Monday, July 9, 2007

Come out, Come out, Wherever You Are....

Calling all readers, skimmers, lurkers, and commenters! For all of you who have stumbled across my blog and have taken a peek for the first time and for those who regularly keep tabs on my cuisine consumed- I would like to know!

I am curious to know who reads and enjoys this blog and would like you to leave a comment here on this post and on you favorite post so far to let me know how I'm doing. As much as I like to write, I'm not doing this blog just for myself, I'm doing it for you! So please reciprocate the love! I always enjoy hearing from fellow bloggers/bakers/etc.! Also if you've tried a recipe of mine, I'd love to know how it went!

Hope to here from you!

(photos courtesy of my Mango Tree at my childhood home)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Willows- A Restaurant Review

I went to The Willows with Randy a while ago with one thought in mind... To preview it as a possible place for our rehearsal dinner for our wedding next year. Because we may book the place, our meal was complimentary. I had eaten there only once before and didn't really pay much attention to the food, so I was very gracious for the time to closely scrutinize the dishes.

The ambiance and surroundings of the restaurant are amazing. The moment you step inside you are no longer in the busy University area of Honolulu, but are transported to a place where tropical meets Asian, and where lush waterfalls and streams meet brightly colored foliage. It truly is a place for aesthetics and if I were to book based on atmosphere, I wouldn't have a second thought. There is even a chapel where people get married- At the restaurant! Randy's favorite was the jumping fountain that sprays water vertically out of the cement, 8 feet into the air, in patterns and designs that are random. I have been told children love to run through it and get soaked. My favorite was the small barge like platform in the middle of the koi pond. It is a special seating area for no more than 10 but gives one the feeling that you are floating down a serene river.

Unfortunately though, the food was hit and miss. I had high expectations from everyone about the food, but I found myself somewhat disappointed. We went for the weekday lunch, a limited buffet compared to the dinner buffet spreads.

I liked the salad spread and I headed there first. I really enjoyed my three choices from there, shown in the upper left corner of my plate are the Bean Sprout Namul, a tomato salad, and what seemed to be like a Greek salad. Though it mentions online that the Greek salad comes with pita bread, I didn't see any, but that didn't matter much. The salad was lettuce, chick peas, cucumber, onions, tomatoes, and feta cheese with a great Italian-like dressing. Come to think of it, that was probably their house salad. But it sure had a lot of ingredients and was really good!

The entrees were so-so. My two favorites that I got seconds of were the Misoyaki butterfish and the Mochiko chicken. (shown bottom/middle of plate) I was looking forward to making a bowl of curry and adding all the condiments, but it wasn't that good either. Even with my favorite toppings added (raisins and mango chutney), the flavor was average and I wasn't compelled to even finish my mini cup. (shown below)

I was really looking forward to the quality of the Hawaiian food because many of the wedding party (Randy's family) will be from out of state and will have never tasted Hawaiian food. This is what my decision was banking on, and I have to say I was unimpressed and disappointed. Poke (raw fish salad) is one of my favorite foods and the poke here didn't have much kick to it in regards to flavor. Also, the raw fish didn't look too fresh in it, maybe because it had been sitting out in the buffet line for a while. Let's just say I enjoy the poke made from local supermarkets better than this one. The flavor of the lomi salmon was a little "off" as well- meaning it didn't taste like the traditional Hawaiian style I love. I enjoyed the poi and the savory lau lau (chicken wrapped in taro leaf and slow cooked), and if all the other Hawaiian foods had been up to par with them I would have been happy. Another downfall was the Kalua Pig (salted smoked pork, essential to Hawaiian luau food). The pig didn't have the almost-too-salty-to-bear flavor traditional of the dish and that is what makes it signature- the fact that you must eat each bite with a scoop of rice.

Finally onto the desserts! There were bite sized pieces of several different choices that all were average if best. (sorry no picture) I am such a dessert person that its sad when I don't feel compelled to eat all of the serving I take, and that is what happened with most of the desserts on my plate. I was excited to try the fried Haupia (coconut custard, almost the consistency of creamy thick jello), but found it flavorless and unappealing. The bread pudding with pineapple was pretty good in flavor, but somewhat dry with too much bread and not enough pudding. The soft serve ice cream machine was out of order (which made me sad-that's usually my favorite) and I wasn't impressed with any of the following: chocolate mousse cake, tiramisu, and cheesecake. My favorite on the dessert tray was the fresh fruit, interpret that how you will.

I'm glad the lunch was complimentary because unless I was treated by someone else, I'm not sure I would go again. Though the setting was lovely and a few dishes shined, the majority was not the quality I had in hopes for my future in laws and their first taste of the islands.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Just a Little Bit Patriotic...

Hey everybody, I know I'm a day late, but I still have a special 4th of July treat for you to make. So, you can wait until next year, or make it with all the strawberries and blueberries you have left over from your flag cakes.

This is a little patriotic, a little healthy, and very tasty! You can substitute frozen berries for fresh ones but make sure they're 100 percent still frozen when mixing them in, or you'll get colored batter. The cake will still be a small bit doughy around the strawberries because of the moisture, but its not too bad and it's barely noticable. If you want to fix this, maybe leave the cake in a little longer than suggested but keep checking the consistancy after every few minutes so you don't overbake.

Red, White, and Blue Breakfast Cake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 generous cup fresh blueberries
1 generous cup fresh strawberries, sliced or halved
1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter or margarine

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.
2) Cream softened butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg.
3) Place blueberries and strawberries in an additional small bowl and dust with a small amount of flour mixture. Toss to coat.
4) Add remaining flour mixture and milk alternately to creamed butter mixture, mixing after each addition. Gently fold berries into batter.
5) For topping, mix flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly.
6) Spread batter into a greased and floured 8 in. square baking dish. Sprinkle topping over batter. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until topping is golden brown and toothpick comes out rather clean. Cut into squares and serve warm.

Serves 9

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Who Makes Tiramisu Without the Alcohol?

For a friend's birthday a couple months ago- yeah that's how behind I am. I chose to make a chocolate tiramisu cake (because that is one of her favorite desserts). But when I got into the recipe, I found that it didn't call for any alcohol! What? That's the whole fun of tiramisu! (I'm a big fan of the Tiramisu at Bucca Di Beppo that is so alcohol laden that you get up from the table almost feeling tipsy.) So I decided to experiment.

I added about a shot (maybe more) of kahlua to the molten lava cake mix and a tablespoon of rum to the "frosting". I got this recipe from an All You April issue - and it was awesome! Not too rich for my tastes but it was for an 18 year old's birthday so some of them thought it was a little too rich and alcohol heavy. Maybe for an adult new years party it would be good, or you could omit the alcohol all together. I baked it towards the longer amount of time suggested so the outside of the cake was a little tough, like the crust of a brownie. For a softer cake and more molten inside, I suggest using the shorter end of the baking time window.

Rich Chocolate Tiramisu Cake

1 package (9.4 oz - I think mine might have had more) chocolate molten lava cake mix, prepared according to package directions (but not baked)
2 oz of Kahlua added to prepared lava batter
8 oz light cream cheese
1/4 cup strong coffee, brewed then cooled
2 Tblsn sugar
1Tblsn rum
White chocolate and dark chocolate for garnish

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-in springform pan and line bottom with parchment paper.
2) Pour prepared lava cake batter into pan. If separate fudge sauce packet is in box, squeeze sauce onto batter. (Mine did) Bake until just done, 25 to 30 min. Cool completely on a wire rack. Run a knife along inside of pan to loosen cake. Remove pan sides from cake and gently pull parchment to slide cake off pan bottom. (I just left mine on pan bottom for fear of breaking the cake)

3) In a medium bowl stir together cream cheese, coffee, sugar, and rum. Spread onto top of cake.

4) Hold white chocolate bar and dark chocolate bar over cake and using a vegetable peeler scrape shavings onto cake. If chocolate starts to melt stick it and the peeler in the freezer for a couple minutes. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve.