Posts Tagged ‘foie gras


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:


Quick Lunch Review: Downtown @ HiSAM’s Seared Ahi Club and a much needed Update

Hey everyone, long time no see on this blog. HGC is getting more attention now. Anyway, if you know anything about me I have a job at Hawaii’s State Capitol, trying to set up a third blog, and keeping the HGC running and going . . . yes, busy galore. If you want awesome food reviews, and not the ramblings of someone who has too much on his plate check out this HGC Yelper’s Reviews. She is as awesome as the food item I am about tor review. Speaking of that, let’s get to the important thing, the FOOD!

Where I work, luckily a seared ahi club is never too far away!

Quick Lunch Review: Seared Ahi Club by Downtown@ HiSAM

My job at the Capitol keeps me pretty busy, it is stressful, long, but I like it. Keeps my mind agile and my stomach hungry. Thank god there is Downtown @ HiSAM (“Hawaii State Art Museum”) nearby (less than a 3-minute hungry-walk). Downtown is owned by Chef Ed Kenney of Town, in Kaimuki. The menu is light and perfect for the busy lunch crowd of lawyers, business people, lobbyists, and legislators (and their staff!). It is the same style of food that Chef Ed has become known for in Hawaii.

I would just like to bring attention to his Seared Ahi Club, which I have had three times in this past month. All I can say is it is the right portion of food at all the right places. There is enough searing to the ahi to make it light, but it is still the raw. The bacon is there to bring saltiness and crunch, but it does not overwhelm the ahi, but compliments it. The wasabi has enough hint to help the ahi (reminiscent of sashimi-style) and the salad is a good companion to the sandwich. The quartering of the sandwich into fours always means it can be shared with a lunch companion or you can eat each slice in two to three bites. It’s awesome!

From a Yelper who captured this delightful lunch item.

It is so awesome that I run from my office when I take my lunch break that I forget my camera and so must use a yelper’s picture because it is just a perfect lunch for a busy person at work. So if you are new to the Capitol or downtown scene and want a quick bite, but not feel stuffed or overwhelmed (because work does that) head to Downtown and grab a Seared Ahi Club.

Update and Other Random Tidbits:

So just like the HGC blog, this blog will be updated, but randomly and not as frequent as last year (but something tells me you already figured that out from the fact that the last blog post came in November). Anyway, feel free to subscribe and you can get my mad-hunger laden ramblings from time to time without clicking this site everyday at work as you figure out how to waste time. Anyway, I just like to talk about some interesting food things and then go to bed.

Like everyone else one of my NY’s resolutions was to eat healthier this year . . . that went out the door when I started working at the State Capitol. However, my boss happens to be a vegetarian and so it has motivated me once again to go with the Meatless Monday movement. I was able to do it for several consecutive Mondays last year during the summer, but just dropped it. Now with Huffington Post reporting that Sodexo, the world’s premier food services provider, rolling out Meatless Mondays as well, I think there is no excuse for me to strive for it again.

The protest coming to these Sandwich Isles next via 2011 HB77.

Despite my desire to eat healthy and go vegan for a day that does not mean I want my foie gras taken from me. The nice thing about work in lawmaking is you get to see all the bills that go through the legislative process. Some you like, some you don’t care about, and some you pray don’t pass. Like this one. Yes, HB77 aims to ban foie gras from these fair islands.

I think largely, like a lot of bills, there is good intent to curb or reduce a perceived problem. However, I think that a lot of time interested parties have a complete misconception of what is going on and thus it is a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” syndrome. As is with wagyu beef and cows, foie gras and ducks can be treated with all the same comfort and generally produces better foie gras.

This article from Serious Eats takes an in-depth look at a foie gras farm and highlights how the conditions are not the horror stories that people who would like to ban foie gras conjure up. I think the author makes a strong point ending with this conclusion:

If you are against the confinement, slaughter, and eating of all animals, then that’s a different argument to be had at a different time. But to single out foie as the worst of the worst is misguided at best, and downright manipulative at worst. Just as there are good eggs and bad eggs, good beef and bad beef, good chicken and bad chicken, so there is good foie and bad foie. We are especially lucky, because we happen to live in a country where all of the foie produced is good foie.

Quote taken from: The Physiology of Foie: Why Foie Gras is Not Unethical

I really think that this is the same case here is that it presents and easy target that a select group of people are incensed about and that is because they are letting their personal preferences cloud them from seeing the total picture. Anyway, that is just my two cents.


“A cook and a wine guy”

Peonies, given to the host's family for sharing a delightful evening.

Why is my title in quotes? Well, because as savvy as I think I am with words, that phrase is elegant in its simplicity, but hints at some playfulness in its humbleness. Huh? Yeah, I’m getting to the point.

I was fortunate to be invited by a good friend to his home for the evening for a meal that will be forever etched in my memory. I was afforded the chance to have an underground dinner. If you are unfamiliar with underground dinners, please refer to “supper clubs.” Specifically, this event was a dinner put on by a gracious host and a talented chef, and it just happens that this HGC member was friends with the host. (Lucky me!) In addition, there was a molecular gastronomy component to the meal (even bigger score!). If you don’t know what that is check it out here. I have been to Chef Alvin Leung’s Bo Innovation in Hong Kong, and while it is obvious that Chef Dan has not reached that level, I think he is on a path there.


Now, I know some of us, even if we are foodie’s tend to poke fun at the words used by sommelier’s to describe wine.

See this was a great starter, couldn't tell you what it was . . .

However, as I sit and write this piece I am struck by the very same problem that they encounter on a nightly basis for their job. How do I convey the sensations, experiences, thoughts, and feelings to another person with words when it would be better for them just to try it on their own? What captures the essence of this wine and tells the diner this is what is going to happen in your mouth? In my position, how do I tell you, the reader, this is what I saw, smelled, tasted, and imbibed when the experience is so unique and singular, that some part of me is sad I only have pictures to show you all . . . (where are you Smell-o-vision!?).

Thus, I have a great respect for my friend/sommelier/host when he had to work, and I do mean work, with his friend the chef (they say “cook,” but I say “chef”) to create pairings for unique plates created by Chef Dan.  I’m going to be honest, I’ll simply say the wine pairings were great, and “sang” together, but because I am NOT a wine expert. I cannot tell you that I would/could think to pair another wine with each plate. Moreover, I cannot recall the exact tastes because I was HAVING FUN! I think that is the biggest thing to take away from this whole write-up. The experience was as good as any fine dining experience, but it had a casualness and fun element that you would feel in any neighbor’s backyard. So let’s just say “wine guy” did his job, and did it extremely well. I would do him injustice (and make an ass out of myself) if I even tried to critique his wine pairing skills. Let’s just say he rocks, and you all should have a sommelier friend because they are like pocket watches, classy to show off, and are also quite handy at parties.

As the sun sets, the real fun would begin soon enough.

Here begins the journey of the meal:

  1. Aubergine, Yogurt, Renkon, Mentaiko. This was a perfect starter, small crispy bites of lotus, with the chewiness and texture of the aubergine with the hint of mentaiko, floating with the yogurt. Altogether it was earth (aubergine and renkon), sea (mentaiko), and the airiness of the yogurt reminded me of clouds, air. It was put together quite well.

    Earth, Air, and Sea in one delectable bite.

  2. Tail, Apple. It was like an explosion in my mouth. Why? First, you bite into the crunchiness of the deep-fried batter on the outside, but then the pork tail sweet and succulent. The apple played nicely to add some tartness, and because it was cut so thin it was just adding that sour and the crunch coming from the outside. As the second dish, it was good because the portion was small.

    I definitely could use more tail.

  3. Popcorn, Apple, Caramel. Chef Dan if you read this, can I have some more of this 3rd dish? Like sent to my house? Popcorn?! Popcorn isn’t fancy or classy, you say?  Try bathing it in Truffle salt. That’s right that buttery goodness that coats the mouth that is truffle oil with salt was all over the popcorn, just like I was all over it when it was served. So, I’m glad you weren’t invited to this if you are too snobby for popcorn (we also drank Krug with this dish, so suck on that snobs).

    Yes, this goes with popcorn!

    So the popcorn was popped perfectly, light and airy, and there were small slivers of green apple scattered. However, the highlight was the caramel. The caramel thanks to some chemistry came out in a powdered form. So you would sprinkle it on the popcorn and it would be like you were eating caramel popcorn (and apples), but it was like the salt. Very creative, playful, and because its lightness a great start for the first three because from there on out it started to get heavier.

    OMG, I don't know if I can eat regular popcorn after that . . . yes, I can, but it won't be as good.

  4. Shrimp, Wasabi, Mango. I’m allergic to shrimp, yes I know, boohoo to me, let me hear it all you crustacean-lovers. However, next time you bite into a shrimp think about this, shrimp are like the cockroaches of the sea, what do you think they eat? Stick that in your pipe and smoke it! Thanks Glee! However, if you want an opinion from someone who tasted this dish check out Frugal Foodie’s write-up, here.

    Didn't eat them . . . I'm allergic, back off!

  5. Confit, Thai Basil, Tomato, and Snow. I’ve had a lot of bad confit before, and it is too bad because it was one of my favorite dishes. Generally, someone overcooks it or it is too dry and chewy. Good confit should be moist and tender. This one was, and the addition of thai basil and the tomatoes played nicely with the confit. So there was the crispness of the thai basil, the sour and pop of the tomato, all the while flaked with foie gras snow. Yes, you read me right, foie gras snow, and you know what? There was a foie gras dish coming soon too!

    Duck on duck, it's never enough.

  6. Scallop, Cauliflower, Lilikoi. I’m not a scallop eater, so all I can say that this was solid. The scallop was cooked to perfection. Moreover, the balance of bitter and crunch of the cauliflower played nicely with the tenderness of the scallop. All of this was linked through the sweetness of the Lilikoi droppings. It did nicely break up the duck dishes, so it was not like duck overload. So good placement during the meal.

    Dabs of yellow happiness with a perfectly cooked scallop.

  7. Foie Gras, Grape, Tarragon. I love foie gras . . . I would love to be lazy and just tell you that this was awesome and be done with it rather than relive the memory and then crave it again, but I guess that would not be fair to you. So here goes, it was totally AWESOME! How’s that? Look, it was a good-sized (read as, it was huge) of foie gras, the grapes really added some sweetness and nice counterbalance texture . . . and the bread, was good bread. However, I’ll be honest just give me foie gras and I’ll give you an extra shiso leaf rating . . . . The tarragon drops and a sip of wine made all of this go down nicely. For me I think this was one of the many highlights of the meal.

    Bam! Look at the size of that foie gras!

  8. Duck, Chocolate, Brussel Sprout, Shimeji. I would say this was a very fine dish. A lot of flavors and textures going on all at the same time. Might have been a tad too complex, but since I love duck and I like the use of bitter chocolate as support it all worked for me. The brussel sprout leaves were good, but I found my tongue being drawn more to the duck, chocolate, and shimeji mushrooms. I wouldn’t take out the brussel sprouts though because the leaves added good crunch to the duck when consumed together. Definitely would have gotten seconds of this . . . actually, come to think of it, I would have a seconds of a lot of dishes.

    I'm pretty sure the ducks think I am their enemy, given how much I consume them.

  9. Marrow, Himalaya, and Parsley. The marrow was cooked to perfection. In fact, if it had just been the marrow with Himalayan salt I would have sang, and not the mountains . . . . I thought in terms of portions the bread and parsley were too much. If it had been one slice of bread with a few leaves of parsley it would have been fine. I’m just being nitpicky.  The marrow (the main event of this dish) was definitely a star.

    Oh marrow! Why are you so good?

    Might I just add that I loved the salt, and as a “supertaster” I kind of wanted to steal it . . . just being honest.

    If I wasn't good friends with the host I would have stolen the salt . . . and I was too buzzed to.

  10. Kalamansi, Seed. This was a palate cleanser. So I it did its job effectively. I’ll be honest this wasn’t one of the most memorable cleansers I have had, but that’s not always the point. I will say the basil seeds added a very unique flavor, which did the job very well.

    Basil seeds, such a floral and herbal taste, very good palate cleanser.

  11. Steak, Mushroom, Sunchoke. It was steak . . . like foie gras and marrow, all I can say is I like it. The steak was cooked perfectly, it soaked up its spices. It was juicy and tender, and the mushrooms and sunchoke played a nice support to it all. I will also add I’ve never had sunchoke before, so I did like the taste as a new experience. I’m glad the palate cleanser came before this because I had the parade of confit, scallop, duck, and then marrow. If I had the steak after the marrow, I suspect I would have been overwhelmed.

    Steak cooked to tender perfection.

  12. Chocolate, Vanilla. I don’t know how I feel about his dish. On the one hand I like chocolate, and I’d say it was decent. I’m not sure if I liked the texture and the zest. I think I would definitely have to have another try, and I’d say I would like to eat it at a meal that wasn’t as many courses. I think the heaviness of the steak beforehand might have been lingering in my mouth.

    Chocolate is definitely a good dessert.

  13. Coffee. I found the coffee tapioca balls, well kind of muted in flavor, given all the previous dishes. It didn’t taste like coffee, more like coffee after taste, if you know what I mean? I think it would have been more successful if it had placed in something or the balls were infused a little bit more with coffee. However, I still appreciate the playful concoction and its placement during the meal. And that was it.

    Like caviar, but little balls of coffee popping in your mouth instead of fish.

Dinner started when there was still dim light in the sky, so it was slightly after seven. We did not finish until well after midnight. You know what? It didn’t feel that long. Why? Because it was fun all the way through and there was enough time to enjoy the dishes, get the complexity, drink your wine, and talk about it with your fellow diners. I enjoyed it all, and in fact as I am writing this I am getting hungry again thinking about it. In terms of the meal it was good and definitely memorable, I’d say not all the dishes were strong, but the overall complexity of the meal was good. Moreover, you have to consider that these thirteen menu items were each paired with a wine, and that this was all done in a 2-man show. So it was just unfortunate that these two do not have an establishment.

3 Wines? That's it?!

However, the bigger misfortune for Hawaii and my hungry stomach is Chef Dan is leaving the islands; he is heading off for a new culinary experience on the mainland. I am hoping while he is there he refines his craft even more, and my stomach shall wait for his return home. Also I hope Chicago loses some games or something because they are gaining some great food talent. I expect another meal like this, but better in the future if you are reading this Dan. In the mean time, I still have “wine guy,” so at least it’s not a complete lost.

Heck NO! This is how it ended, and it was a mighty fine ending.

To my readers, enjoy the pictures, but know that they do not fully capture how enjoyable the dinner truly was. I highly recommend if you know a friend in the restaurant business, and think they are good, sit down and plan a dinner like this for a perfect weather evening because you will have something better than the food and the wine, you will have a good memory.

The Tail, I mean . . . THE END.


Raiding one refrigerator at a time!

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