Christmas in Hawaii (oh, and a wedding too!)

Once again, both children’s school calendars cooperated, and we were able to get away the week before Christmas to Hawaii for just over a week. The daughter’s finals schedule ended the same day as the son’s school break started, and we all met up in San Francisco before flying out to Honolulu.
In addition, Jim’s brother and fiancee got married while we were there, and her children also flew out to join them for their happy day. It was a beautiful ceremony at a beautiful place, on the beach at Sherwood Forest, with waves crashing in the background. We wish them a long and happy life together!
In a case of miraculous timing, we also got to meet up and have lunch with close friends the day we were departing back home, and they were taking a cruise through the islands.
As has become typical for us, we ate our way through Honolulu. Highlights include Chef Mavro, The Pig & the Lady (for pho French dip), Yauatcha (for dim sum), and Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha (for shave ice).

with “Uncle Clay”

It was cold there (for Hawaii), sometimes dipping down into the mid-60s(!). We did not complain.
There is something about Hawaii that rejuvenates our souls and makes us feel like we belong. It is also a place of transcendent beauty. Photos do not do it justice, but I still had to try.

Honolulu Christmas lights

at Orchids (in the Halekulani) for Christmas Eve brunch

Waikiki

Waikiki at sundown

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

As is typical for us, our snail mail holiday cards are late (well, definitely late for Christmas, possibly late for New Year’s, especially if your last name starts with the letter z).  🙂

For those who are not into delayed gratification, this is the electronic version of our holiday greetings.  Best wishes for 2018!

And our christmas letter 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

We sat 41 people for dinner for Thanksgiving this year. Well, technically, 37 adults (if you include one 16 year old velociraptor) and 4 kids under 10.

The menu was as follows:
Thai pumpkin soup with gougeres
Smoked turkey
Roasted turkey with confit legs
Stock-braised turkey legs
Deep fried turkey
Roasted pork shoulder
Roast duck
Roasted beets with chimichurri sauce
Skillet roasted Brussel sprouts with mustard and brown sugar
Chickpea, arugula, and picked carrot salad
Sweet potato and star fruit chaat
Mom’s stuffing (that’s Jim’s mom, obviously)
Mashed potatoes
Orange cranberry sauce
Kimchi
Rice
Gravy
Hawaiian dinner rolls
Chocolate pumpkin cheesecake
Blackberry pie
Apple pie
Pumpkin spice cake

If there is a term for exhausted and stuffed at the end of a meal (stuffausted? exuffed?), that’s what we were. Thankfully, Jim’s nephew, Robert, came to help cook, and Robert’s girlfriend, Victoria, made the pumpkin spice cakes. (We had two of each dessert.)
And since Thanksgiving is all about thankfulness, I would like to say that we are extraordinarily thankful for our family and friends, who celebrate with us in good times and sustain us in bad times.
We hope your Thanksgiving was equally festive!

Thai pumpkin soup

traditional day-after-Thanksgiving sticky buns

 

 

Inn at Little Washington December 2016

Another one of our annual traditions is to go to the Inn at Little Washington after Christmas and spend the night.  While Jim and I usually do it with just the two of us, this year, we took the kids.  (I know—I want to come back in my next life as one of our kids, too.)
The Inn was kind enough to sit us at the kitchen table, which made the entire experience even more memorable.  Unlike many kitchens, especially in New York, the kitchen at the Inn is quiet and serene, at least on the surface.  The stress and tension are definitely there, as it is in every high-end restaurant kitchen, but yelling and profanities are not acceptable behavior.
We started off with a family favorite—truffle popcorn.  As much as I love every dish at the Inn, there are times when I think that the truffle popcorn is all I need to keep me happy.  It truly elevates popcorn so that you’ll never be happy with the movie theatre version again.

truffle popcorn

Next up, was the amuse-bouche.  We were treated to the chip-and-dip served on an (inedible) stone.

In addition, there was a bite of pork belly served with a hoisin sauce.

pork belly

And, finally, there was a brioche with a quail egg and quince jam.  Everything was quite delectable.

brioche

Next up was an oxtail consommé with a miniature grilled cheese sandwich studded with black truffles.  The oxtail consommé used to be part of a regular dish on the menu, and it was one of my favorite dishes on the menu.  This taste brought back a lot of lovely food memories.  Virtually any savory dish can be improved upon with the addition of black truffles, and the grilled cheese sandwich was no exception.  Heavenly.

oxtail consomme & grilled cheese

Another Inn favorite that is no longer on the menu is the fire and ice—seared tuna served on a bed of cabbage “noodles” topped with cucumber sorbet.  We took advantage of its availability that night.

fire and ice

Our son had the carpaccio of lamb loin with caesar salad ice cream.  It’s a favorite of his.

lamb carpaccio

The mousse of foie gras with sauternes gelee and red plum preserve is another family favorite and is often ordered when we are at the Inn.

foie gras mousse

Another past menu item that made a brief return was the roasted pheasant with cabbage

roasted pheasant

Jim took advantage of white truffle season and ordered the spaetzle “risotto” with a poached farm egg and white truffles.

white truffles galore!

Our daughter had the pan roasted lobster with tomato butter, spinach, and garlic custard (among other things):

lobster

The pan-seared diver scallop with artichoke puree, capers, and tomato tartare was excellent,

scallop

And the Inn always does a fabulous job with its version of roasted duck topped with foie gras and served with pickled cranberries (which were amazing!):

roast duck

Here is the delicious pork jowl with braised red cabbage and walnut ravioli:

pork jowl with walnut ravioli

The most amazing dish they served us in an evening of amazing dishes was a black truffle, which they had roasted in the ashes of the fireplace in the kitchen.  It had been wrapped in foil and was warm and sat in its own lovely truffle juice.  It was then sliced and served over a simply dressed salad with the juices poured over it.  Those truffles were one of the most wonderful things I have ever put in my mouth.

roasted black truffles!

Desserts included the painter’s palette of sorbets,

the chocolate mint fantasy,

a chocolate hazelnut mousse tart,

and a honeycrisp apple tart.

While the food is definitely delicious and artistic and memorable, the service is even more exceptional.  The staff always looks happy to see us (they are excellent actors all!), and we are treated like valued guests.  We already are looking forward to our next trip there!

A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre

We have an annual holiday tradition of going to see “A Christmas Carol” (this predates our time in Washington, DC and kids, for that matter).  The bonus of seeing it in DC is that the play is performed at Ford’s Theatre, leading to the kids’ worst nightmare—a cultural event AND an educational event rolled into one.
The tradition has morphed into one where we go with the same family every year and enjoy dinner beforehand.  (We were trying to remember how long we’ve been doing this together, and it has been at least 10 years.)
This year’s dinner was at Zaytinya, a Mediterranean tapas restaurant.  The food and service were excellent.
There was a new Scrooge this year in the play, for the first time in many years.  This resulted in some apprehension amongst those in the family that dislike change (not to mention names, but the Y chromosome ones).  The actor who played Scrooge is Craig Wallace, and he was excellent—totally scary as the pre-repentant Scrooge and completely believable as he morphed into the repentant Scrooge.  The rest of the cast, many of whom have been in this production for years, was also excellent.  And Tiny Tim was terrific—he enunciated his lines clearly and was adorable.
We have enjoyed every single performance of “A Christmas Carol” over the years, and many of the lines from the play have made it into the family lexicon.  But, more importantly than the quality of the production, the play serves as a reminder of what we all should aspire to be.  (Just to be clear, the aspiration should be to become the repentant Scrooge.)  🙂
And so, as the holiday season draws to a close, we echo Tiny Tim’s words, “God bless us, every one!”

Mele Kalikimaka (Christmas in Hawaii)

Due to the fortuitous circumstance of Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, the school’s holiday break included the week before Christmas.  This allowed us the rare opportunity to spend Christmas not in Washington, DC (Jim’s business being calendar year-end intensive).  To no one’s surprise, the family voted to spend Christmas in Honolulu.
There is rarely a time when Honolulu weather is inferior to DC weather (possibly the 2 weeks of fall is the only time).  While we had some difficulty getting out of DC due to an ice storm, then mechanical difficulties, then the need for a new crew), we did finally make it to Honolulu on a windy, overcast day.  No matter, Honolulu is still perfect.
The view from our hotel, the Halekulani, is a view of paradise, whether on an overcast day,


or a sunny day,


or at sunrise,


or during the afternoon,


or during sunset.

There are always big smiles when we are there


(with an occasional exception).

We even saw several mongoose (mongooses? mongoose?) on one of our walks.

And there are ALWAYS rainbows to greet us


and to say goodbye.

We will miss Honolulu—at least, until our next trip!

Hope you are having a wonderful holiday season!

Thanksgiving 2016

We sat 26 people down for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.  Some family but also friends.  Our menu was as follows:
Thai pumpkin soup
Smoked organic turkey
Roasted organic turkey with confit legs
Fried organic turkey
Roasted shrimp with rosemary
Roast duck
Stuffing
Chili-bathed sweet potatoes
Dinner rolls
Rice
Kimchi
Gravy
Orange cranberry sauce
Roasted carrots with creamy nuoc chom sauce
Mashed poatoes
Hashed Brussel sprouts with lemon
Chocolate pumpkin cheesecake
Blackberry pie
Apple pie

The spread was quite impressive (since boiling water is a culinary highlight for me, I can say that).  🙂

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Thanksgiving spread

Thanksgiving spread

apple pie

apple pie

blackberry pie

blackberry pie

chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

chocolate pumpkin cheesecake

We also had the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast of homemade sticky buns.

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Most importantly for us on Thanksgiving, however, is to be grateful for life’s blessings.  And so we give thanks for our good health and the family and friends in our lives.  We hope your Thanksgiving was as full of gratitude as ours!

turkey massacre 2016

turkey massacre 2016

Halloween 2016

We have a Halloween family tradition of over 10 years of inviting ourselves over to a friend’s house who has considerably more trick-or-treaters than we do (given that have zero).  The kids decided (very reluctantly) that they were too old to go trick-or-treating by themselves and contented themselves with giving large amounts of candy to the kids who came by.  But, of course, costumes are a must.

Jim’s office offers prizes to the best costume and does a Halloween lunch in full costume every year.

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And we are a family consisting of a Loki, Willy Wonka, Steven Universe, and Nerds.

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Hope your Halloween was as much fun as ours!

4th of July in Nantucket

We were kindly invited by some good friends to join them in Nantucket for the 4th of July weekend.  Nantucket is one of the very few places on the East coast that reminds of us God’s country (otherwise known as the West coast).

There were magnificent sunsets:

sunset on Nantucket

sunset on Nantucket

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Fun 4th of July fireworks (lit off on the 3rd of July but why quibble?);

on the beach for fireworks

on the beach for fireworks

A town water gun fight on the actual 4th of July (let’s just say that no one escaped unscathed from the battle):

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A parfait-making contest:

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And fabulous food, with many home-cooked meals, and a wonderful dining experience at American Seasons (to be blogged about on a later blog post).

It was a wonderful four days of rest and relaxation and good times and friendship.  And, by the way, Happy Birthday, America!