fun field trip: waialua estate, oahu, part 1

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There was only one thing I had my heart set on during our recent trip to Hawaii (other than beach lounging and pineapple inhaling): a trip out to the North Shore of Oahu, to Waialua. You see, in Waialua, they grow something pretty special — TWO somethings special to be exact, coffee and cacao. Today we’ll mostly be talking about the cacao, because there’s just too much deliciousness for just one post!

The Waialua Estate Plantation is 150 acres total, half dedicated to coffee, and half to the production of the cacao bean. The plantation, owned by Dole Hawaii, is a relatively new operation, planted in repurposed sugar cane fields in 1996 as an agricultural diversification project after Hawaii’s sugar industry collapsed. Coffee was a known flourisher in Hawaii’s sub-tropical climate, but the success of cacao was unknown, a risky endeavor. The risk has paid off — and how — producing small batch, single-origin cacao that ranks amongst the world’s finest. And it’s also some of the only chocolate grown on US soil!

photo above: looking out onto the cacao orchard, Waialua, HI
more chocolaty goodness, after the jump!

From our partners

real life test kitchen: cinnamon rolls

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Keep your candy canes and fruitcake. For me, cinnamon rolls are the official food of the holidays. Every year, as Christmas approached, I would head out to the grocery store with my mom to procure the obscene amount of ingredients she needed to make her annual holiday gift of cinnamon rolls. I watched as she pulled the tattered recipe from her file, year after year, the same one — a sour cream coffee cake recipe, actually. I remember her mixing the enormous batches in a rubber tub on the kitchen floor, and how my dad eventually bought her a big sheet of plexiglass so that she could roll out her dough down there too. But what has stayed with me the most all these years, is the scent — a perfect commingling of yeast, butter, cinnamon and caramelizing sugar that makes my mouth water and my heart warm just thinking about it.
Click for more, and the recipe, after the jump!

From our partners

post off: what are your new year’s traditions?

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“Tradition!” (sung in my heartiest Tevye voice). Sure, just about everyone stays up until midnight to ring in the new year, and I’ve mentioned before about the tradition of eating blackeyed peas on New Year’s Day, but there are tons of different New Years traditions celebrated all over the globe. In Japan, it’s customary to eat buckwheat soba before the end of the year to sever any possibility of hardship carrying over into the new year, and in Spain people celebrate by eating churros and hot chocolate (note to self: celebrate new year’s 2012 in Spain). My personal favorite is the Danish custom of smashing old dishes against friends doors to celebrate the new year — a raucous stress reliever, and an excuse to get rid of all the chipped, mismatched dishes in the cupboards. What about you, dear readers? How will you be trumpeting the arrival of 2011? –Megan B.

From our partners

steal this idea: hibiscus wine garnish

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This year, our holiday cocktails held a chic and pretty surprise: wild hibiscus flowers! Anton, the member of our motley Christmas crew, arrived with his usual beautifully appointed basket of hand towels and wine, and a new cocktail garnish. Simply pour a glass of sparkling wine, fish out a flower from a jar of Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup, drop it into the glass and add a dash of syrup and watch as the bubbles gently unfurl the petals on the gorgeous edible treat. Snag a jar on Amazon, $11 for 8.8 ounces, or pick one up at Whole Foods and enjoy a Jingle Bell Bellini. This simple cocktail would also be an easy way to add a touch of pizzazz to a baby or bridal shower! Sample more recipes at the Wild Hibiscus Company website. –Sarah C.

From our partners

real life test kitchen: coconut bread pudding with banana macadamia nut caramel sauce

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As some of you readers know by now, I just got back from Oahu. It was fantastic, to say the least, and though it’s great to be home for the holidays, I can’t stop trying to hold on to every last drop of Hawaii. So, of course I’m celebrating my Christmas island-style: with a Hawaiian-inspired brunch, centered around a coconut bread pudding with banana macadamia caramel sauce. The custard is basically a traditional Hawaiian delight, Haupia — coconut milk sweetened with sugar and thickened with arrowroot. It makes an amazing (and Vegan!) custard base to be poured over a sweet Hawaiian bread, with a rich, silky mouthfeel and heavenly tropical perfume. I topped the puddin’ with a decadent banana macadamia nut caramel, which has the special addition of red alaea sea salt, that adds an addictive finish and a touch of crunch. And it pairs beautifully with POG (passion orange guava juice) mimosas, grilled Portuguese sausage, and ripe papaya for a very “mele Kalikimaka”. –Megan B. Click for coconut bread pudding with banana macadamia nut caramel sauce! (more…)

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