Play It Up With Pesto!

Columns Ono, You Know

March 24, 2013

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Rachel Breit

Mention that one glorious word, pesto, and my mouth already begins to water. Perhaps, I have an affinity for this special sauce as I am part Italian, but there’s just something about this green stuff that’s just so saucy!

Douse pesto on top of everything and it makes for one stellar meal. Pasta, steaks, sandwiches, you name it — when paired with pesto, ordinary fare is elevated to a whole new level. So, what is it about this Italian condiment that makes it so special? Well, pesto is a sauce that originated in Genoa in Northern Italy, and its name is affiliated with the Geonese word pesta, which means to pound or to crush, referring to the original method of preparation. Today, pesto is ground, and traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil and pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano and Fiore Sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk), but no matter if it’s ground or pounded, pesto does wonders.

This week, I visited the following Ono, You Know establishments for their take on pesto, and while there are many variations out there, one thing is certain, this beautiful basil creation always plays to superb taste.

Good to Grill

Perfectly charred meats and seafood entice me at Good to Grill, where the chefs make magic, thanks to a kiawe-wood grill and an open kitchen.

“What we have here is upscale food at reasonable prices,” says director of restaurant operations Patrick Comer.

And while the plate lunches are top-notch, so are the pizzas, pastas, sandwiches and salads, not to mention the variety of ingredients that accent every dish. Drum roll, please, for pesto!

If you love pasta, which I absolutely do, you’ll fall hard for the restaurant’s Cajun Salmon Pasta ($11.99), which features a bed of linguine topped with a pesto sauce — immaculate in every sense of the word.

“Our pesto sauce is infused with macadamia nuts. Pine nuts are usually found in traditional pesto. The basil we use in the pesto also is local,” says Jesse Nicholson, general manager of Good to Grill.

Thoroughly delicious, the pesto packs a punch. Though some might say pesto is an acquired taste, the blending of crushed garlic, fresh basil, macadamia nuts and olive oil, to name a few, can bring a fortified amount of flavor to any dish.

A favorite of local boy and professional football player Chad Owens, Cajun Salmon Pasta is finished off with a slab of Cajun-style salmon, flavored with the most zesty of spices and two pieces of garlic bread.

“Good” is an understatement at Good to Grill.

Good to Grill
Safeway Center Kapahulu
888 Kapahulu Ave.
734-7345

Fendu Boulangerie

Fendu Boulangerie’s recipe for success centers around owner and chef Niel Koep’s raw talent, skill and an eternal passion for the craft. Located in Manoa Marketplace, Fendu Boulangerie is the No. 1 spot for baked goods, pastries, breads, desserts, sandwiches, pizzas and paninis. And it’s no surprise that Koep is pesto savvy, as he incorporates this must-have ingredient into the eatery’s Fendu Breakfast Panini ($7.50) and Basil Pesto Chicken Panini ($8.50) — both highly sought-after items.

According to Koep, Fendu Breakfast Panini is a winning combination of eggs, basil pesto, shallots, fresh mozzarella cheese and morsels of Proscuitto de Parma ham. Then, Basil Pesto Chicken Panini ($8.50) encompasses chicken tenderloins sauteed with Hawaiian salt and black pepper, grilled on rustic bread with bacon, mayonnaise, tomato, shallots and goat cheese.

“The pesto consists of bits of garlic, macadamia nut, fresh basil, Hawaiian salt, Parmesan Reggiano cheese and olive oil,” Koep explains, adding that the basil is local.

With one bite, you’ll notice a burst of fresh basil flavor that plays into the panini just right.

Fendu Boulangerie
Manoa Marketplace
2752 Woodlawn Drive, #5119
988-4310

Plumeria Beach House

Plumeria Beach House's Baked Caesar Salad ($19). Photo: Leah Friel

Plumeria Beach House’s Baked Caesar Salad ($19). Photo: Leah Friel

Pamper your palate with a dining adventure unlike any you’ve ever experienced before. Kahala Hotel & Resort’s Plumeria Beach House is a tranquil paradise amid an upscale, yet casual, open-air atmosphere. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, guests may choose from indoor and outdoor seating, while soaking in an unparalleled view and service with aloha.

Known for its variety of buffets, such as its brunch buffet and curry buffets, Plumeria Beach House also presents an expanded a la carte menu, which features island-inspired creations, such as Baked Caesar Salad. The name alone suggests a simple salad for those with small appetites. But don’t be so quick to judge. Priced at $19, Baked Caesar Salad is not your ordinary Caesar, because placed atop a plate of fresh greens are grilled shrimp and scallops tossed with a macadamia pesto and dressing.

I’ve devoured my fair share of Caesar salads throughout my lifetime, but none like this — the pesto is what really sets it apart, as it brings a rich and hearty taste and texture to the dish that wins me over bite after bite.

Still in the mood for pesto? How about digging into a burger that’s good for you? Plumeria Beach House’s Veggie Lovers Garden Burger ($18) is a feast topped with grilled portobello mushroom, melted Swiss cheese, ‘Nalo greens, balsamic dressing, Kula tomato and pesto tomato paired with a tempting side of smoked paprika seasoned fries.

Plumeria Beach House
Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Ave.
739-8760