh no! How embarrassing! I was still wearing my hello kitty pajamas from 7th grade! so I ran and hid in my sister’s room. The doorbell left unanswered. I’m sure the fexex man understands.

A good half hour later, I bravely opened the door to get the package. I looked at the name. It was addressed to me! Wow, it must have been my lucky day. I dragged in it and ripped it open. And what was inside? A new suitcase from my employer! Neato! Even though I’m not starting work for a good eight more months, gifts already? It’s not quite big enough to check in at the airport, and little bigger than the typical carry on…but it’s the fact that i got a SUITCASE in the mail that makes me happy. As you can see, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.

I also had a very bad cinnamon roll ($2.25) from Great Harvest Bakery. It’s like dry bread sprinkled with brown sugar then rolled up into a pseudo cinnamon roll. Though the frosting, given in a little container on the side, is very nice, smooth, thick with cream cheesy goodness and not too sweet. If only I had a good cinnamon roll to spread it on!

I also got Buddy a new dog tag (after he got lost yesterday). It’s a yellow hexagon that very plainly says, BUDDY, and then my mom’s cell phone number on the next line. We couldn’t put our home address cause we’re going to move soon. Dad suggested putting our PO Box, but I highly doubt anyone would return Buddy to a PO Box.

My Dad and Bread

My dad has a great affection for bread, baguettes in particular. He loves bread more than rice and noodles, which is unusual for a Chinese guy. As a result I was raised eating more baguettes than rice and for that reason, I am addicted to bread and it is completely not of my own doing. There is always a baguette sitting on our kitchen countertop (a bacon epi if mom has her way or a sliced buttertop if my sister has hers).

Our all time favorite is the baguette from Saint Germain, a local Japanese bakery. Long and narrow with just the right proportion of a crackling crust to soft yeast innards. This baguette is just a touch saltier than others found around the island and makes for a fantastic sandwich spread with pate and a few slices of cha.

A typical lazy weekend lunch :)

When our family goes to Costco, we sometimes pick up the two-pack of La Brea baguettes. The baguettes are sent to Costco parbaked and are then baked to a crusty delight at my favorite Hawaii Kai Costco. These baguettes emphasis the difference between the lighter Japanese baguettes and the heartier, rustic European type. I prefer using La Brea’s bread in tune with “American” style sandwiches like tuna and turkey, and my all time favorite: mac nut pesto, tomatoes, spinach leaves and mozzarella.

Near our home is Ginza Kimuraya (in Kahala Mall) – it’s the first US outlet for this Japan based bread chain. I come mainly for an pan and apple brioches, and make sure to pick up a baguette, especially when it has just come out of the oven. Ginza has the softest crust of the three and is on the sweeter, creamier side. For this reason, I like using it as a breakfast bread, spreading on lilikoi butter or toasting it shards of dark chocolate just until the chocolate melts, then sprinkling on a touch of sea salt.

Last week I went to the KCC Farmers Market, as I do every Saturday. My usual agenda is cranberry walnut oatcakes for mom, orchids for the house (which is for sale now!…so, if you want to buy our home, just let me know :), tomato salsa for my sister, ginger syrup and avocados for the family, and always, some kind of bread for dad. What kind? “Surprise me,” he consistently replies. So this time, I got the Pain Au Levain from Bale. About a foot in length and five inches across, it is very heavy and unlike other pain au levain’s I had. The dough is heavy, almost wet and I do not like this bread. The crust is not exactly crisp but extremely chewy – this bread has no idea what it wants to be. But this is the first unsatisfactory bread I’ve had from Bale, so if you do stop by the market, make sure to try their sweet bread and focaccia!

I wanted to visit Angelo Pietro’s since I read Ono Kine Grindz’s post a while back. Angelo Pietro’s is perhaps best known for their asian oriented salad dressings which can be found throughout the islands, all the way to nyc and even in Japan. It’s a Japanese-Italian fusion restaurant and the main part of the menu is divided into three sections: pasta, pizza, and gratins. All Italian based, cooked with Japanese flavors.

Complimentary bread to start. A soft french roll, sliced, served at a temperature that hovered between semi-warm and room temperature. I was told that they used to bake their own baguettes…but alas, no more :(

Shann and I shared the Raw Potato Salad ($6.95) which came as a massive and tall nest of raw potato strands twirled upon each other. The salad was indeed very light, crispy and refreshing. It had absolutely no taste or flavor on its own, which is why the waiter also brought out…

their salad dressings! From left t right is the Sesame & Miso, Ume, and Shoyu. I prefer these types of Asian dressings and vinaigrettes much more than “American” type dressings because they are much more lighter and I feel, “lift” the salad rather than weight it down with cream. My favorite of the trio was the Sesame & Miso a nutty blend of miso and ground sesame seeds with just the faintest hint of shoyu.

I opted for the Bacon & Natto Spaghetti($8.50) even though I don’t like natto very much. Why did I order it then? I was curious! And yes, curiosity would kill me and I just really really wanted to know what bacon & natto spaghetti would taste like. The spaghetti was tossed with natto and the topped with chopped bacon and nori. Surprisingly, the natto flavor was not that strong – it was more prominent texture wise, with it’s stickiness binding the bacon to the spaghetti and each noodle strand to one another. It was not till I reached the bottom of the bowl and discovered a mini natto mound that I realized why I was only experiencing the natto texture wise – all the soybeans sunk off to one corner and the very bottom. So I bravely took a chopstickful (we had spaghetti with chopsticks instead of forks)…and realized why I am not a great fan of natto. Hehe. I still enjoyed the dish though! Natto in small portions, I think that I like!

Shann had the Chicken and Spinach Spaghetti in Shoyu Sauce ($8.95). This dish fell under the make your own spaghetti section in which you pick the meats, veggies and a choice of sauce. Sauce options range from your basic tomato, cream, shoyu, and one more I can’t seem to remember at the moment. The shoyu sauce was almost like a light soup that would be used as a ramen broth. As you can see, the noodles were literally swimming in the sauce! Sautéed spinach and cubes of dry and overcooked chicken rounded out the dish along with the familiar flavor of garlic.

I don’t think I would come back here again, but I’m glad I did come just once to try the bacon & natto spaghetti! For these prices, there’s much better food to be found around the islands, whether it be Shokudo right next door or dim sum and Tai Pan. But I am interested in trying the many other Japanese fusion restaurants that have opened up on Oahu in the last few years. Will report back when I do! Enjoy your Christmas weekend everyone :)

Angelo Pietro
1585 Kapiolani Blvd Suite 110
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 941-0555

I’ve been spending way more time than necessary at Ala Moana in a rash and unsuccessful attempt to finish Christmas shopping. I go with the best intentions but end up getting distracted by food, people watching, and book reading at Barnes & Nobles. So I never get anything done. Sigh. Some things never change. My favorite part about shopping is making stops at Shirokiya, a Japanese oasis of food, books, electronics and baked goods (at Saint Germain). The other day I tried a new item, the “Dry Curry Roll” ($2.80). It’s your basic California roll with avocado and crab, only this time, the entire outside is rolled in yellow curry powder. And ta-dah! It becomes a Curry Roll! Fascinating, isn’t it? It was a nice change from the ordinary, though I don’t think I’ve become an immediate fan. Perhaps when I’m back at school and short on food and money, I think curry powder and rice would make a good meal! :)

Today I had the Butterfish Bento ($7.20) which includes a local sized portion of rice, grilled butterfish, pickles, mushrooms, fishcake, a black seaweed (of which I do not know the name, but love to eat), two pieces of fried shrimp and a square of fried chicken (in front of the fish). The chicken really threw me off, it was a small tough square, very chewy and reminded me of a thick hunk of deep fried beef jerky. Perhaps this is a common Japanese item which I am unfamiliar with? But the butterfish was yummy as always. Smooth and savory, flaky to the touch, man, I love butterfish!

Ala Moana Shopping Center
1450 Ala Moana Blvd. #2250
Honolulu, HI 95814
(808) 873-9111

This morning, I had breakfast with my favorite people in the world to have breakfast with: Steph, Shann and Kelly. I find that most people in the age range from 18-22 do not enjoy getting up before 11am on both weekdays and weekends. This is fine for weekends, when restaurants serve brunch till late afternoon, but when you want a good breakfast in the morning you must either go prior to 11am or go to a reliable all-day-breakfast place. But the morning is so pretty! So nice! Back at school I wait until the weekends for “real” breakfast fare or go out for pancakes on my own.

But back home during winter and summer breaks, I’ve got the wonderful Steph, Shann and Kelly. Yes, they are faithful breakfast food lovers and my closest friends for about as long as memory takes me back.

So this is how it worked today: at 8:30am Steph drove from Kaneohe to Kelly’s house in Kaimuki and parked it along the street. They drove down together to pick me up just a few streets down and then we headed on the freeway, off at Punahou and up Tantalus to pick up Shann. See how gas efficient we are? teehee.

We got there just at 9am, and made our way into the cozy little restaurant bordering Downtown and Chinatown. We were quickly seated by the hostess at a dainty little table for four near the open kitchen. The minute we all sat down there was a unanimous, “brrrr…shivershiver.” The seats were so cold! But we sucked it up like the brave warriors that we are and made do. Until we realized there were outside patio seats. That looked so picturesque and inviting! We kindly waved our waiter down and asked if we could move.
“Of course,” he said, and gestured us out.
And here we are!

Between the four of us, we had two orders of the french toast and two orders of the corned beef hash. That way, everyone gets half an order of a sweet dish and half savory. We are clever, no? :)

There are few places in the island, that do real breakfast-y foods you find on the mainland, like egg benedict, lavish pancakes and french toast, and that sort of stuff. Which explains why I am forever grateful that Grand Cafe opened up breakfast and brunch service about a year ago.

Our “sweet” dish was the Island Bananas Foster French Toast: French toast, New Orleans style, bananas sautéed butter and brown sugar ($8.50). Oooh, it was so decadent! Three thick slices of rich eggy bread fried in a sweet batter and finished with flambéed bananas and a rich golden caramel. I like my french toast thick and hearty, and this they did. It was soaked long enough so that the innards were soft, but never mushy. Perhaps the sweet caramel pool at the bottom of the dish was a little excessive, though it is hard to criticize a lovingly created dish at this local run restaurant.

We moved eagerly on to the Fresh Corned Beef Hash: Grand Cafe cured Corned Beef, topped with eggs to your liking with Potatoes O’Brien or rice ($9.55). We opted for sunny side up eggs and then realized our mistake when we didn’t have any toast to soak up the yolk with! But that was all oookay as soon as we took a bite of the corned beef hash. Fresh cured in-house, the mix of corned beef and grated potatoes were well season, not a touch too salty and pan fried till this wonderful paper thin crust formed on the outside. How did it come about? I don’t know, though shann suggested a thin egg batter? I still don’t know, but couldn’t care less. It was awesome. And then the potatoes! Each cut, oh-so-light!-oh-so-crisp! Just a sprinkle of salt was needed to tie over the red bell peppers and onions that rounded out the crunchy brown potato squares.

We lingered on the patio for a good hour and half. Taking out time, local style. All back from school for winter break. No obligations. No work. Just good food. And good friends.

Grand Cafe & Bakery
31 N Pauahi St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 531-0001