Tokkuri Tei

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More catchup: I’m eating soup made from year-end refrigerator dregs today, and reliving the past year’s eats in photographs, too.  A friend who knows Tokkuri Tei’s menu backwards and forwards chose his favorite dishes for this feast on July 2nd.  Oh, those nachos: nori “chips” halfway battered in tempura and loaded with guacamole, fresh herbs and spicy tuna.


Ethel’s Grill

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Sumo wrestlers, a line in the sun (more sumo wrestlers, construction workers, Honolulu hipsters, Kalihi businessfolk), fruit punch, iceberg lettuce, famous garlic chicken (the garlic perhaps playing second fiddle to artificial maple syrup), ahi tataki and miso soup at the ne plus ultra of plate lunch and favorite of John Heckathorn’s.



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Time flies.  Snapshots from our 2011 Christmas: ham, maple roasted butternut with apples and sage, scallops, sushi, a collard-strewn table, a breakfast casserole, Kaʻū Kuahiwi beef, Wailani chard, roasted red peppers, and holiday fun with the kin.


Thanksgiving, and Sea Urchin on Cereal

“Ooh, what is that?”



“It’s uni.  Sea urchin roe. For pupu.”

“How would you like it to be served?”

“I thought, I don’t know, maybe on a cracker.  But we didn’t have any crackers.  I mean, of course.”

“John has crackers.”

“We brought some.  Well…” she fished in her purse, and pulled out a little box.

It was one of those little orange cereal boxes.  Shredded wheat.

“Very Momofuku…” said one child.

Thanksgiving lunch 2011: Patsy, Patty, Fenny, Frank, four Chocks and Linnea.  Turkey by Dad, and super cranberry sauce (lime, in the place of orange) by sister.

Caramelized white pumpkin, sweet potato with lavender…tuberose.

And, when my old favorite heard her old favorite on the jukebox, a quiet conversation with Maikai Kamakani o Kohala.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sushi Sasabune - Snapper and Halibut nigiri

Popcorn Sushi (“But again, no soy please.”)

Here are some pictures from a birthday party at Sushi Sasabune, the Honolulu omakase where the approach to soy leaves no room for nonsense.  Above, the halibut (left, no soy please) and the snapper (right, soy sauce permitted).

Most dishes were (per instructions) a single bite, served in pairs, like this plating: nigiri of king salmon (soy) and scallop with yuzu koshi (no soy). It was, to this non-connoisseur, popcorn dining.  The fish melted into thin air, chased by the faintest brushstrokes of lemon sea salt, green onion, miso, wasabi, toasted sesame.

Sushi Sasabune

1417 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96814

Oven Roast Figs

Oven Figs

California Fresh FigsAll those Costco figs, and a Sunday morning.  A long roast in a low oven, brushed with NZ honey and nutmeg.

Oven Roast FigsTheir juices puddled into a bright pink jelly.

Oven Roast Figs And we ate them with greek yogurt, and in salads with black olives and sheep’s cheese.


Biography through recipe

Last week I was blessed with dinner chez Magali + famille.  It comes as no surprise that the conversation found itself aboard le Mistral, hurtling toward Paris.

“Do you remember, that time?”

“The lamb…”

“And the haricots blancs–”  Mme. turned to Magali to explain, her French accent making everything marvelous.  “They were not fresh.”

“Cooked from dry,” Mme.’s husband added. “On a train in America, we would have welcomed grilled cheese; and on this one the food was delicious but the passengers were up in arms.  It was a lovely train, le Mistral.”

“Before le TGV,” sighed Mme.

Fresh haricots blancs! My head was still spinning, chasing a moving cabin where legumes knew no compromise. “Back to the beans,” I interrupted. “The French really complained, to the servers?”

“They asked to approach the conductor himself.”

I need to plant haricots blancs,” I thought out loud, realizing I was gripping the table with force commensurate to the thrill of the conversation. No surprise. This was, after all, dinner at Magali’s–an experience that has been called “outlandishly elegant and riotously gastronomic” in certain media.

And at Magali’s they call it pain quotidien. This is perhaps the only corner of the world where, after a casual evening swim at Kaimana, one serves panisse over gorgeously-blackened chicken “Diablo;” a fragrant ratatouille, baguette, salade et fromages… and then announces dessert.  How?  I kept glancing at the tiny kitchen. Watching these dishes parade to the table was  like seeing the Dallas Mavericks file out of a Volkswagen bug.

And that dessert: plum clafoutis by Magali (plums, allowed by Julia’s headnotes as a substitute for cerises) and Mariage Freres.

Our stories ricocheted from haricots to Lanzhou paomo, and through decades.  Magali mentioned a “book” twice, in reference to family cookery, and as intrepid journalist and marginally polite guest I had to pry.  What, pray tell, was this project?

A binder, now quite thick, of recipes–each one patiently tested and calibrated by a father who does not need to measure when he cooks. (The other chef in the family, the French one, said something about refusing to break the rhythm of cooking.) Its contents range from Marseille heirlooms to dishes required for school projects, pan muerto to teriyaki steak.  In parts, the gastronomic canon of a family; in sum, something so much more. Menu as life score, I thought.

“Biography through recipe,” mused Mme., and my jaw dropped.

That would have been the perfect title for the blog, I said.

“It is yours,” she said immediately, forever French and elegant; always quick and deft with courtesy.

The French, I guess, have always had a strong sense of what matters most.  Baguette crusts, evening swims; good wine, fromages. And taste and tale: heirlooms that travel through time, fresh beans on a fast train to Paris.


biography through recipe


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