babymoon adventures pt III

Even though I am a creature of habit, I had to try out some new restaurants on our trip to Hawai’i. Luckily, Chef Morimoto opened an absolutely stunning restaurant in Waikiki last fall inside the new Waikiki Edition hotel so that made our decision easy.


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The actual restaurant was everything you imagine it to be. Understated, clean, but gorgeous. Think white everything with splashes of purple and light green.  If you are stylish and not almost 8 months pregnant, this is definitely the place to have drinks and hang out on a Friday night. I had water. And lots of really good food.


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Did you know Morimoto brews his own beer? I had no idea! Obviously I can’t drink alcohol so you will have to take my husband’s word for it but he absolutely loved this particular brew.


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To start, we ordered the pork gyoza which sat on a fresh tomato sauce and was enclosed in a bacon foam. The doughy gyoza was complimented nicely by the bright flavor of the tomato sauce. The bacon foam added the perfect hint of smokiness.


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For my meal, I ordered the lamb rack with a yuzu glaze, ratatouille, and spam onigiri–which was a fun take on spam musubi. The lamb was cooked to perfection and not the least bit gamey. The ratatouille was quite light in texture but the bold flavors stood up to the rich meat and complimented the dish perfectly.

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Reg “pulled a Jenna” and read the menu ahead of time and already knew what he wanted to order. I was so proud. He picked the loco moto which is Morimoto’s take on the local classic loco moco. Chef certainly elevated this dish by using Wagyu beef and the result was absolutely delicious and certainly honored the inspiration.


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For dessert, we ordered something new and off menu–a sea salt chocolate, caramel tart. This was served with vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate crumbles (their words, not mine), and crushed vanilla meringues. This was incredibly rich but that did not stop us from cleaning our plate. I loved the salty and sweet combination.

This was our last night in Hawai’i and I am so glad we ended our trip with such a great meal. I will never forget this trip. It was truly like a second honeymoon. I know this will sound cliche but I love my husband more today than the day I married him. He is such an incredible partner and I know he is going to be the best father.



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xo
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babymoon adventures pt II

I could not come back from a vacation and not talk about the food. Truthfully, I plan out not only all of the restaurants I am going to visit but also what I am going to order (but keep an open mind if there are specials). Everyone does this right? 😉

So when we made this last trip we only had about 5 days and we wanted to make sure we visited some of our favorite spots and tried out a couple new spots as well.

Old Favorites

Our absolute favorite place to get breakfast in Waikiki has to be Eggs ‘N Things. The wait can be extremely long—even at 8 am so the earlier you get there, the better. We were on California time so I needed breakfast around the time they opened so we were just fine. No long waits. No pregnancy hunger meltdowns. Good times.


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Can you find me?

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Homemade Guava Juice

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Spinach Bacon & Cheese Omelette with a side of their homemade salsa <——so good!

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And a side of their Macadamia Nut Pancakes. Folks, these are the stuff dreams are made of. Seriously, I dreamt about these babies after having them the first time and that is why I ordered them again. So fluffy with just a little crunch from the macadamia nuts. And you must top them with the homemade coconut syrup. You must. I happily shared these with Reg.

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Speaking of Reg, he ordered his favorite breakfast of all time: Eggs, Portuguese Sausage, and Rice. Before I met him I would never have thought of eating rice for breakfast but now I love it! The sausage was crispy and flavorful without being overly greasy.


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Another old favorite is also a local favorite: Rainbow’s Drive Inn. My husband grew up going to Rainbow’s every time he was on the Islands so it was the first place he took me years ago on our first trip. Rumor has it that President Obama loves Rainbow’s as well.

Most of the food served at Rainbow’s is considered plate lunch. The exact history behind plate lunch is often disputed. However, the general consensus is that plate lunch began in the 1880’s when plantation workers were in high demand for sugar and fruit companies in Hawai’i. Laborers came from all over the world including China, Japan, Portugal, and the Phillipines and would share various proteins (think canned meat, teriyaki, cold meat) and rice for lunch. So the plate lunches themselves are a mix of food from different cultures. Eventually, the macaroni salad and gravy was added into the mix.

I am a total creature of habit and I usually order hamburger steak (thin hamburger patties smothered in gravy) or loco moco (same as hamburger steak topped with two eggs) plate lunch every time I go. This time I decided to try something new.

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Boneless chicken with (the best) gravy! Served with macaroni salad and two scoops of rice.

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Reg is like me when it comes to Rainbow’s and usually orders the same thing. Instead, he branched out a bit and ordered the Rainbow Royale burger. The special sauce that comes on the burger is very similar to deviled egg filling but thinned out. Delicious!

We both enjoyed trying something new but we missed our “usual” order and made sure we ordered it on our last day when we visited Rainbow’s again. If you are ever on Oahu, this place is a must try!

Next up: some new finds, including Morimoto’s new Waikiki restaurant!

xo

babymoon adventures

Reg and I both love to travel. Since we wouldn’t be traveling for a while–you know, given that we will have a newborn in around two months, we wanted to take one final big vacation before our son arrives. And since I have gained over 20 lbs (so far), all I wanted to do was float in the ocean on a beach in Hawai’i.

You see, Hawai’i has a special place in both our hearts. My husband is Native Hawaiian and despite the fact that his dad was in the Army and that moved his family around a lot, he still managed to make it home to the islands as often as could. After meeting his family and learning more about the culture, I became enthralled with Hawai’i as well. In fact, most of my research in graduate school covered the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement. So Hawai’i seemed like the perfect place to take one last vacation before our life changes. Plus, we both loved the thought of him going to our beloved islands before he is even born.

This time around we decided to stay in Waikiki. Usually when we visit Oahu, we stay on the North Shore because there are far less tourists and that part of the island is usually more quiet. Waikiki made a bit more sense for us this trip because we didn’t want to rent a car and preferred to walk everywhere, which is something you really can’t do on the North Shore. We really lucked out too. For Waikiki in April, the crowds were not bad at all and the whole trip felt really peaceful and relaxing. Staying at this beautiful place didn’t hurt either…


Sheraton Moana Surfrider


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Built in 1901 and full of charm

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Loved sitting in those rocking chairs during the evening, feeling the cool breeze.
Plus people watching was ah-mazing.


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Gorgeous Banyan tree
This tree was originally planted in 1904 when it was only 7 feet tall.
Now it over 75 feet tall and spans the 150 ft. courtyard.


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Private beach with crystal clear water.
Fun fact about me: I was so scared of swimming as a kid that I would scream if you came next to me in the pool. I didn’t swim in the ocean until I was 16. Now, at almost 27, you can’t get me out of the ocean. Seriously, I could swim all day. I didn’t even freak out when a baby sea turtle swam up next to me.


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Clear view of Diamond Head


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With delicious fruity (non-alcoholic) beverages


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And a handsome husband


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Followed by the face most people made when they realized I was pregnant…in a bikini. The reaction made me laugh but I owned it.

Part II coming up tomorrow…

xo

Off to the Market

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I have been trying to visit Market in St. Helena since my last trip to Napa. I love swanky restaurants with creative meals but at the end of the day I really love simple, fresh food cooked spectacularly. Plus, supporting any restaurant that uses local ingredients makes me smile. Market does all of these things. 🙂


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We started with some cocktails. Mine was the fizzy gin drink in front. Perfectly refreshing for a warm summer night in wine country.


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We started with some laughs and some appetizers.

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Farmer’s Market Chopped Salad. Alfie, our server, told me this was the most popular salad on the menu. For this salad, the Chef picks whatever is best at the morning Farmer’s Market so the ingredients change every day. This one had broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, bacon, blue cheese, and lettuce. The veggies were cooked just slightly which some people may prefer, but I would have rather them be chopped more and left raw because cooking them only intensified the dressing, which I was not a huge fan of. Also, there could have been more cheese. This little hiccup was okay though because the other dishes we ordered were spectacular.


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This is one of the best Crab Cakes I have ever had. This baby was huge and stuffed with quality Dungeness crab meat. Paired with the coriander lime sauce and what had to be the most fresh grilled corn of all time, this dish was epic! I could have ate this as my meal. Only downside was that the cake itself was deep fried. I really think it would have been just perfect if it was less crispy on the outside.


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Fresh Cream of Corn Soup. Again, the corn had to be one of the best veggies at the Farmer’s Market because this soup was perfectly sweet only needed a hint of cream and a splash of chili oil. We were all really pleased with this soup and jealous of Reggie who had been smart enough to order it. 🙂


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I ordered the Organic Fried Chicken for my entree. I LOVE fried chicken. This one was perfectly seasoned and crispy. The whipped mashed potatoes were so fluffy and buttery.

What stood out for me was the portion size. Sometimes you order Fried Chicken for your entree and you literally receive an entire chicken. Yea, if I order that just for me there is no way I am finishing the dish. I was pleasantly surprised when only two pieces were served with my dish. Perfect amount for me to devour. 😉


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Macaroni & Cheese with Aged Fiscalini Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Bacon and Fine Herbs. I am only going to say this once because I pride myself on having the best homemade macaroni & cheese but this is better than my version. My sisters both ordered the M&C and they are not what you would call “plate finishers” but this was done. Between the six of us at the table, we could not stop “oooohing” and “ahhhing” over this dish. Well played Market, well played.


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My father ordered Zinfandel Braised Lamb. I managed to steal a bit–for the blog, I argue– and wowza, this meat was tender. The jus served with the meat was light and had the perfect essence of zinfandel. My father is not one to rave about food like me (unless it is dessert) but he had a hard time keeping quiet about this one. He said this was the best lamb he has ever had. Period.


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The Filet Mignon came from a local farm and was truly spectacular. Served with homemade au gratin potatoes, haricot verts and a porcini butter, this whole dish was cooked and seasoned to perfection.


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Post-dinner cappuccino for me.


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Butterscotch Pot du Creme for the table. Very rich and creamy. If you are a fan of butterscotch, you will love this. But is this definitely a dessert to share because a few bites is just enough.


We loved visiting Market. The food was incredible and the service was fantastic. Our server, Alfie, was knowledgable about the dishes, having tried everything. Above all, he loves to eat and he is passionate about local, sustainable food. At the same time, he did not bombard us at the table. He allowed us space to talk about enjoy our meals, offering any assistance when necessary.

He told us that he used to live in Southern California and then recently moved up to St. Helena with his wife and their 4 children. Now, they have a larger place on more land and my dream…chickens! I actually let out a little cheer when he told us this (I am such a nerd…) because my dream is to have an old farmhouse with chickens in the back yard and maybe a cow….okay, maybe a goat too. A girl can dream, right? Mostly, Alfie told us he is living the dream up there and you could see it on his face through his beaming smile.

I walked out of this place with a full belly and a full heart.

xo,
Jenna

Cooking with Julie: Part 1

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This year, for my mom’s birthday, my sisters and I bought her a very special cooking class in Napa. Cooking with Julie is an experience that cannot be matched. This was actually my second time participating in her class and I was so happy to be back. What makes this day so special is that you start your day at the Farmer’s Market buying the vegetables, fruits, cheese, and other ingredients we would be using during the class. Chef Julie really believes that good food starts in the picking of ingredients. Makes sense too, right? If you have beautiful flavorful ingredients, you can cook them simply and their flavors shine through.

This particular Farmer’s Market was one of the best I have ever seen. The colors were dynamic but what makes this market is the people. They were so knowledgeable and friendly!


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I loved talking to the people in each booth. Their passion for what they are growing and selling is contagious. Besides how good food taste, I think that my absolute favorite part of food is the community.Throughout the entire day when our small group was cooking, I could not help but pause and think about where this food came from and the hard work it took to create such beautiful products. I was grateful.


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After buying our ingredients, we headed to Back Room Wines in Downtown Napa to taste the wines that Julie’s friend, Dan, had selected to pair with our food. Dan was so friendly and you could tell he enjoyed talking about wine and pairing wine with food. Everything was delicious and I ended up purchasing the 2009 Copain Rose (perfect for a hot Summer day) and the 2007 Salvestrini Rettagio.


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After the tasting, we headed back to Julie’s beautiful home to start cooking!


To be continued…


xo,


Jenna

Vino & Views

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We finished breakfast around 10:30 so I decided we should start our wine tasting with a little sparkling wine at Domaine Carneros to celebrate my mom’s birthday! DC is one of my favorite spots in Napa for great views and great vino. You cannot beat a place with an outdoor tasting space!

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I had to snap a picture of this little boy and his father. They both walk the same way, with their hands clasped behind their back. So precious. 🙂


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After Domaine Carneros, we headed back to Buena Vista, the oldest winery in California. On the way, we stopped to hug some trees….literally 🙂


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I really love Buena Vista, not only because of their quality wine but because of the education you receive when you taste on their property. Quinn, the gentleman in the vest in the above picture, is their on site sommelier. Not only does he know his stuff but he is hilarious in the delivery!

Today he wanted to deepen our understanding of food and wine pairing. For example, when trying a buttery Chardonnay he brought out lemons for us to put in our mouths and then take a sip of wine. The acid in the lemons combines with the acids in the wine to give you an entirely different tasting experience. The wine tasted completely different. My mom loved the experience so much she joined their wine club too!


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Overall, we had an amazing experience wine tasting. If I am drinking most of the wine, I really prefer to stick to only a couple wineries and today proved to be the perfect amount.


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We may have stopped by El Dorado Kitchen for some homemade soft serve with olive oil and sea salt….oh yea!


What are your best experiences wine tasting?

xo,


Jenna


Can I move here?

Hello, my name is Jenna and I am a Napa-aholic. I seriously can’t stay away from this place. I love to travel and visit new places but at some point I am always ready to go home. However, when I am in Northern California, I can’t help but look around and get the feeling that I have to live here at some point in my life. It is magical.


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And so was the food. You ready?

First up was my absolute favorite find from my last trip–Fremont Diner. Reggie and I HAD to have those Biscuits & Gravy one more time and this time we brought my family.

Side note: My sisters and I gave my mom this trip to Napa for a Mother’s Day present and scheduled the trip so that it landed smack dab in the middle of her birthday weekend! We also bought her a cooking class while we were up there–it was spectacular and will most definitely be my next blog.


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2 glorious french press pots caffeinated us for our day of wine tasting. I love coffee from the french press. If you are a coffee lover, there really isn’t anything better. Okay, maybe a good cappuccino. 😉




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We waited patiently for our food, inhaling the aroma of our sausage sizzling in the kitchen and playing with my camera. If you are in a hurry, this is not the place to stop for a quick bite. But if you want something really special, pull up a chair, grab some fresh coffee, juice, wine and in about 20 minutes you will receive some incredible food.

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Biscuits & Gravy


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Kitchen Sink—think Biscuits & Gravy plus some incredibly flavorful local, smoked ham, crispy fried chicken and an over easy egg.


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Grilled Breakfast Sandwich–featuring that beautiful smoked ham, fried egg, and cheese. That buttery panini is the stuff dreams are made of. Mmmmm


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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes–melt in your mouth delicious. They were thin like a crepe but crispy on the edges from what I could only guess was a quick fry in some butter.


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And we may have ordered dessert with breakfast…yes, dessert. How could I turn down this Caramel Buttermilk Cake? You’re right, I couldn’t. 🙂


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And a Nectarine & Raspberry Fried Pie. This was nothing like the fried dough I grew up eating in New Hampshire. Instead, this was exactly how you would picture a fried pie to be. Flaky, buttery crust on the outside bursting with ripe juicy fruit. My dad has a thing for fruit desserts so as soon as this beauty was delivered this is what he looked like:


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Look at that concentration. He means business!


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Reggie looked on in disbelief!


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Finally, he shared. I could tell you how good this pie was but I will just let me dad tell you…


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Yea, he loved it!

Can’t wait to show you our other adventures.

xo,


Jenna