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Souvenirs from New York

Thursday, 7. June 2012 5:26

Pasta with truffle cream -- dinner from my New York souvenirs.

Some people tote home T-shirts or snow globes from vacations.

Me? I’m prone to do that on occasion, but more often than not, my souvenirs involve food.

I love nothing better than scouring supermarkets or specialty food stores to bring back a real taste of the place I’m visiting.

When I walked into New York’s Eataly last month, I knew I’d hit paradise for edible memorabilia.

The multi-restaurant food emporium brims with the flavors of Italy. Bringing back some of the wondrous gelato, cheeses and specialty beef would be out of the question, of course. But dried pasta was definitely do-able. I scoured the plentiful pasta aisles there to find one that would withstand being shoved into my carry-on without getting badly crushed or crumbled. I hit upon the Alta Valle Scrivia Trofiette ($4.80). The sturdy Ligurian durum wheat pasta is a slender, tightly twisted 1 1/2-inch sliver that has a hand-rolled look to it. Traditionally, it’s tossed with pesto sauce.

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Scrumptious Snapshots from New York, Part II

Wednesday, 16. May 2012 5:25

What you get when you cross a croissant with a pretzel.

NEW YORK, NY — Yesterday, you got a glimpse of my savory adventures. Now, get a taste of the sweet side:

City Bakery

City Bakery has really fun, original baked goods, including a fabulous pretzel croissant. Yes, a flaky, slightly denser version of the traditional French pastry, only here it’s coated in seeds and a sprinkling of salt just like a pretzel. It’s addicting.

The buttery, pull-apart "baker's muffin.''

So is the “baker’s muffin,” a sort of monkey-bread in muffin form that’s showered in powdered sugar. It’s buttery and tastes like a cinnamon candied apple.

Levain Bakery

We bought three cookies (chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate chocolate chip, and dark chocolate peanut butter chip) at Levain Bakery and boy, did our arms get a workout as we carried them around.

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Scrumptious Snapshots from New York, Part I

Tuesday, 15. May 2012 5:26

Eating my way through New York, including this pasta at Eataly.

NEW YORK, NY — Yes, the hubby (aka Meat Boy) and I sneaked off to New York last week for one of the first real vacations we’ve had in a long time.

By that, I mean it was a trip that didn’t solely revolve around my work as a food writer. Instead, it was merely for relaxation and enjoyment — plus lots of good eats, of course. To make sure I actually did take time off, I wasn’t allowed to lug around my usual heavy camera, but only a tiny point-and-shoot. I had to ration my shots, too. After all, it’s not really a vacation if it’s viewed only through the lens of a camera and not the full spectrum of your own eyes.

Hope you enjoy the highlights:

When in New York, you've gotta have a bagel. Or two. Or...

Barney Greengrass

After taking the red-eye from San Jose to New York, we caught a couple of hours of shut-eye at our hotel before venturing to this 100-year-old institution. If you’re in New York, you’ve got to have a bagel or two, right? And what better place than at Barney Greengrass, famed for its smoked sturgeon.

Grab a table where you can at this tightly packed store flanked by deli cases.

My famished husband tore into a plate of smoked sturgeon scrambled with eggs and onions ($18.50), plus a bagel on the side, while I noshed on a sesame bagel stuffed with cream cheese, capers, onion, tomato, smoked sturgeon and Nova Scotia salmon ($20.75). Hello, New York!

BaoHaus

Chinese steamed buns filled with all manner of inventive fillings is the bill of fare at the shoebox-size BaoHaus started by the irreverent, lawyer-turned-street food-restaurateur Eddie Huang and his brother, Evan.

The zany artwork at BaoHaus.

Steamed buns filled with fried chicken (back) and pork belly (front).

The “Chairman Bao” ($2.99) is a fluffy white bun caressing juicy braised pork belly, cilantro, crushed peanuts and a hit of Taiwanese red sugar.

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Maui Morsels

Friday, 20. April 2012 5:25

Thick, crisp French toast -- what a way to wake up at the Old Wailuku Inn. And this is only a half-order.

MAUI, HAWAII — Two weeks ago when invited to visit this spectacular island by the Maui Visitors Bureau, I had a chance to be a guest at a couple of complimentary accommodations as I noshed my way around the island.

Here are the highlights:

The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono

Total charm is what you’ll find at this B&B that evokes 1940s Hawaii, with its grand lanai, lush garden and handmade Hawaiian quilts that adorn the beds in each distinct room.

Janice and Tom Fairbanks run the Old Wailuku, a plantation-style inn that’s located in a residential neighborhood. It has seven rooms in the main house and three in a separate rear building.

Complimentary breakfast is included and shouldn’t be missed. It usually begins with a goblet of fresh fruit, including mango, banana and strawberries. That’s followed by a warm dish, such as mega French toast made from a crisp Vietnamese baguette that’s smeared with a creamy mixture of ricotta, cottage cheese and fresh mint.

The plantation-style sitting area in the main house.

The bedrooms are adorned with handmade Hawaiian quilts.

In the dining room, there’s a fridge stocked with cold cans of juice and soda to help yourself to throughout the day, as well as bowls of snack foods to nibble.

Star Noodle

I admit that when Chef Jay Terauchi was driving myself and a slew of travel bloggers to this restaurant, I secretly feared he might be a serial killer, about to do us all in and dump our bodies where nobody could find them.

That’s because Star Noodle is located off the beaten path, up a rather deserted road off the main highway, where there’s a warehouse or two and a couple of bulldozers idle on barren land.

A sampler of kimchee, shiitakes and other pickled veggies.

But continue up that road until you hit the restaurant, and you know you must be on to something because there will be a line of folks in the parking lot, waiting to get inside. Always a good sign, right?

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Maui’s Magnificent Agriculture

Thursday, 19. April 2012 5:25

When in Hawaii, you have to indulge in pineapple, right?

MAUI, HAWAII — Whenever I visit Hawaii, I fall head over heels — not for the sun, sand or surf, but the fruit.

I scour farmers markets for apple bananas and varieties of mangoes you never find on the mainland. I’ve even made a beeline to the frugal ABC stores for chilled papaya halves, already packaged with a wedge of lime. Because when it comes to fresh fruit in this tropical paradise, I admittedly turn rather fanatical.

So, of course, I jumped at the chance two weeks ago when I was invited to be a judge for the Maui County Agricultural Festival cook-off at Maui Tropical Plantation. In this competition,  presented by the Maui County Farm Bureau and Slow Food Maui, professional chefs were each paired with a local farmer to create a dish that showcased a particular fruit, vegetable or protein raised on Maui.

To first get a better understanding of Maui’s bounty, our hosts from the Maui Visitors & Convention Bureau, gave us a fruit tutorial.

Take a tour of the working pineapple plantation.

Workers plant and pick the pineapples by hand.

It started with a Maui Gold Pineapple Tour, the only working pineapple plantation tour on this island. Price is $65 for adults; $55 for children, ages 5-12. And each person gets to take home their very own pineapple afterward.

Board the “Pineapple Express” bus to get a tour of the fields. There are 1,500 acres planted here — all by hand. An especially efficient worker can plant 7,000 pineapples a day.

Pineapple, which originated in Brazil, actually grow on stalks. It takes two years for a new crop to emerge after it is first planted.  And it takes a surprising 18 to 24 months for the fruit to mature.

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