Archive for the 'Special' Category


Off-Premise 6: Dinner at the Movies Recap

Has it already been half a year already since Off-Premise 1?  The monthly events by Off-Menu Catering and Lokahi Event Services have become more sophisticated in their execution and more varied.  Dinner at the Movies was created at La Tour Bakehouse, now before you think La Tour Café, no I mean the Bakehouse, as in the actual warehouse side where they produce bread, pizza dough, and macaroons.  In addition, to the fantastic meal we got a tour of the facilities from La Tour’s management.  The Off-Premise Dinners lives up to its namesake and definitely takes us diners off the beaten path of dull dining events.

See those white light doors to the left of the main entrance? Yeah, that's where we went!

I’ll be honest, I had reservations about this dinner, as Chef Travis Inouye is an unknown quantity.  I knew that Off-Menu and Lokahi Event Services would have the set-up, catering, and all the event services part covered.  My question was about the food, as Chef Travis does not have a traceable lineage like all the other Off-Premise chefs.  He is  relatively new.  However, he did great!  All his dishes were fun and entertaining, and exactly the way a night at the movies feeling should be captured.  I’ll put it this way, as a child, I used to love Bobby McGee’s Restaurant where the waiters and servers would dress up as characters.  The fact that Off-Menu’s staff dressed up as movie characters, the food great and fun, and the décor and entertainment matched, it evoked that feeling of being excited going out to the movies or dinners with the family.

A night of dinner at the movies.

Let’s get started on how the evening went frame by frame.  Kind of like going backstage, it was awesome to waltz pass the La Tour Café front and enter the side door that led to the offices and the bakehouse. I checked in and received a movie trivia quiz sheet and my ticket.  My ticket was done up like the old style movie tickets.  Taking an elevator up I was then whisked into the waiting room where I mingled with other guests.  Popcorn was served, with the movie style popper off to the side, and traditional boxes of different flavored gourmet-style popcorn.  I tried the curry and coconut popcorn, and it was sweet and spicy, like thai curry.  The movie trivia quiz had various questions ranging from easy, “Who was Luke Skywalker’s father?” to “what kind of fruit did Don Corleone pick-up before he was shot in the Godfather?” The prize for getting the most answers correct?  Two tickets to the next Off-Premise, which I hear is going to be Moroccan-themed!

After we were done with mingling we were ushered into the seating area.  Each table was made up of a movie theme with various props and items displayed.  Many of these were contributed from staff and employees of Off-Menu and definitely added to the authenticity of the table.  The tables were Austin Powers, Forrest Gump, Harry Potter, Disney, and one that escapes my memory right now.

Dane Neves introducing his film, "The Green Tie Affair."

After we all settled in, we were treated to a special screening of local born, raised, and schooled, director Dane Neves’s award-winning children’s short feature The Green Tie Affair.  The under 20-minute film used Hawaii American Idol contestant Jordan Segundo’s voice and singing talents, a cute puppet with a green tie, and local volunteer actors to tell a story of staying true to what makes you unique through music.  It was really nice that Off-Menu is committed to working local on all levels of their events.  It also makes me interested to see Dane’s Giant Monsters Attack Hawaii!

The Main Feature: The Food

The first course was “Children of the Corn” Chowder made from local buttered corn and was accompanied with chiso crab salad, with corn sprouts.  I can’t comment about the crab (allergy), but it looked delicious.  What I will say about the chowder very creamy, rich, and I like the crunch and bite from the corn and corn sprouts.  I liked that it was corn chowder, as I said earlier, very playful menu and reminiscent of things that you liked as a child with a bit of adult stuff thrown in, like our next dish.

The Children of Corn Chowder was horrifically tasty!

The second course was “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” Salad (personal favorite movie and short-lived cartoon series of mine).  The salad was composed of heirloom tomatoes, avocado cream and crispy goat cheese with rockets (arugula) and parmesan granola.  I hate tomatoes in the raw, unless it is caprese, ketchup, or sauce, I generally avoid them, well, like Killer Tomatoes trying to attack you.  However, I ate this entire dish.  The heirlooms bedded on avocado cream was very nice and the goat cheese was moist, creamy, and oozed in your mouth balancing against the tomatoes.  The way the juices of the heirlooms popped in your mouth while mixing with the other ingredients (including the bitterness of the arugula, which I love) was just great.  If tomatoes attacked me like this then I would be screaming for joy.

If all B-horror movies tasted this good, then they would have been A-movies!

For our main course it was burger and fires.  No simple burger, the “Kahuna” Burger and Fries was definitely magical, and may have been spiritual at a point as I had a great red wine with the burger.  Made up of Kobe Beef, with a crisped Brie Cheese, Tomato Jam, Salsa Verde and Foie Gras, with “Gun Powder” Fries this was a huge burger.  Ok, Kobe beef with foie gras is already decadent, but that brie cheese that crispy was a fun touch.  So on the one side you have met that melts in your mouth with this crispy bit of cheese that is salty and has that distinct brie taste.  Also the size of this thing was just massive, but to bed it with nicely seasoned and crunchy fries?  Like I said earlier, it was like being a child again, but the meal added that layer of being an adult, with adult tastes.

A burger big enough for any Kahuna, Chief, or King!

Last, and certainly not least, a panoply of La Tour desserts waited for already stuffed guests.  However, with panna cottas, little tarts, tiramisu, and some of the best flavors of La Tour’s signature macaroons laid before us all there was room for another plate or may be two!  Look I could describe each and every one of the desserts created by La Tour Bakehouse Chef Rodney Weddle that I sampled, but let me sum it up they were all friggin’ awesome!  By this point of the night I was so stuffed and I wanted to completely destroy my past two weeks worth of workouts with little delectable treats of sweetness.  I highly recommend stopping by La Tour for their macaroons, as they try new fun and different flavors every week like White Peach, Green Apple, Pandan, and Yuzu.

Try and fit that all on one plate!

Strawberry Ice Cream Macaroons.

I would also like to say I am very appreciative to La Tour management as we were able to tour their facilities.  It was very neat seeing the company that has brought freshly baked breads, pizza dough, etc . . .  to our local stomachs.  I think it is always great when a local company reaches such a size from humble beginnings.

Racks of fresh croissants. I was tempted to pocket some.

On an interesting side note, La Tour also operates a high-end luxury massage chair dealership.  These chairs were forged in the factories of Heaven, as many stuffed dining compatriots did not want to leave the office side of La Tour as they allowed us to try out some of their models.  These chairs envelope you and massage every part of your body.  For several thousand dollars one of these could be yours!

Baked goods and a massage, what more could you want?

I think that the evening went very well, and the food was really good.  My only humble suggestion is that in terms of timing, and it is always hard for events (great and small), to get food out at a good pacing.  The first two dishes came up at pretty good intervals.  The burger felt a bit delayed, but the size and tastiness of the burger more than made up for that small little quibble and in no way did it ruin the evening.  If Chef Travis keeps making meals like he did last night La Tour will be a favored hangout of many people in the future.

I would like to give a quick shout out and thank you to J n J Wine and Spirits and S.W.A.M. for their suggestions of wines for the evening.  Boom Boom Syrah was great with the Kobe Beef Burger and Las Rocas was a great partner throughout the meal.

Drinking companions for the night.

In addition, thank you to my fellow dining blogger @kyleepuu for bringing Kai Coconut Pandan Vodka and to La Tour’s management for bringing us their signature Mint Water to experiment on.  I highly recommend to La Tour that they have a special alcoholic version of their Mint Water with this specialty vodka.  Great for the after work crowd with a banh mi sandwich. Just a suggestion.

Mint water is always great at lunch, but with a splash of coconut pandan vodka it becomes a great dinner drink!

See you next plate!

For more information on some of the people and companies mentioned in my write-up click on the following links:


Off-Premise: Go Green for Earth Day! Write-Up

*In my defense I had this post outlined for a while.  Then life became hectic and my job and health (as I had a fever and cold) took precedence and then . . . well . . . better late than never, yeah?

Turning a New Leaf: Off-Premise Go Green for Earth Day! 

“Wait?!  What happened to Off-Menu? What is this Lokahi Event Services?  I really liked the name ‘Off-Menu!”

This is the text message I got from someone as I sent out the e-mails and Facebook invites for Off-Menu’s Off-Premise Event.  I responded, “It’s still the same company and Lokahi Event Services is just handling the Evites.”  I had to assuage worries and fears that this was not a diluting of services and we would still be treated to an excellent night of food and fun locales.  The changing of the invitations was merely Off-Menu turning a new page, as it’s sister companies were ready to make their debut at an Off-Premise Event.

The environment and nature definitely coordinated and cooperated with the arrangers of this event.

The coordination among companies Royal Part Rentals, Pacific Aisles, and Event Essentials Hawaii with Off-Menu Catering went spectacularly.  It is hard to tell in terms of food, which event the Roaring 20s Great Gatsby or Go Green, which was better.  Indeed, the food was sumptuous and I wish the night would not end for both events.  However, event planning wise Go Green definitely had kicked it up a notch.  From the decor, to the servers plating dishes at the same time, to being able to explain the food, and then clean-up and presentation, all the value need in an event services was there in spades.

Clever use of the containers. Wait to you see what we used for cups . . .

The Property: The Bayer Estate

Do you watch Hawaii Five-O?  Then you know this house.  Prominently featured in the hit show this property is the McGarrett house.  As gorgeous and peaceful as it looks on the show, it really is that in real life.  The chairs that sit on the lawn and lazily stare out to ocean and sunset makes you want to just lounge there all afternoon.  The property’s garden and house a nod to years gone by and a relaxing time of Honolulu.  Indeed, you wanted and ocean property that was rich, but chill, quaint, but pristine then this would be the house.

. . . yep! Mason jars with our names like grade school, but for adults! Very cute and green.

The Lokahi Event Services group added nice touches to the event such as when we arrived we picked up cups that were actually old mason jars, the containers for sangria and lemonade were the old crack seed kind, and finally the name holders on the table were planted basil seeds to take home in bio-degradable pots.   All in the name of green, all in the same of detail, all in the name of the service and style of Lokahi Event Services.

The Food: Green?  Yes.  Tasty?  Most Definitely!

Enough of business and ambiance.  It’s time to get to the real deal: the food.  Organic, fresh, and local, those were the themes of the night and Chefs Doug Lum and William Bruhl of Green Cuisine delivered.  From the appetizers to the dessert the chefs took us on a tour of what Hawaii could produce and what they could do with it.   It was fun and organic, and a fantastic meal from start to finish.  I think some would criticize that the meal seemed small, but that would only be the case if you missed out on the trio of amazing appetizers.  In my book quality will always beat quantity when it comes to a special dinner affair.   You rather remember the evening with friends, food, and the fun rather than complaining how bad was (no matter how much of it there was), but to each their own.

The Passed Hors D’Oeuvres: Three of Them!
First up was the Sesame – Ahi Tartare.  This delightful light dish was served in a Crisp Wonton Spoon.  The ahi was fleshy and fresh, nice whole chunks that had a light dipping of sesame and at the tail end of your bite, a nice crunch.

I should have grabbed all those spoons!

I then had the opportunity of grabbing a Barbecued Pizzette with Mission Fig and Goat Cheese.  The pizzette was very comforting and wholesome, round, with earthy, savory, and sweet flavors.  It had the following ingredients:  Black Mission Fig-Apple Banana Chutney, Smoked Black Forrest Bacon, Granny Smith Apple and Goat Cheese.  The combination of Goat Cheese with the Fig really made this a mouth-watering dish.

That goat cheese was really something, just looking at this picture again makes my mouth water.

Finally, I loved this last appetizer.  I really enjoy the play on comfort food, and the Demitasse of Tomato Bisque with Cave–Aged Gruyere Sandwich was a definite hit with me.  I feel bad for who I was talking to at the time because the glutton in me took over and I proceeded to eat the sandwich, dipping it in the cup of bisque . . . the cup which my conversation mate was holding.  My only criticism of this dish is logistics and not on taste.   During a stand-up cocktail hour situation having a cup and a sandwich makes for hard eating, but that doesn’t mean I won’t eat it again.  Definitely would do that, as the creamy bisque with the saltiness of the gruyere was enough to remember sitting on couches and staring out on cold rainy fall days during college.

Dunk the bread in the bisque and then remember your childhood.

Salad Course: Up Country Baby Romaine
I really enjoyed the Up Country Baby Romaine Salad with the Parmesan Basket, Judd’s Garlic Dressing, and Spiked Croutons.  It was definitely fun and playful with salad deconstruction.  However, I really did like the taste of the Parmesan basket, but I feel like the problem with it is the basket could get soggy from the dressing and rather than being crisp it would be chewy.  Overall, good solid dish, but it really was a ramping up to the main course.

A nice basketful of tastiness.

Demi Courses: Boneless Short Rib, Chive-Orzo Risotto and Pan-Seared Diver Scallop
These courses were plated together and made for a very surfy and turfy play on the taste buds.  The Veal Red Wine-Veal reduction definitely made the veal hearty and the red wine and thickness of the sauce was great as it oozed over the Chive-Orzo Risotto.  Both together very heavy, but after consuming a few bites of that I had to dive into the scallop, which had been neglected due to my lust of meat. The Pan-Seared Diver Scallop with Spring Cipolini and Pearl Onion Fondue, Maui Onion Sabayon was perfectly cooked; the scallop had that right consistency that you look for in scallops and seasoning was perfectly matched to the flesh of the scallop.  Together the veal and scallop definitely had all the elements of earth and sea, and the only sad part was the meal was coming to an end.

A double threat of tastebud overload from land and sea.

Dessert Course: Mocha Pot de Crème
Fortunately the end was the Cafe Mocha Crème with Caramelized Sugar Crust, and a Chocolate Cigar.  I was first dismayed at how tiny the cup was as I was like this is not enough to soothe my sweet tooth.  However, there was a lot of taste packed into that cup.  Dense and chocolaty, the mocha was definitely brought out and it was like creamy dream on my taste buds.  Sadly, and embarrassingly, I was fortunate to have two of these desserts due to a fellow guest’s sharing . . . now wait a minute why is that sad?!  Because I wanted a third.

Good till the last spoonful . . . hmmm, I mean cupful!

Thank you Off-Menu for keeping the Off-Premise themes going strong.  Thank you to Chefs Doug Lum and William Bruhl of Green Cuisine for a most definite green, but tasty evening.  Thank you to the staff of Lokahi Event Services, which includes the companies of Royal Part Rentals, Pacific Aisles, and Event Essentials Hawaii.

A night of green food and gentle breezes, not a bad way to spend a Saturday, huh?

Oh well my stomach and taste buds will just have to wait until next time!  Anyway, to all of you, my readers and followers, I hope to see you and share a plate with you at “Dinner At the Movies.”


Sharing a Plate, Meeting a Friend

*Apologies to Off-Menu and readers who are curious about this past weekends Off-Premise Dinner, that write-up is forthcoming, but certain events have happened that will be made clear in this post, that I would like to do a write-up later.

Sharing a Plate, Sharing Memories and Experiences

I didn’t really know if I should post these thoughts.   However, after debating about it I felt that sharing is one of the major themes of this blog and my life in general.  As many of you know I run the Honolulu Grub Club blog, as well as One More Plate here and there goal is to share food information and ideas with others, with an emphasis in Hawaii.  A large part of my personal life, when it isn’t involved with the law, video games, reading, writing, or whatever, is dominated by dining out with friends.  Indeed, the HGC words are “food, friends, and fun!”

So where is this going?  Well, in my adventures with the Grub Club and in particular Off-Premise, I have had the wonderful opportunity to become more social, especially during a time when my life is more stressful than it looks.  I have met a wonderful array of new friends, and through them acquaintances that I hope will become friends.  I am not naïve and think that friends of friends will always get along, but that was not the case with Ryan Suenaga.  In fact, I could already tell when I met this guy, he was entertaining , self-effacing, and a very colorful person.  Someone, I would enjoy getting to know.

Unfortunately, this past Sunday, Ryan’s life was cut short in a hiking accident at Olomana trail.  I would rather not dwell on the details, but if you would like to know more, you can read about the story here.  For my own part, my heart and care goes out to my mutual friends with Ryan who are bereaved by this tragedy.  I will be honest I only shared a couple meals with him and was only beginning to get to know him.   However, in the face of this tragedy and remembering my own mortality and my sense of purpose I’d like to share some feelings and thoughts.

Share a plate with someone.  Specifically, a meal or two, as I consider it sharing a new experience with someone.  Last year, was a hard year for me, but I started the Grub Club with the distinct notion that I wanted to have fun with my current friends, but I also wanted to meet new ones.  One of the ways I know best, and I think humanity and its various cultures has it right too, is to “break bread” with each other.  I think one of the best ways to meet people and know their qualities is can you sit down and share a meal with them.  Recently, I had the fortunate of sitting down with some of my more longtime friends and reminisce and share new foods and thoughts with them.  Honestly, it was one of the best nights I have had this year.

I am moved at the outpouring of love and affection shown to Ryan Suenaga (aka @rsuenaga of the Twitterverse).  I am saddened that I will not get to him as some of my other friends have, as the times we shared a meal were all positive.  However, this tragedy has given me pause.  In this time of reflection, I know now that I do want to go out and share more food adventures with others.  I do not think that I will like them all, but I think that sharing meal experiences with others has helped shape and define my character and I would want they way others view me to be at the very least half as positive as those invaluable traits that made Ryan a wonderful person.

My last thoughts on this are you don’t have to like food as I do, but you just need to pick something to be passionate about and share it with others.  For myself, I choose to add another plate on top the load I carry because it is just that one extra experience that adds to my life.  In law we talk about wearing hats, on stage it is wearing masks, but the reality is whatever you are doing are the activities you truly treasure all solitary?  Are not some of your best moments in life when you are surrounded by friends or even strangers?  This is not a clarion call to go out and love all your neighbors, but this is just asking you would it just hurt to say, yes to someone for lunch, coffee, tea, or whatever it may be and spend an hour getting to know that person?

Final Words to Readers, Friends, and Ryan

To my readers all I say is this go out and meet people, you never know who you will be lucky to find.   Whether they are a fellow dork, musician, eater, or writer, they do add something to your life, even if it is temporary.

To my friends who have lost someone dear, just remember that while he cannot be replaced neither can your memories of him.  Remember those times you ate out, had fun, and the friendship you forged.  Also remember that you, yourselves have other friends that care about you.

To Ryan, wherever you may be, in response to what you posted on my Facebook, I too hope to hang out with you again.  Keep a plate warm for me because I will probably be hungry.

Finally, if you would like to find out more about Ryan Suenaga please follow on these links, as I think our mutual friends have said it the best and do his memory honor:

Goodbye Ryan


Aloha Ryan

Aloha ’oe @rsuenaga


Off-Menu’s Off-Premise: The Great Gatsby in the Roaring 20’s

Decadence, elegance, and roaring good time

*Apologies to Off-Menu and Chef Travis “Ala” Sutton as well as my dining companion bloggers, as I am really late with this one.  Keeping in the theme of my blog, “One More Plate” I certainly have been juggling a lot of plates lately, but finally here is my write-up of the fourth Off-Premise by Off-Menu.

The Setting

The sun is setting and I’m waiting in front of the Aina Haina library for a van to shuttle me off to the next Off-Premise event by Off-Menu.  I’m hoping it will arrive soon as the library patrons are looking at me strange.  It may have to do with the fact that it is about eighty degrees and I’m wearing a black fedora, a vest, pin-striped pants, a black dress shirt, and a white tie.  Why?  Well, this Off-Premise is a 1920s party and Off-Menu did not hold any of the punches.

Check-in and the beads for the game of the night.

My shuttle van arrives and quickly spirits me away from puzzle onlookers.  The van ride is short, as the property for this Off-Premise is the nearby Oasis World Estates.  To say this place was gorgeous would be an understatement.  Off-Menu chose the perfect place to have a 1920s party with the name The Great Gatsby.  If there was a lavish party described in the book set in Hawaii, it would be that place.  The evening played out like one of those extravagant parties minus the tragic ending.  In fact, the only tragedy was the night ended.  However, I think I should start at the beginning.

The property as the sun sets.

The van dropped me off, the driveway is tiny, and two solid doors hide the splendor of the property.  When the entrance is open up you see a sleek hallway of bamboo and stone that opens up to a blue as blue can be pool and Jacuzzi, a yard overlooking the ocean, and all this surrounded by a rich, but comfortable beachfront property.

It was definitely a fun party with many of the attendees dressing up for the ocassion.

Check-in is fast as you are greeted by a pretty host and given beads.  Beads?  Yes, these Mardi Gras-like beads are the night’s game:  in a simple match of jan-ken-po your goal is to beat staff and guest a-like to collect the most beads.  It’s a nice ice breaker and makes the hats, vests, suits, and suspenders even more festive.

The preparation of the crostinis to go with our martinis!

The cocktail hour is perfect, a feast for your eyes with a tour of the house, as they whet your appetite with foie gras and duck or crab salad on crostinis with free classic martinis.  The weather is cooperating, not too hot, as a nice breeze blows in off from the waves.  Tonight’s dinner is once again being done by Chef Travis “Ala” Sutton of Le Guignol.  It is amazing that he, as the first chef of Off-Premise, has grown along with the catering company.  The experimenting with food is at a higher level, and the décor and service have definitely kicked up a notch.  Both seem like pros at this type of events, even though this is Chef Ala’s second one and this is only Off-Menu’s fourth (and remember each venue is different).

The table setting was pitch perfect with the food and house.

The Dinner

I think Off-Menu and Ala have definitely kicked up the Off-Premise events with this one.  While, it is true this one was a little less street, like Chef Sean’s, this one was classy and elegant, with a hidden air of fun by it being on a private beach property.  That was the case with the food.   Heck, even with the menu, as our entrees were spelled out on pearl vellum.  Fancy.

The name plates and the pearl vellum menus just shows the attention to detail by Off-Menu.

So what did we start out with?  Braised Artichokes with a Sherry Gastrique, Goat Cheese and Almonds, sitting abed Curried Quinoa, Cucumber and Mint Salad with Ho Farms’ Tomato Oil and Lemon Juice.  Sounds heavy?  Well, it wasn’t, it was a great starter (added to the two crostinis and martini I had beforehand during cocktail hour).  The artichoke was full of flavor and with the goat cheese it was perfect by itself, but the curried quinoa only added to the whole dish.  You got a whole bunch of flavors of sweet, salty, smoky, savory, and umami . . . actually, as I am late writing this my stomach is getting hungry thinking of the artichoke mixing with the goat cheese a few crumbles of curried quinoa.  I digress, the only problem I had is that may be the richness of the bases, like the sherry gastrique, tomato oil, and mint salad might have gotten lost with the goat cheese, curry, and artichoke.  Overall, it was nice way to warm-up.

The artichoke with goat cheese and curried quinoa, whet my appetite.

Ok, if you have been reading my blog then you know that I am allergic to seafood.  So I missed out on the Chilled Lobster Cappuccino and Lightly Grilled Lobster Tail with Frisee Lettuce, Fresh Tarragon and Sauce Maltese.  I also thought I might have lucked out again when a plate of salmon.  I also don’t care for salmon.  However, let me say this Chef Ala prepared it well to my liking.  It was juicy and tender, and the fruit sauce complimented the fish well.  I ate the whole thing, and don’t regret it.  I thank Chef Ala and Off-Menu for allowing the substitution, as I know how hard it is at these dinner parties to keep costs down while changing things out.  My only thing is that the sauce could have stood out more, but it might have interfered with the cooking of the salmon.  So I am undecided if it was meant to accent the fish or make me taste the fish in a new way.

My salmon.

The main course of the night, made me wish I could have seconds or that I could take one of my dinner companion’s plate and run off with it.  The main course was Chicken Fried Veal Cheek and Veal Tenderloin.  Veal twice?  Yes, please . . . like I said if I could have stolen a second plate and made it veal times four I would have.  Crunchy and then soft veal cheek on-top of a tender tenderloin?  I don’t know how to describe how the chicken fried style just really kept the juiciness and tenderness in the cheek, but gave it this kind of southern crunch to it all.  It was salty, meaty, crunchy, but soft.  It was just delightful.

The cheek that made my cheeks flush.

Oh wait, did I say that was the last?  Then there was dessert.  What was it?  It was just Chocolate Soufflé and Cheesecake Ice Cream.  Yeah, just warm decadence in a cup with creamy icy goodness.  You know when you have that oozy, thick chocolate that can only be washed down with a nice milky cool chaser?  Yeah, this was that.   The only thing that could top this was alcoholic whip cream . . . oh wait, we did do that, as one of my dinner companions had brought two cans of that.

Sir, can I have some more, please?

I daresay that the night was perfect and met the tenets of what I want for the Honolulu Grub Club.  Food, friends, and fun were all there in spades.  It is just sad that Off-Menu cannot help make my life like that everyday, but then again if they did would I not become childish in my greed and selfishness, thus ruining the dream like that of the Great Gatsby.  My dream would be dead, so sometimes, perfect should be fleeting, like a dream.  Thank you Chef Ala and Off-Menu.

The glow of the evening.

Last Words

Don’t take my untimely write-up as a sign that this was not fun.  In fact, this was probably the best Off-Premise so far, in terms of class and ambiance.  It isn’t to say that the underground is bad, but for my personal taste being whisked to a private estate is a breath of fresh air, similar to the selected Chef’s cooking.

Chef “Ala” is certainly doing new things and I would recommend a visit to Le Guignol, as his style is brought out by dishes desserts like the cracked pepper cake with a blue cheese ice cream with local honey.  Believe me, I was skepetical at first, but it was delicious.  I find that he has a modern elegance when playing with composition of his dishes, it is a mix of class and fun.  Thus it was appropriate for the selected venue and theme provided by Off-Menu.

Thank you to Off-Menu, Chef “Ala”, my friend/photographer for the photos, and Oasis Estates for a delightful and memorable evening.  Cheers to all of them for their hard work and I hear the next one is going to be just as fantastic, but possibly a whole lot greener . . . . Until the next plate!

For other opinions about this evening, that were more timely than me, check out these sites:


Off-Premise: “Oshogatsu” at Off the Wall Restaurant

Oshogatsu (お正月) or Japanese New Year is appropriately celebrated when it is the weekend before Chinese New Year at a restaurant that serves Okinawan food with a twist of French, Italian, and Korean flavors . . . wait a minute, what?!

Well, of course it all makes sense when the celebration is in Hawaii, the catering events company is Off-Menu, and the restaurant is Off the Wall.

The menu for the night.

Off-Menu: the Start

While, some traditions are dying in Hawaii others are beginning to take root. I sincerely, hope that this third Off-Premise event is a sign of things to come and look forward to like the New Year that we all celebrate. While I found the food at Off the Wall not necessarily new and mind-altering, I would daresay that the food was more approachable than Chief Sean Priester’s experiments. They offered something that I would eat on a regular basis or be happy to bring to a potluck, per chance celebrating the New Year or gathering of friends. However, before I get into it all let me lay the scene.

The sun is setting, but the reds and oranges in the sky are still strong enough for sunglasses as I pull into the Pearl Kai Shopping Center. The parking lot is half full, with dinner goers and drinkers trickling in to their affordable eating spots and drinking dives. Out across the uneven parking lot a white tent stands out. It is signature Off-Menu.

I arrive and sign in. I’m handed my table number on a personalized card and handed a sheet of paper. It’s game time. This time it’s not guessing the name of exotic fruits and vegetables. This one is squarely running with the theme of Japanese New Year. The party-goers need to play a matching game of connecting the meaning/symbolism of a traditional food dish to the food name. I stare at the food, the names, and the symbols. I then stare at them again, and then I proceed to fold my paper and stuff it in my pocket. I had realized that studying seven years of Japanese, watching countless anime, and hanging out at my best friend’s house every New Years for o-zōni was not going to help me. Time to mingle.

Can you tell me the meaning of all foods without looking online. Actually, go and look online I doubt you would get it all.

I’m handed a free pomegranate pear spritzer, which is sweet and relaxing, even without the alcohol and grab a caprese skewer. The spitzer with the skewer are perfect for enjoying the weather and the company of old and new friends.  After chit chatting we are ushered behind closed doors into Off the Wall.

I could drink these all day as they had no alcohol . . . wait actually I could drink the ones with alcohol all day as well.

However, this was not the Off the Wall I remembered eating at several weeks ago for dinner. Off-Menu has done it again. They have transformed a tiny space into something else with tricks of lighting and fabric, what was once a local hang out spot for plate lunch, is now a white room with hints of red. It is like an homage to the “Red and White Song Battle” of NHK fame.

Move over salad in a cup, it is salad on a stick!

Off the Wall: the Food

With the visual feast and set-up presented by Off-Menu, and their guests ushered in this hidden white room, the real fun could begin. Off the Wall presented us with five courses.

First up, was Edamame Hummus with Grilled Flatbread and Tofu Katsu Wrap, served with a Soy Sweet Chili Sauce. This was served family style, which was different from the past two Off-Premise events. It was a nice change and kept well with the Asian theme. I would order this for my attempt at “Meatless Mondays” and is a good lunch snack. However, I would like to see the edamame teased out more. I think they should experiment with different types a flatbreads and see, which would hold the hummus better. The tofu katsu wrap was fun and the crunch was there. I think I would like a more crispy bite. More akin to the rolls you would get at a Vietnamese restaurant. Overall, good warm up and a way for people at the table to get acquainted with each other.

Edamame Hummus and Tofu Katsu

Next up was something that surprised me. It was Korean Salmon Carpaccio. Normally, I do not like salmon. However, this Kalbi Salmon Tataki with Kim Chee Garden Salad took me by surprise. When I think of Korean food I do not think of salmon, nor do I think of a searing on the salmon. I personally think that the kalbi compliments the taste of salmon quite well in the way it was presented. I would probably eat this as a salad for lunch. It is light enough, but has a slight spiciness that I like from the kim chee. So compliments to the chefs, as I appreciate it when someone can get me to eat something I normally do not care for. If you want to see a pictures of the Korean Salmon Carpaccio and other food pics from the event check it out at here.

"Asian Shrimp and Chips"

The third course was different for me than everyone else. As you can already guess it has to do with my shellfish allergy. So I can’t really comment on the “Asian Shrimp and Chips” or Sweet Prawn Kaarage on a Bed of Vegetable Fries. Lucky for me I had the chicken kaarage, “lucky” because I love salt. I love salty and crispy. So this suited me just fine.  I thank the chefs for allowing substitution and I recognize their priority is not to wow the solo serving of chicken from the sea of prawns, but to me at the end of the day this was typical chicken kaarage. However, do not take that the wrong way I would probably order it day in and day out at as a plate lunch. I would say it is definitely better than all other places that serve chicken karaage nearby.

The chicken that I had instead of prawn.

Following that was the Braised Shoyu Pork with Okinawan Soba Pasta. This dish is what I was looking forward to and I think it was good, but I think what would have made it for me and other party-goers was if they had not shredded the pork and cubed it. The pork was there, but the consistency of the noodles versus shredded pork had the pork being lost in that texture. Still, I liked the dish and would also order it regularly as a plate of noodles to go.

Where is the pork? It was there, and it was still good.

Even after all that we were given dessert. It was Okinawan Andagi with Azuki Beans and Yuzu Mousse. I enjoyed it. I think it was a little too heavy after four dishes, but I can understand the need to end with something signature Okinawan. I don’t care for azuki beans so I skipped that, but scoped up the Yuzu Mousse. I have to say that the Yuzu could have teased out the citrus flavor more because it was closer to regular whip cream. The green tea powder flaked on the andagi though was a good move and did nice balance of bitter to sweet.

Little balls of deep fried deliciousness.

All in all the meal was filling and there are dishes I would eat again. Would I say this was mind-blowing food? I’ll be honest, no, but it did not have to be. To me New Years celebrations are paradoxes. It is a celebration of the new using traditions of the old. We say good-bye to the past, welcome the future, and all doing this with things we are familiar with. However, every year you may celebrate it with a new friend, new location, a new food. This is what we had. I know the chefs used themes and ingredients they are familiar and comfortable with, but tried to make things that would be a welcome addition to your plate lunch or good eats dinner rotation.

I just needed a pretty image to break up the text, so here you go!

Before I close out this post, I would like to say that the restaurant and its staff was very accommodating. Off the Wall’s serving staff waited on us, and not Off-Menu’s. Lastly, they have a good selection of beers and sakes from Japan and Okinawa to match the dishes they have on hand. Moreover, they have good specials on them on certain nights of the week. I highly recommend stopping by Off the Wall whenever you find yourself out in Aiea and Pearl City area.

With that I look forward to a new year of food, friends, and fun.

P.S. Want another take on the event? Read this HGC and awesome Yelper’s write-up here.


Off-Menu’s Off-Premise 2: Dinner with a little Soul

The sun sets on the warehouses of Waipahu. It is industry and raw, the streets are empty and the surroundings remind me more of my college days in Philadelphia than in Hawaii. However, similar to how these islands are a pocket of land in the middle of the Pacific there is a spot of lights and music in the shadows of industrial Oahu.  In one of the warehouses, hidden in the back from Farrington Highway, there is life. No, there is SOUL.

Everyone should have a little SOUL in their life, no literally I mean you should go to Soul Cafe or Soul Patrol.

This past Saturday (11/13/10), I once again had an invite to Off-Menu Catering Service’s Off-Premise Dinner 2. This time it was with Chef Sean Priester (formerly of Top of Waikiki, and now of Soul Café), who was just awarded the 2011 Hale Aina Award for Best New Restaurant. Chef Sean brought soul and jazz to the affair, but as always with his signature a touch of aloha.

The truck was there, very cool touch!

I know a lot of guests arrived with trepidation, but that soon melted away when tried the Kukui Sausage Chorizo and Black Bean Nachos with Local Sweet Corn-Asiago Cream. This was definitely fun take on Nachos and I liked how different the cream played with the nachos and sausage from traditional cheese and nachos. Added to the fun was that these pupus were served from Chef Sean’s famed Soul Patrol lunchwagon. It was very fun to get food from a truck in the warehouse, and a creative touch to the whole experience.

Nachos, Sweat Tea, and a Game, what a great way to start an evening!

During this time the guests were able to hang out in the front of the warehouse trying to guess what the pictures fruits and vegetables were posted on wall as twilight turned to evening. The diners giggled and munched on their nachos as many of them colluded to try and figure out if #2 was lima beans or edamame (it was lima beans). After the appetizer and guessing was done we were ushered behind black curtains to a tent, but much like how I described the general evening the tent hid another surprise.

Can you guess all 25 fruits and vegetables? I couldn't.

It was a done up like a jazz lounge. Fun and festive, dark and colored lights,, and a DJ spinning jazz, R&B, and other lounge favorites.

I sat at Neo-Soul, I was kind of hoping for Funk.

After sitting we had out salad, but like the nachos nothing what we are used to here in Hawaii. Haricot Vert Salad with Nacked cow feta Citronette is not a salad I’m used to, but that was a good thing. The green beans definitely had more crunch and bite than any old piece of lettuce and provided an interesting backdrop for the cow feta with the balsamic citronette. It was a unique tasting experience, which I appreciated.

This salad had some bite and crunch to it.

Now, for what I considered the highlight of the night, the Braised Kalbi Shortrib Tacos with Kim Chee Sour Cream and Ginger Scallion Tomato Relish. I echo my fellow HGC Member and Yelper when I say this, “Chef Sean, please add these to your menu.” I had two, and I’ll be honest I wanted two more. It was the right amount of meat, which was also nice and tender, spiciness from the Kim Chee, and I found myself digging the relish. Also the flavor of the braising was able to hold its on against all of those flavors. Only thing is I’d say for taco construction (similar to burger construction) is that a little less of the ingredients would make for a less sloppy experience, but then again I do recognize some people like licking their fingers.

I could have probably eaten all 8 given the chance. . . .

I had the chicken version of the SOUL Seafood Jambalaya due to my allergy, but I have to say I enjoyed it, but after the tacos I kind of kept thinking back to them. The spiciness of the Jambalaya was good for someone who likes things mild to slightly spicy. I basically found it easy to keep taking full bites and letting the spices dance in my mouth. However, I felt that out of the dishes that I could get this anytime because Chef Sean has Soul Café, so I would have liked to see something different like the other dishes. This is not say it was a bad dish, but just that I was familiar with it already.

I had chicken, so none of that shrimp in mine.

The evening had a great pacing to it and I was looking forward to dessert, Pecan Pie Cupcakes, provided by another vendor and not Chef Sean.

I have to be honest. I love sweets, cupcakes, and I am game for trying things that I normally don’t like in one form, but being re-presented to me in another form, but I was kind of disappointed with these cupcakes. I understand that Hokulani and Cake Couture have a certain method of making their cupcakes, but if that is the base that a customer is going to envision when eating their cupcake than any new entrant should be aware of this fact. What has predecessors done and have they shaped the market’s view of how the product ought to be? Unfair, but that’s business.

I felt the cupcakes were too reminiscent of some of the drier pastries found on the East Coast. It was more muffin-like than the moist cupcakes that I favor. In addition, many of the other patrons agreed that the frosting was either too greasy or buttery for their palette.

Looked pretty, but could use some work imho.

Despite that I still have to say I had fun for most of the night. I enjoyed all the dishes, the company, and the ambience. Being in contact with the management of Off-Menu I know they have a bevy of fun ideas, venues, and chefs they would like to put forth in an Off Premise context.

Off-Premise Dining is quickly becoming like the garage band that is ready for a stage act. I highly recommend you check out one of the events if you can. It is an experience that may touch your soul, but definitely the stomach.

For a review from a fellow HGCer read this Yelp Review. For more info and pictures check out Nonstop. For details of future Off-Premise events contact Off-Menu.

and that is a wrap . . . until next time!


Off-Menu’s Off-Premise Underground Dinner, First

Whoever put the Off-Menu sign under the lips picture, very clever.

This past Monday (09/27) the Honolulu Grub Club was graciously invited by Off-Menu to their first “Off-Premise” Underground Dinner. The dinner was hosted at Manifest. The food prepared by Chef Travis “Ala” Sutton of Le Guignol.

As I have written about underground dining before, I would say this experience was slightly different. It felt like a good night out at a club, but had the intimacy and friendship of a private dinner. It gave me a reason to get dressed up for fun on boring, muggy, and hot Monday and to relax with friends, old and new, in a fun locale and eat some good food.

I cannot really comment about the other underground food projects on here on Oahu, as I’ve never been to one, but it seems that Off-Menu is going off the beaten path of being elite. While, the food is important, as they want foodies to come, it is also about the event itself. They are making the event fun, the food approachable, and the guests a friendly, eclectic bunch. Makes sense given that it is a hip catering company that does weddings, charities, etc . . . . It’s food and fun for everyone.

Having a dinner party and a bar is very cool.

Hosting the dinner at Manifest was definitely a cool move. It’s always a nice feeling when the bar is yours and you freely can get a cocktail and chat with person without yelling at them to just say “hi.” Added to that fact the cocktail is not the main event, but a relaxer.

Pooh am I?

Another way to relax, especially amidst strangers, is to play games! It was great on Off-Menu’s part to incorporate some easy icebreaking games for its guests to meet and greet each other. We played the “Who Am I?” game where guests try to determine the name of the famous person taped to their back by asking other patrons a simple yes-no question. I was Cat Kora (I only wish I could cook like her or be as organized). I really enjoyed talking to the other guests as they were all friendly, and the fun of figuring out who you are seemed to overcome any awkwardness of meeting a stranger for the first time.

The table setting was cute with the paper bags serving as menu and a take away treat of cookies.

After the game was concluded we sat down for dinner. We had a five course meal for the evening that was prepped by the Chef right there.

Each bag had the name of the guest, the menu, and all of it hand-written.

The first dish, the salad of prosciutto, raspberries, arugula, etc . . . . was decent. Oh before I get too critical (esp. if Chef Ala’s wonderful wife, who sat next to me, is reading this) I applaud Chef for trying to be creative and presenting new things to people’s palettes. I always admire those who have the confidence to step out and try something new, but what I appreciate is the ability for people to take criticism of their new invention and improve upon it. I’m glad that Chef Sutton made, such a speech before we began.

You know, as Chef was plating the dinner I couldn't help, but think he also looked like a DJ esp. because of the black plates, the table, and the setting. He was our DJ Chef spinning/serving plates of goodness.

But enough of that, let me get back to the first dish. I appreciated the different textures of the salad, my problem was mainly with the strength of taste: the prosciutto overwhelmed everything and things as tart or bitter as raspberries or arugula just did not seemed to sing out. However, I’d say this dish would work if somehow the flavors of each ingredient could be enhanced.

The salad starter.

The next up was lobster tail. I’m allergic to shellfish, but in the name of food (and justice . . . and my stomach!) I gave it a go. I liked it, but I thought that the onion soup sauce didn’t stick to the lobster that well. I think it would be nice to plate it with the sauce dripping over it. But then again what do I know, I bust out in hives and an itchy throat if I eat too much of this stuff.

The third was my favorite. It was veal sweetbreads, the barbecue sauce made it feel American (well as American as barbeque can be, as it came from Caribbean . . . then again immigrating and importing is American, so never mind). Anyway, the veal was good, tender, and very moist. I just wish the chocolate was a little bit more out front. I could only get a hint of it as the barbeque sauce kind of overwhelmed it.  I liked the celery remoulade, but I don’t know if I would pair it with the sweet breads. You know, I think I need another try at it to see how I really feel . . . no, seriously, I want it again to make a determination. Free sweet breads please! Just kidding.

You should have been there for the smell as these babies were cooking.

The fourth to me was a lot of fun, even though once again I don’t eat too much seafood. I like salty, and this was it. The steamed mussels were cooked right, and not tough of chewy and have a good salty flavor to them. Added to that the duck fat fries with fleur de sel just sang to me. I was in salty heaven. It was like the Dead Sea visited my mouth with nice rich flavors.

Salty bowls of goodness.

You know, I just can’t seem to get away from cheesecake . . . . After August’s Cheesecake Competition I thought I was done with the dessert. Oh well, at least from my sake it was a mousse rather than an actual cheesecake. It also wasn’t as dense (which is why I tend to dislike cheesecake), nor as creamy. Very fun, and it felt like having an adult pudding cup to end a dinner with big kids you met at a bar.

A sweet ending to a sweet night.

All in all Off-Menu is off to a fun start and I hope to see more. I hear the next event, tentatively scheduled for November may be a “movie-style” night and I can’t wait to have dinner theatre with old and new friends.


Europan Shrimp, an Out of this World Delight?

Life appears in unexpected places.

So I had a special thought that I couldn’t get out of my mind. So I am going to share it with the rest of you.

I was channel surfing the other week (or was it the other month?) and I saw Andrew Zimmerman’s off-shoot of Bizarre Foods talking about deadly kinds of food we humans like to consume on Earth; from fugu to rock fish it is no wonder we have sayings like “pick your poison.” I realize that isn’t the phrase origin, but I’m trying to make a point so stick with me.

After that, I was on the Discovery Channel or one of the science channels, and it was about space. As an avid Star Wars fan (read as, raving mad lunatic who would dress up in costume if he could), I enjoy watching things about space. As the ideas of space and deadly foods mixed in my mind I thought about one of my friends who makes me look less Chinese because he will consume Japan’s canned seal meat . . . . he likes the idea of eating the exotic.

So I was thinking if there is a possibility that life exists on Europa, one of the largest moons of Jupiter, which scientists think contains liquid water under the hundreds of meters of ice, would we try to eat it? What is more exotic than  Europan Shrimp?

Before you think it is far-fetched consider the following:

  1. First of all, its pretty clear life can live in freezing depths and around thermal vents and these ecosystems do not derive energy from the sun, but the heat and chemicals pouring from the vents.
  2. Second, this life is generally things like starfish, crabs, shrimps, worms, etc . . . .
  3. Third, if the hypothesis of Europa’s under-ice oceans filled with life is correct, then . . . .
  4. We have Europan Shrimp . . . or some sort of extra-terrestrial equivalent. Can we say edible-terrestrial?

This picture while interesting and very scientific looking, I can't help, but wonder are these creatures edible?

Now for the bigger question: would anyone try to eat it?

But it’s not from here! Well, I sat and thought about it, and when the Earth seemed a whole heck of a lot bigger to explorers it did not stop them from killing things and trying to eat them. Hell, as I said before we eat things we already know are deadly. Fugu anyone?

So what about you? If you live to see the day mankind brings back Europan shrimp, would you eat it? I probably wouldn’t, but that is more because I seem to be allergic to terrestrial crustaceans, so extra ones? Yeah, probably not gonna happen for me.

Would you eat this or would it eat you?

Actually, this all sounds so crazy it should be SyFy movie. It could be the “Shrimp that Invaded Earth” or something else like that.


Impressions of Off-Menu at Managers’ Dinner

So as I am eternally backlogged with recaps, reviews (which I still have yet to get back to), and other write-ups this post is delayed by a month. Anyway, I was fortunate as a HGC member to be invited to Off-Menu’s annual managers’ dinner in late July. Off-Menu is a new, hip, and edgy catering company located here in Honolulu. More info on them can be found here.

I'll be honest my food pics didn't come out because I was eating when dinner was served and well, kept on eating. I promise food pics at the next event!

As with what I said in an earlier post about Shogunai Tacos, I am always fascinated with new start-ups and people who bring creativity (especially, through food) to the islands. The reason I think Off-Menu will be good is they have a lot of fun and new ideas. The talent they have on hand is quite smart and energetic. These people are professionals that love food!

The staff getting ready for the evening after coming in early to set up the tent.

Managers’ Dinner Means Managers Make Some Mean Food

So at the this launch party all the food was cooked by the management, and not their actual chefs. However, the food in itself was quite tasty; like I said they love food and you can certainly taste it. The appetizers were arranged artfully and  The meats for me were salted and seasoned just enough that your mouth watered for one more nibblet. The meal in the outdoor, relaxed setting was finely ended with a good brew of coffee and a candy bar (like a salad bar, not an actually bar of candy) that made you feel like a kid after a family bbq.

So that same love of food is going into managing the company and they have some big plans on how they are going to serve up their catering and make it “lucky you live Hawaii.”

Service that is Full

The managers’ dinner also serves for them to fine tune their service and how they conduct themselves. Basically, they always are striving to provide a level of service that demonstrates care. I always had a full wine glass by my server’s hand even though they had a beverage bar. It’s a company that strives to do better rather than just be satisfied with the same old thing that a lot of Hawaii companies suffer from.

Elegant, but a casual affair.

The New “Black” Will Be What is Off the Menu

They indicated they really want to run a tight ship that brings you off premise events that are off the hook. Added to that fact that they sign chefs to provide unique menus that are not necessarily found in their restaurants, Off-Menu really wants to live up to their name. In addition, I’m told they themselves want to host special dining parties that will have exclusive and innovative menus designed by their chefs held in unique locales other than your normal brick-and-mortar restaurant. Basically, think outside the box.

The venue's view was gorgeous.

Location, Location

Speaking of locales the spectacular view by the managers’ dinner party is not one of their typical venues, but I am told that they have other really beautiful venues, such as the famous Oasis World Estates for their normal catering, and in fact have held several weddings at these venues. Off-Menu can certainly do the traditional wedding and event coordination, but that is just one part of the whole deal.

So in my opinion even though this was just for the company if Off-Menu goes off the beaten path as they plan, they will certainly be serving some unique ideas and how we experience our food. Looking forward to their first Underground Dining at Manifest later this month. Update you all on that with real food pics.


A List of Wines and their Pairings

For those of you oenophiles here is the list of wines consumed at the “a cook and a wine guy” event. They are paired in the order they were brought out. The guest wines were just generally consumed, but matched the dishes they were brought out for. The wines are as follows:

Dish + Wine

  1. Aubergine, Yogurt, Renkon, Mentaiko + Nigl – Hochacker- Kremstal Riesling- 2005
  2. Popcorn, Apple, Caramel + H. Billiot – Rose (from a Guest) + Krug – Grande Cuvee
  3. Shrimp, Wasabi, Mango + Domaine Ott “Chateau Romassan” Bandol Rose – 2008
  4. Confit, Thai Basil, Tomato, Snow + J. Foillard “Cote du Py” Morgon, Beaujolais – 2007
  5. Scallop, Cauliflower, Lilikoi + Kistler “Durell Vineyard” Chardonnay – 2004 + Raveneau “Mont Mains” Chablis – 2003 (from a Guest)
  6. Foie Gras, Grape, Tarragon + Y. Cuilleron “Les Ayguets” (VT) Condrieu – 2004
  7. Duck, Chocolate, Brussel Sprout, Enoki + Domaine de Chavalier- Pessac Leognan – 1995
  8. Marrow, Himalaya, Parsley + N. Potel “Taille Pieds” Volnay- 1999 (Corked)
  9. Kalamansi, Seed + S. Cathiard “Aux Murgers” Nuits St. Georges – 1997
  10. Steak, Mushroom, Sunchoke + R. Rostaing- Cote Rotie – 1997 (from a Guest)
  11. Chocolate, Vanilla + Banfi “Rosa Regale” Brachetto d’Acqui – 2009


Raiding one refrigerator at a time!

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