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Going Gaga for Goat Cheese

Columns Ono, You Know

January 5, 2014

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Leah Friel

Happy New Year, Ono readers! It’s that time again when New Year’s resolutions are the most thought consuming, and the ambition and dedication to those resolutions are running high. Whether it is to save money, get fit, lose weight, quit smoking, manage stress or aim to eat healthier, all can be achieved. But the truth is, you have to stick with it — don’t give up! I see it as not so much a “New Year’s resolution,” but rather a lifestyle change.

Last year, my resolutions were aimed at living healthier. I eagerly welcomed fitness and a nutritious diet into my lifestyle. One year later and I’m still going strong with those resolutions, which slowly have redefined themselves as part of who I am.

In 2014, however, my goal is to dig deeper into the realm of healthy foods, whether it be a meal in itself or merely ingredients. So, this week, it didn’t take much for goat cheese to spark my interest.

Interestingly enough, as a cheese fanatic, goat cheese is one that I haven’t nibbled into. And the facts about goat cheese seem quite promising. This particular cheese made with goat’s milk is said to be lower in fat and calories, metabolism-boosting, good for your brain, higher in protein and calcium than cheese comprised of cow’s milk, and goat cheese is believed to be easier to digest. On top of that, it’s a great source for a variety of other nutrients. Take it as you will, but thanks to the following Ono, You Know establishments, I have discovered a liking for goat cheese: It reminds me of a tangy cream cheese — smooth and sophisticated — that can be incorporated into a wide variety of mouthwatering dishes. So, here’s to health, happiness and more amazing food adventures!

HASR Bistro

Escape to HASR Bistro in downtown Honolulu, a country-style European-American bistro that presents its patrons with a top-grade dining experience that won’t break the pocketbook. Whether you prefer to dine indoors in the dining room, outdoors in the courtyard or at the spacious bar area, you’ll be impressed with this food venture. A wine purveyor and restaurateur Terry Kakazu, along with executive chef Rodney Uyehara own and operate the establishment, where diners are tempted with amazing masterpieces, such as Surfing Goat Eggplant Souffle ($12 lunch, $14 dinner). According to Kakazu, this appetizer is highly requested by customers and features a mound of Maui Surfing Goat cheese wrapped delicately in thin-sliced locally sourced eggplant on a bed of tomato coulis.

“The goat cheese is creamy and goes perfectly with the eggplant. It’s baked just right,” she says. “People don’t want us to take this dish off the menu because they like it so much and some order it as an entree for lunch.”

For the finishing touch, melted Gruyere cheese is drizzled over the souffle, then topped with a Parmesan crisp and sprinkled with accents of thyme and basil — just beautiful!

Surfing Goat Eggplant Souffle is a new favorite of mine at HASR Bistro. Go ahead and give it a try, and while you’re at it, tempt your palate with some of the most superior wines from around the world.

HASR Bistro
31 N. Pauahi St.
533-4277

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Alluring charm. That’s what Romano’s Macaroni Grill is all about. Located in Ala Moana Center’s Hookipa Terrace, this family-favorite restaurant attracts diners from across the globe with its scrumptious Italian-American cuisine that has “home-cooked comfort food” written all over it. The atmosphere is inviting, the staff friendly and the fare exudes robust flavors and the freshest ingredients.

While the menu reveals an assortment of pizzas, pastas and more, if you choose to dine family style and treat yourself to an array of items, I highly suggest loading up on Macaroni Grill’s appetizers and tapas (available for lunch and dinner) — two of my most adored being Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Flatbread and Goat Cheese with Peppadew Peppers.

Priced at $16, Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Flatbread is a must! It’s baked to perfection in a brick oven and topped with a layer of creamy goat cheese possessing a slightly tart flavor that distinguishes it from other varieties of cheese. The taste is distinctive, but mild, which allows the toppings to shine through. Copious amounts of mushrooms and caramelized onions, as well as a bit of truffle oil and a dash of herbs intensify the dish.

As for Peppadew Peppers ($7), this delectable dish presents sweet pickled mini-peppers stuffed with goat cheese, herbs and roasted peppers.

“Our Peppadew Peppers are also broiled in our brick oven, creating a nice crust topping and finished off with a balsamic glaze,” explains executive chef Nawai Kekoolani. “This appetizer is one of seven that are offered on our Tapas Two for $14 Menu.”

And, of course, it’s the goat cheese that glamorizes both starters. Chef describes this unique cheese as pristine, because it exudes a distinct musky flavor that magnifies the overall taste of the dish.

Macaroni Grill offers its popular happy hour daily from 3 to 6 p.m., which includes $3 domestic beers, $4 imported and draft beers, and house wines.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill Ala Moana Center, Hookipa Terrace
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
356-8300

Brasserie Du Vin

Despite the fast-paced lifestyle of downtown Honolulu, across from Hawaii Theatre is an oasis where diners can’t help but immerse themselves into a European-dining experience. Tune out background noise of busy traffic on the streets and enter Brasserie Du Vin, where patrons are partaking in a delicious meal in the dining room, enjoying a cocktail or drink of choice at the bar, or relishing the breaths of fresh air on the pet-friendly outdoor patio. The common thread here: Du Vin’s loyal customers have a deep affinity for French-inspired cuisine, including appetizers, soups, salads, a plethora of entrees and, of course, desserts.

For many, the new year signifies a clean slate, and with the over-abundance of decadent fare during the holidays, I want nothing more than a light, refreshing salad. Well, much to my delight, Du Vin’s Beet Salad with Goat Cheese ($12 lunch and dinner, $7 happy hour) is ready to be demolished, but to make the most of this alluring starter, it’s best to take the time to savor every forkful.

According to general manager David Comfort, locally sourced mixed greens are the foundation of the dish, while red and gold beets liven it up with vibrant colors and earthiness. The goat cheese (sourced from Wisconsin) also complements the dish.

“We use Mont Chevre goat cheese, it’s very creamy,” Comfort says, adding that pieces of candied walnuts provide an essence of sweetness and crunch. Finally, the salad is splashed with a zesty strawberry vinaigrette.

The final product is a well-crafted salad, in which the flavors and textures are patron-approved. Better yet, it’s healthy, so eat up!

Brasserie Du Vin
1115 Bethel St.
545-1115