Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Exploring Maui, Hawaii: A Sunset Sail on the Alli’i Nui

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Sailing at sunset on Maui

On my recent girls trip to Maui, I decided to take a sunset cruise to check out the scenery by boat. After reading many reviews, I booked on the Royal Feast Dinner Sail aboard the Alii Nui.

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Bare feet aboard the Alii Nui

This two 1/2 hour adults-only cruise provided transportation to and from our hotel (the Andaz Maui at Wailea), and I liked that the luxury sailing catamaran was capacity controlled so that guests plenty of space. The $189.00 all-inclusive price included unlimited cocktails as well as dinner and transportation (gratuity is not included).

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Up go the sails on the Alii Nui

The dinner menu included appetizers such as local vegetable crudités, caprese skewers, cheese and crackers and wide array of selections for dinner. Prime rib, Kiawe smoked baby back ribs, sushi, and crab cakes were very popular. Everything I tried was good but food was not the main focus of this sunset cruise. The full bar with cocktails, beer and wine were also included. There was even a selection of Scotch and after dinner liquors.

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Magic hour aboard the Alii Nui

The crew of the Alii Nui made us feel taken care of before we even got to Maalaea Harbor. They were great about confirming pickup time at the hotel via text and our transportation arrived promptly. Guests were looped in on the plan for the evening, and the high staff to guest ratio was nice. Everyone was ready to have a good time before we took off our shoes once we boarded the 65′ sailing catamaran for this barefoot sunset dinner cruise.

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Pineapple over the Pacific

While the cruise was not a tour, the crew was available to answer questions and made sure everyone got enough cocktails and food. They even offered to take pictures of the guests, which was a nice touch. The music selection was nice and played at a non-intrusive volume.

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Blue hour aboard the Alii Nui

I must confess that boats are not my favorite mode of transportation. But sea sickness wasn’t an issue for anyone during this smooth sail.

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Sundowner aboard the Alii Nui

Alcohol brands were premium and cocktails did not seem especially strong, but everyone was having a great time. There were also plenty of non alcoholic beverages as well as coffee and tea. Guests seemed fond of the signature Slip 56 signature cocktail and the Alii Nui Mai Tais.

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Obligatory sailing selfie with Zan Aufderheide

The other guests were friendly and the boat offered enough space above and below deck for guests to spread out. Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience of taking in the blue Pacific waters and the gorgeous sunset and West Maui views.

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Sailboats, sunset and windmills and moody clouds

The Alii Nui crew had service down to a science and the separate bathroom facilities for men and women were appreciated.

A little video of the Royal Feast Sunset Cruise on the Alii Nui

I started to think that Christopher Cross might be onto something with this sailing stuff!

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Happy customers aboard the Alii Nui

I was impressed with the value for money of the Royal Feast Dinner Cruise on the Ali’i Nui. The Alii Nui offers a wide variety of other charters including whale watching, snorkeling trips to Molokini and Turtle Point, and other speciality cruises. Our experience was so positive we hope to take one of their snorkeling trips on a future trip to Maui.

Alii Nui Sailing Charters
Toll Free (US only): 1- 800-542-3483 Ext. 1 Local: 1-808-875-0333
info@aliinuimaui.com

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Exploring Venice, Italy: Lunch on the Island of Burano at Trattoria da Romano

 

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Charming interior of Trattoria da Romano

If you’re looking for things to do in Venice, Italy taking a day trip to one of the nearby islands is a must. The colorful island of Burano, known for it’s brightly painted houses and fine lace is an excellent choice.

Burano has a few well regarded restaurants, making it a great destination for lunch time excursion.

The only way to reach Burano is by boat. I traveled with friends on a private water taxi arranged by the concierge at Bauer il Palazzo which got us to Burano in about 35 minutes. Water taxi is very fun way to travel!

Time lapse of water taxi ride from Venice to Burano

We had a fabulous lunch at Trattoria da Romano, which came highly recommended to us by an American who is an Italian scholar and part-time resident. Booking reservations ahead of time is a must.

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Canals and colorful buildings of Burano

Trattoria da Romano makes a world famous risotto which won raves from Anthony Bourdain, who featured the restaurant on an episode of No Reservations.

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Smiling water at Trattoria da Romano

Burano has only 2,800 full time residents, most of whom work in the fishing industry. When you come here, you’re coming for seafood! We ate our meal family style, with sardines and branzino for the table.

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My friends contemplating the menu at Trattoria da Romano

The highlight of the meal was the seafood risotto, which will please any foodie. I am not normally a fan of dishes that include squid ink, but the seafood risotto won me over. I’ve been dreaming about it since tasting it for myself.

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Seafood Risotto at Trattoria da Ramano

We ordered both the Bourdain-approved seafood risotto, as well as the traditional risotto. While not much to look at, both were seriously next level. The seafood risotto was black but not overly so. It was so good, we contemplated ordering another round for the table.

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Sardines for lunch at Trattoria da Romano

The spaghetti with clams was also quite flavorful and perfectly al dente.

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Spaghetti with clams

We also heard great things about Gatto Nero Restaurant, but we did not dine there ourselves.

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Picture of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards on the wall at Trattoria da Romano

Be sure to check out the photographs on the wall near the bathrooms at Trattoria da Romano. They are a fascinating look at the history of this family owned restaurant and it’s guests.

Via San Martino Destra 221, Burano – Venezia
Phone 041 730030
Via Giudecca, 88 – 30142 Burano (Venice Italy)
Tel. +39.041.730120

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Lummi Island in 21 Bites: Chef Blaine Wetzel’s Pacific Northwest Tasting Menu at the Willows Inn

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Smoked sockeye salmon

Chef Blaine Wetzel has put The Willows Inn on Lummi Island on the Pacific Northwest’s culinary map. Wetzel, a native of Washington state, has an impressive number of awards to his name considering he’s barely 30. He was named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef in 2012, and won the James Beard award for Best Rising Chef in 2014 and Best Chef Northwest in 2015.

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The lobby at the Willows Inn

Chef Wetzel’s tasting menu, Lummi Island in 21 Bites, is known for being almost entirely local. It’s also one of the toughest reservations to get in the Pacific Northwest. The Willows Inn seats only 26 and does one sitting per at 6:30 pm. The hotel is closed for a few months in the winter, so getting a reservation during the prime summer season can be challenging. I couldn’t make it happen last summer but got a reservation for June 2016.

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The  cottage at the Willows Inn

Known for it’s super locavore focus, almost everything on the menu is farmed, foraged or raised on or near tiny Lummi Island’s nine square miles.

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Charming details at the 100 year old Willows Inn

The Willows Inn even offers guests tours of the local farm where most of their produce is grown, making it an intriguing foodie destination in the San Juan Islands.

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Craftsman charm at the Willows Inn

Lummi Island is reached by a 10 minute ferry ride from Bremerton. With a population of less than 1,000 residents, little Lummi Island is punching way above it’s weight class in fine dining.

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Pacific Northwest charm at the bar

The evening started with cocktails around 5:30. I had the Pineapple Weed Fizz ($14), made with with pineapple weed gin, egg white and chamomile bitters, which was refreshing in the hot weather and inspired. I liked the lack of formality in the service. It was top notch, but relaxed.

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Mason jars on display in the bar

The meal started with small bites in the bar. First up was a crispy crepe with golden char roe. It was beautiful.

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Left: Flowers and candlelight right: cocktails with fresh garnishes

In honor of National Donut Day, intriguing smoked cod doughnuts were served next. The third course was a standout for me– Kale leaves with black truffles. Next were small bites of roasted sunflower root and green rhubarb.

Willows Inn smokehouse action video

At this point we left the bar and sat at our table, where we were served native oysters in a juice of watercress followed by lightly cured rockfish in a broth of bones.

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roasted sunflower root

The vivid hues of the turnip stems with caramelized razor clams were followed by a Lummi Island “tostada” made with wild herbs served on crispy mustard greens. It was colorful crunchy goodness.

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Kale leaves with black truffles

Stewed porcini mushrooms were served next and, for me, they were the standout course of the evening with their delicate texture and savory umami goodness.

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Scenes from a tasting menu

Dungeness crab served in a puree of pine nuts came next. This delicate yet satisfying dish was followed by a rare seasonal treat of local salmonberries served with petals of Nootka roses. Not overly sweet, the berries were very flavorful and bursting with color. It is a memorable dish.

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Stewed porcini mushroooms

Pacific Northwest staples of smoked sockeye salmon and a seared skirt of razor clam came next. I was starting to lose steam by the time the halibut and lovage arrived.

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Left: Turnip stems with caramelized razor clams Right: Native oysters in a juice of watercress

I found some more room for the wheat bread with pan drippings, but couldn’t muster the strength for the aged leg of venison, which was the last of the savory courses. Epic meals can be too much for me.

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2010 Golden Grape Semillon was part of the wine pairing

The toasted birch branches (served as a tea) were much appreciated with it’s earthy heat acting as a bit of digestive before the dessert courses.

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Seared skirt of razor clam

While I tend to favor savory over sweet, the desserts at the Willows Inn were exceptional and light. Grilled strawberries were served with fresh chamomile in a pleasing combination.

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Green rhubarb

Candied green pine came next, followed by pumpkin seed fudge which was shockingly light and flavorful. I almost asked for seconds.

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Crispy crepe and golden char roe

Wine pairings can be ordered with dinner for $90, or a juice pairing for $40.

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Native oysters in a juice of watercress

The wine pairing focused on the Pacific Northwest and skewed towards the whites, which was appropriate for the seafood-centric menu. I must confess I am not a white wine lover. While I normally adore wines from Oregon and Washington, I thought the wine pairing was the meal’s one misstep. It was also a bit surprising since the cocktails were so good.

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Left: smoked cod donuts Right: Dungeness crab in a puree of pine nuts

If you can’t get a reservation at the Willows Inn you can try checking out Blaine Wetzel’s cookbook, Sea and Smoke: Flavors from the Untamed Pacific Northwest.

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Lummi island “tostada” (wild herbs and crispy mustard 

The Willows Inn also serves breakfast and lunch.

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Left: salmonberries with nooka roses right: grilled strawberries and fresh chamomile

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toasted birch branches tea

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Pumpkin seed fudge

The Willows Inn

Menu $175
Wine pairing $90
Juice menu $ 40

Address: 2579 W Shore Drive
Lummi Island, WA 98262

Phone: (360) 758-2620
Toll Free: (888) 294-2620

Email: reservations@willows-inn.com

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Is the 320 € Vegetable Tasting Menu at Arpège Paris Worth It?

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 The colorful amuse bouche

After seeing chef Alain Passard’s Arpège, a three Michelin star restaurant in Paris, featured on the PBS show I’ll Have What Phil is Having, I was curious. Is it possible to make a truly spectacular vegetarian meal that justifies the 320 € set price for a tasting menu that only uses seasonal produce?

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Beetroot sushi flowered with geranium and Kalamata black olive

Fortunately my husband and a few of my foodie friends were alway interested in finding out. We booked a reservation and went to Paris to check it out for ourselves.

One thing I despise is how at some fine dining restaurants in Europe the woman is handed a menu devoid of prices. I was disappointed that Arpège, which is so groundbreaking on so many levels, went the “women don’t get to read the prices” route. Not only is this sexist, but it left me out of the conversation about some of the other items on the menu (such as the Aiguillettes of Chausey Lobster lobster for 165 €) which was a bummer, and misguided since I was only blogger at the table.

But I quickly got over the menu slight as soon as the amuse bouche arrived to brighten up the monochromatic table at the restaurant. They were vibrant, delicious and highly refined. I was convinced Chef Alain Passard was onto something with this Spring in the Garden menu. The staff which was so friendly I think they would have happily handed me the menu with the prices if I had asked.

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Mesclun with hazelnut praline Mibuna, mizuna, choho…

The first course, beetroot sushi flowered with geranium and Kalamata black olive, was perhaps the most memorable of the evening. It was creative yet sublime and highly flavorful. The beet was as silky as sashimi and the velvety olives were a nice contrast to the rice.

Next up was course was a mesclun salad with hazelnut praline Mibuna. While this was one of the more basic looking dishes, it was definitely next level because of how flavorful it was and it’s lovely combination of textures.

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Fine multicolored vegetable ravioli vegetable consommé

I’m not much of a cook, but my friend, Felix, is. He tried to place the flavors in the third course, the fine multicolored vegetable ravioli in vegetable consommé. The broth had some umami earthiness that he attributed to mushrooms. The ravioli had a nice bite as well.

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White asparagus from the Sarthe region with olive oil and Timut pepper

The fourth course in the tasting menu was white asparagus from the Sarthe region served with olive oil and Timut pepper from Nepal. This was perhaps the most straightforward of the courses served yet still delicious. I like perfectly prepared asparagus, and this course worked in a traditionally refined fashion.

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Louise Passard’s “Parmentier” with kasha grains

On to the next course, which as described as “Louise Passard’s ‘Parmentier’ made with kasha grain.” I found this to be the least memorable course. While it was good- everything was good- I think the wine pairings were starting to catch up with me at this point and I was getting a bit full.

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Palco spinach with hazelnut butter and laurel butter

Next up was Palco spinach with hazelnut and laurel butter. This course looked a bit like baby food but boasted bold and sophisticated flavors.

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Vol-au-vent with Côtes du Jura wine, peas, turnip, and mangetout peas

The next course, a puff pastry vol-au-vent with Côtes du Jura wine, peas, turnip, and mangetout peas was perhaps the most beautiful of the evening. The perfectly froth and vibrant greens stood out and the puff pastry was both delicate and satisfying. This course left clean plates all around.

Spring cabbage stuffed with nettle leaves and fresh thermidrome garlic

The eighth course was spring cabbage stuffed with nettle leaves and fresh thermidrome garlic. This visually resembled the beautiful previous course and was perfectly seasoned, yet not as memorable as the previous course. I think the puff pastry added that magical French carb factor.

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Arlequin Jardinière with Argan oil, young carrot, kohlrabi, Selma fennel

I was getting uncomfortably full by the time the ninth course arrived. It was artful, colorful and delightfully complicated Arlequin Jardinière with Argan oil, young carrot, kohlrabi, and Selma fennel. This was satisfying to my eyes as well as my taste buds.

Garlic crème brûlée with candied lemon

Portions were appropriately sized for a tasting menu, but I decided to bow out of the first dessert course, a garlic crème brûlée with candied lemon. I’m never a fan of the texture of crème brûlée and was losing steam. My friend, Thomas, said this was “the best crème brûlée I’ve ever had.” This is saying a lot as Thomas is seriously well-traveled foodie. Maybe I’ll save room next time.

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Crispy millefeuille with candied rhubarb garden angelica

The next course was also sweet, a delicate and crispy millefeuille with candied rhubarb garden angelica. It was delicate but not as memorable or as visually appealing as the savory and umami courses.

I was fully tasted out so the final course, a post-dessert of sweets including macarons, biscuits and caramel. This is the point in the meal where I always seem to forget these epic meals come with multi-course desserts. To me it seemed like overkill but I lack a sweet tooth and never require multiple desserts. I forgot to photograph it.

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Chef Alain Passard came to greet us after our meal (photo credit: Felix Kam-Chung)

After our meal Chef Alain Passard came out to greet us and he is charming and truly an artist. So was the 320 € Spring in the Garden vegetable tasting menu worth it? For me it was a firm “yes”, as much for the experience for the food. It was definitely eye opening to see how creative and refined a vegetarian meal can be. I would order the beetroot sushi and vol-au-vent again if they were available a la carte. When the bill arrived we all agreed we were glad we came.

2016 is the 30th anniversary of the restaurant and there is much to celebrate at Arpege. But you don’t need to bring a jacket to celebrate. Arpege breaks almost all the rules and there is no dress code, not that anyone showed up in jeans and a t-shirt. It’s lovely and upscale but not in the least bit stuffy. The service was friendly and vegetarian tasting menu justified the 360 Euro price of entry. I can’t eat epic meals like this often and I’d like to return to Arpege in another season to see how chef Alain Passard masterfully handles winter vegetables or perhaps check out the 165 € lobster from the a la carte menu. Now if I can only get a menu with the prices on it….

Arpège Restaurant

84, Rue de Varenne
75007 Paris
+ 33 (0)1 47 05 09 06

The Restaurant is open
from Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner

No valet parking.

Reservations : arpege.passard@wanadoo.fr or online via web-site booking form.

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Exploring Stockholm, Sweden: a Photo Essay

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The view from Södermalm

I recently returned from an Arctic Adventure to Swedish and Finnish Lapland with Photo Enrichment Adventures. My first stop was Stockholm, Sweden, where I spent a few days getting over jet lag and exploring the “Capital of Scandinavia.”

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Love locks- they’re not just for Paris

Some of my favorite things about Stockholm were exploring the Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. I enjoyed the charming cafes and interesting old streets in the area.
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Swedish still life in Södermalm

Södermalm was my favorite area of Stockholm, with it’s trendy restaurants, cafes and creative vibe.

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Taking a boat tour is a classic way to see Stockholm

If you’re into boats, don’t miss the Vasa Museum, one of the best experiences you’ll ever have with a sunken ship. I did not get to visit the Abba Museum, but I’m big on saving something for the next trip.

Swedish Zen at the Miss Clara Hotel

I stayed at the Miss Clara Hotel the first few nights. Located in a gorgeous 1910 Art Nouveau building that used to house a girls school, the vibe was modern and quiet, and had a lovely sauna in the basement.

Window shopping in Gamla Stan (old town)

Stockholm is chilly in the spring, with it’s waterfront location bringing winds off the Baltic sea.

A cute Stockholm native

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a Swedish Frenchie in old town

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Salmon, salmon and more salmon

I got to try a traditional Swedish smörgåsbord with all the trimmings at the Grand Hotel. Lingonberry jam, smoked fish, and the house 1874 Grand Aquavit to wash it down.

Skål! I’m a fan of the Aquavit

Flavored with caraway, anise and fennel, the aquavit reminded me of the Brennivín I tasted in Iceland.

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Stockholm at night

I did some night shooting in Stockholm in preparation for heading to Lapland and chasing the Aurora Borealis. I was colder during the night shoot in Stockholm than anytime during the lapland part of my trip, due to winds. But I do like I the images I got of the city at night.

I couldn’t resist taking a selfie in gorgeous Stockholm window light

The light in Stockholm was beautiful at times and flat at others. But the window light was so delicious I couldn’t resist taking a selfie on my iPhone 6s.

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