Akamai Oatcakes, Andy’s Sandwiches, and A Not So Delicious Pumpkin Bar

You already know about my ubashful love for Starbuck’s oatcakes, only found on Oahu. But that was nearly a year ago. And love is fickle. You see, my Starbucks oatcake has been replaced by another contender: the Akamai Oatcake. I found this oatcake a while back when the KCC Farmer’s Market first opened. And I liked it. I liked it a lot. It came in a whole bunch of flavors, mango-pecan with pumpkin, cranberry-walnut, banana-chocolate chip, and the one above, carrot-pineapple. This oatcake was far more moist than Starbucks, more relative to a bran muffin than a hockey puck. And guess what? Coming in at 260 calories each, it has half the calories of a Starbucks oatcake. The ingredients are clean and pure, no preservatives, and most importantly, pleasing to the tastebuds.

But at first it was inconvenient. You could only buy them on Saturdays. What if I wanted one for Thursday breakfast? Would I have to, gasp, eat an old oatcake? So on weekends I’d eat the Akamai ones, and on weekdays I’d patronize Starbucks. But then word took hold and Akamai starting getting quite popular among the locals. Before you knew it, those oatcakes could be found seemingly everywhere: Times Supermarket, Down to Earth, Diamond Head Market, and even 7-11 and Costco! So now I have completely switched over to the other side. Starbucks oatcakes no more, I’m all for the raisin studded mounds from Akamai.

A few hours later I made a short drive to Andy’s Sandwiches in Manoa for lunch. Andy’s is close enough so that I could walk there, but I’m feeling rather laaazzzy today, so we’ll just drive. I love Andy’s. And so should you. When you pop in during the lunch hour, the lines at this family run shop goes out the door, packed with people from local businesses nearby and students and teachers from Punahou. Back in high school, we made lunchtime runs to Andy’s for a smoothie or sandwich, often running into our gym teacher, or worse, the guy who was responsible for making sure that students without a junior/senior privilege card didn’t leave campus!

The menu is well…everywhere…just look at that! But it all revolves around sandwiches with a daily special and smoothies. Prices are reasonable, most menu items running about $5. The fare is light and healthy, and the counter service is welcoming – you sandwich is always made with a smile. A sandwich leaves you satisfied, not full.

It’s quite ‘homemade’ looking, wouldn’t you say? They make it right in front of you while you wait, so you can see and know exactly what goes into your sandwich. I had the mushroom medley today ($5.85). Moving from bottom up on a base of whole wheat bread are sliced mushrooms, melted American cheese, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and alfalfa. But that’s not all. Oh no. Because if this was all, then nothing would set Andy’s apart from other sandwich shops except for their freshly baked bread.

But Andy’s got something else up his sleeves. Two something else’s’ as a matter of fact! First is the house made papaya seed dressing, vinegary and light, served in a separate container for your own sandwich dipping desires. Second you have their mix. The what? It’s the mix. Why everyone who goes to Andy’s knows about the mix! It’s this mix of things, of powdery things, of spices, all mixed together in those Coctco size containers that hold ground pepper and steak seasoning. And you bet your bottoms that some steak seasoning goes in there, along with paprika, pepper, and a bunch more other things which I do not know but really like to eat. Right before layering on the top slice of bread, they do a quick shake of the container and a dusting of the deep red mix falls upon your sandwich most gently. What goes in the mix, we shall not know. It’s a secret. And that’s Andy’s for you, healthy sandwiches gone local! I heard the blueberry pancakes they serve for breakfast are definitely worth stopping by for…one more to add to my list of places to eat!

Later on in the day I ate something that didn’t taste very good, running the streak of very tasty goods I was eating for the day. The culprit was Down to Earth. Figures. I was in a health store. Nothing wrong with a health store, mind you, it’s just that I would be much happier in a bakery or patisserie. But I was curious – a health food & vegan bakery counter? And curiosity, especially my type of curiosity, is hard to kill. You’re best off satisfying it.

My pumpkin bar ($1.99) looks nice, even moist, delicious? Maybe. But it was not! It was dry, strangely sweet and had bitter undertones that were definitely not pumpkin. It made me sad, and made me wish I had a falafel or bread pudding, or something I really like, to make me feel better. But instead I ate the entire pumpkin bar in spite of its mediocrity. Because I’m Chinese. And Chinese people have a tendency to polish off their food. And then I got mad. And resolved to never eat baked goods from a health food store.

Andy’s Sandwiches & Smoothies

2904 East Manoa Road

Honolulu, Hawaii 96822

(808) 988-6161

Down to Earth

2525 South King Street

Honolulu, HI 96826

(808) 947-7678

And The Baking Continues…

The story is simple. Mom woke up. We still have a ton of yogurt in the fridge. She said, “we should have granola with yogurt.” So I said, “okay,” and made granola! No definite recipe, just lots of rolled oats, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sliced almonds and chopped walnuts with a bit of honey and butter mixed in. I baked it for an hour at 300F till it’s all brown and crunchy, then folded in cranberries and goji berries. Simple and healthy!

Midnight Baking…

There’s yogurt and lemons in the fridge, it’s near midnight and I cannot fall asleep. Instead I wander food blogs like a nomad, doting over pretty pictures of summer fruits and decadent cakes topped with billows of soft whipped cream. I pause here for a moment, such a happy, simple cake. One I could have a slice from right before going to sleep, and another slice when I wake up.

So I baked this yogurt cake in quiet of the rainy Manoa night, omitting the rum and grating in the zest of a single lemon. A tender light, lemony slice with a hot cup of tea put a smile on my face and I went to sleep quite content.

Baking: Ca Phe Suda Cupcakes!

This post is for you, Rowena!

Now for the longest time, I’ve been reading this recipe for ca phe suda cupcakes over and over again. If I could only drink one type of coffee for the rest of my life, I would pick ca phe suda without a second thought. It’s dark and sweet, and absolutely intoxicating poured over vanilla gelato. I’ve had the site with the recipe booked for nearly a year and every so often I’d click on it and think, “okay, I’m going to make them this weekend.” But I never did. Because, well, you know, excuses, excuses.

Baked cupcakes, waiting to be filled and frosted

And then while I was in Chinatown last week, I picked up Cafe Du Monde coffee grounds, the drip filter, and sweetened condensed milk. I noted my purchase in a recent post, hoping that it would help prevent me from finding another excuse to put these cupcakes aside. But I really doubt I would have made them this weekend if it were not for Rowena’s comment, “I hope you do post on ca phe suda cupcakes!” Simple. But straightforward. And friendly! That’s all it took to convince me. Sometimes you need an extra push from someone other than yourself! :)

Cupcakes filled with sweetened condensed milk pudding

They took quite a bit of time to make, but it was all well worth it. I brewed the coffee super strong, and used three times more coffee grounds than what the original recipe called for. I wanted the ca phe suda flavor to come through clear and strong. The baked and cooled cupcakes were filled with a sweetened condensed milk pudding, simply made from gelatin and sweetened condensed milk. I cut a little cube out from each cupcake, filled it with a bit of pudding, chopped off the bottom half of the cube, and replaced the top half on the cupcake. Cheryl at Cupcake Bakeshop is amazing, I’m forever in awe of the variety of cupcakes she invents – who would have ever thought to incorporate the condensed milk into the cupcake as a pudding?!

Finished cupcakes…topped with freshly whipped cream and coffee grounds

I finished the cupcakes with swirls of lightly sweetened whipped cream and a dusting of coffee grounds. Such darling little babies! Our little family of four consumed over half the bitty cupcakes for a post lunch treat and refrigerated the rest. A few hours later my mom had a couple more, and what do you know, they taste even better cooled in the fridge – the ca phe suda flavor is a bazillion times more intense. So ‘cheers’ to an afternoon treat, and finally accomplishing one of the items on my ‘baking to-do list!’ And Thank You to Chockylit for this super awesome recipe!

Downtown Honolulu: Brasserie Du Vin

“The Patio”

Kristen and I went to Brasserie Du Vin for dinner a few weeks ago. Situated in the middle of Honolulu’s Chinatown/Downtown nightlife, the long narrow restaurant leads into an open courtyard that previously housed a local tea shop. As the name suggests, Brasserie Du Vin is a wine bar that happens to serve food…which may lead you to wonder why I would come here if I wasn’t even of age to drink just a few weeks ago.

“The Cask Room”

I’ve heard plenty of positive remarks on the food alone, which is enough to pique my interest. Wine could wait till the next visit, I just had a impatient hankering for moule frites that evening.

It’s self seating, and we found a nice little rickety table hovering the space between the bright outdoor patio and the dimly lit ‘cask room’. Glasses were quickly filled, a basket of warm baguette slices were offered, and even after learning that we wouldn’t be drinking for the evening, our waiter was more than accommodating, and if I may say…quite flirty!

We started off dinner sharing an appetizer of crab cakes, which as you may notice, seem to have more breading than crab. Nonetheless, the crab that was present wasn’t overpowered by numerous fillers (which may explain why it was so flat) and the cake as a whole wasn’t the least bit oily. The best part of the dish though, was dijon aioli…I invested quite a few slices of baguette sopping up allll the aioli off the plate.

My first encounter of moule frites was at Balthazar in Manhattan, and believe me, this little Chinese girl from Hawaii was completely enamored with the notion of fries and mussels for dinner! Moule frites are rarely seen on the menus of Honolulu restaurants (the only others I know of is Cassis Honolulu and Town), and I didn’t want to pass up the chance to try it here, especially after reviews in the Advertiser and Honolulu Weekly. While the dish was surely beautiful to the eyes, it didn’t live up to expectations. The mistake was in the fries: unseasoned save for bare bits of parsley, and stingingly portioned in a precarious position on top the steamed mussels (the remainder of the fries were found swimming beneath the clams at the bottom of the dish). Fries are supposed to be an integral part of the dish, not mindless scattering dropped in at the last minute. However the garlicky clams swimming in a savory wine broth were the perfect companion to the baguettes Kristen and I were now consuming at an alarming rate.

Midway through dinner a waiter walking past our table accidentally dropped a wine glass which promptly shattered on the floor and the wine splashed onto my skirt. It was okay though, I was wearing black. He apologized profusely, more so than necessary, and then disappeared. We proceeded on with dinner. I ate more than half of Kristen’s chicken tart (she was so full from all the bread having wiped out two baskets by herself!), layers of roasted chicken on a buttery crisp dough, topped with slices potatoes, red onions, and a generous dazzle of truffle oil. It’s a dish easily concocted at home, but sometimes things taste better when others do it for you. Isn’t that why we eat out?

We were pleasantly full at that point. You know that point. Where you could stop eating and be satisfied, but you continue to order more and eat more thinking..why would you stop before dessert? Kristen loves creme brulee the way I love bread pudding, and in the perfect world, every restaurant we visit together will serve both. But tonight bread pudding was not on the menu and for a brief, very brief moment, I considered the possibility of, gasp, no dessert. But lo and behold, someone must have been watching from up above, for at that exact moment, the waiter who spilled the wine swooped by, apologized once again…and whipped out a chocolate soufflé from behind!

Ooooh it was a dear soufflé: dark, hot and rich like all desserts and men should be, heehee ;) The only thing more I could have asked for was a silky scoop of vanilla gelato to tie in the hot and cold, the molten interior and to offer an angelic touch, cutting though the steaming chocolatey sin.

We arrived at 6pm but it was past 9pm by the time we left – solid proof that time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. This was the first time I’ve had dinner with Kirsten in nearly two years so we had plenty of catching up to do, even more gossiping, and of course deciding whether Brasserie Du Vin was worth returning too…

We concluded that we’ll be back though, for three reasons:

1. I want another chocolate soufflé. And she could use another crème brulee. And man was the baguette addicting!

2. We’re finally of age to drink.

3. They’ve got one darn gorgeous sommelier, Jason Castle. teehee ;)

Brasserie Du Vin

1115 Bethel St

Honolulu, HI 96813

(808) 545-1115