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Monday, January 30, 2012

Off the Beaten Path- part 2

So after multiple flights (with the same airline- only one baggage fee that way!), we finally landed in Kauai.  The first time I stepped foot here, i found it the most magical place I had ever been.  There's just something about traveling a full day and finally landing somewhere that has a whole 6 hours time difference that just screams VACATION!!!  For those adventurous folk like myself, a trip to Kauai is not the same without a hike on the Na pali Coast.  The road trip to the North shore is an event in itself- driving through tree tunnels, roadside waterfalls, cruising through the hippie town of Hanalei - that would be reason enough for a road trip.  However, once you arrive in this area, the mountain scenery is enough to leave you breathless.

Monk seal taking a snooze

Tunnels AKA Makua Beach

Tunnels beach is a snorkelers heaven with a beautiful beach and a massive hook-shaped reef that protects snorkelers from the outer surf.  And yes, this is where the famous surfer Bethany Hamilton lost her arm to a tiger shark-which always lurks in the back of my mind when I'm snorkeling- but she was also about 1/4 mile out when the attack occurred- well past the reef.  The reef here is so big, you can actually see it from space- which is insane.

We like to bring our mixed plates here and have lunch after we snorkel- and on this day, this random beach dog followed us from his house down to the beach.  I love this shot.

We call this my drunken vanna pose... "would you like to buy a vowel!?  Me and my fave sister- not the most glamorous shot of us but it doesn't matter at Tunnels... in fact, I don't think we wore makeup all week, it was quite liberating to just roll out of bed and go somewhere for the day.

A shot without the Tunnels dog

So there we are snorkeling in the peaceful waters and all of a sudden, this random needle-like fish appears... then 5 more... then we are surrounded and decided it might be a good idea to take a break on shore...


And another ... weird huh?  These are the only pics we managed to get of these before heading to shore for lunch

check out the big guy- he's totally scoping me out

My mom and sis enjoying some watermelon on our way back to our villa- just another gorgeous day in paradise!

 Na pali Coast

The most strenuous hike I have ever taken was also the most breathtaking.  For our next journey, my sister and I hopped in the car at 6am and headed to the North shore - destination- the Kalalau Trail.

What I had heard and read about this hike didn't even come close to the experience.  They say a picture says a thousand words, I'll let a few of mine speak for themselves.

 Bamboo forest...  if only you could hear the noise they made in the wind

crazy tree roots

Trail is getting rocky....

Me taking a little rest at the waterfall

The best boat cruise in Kauai.... is with Holo Holo Charters
The next time we hit the Na pali Coast, we booked through Holo Holo charters for their sunset cruise.   According to the website, it wasn't just for couples- so we decided to check it out.  Since Andrea and I had hiked the coast the year before, we decided to see it from the water this time with our Mom.  I imagined seeing the cliffs from a distance was a whole different world than hiking them- and as you can see, the experience from afar was totally different.  This was one of our fave parts of our vacation and you're about to see why.

About to board- they collected our shoes and we had to leave them behind until we returned- awesome.

Inside of the catamaran

Keeping Kauai green with my Heineken

As you can see, my sister was really enjoying the ride out to the cliffs.

Me also enjoying the ride- obviously there were free drinks involved

Pilot whale- not the best shot but pretty cool how close we were


Sisters together after too much time apart  :)

Andrea and our Mom enjoying the view

The lady behind us definitely didn't take her Bonine- she looks like she hates us. 
Sun is setting, champagne in hand and starting our journey back to the Holo Holo dock ... sigh.

Off the Beaten Path

So those of you who know me, know I'm a bit obsessed when it comes to vacations.  Not that I'm one who goes by any schedule- more like I just want to see as much as i can and have a long list of things that intrigue me.  At least every other year, my mom, sister and I go to Hawaii and I always hear "there's so many other beaches, why travel so far?!"  Well, if you have to ask that- you haven't experienced Hawaii the way we do.  The last acquaintance who uttered that ridiculous statement then admitted to me that she stayed at a 5 star resort with her uppity parents and when i asked her what they did, she told me they took a hotel shuttle van to see waimea canyon and ate in the resort restaurant every nite.  I couldn't help but be horrified- "That's it?!"  Although I work for a bus company, the idea of organized transportation on a vacation just floors me.  Isn't the best part when you get "lost" in your rental car and end up god knows where seeing something you never expected to see?!  Then the same week, a customer of mine from my real job made me shake my head yet again.  She had just gotten back from Kauai with her family after asking me to give her the low-down on all the places she should see- and let me tell you, I gave her the insider's "must-see" list.  So she calls me up to book some buses with me and of course I ask "How was your vaca?!  What did you think of Tunnels?!"  I almost went into cardiac arrest when she uttered the words "Well, we stayed on the North Shore and pretty much just stayed at the resort.  The food there was pretty good too".   To each his own, but if you are going to stay at your resort and not venture out- you might as well just go to the cape.  Why take a 12 hour flight just to sit at a ritzy resort all day and not see the REAL Hawaii?!  Ok, ok- I'm a bit opinionated but I'm a Sagittarius- and adventure is my middle name.  Jesus, even my Mom (who admits she isn't the biggest adventurer) throws caution to the wind when she's on vacation with me.  In fact, I'm pretty much like a tour guide minus the fee.  Despite our time-sharing ownership that can get us the fanciest 5 star resort stay, we tend to lean towards something 3 star or so- anything decent and laid back with an apartment style set up.  Yes, a hotel room is not enough for us- we need a living room, private lanai and of course 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms so we have some space.  Some people don't want to cook on vacation- not me- that is something I look forward to!  In fact, usually by the middle of the week, the girls at the local Big Save in Lihue, know my preferences and yell out a friendly "aloha!" to me when I enter the store.  I want to sample the local fruit and vegetables, grill up some fish- experience it like the locals do.  Anyone can get a "safe" salad or a burger at the Sheraton- me, it makes me shudder.  My sister and I love our mixed plates, this is our fave spot and ironically enough, last time our condo was about 10 min from here.  Not sure why it says "drive in" since it is walk-in service only but oddities like that are part of the charm.  Place doesn't look like much but it has the best mixed plate combos in town.  And yes, we take our mixed plates to Tunnels beach (technically Makua Beach, but those in the know call it Tunnels), sit down and enjoy it right in the sand in our wet suits with a big heineken by our side.  It's the only way to live.

Our chicken and beef mixed plate combo- all this for less than $10!!!
  For those of you who don't know, a mixed plate is basically meat of some kind, 2 scoops of white rice and 1 scoop of macaroni salad with REAL mayo.  Friggin insane.

Ok, I got off track a bit when the mixed plate came into mind- but who can blame me?!  Well, that's what part 2 is for- read on....

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Truffle Salt... there is a God

So i finally broke down and ordered myself some truffle salt... what the hell- happy new year to me!  After indulging in truffle oil, i figured this was the next logical step in my truffle madness.  After some research, i learned that a lot of salts are as low as 2% truffle and ideally you want to purchase something close to 10% if you can afford it.  Of course, i got right on Amazon to explore my options and ended up purchasing a jar of Savini Tartufi black truffle salt- with 6% truffle.  This stuff is imported from Pisa and those of you who know me, know that when I'm interested in something- i exhaust all avenues when it comes to learning about it.  Yes, I'm a bit obsessive, i get that from my dad.   :]   So upon googling the Savini company, i discovered that there were 3 generations of truffle hunters in this family and came upon the most shocking photo.

This is the largest white truffle found in decades, by Luciano Savini and his dog Rocco.  It weighed 1.5 kilos (3.3 lbs) and was bought for a record price of $330,000 in 2007 by Macau casino owner Stanley Ho.

They say you either love truffle salt or you don't- no in between.  I definitely agree with that, it's a musty, earthy scent and taste- but to me- the word that best describes it is succulent.  It livens up anything- especially those bland dishes like rice, eggs, unsalted popcorn etc.  After the gym last night, i was hesitant to eat anything heavy so i made some brussel sprouts and garnished them with a bit of truffle salt.  Insanely delicious!  Now that i have this new found addiction, I find myself daydreaming.... "i wonder how much a truffle hunting dog costs?"  and "is this guy in need of another truffle hunter and do they offer room and board?!"  I ordered my Savini Tartufi salt for a total cost of $25 - shipping and all.  You may say "$25 for salt?!"  Well, don't knock it until you have tried it!  I don't gamble or smoke cigarettes so if i want to indulge with a gourmet purchase once in awhile- I figure i work hard and deserve it.

This is the box it came in- triple wrapped in paper, bubble wrap etc.  The minute i opened the box, all i could smell was truffle.

Try it and let me know what you think.  At my house, it has been worked into the monthly budget!