Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fire Roasted Hot Dogs and S'Mores

We've successfully settled in to the new house and last night, we broke in the backyard with our first meal in the garden. We roasted hot dogs over our fire pit with local kiawe wood. Fantastic flavor from the smoke and a good char made it one of the most memorable hit dogs I've ever had anywhere. 

I made s'mores for Jada and Michele, a first for both. They seemed skeptical at first but when they sunk their teeth in to the snap of the cookie and the goo of the marshmallow, their eyes lit up. I'm sure that we'll be doing that a lot more. 

Here's to la dolce vita

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Last Meal in This Kitchen? Dungeness Crab with Drawn Butter, Braised Kohlrabi, Sautéed Cabbage and Bok Choy.

We're crazy. Moving tomorrow and if you'd peeked in to our kitchen last night, you'd never know it. Amongst piles of boxes and random items splayed all over the counter, you would have found Michele and I, standing shoulder, making dunguness crab and drawn butter, braised kohlrabi, sautéed cabbage and bok choy. We'd cheerfully agreed to a dinner play date for Jada. The kids were being served a delicately prepared eggplant parm...Shows you where our priorities lie...I'll have to stop Michele from making that Ono defrosting in the fridge for lunch today- or we'll never get out of here.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

An Italian Soul Sendoff

That's what my mother calls it when Michele and I do a mash up like we did last night: We made fried chicken and pizza. Brought an overflowing tray of drumsticks and thighs and a cutting board full of all kinds of mini pies over to our favorite neighbors' to celebrate our move in the next couple of days. 

They took care of the booze: Red wine and tequila made the perfect pairings. The kids had their own bottle of sparkling cider. 

Easy breezy, we just stood around their kitchen noshing on our favorite finger foods while the girls ran in circles around us and through the rest of the house, tiny triangles of pizza in hand. 

No better way to mark our move than to do the things that we have always done together. It was a good send off. Gonna miss walking home barefoot and happy, after a fun night with the Austin's, but something tells me there'll be plenty more   good times to come. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

more than just another series of narcissistic ramblings or recipes

I've been away a long time, regrouping and reconsidering...I am thinking of this blog as more of a place for...examination, rumination...more than just another series of narcissistic ramblings or recipes...

...The year is off to a good start. Our new restaurant should be open within weeks. We are excited for another new beginning. We are looking forward to sharing our philosophy and our passion with the beautiful people of our new community. There is little time to record this process in the moment but it has been an incredible journey that we hope to share when we open our literal and virtual doors. 

Until then and always, I will be here...publicly mulling over the small details of our lives, in the hopes that sharing our experiences and insights will enlighten or and me...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Keen Taste Memory and the Printed Word

For an art as transitory as gastronomy there can be no record except for a keen taste memory and the printed word.  -James Beard 

Developing and combining these two skills is an earnest ambition, only because I love to eat and I love to write, but I think that Beard is a bit fatalistic here. The act of eating is fleeting. The art of eating is not.

It is true that the memory of a meal can live forever. Rituals around the table anchor. Time does not fly. It stands still in moments of heightened pleasure. It waits for our recollections.

Yes, written words are one way to tie down time and reign it in, but so are my mother's adamant instructions on how to make the perfect sweet potato pie. Her mother said the same words to her. These kinds of memories are only spoken. They are tradition.

Tradition's greater name is culture and in it, the same memories held in high regard yesterday make  time and space inconsequential when they are actively bound by the shared experience of strangers today. Our modern culture's attempts to digitize this inherent desire for connection, it's prompts to "post" and to "like" and to "share", are flat and disconnected.

There is a record of the art the eating, the art of living, the real connections, that transcend the printed word and our own limited attempts to hold them to ourselves. That record can be gleaned in the unspoken and unwritten rules of your own rituals, in the actions that you perform over and over again around your own table: the time that you set it, what you set it with, who sits before it, what is eaten, how the meal ends. Your records are your traditions, not a result of an intellectual exercise. Your records are the guides that you leave your children to follow and the the expectations that your parents have left to you.

Beard's ideas here are noble. They are only limited by how much importance he places on our finite minds.  The art of gastronomy, the art of life, lives on and on.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Marking Our Day with a Bottle of Moët

On January 1, we celebrated our four year wedding anniversary. An early afternoon escape to Shark Pit, our local beach, was the best we could do to mark the day. Asia was heading back to New York on a red-eye, so a dinner date was out of the question. And even under better circumstances, Jada would not have let us leave her with an aunt from Italy that she earnestly loves, but can barely understand. 

So, when our preschooler went down for her one o'clock nap, Michele and I, still a little hung over from the celebrations of the night before, creeped out of the house dragging our little beach cooler on wheels, full of ice and a bottle of Moët. 

We lost fifteen minutes in the walk alone and needed fifteen minutes to get back. So, we had an hour. One hour to sit still and reconnect. One hour to define our new goals and to mull over all that we had already accomplished. One hour for a little mid-day romance. 

The champagne was dry and crisp, as bright as the sun's reflections on the soft waves lapping at the shore, it's heady fizz like the foam left in their wake. It was good. 

We never finished the bottle. Our time was up at 2:15. But we carried the celebration through dinner, splashing the remainder of the champagne over risotto infused with a roasted beet purée. It was a nice send off before Michele took Asia to the airport for her long flight home, the meal together both comforting and indulgent, like the day.

Friday, January 3, 2014

My First Maui Christmas

Welcome back.  I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season and enjoyed good times with your friends and families. I did. My “sister-in-love”, as she likes to call herself, came in from Italy with my nine year-old niece. They are spending their three-week vacation here with us in Maui.  Asia came in from New York. We have a full house and I am relishing every minute of the noise and chaos. I wouldn’t know what to do with a quiet Christmas.

Still, even with a full house, I am a bit unnerved. Suddenly, I am the matriarch expected to lead the holiday festivities and I am not even sure I know how to do all of this without my mom. This is normally her role and without her here I feel uprooted, in the wind, even inadequate.

So, I decided to take this first Christmas on Maui easy on myself, allowing a little extra space and time to step in to my new role. I wanted to live up to our family’s standards but I did not want to be rigid in them. That would just stress me out. My goal was to be fluid. Things could not possibly be the same but I would try to hit all of the important beats.

I got off to a good start. The day after Thanksgiving is hallowed as a day of decoratation in my family. So, that morning, outside on our lanai, Michele, Jada and I draped our coconut tree in flashing lights instead of setting up an elaborately dressed pine inside. The smell of a fresh tree in the house is nostalgic but it seemed forced and artificial, potentially overpowering the salty taste of the sea swept in by the trade winds. I forgot to play the traditional, classic carols and Christmas gospel while we draped the tree. Mike put on some reggae. I didn’t beat myself up too much about the music. I let it slide.

On Christmas Eve, we cooked all day in preparation for a dinner party at our neighbors’ house. That felt right, everyone jammed in the kitchen together, elbow to elbow, while the kids sat in the living room and watched old Christmas specials like “Frosty the Snowman” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. But by the time we got back home after dinner, it was almost midnight. We made a manic attempt to wrap all of the gifts before we crashed. I forgot to Netflix “It’s A Wonderful Life” while we wrapped, a tradition held since my grandmother was a kid. Mike Pandora’d Christmas carols instead. I think CNN was on the tube at the same time. And, I missed the smell of sweet potatoes roasting in the oven and collards bubbling on the stove. As we cut and taped, there was only the faint stink of leftovers from our Seven Fishes feast and the smoky smell of hot oil left sitting on the stove from the random fried chicken that I’d forced on to the menu.

We did buy Jada an intimidating mound of gifts. Over the top gift giving is another family tradition, the practice never a reflection of how well or poorly we’ve done for the year but a constant threshold to be reached no matter the circumstances. It took her two hours to open everything. That was satisfying. But I didn’t make her a Christmas breakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs after she was done. Italians don’t eat before noon, just little shots of espresso and maybe a dry cookie or piece of bread, and they don’t make exceptions for Christmas. Jada was content with a little bowl of grapes.

Dinner was a simple tray of roasted lamb and potatoes. It was good, but we didn’t hold hands and bow our heads and offer the Lord our thanks. At my mother’s table, we each take turns saying a prayer before we even lift our forks. Jada honored her Nana better than I did because before she would allow anyone a bite, she stood in her chair and insisted that we all hold hands. Then, she proceeded to sing a somber Hawaiian prayer that she’d learned at preschool. No one understood a word, except for the “Amen” at the song’s end, but the spirit of love and gratitude settled quietly over the table and we ate well.

There is nothing wrong with spending Christmas Day in a bathing suit or drinking a lilikoi smoothie for Christmas breakfast, especially if it is made from the fruit of your own tree. Gathering on the beach after opening gifts beats huddling around the TV to watch another re-run of “A Christmas Story”. Accommodating the culture of your guests and extended family, making room for their standards, is okay too. But next year, some things, the important things that honor my own history and culture, the things that I want to pass on to my daughter, will be different because I will work more consciously on making them the same.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Meal is the Essential Act of Life

The meal is the essential act of life. It is the habitual ceremony, the long record of marriage, the school for behavior, the prelude to love. Among all people and in all times, every significant event in life- be it wedding, triumph, or birth- is marked by a meal or the sharing of food or drink. The meal is the emblem of civilization. What would one know of life as it should be lived or nights as they should be spent apart from meals?

Life is Meals, James and Kay Salter