Some Tommy Bahama stores go beyond signature island-inspired clothing and home goods—in a handful nationwide, you’ll also find restaurants in the mix. California is home to three of these hybrids, and two are in Orange County: Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. I guess O.C. is a natural fit for the sun-splashed brand with a Florida point of origin. Orange Coast dining critic Gretchen Kurz says of the Newport restaurant, “It’s a great patio venue. Add steel drums at brunch and it’s a vakay close to home.”
Or even at home. Hawaiian-style “Flavors of Aloha: Cooking With Tommy Bahama” (Chronicle Books, $40) is the handsome first volume in a planned series covering the tropical cuisines that have influenced the restaurant. Since Hawaii’s a place where fusion is the natural order of things, “Flavors of Aloha” by itself covers a lot of ground, with 100 recipes for dishes from multiple Asian cuisines as well as Portuguese and mainland U.S. Fans will be looking for the coconut shrimp recipe… it’s in there, as is the famous piña colada cake, among dishes like Filipino pancit, Kalua pulled pork, and ahi poke with guacamole. Crab rangoon, the cream-cheese wontons made famous by Trader Vick’s—Tommy Bahama’s tiki predecessor—are clearly explained in indulgent detail. The recipes, by Rick Rodgers, are exceptionally solid. Rodgers is one of the most respected food writers and recipe developers in the business. Stories about Hawaiian cooking culture are interspersed, including one about Stennis Hirayama, executive chef of Tommy Bahama Hawaii, an island native who lives on his family’s farm and supplies some of the produce used by the restaurant.
The book is available at Tommy Bahama stores and on the company’s website. A recipe for Maui sweet onion, bacon, and chive dip follows—almost as indulgent as the aforementioned crab rangoon, but without the deep-frying.
Tommy Bahama Maui Sweet Onion, Bacon, and Chive Dip
(Makes about 2 cups)
Sweet onions—which lack the sulphur that makes your nose sting and your eyes tear—used to be quite exotic, but now you’ll find one variety or another at your supermarket. Vidalia from Georgia, Walla-Walla from Washington, or Texas Sweets are common, but Hawaiians naturally feel that the best ones come from the fertile slopes of Mount Haleakala.
3 slices bacon
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 sweet onions, preferably Maui, about 12 ounces total, cut into ¼-inch dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon granulated onion
Potato chips or assorted raw vegetables for serving
Cook bacon in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp and browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain and cool. Discard fat and wipe out skillet with paper towels.
Add oil to skillet and heat over medium heat. Add onions and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften, about 5 minutes. Uncover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are deep golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl and cool completely.
Finely crumble bacon and add to onions. Stir in sour cream, 2 tablespoons chives, and granulated onion. Seasons to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
Transfer to serving bowl, sprinkle with chives to garnish, and served chilled, with potato chips or raw vegetables.