Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween at Tom's Mini-Mart

As if the amazing shave ice and 'ono local food weren't reasons enough to go to the shiny little store on Waiehu Beach Rd. on Maui, Tom's Halloween decorations are fantastic and cram every nook and cranny of the store. There's still!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Cousins' Dinner

My auntie is a GREAT home cook and since my uncle died three years ago, she doesn't really need to cook as often as she'd like. She LOVES to be in the kitchen. So when I come to visit, I am the grateful benficiary of her labor of love.

She and I have breakfast together every morning - the table is laden with a veritable buffet of foods including but not limited to orange juice, challah or bialys or bagels or onion rolls or ALL of those, farmer cheese, whipped cream cheese, whipped butter, a selection of hard cheeses, whitefish salad, herring, good, strong coffee (see a previous post for photos). We talk, we laugh, we eat, we have a second cup of coffee and we are ready to attack our respective days.

We always have at least one dinner - just the two of us. She has taken to enjoying a glass of wine and a pupu or two before dinner. She cooks my favorite things - meatballs, chicken cutlets, lots of salads and fresh vegetables. It is a joy for me to share meals with her.

And then, at least once during my visit, she invites The Cousins to dinner. And she spends the day in the kitchen making "crumby chicken" - her version of fried chicken only better - her famous meatballs, salads, a starch - in this case my kid cousin made the amazing potato knishes - an apple pie for dessert. This was the scene before - and after - The Cousins assembled at the table. That's auntie second from the left.

I am extraordinarily lucky to be able to travel to my hometown, sometimes two or three times a year, and indulge in meals in all manner of restaurants - from holes-in-the-wall in Chinatown to the domains of celebrity chefs in the neighborhood of the month. But the best meals I have are at my auntie's dining room table in Brooklyn. We have only a few members of our family left. We all love each other very much. And we look forward to The Cousins dinner because we reminisce, we talk, we yell, we LAUGH very hard, and we auntie's delicious food.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Celeb sightings

Whenever I'm in NYC, I always make believe I'm my friend Wayne Harada the recently retired, LONG-TIME FABULOUS Entertainment Editor at The Honolulu Advertiser. So I keep my "eagle eyes" (his words) on the lookout for celebrities. Here's the results of the celeb watch from this trip:

-Tilda Swinton looking eccentric/lovely, gallery hopping in Chelsea
-Joan Rivers still able to stop traffic on Broadway - she's TINY and was wearing a fabulous black coat with white piping
-Mary Tyler Moore - wearing jeans and a sweater and sans make-up - having breakfast with her doc husband at E.A.T., Eli Zabar's gourmet food shop/cafe on the Upper East Side

and BEST OF ALL...

-Philip Seymour Hoffman looking, well, exactly like Philip Seymour Hoffman, at The Shake Shack in Madison Square Park

chefs are celebrities, too, right?

-Todd English (Olives, etc.) having a late afternoon repast - and talking business it looked like at an outdoor cafe in Chelsea
-Brad Farmerie - one of the Next Iron Chef contestants - incognito at Double Crown (kinda funny 'cause it's one of HIS OWN restaurants!) - update - he was booted off NIC - too bad, Brad
-Michael Lomonaco at his gorgeous Porter House New York in the Time Warner Center - food is absolutely fabulous and he is a very gracious man

Back in the saddle again

Back on Maui, safe and sound, easy flights, everything at home in order, unpacked, laundry done, at my desk in the office before 7:30 a.m. - think there's a crash coming soon??

Okay, out of chronological order yet again but there are a few more NYC posts to post. Next...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Read My Pins (then have a steak)

In the days long, long, long before the Time Warner Center and the rest of the glitz, I loved the old "lollipop" building at Columbus Circle. I remember going to a Salvador Dali exhibit there several times during the course of its run - I was awestruck by it. The building had fallen into disrepair and, I believe, stood abandoned for quite a number of years. It was finally renovated and recently re-opened as The Museum of Arts and Design. The permanent collection - glassware, textiles, three-dimensional objects useful and decorative, jewelry - is a good one. Two current exhibitions are fantastic. Slash - paper under the knife shows what can be done with paper of every variety and cardboard in the hands of extreme creative types. Reason enough to go, though, is Read My Pins, a masterfully installed exhibit of dozens and dozens of Madeleine Albright's pins. They became her trademark accessory when she was Ambassador to the UN and then Secretary of State. There are photos of her wearing many of them with statements about what they mean to her. The stories range from the hysterical to the heart-breaking.
and here are a couple of good articles about the building

A dear, old friend from NJ came into town to go to the exhibit with me and to have lunch. I was hoping to finally try Five Napkin Burger but we opted for Porter House New York in the Time Warner Center. When I saw Chef Michael Lomonaco's name, I knew it would be good but it was FAR BEYOND good and although a beautifully appointed steak house where you would expect the menu to be very pricey, the folks in charge are obviously aware that there's a recession out there. We each had a three-course $24 prix fixe. I assumed the portions would be tasting-sized. Wrong. Full-sized portions of absolutely perfectly prepared and perfectly served steak house classics were what we got. My charcoal-grilled steak was the best steak I've had in years. The chef was in the dining room and he could not have been more gracious and attentive when we gave him our compliments. So refreshing for a very, very well-known NY chef. Classy, classy guy.

I'll post something about last night's dinner and show and also a wrap-up of Manhattan celebrity sightings later or tomorrow. I'm packin' up the laptop and heading back out to the wilds of Brooklyn. My auntie is having all the cousins over for dinner tonight. And she's serving her own classics. Arriverderci Manhattan...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The last two days - both of which were absolutely spectacular with temperatures reaching almost SEVENTY degrees today! - have been crazy fun from morning 'til night.

Tuesday (yesterday) - breakfast with a friend from Maui/points East at City Bakery home of NY's best hot chocolate and delicious baked goods. (A post dedicated entirely to Baked Goods to some point.) A little shopping in Union Square which yielded some fun/funky/extremely cheapo earrings and a pair of black cashmere gloves, all on sale, of course. A long and winding walk through Chinatown and a bunch of stops for $1 or less snacks. Fried-to-order pork and chive-filled dumplings - FIVE for ONE DOLLAR - at Prosperity Dumpling. Definitely the best I've ever tasted. Unbelievable steamed pork bun (yes, what we call manapua) for EIGHTY CENTS at Lucky King. Light-as-air egg custard in flaky pastry at Natalie Bakery - NINETY CENTS. Cookies of every description at QQ Bakery and a splurge (seven bucks) for amazing Hong Kong-style snacks - similar to our crackseed only more exotic and many more varieties - at Aji Ichiban. A stop at a restaurant supply store, of course, for a new silicon pastry brush, squeeze bottles, spatula, like that. Just enough time to go back to the apt., clean up, and meet Linda Cabasin, my editor at Fodor's for a glass of wine at Serafina, then on to meet Marcia at Kaskaval for wine, small plates of delicious goodies like roasted cauliflower, beets, spicy walnut dip, turkey meatballs. And n to the Jacobs Theater for "God of Carnage." Good - not as incredible as I thought/expected/hoped - but Marcia Gay Harden stole the show as far as I'm concerned and I love, love, love James Gandolfini. A nightcap at Gaby and home. Whew!

Wednesday (today) - Breakfast with Marcia and her friend Michael Gilbert at E.A.T. They cut the bagels into FOUR even slices, toast them slightly and serve the cream cheese on the side. So smart, so how it should be. On to The Met for the Robert Frank photography show - all his photos from "The Americans" in the same order as the book, plus "Black/White/Things" also in the same order as that book plus "Looking In" plus letters, contact sheets, a home video, and more. Absolutely thrilling! Plus a nice long, close look at Vermeer's masterpiece, "The Milkmaid." Mind-blowing color and detail. A walk across Central Park. Lunch at Fatty Crab (go to their website for a treat!) and gelato at Grom, the same Grom we frequented this summer in Venice. A walk on The Highline - a fantastic public park where an old elevated train used to be that shows what can be done when the government of the people and for the people works as it should. A cappuccino in Chelsea. A trip downtown for a cocktail with cousins David & Heidi at Von (I LOVE that bar!) and then dinner at Double Crown - creative, delicious food. Chef is Brad Farmerie of Public, also a competitor on the current "The Next Iron Chef" series on The Food Network. He was there - not working, not cooking, not talking to customers.

Are you as tired reading this as I am having lived it for two days??

Another big day tomorrow...starting with (ta-da) an exhibit of Madeline Albright's pins at the new Museum of Arts & Design - yippee!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dinner tonight?

Chinese takeout - delivered, of course - waddyat'ink??!!
Good-night New York and from New York.

Okay, back to today

I had lunch today with a friend/college roommate/sorority sister I haven't seen in more than THIRTY-FIVE years. Come to think of it, we just got back in touch via e-mail and phone less than a year ago. What a trip! She looks great, has done great things with both her professional and personal "lives," and there wasn't a moment's lull in the conversation during a 2+-hour lunch at Tabla. Just goes to show that when you're REALLY friends and you have history, it doesn't matter how long you haven't been in touch.

The day, as I've already mentioned, was a Perfect 10 in terms of weather and general city vibe. I spent some time in Madison Square Park, just across the street from the restaurant. First time I've ever seen the Shake Shack with NO line! Amazing...

I got some good photos today which will make lovely gallery when I get home. Okay, here's one...

A few Sunday photos

Yes, out of chronological order, I know but I thought you'd enjoy these photos from the Guggenheim - photos allowed ONLY from the ground floor. And where else but New York would people stand in line in the rain to get into a museum (okay, maybe Paris...)

A Perfect 10

This is the color of the sky on a PERFECT 10 fall day in NYC.
(It's a photo, folks. Seriously!)

Food and Art Sunday

Sunday in NYC is Brunchday. The Sears-Smiths and I indulged at Penelope Cafe. (Our friend Bill, alas, was already back in the wilds of New Jersey prepping for a very busy work week.) Timing WAS everything - we arrived early (by NY standards 10:00 a.m. is the crack of dawn) and by the time we left, the wait was ONE HOUR. Can you imagine waiting in line in the rain for ONE HOUR for waffles. Granted, the pumpkin waffles WERE delicious - as were the scrambled eggs with Feta and asparagus and Mabel's homemade granola - but really...

Sufficiently fueled against the cold and and the wet we made our way uptown to the Guggenheim for what is certainly one of the most spectacular shows of the year - Kandinksy. The first retrospective of his work in almost 30 years and, I believe, the first one ever in NY, the venue couldn't be more appropriate. Solomon Guggenheim was one of Kandinsky's first collectors and the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright building has been seriously buffed out for its 50th Anniversary this year. There are more than one hundred works in this show and it is truly astonishing to watch the way the work evolved over Kandinsky's long career. From an almost primitive style when he first started painting in his native Moscow to the extreme precision of his Bauhaus years and, finally, the soft side of him in his twilight years in France. See it if you can, it's on view at Guggenheim here through the middle of January 2010. And if you go, be sure to get the audio tour.

On our way downtown, we stopped at E.A.T. for a light repast before the Sears-Smiths had to pack up and get back to DC. Always so great to see them. We'll do it again soon, my friends.

Food and Art Saturday

NJNN Reunion Weekend - many of you know that I get together with friends I worked with at PBS whenever I come to NYC. Three of the five made it this year.

The Sears-Smiths arrived from DC before noon and we were off and running, in spite of the cold and threat of rain (it never did rain on Saturday OR Saturday night, by the way). Lunch at Trestle on Tenth recommended by Nation's Restaurant News editor Bret Thorn - delicious food, lovely civilized atmosphere. The perfect start to our Chelsea adventure. The renovated spaces along 24th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues are now fabulous galleries. They're huge and can house the most massive contemporary works. Will post photos in a web gallery when I get home (thanks, Gill!).

Carl broke away to spend some time with a friend uptown. Sheila and I continued on to Chelsea Market. What a fantastic place! A big indoor space - ala Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, Faneuil Hall in Boston, etc - filled with restaurants, cafes, shops, and it was decorated for fall/Halloween. Lots of big smiles all afternoon.

It wasn't really Highline weather but we did go up there to look around a bit. Even past its peak in terms of gardens, it's as fabulous as everyone told me. Will try to get back up there again now that the weather has turned warmer and sunnier. Oh, and if you don't know what The Highline is, check it out here...

By the time we looked at our watches and called our friend Bill who was on his way in from New Jersey, we realized we had only minutes to shift gears and get downtown. Met at Art Bar - a funky, wunky, wonderful place for a drink and then on to HOME restaurant in our old stomping grounds of the West Village. It was also highly recommended and it did not disappoint. Market to Table/Farm to Table is still happening here and more and more chefs are heeding the call. We even had a bottle of Long Island wine which was very nice, indeed.

Yes, I have at least a few photos from the day and will post them, too. Just not here.

Days behind...again - Brooklyn Day 3

My auntie takes her French toast VERY seriously. The result is unbelievably delicious.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Came into Manhattan this a.m., had some time with Michael before he left for the weekend, unpacked, went to a movie - "New York, I Love You," a series of vignettes by different directors with different incredible casts, love postcards to NYC, really - then to Tocaro for fresh baby mozzarrella, a hunk of Piave, dense sesame Italian bread, caponata, Genoa salami, fruit, fresh veggies, to the wine store for a bottle of Pinot Grigio, and to Clover Deli for bagels and cream cheese and yogurt for tomorrow morning and, of course, I couldn't leave without a little bag of their amazing Italian butter cookies. I'm all set for the Yankees playoff game! Have I mentioned that I LOVE NEW YORK!

Friends from DC get here tomorrow a.m. - museums? shopping? lunch? and from NJ tomorrow evening. Drinks and dinner in the Village.

By the way, I LOVE NEW YORK!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What the f*** is up with this WEATHER??!!

It's been frickin' cold, rainy, gray, windy, cold, rainy, all day and night, all the leaves will probably blow off the frickin' trees before they even have a CHANCE to change color...ugh!

BUT, it was nice and warm and cozy and delicious at JoMart Chocolates today where my cousin Michael cooked caramel, made patties and, with staffer Rose, made pecan rolls. Yum, yum, and more yum.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I (do) did not like rice pudding

My friend Cheryl Tsutsumi is writing a book of rice recipes. She assumed, because I have a pastry cook certification that I would have at least one great rice dessert recipe. Alas, I do not like rice desserts BUT my auntie has a fantastic rice pudding recipe which I did submit to Cheryl for the book. My auntie and I talked about it today and when I got home from dinner tonight, there it was on the kitchen counter and it looked so good, I had to taste it. It's absolutely delicious and much more like cake than pudding. Now I'm glad I have the recipe and I'll make it at home. Even though I know it won't be as good as hers.

Timing is everything

Okay, so 8:30 p.m. or thereabouts on a weeknight is, apparently, the best time to go to Di Fara's. We got our pie very, very quickly, at least by Di Fara standards - about 30 minutes or so. See 1/2 the leftovers above - the other 1/2 went to another house. Yes, THE best pizza...anywhere.

Brooklyn food 1 - photos

Brooklyn food 1 - home cooking

So, many of you know that eating my auntie's home-cooked food is one of the things I look forward to most when I come to NYC. She's a GREAT cook and she always makes all the things she knows I love.

It started last night at dinner - a delicious salad, brisket AND her outrageous meatballs, sweet potatoes, asparagus - and continued this morning with more favorites - Ruby red grapefruit, whitefish salad, Breakstone's Whipped TempTee cream cheese, bialys, good strong coffee. See next post for the photos and know they do NOT do justice to these Brooklyn delicacies.

Flying under the weather

Thankfully, I've been very busy with work the last couple of months which for me means going full tilt, sometimes seven days a week. By the time last Friday night came around - three days before leaving for NYC - I felt a little scratchy in the throat. I started pounding Gan Mao Ling, Vitamin C, Zicam. And still I could feel the "sick" moving into my nose, sinuses, head. I tried "mind over matter" but by Monday morning I knew I'd be flying under the weather that night and the next morning. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and I did manage to sleep much of the way on both flights.

Flight from LAX delayed about an hour and a half, pilot made up a few minutes and my cousin David was there to get me and transport me to my favorite Auntie's (Esther) in Brooklyn. Nothing like coming back into the family fold to make one feel much better. Here's what she served me for lunch today...

Potentially disastrous evening thwarted...

...thanks to Sansei Kihei.

Two friends and I had reservations at Capische? (Why would a restaurant put a question mark at the end of its name??) We'd been looking forward to dinner there all week. I was leaving the next day for NYC. They showed us to a table jammed in a corner next to a large party. Unacceptable. After about ten minutes - maybe more - they turned a diagonal two-top 90 degrees, grabbed another chair and made it a three-top. I don't think so. After another ten minutes or so - staff rolling their eyes in front of us - they said they couldn't accommodate us at a four-top 'til 8:00 a.m. - our res was 6:30 - or they'd be happy to make a res for us on another night. Buh-bye... A reservation for three means a four-top. Obviously, these folks thought the revenue from a fourth seat was worth having three very dissatisfied, LOCAL customers. I sent an e-mail note to the manager the next day. I haven't heard back. What a surprise.

We thought about going to Tommy Bahama - I LOVE their food - and then looked at each other and said in unison - SANSEI. I called, apologized for being last minute (as I often am) and we were happily accommodated (in the interest of full disclosure, yes, Sansei is a PR client but I've seen them do the same for others). Everything was perfect, including the cocktails and the service. Here's Al enjoying the fois gras nigiri ordered JUST for him...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Formally speaking

"I just saw your picture."

I ran into my friend Stephanie Ohigashi for the first time in months and those were her first words.

"Where?" I asked, trying to remember if I'd written something for a paper or a magazine, thinking that maybe she'd been to Sansei and seen my face on the backflap of the cookbook cover. That's usually where people see my picture these days.

"At Gilbert's."


She was still talking. "...when Susanne Hota and I were going through her old scrapbooks. There you were." "Oh my goodness! With my friend Beverly, both of us in tuxedoes. That was in 1985...or '86. you have GOT to be kidding me." To think that Susanne had kept that photo for almost 25 years was absolutely unbelievable. And then, a wave of regret. I'd known, as did our entire community, that Gilbert's Formal Wear was closing at the end of August after 60 - SIXTY - years in business. The landmark shop is steps from my office, I had meant to go in and wish her well, blah, blah, blah. No excuses. I screwed up, plain and simple.

"You can make up for it. She's being honored with a resolution by County Council on Friday, October 2 at 9:00 a.m. in the Council Chambers."

"I'll be there."

And I was, along with Susanne Hota's three daughters, a granddaughter, and a great-granddaughter as, one by one, the council members spoke of how she'd dressed them in formal wear for their weddings, their sons for their proms and how she had done it graciously and lovingly for three generations of Maui men...and a couple of crazy young women.

I learned things I hadn't known. The shop was her husband's dream and, tragically, he died just six weeks after the shop opened. She continued on her own. In 1976, she lost her only son. And again she soldiered on with the support, of course, of her three daughters.

I know this. Susanne Hota has been the definition of a strong, independent small business owner, beloved by her community for six decades. I wish her years and years and years of healthy, joyous retirement.

Mahalo, Susanne, for making so many folks - even wacky Beverly and Bonnie - look good.

(Scroll down to see the photo - if you must. The occasion was my friend Madge Walls' first exhibition of her grandmother Madge Tennant's art work at the Stouffer Wailea Beach Resort where Madge was the PR director. I had just started a little company called Discriminating Taste that made chocolate-covered Maui potato chips - yes! - and did gourmet catering. This evening was the public debut for the chips. That's our chef, Joyce Little (now Joyce Solis) regular women's clothing!)

Go ahead, laugh. It was a LONG time ago!