The Best Taste Moments

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - December 27, 2006
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As you probably all know by now, I’m never able to answer the question, “Which is your favorite restaurant?” Nor am I able to make and keep New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I’ve so given up on beginning new journals and trying to lose 10 pounds that my resolutions nowadays consist of promising not to curse when grape juice gets spilled on the carpet, and trying not to screech when a complete stranger hands my boys a candy cane.

But I do have other talents. I am always able to remember the food highlights of the year - and pass them on.

So, here are some of the best taste moments of the year - my year in food.

In January I escorted some 75 members of Club Managers of America on a food tour of Oahu. I took them to the fish auction at 6 a.m., where Brooks Takenaka was his usual splendidly enthusiastic self, and then for early morning dim sum at Hong Kong Harbor View. We bused over to Nalo Farms, and then onto Roy’s for lunch, stopping for some weird and wonderful shopping at 99 Ranch Market.

One of my favorite food moments was watching the faces of these businessmen and women as they tasted Nalo greens, homemade salad dressing and Hauula tomatoes standing beneath the magnificent Koolau mountain range.

I had the opportunity to let Bobby taste haggis this year. In April we stayed at the extraordinary Dalmahoy House Hotel just outside Edinburgh. If you ever get the chance to go there, jump at it - and make sure you’re in line for one of the greatest Scottish breakfasts of all time. You think a loco moco is packed with calories? Try this for size: fried eggs, scrambled eggs, link sausage, “square” sausage, fried potatoes, hash browns, fried bread, haggis, bacon, black pudding (kind of a blood sausage) white pudding, fried mushrooms, fried tomatoes and (sometimes) fried kidneys. No, I am neither kidding nor exaggerating.

And of course I had some memorable dishes here in Honolulu. Grilled bison at Diamond Head Grill before Guillaume Burlion’s sad departure, Darryl Fujimoto’s gorgeous tomato salad at Orchids, and Jason Chong’s Kiawe Grilled Chicken. This simply grilled chicken is still one of my favorite sandwiches.

One night Colin Nishida made a plate of beef and tomatoes that was unbelievably good. He started cooking the day before and called a bunch of us to come in that night to Side Street Inn. If you ever see that dish on the menu at Side Street, order it without hesitation.

The firecracker unroll at Chart House will always remind me of summer. My niece came to stay in May, and Bobby and I spent several happy hours at Chart House enjoying the luxury of both a trustworthy baby-sitter and a Guy Tai. The unroll was one of my favorite finds of the year.

Late in the spring, Don Murphy of Murphy’s Bar and Grill introduced a new Sunday night entrée that has become a firm favorite. He expertly roasts a chicken, then stuffs it with blue cheese, goat cheese and Hamakua mushrooms. Go early on Sundays to Murphy’s - it’s comfort food of the highest order and it sells out fast.

I don’t know how many times we ordered a steak at the bar at Ruth’s Chris this past year, and settled in for good conversation and a glass or two of excellent Pinot Noir, but I do know that I enjoyed every minute there.

I loved Danny Morioka’s (d.k’s Steakhouse) incredibly good dry aged steak with lobster butter sauce, too, and I have a great memory of my first taste of Chris Miura’s (Mauna Kea Baking Company) excellent bread.

Alan Wong came to cook at the Sub Zero Wolf Showroom on my radio show one morning, and he showed that he loves teaching as much as he does cooking. We grazed on his vegetable stew from Chinatown - exceptional in its freshness and flavor.

Several trips to Ola made me appreciate the beauty of sitting on the beach in a gorgeous setting, eating fresh local food - owner Fred DeAngelo’s togarashi salmon is still one of my favorite dishes - and on one of those days I discovered the Hukilau Café in Laie.

The only thing I really missed this year was an abundance of Hauula tomatoes. On the rare occasions we could find them, our family feasted on BLTs and bruschetta for days.

So no resolutions for me. Instead, I’m looking forward to another incredible year of great food, passionate farmers, new

restaurants and talented chefs.

I hope that you can share it too. Happy eating!

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