Chef Kenny Goes to Paris

Hawaii For Breakfast

Sometimes running an inn comes with some super fun opportunities. Dashing off to Paris, France to make breakfast at the world famous Ferrandi School of Cooking would certainly qualify. Toss in a chance to meet some of the most accomplished artisans in French food, and boom, you’ve got a truly memorable experience that will always be a highlight of our innkeeping lives.

June 26th, 2017 marked the very first “National Breakfast Day in France”. Sponsored by the French government, Hotels de Charme et de Caractere, Tables et Auberges de France, and a host of corporate sponsors, it was a wonderful inaugural event. It was a great pleasure to accept their invitation to bring our Kalaekilohana Hawaiian style breakfast to the heart of French cooking.

Reintroducing A Balanced Breakfast

The theme for the day was to bring a balanced nutritious breakfast back into the consciousness of the French public. One look around at the wonderful breakfasts that were in the juried competition and it was easy to see that they have their work cut out for them. An exception in our eyes was a breakfast prepared by Nutritionist Esther Schmitt, which featured whole grains, smart proteins, whole fruits and vegetables, and zero croissants.

Our international presentation featured our version of a continental breakfast and our traditional Hawaiian breakfast. Our breakfasts feature 5 fresh fruits daily, whole grains, and healthy proteins. Plated and served as a collection on a single plate, it’s quite different from the smorgasbord approach in France.

 

 

Wrapping Up Scotland

Our departure from 4 superb days on Islay involved a nap on the ferry and a drive back to Glasgow, where we checked in with some friends and did very little. At this point in our journey, doing very little was a great choice.

We did have a couple of good meals, including a friendly Bistro called Gamba. Once rested, we drove out to the Scottish Borders area for a couple of rather anti-climactic days, highlighted by a lovely walk in the Dawyck Botanical Gardens. Bursting with both color and massive trees, many of them native to Scotland, it was a final salute to the incredible weather we have enjoyed.

We spent our time near Peebles and in Innerleithen at two very different Inns, one with a more laid back approach having done it for 29 years, and another with a young couple ten years in whose approach to good food and guest service made our brief time in the Scottish Borders worth the visit.

While the weather was remarkable, the people we met and spent time with were the true highlight of our Scottish adventure. From the great hosts at our bed and breakfasts to the wonderful folks that made time to join us for a meal or host us, we were well cared for at every turn.

As we begin the journey home, we reflect on how fantastic this second visit to Scotland has been.  We saw previous guests, made new friends, reacquainted friendships, and saw much more of Scotland at its’ best. Sláinte!

The Islay Experience Finale

Rock Sculptures or Seals? From a distance, it’s really hard to tell. You actually have to watch for a while to see if the rocks move. So we put on our rain ponchos and headed out to the beach for closer look. Once you get up closer, you can see the unmistakable shape of a seal beached on a rock surrounded by water. Seeing seals in Scotland? Check.

With our main mission for the day accomplished, we headed back to the most wonderful Glenegedale House for Kilohana’s birthday meal and cake. Actually, the cake had popped out in the morning along with candles and a birthday song, so all that was left was to enjoy it all.

We followed up dinner with our second Ceilich at Ramsey Hall. This event included a whisky nosing competition. All the distilleries set up the same eleven glasses at their table. All the glasses were dark blue to hide the color of the whiskies. You had to nose each one and match the number to the whisky.

SURPRISE!

After a lot of sniffing and whiffing and milling about, Kilohana walked away with the second place prize! Two bottles of fine Islay Whisky. How he managed it may forever be a closely held secret. He took a picture with the Master of Ceremonies, who just happened to be on the newspaper staff. Turns out we’ll be in the local paper. The whole day turned out to be one heck of an exciting birthday celebration.

The Islay Experience Part Two

“Show up around half past nine and we’ll see what we can do”.

Our day began with us taking this advice of our host and the manager of the Maltings, who we just happened to meet at Lagavulin the day prior. We arrived into Port Ellen a wee bit early with the hope that there would be a cancellation and we would could join one of the sold out tours of the Malting Facility. The tour prior had gone out half full but the next tour was a whisky club and everyone turned up. By the good graces, they just tacked us on and away we went.

When you go on tours of the various distilleries throughout Scotland, one of the things you do not see is the process of preparing the barley that whisky distilleries rely on to create  the iconic whisky they bottle and sell. On Islay, there is a single malting facility that supplies 6 of the 8 distilleries on the island. They use a single variety of barley to produce various recipes that different distillers use. Once the grain is put in the twin 25-ton hoppers, it is soaked in water for five hours, drained, and left to rest a short time before repeating the process twice more. This begins the sprouting of the barley. During this process, the moisture content of the barley is raised from 12% to over 40%.

Next, the grain goes into a massive drum that turns occasionally to facilitate sprouting without allowing it to grow together. After 95 hours, the grain is at a full stage of starchiness. When you break open the grain, it feels very much like cornstarch. At that point, we took a look at the peat shed and discussed the importance of having the right moisture content in the peat to get more smoke than fire. That led us to the kiln and the peat oven. It is the only part of the operation that still requires personal attention. The peat must be watched to ensure it burns properly.

When it is finished, the grain is brought down to 5% moisture. This allows them to store and ship the barley without worrying about mold or compaction. Lastly, it’s shipped off in large trucks to the distiller. Open just one day of year, we were excited to be able to see this process in action and get all the details.

 

The Islay Experience Part One

We arrived from Kennacraig into Port Askaig on a bonny day. It seemed like Hawai’i weather! We had booked our room reservation months in advance at Glenegedale, our first choice for lodging, and that meant we could get a room, albeit one with two twin beds. There are a lot of returnees at this annual event, so getting your room of choice would require some serious thinking ahead. Just the same, Glenegedale is the premier choice and we enthusiastically recommend them. There just aren’t many places that provide the hospitality you’ll find there.

Once we settled into our home base, it was off to the Lagavulin Distillery on our first morning for a 10 am tasting in their warehouse. The event seated about 40 people and was long since sold out. We all sat around a row of 6 casks aged various years.  We were given lanyards with a whisky glass attachment and bottled water. Tasting whisky so early in the day does seem a wee bit outrageous.  But taste we did. From 5 to 35 year old whisky, we tried them all. Our host was Ian MacArthur. Standing just under 5 feet tall with a barrel chest and wee bit of mischief about him, he was quite the character and an excellent host.

Our samplings took us through the range of “hmm.. too young”, “wow! that’s nice!”.  And of course the one we seemed to agree on the most was the 24yr old.  The tasting process involved syphoning directly from the cask into a long cylindrical stainless steel tube and you sucked it out of the cask and released the whisky into another plexiglass chamber and then into a bottle to serve everyone present.  Questions were welcomed and Ian’s ease with the crew made it a really greet time. Somehow, we were singled out for free T-Shirts.

Travel Value

One of the great values of travel is people.

Those you visit and those you meet remind us that we are the same and also that we are individuals.   Guests often will say to us upon departure, “If you are ever in…look us up!”  We are very good at looking people up when we travel.

On this particular trip to Scotland, we have met up with a fellow innkeeper who we have chatted with on an innkeeper’s forum, a couple that visited Kalaekilohana last July, as well as couple we met on a previous trip to Menorca.

Our fellow innkeepers operate a wonderful bed and breakfast in Inverness and we met them for lunch at the Dores Inn. Innkeepers speak a universal language and it makes it easy to connect on a professional level. Like us, they have been keeping an inn for around 12-13 years.

Our previous guests live in a remarkably cute country house just outside of Stirling. On a beautiful sunny day, we were treated to a marvelous locally sourced meal, great company, and the quintessential wee dram by the fireside. What a great expression of Scottish hospitality.

Our acquaintances from Menorca lived just a short drive away in Perth and we treated them to lunch at a favorite spot of theirs in the town of Auchterarder. They were just as engaging as we remember them and, twenty some years our senior, we can only hope to be as vivacious moving forward.

The Second and Third Firth

We began yet another amazing sunny day with a stop in St. Andrews, visiting the castle ruins and snapping photos at the world famous golf links. The links are promoted as the home of golf and the host for the British Open. As remarkable as the seven courses of St. Andrews are, the setting along The Firth of Eden is perhaps its most glorious of assets. The wide beach and sandy dunes provide a wild contrast to courses with double greens and clipped fairways. One of the double greens is 100 yards from top to bottom. Imagine the 90 yard putt!

After traveling west and crossing over the River Eden, we proceeded to Dundee, crossing over the The Firth of Tay to take lunch at the  Bridgeview Station. We enjoyed a salad and shared some fish and chips, which left room for us to try our very first sticky toffee pudding. We often leave off dessert at lunch time, but Kilohana evoked the voice of the Mo, our good friend Carl Ramsey. He said, “Mo would have dessert.” After assurances from our waiter that this was one of the better versions to be had, we took the plunge. Served warm with vanilla ice cream on top, it lived up to its billing as one of Scotland’s finest.

From Dundee we struck out for Grantown-On-Spey, our next destination. Crossing south to north through the Cairngorms National Park, we were treated to a series spectacular panoramas and mountain vistas. Along the way we traveled on some picturesque country lanes replete ancient stone walls, hillside brooks, and early season lambs. All of it bathed in the bright Scottish sunshine.

 

A Scottish Picnic

If exploring the Kingdom of Fife along the Firth of Forth on a beautiful sunny day requires a bit of good fortune, we hit the jackpot. That we went off a whim to plan a picnic was just dumb luck. In the end it was all one should ask for in a single day.

Our day began in the quiet seaport of Anstruther. After a breakfast of haddock and poached eggs and a typical Scottish breakfast of veggie sausage, beans, eggs, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes, we went to try to get a boat to the Isle of May.  That didn’t work out as a school group had pre-booked the entire boat and so off we went to our castle and church adventure.

We chose a southern route along the coast to our first destination in Kirkcaldy, seeking the Ravenscraig Castle.  This business of simply driving to an easily marked landmark was simple enough but finding the easy path to them, we quickly learned, not so much.  Ravenscraig was accessible by a foot trail but we opted for a simple stop and look.

We continued on to the next castle in our Historic Scotland guide book. Once we figured out that Inchcolm Abbey was on an island that required a ferry from Edinburgh and was off our trail, we found ourselves at Aberdour Castle and Gardens, the previous fortified residence of the Regent Morton.  The grounds are kept in good order and some refurbishing has made access throughout very easy.

On such a beautiful day, we sat outside their Tea Room and had a delicious lunch of greens from the Co-op, red anster cheese from a cheesemaker outside of Anstruther, Scottish smoked mackerel, and a morning roll. An outstanding locally sourced meal on a magnificent castle lawn.

We rounded out our castle adventure with a stop at the Dunferline Abbey and Palace, where we chatted with a guide about Scottish history.  This abbey is where a number of monarchs and other royalty are buried.  The new part of the Abbey was built in 1821 for King Robert the Bruce whose name is spelled out atop the four sides of the church tower. The old Abbey, with its massive nave,  is connected at the rear of the newer part. Our host spoke freely on the Scotland relationship with England, the impact of Brexit, Scottish royalty, and of all of the complexities that entails.

Our final Historic Scotland stop for the day was a scouting mission to St. Andrews Castle and Cathedral. it gave a quick look at where to park and how much time we would want before heading off to points north and west.

Scotland Revisited

Scotland – A Wee Bit More

Our previous visit to Scotland was a great August adventure. Fond memories included the romance on Mull, the drama on Skye, the education in Oban, and the entertainment of the Fringe. It was topped off with all those bagpipes from the Tattoo. We vowed to return and now that moment has arrived.

Once again, our journey begins with our early morning arrival into Glasgow followed by a drive.  So it was off to the Historic Scotland office in Edinburgh, where we picked up our Historic Scotland passes that we had purchased online. Folks there we’re mighty friendly and our packet was waiting for us when we arrived. From there it was a short drive to our first opportunity to use the pass, Edinburgh Castle.

At the castle, we decided to focus on just a couple of things. We thought we should see the Crown Jewels of Scotland, perhaps more appropriately called, “The Honours of Scotland” and we thought we should be around for the firing of the big gun at 1 pm. Apparently, you can set your watch by it. We also had a brief chat with one of the docents about the castle.

More than the castle itself, we were most impressed with how unbelievably nice everyone one working at the castle was. Given that we are slow movers, we received some remarkable care for our visit, turning what would have been a three-hour journey into a great one hour adventure. From the ride up the cobblestone street to the secret elevator that bypassed all the lines to see the Crown Jewels, it was a V.I.P. tour.

After seeing The Honours, , which includes The Stone of Destiny that was returned to Scotland after a 700 year visit to England, we had time to visit a great hall and the prison area before heading off the catch a wee look at the firing of the big gun. Our trip was off with a bang!

 

Animal Roundup

Africa provided us an amazing opportunity to see wild animals up close and we saw many different species. It would have been a shame to come to Australia and not find some time to see some of their iconic marsupials before heading home.

Roos and Such

A visit to Maru Koala and Animal Park offered us a quick look to see koala, kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburra, dingos, a Tasmanian devil, red kangaroos, monitor lizards, emus, and wombats,  Marsupials make up a major part of Australia’s native fauna.  Their common characteristic is a short gestation period in the womb, then the young live off a teat in the mothers pouch for a determined period of time until the young is booted off on their own.  The animals were part of a park and food could be purchased to hand feed the kangaroos so though you were not seeing them in their natural environment, you were able to learn about their behaviors and see and touch them.  Occasionally you would see an albino roo or see a koala awake to eat eucalyptus leaves.  We were grateful to have a chat with one of the trainers who has a 2 year old dingo she was working with, teaching it to follow sit, and walk commands. Apparently dingos, more related to wolves than dogs, are temperamental,  and will only do what they want when they want.  They do not bark, they also have no smell to give away their scent while hunting, but howl with each other to communicate.

Penguins

We have been to a couple of places where seeing a penguin was on the list. Our timing was off in one way or another. So, our first penguin in the wild award goes to the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, about a two hour drive south from Melbourne. It is what it sounds like.  Penguins spend their entire day in the water, sometimes longer, but they will return to their burrows at sunset.  Every night is different, sometimes they arrive in large groups, sometimes in smaller ones.  But they return every evening to parade across the beachhead. The adoring public waits onshore, in convenient bleachers with low lighting and icy wind and rain, trying to refrain their excitement.  The small penguins did not disappoint.  They arrived as darkness set, huddled for safety as a group, then cautiously came up the beach.  It was a low tide on the evening we were there and it made for great visibility as the groups waddled a good distance onto the banks,  The cold Antarctic wind made it an early evening for many.  It was a memorable event indeed.