Hawai’i: Kohala Coast of the Big Island

Orchid flowers and pebbles – cheerful welcome at the Waikoloa Resort

Just landed in Kona late yesterday evening. It’s been 20 years since the last time I set foot in the Big Island…such an amazing feeling. It took an entire day to fly from NYC to San Francisco and then Kona, but one we landed at the open air airport (the airport runway is built on flattened lava flow, how cool is that?) I couldn’t stop smiling. Am here on a work assignment, then flying to Honolulu for a short stay. Yay Hawai’i!!! I will move back home to the islands one day…

Ahi Poke and Avocado

And only in Hawai’i will you find ahi poke on the room service menu. With Kikkoman shoyu! We’re staying at the Waikoloa Resort and I literally devoured this dish around midnight Hawai’i time. Which makes it 5am NYC time. My clock is all messed up. But nothing deep rest and hot tea can’t fix. And did I mention? There are baby dolphins outside the resort room! Literally steps away. Woke up to the sound of gentle squeaks, opened the balcony window and was totally surprised. We’re in paradise.

Per Se: A Parade of Desserts

A box of chocolates and table literally piled with macarons, caramels, nougats, fudge, bonbons, and warm doughnuts. I couldn’t picture a more beautiful sight. It might as well be fantasy. And this was after a taste of three plated desserts – dragon fruit, a tea and Hawai’i-oriented dessert, and a classic of chocolate and feuilletine. I felt like Marie Antoinette. Pierre thought I was crazy. He’s probably not far from the truth ;)

We went to Per Se today. And while the savory dishes were stunning, it was dessert that literally took my breath away. So we will start there. Table cleared of savory dishes, a pot of Jasmine tea…

…and single bites of creamsicle ice cream, the transition to sweets. Our servers (who honestly were just as, if not more, amazing than the food) paused at the table…

“Since you enjoy tea so much, Chef wanted to send out this: tea in multiple forms.

And Hawai’i as well! It was titled “Pineapple-Tea” a colorful creation with nods to both Hawai’i and tea. Thrilled? Floored? Ecstatic? I felt all three at once. Vanilla meringues, roasted pineapples (with a gorgeous vanilla bean caramel). Green tea cream tucked into soft meringue. Whipped white tea – essentially a foam, and vanilla-hibiscus sherbet. How spectacular! Needless to say, we wiped our plates clean.

Right before that we devoured “Blue Gin,” a total fairytale. This was Pierre’s favorite of the desserts. Dragon fruit with Greek yogurt sorbet and violet gin “granité.”

And then a classic that comes on and off the menu from time to time. Chocolate ganache atop feuilletine with shards of dehydrated cream cheese. Caramel and hazelnuts. To accompany, a thin cut of chocolate cake and sweet milk ice cream.

Another pot of tea, and then we were warned with a teasing smile, get ready.

First came chocolates, a perfect box of 24. I wrote about these <a href="http://static.squarespace.com/static/51895797e4b07dc9727307ce/518957d3e4b04dec96da1667/51895813e4b04dec96da1e88/1323270988000/#img alone are worth a visit to Per Se. We picked two each (coconut-curry and pineapple-tamarind for myself, mojito and dirty martini for Pierre), and just as I thought they were about to whisk it back to the kitchen, she put the box at the very edge of the table, "we need to make room, but want to keep it within arms reach.” “Arms reach” was the key phrase. Ahh, very thoughtful.

Hold your breath. “Coffee and Donuts” – Coffee Semifreddo and Warm Doughnuts. A literal bucket of doughnuts. Whole doughnuts and doughnut holes. Still hot, light as air and dusted in sugar…

…Pierre kept altering between sips of his hot coffee and this coffee semifreddo.

Hot, cold, hot cold, so good all at once.

A deep bowl of hazelnuts dripped in a caramel shell and rolled in chocolate.

Chocolate truffles immediately followed…one was “root beer” with vanilla cream…

…chased by two bowls of mini-macarons. One filled with a mint-chocolate macarons…

…the other with lemon macarons.

A tall glass candy jar filled with candies, caramels, nougats, and wrapped chocolate bars. The whole table was covered in dessert, it was almost comical but seriously delicious. This did not feel like reality…more like some crazy amazing dream. And at Per Se of all places.

But the was more, more! A little tasting of chocolate fudge: milk, dark and white.

And then, just because it was our (second :) anniversary, caramel ice cream and chocolate. I think we should save the savory dishes for another post.

Per SeHope you all have a good weekend.

Per Se
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019
(212) 823-9335

Tea Through the Week

A million ways to present and serve, and perhaps just as many varieties and blends. Just wanted to share photos from my favorite tea moments of this week. Hope you had many as well :) First, Charcoal Fire Roasted Oolong from Tung Ting, Taiwan. Served at Union Square Cafe, the tea is by In Pursuit of Tea and the teapot by For Life.

A warm cup of Nai Cha (aka milk tea) from a Mott Street bakery in Chinatown.

Pu-erh Ginger served at Van Leeuwen on 7th Street – I believe they use Rishi Tea.

A tea-cap instead of night-cap? This what April, Kayt and I did after dinner at Takashi. A pot of almond cookie rooibos and sweet nibbles, macarons and financiers.

Lots of rooibos this week. I shift from caffeinated teas to herbals and rooibos after 5pm (otherwise I can’t sleep ;) This Mélange du Cap is a rooibos tea with cocoa nibs and vanilla pods, a new tea from Le Palais des Thés. Especially soothing in the evening.

NYC: Afternoon Tea at The Mandarin Oriental

Just a quick post for today – heading to Hawai’i in less than a week. I really want to find a way to organize life so that I can spend winter and summer in Hawai’i, and spring and fall in NYC. And of course, wedge in a few picture-perfect Paris months ;)

Afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental right off Central Park. I love how the lobby is up on the 36th floor…amazing views are integral to the afternoon tea experience here.

Sugar scones with housemade orange marmalade and Devonshire cream. You’re supposed to eat sandwiches first, then scones and finally desserts. But I like starting with scones when possible, then moving to sandwiches and then desserts. So you get the sweet-savory-sweet balance, otherwise it’s a lot of sugar all at once.

Then we eat sandwiches. In the back: smoked salmon layered over lemon-caper mousse, cucumber slices to finish. Served on marble rye bread. And in back: multigrain with soybean hummus, goat cheese, watercress and a bit of sea salt.

In the back: brioche with honey-dijon and a layer of Vermont-smoked cheddar. Another layer of brioche, more honey-dijon and the black forest ham. It’s easy to look at tea sandwiches and think, ahh that’s so easy…until you try to make it yourself! So hard to get everything precise with balance and sharp edges. And in front: Asian chicken salad with napa cabbage and roasted peanuts on whole wheat bread.

I was here during Fashion Week 2012 so they revamped all the regular desserts to fashion-themed desserts. Seriously cute. Let’s run through them all!

– Jimmy Choo Caramel Tart
– DVF Batten Burge
– Hot Coco Chanel
– Donna Karrot Cake
– Apple Brown Betsey Johnson

As for the tea itself? The Mandarin uses Vancouver-based tea company, Tealeaves (also known as “T”). This company has an impressive presence in the luxury hotel industry, and I’ve mentioned them <a href="http://static.squarespace.com/static/51895797e4b07dc9727307ce/518957d3e4b04dec96da1667/5189580be4b04dec96da1d55/1337365989000/#img Darjeeling and Jasmine Pearls are spectacular.

I have a bunch of afternoon tea plans lined up in Honolulu…see you guys there soon!

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, New York

80 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10023
(212) 805-8800