Great sushi at Hokusei in Portland: uni, clam and scallop.
For my birthday, a crepe cake covered with berries. You make a whole bunch of crepes and stack them with frosting in between the layers. The frosting is made by mixing pastry cream with whipped cream. So good!
Boudin Noir from the Laurelhurst Market butcher shop. It is made with pork, apples, onions and spices. Delicious! This was some of the best blood sausage I’ve ever had.
Making brownies in a waffle iron was lots of fun, and so easy. Just pour brownie batter into the hot waffle iron, then wait a few minutes and serve. We ate ours with vanilla ice-cream and strawberries. This was dinner last night.
Margherita pizza at Hopworks: cheese, tomato, basil and garlic. This pie has a great crust and lots a roasted garlic, which you can’t see here because they forgot the garlic and added it later, but we didn’t mind. You get this plus beer and a kids’ play area. What else can you ask for?
Yummy cake for Packy’s birthday at the Oregon Zoo. Packy, the oldest Asian elephant in North America, turned 50 today. Visitors to the zoo were given a piece of cake. I expected an inedible piece of cardboard-like confection. I was wrong: there were three kinds of cake, all delicious and covered with quality icing, made by Lamb’s Bakery of Wilsonville, Oregon. Yes, I tried all three: the chocolate chip, the lemon and the banana. The second pic shows you the chocolate chip, and the third is the lemon cake. The lemon cake was the best one: it tasted of real lemons (not lemon candy), and it was light and moist. When is Packy’s next party?
The Big Island lay out there, in the middle of the ocean, waiting for us. We had never gone there before, and this in itself was a huge temptation. All of Hawaii was unknown to us, and as Ana and I had been to all the mainland states, it seemed a good time to take it on.
The year had been a long one. There had been family illnesses and bad weather, and even illnesses among friends. We’d been hard at work adapting to being in one place, and we needed a break. There was no place that was easy to go to, nothing that was obvious and convenient, so we decided to take the plunge, and go on a full-fledged adventure.
We couldn’t arrange things to go direct from Portland, but we did manage to get a good connection. We flew through San Francisco, and there was only 45 minutes between our scheduled landing time and the next flight. The boarding for the second flight was actually supposed to begin at the same time that we were landing.
The flight from Portland to San Francisco was a breeze. It’s always easy to get to the airport in Portland, because we live near the Trimet, and it takes you right into the airport. It’s quick and cheap and easy. And then we were through the airport and on the plane. it was a tiny plane, four seats across and 13 rows going back. We were in the second row, but there were no class distinctions on this flight.
Miraculously, we were upgraded into first class for the second flight. We only had a short walk to make the connection, and then we went right on board and we all moved to our seats and sat down. First class on this United flight wasn’t all you could hope for, but it was better than coach. I was disappointed to find that there were no entertainment systems, just a monitor in the center of the aisle that I couldn’t see at all, showing some horrendous film called “New Year’s Eve.” The seats were comfortable, though, and at least we were served dinner, instead of being offered snack boxes for sale.
Landing at Kona was pretty cool. It’s an open-air terminal, and we walked out of the plane, across the tarmac, and past the baggage claim, and then out to wait for the shuttle buses to the rental cars all without ever entering a building. The weather, of course, was wonderful.
We rented a condominium unit at the Kona Surf and Racquet Club. It is a spacious unit, with a well-furnished kitchen. Ricky has his own bedroom. We can see the ocean (barely) and a golf course from out lanai. I have yet to discover what the difference is between a balcony and a lanai, but I’ve only been here for a day.
By the time we got into our place, it was about 9 p.m. local time, around midnight back on the west coast, and we were all tired. Ricky went straight to bed, and we followed soon after.
We started the day very early, summoned at 6 a.m. by Ricky, who wanted to know how much longer he had to wait before we were all up. There are advantages to starting the day early, but I’m not aware of many of them. One, though, is that you find yourself at interesting places earlier than most people, so you can beat the crowds.
We started things up at a nearby beach, called Kahalu’u Beach Park, which seemed quiet and unassuming. There was an old lava flow there that created many tide pools, which Ricky enthusiastically began exploring. Other children soon arrived, and he disappeared with them, conducting systematic explorations, digging holes, finding fish and crabs.
One of the things that our apartment came with was a great supply of beach equipment. There were chairs and towels, umbrellas, and lots of masks and snorkels. I brought a mask and snorkel with me, just to play with. I had not used anything like that since I was a teenager, and never in anyplace that had anything to look at. This, though, was different.
As soon as I got into the water with the mask, I was surrounded by fish. Lots of fish. Colorful fish. Big fish. Little fish. It was pretty much like swimming in a giant aquarium. It was easy to swim along on the top of the water, looking down at the fish and the coral, enjoying the view. My glasses were a bit tricky to manage, since they tended to let water in and cause me discomfort when I wore them, and I couldn’t see decently without them, but finally I just put them into the mask without wearing them and they worked just fine. I was so enthusiastic the snorkeling that I even convinced Ana to come and try it. She thought it was a fine thing, as well.
Because our day had started so early, we got hungry for lunch early also. We left the beach at about 10:30 a.m., which was just fine, since by that time it had become quite crowded. We went to a little restaurant Ana found, called Da Poke Shack. They poke bowls, which consisted of rice, raw fish, and a side dish. The fish was chopped up and had sauces on it. Most of the fish was Ahi, or tuna. It was really, really good.
It was still early, so we set off exploring. We drove up the mountain, away from the sea, and came upon the Donkey Ball factory. How could anyone resist? We went inside and found that the factory part was not very exciting - there was a woman putting labels on plastic bags, by hand. However, the Donkey Balls were great. Macadamia nuts were covered in chocolate, thick layers of chocolate. There was milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and lots of flavored chocolates. It was great.
Next we came upon the Greenwell Coffee Plantation. There was a free tour, and we arrived just in time to take it. We had never been to a coffee plantation before. There were century-old coffee trees, and many other fruit trees as well. Our guide showed us how the coffee cherries looked, and explained why coffee is so difficult to harvest. The plant does not have all its fruit ripen at the same time. The beans, therefore, have to be harvested by hand. It’s an ordeal. A very good picker can take in about 400 pounds a day, while an ordinary one will pick about 250 pounds of beans. The trees are cut down to stumps every three years, and then they regrow. Coffee prices have gotten very high, and the Kona coffee grown here is among the most expensive varieties. There have been several years of low rainfall, combined with an infestation of a beetle which eats the coffee berries themselves.
We saw how the red coffee cherries were processed, being put into a machine to remove the fruit, and then the seed inside is dried on huge covered floors for up to a week, before the fine parchment on the outside, like a peanut has, is removed and the green beans are ready to be shipped world-wide. Some beans are roasted at the plantation, and sold there. The coffee was very, very good.
We headed back toward the apartment, and stopped at a nearby supermarket. The selection was fine, although prices were a bit elevated, especially on certain items. Orange juice was over $7 a half-gallon, and bread was over $5. We bought a few things, and headed back to the apartment, where I left Ana and Ricky. I headed out to the Target to get a mask and snorkel for Ricky, as well as some water shoes. The Target was kind of a shock, because it was the same as every other Target, and it was very surprising, after a day in which everything had been so extraordinary, to be walking through the aisles and seeing the same items, at the same prices, that I had looked at the past week in Portland.
In the late afternoon, we headed out to the Place of Refuge National Park, taking a nice drive toward the south, although when we got there we found that they had closed early for the day due to some construction. We’ll have to try again another day. On the way back, though, we stopped at Super Js, where we got to try some Kahlua Pork and Cabbage and some Laulau. It was incredible.
We stopped on the roadside to watch the sunset into the sea, and by the time we got back, we were pretty beat. We all went to bed early, and got ready to have more adventures on the morrow.
Cacao DrinkChocolate. You can have drinking chocolate (thick like a milkshake, but warm), hot chocolate (regular and dark) and a variety of fancy chocolates from all over the world.
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