Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Spinach Pasta with Roasted Garlic & Sun-dried Tomato Sauce

spinach pasta
There's nothing like a plate of spinach pasta served as dinner on a weeknight, especially when its smelling of garlic and looks as pretty as this one! Improvising on my previous recipe, I made these again last night, albeit with a few delicious changes. Cherry Tomatoes, of course were the star ingredients, but I went ahead and added a paste of roasted garlic, pine-nuts and some sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce, which gave it a wonderful flavor! This time, I also went for lightly roasted tomatoes instead of plain ones, which makes such a huge difference. So here's the edited and improved version of Spinach Fettuccine with Roasted Garlic and Tomato Sauce, that is simple and tasty to serve as weeknight dinner!

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion - finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves - minced
1 tspn fresh lemon juice
freshly ground pepper - to taste
salt - to taste
2 tbsp white wine (optional)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 cup parmesan cheese - freshly grated
1/2 pound fresh spinach fettuccine

Ground Paste (optional)
3 cloves of roasted garlic
2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes
1 tsp pine nuts
1 tbsp olive oil
Roast the garlic cloves and pine-nuts separately, then grind it all together with olive oil to make a fine paste.

Cook the spinach fettucini in boiling water with 1 tbsp olive oil until tender. make the Ground paste and keep it aside.

Gently grease the tomatoes with olive oil and line them in a baking tray. Now roast at 250 deg F for about 7-8 mins, until lightly smoked and skin appears a little roasted.

Saute the onion in oil until tender and glossy. Add the minced garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and wine. Let it simmer for 5 more minutes. Now add the roasted garlic and sun-dried tomato paste to this and mix well.

Add the roasted cherry tomatoes to this mixture. Lower the flame and cover with a lid. Let the tomatoes soak in the wine and garlic, but do not let them become mushy and overcooked. Season with thyme and sprinkle more roasted pine nuts on the top if you like.

Spread the cooked pasta on a plate. Top it with a generous helping of the sauce. Season with some more salt and pepper if needed; then top with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese!

This pasta recipe is my current favorite, as it has half the calories of a Fettucini Alfredo, and is very easy to make. Smelling of fresh roasted garlic, its hard to resist a plate of this Spinach Fettucini, don't you think!

Related Recipes:
Stuffed Ravioli in Saffron & Tomato Cream Sauce
Baked Rigatoni with Garlic & Basil Marinara Sauce
Fettucini in Almond Pesto Sauce

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chocolate Nutella Cookies

Can you imagine the divine taste of Nutella, all wrapped up in a dark chocolate layer and packaged as a decadent cookie?? If you haven't started salivating already, I'm pretty sure you will, as soon as you lay your hands on these truly delicious Nutella Chocolate Cookies! After devouring endless Nutella crepes in our recent trip to France, I thought it would be great to bake some cookies with Nutella! and of course, there can't be christmas cookies without chocolate, at least for me, so I combined my two favorite ingredients and set forth to bake these decadent Dark Chocolate Nutella Cookies, that are crunchy to eat, and yet melt in your mouth as soon as you start savoring one!

I'm sending these to Susan at Foodblogga for her Eat Christmas Cookies event. Check out all the other delicious entries up here! This also goes to Santa's Holiday Challenge at Tasty Treats, as well as Cookie Baking event over at Neivedyam!

makes 16-18 small cookies
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
3 tbsp Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread
2 tsp finely ground hazelnut powder

Note: I didn't exactly measure my Nutella spread while making these, so I might be a wee bit off in the measurement list. So if you feel your dough is a little soft to handle, just refrigerate it for a couple hours as suggested, and the cookies should turn out fine.

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and keep aside.

Melt the dark chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl by heating and stirring for 1 minute, in 20-second intervals. Allow it to cool a little.

Beat butter and sugar until creamy, then beat in the Nutella spread. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and stir until combined.

Add the melted dark chocolate and the ground hazelnut powder and mix well.

If the dough looks a bit clumsy to handle, wrap it in a cellophane paper and refrigerate for about 10 mins. This will make it easier to shape into cookies.

Now shape the dough gingerly into small round cookies, or drop them using rounded spoons on the baking sheets, about an inch apart from each other. Press gently with the backside of a fork if you like.

Bake for about 10 minutes, until dark brown in color or until the edges are just set. Let cool on cookie sheets for about 2 minutes. Then remove and cool completely on wire racks.

Related Recipes
Coconut Cookies with Vanilla Icing
Peppermint & Vanilla Butter Cookies
Fat & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fancy Food Show Winter 2009 American Products

Last week I shared some of my favorite international products from the Fancy Food Show and now it's time for the American ones. Most of these products are brand new so keep your eyes open for them. A few of them I had tasted before but never mentioned here, they are noteworthy rather than new. To be honest, I haven't even tried all the samples I brought home, so I may be posting even more soon...

Smokey Blue
I am very late to the party when it comes to Lillie Belle Farms chocolate. They are rightfully famous for their blue cheese truffle rolled in almonds, which combines Rogue Creamery's Smokey Blue cheese with chocolate. I know. It sounds awful, but you just have to try it to believe how good it is. It's creamy, rich, with a bit of a smoky bite. Divine. Honest. I wouldn't lead you astray about something as serious as chocolate.

Ooba Hibiscus Drink
Another beverage I liked was Ooba. It's made from hibiscus and being marketed for its health properties. For me, as always, it's really more about the taste. It reminded me of the sweet hibiscus drinks from Mexico. It uses a special hibiscus extract and would be terrific in mixed drinks. I am not a soda drinker, but this appealed to me. Go figure.

Coach Triple Cream Goat Cheese
We get a lot of good goat cheese in the Bay Area, and frankly, I never met a goat cheese I didn't like. But the triple cream version from Coach Farm was something new for me. It tasted much more like the aged goat cheeses I tend to smuggle home from France. Sometimes triple creme cheeses can have a bitter edge but this was like pure butter, sweet and creamy with a firm chalky texture on the edge and softer in the middle.

Nueske's bacon

I can't believe it, but looking back in my archives I have never actually mentioned Nueske's bacon before. Nueske's is a bit like the Platonic ideal when it comes to bacon. Slow smoked over applewood it tends not to shrink as much as conventional bacon. It has won tons of awards and was chosen best of the best at the Fancy Food Show in 2001. You don't have to be a bacon lover like me to adore this bacon. You can order it online if you can't find it in stores near you.

Nunes Almonds
Based in the Central Valley, here in California, Nunes Farms sells almonds from their family ranch. They make the perfect healthy on-the-go snack. My favorite flavor is the Honey Cinnamon version. Always fresh, crisp and wonderfully satisfying it's packaged in convenient little 1.5 ounce packs. They now sell other newer flavors like Imperial Citrus too.

Chocolate Mochi Krunch
I'm not sure who steered my attention towards the Impressions Fine Foods booth, but thank you! Chocolate Mochi Krunch is another product that sounds like a mistake. It's tamari brown rice crackers covered in a thin layer of chocolate. But this Asian inspired snack is very high quality and positively addictive. If there is a better flavor combination than crunchy, sweet and salty I don't know what it is. You will just have to try this confection when you get the chance. Somehow they not only came up with a unique combination but got the balance just right. They also make a spicy ginger dark chocolate version but I liked the milk chocolate best.

I'm not much of a coffee drinker but I love the flavor of coffee in confections. I've always enjoyed munching on chocolate covered coffee beans. Javaz chocolate coffee beans are the best I've ever had, covered in a crunchy shell with a chocolate filling and tasty bits of Arabica coffee beans. If chocolate covered coffee beans are your thing, you'll love these.

In all likelihood you have noticed the frozen yogurt frenzy. Yes, frozen yogurt is back. This time around it's a tangy plain version that might or might not get some fruit added to it. I tried both the soft version at Straus Family Creamery and the gelato style version at Ciao Bella Gelato and wholeheartedly recommend them. The Straus product is very new but look for it soon. The Ciao Bella version combines labne yogurt from Lebanon and Sicilian lemon juice, it's a bit high in fat but a luscious indulgence. Neither are very sweet and retain that distinctive sour dairy tang you associate with yogurt.

Can't get enough round ups and recaps? Here are even more blog posts about the show:


Italy in SF



Blog Appetit

Joy the Baker

Well Fed

My good ideas post on Bay Area Bites

Michael Procopio's recap on Bay Area Bites

Is it EDible?

Regional Best

Like My Spoon-Chocolate Edition

If I've missed your blog post on the Fancy Food Show, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

Highlights from the Winter Fancy Food Show

This year I tried so many delicious things at the Winter Fancy Food Show, it's hard to know where to begin. Let me take you on a brief tour of highlights. Today I'm sharing some delicious international offerings and next week come on back for some of my favorite domestic bites and sips.

Strawberry Orange Blossom Jam
Sometimes it's the color of something that catches my eye. I don't think I've ever seen a strawberry jam quite so vibrant as the one at the show from Tunisia. Even though I was trying to limit myself to tasting savory things, I took a spoonful of Stifen's Strawberry Orange Blossom jam and was transported to a field of fruit and flowers. The bright color was matched by the bright flavors. I don't know exactly how they process fruit, I only know they are able to retain the freshest color and flavor.

Italian sauces from Tesori of Sicily
It was both the color of these conserves and pestos plus the unusual flavors and combinations like asparagus and almond or squash blossom flower that attracted me to Tesori of Siciliy. Each one I tried was stunning. Incredible intense flavors, the essence of saffron, eggplant, almonds and more. The caponata was white, with no tomato, but I have never had a better or more sophisticated version. It was refined and delicate without the heavy sweet sour flavor I'm used to tasting. These sauces to use on bread or pasta are nothing short of spectacular.

Trikalinos avgotaraho
Bottarga is Italian salted and dried grey mullet roe, and I appreciate it's briny, salty sea flavor. But I'd never had Greek Trikalinos bottarga, known as avgotaraho before. Imported by the The Rogers Collection, it's soft, less salty, bright apricot in color and rich with flavor. I loved it. I can imagine using it with pasta, salad, on bread. It's flavor is concentrated but has a sweetness as well that tempers the salt. Imagine a chewy thin slice of the clean sweet essence of the sea. It's a luxury product to be sure, but filled with nutrients and so dense that a little goes a long way.

Guayeco guava jam, marmalade & paste
I'm fascinated by the fact that guava can taste so different from one place to another. The color changes too, sometimes it is greenish, then pale or bright pink. This Mexican guava from Guayeco & Co was a dark golden raisin color. But the flavor was not like guava I've tried before. Sweet but with an almost citrus tang with tropical notes. It is available in paste, jam and marmalade and I could see using it on pastries, in sauces, glazes for fish or meat. It was like discovering a new fruit, I'm not even sure I would have realized it was guava. A really excellent product, easily the best guava marmalade I have ever tasted. Needless to say, I will seek out in the future.

Yarra Valley Dairy Feta
There was so much rich luscious cheese at the show, it's hard to single out just one, but I'm going to anyway. The marinated feta from the Yarra Valley Dairy in Australia was one of the mildest, sweetest feta cheeses I have tasted in a long time. Scented with a thyme and garlic infused olive oil, it was creamy and fresh and left a lasting impression. Sometimes something simple and pure is even more impressive than a pungent, blue, triple creme, whatever.

I'm not generally speaking a soda drinker and even the supposedly "dry" styles have disappointed me, but I really liked Bionade, an organic drink from Germany. Made with malt, it is fermented and not very sweet. The malt sugar is not converted to alcohol, but into gluconic acid, which is also found in honey. It's lower in calories than other soft drinks and quite refreshing. The ginger and orange flavor in particular was my favorite. I could see pairing these with food. Flavors included herbs, lychee and elderberry. A very sophisticated and uniquely flavored drink, well worth seeking out if you want something non-alcoholic that is dry enough to enjoy with food.

Over at Bay Area Bites you'll find the products I hope indicate potential trends in the future.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change in Command

Change in Command

What a treat it was to be asked what the "Change in Command" means to me in terms of food. Check out my featured response and leave a comment on what you think the change means, if you like.

Happy Inauguration Day! and a very Happy Birthday to my father-in-law as well!

Puff Pastry Paneer Pinwheels

Appetizers are a great way to entice guests at a party, or when you call friends for a brief chit-chat. And if you are looking for ideas, these deliciously good-looking Paneer Pinwheels(Palmiers) may just be the the starters you were searching for! Made with Pepperidge Farm's Puff Pastry sheets, they are extremely simple to assemble, and need no preparation time, except thawing the pastry sheets. I made mine with the ever-fascinating Paneer, Cilantro Pesto, or chutney, some herbs, seasonings and a generous helping of Cheese. Baked in less than 20 mins, these Paneer Pinwheels are a great treat when served hot or cold, with any dipping sauce that you fancy.

Makes about 24 pinwheels

One package (2 sheets) frozen PepperidgeFarm Puff Pastry
1 cup shredded paneer (how to make paneer at home)
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
1/2 cup green cilantro chutney (or basil pesto) (recipe here)
4 tbsp shredded cheese
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried garlic & herb flakes (optional)

Mix the Paneer with the shredded cheese and the garlic & herb flakes, toss around and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the pinwheels.

Thaw the puff pastry at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until defrosted and easy to unfold. Gently unfold the 2 sheets on 2 separate baking trays, on a lightly floured surface.

Apply a thin layer of olive oil to the sheets with a brush.

Now remove the Paneer mixture from the fridge. Spread a generous serving of the Green Cilantro Chutney evenly over the pastry sheet, leaving a 1/2 inch border on all 4 sides. Top this with a serving of ketchup; spread gingerly with a spoon.

Now sprinkle half of the paneer-cheese mixture on top of the sauces. Roll up the pastry length-wise, slowly balancing on both sides with your fingers and form a puff-pastry roll.

Use gentle pressure to seal the edges tightly; you can use a little more oil or egg-wash if you like to seal the borders where they meet up. Now cover the roll with a plastic-wrap. Repeat the same with the other pastry sheet, cover with a plastic wrap, and refrigerate both the rolls for at least 30-40 mins, until they become a bit hard and easy to handle.

Now remove from the fridge and using a sharp, serrated knife, slice the rolls to make 1/2-inch thick pinwheels.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange the pinwheels, cut side down, on 2 baking sheets lined with wax paper; leave ample room between them to allow to expand a little.

Apply some egg wash or light oil on the surface of each wheel and Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and a little puffed-up.

Serve these delicious Paneer Pinwheels (Palmiers) straight out from the oven, with a side order of Sweet & Sour Tamarind Chutney.

Related Recipes
Paneer & Sundried Tomato Muffins
Colorful Tirangi Dhokla Sandwich
Paneer Tikka with Mango Dressing
Vegetable Bread Baskets

Monday, January 19, 2009

Franks & Beans: Recipe

Franks & Beans
Last week it was so cold I was desperate for recipes that would warm the kitchen and the house, so I made baked beans. It was a long slow recipe that took 7 hours of baking. I used salt pork, onions, molasses, brown sugar and spices. The beans were good, but I got tired of eating them plain, so I made my version of franks and beans.

I hesitate to post this recipe because, it is pure white trash cooking, not exactly my specialty. But the truth is, it's delicious! I've seen this recipe called something like "Hawaiian Beans" which is kind of interesting because of course pineapple comes from Hawaii, and beans are very popular in Hawaii, especially in Portuguese Bean Soup. But also because this recipe has frankfurters in it. All kinds of processed meat--specifically Spam and hot dogs are very common in Hawaii and make their way into fusion food like Spam musubi and hot dog maki sushi.

While my parents have very sophisticated tastes, I credit them with this very budget friendly recipe. They made it with Heinz vegetarian beans, probably kosher hot dogs and French's prepared mustard. But what I've discovered is that it works well with baked beans, any kind of sausage and any kind of mustard you like. It's really less of a recipe than a formula. Please, don't hate me for posting it! I promise I will get back to regular programming shortly!

Franks & Beans, Hawaiian Style
makes 4-6 servings

4 cups canned or homemade beans, about 2 cans
4 hot dogs or sausages, any kind you like, sliced into bite sized chunks
1 cup canned pineapple chunks
3 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon mustard, any kind you like

Dump all of the ingredients into a large saucepan or dutch oven and gently heat through. Season to taste with additional mustard, ketchup, etc. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How to Prevent Food Poisoning?

Last week, we had a rough time with quite a few of our family members trying to fight a dose of what doctors could only call "Food Poisoning"; with 3 out of 7 of us falling sick with severe stomach aches, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, it was hard to single out the food that could have caused this. One of our cousins even had to be hospitalized while the other 2 rattled on with the pain and medication at home. Unfortunately, cases like these have been significantly on the rise all over US in the past few months, so it becomes imperative to monitor what you eat, even if you cook your own meals at home, as we did, and take extreme caution and care in making sure you follow a few simple guidelines to keep those virus and bacteria at bay!

Food Poisoning is a very common problem that people are facing these days, and though most mild cases can be cured naturally within 2-3 days, this is not something that can be ignored. In fact, not taking proper care can lead to really dangerous consequences or complications. More than 250 different diseases can cause food poisoning, and a recent News feature showed that 1 out of every 3 people in the US are becoming victims to Salmonella poisoning. Here's a great writeup and explanation about the different types of virus & Bacteria that cause Food Posioning, and here's a specific one about Salmonella Poisoning.

A Few Symptoms To Look For
* An upset stomach or nausea
* Feeling bloated and heavy
* Painful stomach cramps
* Pain in any part of abdomen in varying degree
* Having diarrhoea and/or fever

Listed above are just a few symptoms that hint that you might be suffering from food poisoning. Ask your friends or family who's eaten similar meals like you in the past few days if they are having similar symptoms; if not, it could be something else altogether.

Sometimes feeling sick from food poisoning shows up within hours of eating the bad food. At other times, it may take upto several days to kick in. With mild cases of food poisoning, you will not feel sick for very long and will soon be feeling fine again. If you throw up, your body has most likely eliminated the "bad food", but if the above symptoms do not wear off in a couple days, consult your doctor immediately. Its better to be safe than sorry. And keep yourself hydrated by drinking loads of water, juices, preferably lemonade, and avoid heavy, starchy or acidic food.

Here are some tips one can follow to prevent Food Poisoning, or at least mitigate its effects.

1. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating or cooking with them. Steamed, Baked or cooked food is always better in terms of preventing spread of bacteria than raw food, especially for some vegetables.

2. When shopping for perishable foods, avoid packaging that is torn, or looks really old. Wilted leafy greens and fruits with saggy skin, or browned bananas have probably been lying there for a long time, and its good to pass on them.

3. Look at your food to see any visual signs of staleness, and smell it too. If something looks or smells different from normal, check with another person before eating or drinking it. When in doubt, its better to throw it away than get infected!

3. Leftovers should be preserved carefully in air-tight containers or wrapped in bags, and should be stored in refrigerators. Also, its always a good idea to re-heat your food, especially leftovers as heat will destroy major bacteria.

4. Never use stuff after the Expiration date - those dates have been printed for a good cause; don't give in to the urge of saving a few bucks by consuming expired food as it could cost you your health.

5. Avoid raw food like uncooked sprouts, poultry or eggs. Thoroughly wash all your salad greens too before using them as spinach and similar leafy vegetables can contain contaminants.

6. Use different utensils (knives, cutting board, vessels, etc) for meats and produce, or wash them thoroughly between use.

7. Try cooking at home as much as possible, and avoid any restaurants and eateries that you may think do not follow the cleaning guidelines correctly. In fact, report such places so some action can be taken against them. Insist on eating hot/warm food even at restaurants, to minimize chances of infection.

These are just a few tips to help you make sure you are doing your best in preventing food poisoning. WebMD has a good read on Myths About Food Poisoning, in case you are interested in some additional tips. Remember, Health is Wealth, and though this may not seem like a disease or ailment you'd be too worried about, let me tell you that it can get really ugly when someone in your family bundles up with acute pain, fever and keeps throwing up every now and then. So do your best to prevent the spread of food-borne diseases, and keep yourself and your family healthy.

As we try to focus on a healthy lifestyle, I would also like to bring to your attention the importance of eating fresh food vs packaged or pre-cooked food. Recently, I came across Phytolife, a great online resource for healthy lifestyle and cooking-related information, which I'd recommend you check out. There are so many minor changes that one can make to keep yourself healthy; let's take a moment to sit back, reflect and realign the way we feed our bodies, so we can prevent unhealthy scenarios way before they can translate into something horrific!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Honolulu Dining Guide

View Larger Map

There are so many great places to eat in Honolulu it's almost impossible to tell you about all of them. At the suggestion of a reader, I have created this interactive map of the places I like. Some restaurants I have reviewed others I haven't, but for each you'll find a note I've written about it and a link to my review, if there is one. I hope you find this helpful!

My Top 10 Blogs...

The folks at very kindly invited me to be a guest author and come up with a Top 10 list. My pick? You'll just have to visit to find out!

Find the best blogs at

For those of you visiting for the first time, welcome! Check out some of my recipes, restaurant reviews or whatever strikes your fancy. I recently returned from a long stay in Hawaii and so hopefully you can live vicariously through my posts too...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ramen Revelations

Ramen is not just that cheap instant noodle you ate in college. While I had eaten good, fresh ramen before both in the US and in Japan, I hadn't realized just how many types and variations there are, until this past trip to Hawaii. In Honolulu there are tons of ramen places and many of them offer different kinds of broth and noodles, as well as toppings. There is even a local noodle company, Sun Noodle, that supplies at least 40 different styles of ramen noodles to Honolulu restaurants. Really!

There are so many different types of ramen in Honolulu you'll just have to try some to to decide which you like best. Just scratching the surface, I only ate a few bowls of ramen and frankly, most of them were very good. I'll tell you a little about my top picks.

Tan Tan ramen
First off, Goma Tei in the Ward Center makes a phenomenal tan tan ramen. I ordered it with char siu. The normal bowl comes with one slice of pork but the char siu version comes with three slices. Take my advice and get the three pieces, it is so succulent and delicious! The rich toasted sesame broth is complex and savory with a bit of sesame oil on top. The pork is delicate and thick, rolled into a round. The noodles hold up well to the soup and the spinach adds some freshness. I would go back and eat this ramen in a heart beat.

Another noteworthy ramen I had was at a place called Menchanko Tei walking distance from Waikiki beach. Chanko is the stew that sumo wrestlers eat to bulk up. The version served here has thick noodles (not ramen) but is surprisingly light.
They also serve a very good tonkatsu that I highly recommend.

Hakata ramen
My favorite dish was the hakata ramen. The broth is made from tonkatsu pork bones, and it is very creamy. It comes with lots of toppings including some very spicy ginger that flavors the soup if you mix them in. The noodles here were a bit delicate which paired well with a lighter style broth.

Kotteri ramen
I can understand why people line up to get the ramen at Tenkaippin. They make a special version called kotteri that has a super collagen rich chicken broth base. It is almost like chicken gravy or an intensely concentrated chicken stock. It's not very salty and at each table there's a container of fresh garlic and chilies you can add to your bowl to spice it up. It also comes with one or three slices of cha siu pork, depending upon how you order it. If you feel like you are coming down with a cold, this would be the most soothing bowl. It's also rumored to help prevent wrinkles...!

Kakuni shoyu ramen
Like the other shops, Yotteko-Ya, which is part of a Kyoto-based chain, serves several types of ramen, but l liked the simple shoyu style best. It was not too salty and if you get there early enough you can get it with large blocks of marinated braised pork called kakuni. They only serve 20 portions available per day. This was the most basic style of ramen, but sometimes that's what you're in the mood for eating.

Goma Tei Ramen
1200 Ala Moana Blvd

2255 Kuhio Ave Ste S

2132 Kalakaua Ave

1960 Kapiolani Boulevard Suite 214, upstairs

Monday, January 5, 2009

Dew Drop Inn: Restaurant Review

Ok it's time I reveal a secret. In addition to reading blogs and putting out requests for advice on Twitter, there are a couple of other ways I find good restaurants in Honolulu. One is on Yelp. You have to carefully evaluate each user submitted review, but if you can read between the lines, you can find some real gems. The other great source is the best restaurant listings from the local newspaper, the Honolulu Advertiser. Not once have I been steered astray with their top picks.

A little hole-in-the-wall I was curious to try because of numerous reviews in newspapers, blogs and on Yelp, was Dew Drop Inn. You may think the Dew Drop Inn is the classic Mobile, Alabama roadhouse that inspired the Jimmy Buffet song "Cheeseburger in Paradise" but that's not the only Dew Drop Inn.

Dew Drop Inn is located downtown just a block from the Honolulu Art Academy. It's such a great Chinese restaurant it made me even sadder than I already was to leave Honolulu, because I only got to try it on my last night in town. The menu is easy to navigate because there are pictures of every single dish. The owner and chef is Taiwanese but his family was originally from Shanghai and there are lots of Northern style recipes. We ordered wheat based dishes that were steamed, boiled, pan fried and baked and not one of them disappointed.

We tried two different kinds of dumplings, a fairly standard boiled dumpling which was very well executed, with a bit of a smoky flavor.
boiled dumplings

We also ordered pan fried dumplings which had a combination of a pork sausage and preserved turnip greens in it. These were very tender but crisp on the top. The order and the dumplings themselves were very large and even cold the next day they were delicious.
pan fried dumplings

A most unusual dish was the thin and crunchy baked "sesame pockets" filled with a combination of shredded pork, pressed smoky tofu and vegetables. I loved this dish! It was a bit like a sandwich but with a most savory filling, even better than Mu Shu Pork.
sesame pockets

Finally we ordered a special, the beef and green onions with steamed buns. Juicy and sweet onions were paired with tender and garlic flavored beef. I have never had a stir fry dish such as that with steamed buns, but it was great. beef and green onions
My advice? Dine with a group, order a lot of wheat based items, and go early in your trip, because after one meal, you will want to return!

Dew Drop Inn
1088 S Beretania St

Homemade Garlic Bread - Caprese Style

I love Garlic Bread, especially when its fresh homemade bread where I am free to indulge in the toppings that I please! A salad or a bowl of your favorite pasta is never complete unless accompanied by a few pieces of sizzling hot and cheesy Garlic bread. I try to be innovative with my toppings to bring out the variety and though Bruschetta toppings are my preferred option, this time we tried to make something similar to a Caprese salad. Inspired by the Italian traditional Caprese, I used thick tomatoes, Cheddar and Mozarella with a hint of basil as a delicate topping for our homemade Garlic Bread.

1 loaf of Italian bread or French bread
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Caprese Toppings
7-8 thickly sliced tomatoes
cheddar and mozarella cheese - shredded
** or use fresh slices of thick white Mozarella cheese
dry basil flakes (optional)


Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the bread in half, horizontally, and keep aside.

Heat the olive oil in a pan, just enough to warm it. Now add the minced garlic to the oil. Let it roast for about 2 minutes on low flame. Remove from heat and let it cool a little.

Then mix the butter, roasted garlic, and parsley together in a small bowl. Spread butter mixture over the the two bread halves. Place on a sturdy baking pan and Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Remove pan from oven. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over bread if you want. Top with the thick sliced tomatoes, sprinkle some more shredded Mozarella and Cheddar on the top, and finish with Basil flakes.

Return to oven on the highest rack. Broil on high heat for 2-3 minutes until the edges of the bread begin to toast and the cheese bubbles slightly. Do not go for more than 3 seconds as the bread can burn and brown very easily!

Remove from oven and let it cool for a minute. Now cut into 2-inch slices, or larger if you choose, and serve the piping hot Caprese-style Garlic bread with your favorite pasta or salad!

Note: You can even chop the tomatoes instead of slicing them if you want thinner pieces to serve.

Related Recipes

Indian Bruschetta (Chana Masala Bruschetta)
Cheesy Breakfast Muffins
Tomato Herb & Cheese Bread