PostHeaderIcon Grindz of the Day: Teddy’s, Kona Brewing Co., Panda Express & Ono Pop

For today’s consecutive installment of “Grindz of the Day”, we begin with a stop by Teddy’s Bigger Burgers in Hawaii Kai, where I picked up a good ‘ole, all-American Cheeseburger. This being the “#2 Bigger Combo”, which includes a 7 oz. 100% ground chuck all-beef patty, where I had them char-grill it to medium-rare doneness by request; otherwise they cook it to medium by default .\

Usually whenever I order a burger, no matter where it is, my ichiban, no ka’ oi choice is the Swiss ‘n ‘Shroom, providing they offer that option. Yet this time I decided to think outside “my box” and go with the classic, back-to-basics Cheeseburger so I could REALLY taste the mechanics behind the face of what makes a Teddy’s Burger tick.

What I learned that I LOVE about Teddy’s burgers so much and what I really DON’T LIKE about them is this…

I LOVE the fresh, soft ‘n supple and most importantly TOASTED Potato Bun. Joining the love fest is that super tasty and juicy char-grilled 100% chuck all-beef, no-fillers patty, as well as the also-fresh ‘n cripsy leaf lettuce, tomato and slice of onion. Not to mention their grillmaster knows exactly when to yank the burger off the grill at medium-rare doness, while making sure the American cheese is completely melted on top of it. Sounds like Burgers 101 class, but you know as well as I do how often some places can seriously mess those basic rules up. Not here at Teddy’s, as they consistently turn out fabulously-executed burgers, where it’s down to a science as well as art for them.

What I DON’T like is their “Signature Sauce”. Sorry Teddy’s, but this does not work for me. What Teddy’s sauce tastes like (that doesn’t sound right) is essentially mayonnaise and BBQ sauce, with perhaps if I shall guess at any other “secrets”, perhaps a dash of Tobasco and/or Worcestershire and or Thousand Islands Dressing. But basically I’m guessing based on my close assessment of the sauce is that it’s primarily Mayo’ and BBQ Sauce. And one thing I don’t like my burger to taste like is ether Bacon or BBQ in a pork sense of the genre. I want my burger to taste like BEEF and beef only. So no, pass on Teddy’s Signature Sauce for me, as from now on when I hit them up, I’ll special-request Mayonnaise instead, thank you very much.

Along with the pungent Mayo-BBQ Sauce stuff, another no-go here is the pickles. I usually like pickles in my burger, but for some reason, Teddy’s is too pronounced, where I find, along with that sauce, those two toppings completely overcome my psychological insistence on tasting the BEEF and everything beef in the patty that those two components ultimately end up masking.

OK, enough ranting. I think I thought too deep about this cheeseburger. lol

As for Teddy’s fries, they’re definitely a winner, always deep-fried to perfection, thick-cut, with a tender, steamy interior, delicately-crispy “GBD” exterior and salted just right.

Summing it up, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers will and always has rocked, just from now, I’ll hold on their signature sauce and the pickles.

Next stop, just outside Teddy’s and around the corner in Koko Marina Center, literally ON the marina waterfront next to the boat slips, we stop by for some great live music, house-made custom beers and pub grub at Kona Brewing Co…

Kona Brewing Co. – “Hula Hefeweizen” () on the left and “Fire Rock” Pale Ale beer ( special) on the right, centered by KBC’s Niu Valley Nachos ( half order)

All of their in-house draft beers on tap are subtitled “Pints of Paradise”, which Kona Brewing Co. has no shame in their game in spicing up all the menu items with “Hawaiianized”, island-themed nicknames.

Here you see we have “Niu Valley Nachos”, which as you may know, Niu Valley is just a few miles down the Kalaniana’ole Highway heading west on the east side of Oahu near Hawaii Kai.

Back to the beer, KBC describes their “Hula Hefeweizen” like this: “Medium to full-bodied with a pronounced banana/herbal flavor
and aroma. This beer’s unique flavor profile is a result of the special type of yeast strain used to brew the beer.”

Then we have the “Fire Rock” Pale Ale, which KBC describes it like this: “Sit back and relax with the bold hop flavor and bright copper glow of Fire Rock Pale Ale. Go slow and enjoy the flow of this Hawaiian-style brew.”

Sounds “fluffy”, but how does it taste? Exactly as they said it, “bold hop flavor and bright copper glow”. It’s certainly a “man’s beer”, as at least speaking for my girlfriend who tends to like more “fruity” and smooth beers (a.k.a. “girly beers”), the Fire Rock may come across to the unitiated at first as tasting somewhat bitter and too bold. Really though, like many other bold beers, the Fire Rock is one of those that quickly acclimates to your palate after just a few sips, then it completely smooths out, turning absolutely fragrant and not bitter at all. Good stuff.

What makes the Fire Rock even more smooth and fragrant is the PRICE, where KBC-HK frequently runs this flavor as a special of the day for just a pint. Nice! Nice price, indeed. for a chilled pint of custom-brewed beer while overlooking the beautiful Hawaii Kai Marina, not to mention the many beautiful people that frequent this place and also-chilled out, relaxed and clean, cozy atmosphere, plus complimentary live music by some of Hawaii’s top musicians? Can’t go wrong with that!

As for the “Niu Valley Nachos”, KBC describes it like this: “Yellow Corn Kettle Chips layered with cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, black beans, green chiles, tomatoes, black olives, corn, jalapeños and a side of salsa. Sour cream upon request.” In this case we opted for the Kalua Pig version, which ran for that “half order”, which was more than plenty to share between the two of us. Surprisingly the Kalua Pig retained its moisture and didn’t get dried out after being put under the broiler to melt the cheese. It also tasted like genuine Kalua Pig and not just plain ‘ole pulled pork, which often is the case when restaurants say something has “Kalua Pig” in it. This tasted like real-deal stuff.

Next up on our pupu spread, we have KBC’s Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil…

Kona Brewing Co. – Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil:  Local vine-ripened tomatoes, whole basil leaves and fresh mozzarella cheese served with toasted spent grain focaccia, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.” .

What? No fancy-shmancy “Hawaiianized” nickname for this one? Just “Tomato, Mozarella and Basil”? How vanilla! lol OK then, I’ll come up with an name. How’s about we call this the “Koko Marina Caprese” or “Koko Marina TMB”. Works for me.

Anyhow, what I’ll now name the “Koko Marina Caprese” (Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil) comes with a pre-sliced, house-made, fresh-baked loaf of KBC’s Spent Grain Focaccia Bread…

Let’s put some on a slice of Foccacia and have a taste…

The verdict? The large basil leaves were fresh, crisp and vibrant, the Mozzarella cheese smooth ‘n creamy and tomato tight ‘n fruity. However I think the Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil on it could have been better quality, as the one drizzled on this was too subtle. The Olive Oil definitely wasn’t EVOO, which would have been much better. The foccacia bread certainly rocked, so add a point or two for that alone, where I’d go as far as saying I’d be willing to pay for some of their Foccacia Bread to take home for later.

Rounding up our love of all things cheese on this particular evening, we ordered a plate of KBC’s Garlic Cheese Bread…

Kona Brewing Co. – Garlic Cheese Bread: Fire Rock focaccia bread with garlic aioli, provolone and
parmesan cheeses toasted and served with a side of marinara.

And what? No “Hawaiianized” nickname for the Garlic Cheese Bread either? K’den, I’ll go ahead and name this one “Lava Bread”. Or perhaps “Pahoe’hoe Bread”. Get it? Firerock (volcanic) Focaccia bread with Melted Cheese on it, with the cheese being the molten lava.

Anyhow, this “Lava Bread” is certainly piled thick with ooey-gooey, melted cheesy goodness melded with a strong garlic flavor. All topping their OEM pizza crust, which is pretty darned good, with just the right amount of salt to bring out the doughs flavor. It has a well-balanced glutenous chew, being neither too tough nor crumbly, along with toasty goodness underneath in all the right spots, without tasting burnt in any particular spots. Their cooks are on it when it comes to pizza oven management.

The marinara dipping sauce has lots of texture and full of herbal complexity, where I’d be just as happy tossing some fettuccine pasta into the stuff and calling it a day.

Summing it up, 3 SPAM Musubi for KBC’s Garlic Cheese Bread. Next time I gotta’ try the Mac Nut Pesto version of this.

On a previous visit to KBC, I tried their Lavaman Red Ale, which was the special of the day at the time…

Kona Brewing Co. – Lavaman Red Ale: “This full-bodied beer is deep red in color with a malty sweetness. The subtle hint of chocolate malt flavor is balanced by a unique blend of Pacific Northwest and European hop varieties.” /pint special of the day

Hmmm, subtle hint of chocolate malt, eh? I don’t remember getting that. Perhaps because I wasn’t really looking for it, whereas even though not doing so, I could certainly taste the coffee flavor in the Pipeline Porter right from the start. This one was certainly a little sweeter and a bit more smooth immediately upon firt impression in comparison to the Fire Rock Pale Ale.

Ultimately, ah, whatevahz, I like ‘em both, especially for just a pint!

On top of the great beer, food and beautiful waterfront view of Hawaii Kai Marina, KBC also offers the nahenahe (sweet sounds) music of Kiho’alu (slack key) legend Ledward Ka’apana every Sunday from 5 to 7pm…

That’s Ledward Ka’apana on lead guitar and vocals with the loud red boots, along with his sister Lei on Uke and vocals as well, while bringing up the back is Jesse on bass (my girlfriend’s cousin) in the Palaka shirt.

Next up, while most folks, lincluding  yours truly,  am dubious of chain restaurants — plus on top of that — chain restaurants with an ethnic theme, Panda Express has DELIVERED BIG TIME in the form of their new Kobari Beef dish. Folks, this thing ROCKS! Check it out…

As the sign clearly says, “Ask for FREE sample”, that is indeed what you MUST do on your next Hawaii Kai Costco run, or any any other run for that matter, providing there’s a Panda Express within the vicinity.

Like many of you may have the perception of, I was reluctant to accept Panda Express as a respectable Chinese food joint. Yet you know what? TOTALLY RESPECTABLE. It turns out, more like ADMIRABLE, as well as one of those rare eateries I’ve now become a regular of. At least speaking for the Hawaii Kai Towne Center location, which is situated about smack center between Costco and City Mill.

But, yeah, walk into Panda Express and ask them for a sample of any and every dish that looks interesting to you, to which the server will hand your choice over on a toothpick. Of course, don’t forget to try the Kobari Beef, because this one is GREAT!…

Panda Express (Hawaii Kai Towne Center location) Kobari Beef and Spicy Chicken 2-choice plate.

On the plate shown above are (clockwise from top left) Panda Express’ Kobari Beef, Spicy Chicken, which tastes and has the same texture as Sweet & Sour Shrimp, albeit with a spicy kick, and Chow Mein noodles.

Another angle…

Here’s the same entree choices of Panda Express Kobari Beef and Spicy Chicken, in this version having white rice as the starch…

To be specific, Panda Express’ tastes a little spicy, yet not intolerably hot. It has a deeply-marinated Shoyu/whatever other secret ingredients are in that sauce. Ultimately, plus on top of that, it has that wonderfully smokey, aromatic flavor that totally punches out the flavor of the tender strips of Kobari sauce-laced beef from being seared at high temperature in a FLAMING WOK, which as you may recall Chef Sam Choy highly advocates.

That’s pretty much my best way to describe Panda Express’ Kobari Beef. YOU just need to try it for yourself and be the judge. For me, I give Panda Express’ Kobari Beef a RESOUNDING 5 SPAM MUSUBI! Seriously.

Rounding off today’s “Grindz of the Day”, we stop by yet for another visit to KCC Farmers’ Market’ Ono Pops booth to sample yet another one of their “Exotic Hawaiian Popsicle” flavors…

With that, I couldn’t resist trying the first-listed flavor of the day, the Ume Thai Basil…

Ono Pops Ume-Thai Basil water-based popsicle.

Cool “Inspector Ume Man” logo label design. Let’s check it out unwrapped…

Looks like little bits ‘n pieces of Umeboshi in there, which apparently gives this water-based popsicle an overall pinkish hue. Let’s have a bite…

First impression? SALTY. Very salty, more so than sweet, while also not being as “Ume acidic” (tart) as I had hoped. You can certainly taste the Umeboshi (a Japanese pickled plum/apricot preserved in Vinegar and salt, Tsukemono style).

Yet at the same time, I feel the Thai Basil gets in the way of the Ume’s flavor, with it’s somewhat clashing licorice element. I think they should keep this one simple and eliminate the Thai Basil, where if anything, I’d go with Li Hing powder over Thai Basil for that exotic 3rd dimension of flavor for this chilly pop.

As it stand, I give Ono Pop’s water-based Ume-Thai Basil flavor 1 SPAM Musubi.

I so have dibs next weekend on Ono Pops‘ Watermelon Hibiscus Lemon Peel flavor, which the owner told me has bits of Lemon Peel in it.

The Tasty Island

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