Wednesday, April 25, 2007

IsItEDible in Pohnpei

I had the priviledge of spending a week in the Federated States of Micronesia (a US-affiliated Pacific Island jurisdiction located east of Guam and west of the Marshall Islands) earlier this month for my job. Specifically I was in the beautiful state of Pohnpei (pronounced PAW-nuh-pay). On this trip, I was able to reconnect with amazing colleagues whom I have worked with for several years in the Pacific Island jurisdictions as well as meet many wonderful people. Although restaurant options were a tad limited, I did partake in some delicious meals. Here are a few dining suggestions if you ever find yourself in Pohnpei.

South Park Hotel
P. 0. Box 829
Pohnpei, FSM 96941
(691) 320-2255

My first meal in Pohnpei was at South Park Hotel. I didn't see Cartman, Kenny, or Kyle there. But I did dig into the fried pork chop (South Park style). Essentially, this is a thin strip of pork chop stuffed with ham and cheese that is breaded and deep fried. In other words, it was my kind of food! I encourage two friends who joined us after we had ordered to also have the same thing. After trying it out, they decided to rename it the "superior tonkatsu." Tonkatsu or fried pork chop, all I know is that this dish simply hit the spot after a 10 hour flight (with 3 stopovers!)

Speaking of stopovers, flights are limited going into and out of Pohnpei. You might find yourself on Continental Micronesia's "island hopper" from Honolulu with 2 stops in the Marshall Islands and 1 stop in Kosrae (another state in FSM). Make sure you de-plane and pick up some Kosrae tangerines (see picture below) from one of the airport vendors. They are green and look a little concave from the outside, but don't judge a tangerine by its cover. These little bad-boys pack a juicy, sweet punch. And a whole bag of about 10 tangerines was less than $3. Now that's getting some bang for your buck! But be forwarned that you can only eat them while you are on the plane or in FSM.

Cliff Rainbow Hotel
P.O. Box 96
Pohnpei, FSM 96941
691) 320-2415

When in Pohnpei, do as the Pohnpeians. Or is it when in Rome? Regardless, the little restaurant at the Cliff Rainbow Hotel where I was staying offered several American, Japanese, and Pohnpeian dining options for an affordable price. The picture above is of the Pohnpei Style Breakfast, and it can be yours for the low price of $5.95. It comes with two eggs, grilled tuna, and a scoop of rice. Wheaties may be the "breakfast of champions," but give me this breakfast any day!

Grace's Special Bakery
Nantuelek Street, Kolonia (Beside Dollar Up Enterprises)
PO Box 874
(691) 320-5676

One of the last things I expected to find in Pohnpei was a Filipino bakery. But lo and behold, we came across this very special place while we were exploring. At Grace's, you can get 6 little, tasty coconut macaroons for $1. That's right, just one George Washington. And if you want a cupcake, you can have one for just 35 cents each. Grace's Bakery came to our rescue when we realized that we hadn't ordered breakfast for the first day of our conference. I think we bought out the entire store in order to feed the 130 participants. And you can bet that the price was right!

the Village Hotel
P.O. Box 339
Pohnpei, FM 96941
691) 320-2797

The Village Hotel is an "eco-hotel" that also features an AMAZING restaurant. This was probably one of the best meals I had in FSM. Imagine Casablanca relocated to a Micronesian island setting with open air seating, panoramic views of the oceans and mountains, thatched roofs, and ceiling fan blades that serve as menus. Although a bit pricier than many other restaurants in Pohnpei, it's definitely worth it. I treated myself to the steak and mangrove crab combo (around $20), despite breaking out in hives the last time I had crabs. Let me rephrase that. I meant the last time I ate crabs.

Luckily, there was a group of doctors and nurses sitting at the table next to us just in case I went into anaphylactic shock. Of course, without an epi pen they probably wouldn't have been able to do much. But, this time I indulged in the crab without any allergic repercussions. Growing among the mangrove trees must give these crabs some special properties, because this had to be some of the sweetest and juiciest crab I'd ever tasted. (And I have had my share of crab before I developed an allergy to it). For dessert, we ordered a bananas foster for the table, complete with flamed orange peel. I'm not sure if this really added any extra flavor to the dessert, but it made a lovely visual.

So, if you're not sold on visiting Pohnpei yet, check out this last pic from Nan Madol, an ancient city built around 500 AD. Some refer to Nan Madol as the "Venice of the Pacific" because the city was built on man-made islands and is connected by a network of canals. Kalangan to our hosts in Pohnpei and FSM for a wonderful conference and their gracious hospitality.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

IsItEDible at Bushi-Tei

We celebrated Dean's birthday at Bushi-Tei with his friends G and C. I'd first noticed this restaurant on the Dine About Town list, but didn't have a chance to check it out. I'm glad we finally had a chance to check it out for a special occasion.

1638 Post St.
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 440-3959

We knew we were in for a great meal when the bread hit the table. It had a nutty flavor thanks to bits of toasted brown rice speckled throughout.

My favorite appetizer was the Big Eye tuna tartare with tobiko caviar, wasabi- crème fraiche, coriander seed, and herb oil. It's served on a bed of avocado which added a sumptuous creaminess that complemented the freshness of the tartare. I didn't really notice the coriander seed, but perhaps that's because I was pleasantly distracted by the tobiko which added a pleasant pops of brine.

Another appetizer I enjoyed was the seared fresh foie gras with pumpkin pot de crème , pistachio, red onion marmalade. I wasn't quite sure how the foie gras and pumpkin pot de creme would taste together. But you know what... it works. Really well. The sweet flavor and creaminess of the pumpkin melded with the hearty, rich goodness of the foie gras. A spoonful of this stuff would help ANY medicine go down.

For entrees, I tasted a bit of the grilled Sonoma lamb chop with satsuma yam, haricot vert,
wasabi-port sauce. I also tried the pan roasted Sonoma duck breast with spinach,
mascarpone-mustard, and dried chutney. Both were quite good, but my favorite entree was...

The tender loin of Kobe beef with pommes frites and perigueux. I asked for it medium rare, and it came cooked to perfection. There is something very special about the taste and texture of Kobe beef.

Of the desserts we tried, I especially enjoyed the black sesame blancmange’ with pineapple salsa and coconut milk reduction. This reminded me of a nutty pannacotta.

One last recommendation, check out the bathroom. They've got one of the most high-tech toilets I've ever seen.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Crab" Casserole

It has been a super busy time of year for me at work so I haven't had the chance to cook (or even blog) very much over the past couple of weeks. But I'm hoping to share some exciting posts in the next couple of days on some of my recent culinary adventures.

The recipe below was a bit of a culinary experiment. I had some imitation crab meat that I had bought on sale at the local supermarket. I needed to use it up before the expiration date so after thumbing through a few of my cookbooks, I whipped up this experimental recipe. It's basically a tuna casserole with imitation crab substituting for the tuna. I added the furukake (dried seaweed seasoning) in order to up the flavor quotient since imitation crab meat tends to be much less flavorful than tuna.


1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
8oz imitation crab meat, flaked
1 cup frozen peas
8 oz penne, cooked a bit firmer than al dente
1 teaspoon butter, room temperature
2 teasppons furukake
2 tablespoons bread crumbs

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) In a large bowl, mix together the soup,milk, crab meat, peas, penne, and furukake.

3) Place the butter in a 9x9 casserole dish and spread around the bottom and sides of the dish.

4) Pour the crab mixture into the buttered casserole dish.

5) Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top.

6) Bake for 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Makes 4-6 servings.