Thursday, August 30, 2012

Favorites | Day 4

I know, I know. Another sunrise. What can I say? This was one of the joys I looked forward to each morning I opened my little eyes.





Following a very quiet and relaxing morning, as you can see by the pictures above, seven of us headed up to Haleakalā National Park. Haleakalā is truly one of our favorite Maui spots. This beautiful national park stretches across the east side of Maui and rises to over 10,000 feet above sea level. You can see Haleakalā from just about anywhere on Maui. The word Haleakalā actually means house of the sun. According to legend, the demigod Maui lassoed the sun from its journey across the sky as he stood on the volcano’s summit, slowing its descent to the make the day last longer.

The drive up is curvy, scenic and full of surprises. The sun will be shining then suddenly, boom, clouds and misty rain. At a certain point, when nearing the summit, you can actually see over the cloud cover. The blue-green ocean, the west side of Maui and even the Big Island. On a really clear day you can even see the summit of Mauna Kea with the naked eye.



This just melts my heart. Cupcake Girl at 10,023 feet about sea level. So awesome! I think she was pretty impressed with Haleakalā. The clouds were covering the crater, but she could see a glimpse of it.


The views from Haleakalā are spectacular. This was early afternoon. I can only image what a sunrise or sunset would unfold.


One of the unique plants found on Maui is the Haleakalā Silversword. You can start spotting them around an elevation of 6,900 to 9,800 feet. This plant has sword-like succulent leaves covered with silver hairs. They actually shimmer in the sunlight. These lovely plants will flower between July and October. They can reach up to over 6 feet and will have tiny sticky hairs to prevent crawling insects from causing damage. This potential damage can interfere with the seeding of the plant. As the plant goes to seed the leaves will dry up and the plant eventually dies. There are other species of the Silversword that grows on Mauna Kea on the Big Island.





Descending Haleakalā, there’s a certain point, about halfway down the summit road, that is my favorite view. You can actually see the figure 8 that Maui makes. Love this view!


Back at the house it was time for swimming and sunset viewing from the pool.


And best of all, swimming with Cupcake Girl!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Chef Who Came To Dinner

When planning our trip, I knew we would all be tired after snorkeling, so I decided to try and find a chef to come to our house and fix dinner for us. A nice dinner. Maybe even a dinner with lots of local flare. Someone who was nice and would take the time to talk to us (we can be a talkative bunch at times), maybe even show us some cooking skills. Someone who could just fit in with our little BBB (Blended Brady Bunch). The wonderful folks at Exotic Estates, who helped us with the house, were more than kind to share some names of personal chefs on Maui. Three to be exact. I called #1 and got voicemail, called #2 and got voicemail and finally, called #3 and got voicemail. Surely someone would call back.

About 15 minutes later I returned a missed call to Tiffany with Maui Catering Services. She certainly was kind and willing to listen to my whole yea, we are bringing our whole little blended family to Maui, blah, blah, blah. Something about her peaked my interest, probably her enthusiasm and I loved the fact that she believed in supporting local farmers (click here to read more about Tiffany). We ended the conversation with her getting a few things together, me looking over the menus, emailing her, getting prices, deciding on the menu, etc.

A few days later, Chef #2 called. Hmmm, he was, well, kind of boring. He certainly wouldn’t win a personality contest. Yea, okay. Sounds fun. I can get a menu together for you. Didn’t really answer my question about supporting local businesses/farmers. Okay, whatever. Goodbye.

The following day Chef #3 called. Her assistant said she was out of town but would call me the following week. Ten days later she called and left a message. I didn’t call her back.

Fast forward a few weeks following our initial conversation, I called Tiffany but got her voicemail. Five days passed and I still had not heard back from her. Oh dear. I sent her an email, just checking in, need to firm things up. No response. I called again. Hi Tiffany. Just checking on you. I sent you an email. Hope everything is okay. A couple of days later she called. Oh I am so sorry. Been under the weather. Yes, I will get a firm price out to you today. Looking forward to meeting you too! Remember my fears about arriving to our house being a dump? I was starting to have them about Tiffany. Silly me!

Finally it was time to leave for our trip. I contacted Tiffany and said I would call her on Sunday, just to check in (and relieve my fears), talk about the key situation, etc. I even called her on Monday (still having a little fear) before we left for snorkeling. She sounded so excited and I was too, finally!

Little did I know, boy, little did I know what we were in for!

MSC donna nelson 7:9:12pages

Tiffany and her assistant, Caroline arrived an hour before we returned and as soon as we drove up you could smell the food through the car windows. Oh my golly! Heavenly smells and a beautiful tablescape as we walked through the door.


After brief introductions, a quick shower and change of clothes, we all settled in for some food, fun and just plain being spoiled. It was awesome to be catered to. While they were putting some final touches on the appetizers, several of us gathered around the kitchen island to make some ravioli. This is something I have never attempted and Tiffany was the perfect teacher. Isn’t she just cute? Tiffany not me!



We took turns putting playing with making the dough and then guiding it through the pasta machine. Next came the filling and cutting part of the ravioli. Traci and Reb were experts at the pasta machine and Kayla certainly showed some great filling and knife skills. Boy was it fun!

Julia Child once said dining with one's friends and beloved family is certainly one of life's primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal. The only thing I would add to Julia’s statement is cooking. Cooking and dining. It just doesn’t get any better folks!


Looks delicious, huh? It was, trust me. We had appetizers on the lanai followed by an amazing dinner. In order to enjoy the moment, I didn’t pick up my camera, well, except for these two and I’m not sure if I took them or if someone else did.


Dinner was far exceeded my expectations. Tiffany explained the components of each dish, where the food came from (all local) and answered any questions, food related or not. She also shared some amazing news with us. Get this, she had recently finished up filming Extreme Chef for The Food Network. She was one of the seven contestants! This explained why I had difficulty contacting her at first. Wow!

According to the website, Extreme Chef is about seven of America's most-fearless chefs testing their physical prowess, mental toughness and culinary skills. The grueling and seemingly impossible culinary challenges are judged by a rotating panel of notable guest judges and in the end, only one chef will be the most extreme while taking home a $50,000 grand prize.

Tiffany couldn’t share too much information and we tried our best to respect her circumstances, but she was able to answer some basic questions. The show began airing a couple of weeks ago and episode #3 will air this Thursday at 10 pm on Food Network. Now let me tell you, this girl is a go-getter. She is tough and isn’t scared of any task they give her. Plus, she cooks and presents amazing food. Go Tiffany! We’re rooting for you all the way!

Tiffany and Caroline, I can’t thank you enough for your warm welcome to Maui, patience in teaching ravioli making, a comforting, delicious dinner and for spoiling us rotten. We had a blast! Your enthusiasm for and about food is contagious. Thank you for making our time in Maui even more special and as we continue to reminisce about our time there, your dinner is one of the highlights and always will be. If the opportunity arises in the future, you will hear from us again and if either of you happen to make your way to the lovely south on the mainland, we are just a phone call away. Tiffany you are rocking on Extreme Chef! We’re rooting for you to win that $50,000.