May 20, 2009

French Feast

How do you come up with a menu that is unique, incorporates a theme and yet still tells a story? The story can be about you, the guests you are cooking for or the reason for the meal (special occasion, marking an event, a holiday, a family reunion, or a celebration). The spirit that must be evoked is the story, something more than just the plates of food. There must be something that excites, invites and appeals to the palate. It's about living the food. It's about bringing the food alive, like art comes alive when your eyes are peeled to the canvas. It's the same way about a meal, an experience, the occasion. The meal and moment comes alive with the aromas, the flowers, the table setting, the guests, the wine, the ambience, and the food. The journey of the meal is a symbol of the journey of life.

The French Feast Menu:

Roasted Marinated Portabella Mushrooms with Herbed Goat Cheese
Salmon Corn Cakes with Scallions served with Tarragon Chive Sauce
*** BREAD ***
Warm Bread with Pesto Butter
Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad in a Beet Herb Vinaigrette Over Mixed Fresh Greens ***
Pineapple Orange Mango in Orange Cups
** Bouillabaisse: (Lobster, Monchong, Opah, Blue Marlin, Garlic Prawns) with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Roasted Fennel and Garlic Croutons **
Haricots Verts with Maple Citrus Butter

Selection of Cheeses (EXAMPLE French Comté, Délice de Bourgogne, Saint André and Brie des Herbes served with variety of flatbreads and baguette

Crépes with Apricot-Golden Raisin filling with 3-Berry Sauce
Mini Triple Chocolate Mint Brownies

The event was inspired by a reunion of the six from a visit to France a year earlier. It was to recap and recount and review the beauty of France, friendships, and exquisite food. Menus were printed for each guest. The cheese course had a a special menu and description of each cheese.

The venue was an exquisite home in the hills of Kula. The 360 degree oceanview and magnificent setting optimized the special event. The location was set. The table prepared. The guests showed up. The meal served. The show had begun.

Each event or special occasion is a show that goes on in its own very unique way. It's a series of acts and stages and timing is key. Each toast. Each sip of wine. Each morsel. Each course. Each conversation shared. The lighting dimmed. The moment. This moment cannot be repeated. This play can be repeated, but it will never be exactly the same. And that is how life is. Each moment must be savored and appreciated and tasted and experienced as it is in its finest and purest state. Bon appetit.

Fresh - Local

I love to travel. I don't particularly start cooking a cuisine that I have been exposed to. However, I do tend to incorporate some of the unique techniques and like to experiment with different foods and sometimes like to experiment with an international dish.

When I was in Thailand I definitely enjoyed the freshness of everything. If you have not traveled to Thailand you would be amazed at the quality and quantity of fresh food. Local women prepare food daily. The fresh mangoes and coconuts are abundant. I really enjoyed the fact that even "junk" food was still fresh and good for you. For example, dessert would be coconut sticky rice with fresh mangoes or sweet potatoes encrusted with coconut and fried.

Here in America it didn't always used to be easy to get "fresh" in every restaurant. It's easier to get farm to table more and more, but you usually have to pay a lot of money for these experiences. In Thailand, even the most inexpensive restaurants provide homemade everything.

The other week I prepared a French feast and even though I'm not trained in French cuisine I really enjoyed the challenge of being authentic as possible while incorporating the freshest of Hawaiian ingredients. I was able to create a bouillabaisse (fish stew from Marseilles) and located fresh Monchong, Blue Marlin and Opah. It was a good experience for me because it made me realize that a dish is only as good as the location where you get your ingredients. We are fortunate here in Hawaii that even in the local supermarkets local fish is brought in daily.

Wherever you are take a recipe that you know that you can locate fresh local ingredients or substitute items that you can incorporate into the recipe to make it your own. I know that my best recipes have been created from the local ingredients. One item that we get fresh here year round is corn. And so I have created fresh corn salmon cakes, or corn cheese pudding/souffle and corn with scallions and butter. With the local Big Island mushrooms I have come up with rosemary white wine mushrooms with chicken and special rosemary mushroom risotto.

It doesn't matter where you live. There are always local ingredients that are abundant at different times of year. And sometimes in your area you get an abundance of fresh ingredients from other areas as well. Be creative. Expand your culinary skills by being innovative while using local abundant ingredients.
Bon appetit.

May 19, 2009

Food Presentation

Presentation Matters

When I worked at a fine dining restaurant I will say that the most significant thing that I learned was the importance of food presentation. I have always felt that the way food looks is as important as it tastes. However, I recognize more and more that the way food is presented on the plate is a very important element to serving food.
I am a personal chef but know that the food appeal is a major part of the creativity in my work. And since I have to take photos of the food I also know how important it is to make the food look just right. I use the food to create the dramatic presentation.

I could not believe the results of the trifle. It is delicious. But in effect it is simply an orange cream, orange chiffon cake and a berry sauce. If you served the piece of cake with some cream and berries on a plate it would look great. However, by assembling it in layers in a trifle bowl the dramatic effect is amplified. And people come back for seconds.

What I have learned is that the more dramatic it is, the more appreciation I get. What I enjoy is getting a "wow" response. Food is art and food is meant to be eating, but it is also meant to be enjoyed for what it is.

And what I really love is that I'm getting more creative over time. I also feel that the food I am learning to work with is getting more versatile and exciting to use as well. For example, using fresh mangoes for a frozen mango cream, or using Big Island mushrooms that are versatile and also very "cute." I also enjoy using fruit, such as pineapple as the bowl to serve the medley. And of course herbs are a wonderful addition to a dish, such as rosemary sprigs or mint leaves and basil. And here in Hawaii we use fresh orchids to decorate plates a well.
Allow your creativity to expand and explore the world of food that will tempt your palate and please the stomach.



I have been meaning to write on this topic for a long time now. Celebrations mean a lot to me. And hosting or cooking for celebrations is one of my favorite things to do.

Whether it's a birthday party, Easter, a baptism or another holiday. I can be creative. Guests can be creative.

For Easter this year my friend Katherine was in charge of Easter eggs and the baskets. The colors. The sweetness. I had some colorful candles and before you know it we had a beautiful festive table. And of course the food was delicious. The day was gorgeous. It was a day of celebration.

For my mother's 70th birthday it was important to create a memorable day. I created the feast. However, I included the guests in contributing special words of wisdom, a song, a poem.

For Thanksgiving this past year I cooked for 2 families. What I loved about it was that I knew that that I was creating a memory, for the families, the children, for all of us.
I believe in celebrating in a big, colorful way, with food, friends, and a splash of class. My father taught me an ancient Japanese proverb. Always treat your guests as if it was the last time you would see them. Treat them to the best food, the best wines and the most memorable experience.

Perhaps this is why people remember my parties and events. For me, I love making a day extra special. I want people to feel special. I want the guests to feel loved and appreciated and know that we are celebrating the moment together.
It's not how many breaths we take, it's the moments that take our breath away.

May 8, 2009

Gourmet Lunch - Farm to Table

Almost 2 months ago my mother came to Maui to celebrate her 70th birthday. I created a magical week for her. On her actual birthday we woke up in the morning to do yoga on the beach. It was raining. That's a rare occasion in Kihei (desert!). She saw a rainbow and was so happy. It was a day full of surprises. I wouldn't tell her what we were going to do. I know I was excited. We were going to the O'O Farm in Kula to pick our fresh produce and have a chef prepare a lunch for us. It was raining but we picked fresh peapods and greens. It was so awesome.
The rain made the experience even more memorable. We were given rain capes and were shown the property. The guides are not only knowledgeable, but dedicated to their work on the farm. They have a selection of produce for their restaurants on Front Street, I'O and Pacifico.

Here on Maui I am continuously amazed at the ingenuity, dedication, love and commitment people here have to the land and to continued improvement. This working farm is an amazing example of this.

I know our meal under the rain covering with our wine and fresh bread was the perfect way to spend a day with my mom.

May 7, 2009

Magical Beach Breakfast

Last weekend I sailed with a group of friends to the magical island of Lanai. This is one of the most amazing places on planet earth. I'm biased of course. I woke up to the pinkest sky with the most beautiful sunrises. We all camped in style. There was hot tea (about 10 varieties). We had 2 varieties of French Toast, even homemade challah bread and whole wheat bread with organic eggs and maple syrup. There was fresh chai with soy milk and someone brought the most amazing tapioca pudding made with almond milk and coconut milk. There was smoked salmon and luscious tomatoes. There was a feast. It was a wonderful experience to be able to share this breakfast.
Experiences are what make me appreciate life. It's the moments that take my breath away. It's about food, friends, and natural beauty. I have been learning to appreciate as many of the little things in life as I can. And I will say I have not appreciated French Toast and Tapioca as much as I did on this morning. The sand on my feet. The taste of hot chai. The moment of being at this beach at the crack of dawn. And then when the dolphins! If there is more to life please let me know! :)

The beach at Manele Bay is probably one of the most pristine in the world. The Four Seasons has a hotel there. Its luxury beaching at its finest. Look carefully at the picture above. You'll see a group of spinner dolphins, and one spinning! There were about 100 beautiful dolphin angels in the bay.
Magic happens when you open your eyes and peer into the world of the deep blue.