Preview: Livestock Tavern

coverLucky Belly fans have been waiting for its sister restaurant to open across the street for months, but I’m here to tell you … they’re not open yet. After a few setbacks, Livestock Tavern — which was set to open in July — is in the midst of construction and renovations and should be ready in a few weeks.

This makes it more exciting for Lanakila Pacific’s The Good Table event happening Oct. 2. Livestock Tavern has donated at least one table of four to the event, and since they are probably not going to be open by then, you get an exclusive first taste. All you have to do is log in to and find the restaurant, then simply purchase on the site. (But hurry, sales close this weekend.)

Then on Oct. 2, show up at Livestock Tavern (or whatever restaurant you choose) at 6 p.m. with three of your closest dining buddies, and enjoy your meal. As you do so, hundreds of people across Oahu will be doing the same thing at their respective restaurants.

I visited owner Dusty Grable at Livestock Tavern to see what they’d be making for the fundraiser. They have a six-course tasting menu, which reflects the style of food and cooking they’ll be featuring at the restaurant when it opens. We tasted two of the items, which were fabulous, and will be leaving the rest of the menu for you to tell us about.

Livestock Tavern for Lanakila Pacific

This is indicative of how Livestock's menu will look — not just for The Good Table, but during regular service. Instead of listing the dishes, they categorize them by meat type. This is, however, the menu for October 2.

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Not only will you eat good, you’ll be doing good. All money raised goes to Lanakila Pacific’s Meals on Wheels program, which delivers hot meals to needy seniors. Still need a reason to buy a table? Think about this:

  • By the year 2020, one out of every four people in Hawaii will be 60 years and older.
  • Only 46 percent of our frail sick and homebound seniors reported getting out of their home at least once a week.
  • Nearly one in three Hawaii residents over the age of 60 are trying to make ends meet on an annual income that is below $10,000
  • The average Meals on Wheels recipient is female, 85 years of age, of Asian or Pacific Island descent and subsists on an income of less than $1,000 a month.
  • Providing meals to seniors, which enables them to stay in their homes and avoid costly institutionalization, can be the difference between $37.50 for a week of home delivered meals vs. $470 for a week of institutionalization.

Hope you are set to eat good, do good!

Lanakila Pacific’s The Good Table
October 2, 6 p.m.

First taste: Peter Merriman puts his touch on Jimmy Buffett’s

menuChef Peter Merriman’s Handcrafted Restaurants and Monkeypod Kitchen quietly took over Jimmy Buffett’s in the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort last Monday, with a very promising new menu.

The space and the name of the restaurant will remain the same for a while as the new company gradually transitions it — and may eventually call it Monkeypod Kitchen, as well. Part of the reason for keeping the name and decor is to accommodate loyal Margaritaville fans who come to Waikiki looking  for Jimmy Buffett’s; since the original owners terminated their lease on Aug. 31, the change could come as a surprise for those who already have planned their vacations. Other than that, though, the menu has been completely turned around, and for the better.

The new menu features many items that you can find at Monkeypod Kitchen like the chicken wings, garlic parmesan truffle fries, Big Island cheeseburger, dry mein, gnocchi and more. They also have a couple of items (as you’ll see in the gallery below) that will be exclusive to the Waikiki location. In keeping with Handcrafted Restaurants’ philosophy, the ingredients are organic and local where possible. You’ll find the menu to be fresher and healthier than the old one, too.

Since the restaurant (and the menu) is going to continue transitioning over the next several months, they aren’t giving any media any previews of their offerings. But since my company does the social media for the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort, they granted me exclusive access. Here’s a look at some of the things we ate recently at happy hour. Some of the photos aren’t up to my standards since I was running around to other people’s tables and asked to take pictures of their food, as they sat waiting and shooting me funny looks.

New at Jimmy Buffett's

I'm starting with dessert because this is exclusive to the Waikiki location, and super popular: Pineapple beignets ($8.95) with local vanilla ice cream and a coconutty caramel sauce from scratch. Basically they are fresh Maui pineapple spears in Lost Coast beer batter, tossed in a light cinnamon sugar ... I don't know why no one thought of this before, because it's addicting!

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Happy hour, by the way, is daily from 3 to 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight. During that time you can get 50 percent off appetizers (except poke), $8 specialty cocktails, $6 house wine, and $3 off beers. You can also enjoy live, local entertainment twice nightly on the lanai.

For more photos, click here.

Jimmy Buffett’s at the Beachcomber
Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort
2300 Kalakaua Ave. (Validated valet parking)

A fruitful day at Frankie’s Nursery

Touring Frankie's NurseryI love that the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival brings in celebrity chefs from around the world, because it opens opportunities for me to explore different things. Food writer Sean Morris, who knows everyone in town, had taken Marcel Vigneron to Frankie’s Nursery in Waimanalo last year; the chef was so jazzed by the unusual flavors of the 400 varieties of fruits that he wanted to go again, and take his buddy Spike Mendelsohn.

Since I had never been to Frankie’s, Sean made sure I came along, too. I had seen them at the farmer’s markets, with their tables of seasonal exotic fruits, but had no idea what they were about. As it turns out, the 30-something year-old farm is the place that developed the exquisite Honey Cream Pineapple, a sweet, low-acid pineapple that tastes like cake. They’re also the ones who grow the Miracle Berry (in season), which turns off the sour sensors in your tongue when you eat it and makes everything taste sweet.

Marcel is here for the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival and Spike is here for the North Shore Food Summit, so they combined their vacations to do a little of each. “This ties into what we talk about at the summit,” Spike said after the tour. “Just knowing that there are so many other fruits out there reminds me that we as consumers shouldn’t just settle for the common, massed-produced items out on the market, but should be eating some of these other fruits, growing other fruits, expanding the selection and even the nutrition that comes from it.”

Here’s a quick look at some of the things we did, ate and saw on our tour. I’m definitely going back to see the place when other things are in season (maybe January). I’m a little bummed out that I didn’t get to meet Frank Sekiya himself, but maybe next time.

Touring Frankie's Nursery

Our little group: Me, Lynn Tsuruda (Frankie's wife), Spike, Jenny Bickel, Marcel, and Leah. Missing: Sean, who had to leave early.

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To arrange for a tour, call 808-259-8737. Tours are not conducted on weekends due to their staff being at the farmer’s markets.

To see the rest of my photos from this day, click here.

Frankie’s Nursery
41-999 Mahiku Pl.
Open Sunday through Tuesday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed on the last Saturday of the month); closed Wednesday.

Hawaii: In Real Life ~ Chefs Action Network

ChefActionThe second annual North Shore Food Summit happens today and tomorrow at Waimea Valley, and although chefs and other food industry citizens will make up most of the attendance, all interested individuals are invited to participate. You can learn about Hawaii’s food system and issues through keynote presentations, discussion panels, and working groups as well as a full day of field trips (Sept. 11) and a Youth Food Summit track (Sept. 12).

Chefs who attend these summits and “boot camps” get to strengthen their own professional networks, of course, but the result is also a better understanding of policies and issues that affect the food industry and — quite simply — how to make it better for themselves and consumers: nutritionally, economically, sustainably and with better safety.

Town’s Ed Kenney was inspired to create the Hawaii Chef Action Network (HI-CAN) after attending the first James Beard Foundation’s Chefs Boot Camp for Policy & Change in 2012. He then became involved in the Chef Action Network (a project of the James Beard Foundation and Osprey Foundation), hosted a policy salon in Honolulu in 2013, and attended a second Chefs Boot Camp in 2014. He even donated all proceeds from his Kaimuki Superette’s opening day to the Hawaii Center for Food Safety to launch HI-CAN.

It sounds like a heavy issue, but summits like the one happening this weekend break it down to digestible levels so everyone can understand and be a part of the movement to grow Hawaii’s food advocacy, from providing better school lunches to adopting government policies that strengthens the community as a whole. Kenny, along with chef Spike Mendelsohn and the Center for Food Safety’s Ashley Lukens, talk about the program, their journey, and why it’s important to Hawaii:


The North Shore Food Summit happens today and tomorrow at Waimea Valley and is open to the public, with online as well as walk-in registration. You can register for the whole two days or individual sessions.

Check out this blog tomorrow to see our tour of Frankie’s Nursery with chefs Mendelsohn and Marcel Vigneron!

Chinee like me: Moon Festival 2014

About two dozen varieties of fresh moon cakes at Sing Cheong Yuan.

About two dozen varieties of fresh moon cakes at Sing Cheong Yuan.

I did it again. Like last year, I was running around for a week before the official mid-autumn festival, which was yesterday (Sept. 8) and forgot to get my traditional moon cakes in time to blog about it for your benefit.

The funny thing is, I wasn’t alone. Last-minute Chinese shoppers stormed Sing Cheong Yuan on Maunakea Street on Sunday, and were still buying moon cakes up til 6:30 p.m. yesterday — an hour after the Chinese bakery was supposed to close. They finally shooed everyone out, but then you have pushy Chinee broads like me knocking on the door at 7:30 p.m. to see if I could get in.

“Don’t worry about not having your moon cakes on the designated day,” Liana Fang assured me. “Like Chinese New Year, you can keep celebrating for two weeks and it’s still legit. We’ll have moon cakes all month long so people can keep up the festivities.”

Mei Fang perfected five-nut moon cakes.

Mei Fang perfected five-nut moon cakes.

You already read my blog about moon cakes last year, right? Of course you did. I’m not going to repeat the same clever stories about moon cakes when you can just click over to that post to enjoy them yourself. But I am blogging this year to tell you about Mei Fang’s (Liana’s mom) five-nut moon cakes. If you’re like me, you probably thought the moon cakes at Sing Cheong Yuan were all or mostly mass-produced in a factory with child labor. Well, they’re not … they’re homemade.

Traditional five-nut moon cakes take walnuts, pine nuts, macadamias, peanuts and sesame and grind them into a paste/powder for the filling. Mei decided that this year’s batch would be full of roughly chopped nuts, so you can see the chunks. She added kumquats, which Liana chopped by hand, coconut, and candied winter melon that they made themselves. The middle is still a duck egg yolk. The result is a moist, mildly sweet cake full of surprising flavors and textures in each bite. I’m not one to eat the baked moon cakes, but these were excellent.

Five nut with ham.

Five nut with ham.

I also got to try Mei’s five-nut moon cake with ham, which is the same as above but with pieces of a special ham that she cured for three months leading up to this autumn festival. They were just about sold out of that special moon cake last night, so if you are at your desk reading this, it’s probably too late.

You can still get the regular five-nut one, or any of the 20 other varieties of freshly baked moon cakes, while they last through September (and some, year-round). For those who like the contemporary versions, you can get mochi moon cakes filled with mango, honeydew, taro, strawberry, and Honolulu magazine’s Martha Cheng’s favorite, durian.

To read more about moon cakes and the mid-autumn festival, check last year’s blog. Happy Moon Festival!

Sing Cheong Yuan
1027 Maunakea St.