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Thursday, January 28, 2010

I Can't Believe It's Only Thursday...

Since Saturday's tale of the city, I have been to brunch at Bar Jules and enjoyed that Marin Sun Farms burger with bacon and Gruyere. This was after a few coffee stops on the way on Sunday morn. And then it was an afternoon of drinking with a Chimay at Thieves Tavern watching the Colts take out the Jets and then back-to-back beer busts at the Eagle and Lonestar Saloons.

On Monday, I made a lunch time appearance at Pal's Take-Away for their Vietnamese lemongrass meatball and seared tombo tuna sandos, both of which, I split with Vytas, my favorite co-worker. Monday night turned out great, despite the never-ending rain. My bud Don and I ventured out to the East Bay to Crab Monday's at CAMINO. It was a great bowl of bean soup a crab and a half for me. Oh, and some blood orange sorbet to finish the meal off.

But Tuesday morning was quite the adventure. I hit up Dynamo Donuts first. I ordered a Vanilla Bean to pair with my first Gibraltar. I then dashed through the drops of rain onto Folsom for my 2nd Gib at VEGA. There, they call it the VEGA instead of the Gibraltar. And to finish the morning coffee route off, it was a Baby Latte at Sight Glass. This was all drunk in the course of a half hour and boy, was I ready for a day full of meetings. I met up with Paul for supper at SPORK that night. We got the same table we had only a month or so ago and the same waiter, Ryan. We shared the Warm Chicory Cesar Salad, the Dinner Salad and the Crispy Cauliflower & Calamari to start us off. Paul opted again for the Inside Out Burger and I went for the Mussels and Pork, both served with a SPORK. Ryan was such a gracious host and topped it all off with a nice glass of Muscat.

Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure to sneak preview my bud John's new coffee spot on Minna. John runs Cento and VEGA and this new spot called SPECIAL Xtra. Located in the same spot where they run Harlot Nightclub, this new SPECIAL Xtra officially opens Friday from 7:30am-4pm. For lunch, I ended up getting a Pizza to-go from Ironside on 2nd Street in between Brannan and Townsend. It was a delicious offering of prosciutto and pear with caramelized onions, arugula and goat cheese. I rushed around after work to get home, drop off my bike, race over to BART and be at HEAVEN'S DOG in time for cocktail hour. I was meeting my friend Shana from 's boxing class. We were cocktailing and noshing before heading over to Oracle to see the Warriors play last night. I went ahead and started ordering as soon as I got there. I got a glass of Willett on the rocks, an order of the braised pork belly in clam shell bun, the pot stickers with pork and green cabbage and the salt & pepper local squid with red chili and toasted garlic. I waited for Shana before I dove into the dishes. She ordered The Gin Fizz Tropical which is a concoction of Plymouth gin, pineapple gum, orgeat, lime, egg white, mint and soda. Shana said "it's like Kool Aid...and ya know...Hey!" By the time her drink arrived I was ready for my 2nd flight of Bourbon and ordered up an Old Bardstown. We also decided to try another order of the pork belly and beef curry puffs. Shana was really excited to also order the ma po tofu with ground beef, chili paste and szechuan pepper. She also got on my whiskey kick and treated herself to a glass of Noah's Mill. Shana said she could eat the squid all day. I was into everything that came my way. So, of course I had to look at the dessert menu. It was around this time that we noticed our bartender making a special drink called the Craig Lane's Hitman. Which is, as John described, two distinct drink ingredients that shouldn't work together but do. Mezcal and Batavia-Arrack with ginger, lime, luxardo, topped with soda. Shana ventured there for dessert as I went for the warm red bean crepe and coconut ice cream paired with Sparkling Organic Cassis, Volker Raumland and Rheinhessen. Shana claims she isn't one who orders from the dessert menu but was still fighting me for last bites of this most delicious crepe. The ice cream was the perfect combination to the red bean which rather surprised us.

We were fully loaded and off on BART to Oakland. We arrived at the same time I had arrived the Wednesday before, Halftime. New Orleans was up by 7 and Shana and I sat in our seats with tiny cups of Jack Daniel's. The San Francisco Warriors, as they are called on Wednesday's, decked out in the old skool jerseys, never managed to recover, but we had a blast. We stayed till the bitter end although most of the fans left. It was then back on BART train and home to the city. It was quite the week thus far...

Monday, January 25, 2010

foursquare And I Care

I just have to shout out to the folks at foursquare. Because of these guys and gals (I imagine), I have notes and references to the many frequent stops of my life. So, Saturday for example, as I look at my history on foursquare, I see and remember that it was before 10am and Vega wasn't open yet. And Slight Glass was closed to lay down some flooring and I so I rode to Blue Bottle Cafe at Mint Plaza. Saw some familiar barista faces and had a Gibraltar. It was all I needed before boxing class at 10:30 with We were asked in class, if we wanted a crazy workout or technique training. I opted for both. I convinced a classmate Shana to venture back to Vega for round 2. We had her monster of a dog protecting us as we walked down Folsom Street. Oliver is like a horse and has a leash around his head because of his hugeness. I loved walking around with him, and her, of course. It was four hours later according to foursquare, apparently, that I finally got some pie at Pi. A slice of cheese pizza and Firestone Union Jack IPA draft was definitely overdue. But then I got the news that Rosamunde was now open in the Mission. This 2nd location was such a nice bonus for the neighborhood for sure. 24 drafts! YAWOWZERS! And foursquare reported Ommegang Hennepin and a beer sausage was ordered and devoured within minutes. I did meet up with Joel, a fellow beer lover. I had met him at Monk's Kettle right around New Years. Before I finished my 2nd beer which was a Double IPA dungenA, I got to talking to Christine who has worked for Rosamunde for 11 years. Christine, a Berliner had to go cut the cheese she said. I laughed. Emily was nice, she was the barkeep at the time. Rosmaunde is a traditional fable name for pig apparently. I'm just full of information and curiosity. I did go back, as I promised to the folks at Pi, for one last brew before Saturday's soiree. The electricity was out but the beer was still pouring. I got to talking to chef Claudia from Pi. She also stems from Germany and we were having Sausage Talk! Yums... I also drank a Russian River Blind Pig IPA on the house. Thanks Pi! Thanks foursquare for all the points and stats. I love this app on my iPhone as it helped me greatly writing this blog.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Cure For My Island Fever...

It has been two weeks since I got off the Island, the Big Island, that is. I have definitely been up to my old ways. Like a Sunday brunch at Boulettes Larder or Bar Tartine. Daily visits to Sight Glass, Cento, Four Barrel, Blue Bottle and Ritual. Well, not all of them in the same day, of course. And for some reason, with all this rainy weather, I have this daily craving for beer. So, it is not surprising to find me at 21st Amendment for Happy Hour or Pi having a slice and a draft. But enough about places you have heard me rave about over and over...Oh, but I do have to admit, I have visited my lil' hood of great sandos, coffee and ice cream at least four times since Hawaii. And of course, I am talking about my Pal's at Pal's Take-Away, my baristas at Dynamo Donuts and my buddy Jake at Humphrey Slocombe. But my latest find, and believe me, I have been waiting a year for this, is Hibiscus in Oakland. My good friend and head chef Sarah Kirnon landed here shortly after departing The Front Porch last February. Located inches from 19th BART Station, Hibiscus is on San Pablo Ave at 17th. From the moment I walked into the place, I felt the groove. This decor is comfortable but stunning. The bar looks great and the dining room just seduces you to sit and enjoy the Bajan flavors coming outta the kitchen. And so the kitchen brought out Black Eye Pea Fritters with house made Tamarind Sauce. Sarah is the absolute best fritter fryer around. I say this because, I think I still am working off her legendary Salt Cod Fritters she used to make at da' Porch. And these fritters that came out upon our arrival were not even listed on the evening's menu. They were quite special and very yummy. I also got to nosh on some Pickled Okra as I ordered a cocktail. Paul joined me that night, so it made it easy to try a few things. We shared the Oakland Bistro Salad, which is, Star Route frisee, deep fried oysters, house-cured bacon (OMG), hen egg and pickled okra. Yeah, that about, says it all...I was in love again, with Sarah, of course. The salad also came out with these absolutely fabulous, garlic oil dripping, Twice-Fried Plantains. And I was crippled. I mean, I sunk into my seat and just moaned for a minute. It was a necessity to try 2010's updated version of Miss Ollies Fried Chicken, now made in the City of Oakland. Sarah, like Apple, upgraded and enhanced an already flawless product. I know Miss Ollie is proud of her gran daughter. Her hot sauce recipe has been bottled up and comes along the side of the table as well. And, if you get to know Sarah, she may even let you buy some of her sauce for private home use. Let's just say, "a little, goes a long way." Back to the chicken...I was floored with the mash and couldn't figure out the veg until I looked back at the menu. Boniato sweet potato mash, giblet gravy, market vegetables...Whoa, me! And this was Paul's dish, by the way. I ordered the molasses & Creole mustard brined Berkshire Pork Chop with chocolate red beans, sauteed kale and romanesco. It was the biggest and baddest chop I think I have ever ordered. And by baddest, I mean, the best. Cooked to perfection, full of meat, need I say more? Of course, another gift from the kitchen accompanied our MAINS. The greens were rabe and beet tops and they were buttery goodness. After a couple whiskeys, we needed to trek to the Warrior/Nugget game down the block. But you know I couldn't leave without a little dessert. Me and Paul settled on Buttermilk Panna Cotta with pickled pineapple guava and I had a Roast Coffee Co. Mocha to pep things up. The Cotta was soft and luscious and the pickled pineapple guava was pure amazement. I'm jus' sayin! We ended the experience with a tour of the New Parrish which is the connecting nightclub. I got to meet the owner Michael. He was a gracious tour guide and I was pretty psyched to see another venue that I am sure I will be visiting for many upcoming bookings. It has been renovated, but only slightly. You still get that ole skool feel. It looks pretty awesome!!

So, it was 53-53, and the beginning of the 3rd period, by the time we arrived in our seats at Oracle Arena. But the game went into overtime and we were beaming from our delightful eatz and treatz from Hibiscus, a very chic new Oaktown Spot.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Final Moments Aloha Style

And so the final morning came upon us in our luxurious treehouse. I swear this palace had every accommodation you could imagine. We brewed a combo of the Verve Coffee beans and some local beans grown on the Island. With our 2nd cupfuls in hand, we drove inches down to our beach for one last swim in the wonderful and glorious ocean. This marked 8 days straight of getting some Ocean Action! I looked for whales and dolphins, but none in sight. We got back to our Lavahouse and ate leftover nick nacks, packed, cleaned and got all trash/recycling together. I must also mention our security for the week. We had a cat that was always around the house that we named Mr Fleas. He would always pop out when we were home. We fed him pieces of ham from time to time. He became of special part of being around the home. We were all taking turns saying our goodbyes to Fleas and he meowed back. I took one last outdoor shower and truly took it all in. The depth of the Island and the relaxation of the overall spirit around me. I have a whole new perspective of where I am at and what I want.

The drive is one thing I will truly miss. We had amazing slopes and even caught air sometimes. The ocean was always by our side, with its warm and inviting blue color. The people on the Hilo side are definitely a mixed bag. It was nice to see a lot of diversity. The boys were nice enough to drive me to the airport on their way to the next week of their holiday adventure camping in the Wilea Valley. On our way to Hilo Airport, going down the slopes we saw a local truck in front of us with a fresh kill hanging off the back part. This wild pig was robust. It needed to be documented. The guy in the back of the truck gave his blessing and stuck a thumbs up to us, as Grant took a picture. The sky was clear enough that we got to see Mauna Dea to left of us as we got close to the airport. We had clear viewing of Mauna Loa the other day too. The boys and I said our goodbyes and I headed to Honolulu.

I had almost an hour layover before my flight back to Oakland Airport. I decided to have my first and only Mai Tai of my vacation. I went up to the bar at Stinger Ray's and ordered a double. I figured I might as well get something to eat with a 5 hour flight underway. I decided on their Tempting Tropical Shrimp which were lightly breaded succulent jumbo sized with coconut flakes and fried golden. They were served with cocktail sauce and Ray's special sauce blend of Mango Chutney, guava and pineapple. Now that was the dip of dips. I got it with Stinger Fries and a Mini Caesar Salad. It was definitely a great last meal in Hawaii. I boarded with the excitement of knowing I was going home to San Francisco. That in itself is the ultimate vacation.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Food Is Always Your True Love

Were at Day 7...

I heard the guys get up early to make coffee. Since it was before sunrise, we all decided to drink our coffee by the beach and watch the sun come up. It was an unforgettable sunrise and I was glad to be with my 2 compadres who have been a true pleasure to vacation with over this last week. Being that it was my last full day on the Big Island, it was a collective decision to take it easy. We had promised Charlene that we'd pay a final visit to her at Sirius Coffee and she was so pleasant and sweet. She made me my shot with just the right amount of perfectly steamed milk. They also had the decadent lemon shortbread and I snatched one of those and the one with cacao as well. We got to chatting with Charlene and came to find out she only moved to the area a couple years ago from Tahoe City. She totally picked up our California vibe. She lives on the flow in Kalapana. Meaning she lives right on the lava and inches away from the live flow that surprisingly we missed. It has been 6 days she says and that is unusually long. I guess it stopped the day after we arrived. Oh well, it's nature, as they say. A very interesting character popped up next to us during our coffee break. One thing he said of many things he continuously was mumbling stuck to me though. "Food is always your true love." I don't know if he was aiming that at me eating my shortbread or just making a general statement. Either way, it was quite the quote.

Java filled, our daily ritual of getting in the ocean was underway. The drive down to Champagne Ponds was not too far from Pahoa. The car got parked about a mile away from this tranquil private spot. The walk along lava and rock was not bad even with the hot sun beaming down on us. Once we arrived, we immediately got our snorkel masks on and jumped into the warm water. The Volcano is responsible for making the water an even 90 degrees. The reasoning behind the name Champagne those is due to modest temperature changes that occur in this small environment. As we looked down and felt that change, you can definitely see the shift, the dissipation. The best part was hanging out with the sea turtle lounging on a rock amidst all this amazement. We chilled with him and even had face-to-face interactions before venturing off to lunch.

We decided to hit the Kalapana Village Cafe for lunch before heading to the New Kaimu (the other Black Sand Beach). The guys went for burgers but I took the Island lead and went for the Beer Battered Ahi Fish & Chips with home made macaroni salad. We each had ice cream with whipped cream as well. Grant got the Hawaiian Vanilla and Mango & Cream. Mark got Banana Macadamia Nut. And I got Haupia which is their Coconut flavored. After the ice cream melted in our mouths, we headed down the red trail toward the beach. As soon as the 3 of us pulled up to the oceanside, I saw the first whale activity. I saw a grey whale out of the water and tail snap before heading back under. I was stunned and elated. I only hoped the boys had a chance to see some similar action. It took a few minutes, but we saw 2 or 3 amongst a pack blow their spouts and do a tail snap as well. It was a tremendous sight. As we left, I saw yet another spout and snap. I had such a smile on my face.

One more dip in the Black Sand Beach before heading back for cocktail hour and our final supper before we say goodbye to the treehouse. The water was great and I hung out and soaked it all up. It went by fast but I am ready to head back to the main Island. I am recharged and I am inspired.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bending The Rules Can Sometimes Be Life-Changing

Mark, Grant and I woke up Thursday morning at the crack of dawn. We brewed almost the last of our Verve Coffee beans and made some granola with yogurt and fueled up. Mark was also nice enough to make sandwiches for our Rain Forest hike to the PU'U 'O'O Vent. This is the origin and lava source of the current eruption. This trail called the Kahauale'a Trail, was cut by state workers in 1990 and is the quickest and most direct route to Pu'u O'o. We got to the trail entrance at around 8 am. Although the signs were posted claiming the trail to be closed until further notice "due to dangerous and unpredictable volcanic conditions" we still ventured on. I guess we felt a bit more comfortable when another family of 3 passed us along the trail. This 4+ mile trek through the rain forest was just like our tour book described; " a garden of eden." It seemed to take us no time to get out to eruption. One thing we noticed though, were the cracks in the earth that we literally saw no bottom too. We crossed them on the way over in a breeze. You can imagine our anticipation though as we finally reached the vent and saw the cloud of smoke continuously flowing out of the eruption. At certain times during the year, if the wind were to be blowing in a different direction, it could be a threat with the sulfur fumes blowing in our direction. But, thankfully, we smelled nothing but clean air as we ate our sandwiches and observed this heavenly site. It was great to face another unknown situation and come out with exhilaration. On our journey back though, I faced those cracks in the surface from a different direction. All of them I conquered with ease until one that had me frazzled. The boys had darted ahead and I was left alone. In that moment, I was literally scared. I knew I had to jump and that I had to make it with this jump. Shaking and nervous, I placed myself in a position that I thought I would get the best distance with my leap of faith. I finally got the courage and went for it. I, of course, did not jump graciously and actually the last part of foot hit the crack and I fell to the ground. With little physical pain, I was just looking to catch my breath. My heart was pounding so hard in my chest I thought it was going to burst. I took several minutes to get back my composure. I faced death and made it. Bumped and bruised, but I made it.

The boys and I treated ourselves to a great lunch at Kiawe Kitchen in Volcano Village. And what a treat it was to have a wood fire oven. So we shared the Pizza Margherita made with San Marzano tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella and romano cheese. Of course we added Fontina and Italian Sausage to give it a bit more flair. The boys each got the Lunch Special Sando which was their Tri-Tip Beef . This sandwich is seasoned Tri-Tip, grilled to your preference, served with caramelized onions in a demi baguette. It also comes with a side of Dijon mustard and organic greens tossed in balsamic vinaigrette. I went for the Peppered turkey breast with fresh mozzarella & a side of sun dried tomato aioli. We were a bit worn down so I ordered an Affogato, which I was so psyched to see on the menu. It was presented like an ice cream sundae with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. So, I immediately ordered another shot of espresso, thinking it needed it. It was mighty delicious along side a few bites of the cheesecake Grant ordered.

After lunch, we alongside many tourists, ventured to the Kilauea Crater. After we paid our entrance fee, we parked along the Crater Rim Trail and walked up to the Steam Vents. You are immediately drawn to the steam and want to bask in it, only to find out, it's freaking hot! It is, however, super cool to see. We then drove and parked near the Halema'uma'u Crater, which was certainly not asleep with its smoke bursting from the top. Although not erupting, it could. Mark recalled 15 years back when you could actually drive up to the crater itself because there was no activity at all. The ranger informed us that it was just a couple years ago that they had to close that road down because of all the smoke that was coming out. Nature and its affects. I was in awe of the whole thing.

Before we went back to our house in Puna, we had a few stops. First, was a pull off the road to buy some sweet corn from a truck we saw parked. Haole Boy, as Charles refers himself, had igloos full of corn and smoked tuna. He gave Mark and I some samples of the different smokey treats. It was very jerky and tasty. We settled on a half a batch of corn and got back in the car. We went grocery shopping in Pahoa and got a chance to grab a little snack on the way out of the parking lot. Panko crusted mahi and chips that is. From Pahoa Fresh Fish. Served with tarter and a side of house-made coleslaw. This hit the spot. Vickie, our cook, allowed us to break out some Golden Ales from Kona Brewing Company, since she wasn't serving beer. Apparently, Vicki moved here 29 years ago from Montana. I asked what keeps her here and she claims the weather. I would have to agree.

It has been rather unusual, the weather that is. We are in midst of the rain season and have yet to experience a drop. It has been just an amazing climate. What has also been amazing, is the fact, that I have had the chance to get in the ocean everyday since I arrived. It was just before we reached home, groceries in trunk, amongst them Kona beer, that we decided to do a sunset skinny dip and bring the brews on down to Black Sand Beach. It was the most splendid way to end our stacked day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chillin' in the treehouse

Day 5...Woke up to the smell of bacon and french toast. I also smelled the Verve Coffee brewing. Mark was shredding cheese when I finally got to the top of the staircase. That was meant for the eggs he cooked in the same pan that housed the bacon that was permeating the air. Apparently he had also been shredding fresh ginger and put that in his batter for the Raisin Bread French Toast he served up. We got that Haupia sauce from The Seaside folks from dinner last night and drenched it along the tops of the bread. What a way to wake up, absolute paradise.

We decided to chill around the house most of the morning. This place is certainly magical. I have the master suite, go figure. The outdoor shower is like stepping into tranquility. The design is meant be like a treehouse and upstairs in the den and the outside deck definitely make you feel as if you are out and amongst the trees. The sounds of the birds chirping and the frogs whistling is better than any Sharper Image sound machine you can purchase.

I convinced Grant to drive into town. I had a mission. I wanted an espresso, but more than that, I needed to put one of my overdue blog entries out to the Internet. I met Keely, the barista that day, back at Sirius Coffee in Pahoa. She made me my requested shot with perfectly steamed milk. She gave me the perfect amount in the perfect sized cup as well. She is a final contender in terms of the best coffee so far on the Big Island.

The coffee certainly amped me to take a walk when we got back to the house. We are merely inches from the legendary Black Sands Beach, here in Puna. The beach was full of my kind of people. Hippies/gay peeps and I seemed to fit somewhere right in the middle. I instantly struck up a conversation with my neighbors. And wouldn't you know it, one was from Marin County and the other San Diego. They invited me to a house party tomorrow evening. Yay!

So, it was back to town in the early evening, right before sunset. That is, the town of Pahoa. We got some ingredients to go along with what we planned to have for dinner. Grant made a great salad with beets he had roasted for a good part of the afternoon while he chilled around the treehouse. He also had fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes and some purple looking carrots we had gotten at the farmers market. The Arugula was so fresh and divine. This salad was the center of the meal. We of course, have to get through our food purchases and so, we had some leftovers. The spaghetti and grass fed meatballs and some great sausages to be literal. All of which were mighty tasty. As with every evening we all retired around 8:30pm so we could wake with the sunrise.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fear Builds Confidence

Tuesday we headed back into Hilo for some sight seeing. I got to interview Jill, a Barista at Hilo Shark's Coffee after experiencing an awesome espresso shot with a bit of steamed milk. She was so bright and had such a passion for her work. Here is what I caught...

After we left the coffee house we went up to Rainbow Falls. We were the only rainbows around that day. We walked up a bit to get a higher perspective and saw this mighty tree with all these other trees grown alongside it and the roots were all amongst us continuing their growth. I felt strong and powerful walking through the life force of these trees. We went up to the Boiling Pots for an unexpected hike. I was not necessarily prepared for it. I was rather nervous actually. My friends, going at their own pace were more advanced and confident with climbing the rocks and crossing the water. I took my time, sometimes hugging the rocks and literally making sure I did not hurt myself. I was sweating and anxious but the fear was the challenge and I soon got over it. When we got to the waterfall, I felt it, the reward of the eager hike and even though signs around us said no swimming, I jumped in. It was glorious. The hike back was a cake walk in comparison.

We then went into a small town to grab some food before hitting the beach. We stopped at Jolene's and had a tasty treat including fried shrimp, chicken kotsu, beef teriyaki and some veggie tempura. Before we headed out, I picked up some Mestite, a grounding rock for me and my 2 compadres. The lady said it would help us keep grounded. Where was she on my hike.

It was only a few miles drive but we parked at the top of Waipio Valley and started our walk down to the beach. This downward angle, being that it was at a 45 degree angle, urged me to start jogging and once I started, I kept the momentum going and vigorously got my stride. I darted ahead all excited to get to the ocean. It was truly worth the wait. We got in and behind us was the light of the valley and to the left and right were amazing waterfalls. The water was perfect. We walked pretty far out and began our dance with the waves. We got into the rhythm and starting diving under riding them out. I managed to get completely flipped over at certain points. I was in heaven. We must have spent a good hour out there before heading down the beach and checking out the rest of the area we were in. Once we figured we had been in the most perfect spot, we furiously walked back and jumped back into our spot. After another hour of dancing with the waves, we were ready for our challenging hike upward. Now, it must have at least a mile up, and when I say up, I mean uphill the whole way at an angle that was very intimidating. It was an hour from sunset, we were tired and you know my thumb was out, when trucks started to pass us up. Luckily we saw this couple from Berkeley that we had talked to in the ocean earlier. They got some sympathy and were riding in the back of a truck filled with older kind peeps. When they got to me, I had the biggest smile on my face. They told me to jump in and I made sure my friends could as well. Next thing you know, we are climbing up the enchanting trail that shows us all the beauty of the ocean and we felt blessed. It was the best way we could have ended our incredible day.

In celebration of a very full and exciting day, we decided to treat ourselves and go out for supper. I googled Best Food in Hilo and Yelp popped up with their suggestion. So we called ahead to The Seaside Restaurant and made reservations. We arrived in the day's attire but were greeted with open arms. Mark and I were immediately drawn to the Ahi Poke on the menu. It was served with ogo, onion, inamona and scallions. It was absolutely primo and the only reason we didn't order a second helping was due to the escargot we ordered. These slippery little suckers were sauteed in garlic butter rosemary sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese. Oh yeah and some toasted bread slices for dipping. We dipped alright. It was a dynamite spectacle. We also ordered Lavaman Red Ales to go alongside our superior selections. When it came time to order main courses. I went for the Fresh Catch of the Day. I chose the MahiMahi and got it served with butter garlic and on top of Linguini. The dinner salad dressing I chose was the Papaya Seed Vinaigrette by the way, in case you all were wondering. We all ordered and shared our desserts. Mark got the Taro and Sweet Potato Bread Pudding topped with haupia (coconut) sauce and caramel. This dessert was so wonderful that we specially requested 3 helpings of this haupia sauce for our morning french toast, I'll tell y'all all about it, don't worry...Back to the Kona Coffee Mud Pie that Grant ordered. This dessert was served with chocolate syrup, whipped cream and cherry. I also got to taste this special local treat and I went back and tasted just a couple more times before settling back with my Hilo House-made Mac-nut Vanilla ice cream which was also delectable. I was certainly ready for bed when we finally hit the house close to 10pm.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Black Sand, Lava, Shaved Ice...Oh My!

I kept a log of my recent vacation.  Here is the first three days...

We got to Hawaii, Honolulu, that is, by 12:30.  It was only another 45 minute layover and a 45 minute flight before we finally landed in Hilo and began our vacation.  Before we even hit a grocery store, we stopped and got some tuna poke at Poke To Your Taste.  It was drenched in spice like soy sauce, scallions and garlic.  We bought about a pound but between 2 of us (Grant does not eat any seafood), we managed to finish half of it.  Then it was off to the KTF, a local grocery, where  we must have spent at least an hour getting weekly supplies. There was a Sunday Farmer's Market near our house, so we excluded some purchases like our fruits and veggies. After we got into our beautiful Lava House in Puna, we dropped off our luggage and groceries and quickly went to Black Sand Beach for a sunset dip in the ocean.

My vacation mates, Mark and Grant, awoke early, with the sunrise on our first full day. We made our imported Verve Coffee that we smuggled in and hit the Farmer's Market by quarter till 9.  I let the guys go after the meal necessities items as I toured the grounds bumping into the guy making pizzas, the cute guy selling soap and the chill surfer girl selling t-shirts.  I re-joined the boys and shared a Shrimp Crepe before taking off back home.  The ocean and lava is so exciting and enchanting.  We drove around for a while, checking out all the scenic points and possible ocean entries.  We stopped back in the town of Pahoa not too far from our house, for some espresso at Sirius Coffee. I had a medium Breve which is espresso with steamed half & half.  And it was just the right kick I needed for our afternoon snorkel in the Kapoho Tide-Pools. I went down and toured the coral after walking out the lava rock.  We saw great fish, all diverse in color and shape. We saw sea cucumbers and also some sea urchins. After seeing Avatar on New Year's Day, it was nice to be down, head down that is, and see a glowing environment and feel like just a mere visitor to a spectacular sight.  So far, this island experience is mighty spectacular, I would say.

Monday, we went back to Pahoa in the morning and had a chance to enjoy the same barista from the day before at Sirius Coffee.  I explained to Charlene how I liked my espresso and she rocked me a shot with steamed milk in a small coffee cup.  It was as close to a Gibraltar as I could get and i was obliged. It was then onward to Hilo with a stop in Rock Island Gallery. I met Morgen a 61 year old Iron Woman.  She pointed out the Aragonite which was an amazing stone that apparently crystallizes  forming needle-shaped crystals which are elongated along the c-axis. This mineral provides for ease of centering oneself and is especially helpful during periods of stress and anger...It enhances ones patience...It also enhances reliability and practicality. This was exactly what I needed to hand out to Mark and Grant after a challenging morning. I also picked up a native Kona Island Brown Calcite for Paul.  We were told to go to Richardson Beach Park for some good swimming. So we headed over and got in the water and swam out a bit before realizing all the tide pools that were surrounding us.  We ventured back to the car, got the snorkel gear and walked across the lava into the pools for some exploring.  Saw some great colored fish like some rainbow fish.

I asked the natives where the best shaved ice was and they mentioned Wilson's by the Bay.  We got there and it was closed.  We headed a couple blocks up and satisfied our overdue craving. I ordered a combo of the Lilikoi and Li-Hing Shaved Ice with some mango-n-Cream Ice Cream & condense cream...Da Works! It was just what the Island Doc ordered.  Our final stop of the day was to watch the sunset at lava flow back down the road from our tree house in the town of Kalapana.  Unfortunately the lava stopped a flowing the morning before and is not known when she will appear again.  But we did see the smoke rise and the sun get red and fade away.  There was some great light in the sky and on us.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Births, Anniversaries, and a whole New Year of experiences

I think that this week, the streets seemed unusually empty.  I still managed to find celebrations and discover new places to eat and drink.  Monday was the 1 year Anniversary of Humphrey Slocombe.  I can't believe it's only been 1 year with the amount of times I have visited.  I got to talk to Jake the owner, as he offered me and Jennifer a piece of birthday cake. I mentioned the Duck Fat Pecan Pie I had eaten at Four Barrel only a day earlier.  Jake has branched out from just ice cream to brittle, nuts, marshmellows and other wonderful confections.  The pecan pie had to be one of the most heavenly pastries I have had in a while.  This week, I also tried their coffee cake, their brownie and a lard caramel.  I also tried a few ice cream flavors like Far West Candy Cap made with mushrooms and Guinness Ginger Bread. It was in Humphrey Slocombe that I heard about Farm Table.  So, the next day, I dragged Rita, my admin and hopped 2 buses over to Post between Jones and Leavenworth and tried it out.  I recognized Kate from Blue Bottle.  I had also heard of Cambria from my friend Karri.  Cambria worked alongside my friends Carlo and Antonio when they were at Piccino.  Kate and Cambria looked at ease in this comfy tiny cafe.  They serve Verve Coffee from Santa Cruz.  That was also the first time I had their espresso but certainly not the last because of how the week unfolded.  Rita and I shared the Butternut Squash and Apple Cider soup to start.  We both warmed up nicely, as it was another gloomy overcast day.  We also were delighted by the mixed greens that had shaved parmessan and pomegranites.  The sandwich of the day was prosciutto, butter and scallion oil on baguette.  Again, we split and loved every morsel.  The mochas were delish and we even shared a chocolate chip cookie that I had a hard time not dipping into my coffee drink. On our walk back to the office, we had the chance to stop at Harput's new location and said hello to Gus.  Lots of Y3 for sale and great women's and men's designer clothes about, the star of the show though, was Lulu the dog.  She is the sweetest and tiniest french bulldog. But I was psyched to see Harputs in Union Square and I know Gus will be very successful.

It was the next morning at Cento, 2 Centos deep, that I learned of another spot that was serving Verve Coffee Roasteries.  Sight Glass is a new spot on 7th between Folsom and Howard run by 2 brothers who have worked previously at both Blue Bottle and Four Barrel.  Sight Glass as brother Justin describes it in terms of  their roaster, there are 2 windows on the face of the drum, they are the only visual indicator of whats going on inside the drum while you are roasting coffee.  Justin  says,"it has to do with, stylisiticlly, how we roast coffee. It is all sensory based, sight, sound and smell.  The sight glass is the visual aspect of us roasting coffee.  The concept of transparancey throughout, so the way that  the lay out of our space.  Exposure and transparanecy of the roasting process from it's raw form of green coffee to being roasted, all the way to being prepared and served."  They have gutted the hell out of the 7000 + square feet if you count the 2 floors. Upfront is where all the roasting and production will happen and as you walkthrough all that to the back, that is where the main coffee bar will be. So you have to walk through the process to get served. I came up with that tag line.  Pretty friggin' cool. So cool that I visited again New Years Eve and New Years Day.  I also bought Verve beans for my Hawaiian adventure this weekend. I'm hooked.

Wednesday night I hosted Karri, Nico, Erin and Laura for cocktails before dinner.  Karri graciously provided some great cheese and bread, I supplied the Basil Hayden.  It was then off to Contigo on Castro near 24th Street. Chris was in the kitchen and brought out several dishes amongst the many we also ordered to share amongst the 7 of us after Erin's boyfriend Erin joined. Erin and Erin, go figure.  We started the evening with a sparkling rose.  Moved on to a bottle of red after many tastings and ended with a great dessert wine. One of the major highlights on the menu for me was their  Dungeness Crab Salad with Little Gems, Citrus, Marinated Beets and Saffron Vinagreta.  The Albondigas, which are the Pork and Jamon Meatballs in Tomato Sherry Sauce were screaming. And the Butter Beans done "Meson de Candido" style had all right amount of pig a reform Jew won't mind eating. I mean, we are talking, Pork Belly, Chorizo and Trotters. Woo-Wee!  Since we shared everything amongst so many folks, we had no problem sharing 3 different desserts. The chocolate caliente con churros was fried to order and once the churros were gone, I still went after the cup of thick, rich Barcelona-Style Chocolate. I also did not runaway from the Turron Mousse with Moscatel Gelee and Vanilla Meringue. In fact, I loved it so much, I spent some time with it, as it made the rounds. I say they all tied with Burnt Caramel Flan with Mantequilla Cookie, in terms of favorites.  I loved them all.

I had a float day and so I used it and took the day off on New Years Eve. Went to the gym for the last Troy ab class of the year and worked out my chest and biceps one last time in 2009.  I then met up with Jennifer for Four Barrel and that lard caramel I mentioned earlier. As if that weren't enough, we decided to go grab lunch and beer at Monk's Kettle.  Located on 16th Street at Albion cross street, this brew pub has major munchies like the mac and cheese cooked in a skillet with applewood bacon and a flank steak sando with blue cheese aioli.  We had several drafts like ...I was so knockered that I had to skip boxing and head back to Sight Glass for a mocha to try and even out a bit.  Let's just say that I was finally tired, all the goings out in 2009 made me unmotivated to go ring in the New Year and save the celebration for the following morning.

Speaking of New Years Day. I had both a  mocha and baby latte at Sight Glass before heading to the IMAX for a morning 3-D show of Avatar. I don't get to the movies enough, but this what movie making is all about. I was completely engaged from the second it started. I felt the story was so relevant to today and visuals were tremendous.  I still feel drawn to the world Cameron brilliantly created on screen.  After the film let out, I walked over to Blue Bottle to find them closed for the holiday.  That was fine 'cause I just went back to Sight Glass and my new friend RJ who I had gotten to know in the past 3 days.  I met up with my friend Josh visiting from El Paso, Texas.  He loved the coffee.

We continued our reunion and I took him to Piccino in the DogPatch on 20th by 3rd Street. The New Year's Pizza had shaved foie gras, mozzarella & radicchio. And I ate the whole thing and loved every minute of it.  We also had french press Blue Bottle which is always satisfying.

After a few beers in the Castro with friends, I walked myself back to my neighborhood and stopped at The Front Porch for their annual Crab Pot and Fried Chicken New Year's soiree.  I got a 2 piece fried chicken which came with greens and black eyed peas.  Yummy in my tummy! Crab was gone but the shrimp was still a' boiling.  Kev, owner and friend, kept handing over his large portion for me to eat.  And then I got some mac' cheese and some fried pickles.  I was drinking Big Daddy IPA's so you know I was a very happy camper. 

And so begins 2010 as I write this descending into Honolulu and connecting over to the Big Island.  Goody I get to recharge the batteries and visit Hilo and see all the volcanic activity.  Look out for updates and pictures and ALOHA!