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Sunday, March 29, 2015

KTA Super Stores makes fresh poke varieties in Hilo, Hawaii

KTA Super Stores have been locally owned and operated since 1916 on the Big Island of Hawaii. I have a ton of childhood memories at this supermarket in my hometown of Hilo, HI. After my family moved to the mainland, my grandpa was always excited to see his grandchildren over the summer. My grandpa would make a trip to KTA to pick up a carton of Meadow Gold Guava Juice and Miko Pupu Rockets. These items would be waiting for me in the refrigerator after he picked us up from the airport. As we grew older, we made our own trips to KTA to stock up on our local favorites from Portuguese sausage, Punalu’u breads, bento, and poke. Put on a pot of sticky rice before you go to the market so you can start chowing down when you get home.

KTA has a large selection of different pokes to choose from and are sold by the pound. The base flavoring is usually shoyu (soy sauce), sesame seed oil, and Hawaiian salt. Here are some of our favorites:

Hokki Gai (surf clam) Poke is chunked clam mixed with sesame seeds, ogo (seaweed), green onions. The clams are so sweet and slightly briny. The ogo adds a slight crunchy texture. The green onion adds a refreshing flavor. Rating: 5/5

Marlin Poke is chunked swordfish mixed with ogo, minced garlic, sesame, and chili pepper flakes. Swordfish is a meaty fish with an assertive flavor. The garlic and chili pepper tame it down to bring sweetness out of the fish. The ogo adds a slightly briny flavor to tie it all together. Rating: 4/5

Spicy Tuna Poke is chunked tuna mixed with tobiko (fish roe), green onion, and diced onion in a spicy mayo. Similar to what you would find in a spicy tuna roll in a sushi bar. The difference is that this is chunked rather than minced so texturally you’ll have the soft tuna chunks and the crisp, pungent diced onion. The tobiko bursts in your mouth with sweet briny goodness. Rating: 5/5

Tako Poke is tako (octopus) mixed with ogo, minced garlic, and chili pepper flakes. The tako is sliced and acts like a sponge, absorbing all of the flavors, yet retaining the sweet tako flavor. The ogo’s slightly crunchy texture contrasts nicely with the tender tako. Rating: 4.5/5

Wakame Salad is a good side dish to poke or to put your poke on instead of rice. KTA seasons it perfectly with a balance of sweet, sour, and salty flavors. You have the natural briny flavor from the seaweed itself and then the sweet sour flavor of rice vinegar. I could eat a whole plate of this! Rating: 5/5

If you’re looking for quick eats, KTA has an abundance of choices. Poke No Ka Oi!

For more information:
50 E Puainako St
Hilo, HI 96720
Hours: Daily from 5:30am to 12:00am

Johnny Rebs’ transports down-home Southern cuisine to Orange, California

Johnny Rebs’ has been one of my top restaurant stops since the mid-1990s. I found them in the Entertainment Book and have been a fan ever since. Their first restaurant opened in 1984 and have three locations in Orange, Bellflower, and Long Beach. The Johnny Rebs’ in Orange looks like a house in the Southern back country with white picket fence and rusted aluminum roof. The interior has wood floors, country-style booths and tables, and peanut shells littering the floor. One thing that will put a smile on your face is the chickens “singing” in the bathroom. It’s all a part of the ambiance that makes this place great.

Here are some items that you might like to try:

Country Fried Steak Breakfast Platter is smothered in gravy and served with two eggs, home baked biscuit or toast, and a choice of country potatoes, hot buttery grits, or tomato slices. The country fried steak has a crispy batter with tender cubed steak inside. The gravy is slightly creamy and peppery. The eggs are cooked to order, over easy in this case, and the yolk flavor works well with the steak. The cheese grits are cooked to perfection. You can tell lots of love went into these grits. The buttermilk biscuit is definitely homemade with a crispy outer crust and fluffy inside. Rating: 5/5

Catfish & Eggs Breakfast Platter is catfish Southern fried in cornmeal or blackened and served with two eggs, home baked biscuit or toast, and a choice of country potatoes, hot buttery grits, or tomato slices. The catfish, southern fried, is crispy on the outside with light cornmeal breading and succulent on the inside. It’s the best fried catfish I’ve ever had! Tartar sauce is served on the side, but you probably won’t need it. The catfish has an umami flavor to it that is addictive on its own. The buttery grits are creamy and topped with whipped butter. Rating: 5/5

Smoked Bacon Breakfast Platter is smoked bacon with two eggs, home baked biscuit or toast, and a choice of country potatoes, hot buttery grits, or tomato slices. The bacon is smoky, salty, and meaty with the perfect crispness. The eggs, scrambled in this case, are fluffy and delicious. If you are steering toward low carb, cottage cheese is a good side option. Rating: 5/5

Red Velvet Country Flapjacks (not on the current menu, but look for it as a special) are served with butter and maple syrup. If you love red velvet cake, you’ll love these flapjacks. They are fluffy and spongy. They are slightly sweet and have the red velvet cake flavor. The butter and maple syrup add creaminess and candy-like sweetness to the mix like a light frosting flavor. Rating: 4.5/5

Blueberry Country Flapjacks are served with butter and maple syrup. I had these in honor of National Blueberry Pancake Day and they really hit the spot. The flapjacks are fluffy like buttermilk clouds. The blueberries are huge and pop with juiciness. Rating: 5/5

Smoked Turkey Sandwich is layered with cranberry aioli, bacon, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, and tomato on grilled sourdough and served with one fixin’ (side). This is one of the best turkey sandwiches around. The turkey is sliced from an actual turkey breast (not processed deli meat) and is juicy and meaty. The cranberry aioli adds a sweetness and reminds you of Thanksgiving. The bacon adds a smoky, salty flavor to balance out the sandwich. Rating: 5/5

Southern Fried Chicken is served with a home-baked biscuit, cornbread, or hush puppies and your choice of two Fixin’s. The chicken takes a while longer than the rest of the entrees so be patient. It’s totally worth the wait. The chicken is perfectly cooked with crispy seasoned outside and juicy tender, flavorful meat on the inside. French fries are shoestring-style and are golden brown and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Ask for a side of ranch for dipping. Rating: 5/5

Catfish is two fillets done southern-fried in cornmeal or blackened and served with a home-baked biscuit, cornbread, or hush puppies and your choice of two Fixin’s. These are still my favorite for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Sometimes, I even order a third fillet to take home. Rating: 5/5

St. Louis Pork Ribs Dinner are served with two fixin’s and choice of bread. The ribs are meaty with a beautiful smoke ring. They are not the juiciest around but are still a good second choice if you are craving barbeque. The Bitty Salad is not so “bitty” at all and Johnny Rebs’ ranch dressing is creamy and tastes like homemade. A great way to get fresh veggies into your meal. Rating: 4/5

Sausage Sampler (not on the current menu, but can be made with the Pork Out option on the menu) is the Cajun, Andouille, and Hot Link sausages atop cheese grits and served with hush puppies. The sausages are grilled to perfection. The outer casing has a nice snap to it and the grill adds smoky flavor. The Cajun sausage is slightly spicy but has a mild flavor. The Andouille sausage is more robust. The Hot Link is spicier than the Cajun and very meaty. The hush puppies are crispy on the outside with a savory cornbread flavor and texture on the inside. This is a lot of food so be prepared to take home a doggie bag. Rating: 4.5/5

Roadhouse Feast (special) serves two people and includes an appetizer of fried green tomatoes, fried okra, and sweet potato fries; entrée of four St. Louis pork ribs, sliced brisket, quarter roast chicken, one hot link, one catfish fillet, two fixin’s, one biscuit, one cornbread, and two hush puppies; and warm peach cobbler a la mode for dessert. This is a good way to sample your way through the menu. The fried green tomatoes are crispy on the outside and sour on the inside. The fried okra are crispy on the outside and soft texture like cooked cactus on the inside. The sweet potato fries are crispy on the outside and sweet on the inside as well. The sliced brisket is sliced almost paper-thin and a little dry. Thicker, meatier slices would be better to hold some of the juices in. BBQ pinto beans are sweet with a thin sauce. It might be better to thicken up the sauce so it sticks to the beans a little better. The peach cobbler is warm and sweet. As the ice cream melts, it adds a creaminess to the peachy sauce and tames the sweetness. Rating: 4/5

Don’t worry if you can’t clean your plate, Johnny Rebs’ won’t tell your mama!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
2940 E Chapman Ave
Orange, CA 92689

Johnny Rebs' Southern Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 27, 2015

Enjoy cruise ship dining at the Champagne Sunday Brunch aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California

If you have ever been on a cruise, the dining choices are endless from culinary artistry to buffets. One way to enjoy without setting sail is aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. The Champagne Sunday Brunch is held every Sunday in the Grand Salon. Full of elegance and spirit, you can close your eyes and imagine guests of yester year wearing their most formal attire, wine glasses clinking, and amazingly elegant dishes they might have served. As you open your eyes, the voices of other brunchers bounce off the walls of the Grand Salon and the aroma of food begins to tantalize your senses.

An attentive server will be around to offer you orange juice and champagne. Mix them together to make your own mimosa. Here is a listing of what you may see while you are perusing the buffet:

  • Carving Station: Prime rib with au jus, carved spiral cut honey baked ham, turkey with gravy
  • Pacific Rim: Hot and sour soup, sesame chicken, Mongolian beef, yakisoba, Asian style ribs, California rolls, spicy tuna rolls, shanghai chicken salad, sunimono
  • Under the Tuscan Sun: Italian wedding soup, gnocchi with sage and brown butter, tortellini carbonara, rigatoni and rapini with hot and sweet sausage, chicken piccata, Caesar salad, caprese salad, antipasto salad with grilled veggies, rustic bread with flavored oils
  • South of the Border: Chicken tortilla soup, chile rellenos, chile verde, chile Colorado, Mexican rice, black beans, huevos rancheros, carne asada and carnitas street tacos, corn and flour tortillas
  • Rise n Shine: Eggs benedict, bacon, sausage links, chicken jalapeno andouille, bangers, scrambled eggs, country potatoes, homemade corned beef hash, danishes, croissants, breads, pancakes, waffles, blintzes
  • Omelet Station: Omelet and eggs prepared to order
  • Market Salad Station: Domestic and imported artisan cheese, imported tuna nicoise salad, frisse with roasted beets and goat cheese, chef crafted cobb salad, spinach salad with cranberries and almonds, seasonal sliced fruit and berries, vanilla scented yogurt, homemade granola, cottage cheese
  • Ocean Bounty: Crab claws, poached cocktail shrimp, ceviche shooters, seared ahi, smoked salmon, whole poached salmon serpentine, fresh shucked oysters
  • Patisserie: Mini filled cupcakes, petite éclairs, white chocolate and mocha cake, California fruit tarts, chocolate raspberry towers, crepes suzettes made to order, mini cookies, macaroons, sundae bar with various toppings

The presentation of the food is immaculate and reminiscent of what you would see on a cruise ship. Ice carving tower displays cold seafood. Smoked salmon is perfectly sliced and arranged on a glass serving platter like artwork. Salmon Serpentine is poached whole and presented with head on as if at a royal feast. Tiered platters displaying perfect seared ahi tuna crusted in black sesame seeds along with Asian infused dishes.  

The Queen Mary’s horn is blowing. All board for a special and historic dining experience at the Champagne Sunday Brunch!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
Champagne Sunday Brunch at the Queen Mary 
1126 Queen Hwy
Long Beach, CA 90802
Book a table (highly recommended)
Hours: Sunday from 9:30am to 2pm

Champagne Sunday Brunch on Urbanspoon