Sipping Into Summer

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - June 14, 2006
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Fred DeAngelo and his Togarashi Salmon at Ola on the beach at Turtle Bay
Fred DeAngelo and his Togarashi
Salmon at Ola on the beach at
Turtle Bay

Whoever said Hawaii has no seasons never lived here between Thanksgiving and Fourth of July. Ever since Memorial Day weekend I’ve seen signs of summer all over the place. And while lots of us may still be wary of jumping head first into the ocean, there are various other ways of cooling the heat - not least with a summer cocktail.

I’ve never been much of a cocktail drinker, but recently, tempted by some intriguing recipes blended by inventive bartenders, I’ve taken to sipping the occasional margarita and cooling down over a retro-inspired cosmo or two.

I stopped by The Row Bar the other evening, and while it does-n’t have much in the way of a wine list, I was really impressed with its inspired list of cocktails. Veteran bartender Tony Tacon has created a list of wonderful drinks, using Smirnoff flavored vodka and a combination of different ingredients (including grapefruit and tonic) that make cool martinis with tons of style.

“The Smirnoff flavored vodkas really taste of fresh fruit,” says Tacon, who experimented with others before choosing the popular range.

Try Tony’s cocktails on a Friday evening when they’re all on special for just $3.

Stopping by Chart House for Happy Hour (5-7 nightly) has become one of my favorite summer activities. The view across the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor is just beautiful, and the colors of sunset are reflected in the still waters of the marina, over crisp white sails, and even filter into the bar, where Guy Maynard’s Guy Tai is certainly the best Mai Tai I’ve ever tasted. The secret to the excellent cocktails at Chart House is fresh ingredients and that Maynard makes everything from scratch. No bottled mixes, just homemade sweet and sour and even homemade lemonade. The results are fabulous - if you’re looking for a great value happy hour (the steak pupu, which usually retails for $34.95 is just $18.95, for example), I think this is one of the best, most enjoyable ones in Honolulu.

Staying with the summer sipping theme, further into Waikiki Ivy Nagayama and the team at d.k’s Steakhouse have created a gorgeous summer menu of drinks that include a terrific Summer Sangria (red wine, Level One vodka and a ton of fresh fruit) and a gorgeous Tomato-politan.

“We enlisted the help of our chef, Danny, with the cocktails,” says Ivy, “and that really helped to give them an edge.” Hence the use of pickle juice in their twist on a classic Bloody Mary.

And summer dishes to go with your refreshing cocktails? Well, you can’t beat the Firecracker Unroll at Chart House, Pad Thai at Spices, the Spicy Ahi Sandwich at Abbe Brewster Café at Ala Moana, or an early or late dinner sushi platter at Aki no No (great value for just $14.95 ).

Over in Wahiawa, Elmer Guzman has some wonderful, fresh fish plate lunches - think local style with a gourmet flair - that start at around $8 at Poke Stop. Try his excellent Shoreline Chef Bento with his now-famous Casian (Cajun spiced) fresh fish, garlic shrimp, furikake salmon, potato salad and rice for just $11. Breakfast bentos are great value for around $4 and his fabulous deconstructed sushi bowl is a fun and tasty combination of blackened ahi, nairagi, kim chee, tako and tobiko over sushi rice for just $10.

And if you’re traveling to the North Shore for some summer sun, then check out the gorgeous food at Fred DeAngelo’s Ola restaurant on the beach at Turtle Bay. DeAngelo manages to create a harmony between land and shore with his masterful combinations of fresh fish and local produce. Fred’s signature dish, the Togarashi Salmon, has traveled with him through several restaurants and various incarnations, but it is probably best now, served here on the beach in glorious surroundings.

Cool cocktails, great value happy hours, fresh fish from innovative young chefs and a bounty of local produce from our farmers.

It tastes like summer to me. Happy eating!

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