Our Top 5: Pumpkin desserts

Despite being unofficially referred to as, “Turkey Day,” one thing that’s just as integral to Thanksgiving dinner is the ubiquitous pumpkin pie.

About a month ago, someone asked me for recommendations on where to get the best pumpkin pie, but I honestly didn’t have an answer, since I usually bake my own. This prompted my search for the best pumpkin desserts in town, and here is my Top 5 list.

No. 5: Anna Miller's pumpkin pie

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No doubt Anna Miller's pumpkin pie ($10.60) belonged on this list, however, it made it just barely.

I've had a long love-hate relationship with Anna Miller's pies. Overall, the fillings are great. The pumpkin pie, for instance, is light and creamy; it's the sweetest filling of the pumpkin treats on my list, yet not overpowering. But my issue is with Anna Miller's pie crust. It's not of the flaky variety normally associated with pie. Instead it's crumbly, which would be okay if it was consistent. I've had Anna Miller's pies, for example, where the crust was so crumbly it fell apart. But of the pies on this list, it's the only one baked in an oven, which provides bottom heat and ensures that the crust is cooked through and golden brown on the bottom.

Anna Miller's
98-115 Kaonohi St.

Want more of Our Top 5

Here’s our full roundup of Our Top 5 picks

Party pics: 2014 EuroCinema Awards

It was a big night of cinema at the 2014 EuroCinema Awards, held Saturday night at the Moana Surfrider. The gala event celebrated its fifth anniversary with the “Imitation Game” taking top honors for Best Film, Morten Tyldum for Best Director, and Benedict Cumberbatch winning Best Actor for his portrayal of English mathematician and World War II codebreaker, Alan Turing.

But the biggest star of the night was Annabelle Roberts, who had her wish granted by Make-A-Wish Hawaii to attend a red carpet event. Roberts made her grand entrance amid cheers and camera flashes, and even joined “Maleficent” Prince Phillip, Brenton Thwaites on stage to accept his Rising Star award. Here’s a look at the festivities:

2014 EuroCinema Awards

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Photo by Ed Morita

Glenfiddich 50 Year Old comes to Hawaii

Photo by Ed MoritaIn an exclusive private uncorking event this week, Vintage Cave introduced the newest addition to its prestigious list of offerings — gourmet food, fine wine and now one of the most expensive bottles of whisky in the world. Retailing at $30,000 a bottle, the Glenfiddich 50 Year Old is considered the crown jewel of the William Grant & Son’s catalog of spirits.

The bottle now at Vintage Cave is one of only six allotted for the United States, and is the first bottle ever to be sold in Hawaii. It is part of the fourth release (the first being in 2009) of second vatting of Glenfiddich 50 Year Old single malt whisky. A total of 450 bottles were made, of which 50 bottles will be release every year between 2009-2017.

Each bottle is hand blown and decorated with sterling sliver, while the box is individually hand stitched. The cost to taste this one-of-a-kind whisky? A mere $6,000 a shot.

In terms of taste, it’s one of the best whiskeys I’ve tried. The flavor of this whiskey differs slightly from the newer releases. Because of World War II, charcoal was in short supply, so the grains for the whiskey were smoked with peat. The result is a peaty aroma, with a smooth flavor owing to the long aging process. However, the extravagance of the 50 Year Old is beyond my comprehension. There are other things I would rather spend $6K on, like perhaps a case of the 21 year, or a trip to the distillery in Scottland.

Here are photos from the tasting:

Glenfiddich 50 Year

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The legacy of Master Chef Peter Timmins

10440933_10203055829613200_168145962997397438_nIt is said that the measure of a leader is how many leaders they create. A prime example of this is in the life of Master Chef Peter Timmins. Based on the number of leaders Timmins created during his 40-year career, a giant of the industry has passed from this world.

Last week, word of Timmins’ death sent reverberations through the industry, particularly among chefs who worked under him at The Greenbrier Resort & Spa in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

DSC01205During his tenure there, Timmins oversaw one of the most prestigious culinary apprenticeship programs in the United States. Among its graduates are Hawaii Food & Wine Festival regulars Mark Noguchi, chef owner of the Lunch Box and Bocuse d’Or competitor Richard Rosendale.

I had the privilege of working under Timmins when I was at The Greenbrier from 2001-2003. I will never forget my time there.

So often, I hear the media misuse the title Master Chef. Few outside of the industry realize that Master Chef is an accreditation that requires chefs to under go an intense examination process. Timmins was one of only 60 chefs in the world to achieve this coveted title.

photo“Chef T was very serious and demanding, but he also had a stern and sneaky sense of humor,” says Arin Antonio, Chef at Hoakalei Country Club and 2007 graduate of The Greenbrier apprenticeship program. “Chef T was probably the most intelligent individual that I have ever met. His array of classical cooking techniques and diversity was simply untouchable. An example of this was when we had a sophomore appetizer showing and I created a scallop and smoked lomilomi salmon with a citrus whipped ‘cloud’. All my peers and sous chefs only concern was the smoked lomilomi salmon (because they had no idea what it was). Chef T immediately stopped everyone and explained the lomilomi, including its deeper origin and all of a sudden the whole dish made sense. I was in awe, as he had already known what this island favorite was and put it under a spotlight for everyone to see.”

DSC00839The one thing that I most vividly recall about Timmins will always be his piercing stare. Noguchi recalls when he came under his gaze on his second day of work. “I was working as roast station assist and in the sh**s with plating goat cheese stuffed cherry tomatoes,” he said. “Plesh (the executive sous chef) is yelling at me, so chef Timmins walks over to me and asks what’s wrong… ‘Sorry chef… It’s my ADD.’”

Noguchi remembers how Timmons placed his entire body in front of him and said, “That’s sh**, I’ve got ADD! Wanna know why ADD people make better cooks? Because we live our entire lives multitasking. Now get the f*** back to work.”

Noguchi pulled it together and finished serving 1,500 guests that night

IMG_0270As the above story demonstrates, Timmins not only held his cooks accountable, he held them capable. He was a stern taskmaster; however he genuinely cared for all of his cooks.

Executive chef Curtis Horka of Honolulu Coffee Co. remembers how Timmins taught his cooks that no one can make you be a chef; only you can make you a chef. “Chef Timmins wasn’t just about food,” he said. “He was a respected, commanding leader and a special kind of mentor. He was someone who you could go to having the worst day and leave feeling inspired and willing to endure more. He always had time to talk and genuinely cared that you always pushed yourself. If you wanted to keep growing then you can’t wait for a place or a person to give it to you; instead you need to find the opportunities to grow on your own and make it happen.”

Said Antonio: “He was also the most demanding and critical chef I have ever worked for. Chef T always used to say that if someone is in the way of your dreams and goals, run them over like a freight train and get what you want. I have lived my life this way ever since and I train my cooks to do the same.”

One phrase that Timmins always said to his cooks was, “push yourself.” I recall many times plating a banquet for several hundred people and hearing him say, “Push yourself chef!” It’s a phrase that chefs have spread throughout the industry as they progressed in their careers, and to this day, is a motto that I model my career by.

Push Yourself

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A reminder to myself at Highway Inn Kaka‘ako to always push myself.

Photo by Ed Morita“Every time you looked his way,” recalls Horka, “you would find him talking while surrounded by young chefs with ears and eyes wide open soaking in every inspiring word of culinary philosophy.”

During his career, Timmins made an impact on countless chefs who now run kitchens around the world.

You will be missed, Chef Timmins, however, your legacy of excellence will continue to spread throughout the industry through the lives you have touched and the chefs you helped to create.

Course Correction 3: Making waves

This is Part 3 of a series about how I found my way back into the kitchen after a near career-ending injury. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

kitchen417While having lunch at the Highway Inn bar with chef Mike Kealoha, he receives a text. “You’re nominated for a Hale Aina award,” he says. I look up from my bowl of beef stew with a raised brow, and he clarified that Highway Inn was nominated for Best Hawaiian Food, which was no surprise, and Best Desserts.

I checked the Hale Aina site on my phone and sure enough, Highway Inn was listed under the Best Desserts category with JJ’s Bistro (last year’s winner), Alan Wong’s, MW Restaurant and Stage Restaurant.

HaleAina-logoWhen I embarked on my journey back to the kitchen, the thought of awards never crossed my mind. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that more than a year has passed since I made the choice to have a career rather than a job. Despite the hard work, long hours and sacrifices required to open a restaurant, I enjoyed the ride, and it was an experience that I would not trade in for anything.

My Japanese upbringing tells me I need to be humble and not seek acknowledgement. Yet, the recognition the nomination represents validates the hard work of the previous year and puts to rest the self doubt and limiting beliefs I had while opening Highway Inn Kaka‘ako. Yes, I was ready, and I had the ability to do the job.

In the past, I would shy away from the limelight. Despite the high-profile photography gigs I had between 2009-2013, there are very few photos of me from this period. Any photos of myself with the political candidates I worked for came about because they insisted I get in the photos.

ourkakaakoI faced my aversion for being in front of the camera just prior to the Hale Aina announcement when Our Kaka‘ako contacted me about their Meet Our Makers video series.

I had done interviews to promote the restaurant before, however, the video shoot for Our Kaka‘ako was a completely different experience. An entire film crew had come to Highway Inn. I had been on the view finder end of many shoots like this before, however, this time, I found myself staring down the opposite end of a camera lens.

The four-hour shoot had a lot of moving parts — head shots, a cooking demo, re-shoots of different aspects of the cooking demo, shooting b-roll of the restaurant, recording of kitchen sounds. Essentially, we shot a cooking show that day.

kitchen249The end result, which eloquently condenses part one and two of my Course Correction blog posts into a 97-second video, is now up for the world to see. There’s even a infographic with one of my recipes.

Watching the video is a very surreal experience. Despite having lived it, it’s hard to believe this is my life. It’s so true what Our Kaka‘ako writes on my Makers video page, “Sometimes second chances are even sweeter.”

Here’s a link to the video