Oct 292014
 

A few weeks after our wedding the certificate finally arrived. I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t an actual certificate and just an official form that had been certified. Kinda lame, but whatever. I took a half day off from work to go to the Social Security Office and DMV to get that done first.

I have to say, the SS office is hell on earth. The DMV was actually fine. That took like 30 minutes, start to finish, and they had like 9 or 10 people working the counter so the line moved very quickly. Social Security? Not so much. I got there about a half hour after they had opened and the place was full.

There were people standing, there were a few empty seats but they were so scrunched together I felt claustrophobic. The waiting room sucked. Why did they have to make it so awful? The chairs were all in a line (similar to the photo below) in four rows. Who creates a waiting room like this?

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The chairs were all facing the same direction, looking at basically a wall and the screen updating the numbers. Hell on earth. Seriously. The numbers moved at a snail’s pace and seemed to have no rhyme or reason. People were coughing, sneezing, there were kids fussing, there were angry people arguing with the workers. Ugh. Just awful. I was there for nearly an hour and a half and 5 minutes of that was the ACTUAL process of changing my name and getting a new card. 5 minutes. The rest was waiting; feeling like your number is never going to be called.

But, the good news is that it’s done and I am now officially Mrs. W!

For our 1 month anniversary (I know, I know, eye roll) I cooked us dinner at home and I also made Michael his favorite drink–an Old Fashioned. I’ve never made it before so I did my research and I bought some fancy bitters to make it official! Here is the recipe I used:

Old Fashioned
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
From: http://liquor.com/recipes/bourbon-old-fashioned/#.
Ingredients
  • 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 tsp Sugar (or 2 sugar cubes)
  • 1 Orange wheel
  • 1 Maraschino cherry
  • 1 splash Club soda
  • 2 oz Bourbon
Instructions
  1. In an Old Fashioned glass, muddle the bitters, sugar, orange wheel, cherry and a splash of soda. Remove the orange rind, add the bourbon and fill with ice.
  2. Garnish with a fresh orange wheel and cherry.
  3. Old Fashioned drinkers are divided on the question of muddling the fruit. To prepare the traditional version, muddle only the sugar, bitters and splash of soda but keep the fruit as garnishes.

I didn’t quite get the muddling down, I need to give it another try. Other than that, it was pretty easy to make and Michael loved it! I’m so glad.

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For dinner I made us a baked gnocchi dish and used our new French Onion Soup LeCreuset bowls that we got as a wedding gift. They were perfect for this recipe. No, I did not make the gnocchi from scratch. I’ve never done that before and while sometimes I think I want to give it a try, I also kind just want to use the easy stuff from Trader Joe’s…

Baked Gnocchi with bacon, tomato and mozzarella

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 3-4 servings

Calories per serving: 820 for 3 servings

From: http://simply-delicious-food.com/2013/07/16/baked-gnocchi-with-bacon-tomato-and-mozzarella/

Ingredients

  • 500g store-bought gnocchi
  • 250g bacon, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream/yoghurt
  • large handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 100g mozzarella, sliced

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°c.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
  3. In the meantime, make the sauce.
  4. In a large, hot frying pan, fry the bacon until starting to crisp with most of the fat rendered.
  5. Pour off most of the fat then add the garlic and smoked paprika and fry for 30 seconds.
  6. Add all of the tomatoes and the sugar and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream/yoghurt, parsley and seasoning.
  8. Cook the gnocchi in the salted water until it starts floating to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce.
  9. Transfer the gnocchi and sauce to an oven-proof dish and top with the sliced mozzarella.
  10. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and golden.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
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The recipe was pretty easy to make. I cooked the bacon and when it was time to add the tomatoes I used canned tomatoes from my garden! It was so cool to be able to finally use them for something and they worked great. I am so glad I spent the time the summer to can all of those romas.

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The recipe called for either cream or yogurt. I thought I had some plain Greek yogurt (because I almost always have some on hand) but I was out! I panicked for a second and then googled what alternatives I could use. I found a website that gave some other options and one of them was sour cream–which I did have on hand. So I used about 2 tablespoons of that and it added such a rich, tangy flavor pretty similar to what plain Greek yogurt would have done. It was amazing.

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The recipe claimed to be 2-3 servings. When I was measuring everything out I thought it was more like 4 servings. But when I spooned everything into the Le Creuset bowls it turned out to be three generous servings. I love our new bowls! They worked perfectly for this. I baked them for about 15 minutes (using the broiler for the last 5 of those) to brown the cheese on top.

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It smelled so good. But then, doesn’t bacon always smell good?? So whenever I do a new recipe I always check the calorie count online first. Sometimes I disregard certain recipes if the calories are too high. This is the ONE TIME I didn’t do that first and of course, the calories were a lot higher than I’d normally like. Oh well, it was fantastic….so worth it! Look at this dinner:

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It was so amazing and an easy enough recipe to make for a dinner party and impress everyone. Michael loved it. I loved it. I wanted to keep eating it. This recipe was a winner! Michael mentioned that adding some fresh basil would be nice and I agree. Next time I’ll add some fresh rosemary and basil to the recipe.

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We sat at our bar in the kitchen and ate our delicious dinner, listening to some jazz music. Michael enjoyed is Old Fashioned and I broke out the mini bottle of champagne that we got on our wedding night from the hotel manager that we never actually drank. To one month! Cheers!

I will most definitely be making this recipe again. When I do, I will portion it out into 4 servings instead of 3 and I’ll serve a spinach salad with it or something. That will reduce the calories in the dish dramatically. It’s a heavy dish, so reducing it a little and making a salad would make sense. Make this recipe! You won’t be disappointed.

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Oct 142014
 

Instead of doing a bunch of posts in a journal form about our vacation I’m going to break it down into just a few categories and call it good. I do want to share some of the experiences and photos of our honeymoon with you all, though. I mean, you’ve stuck with me through all the wedding planning! Here is the reward: umbrella drinks and beach photos.

This post is specifically about some of the restaurants we went to in Maui on our honeymoon. We were staying at a condo and cooked breakfast every day and most of the lunches we packed picnic style. Dinner is where we splurged. So this post definitely looks like a food orgy, I apologize for that, but also keep in mind that we were there for 9 days. :) Enjoy!
drink

Leilani’s on the Beach

We stopped here for a snack and a drink after spending most of the day at Kapalua Bay Beach. We’d packed a lunch and had that on the beach but worked up a little bit of an appetite swimming. We got the onion rings (probably the best I’ve ever had) and the poke bowl (also fantastic, one of the better ones we had on the island).

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Fantastic drinks! They actually sold IPAs in Hawaii, shocker. Michael got one and it was great (can’t remember which one, maybe Maui Brewing Company?).

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I got the “1944” and absolutely loved it. They said it was their version of a “classic tiki cocktail” (i.e. Mai Tai) with several different rums, fresh lime juice, orange curacao and orgeat (which I later found out was a syrup made out of rose and orange water). It was so amazing. One of my favorite drinks on the trip.

Cafe O’Lei 

We went here for dinner our first night in Maui. We started with the Flatbread “pizzas” and got the Artichike, Kalamata and Feta one. I liked it. It was simple and not greasy. Michael wasn’t a fan, he thought it was rather boring.

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Then we shared the calamari. It was pretty good but not as good as some of the calamari we’ve had in Portland. I had their house salad that was absolutely fantastic. I cannot remember now what their special house-made salad dressing was but it was so good.

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Service was fast and friendly, food was pretty good but nothing all that special.

Sea House

Michael booked us a nice table here for a later dinner. We missed the sunset, which was a bummer, and because it was so dark couldn’t really see how great Napili Beach was (but I knew it was great from photos). The restaurant itself was very nice. The staff was on top of everything, really friendly.

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They brought out some kind of loaf of freshly baked bread. It reminded me of sheep herder’s bread  (my cousin makes it for family gatherings–so good!). This version had oil and herbs in it. Yum!

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Michael got the surf and turf special–steak and a lobster tail.

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I got the crab stuff jumbo prawns that came with Maui onion mashed potatoes and green beans. The food was so amazing. It was very, very rich, but one of the better meals we had in Maui.

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I didn’t have room for any more food but they brought out a complimentary dessert since it was our honeymoon! And this was the best cake I’ve ever had. It was a coconut tiramisu with whipped cream and fresh mango, pineapple and melon on top. There were toasted coconut on top of that.

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It was seriously the best dessert I’ve ever had. I LOVED it.

Star Noodle

This was a super out of the way, hard to find place that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere in Lahaina. It was on my “must try” list and several people recommended it!

Robyn's Birthday

It was family style dining and seating. The place was packed when we got there and we were sat in the middle of the room on the long table. So there we strangers on either side of us. Which was slightly weird, didn’t make for intimate conversations, but it was alright.

We started with the Steamed Pork Buns (Duroc Pressed Pork, Hoisin and Cucumber). They were small and packed with flavor. The buns were soft and airy. All of it was so tasty!

Robyn's Birthday

Then we got the Filipino “Bacon & Eggs”. It came out on a cast iron plate, sizzling like fajitas at a Mexican restaurant, with crispy pork, onions and tomatoes on it and an egg cracked on top. We were supposed to mix the egg around to cook it and mix it with everything. This was AMAZING. Wow. So good. I would go back just for this!

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Next we got the Pad Thai. It was just okay. It wasn’t anything particularly memorable but it wasn’t greasy like the usual Thai restaurants are.

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Even though we were stuffed, Michael wanted to order the Vietnamese Crepe. It was a giant, crispy crepe filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts  with Nuoc Cham and a pile of fresh greens. You put the shredded carrots and greens (mint, Thai basil, lettuce) in the crepe and then wrap the crepe with the giant lettuce leaf in order to eat it. It was messy but delicious. We did not eat all of it because we were so full.

Robyn's Birthday

I’d go back here for the “bacon and eggs” and pork buns in a heart beat!!

Kono’s on the Green

We went here based on a recommendation by our condo owners. They left a list of their favorites and this was one of them. It was a nice restaurant overlooking the golf course not far from our condo. It was not on the beach but you could see the ocean in the far off distance.

First and foremost, best Mai Tai I had on the island! Amazing! AND SO STRONG. I had no idea how strong until I’d already ordered a second. I only had those 2 drinks that day and wowza did it get me! So delicious–not too sweet, made with their own recipe.

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Second, the service was fantastic. Our waitress was friendly and chatty and the food came out really fast. AND they had happy hour. We ate dinner for half the price we would have paid had we gotten their later. We started with the coconut shrimp. Then we got their pizza. Michael wasn’t a fan of the crust but I liked it a lot. It was thin and just the right amount of crispy.

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Probably the best part (other than the Mai Tais) was the live music! There were some older folks there playing salsa music and they sounded great. There were also tons of people dancing! There was this older Japanese gentlemen (I’d say 70’s?) with his beautiful wife that were out there most of the evening salsa dancing. Sometimes other people (older gentlemen) cut in but everyone was dancing and having a great time. It was so much fun to watch! Definitely an older crowd but I had a blast.

Three’s Bar and Grill

We went here for lunch our first full day there. The atmosphere was cool, we sat outside on the patio that was covered with giant palm trees and plants. There was a musician singing and playing guitar; he was singing Hawaiian music and other mainstream hits just with a Hawaiian flair to it. He was really good.

The drinks were delicious and strong. I don’t even remember what I got but it had hibiscus in it!

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The food was also excellent. We got the crab cake appetizer that I loved. We also got one sushi roll that was so spicy I could barely eat it.

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We both got the poke. We were dying for some poke after the AMAZING stuff we had in Kona. Sadly, nothing really came close to it in Maui. While this ahi poke was delicious, it wasn’t mind-blowing and we were kind of disappointed.

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While the food and drinks were good here and we enjoyed our leisurely lunch, it was probably the most expensive lunch we’ve ever eaten and that was a humongous downer. It made not really like that place and this was the last time we bought lunch I think (we packed lunches the rest of the time).

Da Kitchen

I have mixed feelings about this place. We went to the one by the airport and the one in Kihei, and while the food was fantastic, the service wasn’t great. The first time we ordered the pork wontons and the fried spam musubi. I know, I know. Spam! I’ve never had it before and was reluctant to try it but I’m glad we did. It was SO GOOD. Surprisingly.

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We also got some beef kebob things. The food was really good but the service was slow (and it wasn’t crowded). Not only that, I paid and the waitress asked if I wanted change. I said yes. I mean, she was assuming I was going to tip her 50% of the bill?!?! Then she proceeded to ignore us for a bit and not bring the change. I had to ask for it again. That pissed me off. I tip well when food and service are good, but if the service is crap I am not a happy camper.

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Then at Kihei we ordered some stuff to go and walked back to our condo. While it wasn’t that far (about a 10 minute walk), I was very frustrated to find out when we go back that they forgot to give us one of the things we ordered. Ugh! Michael kindly walked back to get it (my knees were really hurting that night and the prospect of walking back again made me want to cry). So all in all, the food was good but I wouldn’t give this place good ratings for the service.

Coconut’s Cafe

This was a little cafe in the land of strip-malls in Kihei. That was one downside of Maui — lots of places were strip-mall locations and that kind of killed the atmosphere. Not that I needed something fancy every time but mall food? No thanks.

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Despite the lack of atmosphere, the food here was cheap and good. We both got the fish tacos and they were by far the best fish tacos I’ve had in a long time.

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They were messy and hard to eat and worth all the mess!

Jawz Fish Tacos

This was another place that was on my list. I’d read some great things about this food truck and wanted to give it a try. We saw it the first day we were in Maui when we left Big Beach. A few days later after exploring another beach we drove back to Makena in order to get some lunch from the food truck.

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It was pretty cheap, but a little more expensive than typical food trucks. The service was fast and friendly. We got our fish tacos and ate them sitting on the tailgate of our SUV on the side of the road, both of us wrapped in beach towels, dirty and dripping from the ocean.

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The tacos were flavorful and delicious, my only complaint was how skimpy they were on the fish! It would have been even better had there been some more pieces. I looked online later and that seems to be the common complaint by visitors. More fish! But it still tasted great.

Mama’s Fish House

Okay. I know, I know…EVERYONE told me “Go to Mama’s Fish House!” I heard it from so many people that I added it to our list. When we got to Maui and heard that reservations were sometimes difficult to get, Michael booked it and the soonest we could get was our last night in Maui at 4:45. Early bird special! Whatever. Our days were pretty short there anyways because the sun set at 6:30.

As the trip went on, I started to have second thoughts about going. I read the online menu and wasn’t all that blown away by it. We have amazing seafood options in Portland so the idea of spending THAT MUCH on it was a major turn-off. Michael was beginning to agree, especially after we had our special fancy dinner at Sea House.

I suggested on that Monday that we stop by Mama’s for a drink to check it out and then we agreed we’d cancel our reservation on the way out.

It was the day we attempted to drive up to Haleakala Highway to the volcano (more on that later). We came back down, stopped in Paia and Makawao and then went to Mama’s for a drink. It was like 3pm. Way too early for dinner anyways. We got there and the place was SUPER CUTE. So unique and just amazing. The beach area was so romantic and enchanting with the torches and palm trees. Just amazing.

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The restaurant is completely open and it’s huge. Gorgeous Hawaiian flowers were everywhere. There was no AC and it was definitely hot and stuffy but we didn’t care. We sat at the bar and ordered drinks. I got a glass of Pinot Grigio. Then they brought out a loaf of their to-die-for poppy seed bread and butter.

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In addition to that they brought out these little shot glass sized cups of soup. Who wants soup on a hot day? Doesn’t matter, the soup was an amazing touch and it was so delicious! It was a tomato, curry, coconut bisque that I need to find a recipe for!

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We ended up ordered an appetizer– the lobster guacamole with house-made chips. Oh.My.God. Best guacamole of my entire life. Best ever. Seriously.

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I also ordered a side of the wild boar (Kahlua pig). That was pretty much dinner for us, albeit early. Yep you guessed it, as we were leaving we told each other we were NOT canceling our dinner reservations for the next day!

Part Two

The next night we went to Mama’s for our reservation. It was kind of nice that it was a little early for dinner because it wasn’t as crowded and it felt very laid back and intimate. We were escorted to a primo table with a great view. There were fresh flowers and a nice card congratulating us on our honeymoon!

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I ordered The Relaxer drink – it was amazing. And beautiful:

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They brought out that amazing loaf of bread. This time the soup was some kind of creamed asparagus. It was great!

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We decided to try and save some money (yeah right) and order two appetizers and one entree and share everything. We started with the Mahi mahi rolls and ahi sashimi. The sashimi was caught that morning by someone that worked at the restaurant and you could tell. The ahi melted in your mouth like it was warm butter. So amazing.

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The shared entree we got was the “Traditional Hawaiian.” It was like a sampler plate with grilled mahimahi, wild boar wrapped in a leaf, ahi poke and some sides that I don’t remember but were really good (except for the Poi–yuck!).

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I also ordered their Maui Onion soup (French onion soup) and it was fantastic. One of the better versions I’ve had.

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We didn’t have room for dessert but our waiter was so amazing and he seriously talked us into getting one. We decided to share the chocolate pie that was sort of a cross between a cheesecake and a mousse with caramel in it and baked in a cookie crust. Talk about amazing! Here is the dessert:

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And because it was our honeymoon, the waiter brought us a complimentary serving of their amazing house-made ice cream. Talk about amazing. It’s not like vanilla ice cream is all that exciting, but this was outstanding. I don’t know what kind of magic they put into their food but everything was perfect!

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It was the perfect finale for our trip!

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