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HALL Cabernet Cookoff Returns for 7th Year!

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We’re excited to be invited back to the HALL Cabernet Cookoff this year. This competition celebrates Bay Area chefs with 100% of ticket sales benefiting Napa Valley charities! Here’s a press release from my friends at HALL with all the details. I hope you can join us this year!:)

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NAPA VALLEY, CA – The HALL Cabernet Cookoff will return for its seventh year on Saturday, April 23. The annual event will feature an impressive lineup of both Napa Valley and San Francisco based Chef Teams vying for a chance to win money for a charity of their choice, by participating in a food and wine pairing challenge. 100% of ticket sales benefit Napa Valley non-profit organizations.

“This event is a sampling of Napa Valley lifestyle at its best,” says Vintner Kathryn Hall. “Guests get to enjoy the most delicious bites from Bay Area restaurants while sipping on our Napa Valley Cabernet. Each year, everyone involved with the Cab Cookoff comes out a winner.”

Chef teams involved create seasonal bites that pair well with HALL’s signature Cabernet Sauvignon and present it to an all-star panel of judges who vote for two Judges’ Awards. Chef teams are also judged by guests in attendance who vote for two People’s Choice Awards. All four awards are announced by Kathryn Hall, who presents checks to the winning chef teams and their selected charities, towards the end of the event.

The 2016 panel judges include celebrity Chef Duff Goldman from Food Network’s Ace of Cakes; TV Personality and host of Check Please Bay Area, Leslie Sbrocco; Wine Enthusiast Critic, Virginie Boone; San Francisco Magazine Wine Director, Ian White; and Michelin-rated Chef, Ken Frank of La Toque.

Additionally, KVON’s 99.3 The Vine and on-air personality “Good Morning, Bob,” will be broadcasting live during the event and feature real time interviews with chef teams, guests and non-profit organizations. Participating chef teams include The Grill at Meadowood, One Market, Harvest Table, The Patriot, Feast Catering, SIFT Desserts, Ca’ Momi, Paula Le Duc Fine Catering, Zola, Brix, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, Kara’s Cupcakes, and more.

WHAT: 7th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff; a food and wine paring challenge with 100% of ticket proceeds supporting local charities

WHO: HALL and WALT Wines

WHEN: Saturday, April 23, 2016 from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: HALL St. Helena – The Great Lawn, 401 St. Helena Hwy. S, St. Helena, CA 94574. For more information call (707) 967-2626.

TICKETS: Early Bunny Ticket: $70.00 (pre-sale ticket ends March 31), General Admission Ticket: $80.00 (March 31 – April 23, 2016), VIP Sky Loft: $125.00 (Access to historic Bergfeld Building, single vineyard Cabernets and small bites from HALL’s in-house Chef team) Tickets Available: www.hallwines.com/cabernetcookoff

The 2015 HALL Cabernet Cookoff drew more than 650 food and wine lovers for a sold-out crowd, and raised $59,000 for local charities. Last year’s winning chef teams included PRESS and selected charity, If Given a Chance, Capital Dime and charity, Food Literacy Center, One Market and charity, Napa Valley Hospice Adult Day Services and The Grill at Meadowood and their charity, Community Resource for Children. Since inception in 2011, the HALL Cabernet Cookoff has raised $250,000 for charities in and around the Bay Area.
For more information, please visit www.hallwines.com/cabernetcookoff or via social channels using #cabernetcookoff.

Product Feature: barkTHINS Snacking Chocolate

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Quite often, food products are sent to me at cavegrrl.com headquarters to get my opinion on them and to share them with you here if I like them. The latest product I tried and happened to LOVE is barkTHINS snacking chocolate.

barkTHINS are made with Fair Trade and non–GMO certified ingredients and are a delectable treat that fit into a healthy/active lifestyle.

The team at barkTHINS sent me four varieties of their snacking chocolate including: Blueberry with Quinoa Crunch, Almond with Sea Salt, Pumpkin with Sea Salt and Coconut with Almonds. All four of these flavors are gluten-friendly (not made in a gluten free facility, but do not have gluten as an ingredient. My fingers are crossed that they will develop a gluten friendly pretzel/dark chocolate barkTHINS.

My favorite barkTHINS is the Pumpkin Seed with Sea Salt! I really enjoy pumpkin seeds and they have a high nutritional value. My favorite dessert (not every night, but a few times a week if we have a lighter dinner) is a few barkTHINS, some nuts or seeds, a few pieces of dried fruit (like pears or figs), and a small piece of hard cheese.

Andy also tried some of the flavors and noted that his favorite thing about the chocolate was that it really was like bark, each piece was a different shape and size. The only bad thing about barkTHINS is that they are so GOOD that you might accidentally eat the entire bag.😉

You can find barkTHINS on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here. Join the community of #barkFANS to share the joy of snacking chocolate with others.

Ready to try the chocolatey goodness that is barkTHINS? You can order online here.

SunBasket Makes Cooking Paleo Meals Easy! Part One

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Today’s post will be several in a series I am doing with a company called SunBasket. They are one of several home-cooked meal kit delivery services that have popped up as of late. I am particularly fond of SunBasket because you can order strictly Paleo meals that are organic and non-GMO. I also love the story behind the company.

Additionally, all meals are developed by top San Francisco chef Justine Kelly (formerly of The Slanted Door) in partnership with Sun Basket’s in-house nutritionist Kaley Todd, ensuring that each dish is balanced, nutritious and delicious.

Also, I am excited to bring this company to your attention because the Paleo diet is something that is only truly sustainable if you 1.) Can cook at least a little or 2.) Can carve out the time to cook at least a little. Andy and I are a little spoiled because we alternate shopping and cooking to churn out Paleo/Primal meals everyday. But, we don’t have kids and have pretty flexible schedules to allow the time to do so.

I am thrilled to help introduce SunBasket because they can take the thinking/guess work out of dinner for three nights a week and even do the shopping for you. The meals come complete with everything you need to make three full meals for two people. The only thing you will have to do is the dishes!

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For my first box, I was sent 3 meals, one of which was Winter Albondigas with Shredded Cabbage. I was pretty impressed with the way everything was labeled and the pre-printed recipe cards that came in the package.

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ingredients
As you can see above, everything is clearly labeled and pre-measured. In most cases, the only prep that has to be done with the meals is to chop up some of the produce.

Vegetables Prep
And chop away I did, as I chopped the onion, carrot, cilantro, cabbage and segmented the lime. The butternut squash used in the meal was already peeled and chopped for me. OK, now that’s easy, because if you have ever cooked a butternut squash, you know what a pain it can be to peel and remove the seeds.

Following the recipe, I sauteéd the vegetables (as you can see below). Meanwhile, I prepared the meatballs that were to go in the soup:

saute vegetables
Meatballs Prep

The meatballs were a blend of ground pork and beef (antibiotic and hormone free) with chopped cilantro, egg, and a provided spice packet. I was able to make 11 pretty decent-sized meatballs from the meat and ingredients given.

finished soup

After simmering and reducing for about 30 minutes, you end up with a delicious meal for two. The soup preparation was so simple, yet the flavor was as if I had spent hours in the kitchen!

Recipe:
Winter albondigas with shredded cabbage

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 4 ounces cabbage
  • 1 lime
  • ¾ pound butternut squash cubes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 6 ounces ground beef
  • 6 ounces ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • Meatball spice blend (oregano-cumin-coriander-garlic)

1. Prep the vegetables
Peel the onion and cut into ½-inch-thick pieces.
Scrub the carrot and cut into ¼-inch-thick half moon slices.
Finely chop the cilantro.
Cut the cabbage into thin strips.

2. Cook the soup
In a sauce pot over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onions, carrots, and squash. Season with salt and pepper and cover, stirring occasionally until the vegetables start to soften, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stirring to coat the vegetables. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the soup slightly thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Make the meatballs
In a mixing bowl, combine the ground beef and pork. Add the egg, spice blend and half of the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well until combined.

Using wet hands, form the meatball mixture into 2-inch diameter balls.
Add the meatballs to the soup. Bring the soup back to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the meatballs are just slightly pink in the center, 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Serve

Cut the lime into wedges. Divide the soup between two bowls and top with the remaining cilantro and cabbage. Serve with lime wedges.

Nutrition per serving:
Calories 710, Protein: 37 g, Total Fat: 44 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 21 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6.5 g, Saturated Fat: 12 g, Cholesterol: 185 mg, Carbohydrates: 43 g, Fiber: 12 g, Added Sugar: 0 g, Sodium: 490 mg

Stay tuned for the next recipe from SunBasket! The best part is that I can keep the recipe cards and buy my own ingredients if I want to make the same recipe again.:)

For more information on ordering SunBasket meals, you can click here. Sign up for SunBasket now and get 30% OFF your first delivery.

You can find SunBasket on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here, Pinterest here and on Instagram here.

Mason Partak Takes the Challenge Cream Cheese Challenge

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A few weeks ago when I interviewed Mason Partak about his Chopped Junior experience and some of his future plans, I asked him to participate in a little something I call the Challenge Cream Cheese Challenge.

See, Challenge Butter (and Cream Cheese) sponsored my cookie exchange last year and sent me coupons for more butter and cream cheese than I could ever possibly use. Of course, the butter coupons I made very good use of and currently have about 15 pounds of butter in my freezer. However, cream cheese is not primal or paleo, so I sent the remainder of my cream cheese coupons to Mason Partak and asked him to come up with a recipe that I could publish on my website.

He gladly accepted the challenge, as he is such a great sport and takes advantage of most opportunities that come his way. I present to you his recipe for the Challenge Cream Cheese Challenge:

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Challenge Cream Cheese Balls

2 pkg Challenge cream cheese
1 med yellow onion
1 sm red onion
1 lg head of garlic
6 sage leaves
2 springs of Rosemary
1 pkg chives
1 C Italian blend grated cheese
1.5 C fresh grated parmesan
1 C chopped or sliced nuts (we used almonds)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Quarter the onions and top the head of garlic. Create a wrap around the garlic with foil so it sits up, it does not have to be closed up. Drizzle the onions and garlic with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until soft. Set aside and let cool. Once cool, squeeze the garlic cloves out of their casings. Isn’t itway fun how they pop right out?

Finely dice the chives and place them in a bowl, set aside. Dice the sage leaves and Rosemary. Once your roast onions and garlic are cool (don’t have to be cold, just not hot), place them in the food processor and pulse until they are almost a paste consistency – not quite though. Add the cream cheese, Italian blend, 1/2C parmesan, sage and rosemary and process unit it is all completely mixed. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. You may need to scrape your food processor bowl and mix again to be sure you don’t have cream cheese lumps. Turn the whole thing out on to a cookie sheet being sure to scrape all the cheesy goodness out of your processor.

Form the cheese into four logs or balls and roll in the chives. When you start to run out of the chives, add the other cup of parmesan and coat with that. Do the same with nuts if you want. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

Serve with a French baguette and crackers, it’s delicious!

Mason says if you have leftovers, it adds a delicious layer of flavor to casseroles. The Partaks have also added it to their white chicken chili, it was so good!

Thanks so much for the recipe, Mason! I will be following up next week at some point with my stuffed sweet potatoes (also featuring Challenge Cream Cheese). You can find Mason Partak online here, on Facebook here and follow him on Twitter here and on Instagram here.

 

Meet Mason Partak, Winner of Chopped Junior!

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Meet Mason Partak! He’s a 12 year-old culinary mastermind from Auburn, California and a winner on Food Network’s Chopped Junior! You might have seen Mason on TV before doing cooking demos on Good Day Sacramento or in person at the California State Fair.

I have known about Mason and his cookery for a very long time, as I am friends with his mom, Kathy and have watched Mason grow up and mature into the bright, talented pre-teen he is now.

Last month, Mason’s parents invited their friends (including me, YAY) to Pistol Pete’s for a viewing party the very first time the Chopped Junior episode that Mason appeared on aired. None of the guests knew what was going to happen, but we all showed up to see it on the several big screens in the bar. For me, I was just thrilled that someone I knew was going to be on a nationally televised program. I didn’t care win or lose, I was going to show up and support Mason. I would want the same kind of thing from my friends if I ever appeared on TV. I have appeared on local TV segments before and did a pretty good job, but remember being a ball of nerves. I can’t imagine having the chance to be on Chopped or how it felt.

I emailed Mason some questions after the viewing party, and he emailed me his answers. So fun!:)

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Cavegrrl: How did you get on Chopped and what is the audition process like?
Mason Partak: I think I got selected to audition for Chopped Junior because I was the alternate for Rachel VS Guys season one. They cast 8 kids and I was their number 9. Food Network sent a culinary producer to my house and everything, so they knew who I was. I did have to do a Skype audition for CJ and it was my worst audition ever! I had a terrible day at school and I said cray things, my mom was wondering who the heck I was?! When the call and email came that I had been cast, I was totally surprised.


CG:
What was the ingredient (in any of the baskets) that you were the most happy to see?
MP: Totally the Wagyu skirt steak! I had already decided that if I got beef, I was making a taco and that is just what I did. It turned out that my spicy street taco was the best dish of the competition and Max’s in Auburn has it on their menu for the month of January.

12491956_1000307446709285_6120754580802289838_oAbove: Mason’s street taco dish.

CG: What did you learn from being on the show?
MP: I need to salt my food properly, which means a little more than I think I need. I also learned how much video gets shot and not shown when you make a show for TV.
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CG: When did you get started and find your love for cooking?
MP: I’ve been in the kitchen with my mom and dad my whole life, they both cook. My mom let me help stir and mix cookies when she baked cookies and then she started to teach me to decorate them like she did in the bakery. When I was four, I wanted to chop things so she taught me how to properly use a knife. When I was eight, I was allowed to do my first live cooking demo and I loved it! I loved performing and cooking and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I loved that people liked watching me cook and teach them how to make recipes.

CG:
What is your fondest memory in the kitchen?
MP: Baking sugar cookies with my mom. She has taught me how to decorate sugar cookies to look amazing and finally, I’m getting really good. We open the cookie factory right after Thanksgiving and decorate hundreds of gingerbread and sugar cookies for Christmas gifts. My dad makes different flavors of truffles and those are the Christmas gifts we give our friends and neighbors.

 

CG: Do you have any favorite tools/appliances when cooking?
MP: My chef knife. Kitchen tools and gadgets are fun and I love to ask, “What the heck is this thing for?” on my You Tube channel, but really, all I need is my sharp knife.

 

CG: What is your signature dish and why?
MP: I have several award winning recipes, but I love to make fried chicken. I have become very good at getting it just right, crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside and I love to get creative with how I season it. It can be seasoned using a store bought seasoning packet or my own concoctions, no matter what, it’s always really good.

CG: Please tell me about the company you have started, Mason Made.
MP: Mason Made Products is a line of sauces, marinades and caramel. Asian Fusion, Organic Citrus Ginger, and my BACON Chipotle Barbecue are a few of the flavors that I love. You can marinate, use in conjunction with other seasonings and spices, and you can even use some of them with a bit of olive oil on salad. When I won Chopped Junior, I told my mom I thought it would be cool to start a business, the sauces are the start, but I am also working on a cook book and I am thinking about making copies of the learn to cook card game my mom created for me to practice cooking.

CG: Any future appearances/plans in the works?
MP: Right now, I’m excited about my spicy street taco being on Max’s menu (110 Grass Valley Hwy Auburn, California) for the month of January and my cooking demos in Auburn, Roseville, Sacramento, Napa, and Petaluma are already excited to have me back as a Chopped Junior Champion. I’m also working on a cream cheese recipe for cavegrrl.com. There is one other thing, but my mom said I can’t share yet, but as soon as I can, I will email you the details, sound good?

Mason, yes! It all sounds incredible and I will be posting your recipe here sometime this week, as well as the recipe I made with Challenge cream cheese. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!

419027_1367561061.8837Vintage Mason picture!!

 

PS: Alta Vista Community Charter School needs some help finding a sponsor or donations to buy groceries for the kids at the school to learn to cook. This is the same school that Mason helped raise $25,000 for a total kitchen remodel for the children to have access to proper culinary classes. Well, now they need the food with which to cook. Shallots, butter, olive oil, you name it. They need to raise $1,000 for the end of this school year and hopefully they can get a sponsor for next year. If you can help, email me at misscavegrrl at gmail.com and I will put you in touch with the right people! Remember, even five bucks can help a budding chef!

 

You can find Mason Partak online here, on Facebook here and follow him on Twitter here and on Instagram here. Thank you Mason for sharing your experiences with cavegrrl.com! Check back in for Mason’s recipe later in the week!:)

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One Last Cookie You Should Make Before the Holidays are Over…

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So, there are only a few days left in the year and there might be one more cookie exchange or party to attend. Or you might want to make one more treat before beginning a new diet on January 1st. If so, this is the cookie to make. It’s called a Santa’s Whisker.

I first heard of these delicious cookies when I worked for a bakery in Cincinnati that made them. Since then, I created my own recipe to fit into the Primal lifestyle. It is gluten free and used a product called Swerve (a sweetener made from a unique combination of ingredients derived from fruits and vegetables). I also added a touch of orange to the traditional cherry and coconut ingredients, to elevate the cookie’s overall flavor. Finally, instead of pecans (used in traditional recipe), this time I used pumpkin seeds and pine nuts. This recipe is addictive and makes 2 dozen cookies!

Ingredients:
1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup sugar or sugar substitute (I used Swerve)
2 tablespoons almond or coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tbs orange liqueur (I used triple sec)
1 tbs orange rind
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups Gluten Free Flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup finely chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 pine nuts (or nuts of your choice, omit altogether if allergic to nuts)
3/4 cup flaked coconut (I used unsweetened)
1 cup coconut (for rolling the dough)

For “Snow” Topping:
1 bag white chocolate chips
1 Tbs coconut oil
2 Tbs almond or coconut milk

Directions:
In a medium sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk together: the gluten free flour, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a mixer, cream the butter and your sugar substitute of choice. On a lower speed, add eggs one by one until well combined. Then add the vanilla, milk, orange liqueur and orange rind. Mix in the dry ingredients a little bit at a time until completely incorporated. Remove bowl from mixer stand, and fold in the cherries, seeds, nuts and coconut.

whiskres dough
Line a work surface with parchment paper. Then place some shredded coconut on the parchment.
Divide the dough into two and roll each division of the dough into a log shape 8-10″ long. Then, roll each log over the coconut until the edges are coated thoroughly. Wrap the two logs in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

dough rolled up

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough logs from the refrigerator, and remove the plastic wrap. Slice the dough into coin shapes and place on the cookie sheets. There should be enough for 12 cookies in each dough log.

cookies ready to bake
Place the cookie sheets in the oven and bake until edges are golden, about 10 minutes.

cookies after baked
Allow cookies to cool thoroughly, and make the snow topping. Place the milk and the coconut oil in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for one minute. Then slowly add the white chocolate chips and stir as they melt. You probably won’t use the whole bag, but will most likely need most of it to get to a consistency that will coat the cookies. Not too thick, not too thin.

Dip the cookies halfway into the melted white chocolate and place them back on the lined parchment paper until the chocolate sets up. If you are in a hurry, you can place the cookies in the refrigerator or even the freezer to quicken the hardening of the chocolate.

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Thanks to my loyal readers for following me in 2015! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and I hope to write another post before the New Year, but if I don’t have a happy and safe new year. xoxo  -kd

70-Year-Old Tonga Room to Celebrate New Year’s Eve with a Luau!

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Back in September, Andy and I attended the 70th birthday party of the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar, a legendary tiki bar located in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel. Walking into the room is like stepping back in time to the post-war days of exotic cocktails, food and all things Polynesian. A time when South Pacific food and culture were all the rage, along with the clothing styles to match. Originally, the room housed the hotel’s indoor swimming pool. The pool and its original tiles have been saved, but it’s now equipped with a floating stage for bands to play live music. Every thirty minutes, a thunderstorm erupts, and rain falls into the pool.

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The 70th birthday party featured an incredible buffet, cocktails and live music by the Island Groove band. It was surreal to be in San Francisco on a work night surrounded by so many fun people dressed in their best festive tiki attire, laughing and dancing without a care.

The Tonga Room is a true relic, surviving a threat of closure, and thriving to become what it is today. In 2013, the menu was redone and the drink recipes were given an update to match the more traditional style. It was an incredible experience to be part of the celebration.

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If you have never been to the Tonga Room, please put it on your list of travel destinations in 2016 or make arrangements NOW to celebrate with them on New Year’s Eve (details below)!!

Get a real taste of what the Tonga Room looks like and all the fun we had at the party. More photos from the 70th birthday celebration can be found by clicking HERE.

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar New Years Eve Luau
Ring in 2016 in a tropical paradise! Tonga Room offers a decadent Luau buffet package featuring a sumptuous buffet, party favors, Mai Tai or Champagne toast at midnight & dancing to The Island Groove band from 7:00pm until 12:30am.

Details:
Tonga Room New Year’s Eve Luau: 6:00pm-close
Cover Charge: $30 per person
1st Seating 6:30pm ~ Dinner Buffet:
$89 per adult, $49 for children under 12

2nd Seating 9:00pm ~ Dinner Buffet & midnight toast:
$119 per adult, $59 children under 12

Tonga Room New Year’s Eve Buffet Menu:
• Raw Kushi Oysters with Rice Wine Mignonette & Wasabi Tobikko
• Chilled Crab Claws with Chinese Mustard Dipping Sauce
• Poisson Cru, Sweet & Hot Peppers, Lime Juice, Coconut Shell
• Chilled Soba Noodle Salad with Ponzu Dressing
• Tropical Green Salad: Toasted Macadamia Nuts, Shredded Carrots, Pickled Peppers, Hearts of Palm, Shaved Cucumber, Crispy Wonton Strips, Sesame Soy Vinaigrette, Rice Wine Vinaigrette, Miso Vinaigrette
• Kona Baby Back Ribs
• Assorted Steamed Dumplings
• Red Lentil Soup
• Chow Mein Noodles, Bok Choy, Oyster Mushrooms, Cabbage, Carrots
Mongolian Beef Stir Fry
• Lu Pulu Taro leaf wrapped Corned Beef with braised Cabbage& Coconut Milk
• Huli Huli Chicken
• Vegetarian Tonga Hot Pot
• Whole Roasted 3-day Hoisin-Brined Berkshire Pig:
• Kalua Pork & Tropical Fruit Stuffing, Sweet Molasses Glaze & Apricot- Star Anise Compote
• Mashed Sweet Potatoes
• Wok Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Black Garlic, Sesame Oil
• Chef Attended Sushi Rolling Station: Tuna, Salmon, Amber Jack & Hamachi with all the accompaniments

Dessert Station: Coconut Clafouti, Petite Pineapple Rum Cake, White Chocolate Matcha Mousse, Assorted Mochi

Note: Tonga Room will be closed for private events January 13 & 23.

To make arrangements at the Fairmont Hotel and for a glimpse of everything going on this holiday season, you can click here! You can find Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar on Facebook here and on Twitter here. For more information call (415) 772-5278.

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