Hankering for Hawaii Part II: A Taste of Rum

Friday, 18. April 2014 5:25 | Author:

The tasting bar at Koloa Rum Co. in Kauai.

The tasting bar at Koloa Rum Co. in Kauai.

 

KAUAI, HAWAII –When the future of the last of the island’s sugar plantations turned uncertain, a group of investors got together to try to figure out a way to save them.

Their idea?

Rum. Distilled from Kauai rain water and home-grown sugarcane made into raw crystal sugar.

Producing the 80 proof-and-over spirit did prolong the life of the last sugarcane plantation, but couldn’t save it from eventual closure.

Still, Koloa Rum Co. has proved a success story.

Established in 2009, it remains the first and only licensed distillery on Kauai. Its award-winning rums are now sold in nine states, as well as inf France, Australia and Canada. In San Francisco, you can pick up bottles at Cask stores.

With 22 employees, Koloa Rum now produces seven different rums.

If you fly Hawaiian Airlines to the islands, too, you can even enjoy a Koloa Breeze rum punch for free — even in coach — in a promotion by the airlines and distiller.

Moreover, when you’re on Kauai, you can visit Koloa Rum’s tasting room at the Kilohana Plantation. Free tastings are offered every half hour. You must be 21 years or older to partake, of course. And yes, IDs are checked.

That’s just what I did on a trip a few weeks ago to Kauai, courtesy of the Kauai Visitors Bureau. I’ve enjoyed many a wine tasting. But never a rum tasting, which will definitely jolt you awake at 11 in the morning, which is when I did it.

Making my Mai Tai shot.

Making my Mai Tai shot.

By Kauai law, each person is allowed tastings of only 1 ounce of rum per day. In this tasting, you’re basically making your own Mai Tai shot. Your guide first pours a little Koloa Mai Tai mix into one shot glass for you to taste. Next, a pour of the Koloa White Rum into another glass. Take a small sip to taste the crisp, clear rum that has a slight tropical pineapple finish. Then, pour it into your Mai Tai mix glass. Next, you get a pour of the Koloa Dark Rum, which tastes of molasses, coffee and toffee. The darker rum has more caramelized sugar added to it, hence its color. To create a classic Mai Tai, carefully pour your Dark Rum down the side of the shot glass with the Mai Tai mix and White Rum. You end up with a float of the Dark Rum on top. After you’re done admiring your handiwork, slam it back in one chug for a quick buzz.

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Category:General, Spirits/Cocktails/Beer, Travel Adventures | Comments (3)



Hankering for Hawaii Part I: Taro and Sweet Potato Chips Fried to Order

Wednesday, 16. April 2014 5:25 | Author:

Taro and sweet potato chips fried to order for you.

Taro and sweet potato chips fried to order for you.

OAHU, HAWAII — If you’ve spent any time snacking in Hawaii, you’re only too familiar with those ubiquitous bags of taro and sweet potato chips by Hawaiian Chip Company.

They’re irresistible — big, crunchy slices of speckled taro, orange sweet potato and deep purple sweet potato fried up crisp with the taste of their natural root veggie sweetness shining through.

They’re everywhere on the islands — stocked in ABC Stores, Costco, Wal-Mart and Long’s Drugs.

They’re so beloved that whenever we travel to Hawaii, my husband’s sister always pleads for us to tote back a few bags to California for her, since you can’t get them outside of the islands unless you mail-order them.

What the chips are made from.

What the chips are made from.

What’s even better, though — is getting them fried fresh to order.

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Joanne Chang’s Big White Chocolate, Almond and Cherry Cookies

Monday, 14. April 2014 5:25 | Author:

Imagine these tucked into your Easter basket.

Imagine these tucked into your Easter basket.

 

Easter may be all about chocolate eggs and marshmallow Peeps. But I think it should be about cookies.

But then again, I think every day should be a cookie day.

And this cookie has it all: A twinkle of color in keeping with that festive holiday. Chocolate for tradition’s sake. And almonds for their symbolic promise of hope.

“Big White Chocolate, Almond and Cherry Cookies” is a recipe by Pastry Chef Joanne Chang that was originally published in the December 2013 issue of Food & Wine magazine. The recipe by the chef-proprietor of Flour Bakery in Boston was originally called “Big White Chocolate, Almond and Cranberry Cookies,” but I substituted dried cherries for the dried cranberries to make it more appropriate for this time of year.

The recipe uses three different flours — all-purpose, bread and almond. They give the cookie great texture. They are thin and crisp on the edges,, but stay thick, soft and chewy in the centers. The white chocolate gives the cookies a good measure of sweetness, the cherries add a subtle fruity tang and the almonds a lovely crunch. It’s a cookie that hits all the notes.

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Category:Chefs, Favorite Cookie Recipes, General | Comments (6)



Lure + Till Takes Root in Downtown Palo Alto

Friday, 11. April 2014 5:25 | Author:

First of the season Alaskan halibut at Palo Alto's Lure + Till.

First of the season Alaskan halibut at Palo Alto’s Lure + Till.

 

What was once a senior care facility in downtown Palo Alto has morphed into a splashy new boutique hotel and restaurant.

The eight-story Epiphany Hotel, a Joie de Vivre property, opened at the end of March after a  year of demolition that took the structure down to the studs, followed by nearly two years of construction.

The six-story mosaic of El  Palo Alto, the 1,000-year-old coastal redwood for which the city is named, was kept on the outside of the building. Moreover, throughout the structure there are nods to both that tree and to the city’s prominent place in Silicon Valley history. For instance, binary code is used as lighted artwork in the lobby. Historic maps of Palo Alto adorn hallways. Room rugs are woven with tree images. Cocoon-like “hoodie” chairs on the mezzanine not only have built-in outlets but were designed to be noise-cancelling. And perhaps in the ultimate oxymoron, the desks for all those hustle-bustle guests who never met an electronic device they didn’t like were made by the Amish.

Only in Silicon Valley: binary code as art.

Only in Silicon Valley: binary code as art.

The chic lobby.

The chic lobby.

Now, I’m not in the habit of snapping pictures of urinals in the men’s room. But this one was too good not to memorialize after being escorted in by the general manager. Yes, in the men’s room of a hotel just a stone’s throw from Stanford University, you will find this unique urinal, a deprecating symbol of the Big Game rivalry between the two institutions.

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The Comfort of Curry

Wednesday, 9. April 2014 5:26 | Author:

A spice mix not to be without.

A spice mix not to be without.

 

My spice drawer collapseth over.

Try as I might to keep the jars and tins in neat alphabetical order, there are just far too many for all the cuisines dabbled in to do so.

In my parents’ kitchen that I grew up in, though, that never was a problem. Their spice collection snuggled neatly in one metal pan in the cupboard that held barely a dozen in total. Cloves to stud the Easter ham. Cinnamon for baking oatmeal cookies. White pepper to sprinkle into rice porridge. And that all-important jar of curry powder that my Dad would reach for whenever he made lamb curry.

Nowadays, I keep a jar of curry in my pantry for many uses. But when spring hits, I can’t help but think of lamb curry first and foremost as my Dad so often did.

His lamb curry was made in a pressure cooker, the kind that sat on the stovetop with a metal knob screwed into its lid that hissed and whistled like mad. He’d cut up potatoes, carrots and onions and throw them into the pot with chunks of lamb with plenty of chicken stock, some spiky star anise, and a few generous shakes from that curry jar — and let it all bubble away under that locked lid.

Sometimes I’d have no idea what he was making for dinner. But the moment he lifted the lid off that pot, that unmistakable aroma would fill the house, letting me know it was curry lamb night. The fragrance is so recognizable — pungently earthy, musky, even a tad sweet, and with the promise of something a little exotic.

My Dad’s version was golden and brothy — meant to be eaten with mounds of fluffy rice. All it took was one mouthful to warm you deliciously from within.

Tadashi Ono's lamb curry.

Tadashi Ono’s lamb curry.

My husband who is Japanese-American also grew up with curry and rice. But the type he is accustomed to is far more gravy-like. It’s a deep, dark pool of sauce, so thick you can barely discern what’s below until you really dig a fork into it. It’s also delicious. And like the version my Dad used to make, quite tame on the heat spectrum, compared to Indian curries.

In New York Chef Tadashi Ono’s newest cookbook, “Japanese Soul Cooking” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, is full of home-style dishes, including ramen, tonkatsu, tempura, and donburi. It also includes a curry dish that marries both of the styles my husband and I grew up on. The sauce is a little thinner than what my husband is used to and with a scant more weight than the type I favored as a child.

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