Dining: Best Local Food
The tasty portion of our Best of Honolulu 2004 issue.
(page 2 of 3)
Kaka‘ako Kitchen pastry chef Lisa Siu, here with her brownies, also does the best breakfast pastries in town.
Photo: olivier koning
Best Pastries, Dessert
We’re not sure that Honolulu, with its love of Dobosh cakes and custard pies, really deserves a pastry shop the quality of Jinjie "JJ" Laungkhot Praseuth’s JJ French Pastries. The little Kaimuki pastry shop now sells elegeant little pizzas and sandwiches to the Kaimuki lunch crowd, but the real joys are the pastries. They are pricey, stunning to look at, remarkable to eat. JJ daily makes such beautiful things as mocha opera cakes, green tea cheesecakes, rum walnut tarts, classic cream puffs and his signature Chocolate Pyramids, shaped like I.M. Pei’s pyramid-shaped extension to the Louvre and filled with the world’s smoothest and richest chocolate or chocolate-raspberry mousse. Our favorite thing: You can buy Chocolate Pyramid in all sizes, from a cake that will feed 40 people ($120) to a bite-size pyramid for 96 cents. It’s the best dollar you ever donated to your sweet tooth. 3447 Waialae Ave., 739-0993, jjfrenchpastry.com.
Best Place to Buy Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
There’s a problem with most of the farmers’ markets around town—no farmers. Instead, they are often filled with vendors who have bought Mainland or Island produce at wholesale or even at Costco and repackaged it. We salute anyone who makes life less expensive and more convenient. But if you really want Hawaii produce straight from the producers, you need to go to the Saturday Farmers’ Market at Kapiolani Community College. Sponsored by the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and The Culinary Institute of the Pacific, the market brings together dozens of real farmers. There are greens from Nalo Farms, fresh hearts of palm from Hilo’s Wailea Ag Group, stunning red, yellow and green tomatoes from Big Wave Tomatoes, fabulous citrus from Hamakua Coast Farms. On any given Saturday, you might find organic eggs from Blue Lotus Farms, Island-harvested honeys from Manoa Honey Co., fresh mozzarella from C&C Pasta, hummus from Beau Soleil, even farm-raised shrimp from Kekaha, Kauai. If great cooking starts with great ingredients, this is a necessary first step to a great meal.
There’s food to eat on the spot as well, fried green tomatoes, grilled mochi and breakfast from a rotating line-up of star chefs. One Saturday you might find D.K. Kodama serving up $5 crab omelets, the next Glen Chu putting toppings on breakfast udon.
It’s a casual Saturday morning social scene as well, full of chatter and unexpected meetings. People bring their families, their dogs, their friends.
Saturday Farmers’ Market, every Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 noon, Kapiolani Community College, 4303 Diamond Head Road., 848-2074.
Best Mac Salad
Balance is key to everything. Even macaroni salad. To make a great mac salad, there has to be sufficient mayonnaise to coat the elbow macaroni, but not so much that it coats the mouth and masks all the rest of the flavors. A great mac salad needs a hint of onion, plus a judicious amount of crunch from grated carrot and shredded cabbage. Of course, this creamy, soft specialty of the Islands needs a sufficient amount of salt not to be bland, but not too much, since we often eat it as the perfect counterpoint for shoyu-based teriyaki or butterfish. When it comes right down to it, a great mac salad isn’t easy to find. We put together a plate full of the best reputed mac salads in the Islands and tasted them side-by-side. The winner? The mac salad came from Alakea Delicatessen, not too much salt, the right touch of onion, the right amount of mayo. In the mouth it all adds up to: Yes! Alakea Delicatessen, 201 S. King St., 533-4666.