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love letters to hawaii: a liquid post

in less than 3 weeks, i will be in hawaii.  a place, to me, of pure bliss.

i am set to spend my longest ever vacation there… 15 nights.  to be split 3 in honolulu and 12 in maui.  i’m so excited.  it’s been just over a year since i was in hawaii last, but before that it had been about 12 years.  and i’ve never been to maui.  it’s funny, because at work i sell a LOT of maui, and i’ve basically just been faking my way through it based on my knowledge from other islands.  but no more.  when i return from this trip, i will be WELL versed.

i get asked a lot about my favourite destinations and hawaii is always high up on the list.  to me, it’s perfection.  it’s easy to get to – direct flights to 3 islands from YVR, it’s safe and easy to visit on account of being in the usa, it’s cheap comparatively – sure there’s no all inclusive packages, but the booze is dirt cheap in america and almost every hotel room has a kitchenette and lastly, it’s just so fucking stunning.  the beach and the ocean are incredible, the people & culture rich and intriguing. there’s volcanoes, rainforest, beaches, hikes, waterfalls… everything you could ever want.

i love hawaii.  give me hawaii over mexico any day of the week.

if you’ve ever wanted to see my face when i’m truly happy… this is it:

beachfront in hawaii, local beer in hand, sunkissed and utterly relaxed.

i’m normally not much for the sugary drinks, but when in hawaii, well, it just seems wrong if you’re not enjoying the occasional mai tai.

pretty much every single place will make one, some places are (obviously) vastly better than others.  our hotel (outrigger reef on the beach) had a great place called the shorebird that we frequented.  the mai tais weren’t the best ever, but they were cheap (especially during happy hour) and definitely went down smooth.


now that one is a little heavy on the grenadine… but it was still tasty.  also the pic is a little coloured, but you get the idea.

i had a few other delicious beverages while i was there…

ooh look!  another mai tai!  shocking!  i actually believe this is my first one upon landing.  i’m not even sure we brought our bags to our room first, lol.

and of course, every trip starts with plane vodka
hey, don’t judge… it’s a LONG flight!  …and i get thirsty…

…and sometimes you have to have a local beer on your hotel patio while overlooking the ocean.  because life is rough, yo.

these next ones were my favourite drinks of the trip.  on the lanai at the royal hawaiian, overlooking waikiki beach.

mine is the blendy basil drink – the chi, and my mom’s is the royal mai tai, made properly.  i snapped a pic of the menu because every drink sounded like heaven.

 

…and of course there’s a beer at the airport at the kona brewing company brewpub.

*sigh*

alright hawaii, i’ll see your sexy self in 19 days.

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food: 7-spice pork tenderloin & bok choy

this meal had a few inspirations… first of all, it’s a house favourite.  my husband makes a homemade spice blend that he fouls up my coffee grinder with, but it is damn tasty.

it includes the following:
cinnamon stick
star anise
ground ginger
corriander seed
fennel seed
chili flake
brown sugar

we call it “tyler 7 spice” in my house… and it’s a delight.  sometimes, time permitting, the whole spices will get pan toasted before hitting the grinder, but it’s not necessary.

he then takes most of the spice rub and coats a pork tenderloin with it… and the remainder goes into a sauce containing various things, based on current whims.

this week’s sauce included soy, fish sauce, sugar, sesame oil, orange juice and maybe a few other things he forgot to tell me about.  it happens.

so, first things first, you have to sear off that pork tenderloin.  tenderloin is best cooked, IMO, to medium well.  just a hint of pink in the very centre, but done on the edges.  to achieve this, i seared it on a reasonably high (let’s say on 7/10) on all sides for a couple minutes and then turned it down to 4, put a lid on it and roasted it until the internal temp read 140.  then i removed it, tented it and let it rest up to 150.  it was perfect.

for the bok choy, i threw the sauce mixture in the pan, loaded the bok choy on top, slapped the lid on and left it for 5 minutes.  then removed the lid & continued to stir until it was at desired doneness.

i plated it and cut the pork while the remaining pan sauced reduced a little more into a sweet salts glaze.  added some toasted sesame seeds and sauced the plate and voila!

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now, when i say there were a few inspirations, the other one is my friend christa who is doing the paleo diet with her husband.  she’s been blogging it here: http://christaleecarr.tumblr.com

she’s already lost 30lbs, which i find inspiring and amazing! (go girl!) but i’m also really enjoying her pics of meals that follow the paleo diet.

as someone that is totally addicted to white bread (or really, any bread) this scares me.  no, seriously, i’m actually eating 2 pieces of white bread toast RIGHT NOW while typing this, lol.  but i know that it’s not good for me… but like smoking and drinking, i do it anyways, because the enjoyment factor is high.

i can, however, change my mindset if i BELIEVE the logic behind something.  like when i went vegetarian for a few years… and when i decided to eat local… and when i stopped buying prepackaged preservative filled convenience crap that masquerades as food.

and this paleo diet intrigues me.  i have no doubt that you would drop a ton of weight by following it and that your body could live and function happily on it.  and giving up dairy would be doable, sugar the easiest i think… but that devil wheat.  in fact, no grains at all!  see, i may be able to survive if i could still eat rice and quinoa and those other yummy things… but no grains at all is very scary.

so basically i’m just trying to phase them out a bit.  more veg, less grain.  and trying to keep breads out of the house.  because i am powerless against them and clearly should not be trusted.
in any event, i enjoy reading about this stuff, so it’s been a good exercise in learning.

food: sausage bake

i know i’ve posted about this meal before on previous blogs that i’ve run, but it bears repeating for 2 reasons.  first off, it’s incredibly delicious & easy.  second, it’s always changing based on whats on hand.

this week’s incarnation comes courtesy of sausages and produce from granville island.  the sausages, of course, come from oyama sausage company (see previous post) and i got to choose these ones…

i selected 3 kinds, and they were all winners.  wild boar, venison with blueberries and an okanagan pork sausage with local red wine in it.

for veg, we used golden beets, baby potatoes, carrots, leeks, sweet onion, cherry tomatoes, fennel and red peppers.  and lots of fresh rosemary.

a little olive oil, salt & pepper and she’s good to go.  425 for about 40 minutes, then i removed the sausages and let the veggies go for another 20 mins.

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here’s the finished product, with one of each sausage.

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all of the sausages were delicious, but i think the venison was my top pick.  the boar, unfortunately got a little overcooked and was a bit dry. totally my fault, it had a lower fat content and should have come out earlier.  the flavour of it was still incredible.  the venison was so juicy and the blueberries added a lovely little flavour punch.
the okanagan pork sausage was crazy good too.  super juicy and a strong red wine flavour to it.  i’d buy any and all of them again.

once again, i’d like to thank that sultry minx nigella lawson for bring this recipe to my attention.  it’s a winter & fall staple in my house now.

food: delicious cured meats

on sunday my husband and i went on an impromptu adventure for meats & beer.

we decided to head to granville island and find inspiration in the market… easy to do, but dangerous if you’re not focused. distractions are plentiful.

after a delicious shared lunch and some coffee, we headed to our favourite place for all things meat. oyama sausage company. this place is ridiculous. http://www.oyamasausage.ca

i’ve sampled some delightful cured meats, including from the famed bocalone in san francisco… but this place is always on point. and they have EVERYTHING.

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with a spread like that (and that is one case of 5) it’s easy to see how one could get distracted… and say… spend $60 on cured meats. (whoopsie)

it’s hard to say what i was most excited about, but i may have to say it was the wild boar prosciutto.

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honestly, this is probably some of the best prosciutto i’ve ever eaten. it was rich, incredibly salty and so so tasty. it had very little fat, which was a big selling feature for me… and the flavour of wild boar is just so much deeper and complex than a run of the mill pig prosciutto. we bought 100g of it and pretty much inhaled it. lesson learned: buy more next time.

my husband, however, was most excited about this:

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now, he said this is called grelots and after some extensive googling, it looks like they may be called “grelots noisettes ” in french, so roughly; hazelnut sweetmeats.

ummm… yes.

so, as we were waiting for our meat to be put together, a lady came bounding up to the counter, visibly excited that they had these grelots since apparently they only have them once a year.
at $4.50 per (and they’re about the size of your thumb), she bought 10. she was kind enough to ask the clerk to cut off a little piece of one so my husband could try it, and bam. he was sold. we bought two… and wow.

the creamy salami-esque meat with the tender hazelnuts and the sharp moldy rind… so. fucking. good.
but, let it be known that i’m a total sucker for the moldy bits. they’re always the yummiest, yes i am that girl that only eats the rind of the brie.

but this is good. like, definitely worth $4.50 each and we regret not buying 10 as well. there may have to be a mission back down there this week to rectify this oversight.
and really… look how beautiful this is:

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so, we put all these treats together with their “country ham” – like a prosciutto but more mild and a dry aged wagu beef which was freaking unreal… and created the meaty masterpiece you see below.

yup. $60 in cured meats well spent.

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i will also say that we got 10% off a delicious beaujolais with all this meat purchases. which was excellent and perfectly matched with the above plate.

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wine: winter is coming

yes friends… in the words of house stark… winter is coming.
and in my super nerdy friendship circle, it is known.
(you either got that, or you didn’t. just sayin’)

anyways, with winter, comes the shift from white wine to red wine.
it’s true.  there’s just something weird and unsatisfying about drinking white wine on a cold day.
but red wine?  well, that tickles you in all the right places on a cold night.

unfortunately (fortunately?) my husband has developed a taste lately for fine red wine.  now, it’s nothing ridiculous… but let’s just say that he won’t let anything worth less than about $16.99 touch his lips these days.
not to say that we’re going crazy with $50 bottles every night… but it’s safe to generalize that the average bottle price in my house lately has been hovering around the $20-$30 mark.
…and the odd $40 bottle might have snuck in.

we’ve also fallen prey a few times lately on “label buying”
it’s tough with wine… there’s just SO MANY OPTIONS.  and if you can narrow down your choices by $ amount… and then further vet by name & label, well i say, what the hell?

there’s a BC wine that i spent $40 on last week purely on label.  granted, it was in the “best of bc” fall release, so i figure thats a guarantee of at least being decent…
the winery is called “Moon Curser” (awesome) and it used to go by the name of twisted tree… which i enjoyed.  so i figured this one was worth a go.
…but at $40, i feel as though there should be some sort of minor occasion to crack it open.

however, the SKULLS wine that i’m currently digging is *very* drinkable right now at $19.99 each.  (pictured below)

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this is definitely one that was sold based on awesome label & good name.

and in an awesome display of “great minds…” this showed up at our house TWICE in the last week from other people that also thought the label & name were rad.

anyways, it’s a hearty red.  a shiraz that’s got some serious body.  it’s almost chewy.  i dig it.
and to be honest, the australian reds used to be a prime pick of mine in years past, but over the past 4 years or so, they were a last resort… but this one is a delight.

so, see… sometimes buying with your eyes works.

food: ham and other pig products

as part of our pig bounty from the butchery class, we had a ham.
a raw, uncured, cut fresh off the carcass ham.  so… more like a ham-shaped piece of pig than an actual ham.

task #1… figure out how to cure a ham and make it a ham.
we did loads of internet research and the results were… mixed, to say the least.
traditional methods involved using “pink salt” which is what gives commercial hams their pinky-hue.  but it also apparently is a cocktail of chemicals, many of which are NOT good for you at all.  its other function is to kill botulism.
now, this ham came off a fresh pig and straight into our freezer.  i think it was handled appropriately and so scary food borne illness wasn’t something that i was particularly worried about.

so we decided to brine this guy for 3 days without the pink salt.
we created a brine based loosely on this recipe – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-burrell/brined-fresh-ham-recipe/index.html

ours was more like this:

Brine:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup fennel seeds
  • 1/4 cup mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 10 bruised garlic cloves
  • 1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 (3-pound) fresh ham

we let it hang out it the fridge – covered, with a dinner plate on top to sink it into the brine – for 3 whole days.

when it was done, it looked like this:

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sadly, that’s the only picture i took.  no finished results – food blogger fail.

so after brining, we rinsed it off, patted it dry and roasted it in the oven at 325 for about 2 hours.
i made a “glaze” of sorts with cola, maple syrup and some mustard, but the ham gave off so much liquid that it didn’t really glaze as i had pictured.

at the end of it all, we had a damn fine meal.  it was kind of weird because it tasted like ham & had the right consistency, but it looked like a pork roast.  it’s funny how we’re so conditioned into seeing that bright pink ham colour.
anyways, it was great and i definitely recommend trying this yourself.  in fact, just taking the time to brine any meat makes a huge difference.

also on the pork note, we had a bunch of bones left over from our class as well that we’d been meaning to make stock from… and we finally got to it yesterday.  we just did a basic stock, bones, water, an onion, some celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt & thyme.  let it boil for a couple hours, then strain it and skim the fat off. cheesecloth was definitely necessary for this task… there was a decent amount of “scum” on the liquid.

when we had achieved beautiful tasty clear-ish stock, we cooked some dried white beans in it and added this ham hock that we smoked ourselves (also from the butchery class)

here’s a picture of it from the summer when we smoked it…

anyways, so into the stock went the hock, dried beans and leeks that had been sauteed in butter.  we added a few things… spices and whatnot… and after an hour or two we shredded the meat off the hock and had a ridiculously rich and delicious ham soup.  which i also do not have a picture of, lol.

the husband and i were pretty proud of our work… a complete meal, farm to table, as it were.  the only things in the meal that i couldn’t place would be the dried beans… no idea where they came from.  but the ham we knew and the leeks were from a local farm up the road.
the mileage that we’ve gotten out of our butchery class is impressive… but we’re down to the last bits.  we have our 16lb bone in pork shoulder, which one day will make fabulous pulled pork… and a few odds & ends like jowl meat and pork belly.  the fatty bits that i’m not super keen on.  but the end is definitely near… might be time to start thinking about getting access to another pig soon.  man, i need a deep freeze.

beer: winter ale (love letters to granville island)

truth be told, i’m not much of a winter girl.
i’m a sun lover and i hate being cold… and in a lot of places winter = sun, but not in vancouver… it usually means grey weather.  now, grey weather i can dig when it’s not freezing, but combine the two and i’m fucking out.
which is why i’m spending 15 nights in hawaii in december.  i like to call it “the great winter escape!”

one of the things that i really do love about winter is the seasonal return of winter ales.
in particular, this one:

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granville island’s lions winter ale is the first one i had ever tried and still remains my absolute favourite.

now, if i may back up… i have a long and healthy relationship with granville island beers.  i have been drinking them faithfully and at times exclusively for about 10 years now.  they have never done me wrong.
and my personal palate leans me towards full flavoured beers on the darker scale, and GI definitely had my back there.

i first fell in love with their pale ale.  it was rich and not hoppy like a lot of pale ales and oh-so easy to drink.  believe me, i tried to stop (no i didn’t) but it’s just too tasty to resist. and it was local & independent (at the time), so wins all around.

then they wowed me further when they introduced their kitsalano maple cream ale.  oh the maple cream… i honestly do not have the capacity to count the number of bottles of this beer that i drank over a solid 5 year period.  this was my absolute go-to beer.  rain or shine, this one went with everything.  and i know, because i tried to pair it with everything.  and it all worked.
i would say that this beer was a signature item in my fridge.  i always, and i mean ALWAYS had at least a 6 pack on hand… usually more. one time i had a keg of it on my balcony, lol.

now, around this time, the robson hefeweizen came out for the summer.  and it was a delight.  i remember when my work teamed up with GI to promote it and i spent an entire summer drinking this for free at various bars with rock stars… ah, good times.

and my beer soaked memory fails me, but i believe it was the same year that the hef was introduced, the winter came out in the fall.  and wow.  if i thought i had swooned before, it was nothing to my mad lust for this beer.
and at first, it was hard to find… certain liquor stores would carry it and when i’d see it, i’d buy all of it.  no jokes, like 6 or more 6-packs at a time.  i was obsessed.  when i found out it was to be a seasonal release, i started hording.
then bars started to carry it.  the first place i recall was the cambie… and they served up super cheap ($8 was it?)  pitchers of it on mondays.  -as a sidebar, drinking draft at the cambie is a terrible idea, but that’s a whole other blog-

there was something about the vanilla symphony in my mouth hole that made my taste buds sing.  it was like they had taken my favourite beer -the maple cream- and turned up the volume on it.  it was darker, heavier, more flavourful, but still had the qualities that made me fall in love with the maple in the first place.

now this beer… well, to me, it pairs perfectly with winter nights… hockey games, fireplaces, couch forts, movies… you know… all those things that you want to do with your winter.  stay indoors.
but i’ve also roadtrip’d this beer and found that it also pairs well with playing in the snow and outdoor ice rinks.  and hot tubs in whistler. in short, it’s the booze soundtrack to cold weather.

winter beers are pretty common nowadays… most of the indie breweries make one, and even some of the larger breweries… and i’ve tried a number that i’ve enjoyed, but none that i love like the granville island lions winter ale.
it’s like it’s set the gold standard for my tastebuds and everything else is just a weak imposter in my mouth.

the winter showed up a few weeks ago in liquor stores and my fridge is fully stocked.  in fact, i’ve already gone through 4 6-packs of it.  *note – they now sell it in cans – don’t do it. it’s best out of the bottle, no glass required*
and last weekend we had a guest over in the form of captain charles and i gave him his very first GI winter ale.
he opened it, smelled it, looked up at me with amazement and said “WOW, this smells incredible” and took his first sip and just smiled.  and that’s how you know a beer is good.

…and now i’m going to drink one, because it’s my day off dammit and it’s all i can think of…

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