Thursday, May 14, 2015

Flavors of Aloha Cookbook Release Party at Tommy Bahama

Tommy Bahama Island Grille 
854 Avocado 
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Now that we have settled back into our normal routine after all the wedding shenanigans that we had to endure the last year, we both made a vow to eat at home more often. Just this week we ate at home two times, which almost doubles the amount of home cooked meals that we have made since we moved in together a year and a half ago. Yes, we eat out a lot.

It makes sense that we would want to cook more at home now though. Thanks to family and friends, we have all new cooking utensils, a new set of fantastic pots and pans, new dishes, silverware, and new appliances to use. The only thing we were missing was a really great cookbook. Now thanks to the great folks at Tommy Bahama, and world renowned, cookbook author, Rick Rodgers, we are now in possession of a great cookbook, "Flavors of Aloha". If you love the food at Tommy Bahama Island Grille, or the food of Hawaii, then this book is a must for you.

We were recently treated to a few of the 100 recipes that are included in this first in a series of Cooking with Tommy Bahama cookbooks. Many of these recipes are served at one of the thirteen Tommy Bahama restaurants located throughout the country, so you can make some of your restaurant favorites right in your home. Cookbook author, Rick Rodgers uses clear and concise step by step directions that will have novice cooks like myself, basking in the glow of friends and family. The cookbook is also photographed beautifully, and transports you across the Pacific for the short time that you are preparing your meal. Let's take a look at what Tommy Bahama had in store for us on this evening.

As we were ushered to the back patio of the restaurant for cocktails, we were lei'd with beautiful flowers around our neck, and presented with arguably the most iconic cocktail from Hawaii, the Mai Tai. Now with the help of Flavors of Aloha, you can entertain at home with this classic beverage, which can be found on page 167. A little rum, along with other potent potables, and you will be whisked away to that tropical beach of your dreams as you sip this cocktail. Very relaxing.

Probably the first recipe I'm going to tackle out of this cookbook will be this one, the Sweet Maui Onion and Bacon Dip. Way better than those dry packets you get at the supermarket, this dip had a great depth of flavor, which was rounded out by bacon, and that can never be wrong, right? This dip was served with root chips, which were good, but I'm going to go old school and use good old Ruffles potato chips when I make this. I already can't wait to attempt this one.

If you've been to Tommy Bahama Island Grille, and not had their World Famous Coconut Shrimp, you have truly missed out on one of their best items on the menu. A lighter than usual breaded shrimp is served with a sweet papaya-mango chutney, which goes great with the brininess of the shrimp. Great crunch to this one, and then the sweetness of the chutney hits you. This might be the first thing we make using our new deep fryer that we received for our wedding.

Please excuse my poor hand modeling in these shots, but don't let that distract you from this wonderful Ahi Tuna Poke. Poke has definitely become way more mainstream within the last few years, and this was a very good version. There was just enough going on here, so it did not distract from the natural flavor of the ahi. This very fresh cubed tuna was made even more special with the addition of an excellent avocado wasabi cream, which added a nice dynamic to this unique presentation, which was served in a sesame cone.

Here's a different take on your standard wings. These Roasted Korean Chicken Wings don't look like anything you can get at Hooters, and they tasted way better as well. What these wings lacked in spiciness, they made up for in flavor. A nice mix of ginger, garlic, and honey washed over each bite in waves. Very nicely done.

And the hits, just kept on coming. This Coconut and Curry Marinated Pork Satay was absolutely delicious, and hard to resist since I knew we had a full on meal coming our way. Char-grilled and then finished with a very well made peanut sauce. I limited myself to only three of these, but could have made an entire meal of them.

There was a chef demo going on near the back of the patio, which I missed, due to me talking way too much to my food friends. I was lucky enough to get a quick shot of the end result of the demo item, Spam Musubi. A factoid I learned while reading the Flavors of Aloha cookbook is that Hawaiians eat 5 and a half cans of Spam a year on average, many of which are used this way. I'm not much of a Spam lover, but eating it this way was not too bad.

After what seemed like an endless assortment of appetizers, we were ushered into the restaurant for dinner. Here we started with a Green Papaya and Chilled Shrimp Salad. Julienned veggies were tossed with cilantro, peanuts, and fresh lime. After all of those appetizers, I really appreciated the lightness of this salad.

The main course was up next, and much to my delight, it was both fish and red meat, which I always feel is like hitting the lotto. The better of the two on this night was the Kona Coffee Crusted Skirt Steak. Big time flavors on this one. You could actually taste a hint of coffee in this well made rub, and the steak was cooked to a wonderful medium rare. Then the generous serving of steak was topped with heirloom tomato relish, for a great finish. Very tasty. The Ginger Glazed Wild King Salmon was also good, but was a little overshadowed by the steak for me. This salmon also had a lot of things working here, a hoisin sauce, fresh ginger and sesame seeds. The seafood lovers around us were pretty content with this presentation.

Side items in the Flavors of Aloha cookbook are definitely stars in their own right. We had four of them on this night. The one that was the most buzzed about was the Wasabi and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. These had that special wasabi flavor, but without that burn a hole in your stomach heat you would expect from wasabi. I'm always partial to mushrooms, and these Drunken Mushrooms were on point. Made drunken by the addition of sake, I counted at least three different kinds of mushrooms here, but there could have been more. The Chili and Lemon Broccolini added a big pop of green to our plates, as well as a boost of citrus. I'm no fan of kimchi, so I was a little hesitant to put too much of the Cabbage and Daikon Kimchi on my plate, but from what I had, it was pretty good, but I'm still not a kimchi guy.

Dessert is always special at Tommy Bahama, and one of the main reasons for this is because of their famous Pina Colada Cake. The lightness of this cake and the excellent island flavors are a great finish to any meal, and now that the recipe is included in the Flavors of Aloha Cookbook, you can enjoy this cake at home whenever you want. Which may get me in some trouble. Vanilla cake, with dark rum, diced pineapple, white chocolate mousse, and toasted coconut will even have coconut haters liking this cake. A wonderful end to our evening at Tommy Bahama.

When we left Tommy Bahama we were presented with the Flavors of Aloha Cookbook, and I have to say that I am pretty impressed, and more importantly, inspired to use this cookbook. It is written very well, not only with the directions, but with little tidbits about Hawaii, and the food from there. No, we will not stop going out to restaurants, like Tommy Bahama Island Grille, but since we have an all new kitchen, we will definitely make use of this cookbook with all of these great recipes.

We would like to thank everyone that made this night possible for us. First we would like to thank everyone at Tommy Bahama for hosting such a great event. It was a pleasure meeting Rob Goldberg, Executive Vice President of Tommy Bahama, and getting a chance to learn the process of how the cookbook came about, and talk a little sports with him as well. We also would like to thank Director of Culinary Operations at Tommy Bahama, Don Donley and his team in the kitchen, who brought all of these wonderful recipes to life on our plates. Great work guys. Lastly, we definitely have to thank the author of Flavors of Aloha, the wonderful Rick Rodgers, who without him, we would not all be here on this night. He's worked on, and authored way too many cookbooks to mention here, he's a much in demand teacher of cooking classes, been featured on many TV shows, and was such a great guy, that he didn't mind answering annoying questions from a restaurant blogger from Orange County. Thanks for everything Rick.

If you would like to get your hands on the Flavors of Aloha cookbook, you can buy it by following this link,

Also, do not forget to think about heading to Tommy Bahama Island Grille for some great food. More information can be found here:

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