News Years Eve was pretty exciting and a little nerve racking for us. Instead of our usual celebratory activities of eating and drinking a lot, then watching bad NYE shows, we drank a lot, stayed up too late, and packed for a trip to Hawaii! My brilliant idea about staying up late was to make sure I was nice and tired on the plane so I could sleep most of the trip from Atlanta to Hawaii. Yeah, that didn't work out too well.
We were supposed to go earlier in the year to see our son, but the timing was off. This time we worked out the holiday schedule and made it happen. I'll be honest and say I wasn't excited about having to sit on a plane for 13 1/2 hours but to honest it wasn't that bad. We flew with Delta and it was a pretty good experience overall. We haven't flown overseas since we left Germany.
Anyway! Delta (international) was great, they kept us fed and we had a ton of entertainment with the on-board media system (I watched three movies), and lots of free drinks. Thanks Delta! So with about maybe one hour of sleep we finally arrived in Hawaii. We went back in time even! We left Norfolk, VA at about 8:30 AM, we arrived in Honolulu, HI at 4:30 PM. It's like magic!
Yeah, yeah, I know how time zones work, let me have my moment...
I'll be honest and say I really wasn't excited about visiting Hawaii before we left. I lived there back in the early 1980s and did all kinds of crazy stuff and thought, "Meh, no big whoop." I really wanted to see Chayce and Katie though, they were married about 6 months ago and we haven't seen them since.
That all changed when I we were approaching the island and I could see the bright, sapphire blue waters contrasted with the emerald green island. The airport was right next to the beach and when we landed I couldn't wait to get off the plane to stand in bright sunlight and take a look at everything clearly.
As soon as we let the terminal we were on an outdoor walkway heading towards baggage claim to pick up some beer we brought over from the mainland to Chayce. We had to get a couple of pics of ourselves too. New Years Day in Hawaii!
Chayce and Katie were supposed to meet us at the airport but I told them we were arriving almost an hour later and they were there. We told them to meet us at the rental car office where we were getting our car. It's funny driving down Nimitz Highway, the road our rental was off of felt just like being stateside - grey, concrete, and traffic.
Chayce and Katie showed up at the car rental and they gave us the traditional leis you see on TV. They smelled great and reminded me of what Hawaii smelled like the first I lived there 30 years earlier. After we got the car we all drove down to the Waikiki to the Hale Koa were we were staying for the next 8 days. It's right on the beach and next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
The hotel still had it Christmas decorations up and it was kind of nice. Our holiday so far had been a whirlwind of activity so being in super chill mode and getting to relax some more made it all very welcoming. Here's some photos in front of the trees.
We ended up on the top floor of the hotel facing the city of Waikiki, Diamondhead, and the beach.
It was perfect!
We could stand on our little lanai and just watch Waikiki breath and move. The ocean was dotted with boats here and there that lit up at night. I really wanted to know what was happening out there. If we looked north, the mountains climbed to the clouds. It looked lush and wet, I felt the need to explore!
After settling in and catching up with Chayce and Katie we decided to grab a quick bite to eat. Chayce said there was a burger place near by he loved so we went with that. It's called Ted's Bigger Burger and they have a huge menu! It was reminiscent of the old school burger joints you only see in movies these days and they even had milkshakes and malts.
I liked the burger names (click on the image below to zoom in) and I ended up "Blue Wave" because I have a hard time passing up a good ole black & blue burger. I ordered a large vanilla malt too because I was on vacation and I haven't worked out since the beginning of December and I was on a roll.
Here's what else we had at the table:
After we ate Shelby and I both started feeling the 5 hour time difference and decided we should head back to the room to get a little sleep. After getting back to the hotel we figured we had to hit the beach real quick before hitting the sack. So we walked through the Hale Koa garden and went straight to the beach. The air was cool and even with all the city lights behind us the horizon was dark and we were lucky enough to see the "wet moon", meaning it looks as if the moon is crescent of bowl lit from the bottom. In Hawaii it's called Kaelo, "Dripping Wet Moon" month, it happens in parts of January and February. Tried to get a couple of shots below, not great but shows you what we were seeing. I also used the the Sky Guide app to figure out what else we were seeing up there.
We got out feet wet in the Pacific ocean walked along the shore and watched this guy shoot these little LED lit propelled toys into the air. That was kind of cool, he was actually selling them and the show he was putting on seemed to be working out well for sales.
Walking back towards the hotel we saw the Barefoot Bar was open still which meant we had to get a Mai Tai. We've had one before but I mean you have to when you're in Hawaii right? So we did.
I never usually order fruity drinks but I feel in love with mine as soon as I took my first sip (especially after I was told I should mix in the dark rum floating on top of the drink.)
After travelling all day, exploring a little bit, and topping off the night with Mai Tais on the beach we were ready for bed. Day One in Hawaii was wonderful and I was worried that the next seven would go by too fast.
Here's to a happy and prosperous new year!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I decided to take the day off for the Veterans Day holiday. I guess I didn't really need to but I thought it would be nice to have a long weekend and maybe get a few things done around the house.
After having my coffee I got hit with a huge craving for some kinda breakfast-y (sure that's a word) type food. I was going between pancakes somewhere or Handsome Biscuit - of course Handsome Biscuit won.
It took me 30 minutes to drive there from the house which was crazy. Traffic, road work and some non-driving people made it a painful ride. Handsome Biscuit had a line out of the door which is pretty much the norm but I was excited to be there. It's been a several months since I've been there.
I knew what I wanted, the Blue Blazer with the housemade Lupo and a side of hash browns smothered in Redeye gravy. I got to say hi friends while I waited in line and chat a little bit. When I got my take-out bag I was given a little surprise too, a delicious brownie cookie (thanks Brittney!)
So have another 30 minute drive getting home (what is going on with this traffic?), I reassemble my food then take photos of course. Then we eat our delicious brunch before I head out to rake leaves. Pretty good day so far.
I'll be at the Green Flash Industry Night shindig tonight, hope I see some of you there!
Something exciting is happening next week, especially for those who like to following cooking shows on TV. Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay will be hosting an “An Evening in Culinary Excellence”. This charity dinner will have not one, but two famous chefs that have previously visited the community through the Celebrity Chef Series - Chef Fabio Viviani and Chef Jet Tila. The two chefs will each perform a cooking demonstration for the audience in addition to orchestrating meals for dinner. Chef Tila will be performing a cooking demonstration of Black Cod Misoyaki, Forbidden Rice and Chef Viviani will cook Fresh Egg Pasta. The charity event benefits the Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Guests will be enjoying some of Fabio's wines from his collections, an open bar, and a four course meal directed by the chefs. The meals will be made up of both the chef's recipes and prepared by the Westminster-Canterbury Culinary team under the leadership of Executive Chef Sandra Suria. The team at the retirement community is top-notch and knows how to execute a big meal like this so it's done right. I was very impressed when I had my meal there and am very excited about this one.
After the meal guests will get the opportunity to vote for their favorite entree! Here’s what’s cooking:
Arancini with Pancetta (Fabio Viviani recipe)
Butter Lettuce Salad with pomegranate seeds, apples and shaved celery (Fabio Viviani recipe)
Yuzu Crab and Avocado Salad (Jet Tila recipe)
Duo Entrée (plated separately)
Burrata, blistered tomatoes, pine nuts and marinated beef filet (Fabio Viviani)
Black Cod Misoyaki, Forbidden Rice (Jet Tila)
Buttermilk Panna Cotta with tropical fruit (Jet Tila)
Shared Table Dessert Signature Chocolate Lavender Truffle (Westminster-Canterbury Culinary Team)
Though I didn’t get to attend Chef Viviani’s dinner at Westminster a few years ago, I was able to catch Chef Tila when he was here and it was a ton of fun. There was a lot of banter, moving around with tables and of course the food! Auction was held at the end of the demonstration that got a little out-of-hand, but in a good way. The proceeds for that also went to Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Also, if I recall correctly, Chef Tila said something along the lines of taking down Chef Viviani if the the two of them ever met at Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay in the future. Looks like that day has come! This should be a lot of fun to watch and I really appreciate being invited to attend.
Here's a little bit about the chefs.
The Le Cordon Bleu trained Chef Tila has been in working in the industry for over 20 years and is famous for Thai and Chinese cooking. Being part Thai and Cantonese he grew up with the two distinct cooking styles and spent a lot of time in his family’s well-known, Los Angeles based restaurant Royal Thai. After committing himself to his work he’s been involved in countless projects around the country and has appeared on several television shows such Cutthroat Kitchen and Chopped. He was a contender on Iron Chef going head-to-head with Chef Morimoto – Tila didn’t win but he only lost by two points!
Florence born Chef Fabio Viviani is best known for his run on Bravo's hit reality series Top Chef earning the title of "Fan Favorite". By the time he was 27 he operated 7 restaurants in his hometown and was involved in several other ventures. He moved to California in 2007 opening Café Firenze, and later, Siena Tavern in Chicago, IL. Afterwards he put a few more openings under his belt and even launching his own wine line - Fabio Viviani Wine Collection. Viviani is now a regular on the food entertainment circuits including television appearances, festivals, global food events, and signature cookware.
General admission tickets ($125) include the demonstration and dinner, while the VIP tickets ($250) allow you to attend an early Cocktail Reception an hour before the dinner. Sponser Tables at two different levels Table Sponsor ($2,000) and Silver Sponsor ($1,000) can be purchased too, head over to the site to see the details for each level of benefit associated with the purchase.
The event will be held at 6:30 P.M., October 25, 2016 at Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay, 3100 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach.
To purchase your tickets and reserve a seat, follow this LINK or call 877-320-2066.
Sorry Chef Viviani, I have lots of photo of Jet from his visit last year ;)
Please take a moment and follow the link below to see how you can help make Virginia Beach even more interesting and a fun place to live!
*Added photos after the session. Tar Roof got its permit! Congrats! Grabbed a bite afterwards at Chowboy Republic.
Dave Adams from Green Flash was in town getting the new brewery up to snuff. We met up at the Old Beach Farmers Market so I could show him around a bit and invite him to some of the locals. I got to congratulate Three Ships Coffee's Ms. Cosmopolitan too (wink.) Oh, made a quick pit stop at Bottlecraft Virginia Beach too.
Old Beach Farmers Market - 24 Sep 2016Read More
The whole house smelled wonderful...
...I've had my spicy tomato sauce on the stove overnight.
Shelby said we need to go through the freezer and get rid of anything that's been hanging out in there too long. When it was around dinner time last night I thought I'd take a look and see what we had in there:
Bag of venison cut into stew meat.
Three clusters of snow crab legs.
Two slices of pork loin (these will be marinating in some mojo this week.)
Bags of cheese rinds.
Frozen egg rolls that really need to be friend up soon.
Some prepared tomatoes from several months ago...
There is a bunch of other stuff in there but it would take up a couple of pages to list. There is even a bag of mystery meat labelled "Chayce". No worries, I can assure you our son Chayce is alive and well in Hawaii. He's even married now! Here's proof from a Facetime we did last month, he wanted instructions on how to cook steak and potatoes.
Ok, for dinner I didn't have time to thaw out much so the crabs legs are pretty much cooked already and will be easy to prep. I had a head of broccoli I wanted to try a recipe on so there's the green. Easy!
I figured while I was making dinner I might as well take out the frozen tomatoes get those simmering. Tomato sauce is easy to make and this bag of tomatoes, about 3 lbs. worth, have been neglected for so long.
Since I wasn't using the sauce last night I planned on letting it stew overnight. While I was awake I had it set on a low simmer, stirring occasionally and scraping the sides. Shelby was out and when she walked in she said, "Mmm...what's that?" Told her what the deal was and unfortunately there would be no tomato sauce eating on this night. At bedtime I add some extra water and set it on low, barely a bubble here and there, covered the pot (to halt reduction), and then went to sleep.
Woke up and like the title of the post says, the whole house smelled wonderful. Checked on the sauce, stirred it, uncovered it, and turned it back up to a very low simmer. I'll check on it later at lunchtime when I'm on break. Reason I'm cooking it for so long is to let the tomato flesh breakdown on its own. I'm stirring it to keep it from sticking to the pot and to help break up the tomatoes that way too. If I'm here to tend to the sauce I'll keep it uncovered to concentrate and thicken. I'll probably store it in the fridge and have it Thursday night, we're going to my mother's house for dinner tonight.
Here's my recipe so you can make this spicy sauce at home. You'll notice I put onion down as optional, but I always add onion to everything! Love them. I had to adjust the recipe a tad bit since I didn't use the 4 lbs. of tomatoes I usually use.
Spicy Tomato Sauce
- 4 pounds tomatoes, prepared
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 6 cloves Garlic, smashed
- 1 small Onion, diced (optional)
- 2 teaspoons Salt
- 1 teaspoon Pepper
- ½ cup of White Wine, Dry
- 1 tablespoon of Fennel Seed
- 2 tablespoons Dried Basil
- 1 tablespoon Dried Thyme
- 1 tablespoon Dried Dill
- 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1 tablespoon Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Red Pepper Flake
- 2 teaspoons Cumin
- 2 tablespoons Light Brown Sugar
- 2 medium Bay Leaves
Before you Start:
- Some people use whole tomatoes, pulp, skin, and all. I blanch and squeeze mine before I freeze them. The tomatoes used in this recipe were prepared this way.
- I used an 8 qt. pot to keep spatter from making a mess and keep the heat even.
- If you don't want to wait hours for sauce, just cook it all thoroughly then use a immersion blender to smooth it out.
- Add heat oil to a large sauce pan at low-med heat.
- Add garlic, onions, salt, pepper. Cooke till translucent.
- Add the wine and scrape any bits from the pan, cook for 3 minutes.
- Now add the rest of the ingredients and turn stove down to a low simmer.
- Let simmer for 4-6 hours, stir occasionally to prevent sticking and to help break up the tomatoes.
You know how sometimes you just really need to eat that one thing, it keeps nagging you until you finally fill that void? For about two weeks now I've been craving some good ole' fashioned waffles with a lot of syrup. Not only that they had to come with the homemade sausage you get at Commune in Virginia Beach, VA. Basically, I needed to go to Commune again.
I have some free time this past Friday which provided me with the opportune time to take care of business. I told Shelby my plan (eating is serious business around here) and she said "Do it!"
So there we go, I was off to Commune.
I got in early enough which allowed me to sit wherever I wanted, I opted for the bar. After getting my drink I made the rounds and chatting with everyone, I gotta say "Hi". When it was time to get down to dealing with my cravings I told them about the waffles thing that was happening. Of course they had the Heirloom Cornmeal Waffles available...but they also had another item on the menu that wasn't going to be around for too long.
The two you see below, they started this trouble.
The week before Commune catered a beer dinner showcasing the first sour release for the local brewery Commonwealth Brewing Company. One of the items on the menu was a pork belly sandwich. They happened to have a little bit of this pork belly on-hand still and decided to put on the menu. The caveat for this offering was that as soon as they ran out of the peaches that accompanied the pork belly ran out so did the sandwich. I was told there were five of these sandwiches left in their current form before they were never, ever offered to another human on this planet and I went for the hook.
Granted this wasn't an easy decision mind you.
I was internally battling the Waffle-mind, backed by weeks of waffle desire, with the Pork Belly camp that just showed up on the scene. Rock-Paper-Scissors - never mind, let's not even pretend. Pork Belly wins, it always wins in the end.
Because once you take a bite - and it's prepared properly - it's heaven in your mouth. It's the perfect combination of fat and protein that melts in your mouth it's hard to believe that it's real. That's what pork belly is, satisfying and decadent, you feel it when it happens.
Let's back up. I asked for waffles and was offered a pork belly sandwich and I internally battled it out only to have Pork Belly win with a predictable 10 second knockout. What happened? What did I get for this crazy expenditure of brain matter and physical stress?
The Burnt Honey Glazed Pork Belly Sandwich. Burnt honey glazed pork belly, soft smoked peaches, red onion, picked mustard seeds, burnt onion aioli and garden greens on a brioche bun.
Other then the fact that I can get delicious waffles from Commune on the regular menu, I heard that there were only three pork belly sandwiches left before they etched into the annuals of time. I actually walked over to the window and asked Chef Barry Smith what the deal was and he said this (I'm paraphrasing):
We made this for Commonwealth Brewing dinner last week and I only have enough peaches to [he goes and checks the fridge] make about three more sandwiches.
I see on on the griddle and comment about how delicious it looks and he then says:
Pork belly is my religion...
Pork Belly Sandwich please! Any person who makes a statement like that you have to take seriously.
I was not disappointed. This thing was crazy good and if you take into account the amount of work Commune goes through to get food like this on the table it's insane. Take another look:
It was so good! It was hard, but I only ate half so I could take the rest to Shelby. I was going to be picking her up for lunch and figured this would be a sweet surprise. I actually lucked out at the restaurant though, Barry came out with something he was putting together, a Pork Shoulder Terrine for the weekend menu. He asked me to come over and check it out while he saved some images of it for future reference.
It looked great. He said he was might adjust the composition a bit before the weekend rush but the terrine was going to stay the same. It took him about two days to put the main component of the dish together and it showed. It was a little smoky and very tender. He offered the dish to me after he had gotten his images and of course I didn't refuse.
So in the end, I didn't get my waffle fix but I did get to eat something that was amazing and I figured I'd just have to go back for waffles later.
Make it a point to swing by Commune for breakfast/brunch/lunch for a something a little bit different and take advantage of a dining experience in Virginia Beach.
Another great day at the Old Beach Farmers Market, letting Jasper do his thing and hanging out with friends. A little Hashi and Breakfast in a Cup to top it all off too!Read More
We actually went out to dinner with friends last week!
You're thinking, "Yeah, yeah big deal", but it is for us. With the regular work week Shelby and I have and my regular schedule running around town, there actually isn't a lot of time we go out to just relax - let alone with friends. In the month of August, in the year 2016 we officially went out to dinner twice with friends. I can't remember that last time that as happened! The first time was with Cappy and Lauren to the Commis dinner earlier in the month (still working on the gazillion photos I took at that one) and the second was with our friends visiting from San Francisco.
Tatiana and Chris were staying in Sandbridge with family and wanted to hang out someplace close to the beach house and after putting together a short list we finally decided to hit Esoteric. I figured the food, beer menu and the atmosphere are great and we have the option to sit inside or out. When we arrived they were already out back on the patio. Warm (hot would be a little more accurate) Virginia summer nights are a little bit different than the cool ones in San Francisco.
We ordered the Charred Octopus to start and they house brought out some Roasted Shishitos grown in the garden and Pimento with their housemade crackers (which are great!) Our entree orders were the Pork Chop, Scallops, and Duck. I went ahead and ordered some other things to pick at which included a Charcuterie board and some wings. I had judged a "beer food" contest earlier so I wasn't starving though I got some bites from everyone's plates.
Chef Ian Hock came out to say "Hi" and after a little chat he brought out a couple of The Veil Brewing beers they had stashed away in the fridge. This was a great treat for us and our guests because if you know anything about Veil beer their cans go quick and are only sold at the brewery in Richmond. We all shared the Lil' Kitty Boi IPA and Eternal Shredder DIPA. Man I love their beers, you should check out pedigree on The Veil Brewing's Matt Tarpey, here's a good article at Good Beer Hunting.
After sipping our beers and ordering a few more Resins, I asked if we could slip into the kitchen to meet the crew. Ok, the elephant in the room is that Tatiana's husband is Chris Cosentino, a world renown chef who has pioneered snout-to-tail cooking in the U.S. They also own Boccalone and the restaurant Cockscomb, both in San Francisco. The guys in the kitchen were excited for the fact that he was eating at their shop so it was a treat for Chris to come back and hang out.
Shelby and Tatiana were hanging out back while we were in the kitchen but we all eventually made our way to the bar and drank more beer. Go figure right!? All in all, it was a great time and we were glad we were able to get out and have a proper sit down and just hang out. We need to get to San Francisco those two keep saying. Don't be surprised when we show up on the doorstep Tatiana and Chris, I know we've been saying that for years but it's coming. Here's to seeing you in your town next time!
I stopped by Commune today to catch up with owner Kevin Jamison and on my way out he hooked me up with a peach croissant to take home for Shelby. Love the new boxes and the croissants they make are very good!
Excited about the Commis dinner tonight. Shelby and I are going to actually sit down and enjoy it properly!
Actually, I'll write more about Crafted later because I wanted to highlight one of the booths at the fair we thoroughly enjoyed - Rose Macarons.
I'll be honest and say it was the first time we've heard of them but the macaroons were hard to pass up. The cute little designs, like the Harley Quinn and Harry Potter faces, were pretty cool. Of course we ate some and they were delicious! Love how they had a nice little crunch on the outside but were super chewy on the inside.
Chelsea Rose started the business January 2016 according to her website and suggest you keep an eye out for her work. These are going to be everywhere! I'd bet on it.
Everyone has their garden game going on! I'm sure a lot of you that have tons of stuff you planted thinking, "Heck yeah! That'll be cool to have!", then end up with buckets of said item. Cucumbers is one, they grow like crazy and even if you love them you'll have to admit you can't use them all. How about eggplants? I mean you can only eat so much Eggplant Parm right?
I got another another idea - Baba Ganoush!
If you don't know what Baba Ganoush is, it's basically hummus made with eggplant instead of chickpeas. Yeah, yeah, I know that's super simplifying it but you get the idea. Speaking of simple, I'm going to tell you how to make it quickly and use up all those eggplants you have stacked up in the corner.
Here's what you'll need.
- 3 Medium Eggplants
- 3-4 Cloves Garlic
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- 3 Tablespoons of Tahini
- 1/4 Cup of Parsley
- Salt and Pepper to taste
There is a little bit a prep you'll have to do before you end up with the finished product. The eggplant needs to be roasted or grilled. I roasted mine the last time I did it for convenience. I do prefer grilling them though, adds a slight smoky flavor to the dish.
You'll notice in the photo above I'm sweating out the eggplant with salt. Adding salt will draw out bitterness and moisture from the eggplant, it takes about an hour. Is it totally necessary?
So if you're in a pinch for time you don't have to sweat it (haha, get it?) Eggplants these days aren't that bitter so you can skip this step.
Before You Start:
If you want to sweat the eggplant thickly slice and then heavily salt both sides. Do not cut the eggplant too thin. If the the slices are too thin they'll be hard to work with and they will dry out quickly Place on a tray or rack and let sit for about 30-45 minutes. You'll see moisture bead up on the surface of the eggplant. When done, rinse the eggplant under cold water and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Place them loosely in a roasting pan.
When using the food processor, pulse for as long as needed to get the baba ganoush to the desired consistency. The shorter in the processor, the more chunky. The longer, the smoother it will be.
- Move an oven rack up to the top notch and then pre-heat the oven to broil.
- Place eggplant on top rack and roast about 15 minutes then flip and roast another 15 minutes. When the eggplant feels soft, they're done.
- While the eggplant is in the oven, put all the other ingredients except the parsley in a food processor.
- When the eggplant is done, take it out of the oven and let it cool down.
- Add the eggplant to the food processor and run it through until it hits the desired smoothness.
- Add the parsley and pulse until it is chopped and distributed evenly.
- Scoop into a bowl, garnish with some olive oil and a little more parsley.