*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 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.
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 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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Kyle’s blog includes food, fitness, and her fresh take on life;
- Melissa Chang of Nonstop Honolulu is always finding adventure and food in Honolulu; and
- even though she did not write-up this event she was one of my great dining companions of the evening and you should always get your daily dose of Jenn.