A Year of Change?
Well, the beginning of every year is always filled with change. From simply hanging up that new
calendar you purchased at Borders... whoops, that's change in itself since there is no Borders, to
crowning a new NCAA National Champion in football via the BCS's convoluted ranking system
(I guess if LSU goes undefeated, it's hard to argue against them). Then in February there's a new
NFL Champion (it'll definitely be a Happy New Year when Raider Nation rises to glory again)
and so on and so forth. Of course, once every 4 years signals a possible change in the White
House and this is that year (whether you may like him or not, I'm hoping for continuity since
he is the Mrs' classmate and a native son of the 50th). And of course, once every 144,000 days
or 394.26 years, a Mayan baktun or Mayan Long Count Calendar ends (which occurs on
December 21, 2012) signaling the end of days right?! Actually most Mayan scholars would
simply say December 21, 2012 is the end of baktun 13 which heralds in baktun 14. No end of
days, just another cycle beginning. Since that day in question falls on a Friday, I already warned
the boss that I'll be holding a nice bottle of wine at work... just in case... in case NASA hasn't
discovered that 5 mile wide asteroid hurtling to earth at 5000 miles per hour.
And then of course, there are changes we'd like to initiate or experience or those we want
perpetuated. So here's my humble list for 2012:
Pop Up Restaurants
Since most of you reside in the massive 48 states (notice I didn't phrase it as "greater" since the
50th is just as great), you already may have experienced Pop Up Restaurants. As I mentioned in
an earlier column, these Pop Ups are usually run by up and coming chefs who just don't have
the capital or financial backing to start their own restaurants so they "borrow" space from
established restaurants or established kitchens. What do they offer that established restaurants
don't? For starters, the price point is usually better since they're not encumbered by fixed lease
payments and payroll. And more importantly, they usually offer changing menus and fresher
ideas. Newer interpretations to food preparation and cooking "outside" of the box. Of course
just cooking outside of the box means nothing if the food doesn't ultimately taste good but in
the case of recent Pop Ups in the 50th, great food with a twist and great prices.
I applaud this newer phenomena in the 50th and applaud the owners of established restaurants
who allow these young gun chefs to flourish.
While Farmer's Markets are nothing new in the 50th, there certainly are many more in virtually
every neighborhood on a weekly basis. Just 10 years ago, the most notable market was in the
parking lot of the Kapiolani Community College every Saturday. In fact, it was so popular many
vendors ran out of produce within the first 30 minutes or so. Since vendors weren't allowed to
sell before the 7:30am horn, what they did was allow shoppers to pick out bags of produce and
held them on the side before the horn. Therefore once the horn sounded, many vendor
immediately had 50% of their produce already sold. Now there are markets weekly on the
Windward side, Honolulu and the Leeward side of the island. But why cater to these markets?
Aside from better prices (eliminating the middle man), the produce tends be fresher and in the
case of veggies like tomatoes, riper, sweeter produce. You also help to support your immediate
community as many vendors live in the same area where you hail. And believe me, you won't
have to worry about putting Bird's Eye or Green Giant out of business. Everyone still needs bags
of frozen peas or artichoke hearts in their freezers.
For lack of a better term (or maybe to simply make it sound palatable), I simply mean the
whole animal or most of the animal. When we consume small reef fish, we eat the whole fish.
Not just the pectoral muscle or the tail muscle or dorsal muscle. In fact with salmon we even
eat the skin (salmon skin sushi is one of my favorites). However when we consume terrestrial
animals, we usually only consume the "good" parts. In fact a vast majority of the poor animal
simply goes to pet food or worse yet, fertilizer. But there's good eats in those other "strange"
parts. I mean after all, the poor animal was sacrificed specifically to feed you. The least you
could do is not waste most of its carcass.
These "real" parts of the animal also tests a chef's true talents as they usually require longer
cooking or creative flavoring and preparation. With a filet mignon it's simple - just don't
overcook it! But with tripe it takes hours of cooking to tenderize but once it's there... Mmm,
Okay, for those who say that they consume more than duck breast and legs but also the offals...
like its liver. Foie gras doesn't count plus it's going the way of the dinosaur in the Golden State
in another 6 months. I'm talking about parts like heart and other organ meats like thymus,
pancreas and kidney. Or even tongue - Korean style grilled beef tongue is a favorite or grilled
lambs tongue with roasted beets. I even had smoked duck tongue that tasted like smoked
Shimeji mushrooms. Or even the nether regions starting with the stomach down to the... If
you've had hot dogs or sausages in natural casing, well you've had what's also known as
chitterlings. I don't expect you to start with tataki warthog butt like Tony Bourdain sampled in
Namibia but heart would be a good place to start. It is a muscle after all just like the "good"
parts and Limon Restaurant's Anticuchos de Res would be a good place to start. Or simply
reserve a table at Incanto or Poggio for their interpretation of "real" food.
Changes for the Year
As Mahatma Gandhi said. "Be the change you want to see" so following that quotation I will
patronize my local farmers markets on a regular basis. I will patronize up and coming Pop Up
restaurants in the 50th... even if their preset dinners are only served on Mondays, Tuesdays or
Wednesdays. And I will eat "real"... I actually already do so perhaps I'll even start cooking "real"
(though tripe does need to be simmered outside, far from any windows and downwind).
Or as David Bowie said "Ch, ch, ch, changes... just gonna have to be a different man". Okay
maybe eating offal is a little too different for you. How about working on just number 2? Or it
doesn't even have to be food related. Over the following year just find time to read more, relax
more, enjoy more, eat more... whoops, most New Year resolutions are to eat less. Okay eat
more... fresh fruits and vegetables... that you purchase at farmers markets. And though we can't
control what goes on in Washington or what goes on with management at work or even habits
of the significant other, we can control (and change) our own personal time. So may the Year
of the Dragon bring you health, peace of mind and happiness. Shinmen Akemashite Omedetou