Rustic Category

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 6

We were on the road to Hanakapiai Trail from Ke’e Beach by 5:30am the next morning. The drive takes one to two hours depending on when you leave. It only took us an hour, but we knew that the hike to Hanakapiai Falls would require at least four hours, and an early start meant less people.

The hike begins at the northern entrance to the famous Kalalau trail which is known for its incredible views and the dangers involved in getting to those views. On my helicopter ride, I literally got a birds eye view of this trail. I kid you not, the “trail” is barely that. By the looks of two hikers braving the trail at the time – their stomachs and faces pressed tightly against the red dirt mountain side – it truly seemed the foothold couldn’t have been that much wider than a size 7 foot. Add in a perpetual mist off the teeming ocean directly below, and constant wind erosion, and it’s no wonder hikers die every year from attempting to trek the entire 11 mile trail.

Although it’s possible to hike the Kalalau in a day, it’s highly recommended that hikers take two days. But a nice alternative for those of us not quite ready to fall to our deaths (at least not yet) is to hike to Hanakapiai Falls which is about 8 miles and doesn’t require a meeting with your life insurance agent. The hike starts at Ke’e Beach and goes along the coast, veers inland into a lush canyon, then ends up at one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the island. And this hike is no cake walk either, especially if rains have made the trail very slick and extremely muddy, like we experienced.

But it is one of the shorter hikes you can do with incredible scenery along the way, and a major payoff at the end. Take a look.

When we arrived, we spotted a natural rock alcove overlooking the falls, and climbed up to have a simple but perfectly satisfying lunch of cold rosemary roast chicken, apples, trail mix, and more homemade ahi jerky from Living Foods . I also had some excellent lilikoi-lychee Kauai Kombucha. This was one of the most memorable lunches I’ve had in my life.

We made it back to Ke’e Beach just when the trail was getting crowded.

We were filthy and glowing.

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On the drive back, we hit up Joe’s Banana Stand and each had an incredible pineapple “frosty” which transforms frozen pieces of the ripest, sweetest pineapple and banana into a creamy delight (no dairy included). Also for the first time, we got to sample some rare poha berries and Sugar Loaf white pineapple.

Poha berries are tropical fruits that originated in South America and were brought to the Islands by early settlers. The berries come from the tomato family, and like tomatillos, have a papery husk. The fruits are a beautiful orangish yellow, and are softly tart and sweetly floral. Sugar Loaf white pineapple is exactly as delectable as it sounds. I love pineapple as it is, but imagine it with a core as tender and sweet as the flesh around it. Sugar Loaf is indeed a beautiful cream-white color, as well.

I felt like I had stopped at the edible candy cottage in Hansel and Gretel, except in place of a witch, there was a charming older hippie couple running the place.

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Our next stop was Kilauea where we had a few comforting slices of pizza at the charming Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza.

And we made it just in time for the Kilauea Sunshine Farmer’s Market. It was small, but no trip is complete for me without perusing an open air market. This one happened to have a vendor offering young coconut to drink and eat (with coconut shell “spoon”) too. Bonus!

Funny enough, we also spotted our crazy hiking guide Steve on a bike on his way to the market with who must have been his girlfriend from Tasmania (he had mentioned her several times to us on our hike).

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Last stop was a joint that screamed out at us to stop and sample: Chicken in a Barrel. Crazy smoky chicken that’s slow cooked in oil drums on the side of the road, the chicken was rich, hearty and plenty smoky. And one serving could easily feed two.

We also sampled a side of the pulled Hawaiian pork with Hawaiian BBQ sauce, as well. The pork was tasty (I mean, it’s smoked pork!), but if you visit Chicken in a Barrel, you should go there for the chicken. Don’t forget to try the potato salad and condiments they’ve got lined up at the counter too. You’ll definitely get the local vibe eating this chicken while sitting at one of their picnic tables on the side of the road, smoking oil drums going nonstop right next to you.

Smattering from the Big Apple: Part 1

Despite Jordan and I being inducted into the hall of fame of “mutant viruses of 2012” all in the same weekend, we still managed to enrich our food tasting repertoire.

Here’s part one of the smattering of yummies I indulged in whilst my mind endured a feverish delirium…

Joe’s Pizza
7 Carmine Street @ Bleecker

Of course the minute we landed we headed north into Soho and then Greenwich with one thing on our mind – a NY slice. Joe’s is a straightforward joint that is authentic NYC. The pizza tasted friggin’ great after a stuffy plane ride.

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Molly’s Cupcakes
228 Bleecker St

I was dying for something sweet afterwards and just kitty corner to Joe’s was Molly’s Cupcakes from Cupcake Wars fame.

Peanut Butter Nutella – Peanut Butter cake stuffed with Nutella and topped with Nutella buttercream. Uh, yum.

Chocolate Decadence – Chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse topped with ganache and chocolate curls. Seriously, this is ALL the chocolate you can stuff in a cupcake? Slackers.

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Murray’s on Bleeker
254 Bleecker St

This was a random walk-by then walk-through. I can never resist a deli counter with signs like “cave aged” above it.

I was lucky enough to get a taste of the paleta de bellota which I learned is the front leg versus the hind leg of the famous Spanish black Iberian pigs from which the even more famous jamon iberico is made.

It’s that beautiful cured leg on top of the counter that looks like its been chomped in the middle by Pac-Man.

It definitely wasn’t as melty as jamon iberico which makes sense given the part of the pig, but it had a straightforward, kind of more “working man” type meaty flavor – “working man” of course meaning only slightly lesser upper echelon of cuisine.

We also got some finnochiona which tasted like a kicked up sopressata and some thin slices of tasso ham. Did I mention that this snack was only about a half hour after leaving Molly’s?

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The Spotted Pig
314 W 11th St (between Hudson St & Greenwich St)

Although both our bodies were feeling the non-stop eight hours of walking creeping up on us (and catching up with a vengeance later), we mustered up our last bit of energy…to wait for two hours.

But, here are the dishes that made it worth it!

I thought the creamy Deviled Egg with the surprise of chili oil would be my fave, until I dived into the Chicken Liver on Toast. Damn.

Imagine a slathering of peanut butter and jelly on toast, but substitute the peanut butter for creamy smooth chicken liver, bulgogi-flavor, and a rich caramelized onion marmalade for the jelly. I’ve never had anything like it, and craved it almost immediately after I’d finished the whole thing.

But there was still, one more gastropub delight. Crispy Pig Ear Salad. Super crisp as you bite into them – the ears of course – melty fatty then slightly chewy. Good god.

It was pretty late when we hailed a cab outside of The Pig as Jordan liked to call it, but the place was still jumping when we left. We were wrecked but oh so happy with our food excursions for the day.

What awaits us on day 2?!

Meals from the Pantry: Sunday Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

One pot meals that get better over time are all the rage in our house lately. I’ve gotten in the habit of leisurely cooking a bit pot o’ something in my trusty Le Creuset dutch oven on Sundays, and it’s made dinners during the week (and lunches for the hubby) so convenient and stress-free.

Here’s a recipe I adapted from the iconic Uglesich’s Restaurant Cookbook for a Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. Their version takes two days, so I created my own version that still delivers the lusciousness and comfort of a traditional gumbo, while staying user- and pantry-friendly. If you want to kick it up for an occasion, use rabbit instead of chicken!

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Sunday Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Adapted from The Uglesich’s Restaurant Cookbook

Ingredients
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup flour
1 medium white onion
2 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped (white part mostly)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp of parsley, chopped
1 dry bay leaf
3/4 tsp dry thyme
1/2 tsp dry marjoram
1/2 tsp dry basil
2 tbsp file powder
1 tbsp cayenne
1 tbsp Cajun spice powder (no salt version)
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cartons (32 oz each) low sodium chicken broth
1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced into about 1/2″ thick pieces
1/2 lb (half pkg) Hilshire Farm beef smoked sausage, sliced into about 1/2″ thick pieces
2 lbs chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
Worcestershire Sauce
Salt
Black pepper
Hot sauce

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The hardest part of this gumbo is the prep. And the hardest part about the prep is poaching the chicken. And the hardest part of poaching chicken is being patient and trusting it’s getting cooked in the pot even though the water is barely simmering!

Poached Chicken
Recipe adapted from About.com

Ingredients
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
4-5 cups water
1 bay leaf
5 whole black peppercorns
Pinch of salt

Cut each chicken breast in half so they are all about the same size. Place chicken breasts snugly in ideally one layer in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot. If you have some pieces on a second layer, I wouldn’t sweat it but just try to layer evenly. Cover chicken with water (make sure all is covered). Add bay leaf, salt, and whole black peppercorns. Stir water just to stop the herbs from floating.

Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to low so that the water is barely at a simmer. Partly covered, simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat completely, and allow chicken to remain in hot water for 15-20 minutes.

Remove chicken to a bowl until it is lukewarm. Shred the chicken and set aside.

This can be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate over night.

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Now that you’ve got your chicken done, it’s time to gumbo! I highly recommend that you prep and assemble all the ingredients in a mise en place fashion so that you don’t get bogged down in chopping here and measuring there. Especially for something like a gumbo where a lot goes into a pot, not having to worry about prep while you’re cooking allows you to really focus on the flavor and seasoning which is where it’s all at anyway!

In a large pot or dutch oven, add the oil and set on medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the flour. Try to sprinkle it evenly over the oil. You’re about to make a roux which is as traditional as traditional gets in Creole Cajun cooking! By using a whisk or a wooden spoon (I like to use both based on how things are progressing), stir the flour into the oil for about 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll see a lovely transformation take place where the flour and oil mixture transforms into a creamy base the color of peanut butter.

Add the onions, celery, green pepper, scallions, garlic and parsley. Saute until veggies soften and are mixed well with the roux.

Add the thyme, basil, bay leaf, cayenne, and about a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of black pepper. Stir into veggie and roux mixture, then pour in can of crushed tomatoes.

Again continue to incorporate all ingredients well, then add the chicken broth.

Give everything a good stir and then add the shredded chicken, andouille, smoked sausage, file powder, Cajun spice powder, and some healthy dashes of both the Worcestershire sauce, and your favorite Louisiana pepper sauce or Cajun hot sauce.

Jordan being a hot sauce fanatic ensures we always have a good variety, but use what you like and how spicy you make it is up to you!

Bring the gumbo up to a boil, then turn down the heat until you have a gentle simmer.

Simmer on low partially covered for 2 to 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper and cayenne and/or hot sauce (as desired).

Serve over cooked rice.

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This is definitely one of those dishes that gets better and better the longer it sits, but you’re going to want to treat yourself to a least a little bowl! Don’t forget you can garnish with a little chopped scallion on top too, and maybe a couple dashes of your favorite hot sauce.

Woo-eee!

London Calling! – WWII, Churchill, and The Wolseley

Being a big WWII history buff, one of Jordan’s life goals was to visit the Imperial War Museum and Churchill War Rooms in London. Through the years I’ve also become a bit of a fangirl for this stuff, especially after watching documentaries like The World at War and reading books like Alan Clark’s Barbarossa: The Russian German Conflict, 1941-45.

We were both awed by what we saw today.

T-34 and M4 Sherman tanks, Spitfires, an Enigma de-coder that helped turn the tide of the war, personal letters between lovers, a moving look at the Holocaust, and much more painstakingly displayed. It was all there for us to experience and we soaked in as much as we could.

One could easily spend days here, and seeing both old and young faces around us, it’s clear how impactful WWII has been on generations.

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Churchill’s Bunker was both surreal and kind of spooky to walk through. It seemed a place frozen in time. One’s mind was filled with sounds iconic to WWII like old-timey phones ringing, crackly speeches from tube radios, and Churchill’s monotonous and gruff British voice that inspired so many.

We spent copious hours down there back in the 1940s, and emerged from the bunker into a dazzling London night.

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After a quick nap for me and a stroll across the bridge for Jordan, we met back up to decide on supper.

Oddly enough both of us were in the mood for meat and potatoes. Perhaps our souls were hankering for a good old fashioned meal.

Again our trusty concierge set us up with a great recommendation. Although The Wolseley was booked for reservations that night, we suggested we try our luck and stroll by.

And lucky for us, the host at The Wolseley was such a nice gentleman and he was able to accommodate us straight away despite how busy they were.

It seems every restaurant near St. James and Picadilly Circus has a grand story to tell. And The Wolseley was no exception.

According to their site, the space was owned by Wolseley Motors in 1921 and was designed to be a prestigious car showroom. Venetian and Florentine influences are clearly apparent with the restaurant’s grand pillars, arches and stairways.

The addition of a banking counter and offices with a Japanese lacquer theme came in 1927 when Barclays Bank acquired the building. The post box and stamp machine are still there today.

It was only in 2003 that it became the remarkably unstuffy restaurant with impeccable service and food that it is today.

Escargots à la Bourguignonne

Endive salad with bleu cheese and candied walnuts

Chopped Liver

Filet de Boeuf au Poivre

Tenderloin, pommes frites, kale

Lyonnaise Potatoes

Apple Strudel with vanilla ice cream

After our sumptuous meal, we walked the graceful London streets around us and mooned over this great city with its long turbulent history and its leading-edge present.

I think I’m starting to feel quite at home here. 🙂

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