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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Adventure 2: San Fran, California- Great food, company, and finer alcoholic beverages

Me and monks at Loxton Cellars
taking a walk through the vineyard.
If you don't feel like reading a novel... click on one image and then you can scroll through them all blown up.  It tells a story all by itself... mainly about food and alcohol. :)

Jun dropped us off at the airport...  kombucha in hand to keep my nerves at rest about flying and about leaving my Maui home, Jun, and for my fear of flying.  Lono was confused that Jun wasn't with us, and starred at him the whole way until we made our way to the security gate.  That was it... Adventure #2 was on.  Lono again slept at my feet the entire flight.  Thank heavens for the designated gravel pet pee places at the airport, as we arrived around 5am, and our friend and host, John, would be there closer to 6:30am.

You all might think I'm crazy, but I met my buddy John on a wine website some years ago. to be exact.  He became my wine mentor and friend and was kind enough to answer the hundreds of questions I had about pairing, wine regions, grapes, etc.  He works at a winery and also partakes in his own wine business venture.  He flew to Maui for a wedding recently, and we decided to meet in person, and finally got to share our first bottle of wine at that time, (brought by him from Cali).  We agreed that the next time I found myself in California, I would have to come check out his neck of the woods.  This trip was me keeping that promise.

First day breakfast.  That mug is as old
as I am if I recall correctly. 

The drive from San Francisco to Palo Alto, where John lives, was a lot of highway and structures.  I already looked forward to seeing more scenery, water, food, and wine.  Once arriving to settle my things, John opened his fridge to begin cooking breakfast, (which he included pineapple in to give me a taste of home), and I saw he had kindly stocked some Maui Brewing Company beers to boot!  I wasn't feeling so far from Maui after all.  We teamed up on breakfast and I got my first taste of a really amazing cheese, (something similar to a Havarti).  Lono and "Uncle" John met in Maui, so they already knew each other and hung out together like peas and carrots.  Lono took advantage of John's love for him by sneakily sleeping on his couch when we were all in bed and soaking up the belly rubs. 

At Alice's Restaurant.  The sign reads, "Unattended
children will be given espresso and a free kitten".
:-) I really dug that place!

John did have to work some days, so those days Lono and I walked and walked and walked around the quiet neighborhood in Palo Alto, checking out coffee shops and admiring the diversity of flowers I'd never seen before, (Lono peed on them more than admired them).  On John's days off, he took us many places.  My most fond memories were a drive around a mountain, through a giant forest of redwoods and other pines, and finding that the country, (and country type people), existed very close by.  Alice's, a cabin in the middle of nowhere with moss covering its rooftop, had been turned into a restaurant and was an amazing atmosphere that had great food.  I went for the "redneck benedict".  Applewood smoked bacon on top is where it's at. The smell outside in the crisp air was so fresh.  I loved that place and decided I could live there someday if I ever had to leave Hawaii.

California Coast.  I recommend blowing this up to see it.
That day we also drove to along the coastal highway, a trip I'd done on a road trip previously from San Fran to Washington state, but we went further south.  The coast is always beautiful and the switch from mountain pine to sweet salty ocean was quick and comforting.  No one in the water had me desperate to go for a surf.  I realized I'd freeze my tropical buns off, but having your own wave is such a beautiful thing.  I started inquiring about board and wet suit rental shops, but decided that Maui and it's glorious ocean would be waiting for me.  

Pho, with plenty of heat added.
Other highlights were our outings for dinner.  One was The Counter, the ultimate burger joint with a checklist sheet of every option you could imagine on a burger.  Every month they have a special burger... I was sad I missed out on the previous month's bison burger, but went with the salmon burger special and was very pleased.  A nice, rich, dark beer and some sweet potato fries on the side= Happy happy me.  On one of John's lunch breaks, we went out for the Vietnamese soup known as Pho. In this tiny little strip mall stands a restaurant PACKED out the door with people anxiously awaiting a table to grind on this obviously worth while lunch.  My first time, and boy did I love it!  Maybe it was just that place that was the bomb for pho, but it was perfect.  I added lots of basil, sprouts, and hot chilies to mine.  
Sonoma picnic crew!
Lono looks loved...

Another food MUST for me was to try my very first In and Out burger.  The night before we went there, I studied the menu hard over a Maui Brew La Perouse White.  After all the rants and raves and almost crack-like obsession of my friends from California, (they literally have flown each other burgers to Maui), I had my doubts that a fast food joint could actually live up to it's reputation.  Let me tell you, Double Double, Animal Style, with hot chili peppers on it was enough to make my mouth river dance.  My new favorite fast food chain, and the employees were so stinkin' nice.  Like happy, robotic, Mary Poppins with cute little hats.  As for food when we went to Sonoma, we picnicked with long time friends of John's and their little munchkin, (AKA: baby).  First we stopped to taste test at a fine meat and cheeses shop that had more cheeses that I hadn't heard of than those I had.  We bought a picnic's worth of our favorites and then drove to a middle of nowhere winery to buy a couple bottles and break out the bounty of deliciousness right there at a picnic table along side miles of vines.  I've never had cheese better than that.  Lono enjoyed being thrown some picnic lovin' his way too.

At Lancaster Winery getting my
testing on at 11 in the morning.
There is no 5 o'clock in wine country!

I'd been to Sonoma before, but John showed me different places around the area, including Loxton Cellars, the winery he works for.  I got my dear expecting friends, John and Elise, (whom are part of Adventure #3), a bottle of red for after Elise is done breastfeeding and can enjoy her long awaited glass.  The owner was sweet enough to sign it for them.  At the Lancaster winery, we got VIP access to a cellar, (which was actually more of an earth cave), due to John's frequent flyer type membership and just strolled around by ourselves through the wine barrels and fancy furnishings.  Later, we had beers at some place that was a famous pub because of Jack London with one of John's fellow co-workers, and then went to eat with ANOTHER bottle of wine at the very classy and delicious, Fig Cafe.  How I made the room for all this food and beverage, I'll never know... Wait, I lied... I'm a Carroll original; that means spare tanks for consumption.  ;)

And then, of course, we spent a day exploring San Fran and the amazing little coastal towns that surround it.  Chilly weather, but so worth the exploration.  I could never live IN San Fran, but I thoroughly enjoyed being 30 minutes outside of it.  

The day Lono and I actually departed, we left early, just like we'd came and took a train at sunrise to head south to San Diego to visit dear friends and explore some more.  Thank you John for being an EXCELLENT tour guide and friend.  Lono and I had a blast!

In summary, we ate, we drank, we explored... San Fran was a complete success.  And if you're still reading... then you're amazing... this was a REALLY long blog.  Now give your brain a rest and please exercise your eyes some more by enjoying the pictures. :)

Lono is lovin' the lovin'.

On a walk through a sweet park where fennel grows wild.

The Fig Cafe... Very impressive and very delicious.

CHEESE!  Nom... Nom... Nom.
Thank goodness I'm no mouse; I'd be easy to trap.

At Alice's eating the "Redneck Benedict".

Mc'Lovin's to my pooch!

Lono makes friends with babies everywhere he goes.
He's like a baby celebrity... They just LOVE him!

"I wanna hold your haaaaaannnnd".  Beatles flashback. :) 

The Jack London town... sorry, my memory has escaped me for names.

Another view of the Golden Gate.  Again, better to view blown up.

Intense flower in the forest.

A super sweet daughter-dad duo we met at the Fig Cafe.
He used to own a large olive oil farm/company.

Lancaster Winery's beautiful bottle display.

John's sweet friend's baby.  Look at those eyes! 

Lono checking out the bridge and boats.

Oh yes... The Counter is A-Mazing.

Chef at The Fig reading his tickets.

Feeling right at home. :)

It's like it needs a halo around it or something...

In and Out: Double double, Animal style, with hot chilies.  OMG.

The magical people in their magical hats.

I think by the look in his eyes... He digs In and Out too. ;)

This is about 1/8th of John's wine collection I'm guessing.  That
guy knows his stuff when it comes to fermented grapes!

Just hanging out in a super cool cellar cave
alone like it's no big thing.

Self portrait. :)

Can't remember the name of this place, but I dug into this
blueberry waffle and it was delish!

Picnic with new friends... Cheers!

Love and Aloha,

Monday, July 23, 2012

Adventure 1: Kauai, Heaven on Earth

On the plane getting ready for take off on
Lono's first ever plane ride!!! :)
Heavenly Kauai... The airplane ride over was a breeze and Lono was a saint.  He slept at our feet the entire way as we got thrown our P.O.G. juice boxes and landed within an hour.  Then the bus ride to the rental car and we were set to go to our jungle haven for the week. We stayed in a tree house on a farm I use to volunteer at when I was WWOOFing, (volunteer organic farming), around Hawaii and Costa Rica.  I was there previously for 6 months with no electricity and lived in a tent by a waterfall pool.  Though lacking most luxuries that population majority take for granted, this 25 acre farm was my FAVORITE of the 5 WWOOF farms, although the 12 days straight of rain and flooding we had back then made you near beg for a dry place to rest by a fire and some hot cocoa.  I'm almost certain my fingers and toes were permanently pruned for 2 days past rain's end.

I could live here, in this treehouse, permanently...
                                                                              Just driving in brought back a flash of memories.  I remember painting the giant beams "Kermit the Frog" green four years ago when the tree house was merely a thought and not even a board had been placed, and laying tile in the owners home before it had been completed, to now get to see it fully set up with appliances and well lived in.  Seeing the farm and property projects that had grown was enough to make this garden girl tear up with pride for the sweat and long hours I'd contributed 4 years ago. 

The numerous taro ponds, (lo'is), Fijian coconut trees, bread fruit trees, avocado trees, the waterfall pool, fresh spring water, tilapia tanks, food bearing gardens, Muscovy ducks, wild chickens, "Epo" the donkey, and the sheep, many of them still the same, and some I had privately named for their lack of names before, like the big head man "Ulysses", were all a giant reminder of where I want to be... farming... sustainably.  Nothing had changed, yet everything had... A never ending cycle of growing food and property maintenance.  Just the smell makes me want to get my nails filthy dirty, and then clean up just to cook a bomb, farm fresh dinner.

Don with Pono, (my buddy and the farm's red nose pit),
 by the campfire eating some amazing grinds,
 including taro mashed potatoes.
The owner, Don, an Aquatic Biologist for the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, was ever so gracious, as always, and holds an absolute plethora of knowledge and brilliance about agriculture and sustainability that we just absorbed the information he freely offered over campfires and kitchen meals.  At the point when we did leave, I had to write him a letter because he was pacing around the farm on his phone, which was actually him being "on air" with a radio show about something to do with bettering the land or the ocean I'm sure.  A very caring and environmentally brilliant man.                                 

That week, we spent our time sipping coffee outside of cafe's in Kapa'a, stand up paddle boarding with Lono, (all three of us on one board), down a sweet river with changing currents that took you along miles of wildlife reserve one way and out into the ocean the other way.  We did some sight-seeing up to the canyon and some surf inspecting along the beaches, Lono at our side smiling the whole time.  Our diet consisted of everything from taro fries, farm fresh papayas, health food store wraps and tabouleh, authentic fish tacos, to the amazing and some what famous, Puka Dogs in Poipu, (which are truly worth the three trips we made just for them alone).

The tree house... See the investigative Lono Mono? :)
One morning we spent working the taro field, weeding and racking to get our farm fix in, when Don came out unexpectedly with his french press, two mugs, and soy milk in hand insisting that we drink our morning joe even though our hands were covered thickly with the lo'i mud and we were standing up past our ankles in the mucky ponds.  He then made us a delicious breakfast of eggs and taro in his friendship and appreciation.  We bathed off later in the secluded waterfall pool and hacked open a Fijian coconut with a machete for a refreshing drink high in electrolytes, (Gatorade's a joke compared to a fresh Fijian coconut).  During our nights there, we would sit out on the tree house lanai, (this is a 350 sq. ft. tree house you see), and share a bottle of wine in the candlelight over conversation and the chirping of toads.  Feeling as though there is no one for miles, I don't believe there is anything quite so rugged and romantic at the same time.

Sun setting over Lanai on our flight back to Maui.

Everything about Kauai feels like "home" to me.  The laid back, country, farmland, food producing, hiking and water activity heaven-ness that it possesses is my real life Avatar.  The rest of my two month journey was waiting for me, and with only two days to pack, leave, and spend time with Jun before I was on a jet plane to the mainland, we were on a magical sunset flight back to Maui with Lono Boy.  Had the journey not just begun, we could have stayed forever...

Hello sweet and curious sheepies.

A sweet and totally private beach we had a blast at...
Covered in coco's and driftwood, heaven for both
us and for Lono boy.

The bathing area... ;)

Nap time for the boys.

Beach time!
Working the taro fields... Well, Lono was more of an observer/ stick mulcher.
Waimea Canyon... The "Grand Canyon of the West".

Lono taking in the scenery at the Napali Coast.

Coco grindin'!  My whole body is muddier than all get out.

Using pieces of coco shell to eat out the coco... resourceful! :)

Up next... Cal-i-forn-i-a.  San Francisco to be exact!  :)

Love and Aloha,

P.S. Your comments make me HAPPY!
P.S.S. All of these pictures were taken with my iPhone.  Gotta love technology "sometimes"!

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