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In this journal I share a lot of the recipes I find online or develop myself. Since people often ask me for pointers to those, here's an index, dated to stay at the top of the page:

Click for Links to Recipe Entries )
lillibet: (Default)
In this journal I share a lot of the recipes I find online or develop myself. Since people often ask me for pointers to those, here's an index, dated to stay at the top of the page:

Click for Links to Recipe Entries )

An Odyssey

Aug. 15th, 2017 01:00 pm
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When we first put together a schedule for the summer, it didn't look as though we'd be able to make our usual pilgrimage to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but as the plans got rearranged and put back together it turned out there was a narrow window when Jason and I could get down to Ashland just to see Mary Zimmerman's adaptation of The Odyssey, which she was reviving herself for the festival.

For those of you keeping track at home, Mary Zimmerman is probably my favorite stage director. She created Metamorphoses, one of the most perfect theatrical experiences of my life, and I loved her White Snake, as well. I am really enamored by her talent for taking ancient, epic stories and making them personal for modern audiences. I have read her version of The Odyssey in the past and been completely mystified how it might be staged, so I was very excited to see this production.

We flew down from Seattle on Sunday afternoon and checked into the Ashland Springs Hotel, which is a lovely, classic hotel just a block from the festival theatres. After a pleasant walk through Lithia Park, complete with a wade in the stream there, we had dinner at Amuse, our favorite restaurant in town, where the standout this time was a dessert of cherries soaked in balsamic vinegar and served over vanilla ice cream and a brown sugar cracker for a marvelous combination of contrasting flavors and textures. Then we headed over to the Elizabethan Theatre, an outdoor amphitheatre built to echo Shakespeare's Globe.

Detailed reflections on The Odyssey )

Overall I liked this show, rather than loving it. I think that if I ever decided to take on this story myself I would investigate other adaptations, or simply begin with the source text and carve my own show from it, rather than working from this script. I am very glad to have seen it, but would rank it below the three other shows I've seen her direct.

We went back to the hotel and watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones before bed. In the morning we had breakfast there and then I was able to squeeze in a massage across the street at Waterstone Spa. I always enjoy my experiences there, but this was definitely the best massage I've gotten there, and especially helped my thighs, which were still painfully tight from all the gardening on Friday.

When that was done, we piled quickly into the car and after a much-anticipated lunch at Jack-in-the-Box, hopped on our flight back to Seattle. Reunited with Alice, Steve, and Eric, we met Jason's best friend, Todd, for excellent sushi at Chiso in Fremont, and then I got to read Alice bedtime stories for the last time in a week before Jason took me back to Sea-Tac for my redeye to Boston. The flight was easy and quick--we made it in under four and a half hours, one of the fastest transcontinental flights I've ever flown--and I hadn't checked a bag, so I was able to walk out to a cab and be home just about the time we'd been scheduled to land. Jason and Alice are staying for another week, planning to go camping north of Boise over the weekend and catch the total eclipse before heading home.

It was strange to be doing all this travel and engaging in rituals of personal grief and delightful sensory experiences while violence in Charlottesville and its aftermath were taking over the news. I'm very glad to be home and able to engage more fully in the resistance to those awful events. Thanks to all those who kept me informed and in touch over the weekend.
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Before I forget, here are the highlights of our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. All the photos are viewable on Flickr.

We flew into Sun Valley, ID and spent the first couple of days in Stanley for a gathering of the Furey family. We stayed at Stanley Town Square, which was lovely and right at the end of the dirt road leading up to the family's ranch at Goat Falls. While there we visited Redfish Lake and hiked up to Lily Pond and the falls above it and also went whitewater rafting on the Salmon River. Then we drove up to Salmon, ID, where Jason's mom grew up, and visited the house that her father built, where Jason celebrated Christmas throughout his childhood. From there we headed over to the parks.

Day 1
Activities: We drove a total of six hours from Stanley, through Salmon, to reach West Yellowstone, where we checked in, got dinner, and enjoyed a relaxing swim before bed.
Lodging: WorldMark by Wyndham, West Yellowstone, MT.
We booked this through AirBNB--it's a timeshare place and we had a very comfortable two-bedroom unit with a balcony where ravens landed on the railing at sunset, and use of their pool and hot tub.
Food: Lunch at Junkyard Bistro in Salmon, ID--a real find. Dinner was tapas at Cafe Madriz in West Yellowstone.

Day 2
Activities: Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, Artists' Paint Pots.
This was a big day of hiking around hot springs and geysers, admiring their variation and colors. Favorites included Canary Spring on the Upper Terrace at Mammoth and the Mud Pot at Artits' Paint Pots.
Wildlife: We saw several elk in Mammoth Hot Springs, including one that crossed the road to the lawn we were standing beside, right as we were leaving lunch.
Lodging: WorldMark
Food: Lunch at Mammoth Hot Springs' Terrace Grill. Dinner at Madison Crossing Lounge.

Day 3
Activities: We visited Artist's Point in Canyon and the brink of the Upper Falls, both of which were gorgeous. Then we drove through Hayden Valley, one of the prime wildlife viewing areas. Traffic was backed up for a mile or more from where people were looking at bison near the road, so the others got out and climbed a hill and walked along the road to catch up to me at the bottom. We stopped at Old Faithful, just to use the bathrooms, but decided to go ahead and see when the next eruption was predicted, which was less than half-an-hour from then, so we sat on the benches around the geyser to wait and got to see Beehive Geyser erupt and then Old Faithful join it, a very unusual coincidence.
Wildlife: Bison. Lots of bison. A bunch of baby bison in the bison basin.
Lodging: WorldMark
Food: Lunch at the Canyon Village. Dinner was pizza from Wapiti Pizza--I went to get it, which was a bit of an adventure, since it's actually located inside the Zipline Adventure Park, but it was quite tasty.

Day 4
Activities: We got up early to drive down to Headwaters and claim a same-day campsite reservation. By then it was clear to me that I had a UTI, so we went down to the Urgent Care Clinic at Jackson Lake, where I got antibiotics and we had a lovely lunch in the hotel, looking out at the mountains. Then we drove up Signal Mountain, arriving just as a thunderstorm was moving over the peak--very exciting and lovely views of the valley with fog and rain moving across it. In the evening Jason and I drove down to Jackson Hole for dinner, while Steve and Alice tried out the restaurant at Sheffields in the Headwaters lodge.
Wildlife: Deer.
Lodging: Headwaters at Flagg Ranch on the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Alice and Steve camped out, while Jason and I shared one of their luxury cabins (basically a hotel room with a bathroom in a freestanding cabin).
Food: Lunch at the Jackson Lake Hotel. Dinner at The Kitchen in Jackson Hole, the highlight of which was wagyu beef wrapped around fresh, crisp scallions and topped with an amazing miso brown butter.

Day 5
Activities: We took a trailride through the area around Flagg Ranch, mostly through forest that burned last year, but is quickly coming back with gorgeous wildflowers. After that we went down to Colter Bay where we had lunch and went kayaking on Jackson Lake for an hour. In the evening we drove down to Jackson Hole again for dinner and back up along the other side of the lake at sunset.
Lodging: Headwaters
Food: Lunch at Colter Bay Village. Dinner at Glorietta in Jackson Hole, WY that included grilled rabbit, duck, mussels, and green beans, fried squash blossoms, and Italian stir-fried rice.

Day 6
Activities: Midway Geyser Basin. Grand Prismatic Spring. Old Faithful Geyser Basin where we saw another eruption from the veranda of the Old Faithful Inn. Then we hiked up to Solitary Geyser, helping Alice to complete her Young Scientist packet. From there it was only another .3 miles up to Observation Point, which didn't seem far until we realized how steep it was. But we made it, hot and huffing, and flopped down on the logs there and looked out just as Old Faithful erupted again, which was a marvelous surprise. We headed back to Headwaters for dinner, then Jason and I went back down to Colter Bay, where we could sit in the bar and use their wifi.
Lodging: Headwaters.
Food: Lunch at Old Faithful Inn--quite a destination on its own. Dinner at Sheffields, followed by roasted marshmallows for dessert at Alice and Steve's campsite. Kudos to Jason for building a very nice fire.

Day 7
Activities: West Thumb Geyser Basin. Tower Fall. Lamar Valley. Petrified Tree. Chico Hot Springs.
Wildlife: Bison, right in the road next to our car! Plus bighorn sheep.
Lodging: Chico Hot Springs
Food: Lunch at Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Dinner at Chico Hot Springs--a delicious meal, slightly marred by slow and inaccurate service, but they took one of our entrees off the bill in recompense, so we left feeling ok about it. The best thing was an appetizer of mushroom risotto with rabbit.

Day 8
After a swim in the warm (98.5) and hot (105.3) pools at Chico, we headed for Bozeman where we returned our rental car, checked in for our flights, and had a good lunch in the airport restaurant before seeing Steve off to Seattle and boarding our flight to Denver. We were delayed in Denver for over an hour and then delayed again getting into Boston, so didn't arrive home until 2:30am--a very long day.

Overall, it was a very good trip. I really enjoyed rafting and kayaking for the first time and the chance to ride, though my knees are getting old for that. Alice had a marvelous time and took great pride in getting us into the parks for free, as part of the Every Kid in a Park program, and fulfilling the Junior Ranger requirements in both Yellowstone and Grand Teton and the Young Scientist program at Old Faithful. Her favorite part was camping out with her grandfather--as was his. We were delighted that he could join us for the trip and Jason is very pleased to have gotten to take Alice there at just the right age to make the most of it.
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This year Alice requested that we not undertake a major trip for her Spring Break. She's been very busy and feeling the lack of downtime, so despite my regretting not getting a real vacation, we agreed we would stay home. But then I suggested that perhaps we could pop down to New York for a couple of days, which we haven't done with Alice in a couple of years and she thought that might be ok.

Trip, trap, trot. )

On the way home I asked Alice how she thought Spring Break is going and she said "Mama, it's amazing," so I'm counting this trip as a win.

Easter Day

Apr. 17th, 2017 12:13 am
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Lately, Sundays have become especially busy. If I only have two or three events on my calendar for a Sunday, that's a pretty easy-going day--sometimes there are five. Perhaps because of that, today felt only moderately busy.

I was surprised to find, as Easter approached, that I was thinking of my mother more than usual. It felt so strange to be planning for the day without figuring out how to include her. Perhaps it's because for her it was still a very religious holiday, or just because I have so many memories, so many pictures of us all gathered in the sunshine in our Sunday best, with her tucked between her giant girls.

This year I actually wondered if we had to celebrate Easter as a family. And then I thought sure, keeping the tradition of getting the family together a few times a year is no bad thing. I wondered if I might turn to my sisters and ask what plan they might come up with that didn't involve my house, or me cooking. And I thought about hiring a chef, which I've done a few times, or going to a restaurant. But in the end I decided that I did want to cook and to gather family and friends around the table.

The day started early, getting to First Parish by 8am so we would have time to eat breakfast there and practice our skit before the choir gathered at 8:30. Jo and I were performing a piece based on The Yellow Tutu, with narration by our fabulous DRE and some mean-girl assistance from members of the choir. It was short and sweet and involved the indelible image of the two of us dancing in front of the congregation wearing tutus on our heads.

Our minister had asked us to wear silly hats and I'd decided to get this blue fascinator, which was an utter hoot to wear. The adult and children's choirs collaborated on "Easter Bonnet" and we sang lots of joyful hymns. We also did a responsive reading that I found really moving, adapted from a sermon by Nadia Bolz-Weber:

Some Modern Beatitudes )

During her invocation for communion, Marta also gave us a chance to speak the names of the dead who were in our thoughts today and I was so grateful for the chance to say my mother's name, to invoke the presence that has been hovering over me this week.

Alice had a grand time in the Easter Egg Hunt--her first year in the graveyard with the big kids. We stayed for the first part of the second service, in which Alice was one of the readers, while Jason and I reprised our performances, and then snuck out. The car said it was 82F as we pulled out and I was dreading turning on the oven for dinner. But while I took a nap, Jason turned on the AC and it was actually pleasant inside throughout the day. Alice found her Easter basket and seemed to enjoy the various treats and toys I'd included in it.

While Jason de-cluttered and got the dining room set for dinner, I roasted the lamb that had been marinating since yesterday, on top of potatoes, onions, mushrooms and garlic, which I seved with a very tasty demi-glace. I made way too many deviled eggs, with the help of Lisa, Paulo, and George at various points. Beckie & Neil brought the traditional too-much-nosh (shrimps and cheeses and summer sausage and pate and olives, oh my!). Anne & G. brought Greek-style braised green beans and I made a chopped Greek salad and heated up some Hawaiian rolls that miraculously survived several months in the freezer to be wonderfully soft and tasty. Dave and Jo collaborated to decorate the spiced carrot chiffon cake I had made yesterday with honey-cream cheese ice cream and pecans. By the time Hatem got out of work and could join us, we were just about ready to put it all on the table.

The food was reasonably good (not the best I've ever managed, but no one complained) and it seemed like an especially good group of people and conversations. Jo and Beckie helped enormously with the clean-up and by the time everyone had left around 5:30, another half hour got the kitchen to a state where I felt I could leave it. So I took another short nap, rising in time to be awake when the Mourning Becomes Electra arrived for a line-thru of the whole show.

I was able to do the whole thing without my script, though I did get confused and have to call "line" a couple of times. I felt pretty good about it and most other people are also in pretty good shape. This is going to be a really powerful show and there are a lot of dark moments, but we had fun together and it was really nice to be in a room with most of the cast, since that hasn't happened much yet. Jason got Alice to bed during one of the stretches when he's not on stage, but I was able to pop up and kiss her goodnight.

The cast and crew took off and after a break, it was time to finish up the kitchen and get the garbage, recycling, and compost to the curb. And now, I think I can say that I am well and truly done. I'm very excited that Alice doesn't have school in the morning.
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Jason had a meeting in Finland the last week of school, so we decided that Alice and I would meet him in Reykjavik on his way home and spend a week showing her some of the country we fell in love with back in 2005.*

Iceland Day by Day )

Overall, it was a very good trip, despite Alice and I having colds for most of it. We ate lots of tasty food, had marvelous adventures and saw more of the amazing landscape that reminds us so much of Hawaii, only completely different. We're already talking about what we would do on our next trip--Jokulsarlon tops the list, I'm interested in snorkling in the rift, and I'd still like to see more puffins! It was good to have a break and to spend so much time together and now it's lovely to be back.

*There are several journal entries from the 2005 trip, starting here, if you're interested in seeing those.
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So then tonight we had dinner at Kitchen and it was delightful. We were seated in the back room, which must be lovely on light summer evenings, but was dark and cozy on this winter's night. It's was a squeeze to get into our seats and the woman at the next table was asking if they could be moved somewhere quieter, but once we were seated I found it comfortable and not too loud.

We explained to our server that we had an eight o'clock curtain, so we would order everything up front and leave it to her to set the pace to get us out the door in time. We shared a dozen oysters (I especially enjoyed the Ichabod Flats) and then had risotto--shrimp scampi for Jason and duck for me. That included pate melted into the rice for an incredibly rich flavor and texture, shreds of confit, and bits of crackling skin on top for crunch, with a smear of a berry glaze around the edge. Being able to order a half portion left me with room for their fresh doughnuts with cinnamon and vanilla cream. I started with a glass of Taittinger Brut and followed with the special Merlot our server recommended with the duck, while Jason had a "Diablo" (Lunazul Blanco and Framboise) that was lovely. Our server was delightful--I liked her right off the bat and we had a great conversation about movies that just pull you in and make you want nothing but to grab everyone you know and talk about the film--I think we talked her into seeing TFA on Monday, even though she's never seen any of the other Star Wars movies.

We were done by 7:30, with plenty of time to walk across to the Calderwood Pavillion for Citizens of the Empire, directed by Lindsay Eagle--one of my favorite directors in the Boston theatre scene--and starring (among other familiar names and faces) the fabulous Juliet Bowler. I have a lot of questions and quibbles about the show, but overall I was very impressed. It's a strong story and I love how they staged it. And it's such a treat to see science fiction on stage. If you're in the area and have a chance, I'd recommend it--there are half-price tickets left for the next two weekends on Goldstar (though Saturdays are sold out) and full price tickets through the BPW site for all nights.

The birthday weekend continues getting better and better!

Blue Ginger

Jan. 9th, 2016 01:10 am
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A few years ago, Jason and I had an amusingly bad experience at Blue Ginger. I said at the time that I hoped to go back sometime that wasn't Valentine's Day and that idea came up again recently. So when challenged to surprise me with a plan for my birthday, Jason cleverly made reservations there.

Once again, the food was very good. Without peeking at our previous choices, I started with the poke again--it's still great--and Jason chose the sablefish for his main. He started with a hamachi sashimi plate this time--good, though a little sweeter than my ideal--and I tried the garlic-black pepper lobster over lemongrass rice, with spinach. The flavors were strong, savory and delicious, although the handful of raw baby spinach simply thrown on top of the dish felt like an afterthought, rather than an integrated part of the dish's flavor profile. We split a bottle of 2014 Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand--a very nice one that paired well with our food. For dessert we shared the ginger molasses cake with sweet five spice poached pears and sparkling pear sorbet, and the creme brulee that was supposed to come with cookies, only they'd run out of cookies and were baking more, so gave us a chocolate truffle coated in black sesame and a cube ginger-pomegranate gelee, both of which made Jason happy but were right up Not My Thing alley.

Unfortunately, while the food really is quite tasty and reasonably inventive, the service continues to be lacking. I can only presume that since no one can afford to live in Wellesley on waitstaff wages, they're stuck with whomever they can lure into commuting out there and just can't get the top drawer servers. It's not bad service exactly--ok, they did forget to give us bread and they made refilling our water glasses very obtrusive, there were no cookies, and the servers' manner ranged from obsequious to sullen without passing through Pleasantville, but there's nothing really unforgivable in that. It's just not fine dining service. The dining room is also overcrowded even when it's not V-Day, noisy, and bland in its decoration.

Overall, I'd say this is not a bad dinner out, but it just doesn't have the feel of a special occasion place. All Seasons' Table does a far wider range of slightly better dishes in a similar vein for half the price with better service and they're half as far from our house. I won't bother to make the trek to Blue Ginger again.
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This year our guests had a wide range of dietary needs (no dairy, gluten-free, vegan, etc.) so I ended up making smaller quantities of more dishes than I usually attempt. All of them were tasty, so I wanted to note the recipes for future reference.

Various Nosh - baguette, an assortment of crackers, mousse truffee, lemon artichoke pesto, white anchovies, olives, cornichons, cheeses (Cremont, Belton, Beemster) and a couple of kinds of Qs Nuts.

Turkey Breast - Rather than do a whole turkey, I just roasted the largest breast I could find (8.2 lbs.), rubbed with herbed lard. That was a bit of an adventure--last year I tried and failed to find lard, eventually ending up with a jar of duck fat from Dave's Fresh Pasta, which was extremely tasty. I noticed the jars on their shelf a couple of months ago, but when I went to pick one up, they'd discontinued it. So I bought half a pound of lardo (a quarter-pound would have been enough), rendered it over low heat, combined the liquid fat with sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper, and left it to re-congeal overnight. I threw the remaining chitlins into the stuffing--it was that or just stand around eating them straight. I think the lard worked well, but if I found duck fat again, or accumulate some in a timely fashion, I would go with that. I roasted the breast over a cup of chicken stock at 350 for just over two hours, covering the skin when it started to get dark and blister. The drippings were especially wonderful.

Slow-Cooker Stuffing - The crust that this recipe promised never developed, but since I wasn't sure that would be a good thing, that was fine. I made it with 20 oz. of mixed breads (some ciabatta, some Italian white, some regular white, some whole wheat--I missed the rye I sometimes add), onions, carrots, celery, sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper, in addition to the aforementioned chitlins and some of the drippings from the turkey. This was a very nice way to free up some space in the oven and it made wonderfully moist dressing.

Turkey Gravy - Making the gravy ahead of time is my big discovery this year. I made this on Wednesday morning, then reheated it with added drippings just before serving. It was easily the best--and smoothest--gravy I've ever accomplished.

Mushroom Gravy - A vegan and gluten-free alternative gravy, it was tasty, but I think will be much better with beef than with turkey.

Mashed Potatoes - I quite liked these mashed potatoes made with margarine and almond milk. But when I realized that I needed to use two bowls, and I needed to warm another batch of liquid, I went ahead and made the other bowl with butter and cream, and those were tasty, too. I put chives in the vegan ones and cracked black pepper in the dairy ones and that made it easy to keep them straight on the table.

Vegan Green Bean Casserole - This came out very well and disappeared, so I guess other people liked it, too.

Brussels Sprouts Salad - Made with quinoa, cranberries, and pecans with an orange vinaigrette, it was a really delightful mix of textures and flavors.

Beet Salad - Another great combination of flavors and textures. We served the goat cheese and vinaigrette on the side.

Anne's Famous Cloved Yams - This year's version was vegan and gluten-free butternut squash with apples and cinnamon.

Brian's Pumpkin Bread - We got to sample this a couple of weeks ago and I think this loaf was even better--so light and tasty!

Lynne's Apple Butter - We have the best neighbors and this was delicious on the pumpkin bread.

Truffled Lobster Mac & Cheese - Alice has never been fond of any of the traditional Thanksgiving foods and that bothers me more than perhaps it should. So this year I said that I had noticed and would really like to make something special that she would be excited about. She liked that idea and suggested this. I was a little nervous--I've only made mac & cheese from scratch once before and this required a lot of attention just at the crazy "getting it all on the table" part of the process. But it worked really well and Alice and ate two servings and couldn't stop telling me how much she loved it.

Winter Fruit Compote - This is really easy and very tasty. It would work really well mixed with oatmeal. The one thing I would change is to cut the liquid to about a quarter of what's called for in the recipe.

Whipped Coconut Cream - Today's didn't work out as well as when I followed this recipe precisely, but it's delicious and you should do as they say.

Petsi's Pies - Beckie brought pecan and pumpkin pies and they were both really yummy.

Whipped Dairy Cream - sweetened with maple syrup!

Brian's Wonderful Fudge - because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

I did a lot of prep over the past couple of days and had a lot of help, both preparing the food and table, and cleaning up afterward. In some ways this felt like one of the easiest Thanksgivings I've ever done. There's one more load of dishes for the dishwasher, but otherwise the kitchen is clean and I'm thinking I'll turn in early, feeling extremely thankful.
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...before I forget!

Last month we spent a week in Hawaii. Jason had a C++ meeting to attend in Kona, but decided that he didn't want to just hear about our adventures at dinner this time, so we all flew out for a week on Maui before Alice and I came home and he hopped over to the Big Island for his meeting.

TRANSIT
We flew from Logan to LAX and then straight to Maui. That broke the journey into two halves and our transfer gates were near to each other, so transitions were easy. In LA they had replaced the aircraft with a smaller one, so thirty people were getting bumped (they were offering $1000 credits to wait until later that night) and it briefly looked dicey for Jason, but we all made it on in the end.

HOTEL
We got a really great deal at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua and I was ready for some serious downtime, so we took it. It was hard to convince Jason to just hang around the resort and relax when there were still corners of the island to explore, but we managed it at least one full day!

Our room was great--enormous, with a separate living room so we could put Alice to bed and still have the lights on. There was a good kitchen (microwave, toaster, coffee, fridge & freezer, dishwasher, sink, reasonably stocked with glasses, utensils, etc.). If I were going back there I would stock up on breakfast food and do that in the room--we mostly ended up stopping by Starbucks for breakfast sandwiches on our way to wherever. I was amused to notice that our room was further from the front desk than our house is from the T, back here in Somerville.

The pools and hot tubs were lovely. The beach was about a quarter mile down the hill, with a cafe and towel stand right there. It was a lovely beach with great waves--a little too rough on our last day, after the storm, but otherwise perfect for bouncing. The food at the poolside restaurant, cafe and Club Lounge (where we were invited for breakfast one morning) was all very good. The staff were uniformly pleasant and eager to please. Alice and I got pedicures in their spa--it surprised me that it's tucked down under the hotel, rather than taking advantage of their relaxing views. I also took a very good Yoga Flow class one morning that really helped to work the kinks of travel out of my body--if that teacher were local, I would seek him out!

The one problem--and it turned out to be only temporary--was a power outage during the storms on Friday night. We arrived back at our hotel to be told there was no power (and therefore no AC) in our rooms. Power in the lobby and the hallways, but nothing in our rooms and the pathway lights throughout the resort were out. The staff gave us flashlights and glowsticks and used extra glowsticks to line all the paths. Jason and Alice hung out and read while I decided to go ahead back to the restaurant where we'd dined to collect the camera Alice had left behind, rather than wait for the next morning. By the time I returned, about an hour later, the staff were just coming down the hall to tell us the power was back on. More of an adventure than an inconvenience, but a memorable one.

If we were going back, we would probably try staying on the other side of the island, maybe in Kihei. While Kapalua was lovely, it felt far away from everything we wanted to do and we (and by "we" I mean "I") spent a lot of time driving back and forth around the island. But if you are a stay-at-the-resort type, I think the Ritz can't be beat.

THINGS WE DID
(in approximately chronological order)

Ziplining! I've been wanting to try ziplining forever and Alice enjoyed it at camp this summer. Many of the places won't allow kids under 10/under 70 lbs. but we were able to try Maui Zipline. The lines weren't terribly high and on a cloudy day the views weren't the greatest, but our guides were friendly and funny and made the whole thing a blast.

Snorkeling! We took Blue Water Rafting's Molokini Express Tour. Bounding over the waves, with Alice sitting on the pontoon of the boat, holding the lines with fingers and toes and laughing at the wind in her hair while the speakers blasted "All Right Now" was a moment of pure joy. And snorkeling in the Molokini crater was simply amazing--the water so deep and clear, the coral elaborate and brightly colored, the fish abundant...it really might be the best thing in the whole world.

Sugar Museum It's a small place, but a fascinating glimpse of life on the sugar plantations in the 19th and early 20th century, mostly before mechanization. The sugar industry demanded a huge labor force and was the driver of a lot of immigration from a wide variety of places around the globe. The thing that will probably stick in my mind was a mannequin dressed in the manner of a Chinese woman worker--on a day that was at least 90F, just looking at the layers and layers of clothing they wore to keep out the dust and the gigantic centipedes (don't look if you are at all squicked by many-legged bugs) made me sweat and shudder. Admission is $7 for adults and for $10 you get a pass that lets you into two other small museums in Lahaina.

Pineapple Tour! The only pineapple plantation left in the United States, the Maui Gold plantation in Hali'imaile is an impressive operation. They are doing a lot to create more sustainable and less wasteful production and their pineapples are delicious. We stood out in the field with our guide while he sliced and served us pineapples at varying degrees of ripeness until we couldn't eat another bite. When the pineapple's stay on the peduncle (the stalk) longer, they take on flavors of coconut and get much sweeter, so it's like eating solid pina colada fruit. The tour includes a boxed pineapple for each guest--Jason took one to his meeting, we shared one at home, and I took the third to Alice's classroom for a demonstration. On the tour, Alice made a friend--Ruby, from Dallas--and we decided to continue onto the separate distillery tour and then followed them to lunch, so the girls would have more time to play together.

Sunset at Haleakala! It was a grey, rainy afternoon as we started up the mountain. The well-maintained road is a series of tight switchbacks and as we approached 4000 feet, we could see the clouds right above us. We drove into the fog, back and forth, wondering if there were any point in continuing. The clouds were thick up past 6000 feet...7000 feet...8000 feet...9000 feet. And then we saw a small spot of blue above us and at 9600 feet we emerged into clear skies. Arriving at the summit, forty degrees cooler than sea level, we had about twenty minutes to enjoy a picnic supper as we watched the sun drop slowly and gloriously into the lake of clouds below us. I decided that I'd had enough hairpins for one day, so Jason took the wheel for the only time all week to drive us back down in the foggy dark.

Maui Ocean Center Ruby's 6th birthday was on Thursday and her family invited us to join them for breakfast in the Club Lounge, where the staff surprised her with balloons, a special dessert, and various presents from the Logo Shop. Her big present was a skateboard that her parents had brought from Dallas; Ruby and Alice had a great time finding ways to play with it on the lanai while the grown-ups chatted. Then we all piled into cars and went to the Maui Ocean Center. It was a nifty aquarium and we were sorry not to have more time there.

Trailriding! Alice loves riding and was very excited to do it in Hawaii. We had tried all week, but been thwarted by the weather and full rides. On Friday we decided to give up on the ranch near us and head to the other side of the island for a ride at the Mendes Ranch. They had said they'd ride, rain or shine, and they were good to their word: it was drizzling most of the time we were out and outright poured for about ten minutes. I don't think I have ever been that soaked while fully dressed in my life. The trails were steep and rocky and with streams of rainwater pouring down them, Alice said "Mama, it's like riding up a waterfall!" But warm rain's not so bad and it was definitely an adventure to remember!

Wo Hing House We tried a couple of times to get here, finally making it for the last half-hour of their day one afternoon. It's another very small place, but fascinating--I had never known that Sun Yat Sen was educated in the US and lived in Maui for some time. In the cookhouse they show vintage films of life in Hawaii, taken by Thomas Edison around the turn of the 20th century.

'Ulalena This cross between a hula show and Cirque du Soleil was a fascinating and beautiful explorations of some of the Hawaiian mythology. The dancers were very skilled and used puppetry, acrobatics, inventive costuming, and a good dash of humor to explore significant stories for us. Alice was very amused by Kamapua’a, the pig god who lusts after Pele, bouncing his hip-level pig snout after her all through the forest.

Shopping! We're not big holiday shoppers, but we did spend two afternoons wandering the shopping areas in Maalaea and Lahaina. In Maalaea we found quite reasonably priced, good quality t-shirts for all of us and a few other trinkets. There is a market of local craftspeople that was fun to explore, as well. In Lahaina I found another dress--I don't know whether it's a general shift, or if Maui just has wider selection, but it was much easier to find dresses in my size this time than when we were in Kona in 2012. In Lahaina we bought plumeria necklaces for me and for Alice and a book of the art of Victor Kush--beautiful, whimsical, surrealist paintings and sculptures. With that bag in hand we were catnip for the folks in the other galleries along the way and got the full "oh, let me show you this in a private room" treatment, which was kind of fun.

PLACES WE ATE

Sansei This excellent sushi place just a few minutes walk from the front door of our resort was an easy choice for dinner more than once, especially once Alice discovered that she loved their Dynamite Shrimp (tempura with a sweet & spicy aioli)--the first shrimp dish she's ordered since giving up seafood when she was three. We grown-ups enjoyed their sushi and excellent wine.

Beach Bum's We had a good lunch here, at the recommendation of our ziplining guide. Their portions are enormous--we ended up taking a bunch back to our room and being glad we had a kitchen to store it.

Flatbread We found the Paia location of a local fave. It was mostly just the same, but Alice decided she likes the Somerville one better--fresh mango juice apparently doesn't outweigh bowling. Not being air conditioned, it was a hot place on a very warm day, but an easy lunch.

Plantation House We got one of the best views of the week from our table at Plantation House, and a lovely meal just up the road from our resort.

Mama's Fish House We followed Ruby and her family to this local landmark just outside Paia and had a wonderful meal of fresh, local fish in a setting that manages to do full Polynesian style kitch in a way that seems natural and tasteful. The bathroom was decorated with pages from the local newspaper featuring ads for Mama's back to the 70's, alongside the movies that were playing and ads for what was surely very stylish clothing at the time. They have an inn as well and I'd consider staying there another time.

Mana Foods The local groovy grocery store (think Bread & Circus, circa 1978) provided a nice picnic meal for our excursion to the summit of Haleakala.

Japengo This award-winning fusion restaurant gave us a chance to explore the Hilton Ka'anapali, between Kapalua and Lahaina. We watched their lobby penguins bedding down for the night as we waited for our table and then had a really wonderful meal. Alice wanted the pizza, but I explained to her about learning to order the right thing in the right place and talked her into the chicken fried rice, which she adored, while we ate more amazing local fish.

Sale Pepe Having promised Alice we would find a pizza place for her, we tried this highly rated joint in the heart of Lahaina and were not disappointed.

Monkeypod We were told this place was worth the trip, and that we had to try the pie, so we stopped in Wailea on our way to the airport and had a tasty, casual dinner with amazing pie for dessert.

WEATHER
While we obviously have a lot of good stories to tell about our week, the weather was really oppressive. The first part of the week was in the 90s and very muggy if you got more than ten feet from the ocean. The latter half of the week was the same, with rain--heavy at times--added into the mix. I ended up driving through the same, extremely localized, torrential thunderstorm three times on Friday night. I know this is an unusual year, weather-wise, but I'd probably pick a different season to try Maui again.
lillibet: (Default)
I made dinner tonight for a couple of vegan friends (one of whom is also gluten free). They seemed to like it, so I'm keeping notes:

Tuscan Vegetable Soup - I played around with this recipe--didn't use zucchini, added some tamari for increased umami, pureed everything and then threw in a few handfuls of gluten-free elbows.

Vegan Caesar - I stuck to the recipe pretty closely. The dressing and the faux-parmesan were both tasty and remarkably like the flavors of what they imitate, but grittier. I added tomatoes to the romaine and served olives, marinated mushrooms and marinated roasted artichoke hearts on the side, which worked well and let people adjust their salads to taste.

Hot Fruit Compote - This was quite tasty, but I think I would do it in a smaller casserole next time.

Coconut Whipped Cream - This is definitely a good substitute for whipped cream and worked especially well with the pineapple-containing compote.
lillibet: (Default)
I'm closing up tabs and wanted to note that after Thanksgiving I made the best stock of my life, using this recipe. I used it to make the soup that's also on that page, using noodles instead of rice or barley, at Alice's request. The mushrooms and marjoram gave it a very different flavor than usual and it was a very hearty, wintery soup. I've used another quart of the stock for celeriac soup--that was pretty good, but not so much that I'd use the recipe again, so I'm not linking to it--and I've got three left that I'll hope to use in the coming weeks. Suggestions for good-with-turkey-stock soup are welcome.

Also worth noting--this year I was struck by the tips from Kitchen Surfing. I brined the turkey for the first time and have to say I didn't think that part was worth the hassle. It was not more moist than usual and a couple of people complained about the salt-level. I wasn't able to find lard on short notice (it occurred to me later that Savenor's was probably the answer) but Dave's Fresh Pasta carries jars of duck fat (you're welcome). Because the turkey cooked so much faster than expected (a 27 lb. turkey was done in 3 hours, 30 minutes at 400, 90 at 350--should have been 60, and then 250 for another hour) I didn't use up all the herbed duck fat. So suggestions for things-to-cook-in-herbed-duck-fat are also welcome--I know about hash browns.
lillibet: (Default)
I've made Jason Santos' pastrami bolognese twice now. The recipe calls for FOUR POUNDS of pastrami, which seemed just way too much, so the first time I made it, I got a pound of pastrami and quartered the recipe. The flavor was great, but almost too meaty, so I decided the next time I'd halve the meat and add mushrooms. Unfortunately, I didn't remember clearly what I had done and wanted to do, so last night what I ended up doing was making a double batch of the recipe, with one pound of pastrami--so one-eighth the suggested meat content--and one pound of mushrooms. It was still good, though now not quite meaty tasting enough and still not enough mushrooms, but it took forever to reduce to sauce-consistency. So for the next time I am hereby noting that what I want to do is to use one pound of pastrami, 1.5 lbs. of mushrooms, and otherwise make a half-batch.

And here's the recipe )
lillibet: (Default)
One of my tricks, when searching the net for recipes, is to preface my search with the word "ultimate". It seems to limit the search to manageable levels and tilt it towards actually useful links.

Last week was my mother's 88th birthday and we had agreed that I would make brownies, one of the very few chocolate desserts I enjoy. (For those who weren't aware, I don't much like chocolate, but there are a few exceptions.) I'm pretty sure I haven't made brownies from scratch since I lived at Fenway House, so more than twenty years ago. Searching brought me to this recipe.

These are phenomenal brownies. As the description promises, they are " tall like a cakey-brownie, but dense like a fudgy-brownie." I made them with pecans for extra yum. And I even bought myself a new brownie pan for the occasion, so now I have to make them again!
lillibet: (Default)
This morning I am saddened by news from a friend, but I wanted to remember what a lovely day we had yesterday.

Mother's Day is kind of complicated, because we always share it with my mother and sisters. In the past we've tried going out to various places, but it's always a hassle with such a large group and last year, at Flora, was particularly disastrous. So when I found kitchensurfing.com, I thought this would be a perfect solution--and I was right!

It's a clearinghouse for independent chefs. You put in a request for what you want--food dropped off for a meal, a week of meals, a cocktail party, a family dinner served, whatever--and any chefs who are available and interested send you bids. Since it was Mother's Day, I put Jason in charge of the plans and he found Gita Kantrow.

She arrived at noon and got cooking. She served us pan-fried chicken dumplings as a nosh, then we moved to the table and she plated salads of spring greens, pears, and blueberry goat cheese that were light and delicious. That was followed by an amazing glazed salmon with mushroom risotto and there was a dessert of Nutella ravioli with banana caramel muffins for dessert. And then she departed, leaving the kitchen spotless.

The best part? The whole thing cost half what our meal at Flora did.

I generally love cooking for parties and gatherings, but this was such a treat and seems like a great solution for many situations. The whole family agreed that it was a lovely, low-stress day and so much better than any restaurant.
lillibet: (Default)
Occasionally I wonder why I read The Amateur Gourmet, especially now that he's living in LA. And then he posts a totally game-changing recipe like this one for Roasted Hamburgers. So easy, so much less mess than any other method, scalable, and delicious! Hamburgers have been a rare occurrence in our household, but I think that may be changing.

I paired them with this recipe for Duck Fat Hash Browns, which were also very tasty. I doubled the recipe, which may have been unnecessary, and think I didn't use quite enough fat, so further experimentation may be in order. On the other hand, when I've already got a 475F oven, maybe I'll try roasting the potatoes instead.
lillibet: (Default)
In the company of a few close friends, we took over the private dining room at Menton and watched through the window as the staff prepared the following incredible food for us:

Chef's Tasting Menu )
lillibet: (Default)
Wow, it's been a long time since I've cooked something new, or at least since I've recorded it.

Tonight we had friends over for dinner and tried:

#10 - Duck Ragù )

#11 Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries )
lillibet: (Default)
Occasionally someone serves me a combination of flavors that makes me think "why didn't anyone tell me that you're supposed to eat these together?!" My standard example is good balsamic vinegar on panna cotta (trust me, it's amazing). Tonight, a friend shared with me the knowledge that we've been failing to put hazelnuts on our beets all these years

Have you ever had this reaction? What was the combination?

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