Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Things I Am Loving This Week

It’s Tuesday and time for the “Things I Am Loving This Week”—those (mostly) food related things that I am enjoying and want to share.

When life gives you unique opportunities you should take them, especially when they involve food. I had the chance to attend my first underground” restaurant dinner Sunday night. Actually we were not underground, in fact we were far above it at a beautiful house in the hills above Honolulu. The dinners called “Spork!” are put on by a dedicated group of foodies to celebrate unique food, focus on emerging chefs and bring together a group of people who enjoy eating and sharing ideas. The setting, menu, chefs, and many of the diners change with each monthly event. The dinners are invitation only, you have to be on the mailing list or be brought by a friend, and the first 50 people or so that respond can attend. The cost varies based on the meal--in this case it was $65.00 (on the higher side due to the costs of seafood). You can take pictures, tweet or blog about it, as long as the location stays a secret and the privacy of others respected (i.e.: food photos are OK, people photos and names are not). Each dinner has a theme; ours was seafood, and several courses (ours had five, plus canapes). The menu planning and cooking are shared by some of Honolulu’s newest talent from its best restaurants and the event is BYOB.

There were many things to love about the evening—the beautiful location and the consideration of our host who had a bunch of shawls available for those of us at the outdoor tables (breathtaking views of the city lights but very windy and chilly for a Hawaii evening). There was the conversation with friends—old and newly made. In addition to food talk, there were plenty of amusing stories about how we all weathered the tsunami warnings the day before. There was the guest bartender who made an opening cocktail for each of us (I drank mine before I got a picture—sometimes I can only focus on the greater need!) but it was a refreshing lemon drop with a grilled chili pepper garnish. Finally there was the food—and what wonderful food it was!

Our menu included canapes of cod brandade, ogo (seaweed) flamiche (similar to a quiche) with bright pearls of roe, seafood boudin (sausage), and an escabeche with tako (octopus). Next we had a single scallop ravioli with lemon confit, and artichokes in a delicious bacon broth, followed by a plate of cured ahi--gorgeous slices of ahi with a salad made of fennel, tangerine and capers. Then came my favorite dish of the night a kettle of clams and mussels in a gorgeous flavorful pistou and served with perfectly crisp fries. A bite of the succulent mussels with the sauce soaked into the crispy fries was a little bit of heaven. (I may request this as my last meal ever!) The main course was thick slices of pink grouper, served with braised treviso (a milder radicchio), and a creamy parsnip puree garnished with a tangy wine sauce. Finally we enjoyed a dessert of manju, a Japanese sweet with a spongy outside and filled with sweet bean paste, a circle of yokan, a thick jellied dessert, a crisp cookie wafer and a cup of warm sencha (green) tea.

What an experience! The food was all delicious. I left full and satisfied but not overly stuffed. An amazing dinner and much thanks to our host, the team who put it together, the incredible chefs and my friend Nat for “hooking me up.” I hope to make it a regular thing. ;-)

From artfully prepared food to semi-convenience food! My next love for this week are these Oroweat Sandwich Thins that I have finally been able to get here after seeing them for months on the mainland and in magazines. They are whole wheat and multi-grain “buns” but super-thin and 100 calories each and I am loving them many different ways; toasted with PB&J, as the bun for a veggie burger, or as in last nights low-effort dinner as crust for healthy mini pizzas with veggies and chicken sausage.

Doing a quick calculation my hearty dinner of a simple salad with two pizzas with the tomato sauce, sausage, chard, onions, garlic and mushrooms (sautéed with the sausage), artichoke hearts and garnished with some red chili pepper flakes and a tiny bit of fluffy "microplaned" grated Parmesan was about 415 calories. Topping the pizza and dressing the salad generously with the lower calories ingredients and lightly with the higher calorie, higher fat ingredients keeps the calorie counts low. Toasting the thins first before topping them makes for a crispy pizza crust. These sandwich thins have 5g of fiber and 5g of protein. There are a few more ingredients than I normally like in them but overall the sodium is fairly low 230mg and the sugar is at 2g so for a quick and easy sandwich I think they stack up well.

So far my goal of cutting back on areas where I have issues with excess (mainly cookbooks, magazines, tea and bath products) is not going as well as I hoped. I have continued to add a few new cookbooks as well as a few new teas to my “collections." Oh well! Since I am crazy about trying different teas, I can't stop buying them. Currently I am loving these two teabag teas:

The first is this Cucumber White Tea from Tazo. Cucumber tea might sound odd but it is less "cucumbery" and more refreshing and delicate. It is a blend of white tea, lime peel and lime essence oil, dandelion leaves, black Darjeeling tea, cucumber, peppermint, lemon myrtle and other natural flavors. Tazo calls it a “replenishing tea” and I find it to be quirt calming when I am feeling stressed. The combination just works well together and it is equally good iced.

This Organic India Tulsi Tea in Chai Masala is my current work and study tea. I really love chai and this one is a good one. With a blend of tulsi, black Assam tea, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, clove, nutmeg and mace (all organic), it is nicely spiced. Tulsi (also known as Holy Basil) is a sacred plant in India that is said to be infused with healing powers. It is supposed to be energizing and good for stress relief—two good things for life right now. ;-) A cup makes for a great little break in the afternoon.

Whew! So that is my list of the "Things I Am Loving This Week."

How about you? What kinds of things are you enjoying?


  1. what an exciting dining experience. I think the areas you are cutting back in your diet allow you to reward yourself in the cookbook/tea areas ;)

  2. What an adventure! You have the most amazing dining experiences, sounds absolutely divine.
    My daughter has gotten me hooked on Tazo teas too, I'll keep an eye out for the new cucumber one.
    I agree with K and S - cookbooks and teas are great rewards and you can never have too many.

  3. That dinner sounds so cool! Kind of like The Skulls (the underground Ivy League fraternity) but with food instead of hazing! Really cool.

    And if you're going to indulge in anything...cookbooks and tea are definitely the way to go. And ice cream. Can't forget about ice cream.

  4. wow, I zeroed right in on the photo of the muscles, they look killer. And I love those sandwich thins, I like to pair them up with veggie burger.

  5. I've been enjoying those new sandwich thins

  6. Thanks for sharing the secret dinner.

    That's a very nice tea cup btw.

  7. I love those sandwich thins - they're so great for packing lunches!

    Your dinner sounds terrific, wonderful dining experience!

  8. How exciting to attend an underground dinner. I'm imagining all of the wonderful and interesting people you must have met while feasting on incredible food! Lucky you!

  9. I love the secret underground dinners! It sounds like you had so much fun. And the food...sigh...

    Cucumber white tea sounds simply wonderful.

  10. Wow, what a menu and the location sounded perfect. The underground dinners always sound fun but mysterious. Can of like the old Speakeasies during Prohibition. "Psst what' the password?"!
    By the way, Tea is a good thing *winks*!

  11. I love the sound of your dinner - some people do underground dinners here too - I'm yet to get to one, but I'd love to. I laughed about your cookbook / magazine / tea / bah addictions as they are al problems I share. I am trying to get in the habit of borrowing cookbooks I am lusting after from the library rather than buying them. So far, it's working....


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