Exploring the ’hood: New-ish dessert place, Cooland. It’s a land of cool, but with only one  “L”. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

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.

We have never seen so many different types of frozen desserts offered in a single place. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Like many other local places, Cooland offers “snow ice,” which is a creamier, lighter, fluffier version of shave ice. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

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.

We 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. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

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.

Our friend 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. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

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.

The Halekulani hired acclaimed bartender Colin Field to create the cocktail menu at L’Apertif, the bar at La Mer last year. He was in town again to launch a new digestive cocktail menu at Lewers Lounge. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

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.

La Tomate — “A refreshing taste of true tomatoes crushed before your eyes and harnessed with shochu and junmai rice wine” © 2013 Sugar + Shake House-made vermouth (good luck replicating THAT!) over ice at L’Apertif. Incredible. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

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.

At L’Apertif, the cocktails each include a “bite” on the side, to complement the flavors of the drink. The Sumak Shrimp with Sweet Chili Aioli came with the La Tomate. © 2013 Sugar + Shake The vermouth 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. Nifty presentation. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

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.

Since we were still celebrating Shake’s birthday, Dave served up a piece of chocolate bread pudding...it comes with chunks of candied bacon. Of course it does. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

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.

At Pint+Jigger, probably our favorite bar in town. Bartender/owner Dave Newman had some leftovers of his sous vide Miller’s gin martinis from a Cocktail Week seminar he conducted. (Two parts Miller's Over Proof gin, one part Dolin Dry vermouth, two dashes of orange bitters; sous vide aged for 72 hours.) © 2013 Sugar + Shake Pouring your own martini out of the serving bottle is fun! © 2013 Sugar + Shake

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!

From all the desserts, you would think Shake was the dessert fiend, not Sugar. Birthday dessert at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse — flaming strawberries with brown sugar. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

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.

More dining in our ’hood with our friend Melissa. This time, Chez Kenzo, a newly opened bar. This is their “fried garlic” — not exactly what we were expecting. Whole heads of garlic, piping hot. Difficult to eat. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

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!

More at Chez Kenzo, where the food is basically “stuff that tastes good when you’re drunk.” Drunk or sober, the Kim Chee OmuRice (omelette over kim chee fried rice) and a side of sausage tastes pretty good! © 2013 Sugar + Shake

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!

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