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food & travel: O’o Farms, Maui

one of my favourite parts of my trip to maui was O’o Farm.
I know, for a girl that lives mere minutes away from farmland, you’d think that seeing a farm wouldn’t be a high priority.  but i’m oh-so glad that we made it one.

the farm itself was a marvel to me. existing only to service two high end restaurants with fresh organic produce, this is not really a “working farm”, but more a culinary indulgence of chef/owners.  which i think makes for a really unique and special farm experience.

every single thing grown there exists because the chef has requested it for the menu or because it is a control plant to attract/detract pests or to add or remove nutrients to/from the soil.  everything has a purpose here and nothing is wasted.  in fact, there’s not even anything extra to sell.  the restaurants and the farm tour use everything grown here.
even the fish carcasses from dinner service and coffee grounds make their way back to the farm to be composted. this was a beautiful working example of a sustainable farm.

i left here feeling inspired.  this is the lifestyle of my dreams. to be in hawaii, growing the food that i serve at my restaurant?  i don’t think they could have possibly pinpointed this better for me.  so if i run away, this could very well be where i am.

okay, now on to the good stuff… we’ll start with the view.  the farm is high up the crater with a spectacular view of kihei.

ya, pretty rough, hey?  that could sooooo be my workplace view please.

first off, after intros and pleasantries, we went to the coffee plants.  now, these plants are just starting to produce and they’re relatively new to this farm, so their beans aren’t being used yet in the restaurants, but they will be soon. until then, they use beans from a farm down the road that are roasted at O’o Farm by the cutie that was our guide for the tour.  (seriously, this farm has everything. even dark curly haired gentlemen with strong jaw lines – aka “my type”, lol)

after sampling the berry of the coffee plant – you eat the red ones and spit out the beans.  it’s really an interesting flavour… very sweet off the start with a tart finish.  of course here there’s no waste, so they use the berry in cooking & garnishes in the restaurants and dry it to make tea from it (which i bought a bag of) and then they roast the beans inside.

we moved on to the orchards after our coffee plant lessons… first the citrus grove.  literally, a few of everything was growing here… pink lemons, pomellos, limes, clementines and even buddah’s hand… which i’ve never actually seen growing before!  so cool!  (it’s basically a citrus made almost entirely of rind & pith, usually candied or preserved and used as a strong citrus flavour agent)

the stone fruit trees were done for the season (funny to hear about it being “winter” in hawaii) so we moved over to where we’d be dining and met the chef.

she told us a little about the food we’d be eating and where it came from (everything from the farm except the fish which was caught yesterday just off the maui coast and the tofu).  she also shared her culinary journey and how she ended up cooking for the tours and such.
then we moved on to see the fields and pick our salad greens for lunch.

here’s a shot of my husband picking some yummy sorrel for lunch…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorrel

…and showing off our bounty of lunch greens and filling us in what each one is and how its grown…

…and grabbing a little more arugula.

this one is just a cool picture of a kale plant.  because i dig kale.

then we ventured back to the “dining room” for our feast.

first up was the fresh avocados with citrus and the selection of root vegetables… candycane & watermelon radishes, fennel and kohlrabi for the salad…

and my plate all loaded up with the tofu, beet & chard dish, the mahi mahi in sweet maui onions & citrus and of course the fabulous salad.  all wheat-free, and all absolutely delicious and bursting with freshness. everything from the farm had been in the ground mere hours ago.

after a plate (okay, maybe and seconds) we chatted with the people sitting around us… almost everyone had brought their own bottle of wine (ours white & refreshing) and we discussed the farm and our own personal reasons for being drawn to visit it.
there were lots of foodies that were fans of the restaurants associated with the farm… a lot of gardeners, both hobby & small business… and just generally people that loved this lifestyle of natural, sustainable living.  it was very cool.

after a bit, the chef brought out a plate of chocolates that she had made and a big bowl of still-shelled macadamia nuts for us to crack & snack on and our guide invited us up to the “coffee house” where he had brewed us some coffee that he had roasted that morning.

my husband and i gladly trucked up the hill and had 3 cups of the coffee each, while chatting with our guide about the coffee, growing it, roasting it, varietals ect.  we ended up buying $100 in premium coffee from him, including a batch that had just been roasted, but wasn’t even bagged yet for sale.  we just got talking about it and so he ran down to the roasting house and pulled some out for us.  people, you can not beat this.

honestly, if this kinda thing isn’t up your alley, then there’s nothing i can say to convince you… but if this kinda thing tweaks your fancy, then you MUST do O’o Farms tour in Maui.  it was $50 well spent on an excellent and truly awesome experience.  in fact, we decided that we would do this every trip, just to see what’s growing at different times of the year.  and the restaurant is definitely on our “must eat” list for next trip too.

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food: hawaii eats

one of my favourite things to do when on vacation is to track down some roadside eats.  the popularity of food trucks right now warms the cockles of my heart and has absolutely made the industry explode, which i do believe is a good thing for you & me.

hawaii has had a long standing tradition of shrimp trucks.  last year we tracked down a bunch of them on oahu, but in maui they seemed to be scarce.  now, i do think this is largely in part due to the location of where were staying (the mega rich section of the island) and assume there are probably more options in the smaller surf towns… but we did manage to find a pocket of them by makena beach.

we ate at this one pictured below twice.  it was just that good.

here’s the “scampi” shrimp.  it was in a white wine & butter sauce with capers and diced tomatoes.  and garlic.  loads of garlic.  it was my favourite, hands down.

my mother, however, was partial to the cajun shrimp.  it was in a creole butter sauce and had a good hit of spice.  very tasty as well, but what can i say?  i like the classic “swimming in butter & garlic” kinda thing.

we also found a great dive restaurant in lahina that served us some yummy local treats.
my brother had an ahi poke and a coconut filled with rum.  he was pleased with his selections…

my husband went with the fish tacos.  fresh mahi mahi grilled up and served very simply on some warm flour tortillas.

i am completely unable to resist kahlua pork.  and being wheat-free now, the prevalence of rice in hawaii was a godsend for me.  my pork was served with a bbq sauce (sickly sweet – unneeded.  the pork was delicious on its own) and and the side salad came with the local dressing – papaya seed.  so yummy.

inspired by the locals, we picked up a massive ahi tuna loin and cooked it up on the bbq.
my husband & i put together a marinade of wheat-free soy sauce, lime juice, chillies & sugar.  i must say… i cooked it pretty perfectly.  and it was SO GOOD!

i wish i had taken a picture of the whole loin… it was easily 2lbs and cost us a mere $30.  bargain!  also, it was caught locally, so it was fresher than fresh.  win win!

travel: old lahaina luau – maui

well friends… i came, i saw and i conquered.  hawaii was, as expected, an absolute delight.  maui was a whole new experience and honolulu was the same loveliness that i adore.  the differences between the two were more pronounced than expected, but both definitely have a place in my vacation plans.

i have a few blogs to post about maui in the next few days… i’m going to split up the trip into a few different events, because i have a ton of photos to share.  if you have me on faceboook or instagram, then you’ve seen some… but i’ve been purposefully holding back some pics for the blog, so it won’t be all repeats.

i’m starting with the luau.  we chose the Old Lahaina Luau for our outing, based on the feedback that it was the “most authentic” and totally not cheesy.  it absolutely delivered on all counts.  the setting was stunning, the food excellent and the service top notch.  the show was a delight, although i’ll admit to being distracted by taking photos, so i kinda missed some of the story.

this was the setting…

rough, huh?  😉
the thing about hawaii is that every little thing is exponentially more beautiful, simply because of where you are.  sunsets go from lovely to magical… the trees are things to marvel at… the colour and clarity of the water seems unreal.
it just oozes sheer beauty.
…but back to business.

so, my husband learned how to make poi…

and then we watched the delicious pig get unearthed from it’s underground oven.  okay, really, 3 pigs to feed us all – but i only took pictures of the first one, because the ridiculous aroma was killing me…

so here’s the “before” picture of the pit…

and then the fun begins!

ya, pretty magic. and let me tell you, that pig was ridiculously delicious.  so tender and smokey from cooking all day underground… i’m drooling just thinking about it.

here’s a snapshot of my plate…i really did not do this meal justice with this picture… but i was too intoxicated with free mai tai’s and the aroma of pig to care.  i just needed to dig in.

and then, the show!

i honestly can’t say enough good things about this event.  we paid around $90 each and all felt it was well worth it.  we all agreed that it was one of our favourite nights of the trip, just perfect from start to finish.  i heartily recommend this luau.

travel: maui foodie activities

i’ve been on the lookout for something fun for the husband & i to do in maui.  just the two of us. he’s really good with my family, but if after 12 days i’ll be going crazy, he’s going to actually murder someone.
so an “alone” activity needs to be planned.
i’d been looking at hikes and such, but i figure that can be more spur of the moment… we already have a luau booked as a family for dec 23rd… and we’re planning on getting in a boat & doing some whale watching & snorkeling… and i’d really like to watch the sunrise from the crater… but that’s “everybody inclusive”, right?

yesterday my friend sent me on facebook a link to some cool foodie related maui activities and i booked us into the O’o farm lunch & tour.

it’s a beautiful organic farm that exists mostly to supply their restaurants with organic produce.  and i’m pretty excited to eat a freshly prepared meal right smack in the middle of the farm.

i’ve enquired, and yes, they are happy to accommodate me with a wheat-free meal. in fact, theeir food often doesn’t contain much wheat, since it’s all focused on being as farm fresh as possible.  i’m pretty excited and i’m going to take 5000 pictures there, lol.

this whole experience is a good value, $50 per person plus tax & tip.  but i’m getting a slight discount on account of my travel-agent-ness.  still, the food served is akin to their higher end restaurant’s servings, so the price point is just fine.  as well, they encourage you to bring your own bottle of wine. perfection.
www.oofarm.com

i did also consider the tour of the goat farm with cheese tasting, because i am a whore for goat cheese… but the tour & tasting weren’t really well received by reviewers on trip advisor.  so i figured i’d skip it. it’s in the area of this farm, so we may drop in anyways.

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.