Last October I slipped away with the hubby to Hawaii’s Big Island for a week-long, kids-free retreat, and I’m finally getting around to sharing some of the highlights. This trip was mostly about kicking back and doing a whole lot of nothing, but we did manage to rally to squeeze in a few food adventures in between all those mai tais and snoozes on the beach. Of course, we picked up some shoyu poke immediately upon arrival; had some great food at Merriman’s in Waimea (including the best salad ever: spinach, radicchio, roasted mushrooms, toasted farro, crispy bacon, hard cooked farm egg, compressed pineapple & jalapeño-ginger vinaigrette); and enjoyed the gut busting, but tasty omlette-fried rice at Teshima’s in Kealakakua.
We lucked out that our trip coincided with the annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival and we were able to take in the Coffee & Art Stroll in Holualoa. In case I haven’t mentioned it before now, I am a big time coffee nerd. It doesn’t come up too often given this is a blog about cooking and eating with kids, but in real life I pretty much live for coffee. Back home you will often find me making really lame excuses to run over to the other side of town so I can snag some Philz Coffee, sneaking in for a cup of Blue Bottle coffee over at Village Market (California and 8th Ave.) or checking out the new coffee place of the moment. So having the opportunity to stop in at the coffee stroll was like a dream come true….. the island’s best boutique coffee roasters, using some of the planet’s best coffee beans, tasting their wares along Holualoa’s adorable main street. If I tell you that I had a complete footwear malfunction early on in the day and I had to resort to wearing my hideous, crazy sweaty scuba shoes around the festival (they happened to be in the trunk of our rental car), you will understand my level of dedication when it comes to drinking coffee. But I would have probably resorted to searing my bare feet on the blazing hot pavement to carry on if it had come to that. Luckily it did not. My feet survived and endured their moment of style infamy. There’s not much more I can say other than the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival totally rocked! The people were incredibly nice and the coffee, superb!
As fantastic as my opportunity to overindulge in kona coffee was, the most magical food adventure of our trip was our visit to my aunt’s farm over on the Hilo side of the island. She and her partner are growing an amazing bounty of food with incredible care and respect for the land. On our stroll around the farm they pointed out varieties of bananas and lilikoi; giant, nearly football-sized island avocados; Hawaiian chile peppers; cocoa; tea; ulu (bread fruit); the stinky (but medicinal) noni; pineapple; kukui, and on and on and on…. But my favorite discovery were the patches poha berries scattered here and there. Poha berries are small golden fruits which resemble yellow cherry tomatoes, but with a papery husk kind of like a tomatillo. They’re totally addictive, their tangy-sweet flavor reminding me vaguely of kiwi, but otherwise hard to describe. After a bit of research after the trip, I learned the species is also known as “ground cherry” and “cape gooseberry”. I can’t recall having ever seen them around the Bay Area, but if you happen to see some pop up at a farmers’ market near you, give them a try. I hear they make a delicious jam.
All good things must come to an end and after a week in paradise, we were rested, relaxed and missing our boys so we packed up, tucking in a few goodies to bolster our spirits and help keep our vacation-state-of-mind going just a little while longer: a couple of jars of homemade jam from a bakesale table at the coffee festival, a bag of “Morimoto’s Hot Hawaiian Chili Pepper Salt” which I predict will disappear very quickly, and a couple of bags of kona coffee which I promise I will do my very, very best not to horde.