Category Archives: Travel

Upcountry Maui: O’o Farm, Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, and Surfing Goat Dairy

Maui’s beaches and sightseeing are indeed spectacular, but there’s an entirely different experience waiting should you decide to visit gorgeous Upcountry near Haleakala.  It’s about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the island, a little cloudy, and the perfect break from sun and sand.  Stretching across Maui’s southern and eastern coastline, Haleakala National Park houses Maui’s highest peak.  Rising approximately 10,o00 feet above sea level, Haleakala’s slopes can be seen from just about any point on the island.  Haleakala means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian, and legend says that the demigod Maui lassoed the sun from its journey across the sky as he stood on the volcano’s summit, slowing its descent to make the day last longer.  In addition to being a tourist magnet for mountain-top sunrises, the fertile slopes are home to ranches, botanical gardens and farms with breathtaking views.  We visited three of these places and it made for a really fun day off the beaten path.

O’o Farm

Nestled in the community of Kula, O’o Farm consists of eight sustainably maintained and biodynamically cultivated acres.  The farm is the result of the owner’s commitment to providing high-quality, local produce for their Maui restaurants in order to deliver a true farm to table experience for diners seeking to participate in the slow food movement.  In 2000, Louis Coulombe and Stephan Bel-Robert purchased mostly undeveloped land with a small citrus and stone fruit orchard and a few coffee trees.  Today, O’o farm is maturing with more coffee trees, fuju persimmons, white sapote (tropical pear), five varieties of lemon, lime, tangerine, tangello, pomello, mandarin oranges, plums, figs, cherries, avocados, berries, kaffir lime, buddhist palm, almonds, loquat, peaches, Maui onions, and more.  They recently added a few chickens.  The farm supplies upscale Lahaina eateries Pacific’O, I’O, The Feast at Lele, and Aina Gourmet Market.  O’o Farm is also the home of roasting operations for Aina Gourmet Coffee.  Aina is a single-origin coffee offering unique characteristics derived from the land, and in their own words, offering Aloha in every cup.

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The Magnificent Oregon Truffle Festival

Ahhh, truffles.  King of all fungi.  One of the most expensive foods in the world.  Redolent of forest, musk, compost and aged cheese, they are uniquely funky and unlikely to win any beauty contest based on appearance alone.  But…the brain floods with dopamine as soon as you catch the unmistakable whiff of a ripe truffle nugget.  Pupils dilate and thoughts turn impure.  Salivary glands kick in as your mouth awaits connection with that distinct scent.  Truffles are transformative, bordering on magical.

I am really lucky that we don’t live too far from the bountiful Willamette Valley, annual host to the incredibly well-coordinated Oregon Truffle Festival.  OTF celebrates native Oregon truffles and wines at their finest.  Packages for the weekend-long event include gourmet meals with all the wine you can handle, winery visits, opportunities to learn about and participate in foraging, dog training classes (dogs are ideal for truffle hunting since they don’t eat them upon discovery like pigs do), cultivation seminars and cooking lessons.  One nice detail: Busses take participants everywhere so you don’t have to worry that you always have a glass of wine in your hand.  The festival is put on by Leslie Scott and Charles Lefevre of New World Truffieres, a company specializing in truffle cultivation and controlled inoculation of oak and hazelnut seedlings with a range of culinary truffle species.

For me, OTF is a shining beacon during the grey Seattle winter and a grand way to start the new year.  This was our third time attending and I appreciate the work that goes into each year having different themes, chefs and menus; it’s enough to keep us coming back for more and bringing food-minded friends with us.  This year the festival weekend was inspired by the book One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking, and the opening act on Friday evening was hosted by its creator Molly O’Neill, James Beard award-winning author and former New York Times food writer.  One Big Table is the nation’s community cookbook, the result of Molly’s journey of more than 500,000 miles across the U.S to discover why we eat what we eat.  As part of the ongoing effort to gather and preserve American recipes and food stories, Molly, with her friends and colleagues, are building One Big Table Across America, a series of large and small events that “celebrate American home cooking, support local agriculture, and prove that community begins when people gather around a table to eat, drink, talk, laugh, think, and dream”–all things that resonate strongly with me.

OTF is one of the best food experiences I’ve had the good fortune to attend, and I’ve been to a lot of them.  In the spirit of sharing some great food porn and maybe convincing you to attend with us in the future, let’s dive into this epic food and wine journey, shall we? Continue reading

Potato Leek Soup and Pierre

Dan planted leeks towards the end of last summer, hoping they would over-winter and grow nice and big by spring.  Because our growing season in Seattle is so short, we’ve learned that anything we put in the ground after May is going to have a difficult time.  But, we had our fingers crossed for an Indian Summer since we kind of got ripped of during normal summer (similar to the previous year).  Although we did have a nicer-than-average fall, the leeks still didn’t get very big.  We decided to go ahead and dig them up before the snow and, although it wasn’t a spectacular harvest, we ended up with more than enough for a nice pot of Potato Leek soup. Continue reading

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