Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mama Mama, I Want Three Of All Of These!!!

Venice Tables, March 2015

When you sit at a sun drenched table in a little nook in the streets of Venice in the spring, celebrating your birthday and another year of life, it's quite possible that you could have a gorgeous, spirit whacking realization that, yes, you want it all.

I sat at one such table a few days after my 42nd birthday in March, reveling in the manifestation of my dream of going to Italy

My eyes and heart are filled by what I'm seeing and feeling, and I sit there; truly believing that I am the luckiest girl in the world

My boyfriend had run back to the car for something and so I sit alone, savoring the sun on my face on this chilly winter day and watching the people around me swirling through this magical place. 
I watch a young married couple, traveling with their two small sons. The parents trying to wrangle and chase and keep up with their children, and finally deciding to soak up the same sunny moment at the same cafe where I sit, at the next table over. 

I sip my cocktail and chew on some salted nuts that our waiter brought over and think about my own children and when they were that age. I think about how quickly time passes and how I now have two teenagers and a preteen, I am divorced, I am a business owner, an artist, a chef, a friend, a girlfriend, a seeker, and I am very, very filled.

And then I hear the youngest son, while looking at the menu at the table next to me say, 
"Mama Mama, I want three of all of these!"

And I laugh.
Mama Mama! Venice, March 2015
And I love this little guy's excitement, because I feel the same way.
And I love his focus on having lots of all of the things that look good to him, because I think that's what we should desire. 
And I love his simple belief that there's no reason he shouldn't be allowed to have three of all of these, because I believe that too.

They don't even realize the beautiful thing they just helped me to recognize:   
I want all of it. 
I want three of all of these.
I want lots of all of the things that feel good to me:
Connection with my kids, my love, my friends, my family, the people who cross my path, opportunities, abundance, travel, art, great food and drinks...

This kid reminds me there is no reason I shouldn't have these things either. 
He helps me know that there's no reason you shouldn't have all of these things too.

That's why we are here. 
To live life to the full
To see everything we want to see
To feel deep, real, raw, brazen, sweet, love.
To walk through shadowy times so that we are strengthened and grow.
To soar.
To have three of all of these. 
Venice Girl & Birds, March 2015

Cheers to allowing ourselves the belief that we can be or do or have anything we desire, 
and even three of all of them.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When Your Friend Has a Winery In Tuscany

I know this
When your friend tells you, 
"When, you're in Tuscany, get in touch with Mario. He's a good friend of mine with a winery near Montalcino,"
you do it. 
You meet him at Caffe Fiaschetteria Italiana
an "Antica Cantina del Brunello" in the amazing town of Montalcino.
Montalcino, Italy
This town...
Perched on top of a hill, guarded by a castle overlooking the Tuscan valley;
rows and rows of vineyards stitched together across rolling green hills under a winter sky.

Tuscany, Italy
Tuscany, Italy
Ancient buildings line narrow streets in typical Italian grandeur, waiting for us to fall in love with it.
And we do.
Montalcino Clock tower

Streets of Montalcino, Italy
We manage to arrive at Caffe Fiaschetteria Italiana early, despite getting lost along the way and driving in a huge, beautiful circle through wineries and dirt roads only to arrive back at the main street and the doors of this amazing cafe.
And this Cafe...
As with so many things in Italy, this amazing landmark has been in business for over a hundred years. 
Founded by Ferruccio Biondi Santi, inventor of the famed Brunello wine, and run by owners Alessandro, Franco and Nadia Pazzaglia - sommeliers and experts in the famous Brunello di Montalcino wine, the Super Tuscans, as well as Sassicaia and Masseto, and other excellent Tuscan wines and champagnes.

Red velvet seats, chandeliers, mirrors, espresso, cocktails, wine and desserts, oh my...
Of course we order two glasses of Brunello di Montalcino, and our sweet, sophisticated bartender brings us the customary complimentary appetizers that come with happy hour cocktails in Italy - One more thing to love about this place.
Caffe Fiaschetteria Italiana, Montalcino Italy
Brunello di Montalcino
I slip out to buy a gift for our soon to be friend Mario, and walk the cold streets of Montalcino until I find the most amazing cheese store, where I choose a Pecorino Vinacciolo - An amazing pecorino cheese aged in grape seeds and wine making scraps of some sort which was obviously amazing. 

Pecorino Vinacciolo

And then Mario arrives.
A man who smiles from eyes that have seen the world.
A man who embodies the Italian way of life; caring for his land, producing amazing wines, and dare I say, is a fellow dickwolfer.
We chat until it's time to pick up his daughter from school, and
we take to the ancient streets of Montalcino again, this time being led by someone who's everyday life is lived here.
A schoolyard waits behind a wrought iron fence, about to be filled with squealing young Italian children running towards parents and grandparents.
And we are here, pulling back the curtain to catch a glimpse of a day in the life.
Montalcino School
 And then the doors open and Vivienne bursts into the courtyard, throws her hat at Mario and takes off like a wild little banshee.
She's all eyes and giggles, cold flushed cheeks and overflowing 8 year old precociousness.
And I instantly fall in love with her.

 Finally we make our way to the winery.
Terralsole is the winery and home of Mario Bollag and his wife and children, and WE are the lucky two heading there to get to know  them, tour the winery and have an amazing family dinner.

Terralsole Winery, Tuscany

Terralsole Winery, Tuscany

Terralsole Tasting Room

Terralsole Cellars

Cases of prized Brunello di Montalcino

Terralsole Wine Cellar

This is where the magic happens

After a tour, a bottle of bubbles and two bottles of wine are opened, we sit at the dinner table and talk story about life in Italy, life in Hawaii, wine making, relationship making and children. Mario makes dinner while Vivienne shows me how she makes perfume out of rosemary and writes one of her poems in my journal which she translates as:

"When winter comes
you put on wool
and you go outside
when you see the snowflakes on your eyelashes
you discover the beauty"
The wine and the dinner are as sweet and robust as this family, this winery and this night;
and just like Vivienne's poem:
"When you see it, you discover it's beauty."

Find out more information about Terralsole Winery 
Caffe Fiaschetteria Italiana at:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Strawberry Epiphany

Strawberries in Tuscany
I realize that this is a blog about swigs (drinks) and grinds (food) and I haven't been talking much about that lately. However, this is also a blog about the things we laugh at and chew on along the way. Both literally and metaphorically. 
And sometimes the literal and the metaphorical meet over a cocktail or a bite to eat and THAT is where epiphanies happen.

noun . epiph.a.ny . i-pi-fe-nee
a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way.

Here's what I've always heard about Italy
The food is fresher, the ingredients are better, they understand their ingredients and they coax them into their finest forms, they savor, appreciate, indulge
Everything just tastes better.

That's what I had heard anyway. 
So that was my expectation.
I believed that was what eating in Italy would be like. 

Well, it's freakin true. All of it. I knew it!! I actually proclaimed that sentence several times during our travels. 
I freakin knew it
I was angry and ecstatic at the same time. Ecstatic because I was there. I was eating the most beautiful, simple, thoughtful food and I was angry because I thought I was ruined.

How could I go back to the United States and eat another tomato that is pink and mushy instead of bright red and tastes the way it smells? How could I walk through another supermarket when I have seen the produce in the markets in Pisa, or the meat and cheese shops in the Campo di Fiore?
Market in Pisa, Italy
Ruggeri Salsamentaria - Vini Liquori. Rome, Italy
Norcineria Viola. Rome Italy

The first time I talked to my daughter on the phone she asked me, "So what's the BEST thing that you've eaten?!" (Only my kid...)
And I thought about all of the amazing things that I had devoured and I said, 
"A strawberry".
And she asked, confused, "Well what was on it?"
"Nothing", I said.
"Well what was it IN?", she asked. 
"Nothing", was the answer I had while having my first ever strawberry epiphany.

My strawberry epiphany was the moment in which I suddenly understood food in a new or very clear way.
This is what food is supposed to be. Its SUPPOSED to taste like you just plucked it from your very own garden.
It's supposed to be made by a pair of hands that know where it came from and have made it with care. It's supposed to give you a connection with the person who made it and the person who sold it to you and the person you share it with and the place where you are sitting. 

And then I realized I wasn't ruined at all. I was enhanced and awakened to a deeper love of the process. 
And then I realized I was coming home to Hawaii.
 To a place with a love and appreciation for food.
To my own cafe. To my own life where I have the pair of hands that makes the food with care, I have a connection with the person who sold it to me, I will pick it from my very own garden, and I cherish the people I share it with and the places we sit together. 

And this, kids, is my epiphany. 
Italians are doing everything right in my book and so can we
We just need to pay attention and find the best of what we have and act like and eat like, "when in Rome"...
Even if we are oceans away and Italy is only our dream.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Love Your Face

"Mi piace la tua el faccia"
Cheat sheet

I have been a photographer my whole adult life. I have photographed thousands of people. I have found it so easy and fulfilling to photograph children, but adults are usually a little trickier. However I am always confident that I will get the shot. Part of the reason is that I have mad connecting-with-other-people skills. I really do. But one of the ways I am able to make a connection with someone is by talking with them.  

When I first landed in Italy, I instantly fell in love a hundred times before I even left the airport. But not with another person, necessarily but with the language tumbling off their tongues, with their fashionable outfits, with their architecture, with their laid back rules, with their appreciation of everything beautiful, with their food, drink, way of life and their FACES. 
I knew right away that my first sentence I needed to learn was going to be, "I love your face".

Fast forward to a beautiful afternoon in Pisa, my eyes bulging from the beauty, my jaw dragging on the ground, my words not even coming out right in English because I was so speechless by the things I was seeing. I was focusing my camera down a spectacular street across from the tower to get this shot:
Then I noticed the two guys waving at me in the doorway, so of course I had to go make friends. Before I knew it a group of them had gathered in the door and I needed to tell them that I loved their faces!

   Luckily one of them spoke a little English and translated my sentence for me while the others flirted and surely thought I was a crazy American girl while I photographed them. 
And so I learned my only Italian sentence:
"Mi Piace la tua el faccia".

And another thing I learned was:
Adults love to hear that you love their face. 
Every person who heard those words from me beamed. They laughed at my poorly pronounced Italian, they blushed a little, got a sparkle in their eye and I got the shot. 

Here are some of my favorite faces from my journey:
  And one more thing that I learned from speaking 
my new sentence: 
I need to keep using it. I want to continue to see into the faces that I pass in the street or interact with during the day. I want them to know that I love their face. I want to give them the same smile and sparkle in their eye and a little boost of love to carry them on their way.
Hey you
I love your face.
Pass it on...

quote of the day:

“His dress told her nothing, but his face told her things which she was glad to know".
A.A. Milne

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I'm having this dream...

Central Park NYC - 3.2015

I'm having this dream. It begins like any other day. I kiss the faces of my three amazing children, I am kissed by an amazing man that has fallen out of the sky and into my cafe and my life. I work, I feed people, I make art, I make connections. I am fed by nature and love. Things are good and pretty simple and a lot of fun. It is always warm and there is always someone around to laugh with. A dog sleeps next to me in my mushy, comfy bed. Life is really really good. And still I know that there is a whole world out there full of even more of the same goodness that already fills every day of my life. I know that I have a hunger for it. I know that from somewhere deep within me, I have a craving, a calling, an itch, a need
And here's where the dream gets crazy...
I'm on the streets of New York City. The wind claws through the layers of sweaters, jackets and scarves and bites down on skin, heart, blood. But not viciously - it's a sexy bite meant to say: You are alive, flesh, blood, bone. My eyes seem to open wider and I actually see more. I look into the endless river of faces that flow past me on these frozen streets and I see them. Our eyes are not supposed to meet - some rule I heard about long ago - but they do anyway. And I see humanity, a story, a life being lived. And then they are gone, floating away on their own path. More flow to me. Old, young, angry, busy, fancy, important, insecure, confident, young, old, young, old...
And I am cold. But the cold on my skin makes me know that I am very, very alive. And then I realize that I have walked all the way to Times Square, where everything is larger than life. TV's on the sides of buildings broadcast 100 foot tall images: faces, products, places. They flash in an endless reel of lights and colors. Below, cops congregate on the corner, protestors gather for peace, steam rises from below the streets. People continue to rush from here to there, there to here. And I stop for a glass of whiskey
And then suddenly I am in Central Park and everything is this amazing stark palette of white and grey and brown. There is snow everywhere and none of the trees have their leaves. Their branches like arms spread to the heavens. And I am there in the midst of this whole other world. I walk and walk and walk and I am wide open, and it fills me and some of it spills out of my eyes because I simply can't contain it. There is too much love to keep it all in. There are words of appreciation and birthday wishes and praise and well wishes that have also been poured into me and I am this vessel that begins to overflow right there in Central Park.
And then I realize that I am not alone. The man that kisses my face has led me here. I see him walking next to me for blocks and blocks past rows and rows of buildings and stores and the endless sea of people and I feel like it's all for me and I can't figure out why. I spend a lot of the dream somewhere between being completely in the moment, to watching it all from a distance. I feel incredibly connected but equally far away. 
And then I wake up.
The wind is raging outside my window and I can tell that the air outside of my heavy blankets is cold. The shutters bang quietly inside but somewhere outside things crash in the wind. I step out of bed and my bare feet touch the cold stone floor of a castle in Italy, on the hillside in Tuscany. I stumble around trying to find a light. I layer on shawls and scarves and walk out into my quarters. There is an unfinished bottle of chianti on the counter, a row of white espresso cups line an antique hutch and the wind continues to rage in the courtyard. 
I pull out my journal and write about driving too fast down ancient streets of Florence, eating fresh pasta recommended by a waiter named Rafaele and feeling the rain coming down from the Italian sky. And I realize It's only been one day. The dream is my reality. I breathe in the cold air and I exhale a breath of pure life. I am filled with gratitude like I have never known. Thankful for all that exists in my world and the world that I walk through. Thankful for the arm that hooks into mine and leads me through streets and adventures. I decide to absorb every moment of this dream and we set out to dickwolf Italy...
Castle Rooftop - Tuscany Italy - 3.2015

Castle Rooftop - Tuscany Italy - 3.2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A new word for your collection

A message from my kitchen chalkboard

I would like to introduce you to a word that I invented last year. When I tell you what it is, you're going to think it's something dirty. But it's not. And as with most things, I have over used it to the point where my children cringe when I way it. But I don't care. It's a perfect word in my eyes, and that's probably because of it's meaning.
It's a word that has evolved and become its own creature. 
Yes, that's the word, the word is dickwolfing.
And it's not what you think. 
What are you thinking? That would be funny to know. 

Before I define this wonderful word, I want to tell you a story. 

My brother from another mother is from Morocco. He has a pretty distinct accent and his use and knowledge of the English language always cracks me up. Sometimes he hears a word in English and he makes it more fun just by the way he says it. 

He and his wife used to watch Law and Order and sometimes at the end of an episode they would shout in exasperation at the T.V. "Dick Wolfe!!" as the credits rolled and named the producer; 
none other than Mr. Dick Wolf. 

Stay with me, It's all gonna make sense in a minute. 

This brother of mine is also my dear friend who gave me my cafe. 
There were times early on when we would be working together in the kitchen and he would just say it. "Dick Wolf!!!", in his thick accent, and it always made me laugh
Then there were other times when he would come through my back door and say his customary statement: "I'm hungry".  And would then begin eating and drinking anything in sight, and like a tornado, he would blow in, wolf down everything and then leave

I told him he was like a wolf
I started to call him Dick Wolf. 
Then it became a verb: dickwolfing

When the word dickwolfing makes it into the dictionary, it will have nothing to do with the producer, although I'm thankful for his wonderful name. It will look something like this:
/dik wulfing/
1. to voraciously put food and drink into one's mouth with great pleasure and enthusiasm.
2. to voraciously consume any thing, person, place, or experience with great pleasure and enthusiasm.

SO, as you can see. This word is awesome. But even better than the word itself, actually dickwolfing something is even more satisfying. And this is why I feel the need to share this word with the world. I would like to encourage you to unleash 
your own inner wolf. 

Here are some rules and suggestions for dickwolfing.
1. Definitely dickwolf food and beverages. Especially if there is booze involved. 
2. Do not worry about consequences of overindulgence or calories or reputation or any of that nonsense. This is dickwolfing we're talking about, not dieting or acting in a responsible manner. This is very important to remember.  There's a time to dickwolf and a time to be responsible. You decide.
3. Remember, you can dickwolf anything. You know that cute guy that you've been hanging out with as a friend but you know there's something more to it? DICKWOLF HIM. Do not be afraid.
You know that party you've been invited to and you know it might  be awkward and boring but you're committed to going? DICKWOLF THAT THING. Bring your fun friends, go in there, jack the music, get the conga line going, get people out of their chairs, dance, make some new friends and then leave. THAT is dickwolfing at it's finest
Dickwolfing means swimming after hours in a pool that's not yours, and getting yelled at and running. Dickwolfing is when you see a bridal party at a bar and you go over and make that party even better. Dickwolfing is when you look someone in the eye and say the thing you want to say even if it scares you. Even if it's brutally honest. Even if it's "I love you".
4. It's very possible to dickwolf something and savor it at the same time. So savor it. Savor every tasty, dangerous, gluttonous bit of it. 
5. Repeat steps 1-4 often. When you're with your people and when you're alone. When you're at home and when you're out exploring the world. 

Which brings me to the whole reason I wanted to share THIS word with you at THIS time.
It's time to dickwolf the world. It is for me anyway. 
Obviously you can see from the contents of this blog that I have been dickwolfing things long before I gave birth to the word
But this is my year. In a few months I will set out on some new adventures across this amazing planet of ours - (More details about that later).
And so, I consider all of this my training, and I will share many more adventures while I swig and grind my way through life. 
Look out world, you are about to be dickwolfed

Quote of the Day:

“I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Be Careful What You Ask For

Hello Food Friends. It's been awhile! Again. 
I've missed you and this spot that exists to talk about food and the way it connects us together. Although I haven't been active here, I have been spinning many other plates - literally and figuratively. 

If I were to choose a word for the last couple of years it would, without a doubt be: Reinvention. 
At first I didn't truly realize this was an option for me, I didn't even have a relationship with the word. But now we're close. 
Reinvention comes, much like invention, from necessity, but also from a place of freshness and possibility.

I like what Miriam-Webster has to say on the subject:
1: to make as if for the first time something already invented
2: to remake or redo completely
3: to bring into use again

And so, the story is about this girl, who grew up around gatherings of family and friends and food, with parents who had a restaurant, and food constantly on her brain.
She was a weird kid who, while most kids were making an after school snack of instant ramen, she was making lamb chops and sauteed mushrooms.   

She eventually tapped into her creativity in the form of photography and the written word. While photographing children and families paid the bills, photographing and writing about food became an exciting outlet. 

She became good at cooking because she was really just very good at eating. 
She always laughed off the comments of friends that she "really should open a restaurant" because she grew up in one and knew how much work it really is.

And then reinvention started to gain momentum. 
When her life changed around her and she began questioning the kind of work that really made her happy, A New Years Eve conversation happened where she said to a chef friend, "maybe I should just get a job in a kitchen". To which he said, "Well the money is actually in waiting tables, if you want to get into the restaurant business." 
But no, she said, that isn't it. "I want to cook. I want to chop stuff in the kitchen".

Fast forward two years to a conversation with a friend who had a little cafe in a residential condo building. She was hired to design his new restaurant and during the process he offered her his Cafe. He would remain involved, but gives it to her to change the menu, the decor, the name, she is free to reinvent it and herself in the process. Just like that. It wasn't something she could say no to.  
At first this seemed like it was out of left field and materialized out of nowhere. I mean, who has this kind of stuff happen to them? She does. Then she remembered her New Year's conversation, her childhood, and her new found appreciation of reinvention, and it all made sense. 

It's like she's making for the first time a restaurant girl that already existed. Although she is being remade and redone completely, she's really just bringing into use again all those skills form before. It is reinvention, for sure. But is also a coming home. 

And so here I am. 
A girl with a cafe. 
People actually pay to eat my food. 
And they like it!
And they keep coming back!!
And most importantly, I'm really having fun. 

 My Menu is basically the kind of food I cook at home. 
Healthy, Hearty, Homemade, Real Food. 
I serve pizzas, sandwiches, salads, coffee, smoothies and weekly specials.

My children are my wonderful staff and my customers are awesome. 

And now, I will have lots more food stuff to share with you!

Who says you can't have it all! 1/2 bbq chicken with tomatoes and carmelized onions, 1/2 Brie and grape with green pea pesto

Monster Brownies

Chicken Enchilada Special

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Whose afraid of a green smoothie? Mango, pineapple, papaya,  banana, kale, fresh grated ginger and a squeeze of lime

Yellow Chicken Curry Special

Rib Eye Steak Sandwich Special 

Lilikoi Cheesecake

Stuffed Baked Potato Special

Chicken Tacos Special with Tomato, Cucumber, Quinoa Salad

Chicken Parmesan Sandwich Special

For all the Cookie Monsters out there...
 So now, during my break when I'm eating food, reading a book about food, while a cooking show plays on TV and food cooks in the oven it's not so strange. Right?

 Cheers to reinvention!

Quote of the Day:

“I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.”

Henry Rollins