Kauai foodie tales

I don’t really consider myself a “foodie,” but I suppose I should, given that one of my top raves about my visit to Kauai was the food.

A-number-one reason I cried about my departure from Hawaii – I did not want to leave the farmers markets behind!

Oh, man . . . fresh papaya with a squeeze of lime!

Crisp, perfumy starfruit!!

Citrus to die for!!!!

Fresh apple bananas – the tangy sweetness brought tears to my eyes!!!!

Boo hoo hoo! It was sooo depressing to come back to the aged produce in our western Nebraska grocery stores, with the only upside being the root vegetables available at our Scottsbluff Winter Farmers Market. (I should thank my lucky stars we HAVE a winter farmers market here in Wyobraska!)

For the 411 on farmers markets on Kauai, check out this page from Kaua’i Grown.

Our first haul, from the Monday afternoon farmers market at Kukui Grove Shopping Center, which is in the parking lot behind the Kmart. It was the best of the three markets we attended.

Our first haul, from the Monday afternoon farmers market at Kukui Grove Shopping Center, which is in the parking lot behind the Kmart. It was the best of the three markets we attended. Pictured above: green onion, baby bok choy, passionfruit, limes, starfruit, zucchini, grapefruit, pineapple, winged beans, ginger, papaya, eggplant, daikon radish, apple bananas, mango, lettuce, tangerines, avocados, and banana flower.

Second haul, from the Tuesday afternoon farmers market in the parking lot of the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center. This was the smallest of the three markets we attended, with only about 4 or 5 vendors present that day.

Second haul, from the Tuesday afternoon farmers market in the parking lot of the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center. This was the smallest of the three markets we attended, with only about 4 or 5 vendors present that day. Our third haul, from the Thursday afternoon market at the parking lot of the Kilauea Neighborhood Center, I did not photograph, alas, but we didn’t buy as much that day because we were leaving the island in two days. Pictured above: green onion, turnip, apple banana, tangelo, macadamia nuts, mizuna, pomelo, rambutan, lettuce. At the last market, I recall we bought carrots, winged beans, tomatoes, and papaya.

Things I learned about / experienced for the first time, thanks to the farmers markets:

1. It’s fun to thoroughly bruise a tangelo, then clip the top and drink the juice straight from the fruit. Nature’s juice box! But beware – squeeze at an inopportune angle while you’re drinking, and you’ll get tangelo juice in your eye. (Yes, I did that. Ow.)

2. I don’t know how to do passionfruit. How can something smell so good and taste so vile? The fruits perfumed the air with a come-hither Sweettartiness, but the gelatinous seed inside was horribly sour and bitter. I read later that you’re supposed to choose passionfruit with a wrinkly skin, as this indicates ripeness. The passionfruit we purchased were smooth-skinned, so maybe that was the problem?

3. Mizuna is a tasty, piquant addition to a salad. Just cut off the inch or two at the root end, chop, and add to other greens.

4. Macadamia nuts in the shell are so perfectly round, they are a pleasure to roll around in the hand. I’d eaten plenty of the nut meat before, but I’d never seen one in the shell. They are a bit difficult to crack, but no more so than, say, Brazil nuts. Actually, they’re easier than Brazil nuts, in my opinion, if you have the right tool. Some sources I found online suggested using a vise grip and hammer, or two rocks (one of which would have a round indentation to prevent the nut from smashing). I happened to find a very sturdy seafood cracker in the drawer in our rental kitchen that was just perfect – the nuts fit right into the rounded part, so they didn’t smash. Sometimes I had to turn the nut around until I found the place where it would crack, and I kind kind of wore my forearms out, but it worked!

5. Rambutan is nature’s gummi candy. They look a bit scary, but they are tasty!

Just peel off the thick, hairy hide off a rambutan to get at the fruit inside, which has a kind of gummy texture. The seed, which you have to eat around, reminds me of the seed of a mango in how it clings to the fruit's flesh.

Just peel off the thick, hairy hide off a rambutan to get at the sweet fruit inside, which has a kind of gummy texture. The seed, which you have to eat around, reminds me of the seed of a mango in how it clings to the fruit’s flesh.

6. It looks like a gigantic grapefruit, but a pomelo is much more mellow in flavor. I resorted to the Internet in my quest for a good pomelo-peeling technique.

We ate our pomelo out of wine glasses. Why not?

We ate our pomelo out of wine glasses. Why not?

7. OMG! Winged beans! Fun and tasty! Apparently, the winged bean is “like an ice cream cone – you eat the whole thing” – immature pods, mature seeds, dried seeds, leaves, flowers, roots. I wish I could grow these here in Wyobraska, but they only flower with warm temps AND short day length – something you’re not going to get around here without a greenhouse.

Pretty!

8. Banana blossom – the ultimate Kauai farmers market experience, and probably not one to be repeated.

Bugman knew what the banana blossom was when he spied it on a table at the first farmers market.

Bugman pointing out a banana blossom at a botanical garden.

Bugman pointing out a banana blossom at a botanical garden.

He just had no idea how to prepare it to be edible. He asked the lady at the booth, and she said you peel it apart and get the flowers out from inside and prepare each one. “It’s a lot of work,” she said, “You can Google it.”

We figured, “What the heck – once in a lifetime experience, right?” and bought the thing. The lady looked kind of skeptical; I wish we’d been able to go back and tell her that we persevered and succeeded!

First things first – banana blossoms reek! The thing was sitting on the countertop, and I kept smelling its astringent funk. Imagine the smell of a banana peel, but not with any of the sweetness of the fruit inside. Imagine that bitter banana peel smell warped and intensified so as to resemble some kind of industrial paint thinner, and you’ve just about got it.

I wrapped it in a couple of plastic bags and put it in the fridge (which is what you are supposed to do with them, as they go bad quickly). Despite the double-bagging, every time I opened the refrigerator door, that funky odor would smack me in the nose. “Please!” I begged Bugman, “Please cook this thing and get it out of the fridge!”

Bugman did some Googling, then sat down to the task.

Here's what it looks like when you peel one of the bracts off of the banana blossom - under each bract is a cluster of little flowers - baby bananas if you will. Each flower has to be processed individually, with the too-tough/bitter-to-eat pistil and calyx removed from each one. Then the flowers have to be soaked in lemon water to prevent them turning brown.

Here’s what it looks like when you peel one of the bracts off of the banana blossom – under each bract is a cluster of little flowers – baby bananas if you will. Each flower has to be processed individually, with the too-tough/bitter-to-eat pistil and calyx removed from each one. Then the flowers have to be soaked in lemon water to prevent them from turning brown.

Working on processing the banana blossom. Per online advice, we slathered olive oil on our hands to prevent the sap from staining our fingers. We both tasted the banana flowers as we worked - YUK! Bitter! Astringent! Can this really be edible?? Hooboy. This may be a lot of work for nothing. (Photo by Ma Bug)

I helped Bugman process the banana blossom. Per online advice, we slathered olive oil on our hands to prevent the sap from staining our fingers. We both tasted the banana flowers as we worked – YUK! Bitter! Astringent! Can this really be edible?? Hooboy. This may be a lot of work for nothing. (Photo by Ma Bug)

Once you get far enough into the core of the banana blossom, there is a "heart" that is entirely edible and can just be chopped up. It turns brown in the blink of an eye - faster than cut apples and pears do.

Once you get far enough into the core of the banana blossom, there is a “heart” that is entirely edible and can just be chopped up. It turns brown in the blink of an eye – faster than cut apples and pears do.

Bugman chopped up all the banana flowers and sauteed them in olive oil and garlic with soy sauce, and something magical happened! The horrible bitterness and astringency disappeared, leaving behind a vegetable somewhat reminiscent of artichoke in flavor and texture.

We served up the banana flower as an accompaniment to a meal of sauteed winged beans, brown rice, and bigeye ahi steaks.

We served up the banana flower as an accompaniment to a meal of sauteed winged beans, brown rice, and bigeye ahi steaks (procured from the Koloa Fish Market as a one-pound chunk of fish), with a side salad of fresh greens and sliced daikon radish. Everyone agreed – it was the best meal we’d had the whole trip, probably in part because of the unique learning experience.

For dessert that night, we had Hawaiian sweet potato pie (also purchased at the Koloa Fish Market), topped with haupia (kind of like coconut pudding/gelatin).

I love this stuff!

I loved this stuff! It was not too sweet, and very rich. As soon as I can get my hands on some Okinawan sweet potatoes, I plan to make it myself!

I’ve transitioned into the “prepared food / restaurants” category of my Kauai foodie tales. Here are a few more notes on places we ate on Kauai that are worth mentioning.

a. The Feral Pig in Lihue. This Irish pub emphasizes using local foods. I ordered the fish and chips. The fries were just OK, but the fish was the best fried fish I’ve ever had in my life – thick and meaty and perfectly cooked. And, they did have malt vinegar available, as I would expect from a place that hosts wonderful live Irish music.

b. Oops – one Oahu restaurant worth mentioning – Roy’s Waikiki. Super spendy, but super delish. I got a sweet potato bisque with kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, and goat cheese creme fraiche as an appetizer, followed by a main dish of rice-crusted opakapaka (Hawaiian pink snapper) with caprese ravioli, “sea asparagus,” and, I think, artichoke puree. It. Was. Amazing.

c. Back to Kauai, and a Brazilian/Mexican restaurant in Hanalei – Neide’s Salsa and Samba. I’d never had Brazilian food before. I ordered the traditional moqueca fish stew. Loved it!!!!

moqueca

d. Chicken in a Barrel – it was next door to the place where we rented our tandem bike, and their literal barrels of smoking chickens smelled really good. Plus, with all the danged chickens I’d seen roaming Kauai, I needed to eat some chicken! Tender chicken meat, served with chili and rice. Pretty good – and messy! Good thing they have a handwashing sink at the corner of the counter of their food stand.

e. Kauai Chocolate Company. OMG – HOMEMADE ICE CREAM!!! One variety was made with vanilla beans from the owners’ backyard. My favorite that day was the coffee ice cream. They also make chocolates, as implied by their name. The aroma of chocolate about knocked be backwards when I opened the door to the shop – they were in the process of making their specialty, chocolate opihis (limpets). Soo goood!

Anyplace that makes a wee deck chair for and begoogles their product get extra points from me.

Anyplace that procures a wee deck chair for and begoogles their product get extra points from me!

All that’s left to mention is the beer. We tried a few brews from Kona Brewing Company and Maui Brewing Company. Nothing particularly noteworthy, apart from Maui Brewing Company’s limited-release Lorenzini Double IPA. Wowza, is that good stuff!

great beerThe citrus juice added during the brewing process really gave this beer a tropical overtone and complimented the natural citrus-y taste of an IPA very well. I loved it and wish I could get my hands on some more! (Anyone traveling there and want to ship me some??) 😀

Apologies to those of you reading this during the lunch hour. Just know that I went through several hours of wish-I-could-have-that-again torture while writing this post.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

A change of scenery, critters, and cross training, Part 2

So, yeah, I went to Hawaii and rode a tandem on a coastal pathway and saw Hawaiian monk seals.

Before you go getting too jealous, there’s this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 2.43.23 PMWe touched down on Saturday evening. By Tuesday I was feeling a hint of chest discomfort that grew into full-blown coughing-up-crud misery that lasted the rest of the trip.

I can hear your little violins.

Then there was the fact that it was February – the heart of the rainy season on Kauai.

What the beach at Hanalei Bay looks like in the rain.

What the beach at Hanalei Bay looks like in the rain, complete with raindrops on the camera lens.

The scenic overlook at the end of Waimea Canyon Drive - in the rain.

The Kalalau Valley Overlook – in the rain. (Photo by Pa Bug)

And we hardly saw any bugs. Granted, most tourists would consider a lack of creepy-crawlies a positive, but when you’re traveling with an entomologist, it’s a huge disappointment. Perhaps we can blame the chickens.

Kauai is positively crawling with feral chickens. In fact, the vast majority of the avian, insect, and plant life we saw was non-native. The islands' ecosystems have really been brutalized by exotic species introductions and corporate-scale human development. It surprised me and made me feel sad and also a bit guilty, since here I was, visiting the islands and helping contribute to the problem.

Kauai is positively crawling with feral chickens. In fact, the vast majority of the avian, insect, and plant life we saw was non-native. The islands’ ecosystems have been brutalized by exotic species introductions and corporate-scale human development. It surprised me and made me feel sad and also a bit guilty, since here I was, visiting the islands and helping contribute to the problem.

I did find a little jumping spider while I was shopping for a sweatshirt. I texted it to Bugman. He laughed.

I did find a little jumping spider while I was shopping for a sweatshirt. I texted the picture to Bugman. He laughed. Darn. I can’t find the Hawaiian word for “jumping spider.”

I’d really wanted to go hiking and snorkeling and kayaking while on Kauai, but given my illness, the rain, and the fact that the main purpose of our short visit to the island was to accompany a couple of lovely people who have about a 30-year head start on us in the game of life, that just didn’t work out. I’ll have to manage to find a way to go back again!

But enough of the whining – there are more lovely things to share about the trip!

WARNING: excessive vacation-picture-posting follows:

Really, how can I complain about the precipitation? It's not frozen!

How can I complain about the precipitation? It’s not frozen!

The misty rain in the Waimea Canyon area made it easier for me to breathe with my chest cold and created beauty as it collected on the flora.

rain on blossomsWe did have a break in the cloud cover that afforded us spectacular views of Waimea Canyon at the lower-elevation overlooks that weren’t right on the coast.

This place is just incredibly beautiful.

This place is just incredibly beautiful.

Also, rain in Hawaii rocks, because rainbows.

The view to the west from our hotel balcony.

The view to the west from our hotel balcony, as we were packing our bags to go home. Aloha!

I did not get to snorkel, but I did have a chance to walk the beach every morning (that’s cross-training, right?) and to poke around in tidepools.

Ma and Ba Bug snuck a pic of us as we were walking on the beach. <3

Ma and Ba Bug snuck a pic of me and Bugman as we walked on the beach. ❤

Sand flower. A tree at the shoreline was dropping these tiny, waxy flowers, which would embed themselves in the sand or go floating off across the still water in a sheltered area of the beach.

Sand flower.
A tree at the shoreline was dropping these tiny, waxy flowers, which would embed themselves in the sand or go floating off across the still water in a sheltered area of the beach.

I had fun watching crabs come out of their sandy burrows. This little guy was about the size of a dime. Others we saw were closer to the size of softballs.

I had fun watching ‘ohiki (ghost crabs) come out of their sandy burrows. This little guy was about the size of a dime. Others we saw were closer to the size of softballs.

Crab burrow sand art

Crab burrow sand art

Nonsequitur image, but interesting in comparison. This is a photo from Glass Beach - literally a dump - which has become a tourist attraction because of all the beach glass. There were no pieces of beach glass larger than grains of sand because they all get picked up by tourists. Some people even take home jars full of this beach sand, leading to complaints about destruction of this attraction. I wonder, though - is it really a genius campaign to get tourists to clean the trash off beach?

Nonsequitur image, but interesting in comparison. This is a photo from Glass Beach – literally a dump, which has become a tourist attraction because of all the beach glass. There were no pieces of beach glass larger than grains of sand when I visited because they all get picked up by tourists. Some people even take home jars full of glassy sand, leading to complaints about destruction of the attraction. I wonder, though – is it really a genius campaign to get tourists to clean the trash off the beach?

Bugman taking a picture at dawn on Waipouli Beach, in a protected area that yielded some marine critter finds.

Bugman taking a picture at dawn on Waipouli Beach, in a protected area that yielded some marine critter finds.

Juvenile mamo (aka Hawaiian sergeant major damselfish) were abundant.

Juvenile mamo (aka Hawaiian sergeant major damselfish) were abundant.

A cryptic goby - perhaps an ‘o‘opu ‘ohune (brown tidepool goby)

A cryptic goby – perhaps an ‘o‘opu ‘ohune (brown tidepool goby or cocos frill goby)?

Another goby - a wee little one who did NOT want his picture taken, this time from Salt Pond Beach Park.

Another goby – a wee little one who did NOT want his picture taken, this time from Salt Pond Beach.

My favorite vertebrate - the puhi kapa (snowflake moray eel)

My favorite vertebrate of this tidepool  – the puhi kapa (snowflake moray eel)

On to the invertebrates - a healthy-sized loli (black sea cucumber)

On to the invertebrates – a healthy-sized loli (black sea cucumber)

A wee little kualakai (sea hare, or sea slug)

A wee little kualakai (sea hare, or sea slug)

A tiny anemone in a tidepool at Waipouli Beach, with some corraline algae in the background

A tiny anemone in a tidepool at Waipouli Beach, with some corraline algae in the background

Slightly larger anemones from a tidepool at Salt Pond Beach Park.

Slightly larger anemones from a tidepool at Salt Pond Beach.

Another place in which we had success viewing coastal and marine vertebrates was Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

A beautiful view from just outside the park gate.

A beautiful view from just outside the park gate.

You can see kohola (humpback whales) off the coast in the wintertime by watching for their misty spouts. Bugman managed to catch a few images of one whale that tail-slapped 4-7 times, three times in a row. I know you can identify humpback whales by the markings on their flukes. Wish there was an online catalog somewhere where I could try to identify this individual!

You can see kohola (humpback whale) off the coast in the wintertime by watching for their misty spouts. Bugman managed to catch a few images of one whale that tail-slapped 4-7 times, three times in a row. I know humpback whales can be identified by the markings on their flukes. Wish there was an online catalog somewhere where I could try to identify this individual!

Bugman got some decent shots of 'a (red-footed boobies), which were nesting at the time of our visit. My favorite bird was the koa‘e ‘ula (red-tailed tropicbird).

Bugman got some decent shots of ‘a (red-footed boobies – I picked this shot because the red feet are visible), which were nesting at the time of our visit. My favorite bird was the koa‘e ‘ula (red-tailed tropicbird).

We had plenty of interesting sightings of nene (Hawaiian goose) around the islands, too. This picture was taken at Smith's Tropical Paradise.

We had plenty of sightings of Hawaii’s state bird, the endangered nene (Hawaiian goose), around the islands, too. This picture was taken at Smith’s Tropical Paradise.

To wrap up this post, a couple of artsy-fartsy beach pictures taken at sunrise on a rain-spattered, windy morning – our last on Kauai.

angry sunriseblack splashUp next – culinary Kauai!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

A change of scenery, critters, and cross training

Recently, I got a bit of a different view from the back of a tandem than what I’m used to:

my viewHey! That’s not western Nebraska!

Nosireebob! That there’s the eastern coast of the island of Kauai, in Hawaii.

Bugman and I traveled to Hawaii with his parents, Ma and Pa Bug, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Pa Bug helps Ma Bug with her morning cup of coffee.

Pa Bug helps Ma Bug with her morning cup o’ joe.

While we were on Kauai, Bugman and I rented a Trek tandem from Coconut Coasters and cycled up and down the couple of miles of Ke Ala Hele Makalae (“The Path That Goes Along the Coast”).

There is arguably no better place to eat a box of Girl Scout cookies after an invigorating tandem ride than a Hawaiian seaside cliff.

There is arguably no better place to eat a box of Girl Scout cookies after an invigorating tandem ride than a Hawaiian seaside cliff.

At one point while cycling along, I made Bugman stop and do an about-face.

“That woman was carrying signs!” I said.

We’d gotten a voicemail from Pa Bug a bit earlier – there was ilio holo i ka uaua (Hawaiian monk seal) on the beach near the hotel, and some volunteers had cordoned off the area.

Ma and Pa Bug's shot of a Hawaiian monk seal. What a cute face!

Ma and Pa Bug’s shot of a Hawaiian monk seal. What a cute face!

Sure enough, there was a seal on the rocks down below us, near where a volunteer was planting a “do not approach the seal” sign near a piece of bleached driftwood.

Can you see the seal? Hint: a wet seal is shinier than porous volcanic rock.

Can you see the seal? Hint: a wet seal is shinier than porous volcanic rock. Another hint: look bottom center.

Hawaiian monk seals are critically endangered, with only about 1,100 individuals left. One of the threats to their survival is human interference – specifically, bothering seals that have come ashore to rest. Volunteers patrol the cost and respond to tips from a hotline, ready to set up signage and barriers to keep the tourist paparazzi at a safe distance when the seals beach themselves.

The woman volunteer told us that the seal was a young female (as we learned from signage later, she was born May 29, 2014), and that her mother was one of the seals that was currently beached to the south, near where we were staying.

We continued down the path to the beach behind our hotel, and, happily, the seals were still there! (Some seals, anyway. These might not have been the same two seals that were on the beach when Ma and Pa Bug were there.)

A seal patrol volunteer speaks to tourists. From the volunteers at the site, we learned that the momma seal was about 15 years old. The younger seal, about 5 years old, was a male and unknown to the volunteers. Young seals pupped in the area are tagged after they are weaned, so they can be identified and tracked.

A seal patrol volunteer speaks to tourists. From the volunteers at the site, we learned that the momma seal was about 15 years old. The younger seal, about 5 years old, was a male and unknown to the volunteers. Young seals pupped in the area are tagged after they are weaned, so they can be identified and tracked.

The "do not approach the seals" signage. The two lumps on the beach in the distance are the seals.

The “do not approach the seals” signage. The lump on the beach in the distance is the momma seal.

Ho hum, basking in the warm sun . . . The signage posted at the site said this female was the "most heavily scarred seal on Kaua'i." The injuries were caused by ropes, boat propellers, and sharks. Apparently dogs are a pretty big threat to beached seals, too. (Keep 'em leashed on the beach, friends!!)

Ho hum, basking in the warm sun . . .
The signage posted at the site said this female was the “most heavily scarred seal on Kaua’i.” Her injuries were caused by ropes, boat propellers, and sharks. Apparently dogs are a pretty big threat to beached seals, too. (Keep ’em leashed on the beach, friends!)

Whaddaya lookin' at?

Whaddaya lookin’ at? (Photo by Bugman)

The young male got restless and hauled himself back into the surf, at one point making a rude raspberry-type vocalization as he swam.

seal 4seal 5seal 6seal 7

While Bugman was photographing, the young male seal got restless and hauled himself into the water. Bugman kept a close eye on it as it swam behind him. The seal ducked and rolled in the surf at water's edge, and at one point, made a rude sort of raspberry sound.

Bugman kept a close eye on the seal as it swam behind him, ducking and rolling in the surf at water’s edge.

Swimmer seal. (Photo by Bugman)

Swimmer seal. (Photo by Bugman)

Nose itch!

Back to momma seal: nose itch!

That’s about it on the biking and the seals, but I have more to share. Continued in Part 2 . . .

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw