Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kona Coffee!

Photo from Kona Mountain Coffee.
If there’s one thing the western side of the Big Island is known for it’s coffee, Kona Coffee to be specific!  Hawai'i is the only state in the US to commercially grow coffee; and among the islands, only the Kona district grows this caffeinated treat.

Kona Coffee actually celebrated its 200th anniversary last year.  This thriving industry began in 1813 when King Kamehameha’s (the warrior-king who unified all the islands of Hawai’i) Spanish interpreter and physician, Don Francisco de Paula y Marin, planted the first trees on O’ahu.  A few years later, the Rev. Joseph Goodrich brought the trees to the Big Island before missionary Samuel Ruggles planted the first Arabica trees in the western side of the island in 1828.  

Coffee prefers shade and dry, cool summers so it did well on the Big Island’s volcanic slopes where clouds sweep in during the afternoons, and ocean breezes temper the tropical sun.  Kona Coffee is known to have a finish with floral notes with hints of peach, plum, and chocolate.

Although Kona coffee has been around for over two centuries, it did not became popular among connoisseurs until the 1980s (which worked perfectly for the farmers of Hawai’i as it was the same time that sugar cane farming was beginning to phase out). 

Photo from
Harvesting occurs year round and yields some of the best cherries (the red colored coffee beans) in the world.  But because the cherries must be picked by hand in the rugged sloped coffee terrain (some of which is grown as high as 3,200 feet above sea level) it has a tendency to translates to higher labor costs (to generate a sellable pound of coffee beans requires 7 pounds of cherries) which translates to high coffee costs (the beans usually run between $30-$50 a pound).

The process starts with a pulping machine that removes the tiny beans at the center of the cherry (usually there are two beans facing each other in a cherry, although occasionally one bean fails to divide leading to a high prized peaberry!).  Then the beans ferment in water and followed by being placed in drying racks in the sun.   Finally the beans are milled to remove the parchment skin, with the remaining green beans to be graded and roasted. 

The majority of Kona’s 600 coffee farms are small, family-run operations of 2-5 acres although there are a few larger farms (such as Kona Mountain Coffee).    

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Exotic Fruit Exploring in Hawi!

Hawi Honor Stand.  Photo by Kat Thomas.
I’ve been on the Big Island of Hawai’i in the town of Hawi

for over a week now as part of an organic farmstay and let me tell you Hawai’i is really another world!!!

The Big Island is the largest of the seven Hawai’ian island (around the size of Connecticut or twice the size of all other Hawai’ian islands combined), but only has a population of about 160,000.   Although Hawai’i Island is full of barren lava fields, the majority of the state’s agricultural products are grown and processed here. 

The hip little enclave of Hawi is only about an hour drive north of Kona, but this upcountry hamlet (with a population of slightly more than 900) is worlds away from its neighboring “city” (which with a population of 35,000 it’s hard for this Los Angeleno to considered Kona a city…)! 

Nestled on the northern most point on the island, it's a town that’s a block long, Hawi is full of supportive organic farmers who sell their wares at the local farmers market and at “Honor Stands.” 

Soursop. Photo by Kat Thomas.
Honor Stands are exactly what they sound like: farm stands where fresh fruit and vegetables are sold daily and where payment is made on the honor system.  At night you don’t even leave money, but instead write down your name and phone number. 

Choices vary according to what’s in season but in the last week I’ve had the ability to explore four different types of fruits that I had never even heard of till I came to Hawi!

These tiny, yellow, orb shaped fruits grow in clusters and can be quite sour when unripe, but are perfectly sweet when ripe with flavorings similar to an orange and grape.  

The passion fruit plant produces a spectacular flower with yellow of purple fruit (where I’m staying it’s yellow!).  Seeds of the purple varietal were first planted on Maui in 1880by Eugene Delemar who brought them from Australia and planted them at his ranch in an area still known as “Lilikoi Gulch.”  Flavor profiles include similarities to mangos, papayas, pineapples, and lemons.

Although the outside of this plant is green and prickly the inside of this fruit is similar to the flesh of uncooked Halibut (in a good way!)! The flavor is a combination of sour citrus, pineapple, and strawberry with an underlying creamy texture similar to a coconut, banana or cherimoya.

Rambutan. Photo by Kat Thomas.
Similar to lychees, rambutans are covered with soft spines.  Indigenous to the Malay Archipelago, the name of the fruit comes from the word “hairy” in Malay.   And you can definitely see why from the picture!  Once the hair exterior is peeled away (most people chose to give the fruit a slight bite with their teeth to break the skin) the tender, fleshy fruit offer a balance of sweet that is similar to larger white grape.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Binaural Beats and Basil Martinis at Riviera 31

A few weeks ago the Thomas Gals were invited to spend a Friday night at Riviera 31 at the Sofitel Los Angeles to check out the beats of the residency of Trinidad Senolia.  
Trinidad Senolia are the nom de musique of Garth Trinidad (KCRW DJ extraordinaire who has introduced the world to such artists as Little Dragon and Janelle Monae) and Mateo Senolia (pseudonym for novelist / screenwriter, Marcus J. Guillory).  

They are hosted by Xperiment USA (who presents live musical performances, DJs and burlesque six nights a week at the Sofitel).  On Friday nights Xperiment focuses on (House Disco Garage), a weekly musical celebration that takes guests on a deep, refreshing, and incredible journey of sounds for which Trinidad Senolia started their residency on January 24th. 

The vibe of Riviera 31 is a sophisticated cocktail lounge with a Mediterranean-style menu. The Hip Hipster clientele is matched by a red and black decor which takes visitors on a visual journey through the evocative history of the French Riviera through black and white photographs.  The venue's name, Riviera 31, reflects two states of geography: Riviera (South of France) and 31 (California, 31st State). 

In terms of a symphony of beats in the mouth we found the options très délicieux!  

Kelly and I checked out the Provencale Flatbread (Vine ripened tomatoes, Sautéed onions, Mozzarella, and Torn Garden Basil) and for the Vegan in the group (read: Moi!) a Flight of Fries including Truffle, Sweet Potato and Parmesan Parsley served with Harissa (aka a Tunisian Hot Chili Pepper Paste), Pesto and Roasted Garlic Aiolis (Très Yumm!).

For libations both us Thomas Gals partook in the Strawberry Basil Martini.  Served Up and composed of Absolut Elyx Vodka, Muddled Strawberries, and Fresh Torn Basil (they use lots of that) this pristine drink, crafted by Chef Matthew Biancaniello, tasted like Italy in the summertime!  

So for binaural beats and Basil Martinis Riviera 31 is the place to be.     

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

More Snaps of the SM Farmers Market

Four Apostles Ranch Heirloom Garlic. Photo by Kat Thomas.
 I was able to make it to the Saturday Santa Monica Farmers Market before heading out Hawaii for my two week long farmstay on the Big Island (much more on that later!).  So here are some more of the sexiness that local organic fruits and vegetables have to offer!!!
Harry's Berries. Photo by Kat Thomas.

Is that a carrot in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? Photo by Kat Thomas.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Priyatnogo Appetita!

Branzino. Photo by Kat Thomas
Edible Skinny was recently invited to a Special Evening of Decadent Delights hosted by Miss Olga Valentina of

Olga Valentina, is a fashionista/film producer that has recently tapped into her culinary side with her very own cooking show & blog.  Recently starring & co producing a film with John Cusack & Nicolas Cage to being featured in Racked LA for her tremendous closet, Valentina is quite a Jill of All Trades, and is now taking her passion for cooking to a whole new level.

Olga grew up in Moscow at the end of the Soviet era when food was scarce in the grocery stores, but plentiful in gardens (at least in the summer).  With their vibrant fruits, veggies and other lively homegrown ingredients, her mom and granny brought fun, passion and adventure to the kitchen where freshness was king and fast food was never an option.  
Moet Champagne Strawberry Lemonade. Photo by Kat Thomas
Both parts of Edible Skinny (Hooray to both Thomas girls on the same coast and in the same city!) were invited to Miss Valentina's kitchen in Venice, where she diced, sauteed, and plated romantic cuisine inspired by her travels around the world.

Early in the night we imbibed such crafty cocktails as Moet Champagne Strawberry Lemonade and Fresh Berry Mojito under crystal chandeliers donned with red and white paper valentines.

 Olga Valentina. Photo by Kat Thomas
We were then introduced to a variety of appetizers including Cauliflower Soup Shots, Chicken in Butter Lettuce Cups, and Citrus Lobster Salad.  Olga noted that all of these hors d'oeuvres were chosen to be on the lighter side because "appetizers should be had before Valentine's Day coitus, while dinner could be heavier because it would be after the fun and games" (or at least the first round of fun and games).

The main course include Branzino with Green Beans and Cavatelli Bolognese with Vension.  Kelly said that the Branzino, finished with Russian Red Caviar, "delicately announced itself like a prima ballerina."  Served bone in, it tasted like "clouds of suede in your mouth it was so light." 

Olga noted that when cooking her recipes (which are available to be printed out as fancy recipe cards from her website) be sure to watch out for Barabashka!

Photo by Kat Thomas
Barabashka is a little house spirit who followed her here from Russia.  In Russian folklore, he can either be a helper or a trickster in the kitchen.  As Olga says, "I often finds him hiding my spoons and spilling my sauces!

So if your looking for some romantic ideas for tomorrow evening, or just want some suggestions on what to cook in celebration of the Russian Olympic Games, Olga and awaits.

Priyatnogo appetita (aka Bon Appetit!)!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Back at the Market!

I'm in LA for a few weeks (before heading off to Hawaii to work on an organic farm on the Big Island!!) and naturally I needed to head back to the scene of the food crime.  The place where I fell in Love with the world of edible exploration and adventure: the Santa Monica Farmers Market!

From sub-zero temperatures on the East Coast to such delights as radishes donning every color of red, white, and pink for Valentine's Day; stalks heavily laden with brilliant Brussels Sprouts; and Romanesco Cauliflower that was both so technical and artistic that it looked like Leonardo da Vinci should have invented it!  It was wonderous!!!

Lucky for you dear Edible Skinny readers I brought my trusty dusty Cannon camera!

Hoping life is delicious!