Lots of fun eating around this month…we explored the ’hood with our friend & neighbor, Melissa, visited the ultra-elegant L’Apertif bar and ate a lot of dessert to celebrate Shake’s birthday.
Late last year, we saw a new place open up in our neighborhood — Cooland. Like “Cool” plus “Land”, but with just one “L” (see the rest of this anecdote). We talked about going, but then a car drove through their window. Then the weather got really cold, so cool desserts? Not so much. Finally, last month, we decided to check it out after a Korean food dinner. Melissa’s always up for spontaneous eating, so we texted her. “Does ‘Cooland’ have one “L” or two???” I asked Shake.
We were really surprised by how many options Cooland offered. Seriously, if it’s a chilled dessert, they’ve probably got it. It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s another choice.
Shake and I couldn’t resist the waffles, although the waffles themselves — which were freshly made, and that was awesome — were not much like what you think of when you think of waffles. They were much harder, almost cookie-like. Also, the ice cream is soft serve, not regular ice cream.
Melissa got the snow ice, in melon flavor. You can choose toppings to go along with it, like Taiwanese shave ice. She got mochi balls and tapioca balls. I think they were both lychee flavored.
I’m sure we’ll be back, since it’s so convenient for us to grab a quick dessert. Probably not for waffles, but the snow ice was a fun treat.
The next night, we took a trip somewhere much more upscale. Last year, the Halekulani brought in acclaimed bartender Colin Field to design a cocktail program for their newly launched L’Apertif, conceived of as a “destination” bar at La Mer. In early February, the hotel brought him back, and we were invited to a media reception to preview some new Valentine’s drinks and a digestive drink program created for Lewers Lounge. I couldn’t make it to the reception, but I caught up with Shake at Lewers in time to meet Mr. Field and have him make a cocktail for me.
After that, we went back upstairs to L’Apertif — since I had never ever set foot in La Mer — where we had a round. The concept at L’Apertif is a pairing of a cocktail with a one-bite appetizer. The appetizer is chosen to complement the specific cocktail, but the Halekulani is always ultra service-oriented, so if you wanted to, you could swap “bites.”
I chose the La Tomate (on the left) for my drink — “A refreshing taste of true tomatoes crushed before your eyes and harnessed with shochu and junmai rice wine” — and Shake opted for a glass of the house-made vermouth, which is fantastic, with all sorts of fascinating herb and spice flavors.
The Sumak Shrimp with Sweet Chili Aioli (left) came with the La Tomate. Vermouth on the rocks isn’t on the menu, so it doesn’t have an official bite pairing, but our knowledgeable server suggested the Big Island Goat Cheese, Cinnamon Tuile and Pickled Beetroot. A very nifty presentation.
The whole “one bite” thing makes it difficult to get a sample of your date’s munchie, so that’s a little sad. The other downside is that, being La Mer and all, it’s a little bit pricey — $20 for a cocktail and nibble. As a splurge, it’s well worth it; the food is fantastic, the cocktails well-crafted and everything is visually stunning. But when I visit a bar, I generally like a couple of drinks, and that’s a bit out of my range. (Disclosure: Our drinks were hosted on this visit.)
Speaking of bars where I can sit and have several drinks…no month is complete without a(t least one) stop at Pint + Jigger. This particular night came a couple days after Shake’s birthday, so our friend Dave (owner/bartender at Pint + Jigger) brought out a birthday slab of chocolate bread pudding…it comes with chunks of candied bacon. Of course it does.
I make tons and tons of bread pudding for Christmas, and I refuse to eat it. I just can’t do it. But other people’s bread pudding? Love it! I’m not admitting to anything, but it’s possible that some of the birthday boy’s portion may have been consumed by me. Possibly. I did let him have all the bacon!
Dave gave a seminar earlier in the week for Hawai‘i Cocktail Week on using sous vide techniques to enhance cocktails and had leftovers of his sous vide Miller’s gin martinis. (Two parts Miller’s Over Proof gin, one part Dolin Dry vermouth, two dashes of orange bitters; sous vide aged for 72 hours.) I’m more of a vodka martini girl than gin, but I had to try it.
The sous vide process brings out a sweeter, “thicker” taste in the gin and makes it less sharp. Very nice. And now I want to serve all my cocktails in little bottles.
More birthday dessert on fire for Shake. I took him to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse for his birthday dinner, and they sent out this flaming plate of fun!
And we’re back where we started — eating in our ’hood with Melissa! This time, Melissa asked us to join her at Chez Kenzo. This bar has taken over the spot where Verbano used to be (a sad loss for us when that restaurant closed — we had a real soft spot for it and all its weird little quirks). Melissa had already gone a couple times, but she wanted more people to try different food — enter Sugar + Shake.
I didn’t photograph everything we ate. You should check out Melissa’s blog post to see all of it, plus all the other food she tried with other people. I just shot the weird stuff.
Like this “fried garlic.” Totally not what I thought it would be. I was picturing individual cloves, all crusty and brown. Then this arrived.
Whole heads of garlic, plunged into the fryer and pulled out. They were piping hot and were difficult to pull apart. We’d had something similar to this before at another restaurant, but it was roasted, and a server squeezed it out onto the plate for us and gave us bread to spread it on. You don’t get that here. It wasn’t bad, as long as you enjoy garlic, but I wouldn’t do it again.
The general approach at Chez Kenzo is basically “stuff that tastes good when you’re drunk.” (That’s how it was explained to us.) Drunk or sober, the Kim Chee OmuRice (omelette over kim chee fried rice) and a side of sausage tastes pretty good!
This is just a tiny fraction of all the stuff we ordered — we actually did two rounds of food — so be sure to check out Melissa’s blog! It’s a nice addition to our neighborhood, since we can grab a bite of real food to eat on our way home after drinking, instead of “drunk tacos” at Taco Bell. (Kenzo is open ‘til 1am.)
Frozen desserts and a bar with good food — the ’hood’s looking up!