Posts Tagged ‘tomato

12
Jun
11

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:

22
Jun
10

“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.

(YOU CAN SKIP THESE NEXT 2 PARAGRAPHS IF YOU ARE TIRED, BORED, OR PLAIN HATE THE WAY I RAMBLE.  AFTER THAT THE FOOD DESCRIPTIONS WILL BEGIN AND SPARE YOU OF MY INITIAL AND OVERALL IMPRESSIONS. YOU ARE A MONSTER FOR SKIPPING.)

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.




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