Friday, February 29, 2008

Ono Kaukau

Utah has a pretty strong connection to the Islands, to Hawaii in particular. It seems like everyone you meet there (whether they're LDS or not) has an auntie who lives in West Valley City. As a result of this, Hawaiian places here in Utah have come and gone, particularly in strip malls, where rents are relatively cheap.

Opening a restaurant has been an important part of the immigrant experience in this country, but I've noticed that if you want to try out one of these places, you have to be quick, because many are gone pretty quickly. (A good example is Tiki’s Island Eats, which I happened to visit for lunch before it disappeared. I think it's now a Thai restaurant.)

Here's the real Hawaiian experience. Last summer I was on a long bike ride with the Scouts from our troop. On a Saturday afternoon, we were riding on Geneva Road down by the Provo boat harbor and road past a place where a family had set up a grill and was selling "plate lunches" in their own driveway. (I didn't have time to stop, so I'll have to see if I can track them down this summer.)

What is a plate lunch? It's a traditional Hawaiian take-away lunch that includes some kind of meat, a couple of scoops of rice, and a scoop of either macaroni salad or potato salad. These were historically prepared for workers in the field. In Hawaii these are often served out of a little shack with a couple of picnic tables out in front (painted white). Made to travel, they are usually served in a styrofoam clamshell container.

In addition to someone's driveway, Provo offers a few other options. The Aloha Grill is a relatively new Hawaiian place located in the huge retail area on the Southwest corner of State Street and University Avenue in Orem. It's in the location of the former Durango Grill (home of the "burango" and some pretty good chicken tortilla soup). This is a local place where they offer traditional Hawaiian plate lunches. There are handwritten signs taped to the walls ("soda" or "restrooms" with arrows making sure you don't confuse the two). They kept the original Mexican decor and just added some pan-Asian/pacific island tchotchkes. The food was OK, not great, but it did come served on a banana leaf, and the people working there were friendly. But I was surprised to see that kalua pork was an off-menu item. We had kalua pork with cabbage and some deep fried Mahi Mahi (with two "shrimps"). Their menu offered several other barbecue selections along with saimin, a Hawaiian variation on ramen.

The Bamboo Hut in Provo has a pretty loyal following, but my favorite is L&L. Although this is a chain, it's a Hawaiian chain, found throughout the islands (at 52 locations). And the older L&L restaurants offer some local variety. This is where you'll find the real deal. (If you're visiting the temple or BYU-H in Laie, make sure you stop off at the L&L.) In addition to plate lunches, you'll find laulau, BBQ short ribs, loco moco, chicken katsu (one of my favs), saimin, and spam musubi (a Hawaiian variation on sushi). For dessert you can get malasadas, the Portuguese-style doughnuts that are usually sold out of vans or trailers. For those without a sense of adventure, they have hamburgers.

Want to have your own luau? Bamboo Hut and L&L offer catering, and you can also order items from BYU catering's "islander buffet": kalua pork, shoyu chicken, long rice, sweet and sour chicken, lomi lomi salmon, and guava sheet cake. Now that's ono kau kau ("oh no, cow cow," which means "delicious food").

We've also learned that you don't need an imu (underground oven) to make kalua pork at home. Just buy a couple of pork shoulders, add lots of salt and some liquid smoke and wrap these in foil. Stick them in a roaster oven for several hours, pull the meat, and add more liquid smoke and sea salt (as needed, to taste). Eat some for dinner and put the rest in the fridge or freezer. This is a good use of your turkey roaster after Thanksgiving.

Maybe this summer I'll start selling it out of my driveway.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I first tried herbal tea on my mission to Denmark. Once they let you in the door (which wasn't very often), the Danes were very hospitable, but it was difficult for them to find something to serve us. "Would you like a cup of coffee? A beer? Some tea?" The easiest answer was to suggest herb tea.

I'm not sure what the first herbal blend was that I tasted, but I thought it tasted like weeds. Then I got to where I really liked herb tea--particularly peppermint tea. (I used to eat that Ricola granulated tea right out of the can.)

Recently, I've been turned on to rooibos (roy-boss), or African "red tea." I first learned about rooibos by reading the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. The main character, Mma Precious Ramotswe, prefers the native African red tea, or "bush tea," to the imported green or black tea. Red tea is naturally caffeine free and high in antioxidants. Those who know tell me that it preserves some of the qualities of regular tea. As a result it's occasionally used as a substitute for tea or even coffee. (You can buy an "Earl Grey" variety, which is red tea with oil of bergamot, an essential oil extracted from the bergamot orange.)

My kids were a little disturbed when they saw me mixing up a cup of rooibos. "Dad," they asked, "I thought you weren't supposed to drink tea." This led to a lengthy discussion about what is really "tea" and what the Word of Wisdom means by "hot drinks." They were finally satisfied when I pointed out that just like "rootbeer" doesn't really have beer, not everything that is called "tea" is really tea. (In the world of French cooking, an herb tea is technically a "tisane," a word describing any herbal infusion.)

Red tea will taste best if you let it steep for a longer time than you would regular herb tea. Pour boiling water on the tea bag and let it sit for at least five minutes until it is a dark, rich red. I sweeten mine with sugar or honey. In Africa, milk is often mixed into the tea. Red tea also makes a good iced tea.

There are a few retail varieties of rooibos. Republic of Tea (which I haven't tried) offers several flavor blends. Kalahari offers a pure red tea along with several blends, including the "Africa Grey." You can also find varieties from Celestial Seasonings, Tazo, Lipton, and Twinings (which is my favorite). But nothing from Bigelow that I can find.

If you're going to drink herbal teas, you need to be a careful reader of labels because sometimes herb teas have regular tea blended in. I avoid green tea, black tea, and white tea (oolong). Although church members drink it in Argentina, I would also avoid yerba mate. This isn't tea, but it's got pretty strong stimulants (as does guarana).

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


If Jared Fogle had eaten two meals a day at Gandolfo's instead of at Subway, he wouldn't have lost all that weight, that's for sure.

Gandolfo's is a Provo original with authentic New York roots. The founder of the chain, Craig Gandolph, got started with a deli in New York, but after he moved to Provo, he opened the original Gandolfo's in 1989. Gandolfo's now has stores throughout the West.
Subway began as Pete's Super Submarines in Bridgeport Connecticut. It is now the third largest fast food chain in the world.

Both stores offer a New York theme, but Gandolfo's feels more like a New York deli. (My favorite NY deli is the famous Carnegie Deli--right by Carnegie Hall--where they offer ridiculously huge sandwiches and cheescake. Can't make it to New York? You can now find a Carnegie Deli at The Mirage in Las Vegas. But as the name of the casino indicates, it's not the same.) Gandolfo's also offers a wider selection than Subway does. They have good pastrami and corned beef, a variety of hot and cold subs, and authentic Nathan's hotdogs, both in the original coney dog style and a "second city" (Chicago) style.
Subway is probably healthier if you get the low fat meat and forego the mayo, but looking for a New York experience close to home? Skip the subway.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Danishes at Flour Girls and Dough Boys

Most "Danishes" bear little resemble to the pastry (wienerbrød) that I came to know and love on my mission in Denmark (I ate it every day--and gained about 40 pounds). Most Danish pastries are just bread with filling and a glaze. As a general rule, anything that calls itself "a Danish" isn't.) A true Danish pastry has flaky layers, like a croissant. In technical terms, Danish pastry is made from a "laminated dough." A laminated dough is created by alternating thinly rolled dough with thin slabs of butter. This type of preparation is common to croissants, brioche, Danish pastry, and baklava (which may be the ultimate source of this family of pastries). Most bakeries just don't take the time to do it right.

I've only found a few places outside of Denmark that have true Danish pastries: Larsen Brothers Danish bakery in Seattle, bakeries in Solvang, CA, a place we visited in Elk Horn, IA, and a few really nice bakeries in New York. Basically, where you find large concentrations of Danes, you typically find good Danish pastry. (Some day I need to try O & H bakery in Racine, WI. I've also heard good things about Andersen's in Santa Barbara.) The Danes claim that the pastry requires a certain technique, but they also claim that there is something about the Danish climate--the humidity, the altitude, the latitude. (In a similar way, New Yorkers claim that the secret to their pizza dough is New York's famous water--and the coal-fired ovens.) Seattle has the fortunate combination of good climate and a large concentration of Danes.

This is a roundabout way of saying that on the way from getting my hair cut to gassing up the car, I stopped off at Flour Girls & Dough Boys in American Fork to try their "baked from scratch" Danish. I saw these last time I was in, but only after I had already bought a brownie. Although the dough wasn't quite as flaky as the best I have had, their Danish pastry is certainly a cut above most and has the layers you would expect to find in a laminated dough. If you can't make it to one of the other places on the list, then give FGs&DBs a try. They obviously have the skills (Those chocolate croissants looked pretty good, and they use a similar technique.) They just need a more authentic Danish recipe (and perhaps a more conducive climate).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pirate O's

Every few months or so, AnneMarie and I make a trip up to Pirate O's gourmet food store in Draper. Pirate O's is a Utah original but should remind some of Trader Joe's. I like Pirate O's a lot better because it seems a bit more eclectic. Wonder where to go to get some squid ink pasta? Running low on pickled walnuts? Need some imported stollen for Weihnachten? Got the jones for some Jones Fufu Berry soda? Down to your last can of treacle? Looking for some single origin chocolates? Then Pirate O's is the place.
Here is a list of what we bought:
  • Dutch gouda cheese (all cheese was 30% off)
  • Danish havarti cheese
  • Jacob's Cream Crackers from England (You'll recognize the packaging if you're a fan of Wallace and Gromit.)
  • Haribo gummi bears (Germany)
  • Haribo "happy cola" gummi cola bottles
  • Chocolove raspberries and dark chocolate
  • Twinnings Rooibos (red tea)
  • Jones Fufu Berry carbonated candy
We could have bought more. I was eyeing the Sprecher's cream soda (bottled in Wisconsin), we passed on the Leibniz Butter Biscuits (Germany) because we still have some in the cupboard. We searched in vain for dark chocolate HobNobs. (They only had the milk chocolate.)

Salt Lake has some other great food stores:
  • Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli (downtown SLC)
  • Jade Market (downtown SLC)
  • The Store (Sandy)
  • Emigration Market (SLC)
  • Dan's Foods (Foothill Blvd and Park City)
  • Good Earth (also in American Fork and Orem)
In Utah County, check out Many Lands Market.

Wendy's Premium Fish Sandwich

Wendy's is probably my favorite of all the fast food chains, primarily because it offers some variety. (I like the salads. Sometimes I like the chili and potato. Occasionally, I get a hamburger or chicken sandwich.) Recently, we took the family there to cash in some Christmas gift cards. (My oldest son loves Wendy's. It's the hangout place for him and his friends--a place where everyone knows your name.)

This time I tried a new menu item, the premium fish sandwich. "It's all cod!" they promise. Sure enough, it's a complete fillet of Northern Pacific cod breaded in panko (Japanese bread crumbs). (It's hard to imagine Dave Thomas coming up with a menu item that uses panko. I'm guessing this would be a little too much Food Network for him. He was a traditional burger and fries kind of guy. I guess Wendy's is trying to go upscale.) The cod is a delicious whitefish, comparable to a halibut. It tasted pretty good, although not as good as the fish and chips combo over at JCW's. But it was pretty small for what you had to pay.

But here's the real shocker. I guess I was under the impression that the fish sandwich would be healthier than the Wendy's single hamburger, but it has more calories (450 to 430) with less weight (177 grams to 226 grams). The fish sandwich also has more fat (22 grams to 20 grams), although less saturated fat. It has less protein, more carbohydrates, and fewer vitamins. It does have less cholesterol, but more sodium. The hamburger even has more fiber.

I appreciate Wendy's efforts to make their menu a little more gourmet, but if you're going to go to Wendy's, go Dave's way and get the hamburger. You get more for your money--and it's actually a little healthier.

Every wonder why Wendy's hamburgers are square? My oldest son slaved away in the Wendy's "burger mine" last year. According to him, Dave Thomas used to say, "Wendy's doesn't cut corners."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Old Spaghetti Factory is Slipping

The Old Spaghetti Factory has been a favorite with our family over the years. We all have our favorites, although everyone seems to like the mizithra brown butter pasta. We went tonight to the University Mall OSF to celebrate our tax refund and were disappointed with a few details.
  • First, we ordered the tapenade as an appetizer which used to come with toast points. Now it comes from some kind of flat bread (a little like a big saltine cracker with no salt) which is OK as a delivery device, but not for the price you pay. Also, there was less of the tapenade itself, and, no boiled egg on top.
  • Second, I like to get the meatloaf at dinner, but they've changed the recipe. The meatloaf used to have a cheese and Italian sausage filling. I couldn't really taste the sun-dried tomatoes either. Now it's just uniform meatloaf. I'll have to figure out how to make my own.
  • Third, my daughter got spumoni with no pistachio. (The OSF spumoni has chocolate, cherry, and pistachio--the real "Neapolitan" ice cream.) I realize you can't always get equal amounts of each, but you hope for a mixture.
  • Fourth, the top layer of cheese on the lasagna was a little hard--as if it had sat too long.
  • Fifth, no mints. They used to have these great chocolate/spearmint starlight mints.
I'm sure we'll go back again because it's one of the few places we can all agree on, but I won't be ordering the meatloaf any more.

Chocolate-covered Cinnamon Bears at the BYU Candy Counter

Those visiting BYU from other universities are often surprised to see a candy counter at the heart of our campus bookstore. Other university bookstores typically sell books, sweatshirts, mugs, and other college paraphernalia. Not only does BYU have a candy counter, but it's in the center of the bookstore.

And since yesterday was Valentine's Day, the place was hopping with men of various ages desperate to find something that would meet the high expectations of Valentine's Day. (A student in one of my classes yesterday asked all the men in the class what men want for Valentine's Day. There was pretty universal agreement that men don't care what they get. Anything she got for a guy would be great--because it would be coming from her. Well, anything but flowers.)

For the students in my afternoon class, I picked up a couple of bags of chocolate-covered cinnamon bears--a Bookstore tradition. The chocolate coating is what you might call "grocery store chocolate," but I still find these strangely addicting. And it's a tradition. (They had a whole table full of them, which I take as a sign that they're a big hit. But while writing this, it occurs to me that you could see the table full on Valentine's Day afternoon as a sign that they're not.)

I guess I shouldn't assume that everyone likes these because I like these. (I assume that everyone loves Neapolitan ice cream--three flavors in one!--but I have learned that that isn't the case.) I sent the bag around the room, and it came back mostly full. I guess students are more discerning than I thought. Eventually, most of the first bag disappeared with a few students (all guys, now that I think about it) declaring, "These are great!" New converts.

So I brought the second bag home. I showed it to family, and AnneMarie said something like "ewwww" and then "how much did you pay for those?" Apparently, just as I am the only one who likes Neapolitan ice cream, I am also the only one who likes chocolate-covered cinnamon bears. At least Kristan and her friends get it.

We've got a get-together this week with the extended Hatch family. Maybe some of my siblings and their kids will help me polish them off.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pancake Tuesday

Last night we took the family to IHOP to celebrate national pancake day. On the Internet, there seems to be some disagreement about when national pancake day should actually be celebrated.
Some sites list September 26. Most sites list Feb 5, 2008. This is Pancake Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday as it is called in England. This is the day before Ash Wednesday, which traditionally marks the first day of Lent. (Yes, this is also Mardi Gras, but the more restrained British and Canadians celebrate by eating pancakes.) The tradition began because people would try to cleanse their homes from all eggs, milk, and fats. The most efficient way to do this was to mix up a batch of "all you can eat" pancakes. In England, this day also involves pancake races, particularly in Olney, in Buckinghamshire, where the pancake racing tradition goes back to 1445.
The date of pancake day changes with the Easter calendar. The US Navy (that's right) has a calculator to figure out when Ash Wednesday/Easter fall in any year. So you can plan your pancakes ahead.

Those keeping a careful eye on the calendar will notice that IHOP celebrated a week late this year. They didn't want to compete with Super Tuesday.

At the NPD celebration at IHOP, you get a free short stack, but we also got a couple of sides of bacon and hash browns. Two kids wanted chocolate milk. We left a tip for the server (based on what we would have paid) and made a donation to the Children's Miracle Network. So our free pancakes cost just a little over $30.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Parker's and JCW's (and Arctic Circle)

I went up to Sundance to do a little skiing recently and decided to stop off at Parker's on the way home. This gives me a chance to compare American Fork's two hamburger institutions: Parker's and JCW's.

A recent article from the Daily Herald breaks down the burger scene valley wide. JCW's came out on top, but there were plenty of good comments for Parker's too.
JCW's always brings in a crowd. They offer a wide variety of hamburgers and other grilled sandwiches. I usually order the All-American burger. AnneMarie usually gets the avacado bacon burger. I also like the pastrami burger and the bacon blue cheese. (Bacon is a pretty common feature here.) The steak sandwich is pretty good, too. The meat they use tastes to me like flank steak. They have good fries (including cheese fries), onion rings, and over-the-top shakes. None of this is health food, but they do offer soup and salad, too. And the two-piece fish and chips (with halibut--the prince of white fish) at least feels a little healthier than a burger.

Parker's Drive-Inn is a more traditional drive-in, reminicient of the old Arctic Circle. This connection is no accident. Parker's used to be an Arctic Circle. The Range Burger is a little like the Arctic Circle Ranch burger. But Parker's has put its own twist on everything. They buy all of their beef locally and mix up their own fry sauce fresh every day. They offer some classics like the lime squeeze and the brown topper (a soft-serve ice cream cone dipped in chocolate sauce, forming a hard chocolate shell). Fans of Artic Circle will recognize all of these as AC specialities. There is definitely an influence there, but Parker's is what Arctic Circle was like 50 years ago before AC turned into a fast-food chain. (Parker's doesn't have a "play place," and the only setting is outside.) Parker's also offers the "stake sandwich," which could answer either of the following questions: "What does a vampire never order at the restaurant?" or "What should we order for the high priests social?" Their burgers are better than their spelling.

If I had to choose one or the other, I would choose JCW's for the hamburgers and shakes. Both have good fries. Parker's might be the place to stop if you just want to pick up a bag of cheeseburgers on the way home from work. Both have loyal followings here in American Fork. With JCW's, Parker's and Chadder's, could we say that American Fork is the burger capitol of Utah Valley?

Monday, February 4, 2008

La Vigna

It's hard to imagine that they would name a restaurant La Vigna (the vineyard), in Utah County, but that the name of the Italian restaurant that was once Ottavio's in American Fork. Charlene Winters hits it right on in her review of this restaurant in the Deseret News--it's hit and miss. Some of the dishes are very good and others disappointing. The Daily Herald offers a similar opinion--fine Italian dining, but not as fine as one would hope.

AnneMarie and I have been there twice, once for lunch and most recently for dessert. At lunch we had the buffet, which included some pretty good Neapolitan-style pizza (cooked over gas, not wood, in their brick oven) and some pasta dishes, which were a mixed bag. For dessert, I had the creme brulee, which I thought was very good. A good creme brulee should have a hard sugar glaze--it should crack when you break it with your spoon--but not be burned. The custard should be creamy and smooth. AnneMarie was looking for something chocolaty (no surprise), something like the Ottavio's chocolate cake. She had a small cake with a creme anglaise topping. (This sounds pretty fancy, but you can create your own pretty quick and easy version with melted premium french vanilla ice cream.) It turned out to be a chocolate sponge cake, which tasted OK, but not for $6. Here's one problem with La Vigna: everything seems pretty expensive for what you get. Even the dishes that taste pretty good seem overpriced. This restaurant is also pretty low on the authenticity scale. Some dishes look authentic Italian, but "Surf and Turf"? Sometimes it's just the name that is authentic. I do like the focaccia at La Vigna.

Based on the crowds, La Vigna seems pretty popular, but so is The Olive Garden--which offers inauthentic Italian food at a much lower price.

La Vigna is close by, so we may end up there again, but for good Italian, we'll probably stick with Ottavio's, Macaroni Grill, and (for inexpensive family dining) The Pizza Factory.