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Local animal protein is starting to become more accessible to home cooks on Oahu. In addition to beef, pork, and chicken, you can now find local venison and rabbit. Ed Kenney started slinging pork and tasty porchetta sandwiches at the Kaka’ako Farmers’ Market a few months back to help Shinsato Farms move product and recently added rabbit to his offerings.

A taste of Superette's porchetta

a taste of Superette’s porchetta

I jumped (or hopped) at the opportunity to play around with some bunny and talked with Ed about his experience working with wabbit at his westaurants. Through Ed’s input, the wonders of google, and my imagination, I managed to use the entire rabbit in three tasty meals.

Rabbit is extremely easy to butcher. It took just a few minutes to divide the skinned, headless carcass into neat, manageable pieces. I first separated the forelegs, then the rear, followed by chopping off the end of the spine and pelvis. Rabbit bones are easy to cut through and my 8” chef’s knife was sufficient. Next, I cut along the spine and separated the loin and saddle, leaving the ribs attached to the loin for aesthetics. I roasted the bones and made stock.

Before

before

After

after

Following Ed’s advice, I made a white ragu with the forelegs. I went with my usual ragu base, but added sprigs of thyme and didn’t include tomato. In a bath of white wine and rabbit stock, I simmered the ragu for about 5 hours, then added fresh tagliatelle and topped with MA’O parsley and pecorino.

ragu, fresh tagliatelle, pecorino

ragu, tagliatelle, pecorino

I wrapped the saddles in prosciutto, then browned them and the ribs in duck fat and finished to medium in the oven. I sautéed the liver and kidneys, keeping them pink in the center, and served everything over a fig/port puree and covered in jus.

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saddle, loin, offal, fig

The rabbit’s swansong came in the form of braised legs, another Chef Ed suggestion. I went coq au vin style and rendered lardons in Naked Cow Dairy truffle butter, browned and removed the legs, added and softened the mir poix, then dumped half a bottle of red, rabbit stock, and herbs, returned the rabbit, and braised for a couple hours. I put everything except for the rabbit in the vitamix, then thinned the sauce out with a little more stock. I hit the leg with my Searzall and served it, well-sauced, over Camas Country Mill heirloom polenta. For the polenta, I went 4:1 liquid to cornmeal, using half milk and half rabbit stock, and finished with an ungodly amount of butter and pecorino.

braised leg, polenta

braised leg, polenta

My rabbit adventure was a success. The meat itself was juicy, tender, and tasty. It did not taste like chicken. The 2.5-pound rabbit cost $30 and provided three meals for two people. If you’d like to try for yourself, visit Kaimuki Superette at the Kaka’ako Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

DISCLOSURE: I paid full price for everything.

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Jay Theiler from Snake River Farms and Ray Signorello from Signorello Estate recently hosted a couple “Kobe and Cabernet” dinners in Honolulu. Both Snake River Farms and Signorello Estate are family owned operations that focus on quality. Snake River Farms, America’s preeminent Wagyu producer, first entered my radar when I had their buttery soft and delicious beef at Vintage Cave. Signorello meticulously produces small batches of premium wines in Napa. This was some serious beef and wine. My wonderful and talented friend Malia scored an invite, but is busy eating her way through South America, so I was able to go in her stead. The venues for the two dinners were the Plaza Club and the Outrigger Canoe Club; I went with the latter and was treated to a spectacular sunset over the ocean before dinner started.

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I sat at Jay and Ray’s table and was pleasantly surprised to see a few familiar faces join us for the meal. The hosts told us about their operations and explained each course and pairing. The party started with Snake River Farms Wagyu filet tartar. An extremely generous portion of very good meat came paired with an interesting full-bodied Signorello Hope’s Cuvée Chardonnay, which is named after Ray’s late mother.

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Next was Snake River Farms kurobuta pork belly, the Wagyu of pork, that came with a simple frisée citrus salad and was also paired with the Cuvée.

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The belly was followed by my favorite dish of the night, a perfectly cooked and simply seasoned Snake River Farms Wagyu New York steak with green peppercorn demi that was paired with Signorello’s Cab.

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The final course was a Snake River Farms Wagyu ribeye wellington that was liberally showered with truffles and served with Signorello Padrone, named after Ray’s late father. Unfortunately, my ribeye was cooked to a tragic medium-well. Fortunately, the silky smooth Padrone was more than enough to make up for it.

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Dinner was nothing short of phenomenal. Snake River Farms’ Kobe-style beef is the best you can get short of flying to Japan and Signorello wines are quality even I could taste. If you’d like to try the highest quality steak available on Oahu, try looking for Snake River Farms at BLT Steak, Budnamujip, Michel’s at the Colony Surf, Stage, and Vintage Cave.

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On April 16, the Center for Food Safety opened up shop in Honolulu with the goal of passing a law requiring GMO labeling. The last couple years have seen a healthy conversation on GMO labeling, especially here in Hawaii. The issue has been a lightning rod, polarizing the community and gaining national attention. It’s a discussion that continues to unfold.

Lorena Farrell, Executive Director of the Big Island Farm Bureau, registered the Hawaii Center for Food Safety as a nonprofit organization with the Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs on April 3 and purchased the domains hawaiicenterforfoodsafety.org and .com on April 16.

The official Facebook page of the “Hawaii Center for Food Safety” makes it clear that they are not in any way associated with the Center for Food Safety. Under the technical banner of the loudest voice in opposition to GMOs, the page management shares links from biotech corporations.

Amid immediate outcry, including from the Center for Food Safety’s Hawaii office Executive Director Ashley Lukens, I wanted to help ensure that people engaging with the “Hawaii Center for Food Safety” know who is behind the branding.

Registered as the Hawaii Center for Food Safety (who magically appeared as the Center for Food Safety came to Hawaii and randomly picked the same name), Lorena Farrell is disseminating information counter to the Center for Food Safety’s mission. I shared two links to the official Hawaii Center for Food Safety Facebook page, one for the DCCA registration and one for the websites. I also posted the links as comments on the few other posts on the site, which was “liked” by under 30 people at the time.

Every interaction I had on the Hawaii Center for Food Safety Facebook page was deleted by its page management and I’ve been blocked from posting further.

People I admire and respect stand on both sides of the issue. It strikes me as odd for people that get along so well otherwise to have relationship-altering differences over something of this magnitude; we are talking about adding language to a label. The public deserves a transparent, legitimate discussion to arrive at a fair and scientific conclusion.   

Aside from humans, tigers are my favorite land animals, and I was hoping to see one in the wild while in India. Ranthambhore National Park is supposed to provide one of the best opportunities to do just that and I made the day trip from Jaipur to try to catch a glimpse.

Ranthambhore is an easy trip from Jaipur; you can take a morning train in and an afternoon train back. I did just that and also had time to check out the small green market near the park. A morning and evening mounted safari is offered each day and ticketing was a breeze. Two vehicle options are available: a 6-passenger jeep and a 20-passenger truck. The jeeps, which are slightly more expensive, sell out quickly and the truck wasn’t bad at all.

In addition to tigers, the park is also home to a host of other exotic beasts. We saw deer, boars, crocodiles, a host of exotic birds, and a tiger print. Sadly, we were not fortunate enough to see a tiger.

The safari was still fun and, if you are a tiger lover and in the area, it’s definitely worth taking a shot at seeing one in its native habitat.

This may be an awkward opener, but I’ve got to say it up front. Yogyakarta has the cheapest laundry service I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. The going rate is 2500 IDR/kilo, but I did see one place advertising 2000. That works out to about a dime a pound! The price of laundry is a good indicator of the rest of the city; it’s cheap.

Yogyakarta, or “Jogja” as it’s commonly referred to, is a university town in Central Java. Being a college town, it is crawling with tons of cheap, good food and as Bohemian an atmosphere as one can find in a Muslim country.

My CouchSurfing host for Jogja was Richard and I had the honor of being his first Surfer. After meeting so many wonderful Indonesian hosts, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Richard would be welcoming, nice, and extremely friendly. He did everything he possibly could to make my time in Jogja great and succeeded.

We knocked out a few touristy things, the “must-dos” for Jogja. The Keraton, where the Sultan still lives, is a “must-skip” as far as I’m concerned. Admission is next to nothing, but the place itself was underwhelming to say the least. It’s not a pretty building and there isn’t much to see.

Borobudur Temple is about an hour ride from town. It was strange that they had a separate ticket sales area for locals and foreigners. It was an absolute shock to see that they were charging foreigners $20 to enter. This is more than 5x the admission price for any other temple or site I’ve come across in Indonesia. The temple itself does not justify the price relative to what $20 can buy you in Indonesia, especially Jogja. That’s a lot of laundry! However, my visit was made into a positive one by the schoolchildren I encountered at the top of the temple. I was swarmed by a couple dozen cute little kids that gave me the rockstar treatment. It made me really happy to see their smiling faces and it was totally worth the price of admission.

As far as food is concerned, it was pretty good and very cheap. One thing that I saw in Jogja and nowhere else is coffee with charcoal briquettes in the glass. It didn’t affect the taste, but unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo. Gado-gado, tofu covered in peanut sauce, is one of the better known dishes and I didn’t really care for it. The sauce was more like slop, there wasn’t much going on, and “spicy” was far from what I desire. Soto Banjar, chicken soup, was okay. We had Lonton Opor, chicken and egg in coconut milk curry, at the Sunday morning market and it was good. I also enjoyed nasi kuning, turmeric rice with chicken offal. We had some late night gudeg, young jackfruit in coconut milk with spicy chicken and chicken intestine sate, that was outstanding. The highlight was definitely oseng mercon, spicy beef offal.

My last two hours in Jogja were spent at Happy Puppy Karaoke from 12-2 pm, sober, with Richard and his friend Vindy. I’m not a big fan of karaoke, especially under those circumstances, but it was definitely a unique experience and I had a good time.

I only spent a couple days in Yogyakarta, but managed to squeeze in quite a bit, all thanks to Richard. Jogja was a lot of fun and I wouldn’t mind going back for more cheap eating and good times. It’s a definite stop on any trip through Java.

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Birthdays and holidays don’t mean very much to me; I like to think of every day as special. Age, too, isn’t that big of a deal to me. Maybe this will change when I’m older? I don’t feel profoundly different today than I did yesterday, or last year. That being said, 30 is kind of a milestone. Here are my thoughts on reaching an age many people consider makes you a grownup.

I’m (technically) unemployed and homeless. I’m single, never been married and have no children. I don’t own a car and have no savings. I’m in Tasmania. That’s right, I’m celebrating my 30th birthday in freaking Tasmania! I never thought I’d be saying that. There are a lot of things I’ve done, especially lately, that weren’t in my realm of possibilities even a few years ago.

While I’m woefully lacking in virtually every traditional measure of success or accomplishment, I’m happy and have no regrets. I’ve gone from being a troublemaker, an underachieving student with a disdain for authority and a penchant for doing extremely stupid things, to a reasonably decent member of society. I may have learned the hard way, but I found out who I am and what I’m passionate about. I’ve even found “home.”

Not that I have anything against Massachusetts or my family and friends there, but Hawai’i is home for me. The people, the community, and the culture of Hawai’i are truly special. Having the perfect climate and breathtaking scenery certainly don’t hurt, but my choosing Hawai’i had to do with a lot more than geography.

I may have come into existence in Boston 30 years ago, but I came into my own in Hawai’i. Agriculture, the environment, travel, and, of course, food have become my life. If there is a better home base for someone with these passions, I haven’t found it.

It seems that a movement of sorts began in Hawai’i around the same time this change began within me. The past 5 years have seen a renaissance in agriculture, environmental awareness, and cuisine in Hawai’i. It’s a very exciting place to be.

It may seem strange for someone who claims to love a place so much to spend so much time away from it. I know that the opportunity to travel for extended periods of time will not last forever. It may never happen for me again. The more experience, the more knowledge I gain abroad, the more of a contribution I can make to help shape Hawai’i’s future when I return.

This trip is far from over, but I’m already prepared to move on to the next phase of my life. I’m ready to build something, both personally and professionally. Don’t get me wrong. I love traveling and will be thoroughly enjoying the rest of this trip, but I’m ready for the next step when I get back.

My 20s were a time of transformation for me internally; I had entirely too much fun, but also learned a great deal in the process. I’m hoping for my next decade to be a time when I can help change things around me now that I’ve got myself figured out. I’m ready to make my mark on the world.

Thanks to all of the family and friends who have filled my 30 years on the planet with love, laughter, and learning. I love you all and am grateful to have so many wonderful people in my life.