Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hawaii Day 3

It’s funny how each day does end up having a theme or at least a big outing. As is our usual routine for the day, we did some big touristy thing in the morning and decided to spend the afternoon lazing around the condo and the beach. We wanted to take J to the view of Hanauma Bay but the Bay is closed on Tuesdays. Luckily we got to drive on the rocky and desolate windward side of Oahu. The ocean and beaches are spectacularly beautiful here. See?

This day was our rainforest day where we went on a hike to Manoa falls. I am kind of amazed that Manoa falls trail isn’t necessarily surrounded by a national park with a big visitor’s center. The infrastructure is some guy with a folding table and a parking lot. One major plus about the guy with the folding table was the free use of bug spray which made our hike infinitely more enjoyable. The hike itself was spectacular - exactly what you want your rainforest hike to be. It started off being cool and relatively dry and the closer you got to the falls, the warmer and more humid it got. One word of caution, our guidebook called this trail a moderate to easy hike. If that’s moderate to easy, I hate to see what difficult-expert looks like. There was a progressively steeper incline and the trail got increasingly muddy. Being a “moderate to easy” trail, it was full of hikers and tour groups. But the payoff was incredible. The falls were beautiful and the trail itself was lush and verdilicious.

After the trail we all needed to have some food so we hit a MacDonald’s whose drive thru was another little kiosk connected to the main restaurant via a conveyor belt. We watched with rapt fascination the bags of food sliding down the conveyor belt. After a stop at the condo to clean up. We went to the much anticipated Boots and Kimo’s pancake restaurant. Boots and Kimo is an unpretentious, football themed restaurant with a particular focus on the Denver Broncos (go figure). Whatever you do GET THE PANCAKES WITH MACADAMIA NUT SAUCE. This rises to the level of plate-licking good. J and I split a stack of pancakes and an order of short ribs. J didn’t like the short ribs as much as I did. They were simply grilled with a generous coating of salt and pepper. They were a little chewy for J but the flavor of the meat was really savory and yummy. But really, the star of that show is the macadamia nut sauce.

After lunch we settled into the afternoon routine of napping/reading/swimming at the beach. This does not ever get old.

For dinner we went to Buzz’s Steakhouse which was conveniently right next door to the condo. Actually it was at the end of the driveway of our condo. With a décor that was wasting away in margaritaville, Buzz’s was that Hawaiian fish experience we were dreaming of. They serve other stuff but the star here was the many many kinds of fish served in several different preparations. J and I had been eyeing Buzz’s the whole trip and had actually went there the night before but this night we had to take MIL as well. FIL was feeling tired and we promised to take him some carry out. So MIL and I had the Ono (one the continent it’s known as wahoo), a mild moist fish while J had the Opah (moonfish) which was also a mild white fish with a bit more texture. J and I had our fish with the Asian preparation, steamed with ginger, garlic and scallions and then seared on a hot pan. MIL had hers grilled with lemon. While the salad bar has had complaints for some reviewers, that night, the ingredients, while not extensive were really high quality. I loved their pickled maui onions. We took home for FIL a rich and tender steak with béarnaise sauce. FIL was happy.

J and his mother kicked our asses in canasta for the second night running.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hawaii - Day Four

Before I get to the Hawaii vacation recap, let me rant for two seconds about the whole Britney MTV movie awards flap. Can we stop calling her fat? There are many many many reasons to stop that crap (i.e. "fat" Britney is like a size 4), but I'll just say that line of mocking is just boring. Seriously, the whole thing was a major trainwreck from start to finish (including her wearing an unflattering costume and having the rattiest weave this side of America's Next Top Model). So why of all things to focus on, do you choose her weight? She performs stoned/drunk/crazy, she DRESSES like a mess, her hair's nasty, and she lumbering around the stage like a polar bear, she is molesting herself and her dancers, and the funny part is her weight? It's like the Daily Show doing a riff on Bush's press conference and making fun of his tie.

AAAAANYWAY. Day four of the Hawaii vacation was major relaxation time. After driving all over the island of Oahu, we decided to actually take advantage of the fact that we were one block away from what is arguably the most beautiful beach on Oahu (Yay Kailua!!!). It was a leisurely morning hanging out at the condo. As with every day of our vacation, I woke up at 5:30 am and walked to the beach to see the sunrise.

Here it is:

We decided to have lunch at Zia's Italian restaurant in Kailua. In keeping with our no-fuss day, we all decided to order familiar food. J had a fish sandwich. MIL had the risotto soup and a chicken sandwich and FIL had a sandwich of his own. I had the pesto and olive pasta that was surprisingly bland. It was a nice serviceable meal.

But the kicker was going to Agnes' Portuguese Bake Shop for malasadas, Portuguese doughnuts that are the best bites of fried dough this side of Doughnut Plant. At Agnes' we waited for a batch that came fresh from the oven. They were crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Normally malasadas are filled with custard of some sort but these were plain and all the better for it. You could really appreciate the cinnamon sugar coating.

Aren't they adorable?

After lunch we settled in for a lazy afternoon on the beach. How much better could it get? The only downside was that FIL didn't put on the sunscreen early enough and got fried. He ended his afternoon lobster red and multiple coats of aloe were applied.

For dinner with chose the cheesy Pinky's Pupu Bar and Grill. The decor was middle of the road seafood restaurant with a view of the waterfront (or in this case a view of the canal where we saw outrigger teams paddling). Please don't let the tacky name fool you. The food is great. Like the rest of Hawaii, Pinky's was abundant with fresh, sushi grade ahi tuna. J and I split the ahi tuna plate with the ahi served three ways, sashimi style with soy and wasabi and pickled ginger, the traditional poke which is chunks of raw ahi marinated it a little soy and onions, and seared sesame tuna. The ahi tuna plate in the cheesy Pupu bar suprasses any piece of fish you will get in DC. The tuna was fresh, not fishy, and completely soft and yielding without being mushy. I love that sushi grade ahi is diner food. I cannot sing the praises of the ahi enough. In addition to the taste, the price of ahi is dirt cheap. In addition to our ahi, J and I also split a mountain of Kahlua pork which is shredded pork cooked underground. It was good but salty and an interesting contrast to the clean fresh flavor of the ahi. Seriously people, I am not touching tuna from the continent again! MIL decided to get the wonderful coconut shrimp. FIL's fish and chips was the only disappointment of the meal.

We went back to the condo where we played another round of canasta where FIL and I finally won a game off of J and MIL.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Working Backwards - Hawaii

So this is what we had to leave. Waaaah!!!!! I've said it before but the thing about Hawaii is that you always have access to beauty - whether that be the beach or the mountains. I'm doing the Hawaii recap from the end of the trip to the beginning since the food fun didn't really start when I was there. So our last day was Thursday and we were all leaving at the end of the day (in my case at the VERRRRY end of the day). We decided to go to the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki for their reasonably priced elegant breakfast with one of the best views of Waikiki beach. On the way we decided to take route 72 that goes along the tip of Oahu past Hanauma Bay. It's spectacularly scenic with rough barren rocky terrain that makes you feel like you're on another planet.

We ate a very leisurely breakfast at Orchids, the hotel's upscale dining place that was right on the beach. This was where J and his parents ate their first morning in Hawaii and it could not have been better. The service was friendly and warm, the views were spectacular, and the ambiance was bright, clean, and elegant. My parents would have gone nuts over the vast array of exotic orchids. My father-in-law and I ordered the haupia French toast with the coconut syrup. This was regular French toast with the traditional Hawaiian coconut custard in the middle. J ordered the blueberry pancakes and his mother ordered the three-egg omelette. We also order popovers for the table. Here's mine.

Food porny enough?

What I loved about my French toast was that the custard and the syrup with light. You weren't going into sugar shock after the meal. After breakfast we left FIL reading the paper on the hotel's lanai while the rest of us did some last-minute gift shopping at the zillions of souvenir shops in Waikiki. This left us plenty of time to get to the airport... where the shit hit the fan. As it turns out, I misread my flight information and I totally missed my flight that left WEDNESDAY and flew in to DC THURSDAY. This led to some begging and pleading with ATA airlines to let me fly to which they lied through their teeth and said it was overbooked and I would be flying out that night.

J is totally my hero because he found a wireless hotspot, broke out of the laptop and booked THE VERY SAME FLIGHT via the Southwest website (Southwest and ATA are partners). Unfortunately, I was still sweating bullets (literally!) because we hadn't confirmed a seat. With my loving partner saying he wasn't going to leave Hawaii without having me confirmed on a flight, he and my FIL got Southwest to talk to ATA and give me a confirmed seat. Nevertheless, I waited five hours with my book and laptop to make sure I was the first in line when the ticket counter opened at 6:45 pm. After that, everything went fine.

I lounged around the gate getting some work done and reading until my flight left at 10:45 pm. I did have to buy a new t-shirt and one of those neck things for the long flight. But I just felt lucky I had a spouse who could keep it together while I was completely losing it. As we work backwards there will be more food content.

Monday, September 10, 2007

In Memoriam - Madeleine L'Engle

I read the appreciation today in the Post about Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time. I didn't know she died last Thursday. She is the only person I've actually wrote a fan letter to (bloggers not included) and I got a very nice form letter with a nice note from the author.

The Wrinkle in Time series was mindblowing. Reading about someone who was socially awkward and intelligent was like reading my own experience on the page. Meg Murry was my id because she was sullen, impatient, bitchy, and short tempered. All of those emotions roiled inside me as a child and I rarely had a chance to express them. In Wrinkle, not only are Meg's faults acceptable, they're valuable.

A New Yorker article came out a few years back on Madeleine L'Engle and her penchant for turning the truth of her life into fiction and fictionalizing the the truth of her life. It was hard to hear that she how much of her life she used for her craft and how much of her autobiography was fictionalized. But it made an icon human, which is part of growing up.

Her later works were difficult as her adult women seemed to have all of their rough edges smoothed out but I still read every single L'Engle book because I loved her gentle and loving take on humanity.

I read that she was working on a book that would show more of Meg Murry as an adult and give us a chance to see Meg's inner life. I'm sad I won't know how Meg turned out.

Kinda Like Creme Brulee

Hey Stef, here's a dessert for you!

Ok, every since Nigella did it with pineapple, I kind of have an unabashed love for grilled fruit. Since then, Giada did it and then Ina did it so now I have to do it. Last night, I grilled peaches and nectarines on the grill pan and the result was heaven on a plate. Not only that, it was the fruity approximation of creme brulee because I smashed the halves in sugar before I stuck them on the grill pan. The sugar hardened to a nice brulee.

Here the guidelines.

Heat a grill pan to low (until water dances on the grill pan). Take 2 peaches or 2 nectarines or a combination thereof. Cut both in half lengthwise. Pour about a tablespoon of sugar on a small dessert plate (vanilla sugar is divine for this). Dip of the cut-side of the fruit into the sugar. Put on the grill pan and let grill for about 10 minutes. turn the heat to medium and grill 5 minutes more. If the fruit is still a little hard, stick in the oven (preferably the toaster oven so as not to heat the entire house) for another 10 minutes until the fruit is soft. Bash some hard amaretti cookies on top. Add some thickened Greek yoghurt if you are into such things (as I am). Enjoy guilt free.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Pink and girly Bridal Shower

So before we launch into the blog post that ate our blog aka Hawaii 2007, I wanted to report on the pink and girly bridal shower we threw for our friend RootBeer. Rootbeer's been a dear friend for ages (coming up on a DECADE) and helped plan our wedding. Because the actual Bridesmaids were all out-of-towners, we volunteered (read: insisted) on throwing Rootbeer a DC bridal shower. This took a month of planning and the help of Auntie Em and Writergirl. J actually planned 99% of the activities that went over like a bang.

The Decorations
Ok. I have this thing for those paper accordion wedding bells. They are totally cheesy but I insist on them at every wedding event I get to plan. J got those and went to town with wedding theme streamers and a daisy and ladybug theme. The true kicker was having professionally arranged floral arrangements all over our house courtesy of Auntie Em and Writergirl. The shower was on the Sunday of Labor day weekend so Auntie Em, Writergirl and J and I went to our CSA to get our fill of flowers. We went to town getting armfuls of sunflowers, Indian Summers, cosmos, zinnias, bright red Mexican Sunflowers, and flowers from chive plants, basil, and garlic chives. This ended up making six arrangements artfully placed throughout the house.

The Food
Luckily I made a lot of the food ahead of time. It was girly finger food with a bit o'Southern flair. So on the menu were:

Thai chicken meatballs and Thai vegetarian meatballs with satay dipping sauce

Pesto and goat cheese mini-quiches

Roasted pepper mini quiches

Tomato and feta mini-tartlets

Lemon bars

Mac 'n cheese (baked southern style)

Deviled eggs

Sugar cookies

ANNNNND .... The Steel Magnolia Style Grey-Icing Armadillo cake complete with sliced almond scales. Rootbeer made one for our wedding shower and we had to return the favor. The red velvet cake came from a box and we used the same football cake pan for the body of the armadillo. For the feet we used two small aluminum loaf pans that I expertly cut in half widthwise and cut toes out of (HIRE ME Charm City Cakes!). I did make my own frosting (basic buttercream with tons of vanilla).

Drinks included lemonade, iced tea made with Good Earth tea (the best in the world!!!), and a champagne punch that included champagne, ginger ale, and frozen strawberries and raspberries. The future mother in law let me know it tasted good but packed a punch (no pun intended).

The Favors

J is from the south and therefore he gives out favors at parties. As the favors he made a marshmallows with cherry puree, turning them a pale mauve and a hot pink set with lots of vanilla. He cut them into little squares are put them in adorable silver bags.

The Fun

J did most of the work on this side. My one contribution was to set up a station in our basement for people to put handprints on tablecloth we would give to Rootbeer as a present. They turned out great.

But J made a DVD with photos from all of Rootbeer's friends. An uproariously funny mad-lib that ended up reflecting the groom's Jewish heritage (place - JERUSALEM, holiday - PURIM!). And a stick the ladybug on the daisy (kind of like pin the tail on the donkey), complete with prizes.

It was a great afternoon to celebrate our dear friend's impending nuptials. An interesting thing is that many of the gifts were cooking related, which meant we'll all be enjoying the gifts for years to come.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

DancerinDC's answer's

1. Did you ever keep a diary? Do you still? How is blogging different from keeping a written journal?

--> I did off and on in high school, but not regularly. I think blogging is different because it's an opportunity to publicly express your opinions. I tend to keep the details of my personal life offline.

2. What's the weirdest thing that's happened to you because of blogging?

--> Probably meeting our twins, T&J! But beyond that, I'd say being linked to from the Lostpedia.

3. Have you ever met someone who read your blog without previously knowing they read your blog?

--> Not yet, but I'm sure it's bound to happen. (Especially if I'm in Moscow or Sydney - apparently people there love to visit my blog.)

4. Is there an entry you are particularly proud of? What was it about?

--> I'd say any ANTM recap I did during the Jade season. That was such fun, and I was loving to hate Jade while I was loving Joanie.

5. Is there any entry you are particularly embarrassed about? What was it about?

--> I think just my earliest posts. I wasn't quite sure how/what to write, and re-reading those makes me cringe.

6, Why do you keep blogging?

--> It's a way for me to review the world of entertainment as an avocation in a way I wish I could professionally. And with my friends it's often a springboard for conversations on various topics.