Red beans and ice

Honolulu is not an ice cream town. San Francisco, despite summer days being a full 30 degrees cooler than our average day, seems to open a new ice cream parlor every season, exploring flavors from salted caramel to secret breakfast (cornflakes and bourbon). Honolulu, on the other hand, has been losing ice cream shops: Dave’s Hawaiian Ice Cream on Kapahulu, Ben and Jerry’s near Ward. Gelato, ice cream’s Italian cousin, hasn’t fared any better–both Mondo Gelato and A Latta Gelata closed in the last year. Bubbies appears to be the exception, filled daily with people having mochi ice cream and the occasional Multiple Orgasm (ice cream pie).

I have a few theories on why we can’t seem to sustain an ice cream parlor–maybe it’s the lactose-intolerant Asian population, maybe it’s the high costs of starting an ice cream business. But the epiphany came recently on a particularly hot day when my car’s steering wheel melted my fingerprints off and I ducked into City Café for shave ice relief. The effect of a mouthful of frozen shaved water was instantaneous; a trip to Alaska or a walk-in freezer was no longer necessary. And I realized: ice cream is like a swimming pool in Hawaii, a luxury item where there are cheaper and more effective options (shave ice and the beach, for example). We’ll probably always want ice cream with our dessert at a fancy restaurant, just like we want a hotel with a pool. But for everyday refreshment, shave ice is perfection. And so while San Franciscans debate the merits of ice cream shops like Bi-Rite, Humphry Slocombe and Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, we will argue over who has the softest, finest ice–Matsumoto or Waiola and who has the most interesting flavors–Shimazu, the clear winner with red velvet, crème brulee and durian.

Matsumoto, Waiola, and Shimazu are the classics, the Hawaii guidebook musts, the ones every local knows about. But lately, I’ve turned to the Asian takes on the frozen water theme–Taiwanese, Korean, Filipino, Japanese–which offer more than just syrup and ice.

Read more about City Cafe, Ireh, Max’s of Manila, Ailana, Your Kitchen shave ice here:

Save room! Dessert…

Desserts can excite or they can soothe. Most sweets in Honolulu tend toward the latter; as with breakfast foods, cooks and diners alike seem to take less risks when it comes to the last course and prefer the familiar, the comforting. And indeed, sometimes there’s no better finish to a meal than a perfect crème brulee, an oozing molten chocolate cake, a panna cotta that just melts on the tongue. Still, a few pastry chefs around town don’t leave the tinkering to the savory plates. Here, we showcase some Honolulu’s desserts, from shops to restaurants, from homespun to unexpected, and all sublime.

Read the rest here: Desserts

Cake walk

cakeCake doesn’t seem to be in vogue these days. Recent wedding articles would have you believe that all the cool couples have replaced stodgy tiers of wedding cake with hipper pies, cookies and chocolate fountains. Trendier these days are cupcakes–cake’s cuter, younger sister that captures the sweet tooth of the food paparazzi and elicits girlie squeals usually reserved for Justin Timberlake. A cursory glance at the upscale menus around town yields pavlovas, panna cottas and soufflés, as if a dessert with something as simple as “cake” is a bit too…Betty Crocker.

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Mochi and Family at Two Ladies Kitchen

mochi2Two Ladies Kitchen is a misnomer. It’s more like a ten lady church social, with women spanning three generations gossiping in the center of the room, while the more reticent, outnumbered men hug the edges. But as they talk and laugh, their hands are shaping hundreds of the soft mochi that neighbor island visitors love to bring back as omiyage for friends and family at home.

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