Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The North Shore

The North Shore of O'ahu is famous for surfing. (Blue Crush anyone?) I tried to sneak a peak at the Pipeline, but we were driving by a little fast and I think I might have been stuffing some chocolate haupia cream pie (or regular chocolate cream or pumpkin haupia - depending on who's slice I was sampling at the time) in my mouth. (Haupia is a traditional coconut milk based dessert not unlike flan.) Plus I think the wave size gets smaller as the year goes by (winter is where it's at!) so the ginormous waves might have been harder to spot between the Tacomas and Jeeps.

Ted's Bakery in Sunset Beach was the post lunch destination after our roadside shrimp extravaganza at Romy's. It's known for the pies, specifically the chocolate haupia cream pie. (This guy got a good photo of it. I was too busy eating mine to remember to take a photo.) Locals stop in for breakfast sandwiches and plate lunches as well.

Since we were on a tight schedule, there was no time to linger at Ted's. We had coffee to drink and more chocolate to eat! (The North Shore has a lot more going on than just big waves.) Waialua Estate Coffee and Cacao is located just down the road in Waialua on what was formerly one of the largest sugarcane plantations in Hawaii (and operated by Dole). After the plantation's closure in 1996, Dole sought to diversify their agriculture so coffee and cacao trees were a few of the new modern, healthful crops that were planted. I tasted the end results and I say, good on you, Dole. The coffee and chocolate rocks!

Sample cacao tree (not in the orchard).

Harvested cacao pods.

Splitting open the cacao pods to get at the seeds, which are actually quite fruity (and a little slimey - I tasted it!) in their raw state.

Fermenting the cacao seeds - this takes about a week. I had no idea that there was a fermentation process!

Fully fermented and almost fully dried cacao beans.

Somehow all of those dried beans turn into this. Waialua Estate dark chocolate.

Sample chocolate bar on a pile of cacao beans.

Wailua Estate milk chocolate.

Coffee berries on tree (delicious beans hidden inside).

50 pound bags of Waialua Estate (green) coffee beans.

The Wai'anae Range is the backdrop for Twin Bridge Farms.

Our final destination, quite literally down the road, was Twin Bridge Farms (also located on former sugarcane land) and is the only company in Hawaii that commercially grows asparagus (though they grow other things too). I tasted it fresh from the ground and then prepared on my dinner plate later that night. How many times can you say that you've done that?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oh O'ahu!

Just to be clear: I haven't lost my job and become a vagabond or won the lottery and become independently wealthy. My Colorado trip was planned a year ago and it was only for a long weekend...and this Hawaii trip that just so happened to come on the heels of it was a last minute work trip. (Yes, work!) I don't normally traipse around from mountain peaks to oceanic islands. Anyhoo...

I was fortunate enough to be included on a trip to and a tour of O'ahu that the fabulous people of Starwood Hotels and Resorts put together (they have three properties on Waikiki: Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, Moana Surfrider - something for everyone!). Mahalo! Officially I was researching an amazing family vacation destination for my day job, but personally I was blown away not only by the location but by the food culture as well.

On Friday we enjoyed a tour of the island while visiting local farms and food destinations. It was awesome!!! I took a gazillion photos so am going to break the tour into two posts: the morning and afternoon (or the east coast and the north shore?).

We left Waikiki in the morning driving north along the east coast. The first stop was Nalo Farms in Waimanalo, a family farm that has been in operation since 1953. It is described as a "chef's farm" not only because they supply 130 restaurants with fresh greens and herbs, but because everything planted is to order. They don't wait to figure out how to sell their produce after it is fully grown. They won't even put the seeds in the ground until they get the order from the chef! Talk about fresh!

Gorgeous greens in front of the Ko'olau Range.

Bushy basil plants just waiting to be made into pesto...or included in Roy Yamaguchi's Hawaiian Fusion cuisine!

Corn sprouts from popcorn kernels. Seriously. I've never seen them or tasted them before. They're really sweet!

The misty Ko'olau Range.

Delicate pea shoots.

Purple basil. That actually would make some interesting pesto...

We were on a schedule (and hungry!) so after the Nalo Farm tour we beat it up to Kahuku for some shrimp from Romy's Prawns & Shrimp. This isn't just any old shrimp. This is roadside fare that is harvested daily from the shrimp ponds(?) out back and then cooked live! Oh, yeah. I hear that there are local debates about whose shrimp truck is the best, but I was quite pleased with my lunch. By the way, it's pretty messy and they don't give you wet naps, but you can feel free to dive right in because there is a sink with soap standing by.

Roadside sign in the back of a pickup. Awesome.

The menu. Decisions, decisions...


Kahuku sweet corn.

Butter and garlic sauteed (with brown rice - the healthy option to offset the fried selection). Get in my belly!

Tomorrow's O'ahu tour post continues along the north shore...with dessert!


Just a few photos of the view of Waikiki from my room in the Sheraton Waikiki to enjoy while I organize all of the rest!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hut Hike Out

On the final day of the hut extravaganza I awoke with a splitting headache and a side of nausea. No fancy breakfast frittata for me! (Thanks anyway, Min.) Could it be the boxed wine? Perhaps. But I am more inclined to believe that I got an itty bitty tiny touch of altitude sickness. According to Google Health the symptoms for Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) are:
  1. Difficulty sleeping - Check.
  2. Dizziness or light-headedness - Check.
  3. Fatigue - Check.
  4. Headache - Double check!
  5. Loss of appetite - Check.
  6. Nausea or vomiting - Check.
  7. Rapid pulse (heart rate) - Didn't notice.
  8. Shortness of breath with exertion - Check.
Google also says:
The chance of getting acute mountain sickness increases the faster a person climbs to a high altitude. How severe the symptoms are also depends on this factor, as well as how hard the person pushes (exerts) himself or herself. People who normally live at or near sea level are more prone to acute mountain sickness.
Yep. I hutted it up for 36 hours at over 11,000' and got AMS. I guess I'm not as hard core as I thought. Or maybe it just comes with the territory of being a sea level girl. I've spent plenty of time in altitude in the past, and have only felt ill once...and I blame myself for being super dehydrated from the get go.

The views from my sick bed.

Fortunately I just downed a bunch of ibuprofen and rallied to help pack up the hut and then to hike on out of there in a mere hour and a half. (We're rad.) Going down is a lot easier than going up, especially after you've consumed most of the food and drink that you originally carried in.

Goodbye hut deck.

Goodbye hut yard and hut vistas.

Goodbye hut stairs that I almost fell down when they turned to ice after the sun went down.

Goodbye lost shoe that we hiked past on the way in.


Coming up next: Scenes at sea level.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hut Trip Day Two

After a sleepless night (it must have been the altitude - you'd think I would have passed out after that death march!) we got up for some breakfast. I made oatmeal, obviously not good enough for some people...

Mindy made...Oatmeal Brulée!

After breakfast? Chores. Chopping wood. Er...well...carrying the already chopped wood up from beneath the deck. Mindy did chop a lot of kindling. With a real axe!

Time for a fun hike, not to be confused with a death hike.

Hmmm...what's behind this cornice?

Another cornice!

How do we get back? Follow our tracks or off road it? Or both? We might have gotten a little confused and our 2 hour fun hike might have turned into a 3 hour sorta-not-so-fun-anymore hike...

Until we found our way back! Walt! I missed you so.

Time for lunch but I was so famished I forgot to take photos of our delicious panini...which we bought premade the day before and just heated up in a cast iron pan.

Dinner in progress. A vegetarian tortilla fiesta. Corn tortillas, black beans, spinach, green chilies, cheddar cheese, salsa...layered for maximum impact.

Individual tortilla stack of cheesy goodness.

S'more ingredients on the map and compass that we should have used earlier in the day.

Dessert. Broiled s'mores made with top notch chocolate and bottom notch SwirlMallows (which is why they look gray - that would be "chocolate" swirled marshmallows)...a perfect end to a pretty perfect day!