Where to Stay Where to Eat in Moorea Like a (Wealthy) Local

/

Where to Stay and Where to Eat in Moorea

Where to eat in Moorea? Well, the first thing you should know about Moorea is – it’s really expensive. I’m not kidding. A beer at a beach bar can be $5 or more. Dinner can easily run $50 a person. We paid $100 for a bottle of wine to go with a special meal. Even the staples are expensive. A dozen eggs will set you back $7. But you know what? New York can be expensive. Paris too. Don’t get me started on Tokyo! If you are going to enjoy Moorea you might as well accept the fact that some damage will be done to your wallet.

Still, if its any consolation, the drive to Belvedere Lookout, the jungle hike to the waterfalls and swimming in the bright blue lagoons are all free. And that’s exactly how you’ll spend most of your time on Moorea.

Where to Stay and Where to Eat in Moorea

Villa Lagon, Moorea

Where to eat in Moorea

Where to Stay in Moorea

Villa Lagon: We stayed with a group of friends for 10 days at this estate-style home near Maharepa. It’s large and luxurious and has a beautiful private beach with the best snorkeling we experienced on Moorea. The island-style architecture will make you swoon. As will the shimmering tile pool in the courtyard and the all-stainless commercial-style kitchen. The house is very close to restaurants, gas stations, banks, and grocery stores. It comes with two kayaks. It’s probably the best house available for rent on the entire island. It’s not (at all) inexpensive, but the villa is special beyond my wildest dreams. On the downside, the tropical climate has made the house is a little ragged on the edges. Which might bother some folks, but it’s nothing serious to me. I live in a 90-year-old house with a few maintenance issues that cannot easily be addressed without destroying the very thing that makes the house beautiful. I also have to mention security. Petty theft is a big deal on Moorea. This house could be more secure. Be careful with your valuables. Our group had cash and small electronics stolen from us right under our very noses as we dined on the patio.


Fare Tokoau: We found this place on Airbnb and fell in love with the simple way of life it offers. It’s four duplex-style fares set on a lovely little beach on the west side of the island. The sunsets are SPECTACULAR. So are the starry nights as this is the much darker side of the island. The accommodations, though basic, are clean and very authentic to the Moorean way of life. There are a few too many brightly colored children’s toys competing with the view for my taste. But this is a family home. This small annoyance is more than made up for by the joy of watching a mother nap with her toddler in a hammock and a father frolicking in the lagoon with his son.

Fare Tokoau, Moorea

Fare MitiWhile we did not stay here I couldn’t help noticing this beautiful little bungalow courtyard each time we passed these thatched-roof fares. The property sits on one of the best west-facing beaches on the island. There are kitchenettes, but no restaurant or bar.

There are, of course, a few beautiful full-service resorts on Moorea including: Hotel Sofitel Resort, InterContinental Resort & Spa, Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, and Manava Beach Resort & Spa.

Where to Eat in Moorea

Coco Beach: Enjoy an unforgettable day on the tiny island of Motu Tiahua located just off shore from the Intercontinental Hotel. Burgers, steaks and fresh fish cooked over an open-air grill make the dining casual and delicious. The ride over on the Coco Beach pontoon boat was a wet but invigorating top ten moment for me. 

La Paillote: Tasty free-range grilled local chicken is served along with island favorites at this casual roadside eatery. It’s the very best value on the island.

Le Mayflower: Fine dining. Fine atmosphere. And the finest wine list on the island. Don’t miss this place no matter where on the island you are staying. Our best meal – easily!

Mano Arii: Just off the roadside (and way off the radar just south of Ha’apiti) Mano Arii is my favorite pizza on the island, though I admit they have serious competition with Allo Pizza (in much easier to find Maharepa). Both serve brilliant thin-crust, wood-fired pies in remarkably similar ingredient combinations. I had the Marseillaise (fresh tuna, capers, and anchovies) in both restaurants and preferred the lighter hand and crisper crust of Mano Arii. Formerly known as Pizza Daniel, this place is primarily a take-out venue where in-the-know-locals call ahead to order their pizza to take home. Which makes sense as we dined at the small counter and waited 45 minutes to get our pizza. It was an enjoyable wait however, and I loved watching the locals and the more adventurous tourists pop in and out in a steady Sunday night stream.

Moorea Beach Bar: I’ll admit I was a little disappointed with this place the first night we dined here. Because without a daylight view of yachts bobbing in the blue lagoon this smart and sexy French Riviera inspired café lost the very thing that made it special. However, a second visit and a boozy birthday lunch convinced me that these are the chicest eats (and drinks) on the island.

Pinapo: Another must visit. They serve excellent raw dishes and creative curries with the kind of feet in the sand and eyes on the ocean experience I seek when I travel to tropical locations. As a bonus they occasionally have popular beach parties with live music and coconuts roasted on an open fire.

Rudy’s: Casual fun and delicious. They are well-loved for their crab-stuffed parrot fish. It’s also (rightfully) a very popular spot among tourists. Call ahead and arrange the restaurant to pick you up if you don’t feel like driving.

Snack Mahana: “Snacks” are small, casual eateries that serve mostly local-style food. They are located all over the island in seemingly random places. Some have views. Some do not. Some are good. Some are not. You get the idea. However we loved Snack Mahana both for its ocean view and delicious food. Expect very cold beer and the best sashimi we experienced on the island.

Snack Moz: Another favorite located in the heart of Maharepa. Get in line with locals and order from the counter. The Tuna Tartare and the Crab-Shrimp Burger get high marks.

Ti Hanu Iti: This place is set on a dock overlooking Cooks Bay where they feed the sharks right from your table! It’s also listed in the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die. Which may sound like an exageration but many claim it’s the best French food on Moorea. They opened up the restaurant on a Monday night especially for our group. I’m sure I’ll die before any restaurant ever does that for me again!

GREG

Allo Pizza Moorea Snack Didier, Moorea Tipaniers Moorea Cocktails Pinapo, Moorea Poisson Cru Moorea Moorea Beach Club Nicoise Snack Mahana Moorea Fruit Tahiti Iti La Plage de Maui dinner, Tahiti

Where to Eat in Moorea Where to Eat in Moorea Where to Eat in Moorea

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

A Taste of Moorea and Poisson Cru

/

Palm Tree Moorea

Once you’ve arrived on the island of Moorea (just a short hop across the channel from Tahiti) it doesn’t take long for the idea to creep up on you. It might be the intense blue of a tranquil lagoon, or the unbelievably starry night skies. It could be the tropical breezes and the endless sunshine, or maybe it’s the dramatic way volcanic peaks are silhouetted against the sky. In my case, however, it’s the barefoot elegance of a simple meal of Poisson Cru (French for “raw fish”) eaten beneath a rustling palm tree. But whichever way you come to the conclusion it doesn’t take long to concede that yes, Moorea really is paradise.

Cooks Bay Moorea Cooks Bay Moorea Villa Lagon, Moorea Greg Henry Villa Lagon MooreaVilla Lagon Moorea Fare Tokoau MooreaHinano beerBelevedere lookout, Moorea

Poisson Cru

When I travel I like to leave no mountain unclimbed and no taco, dumpling, or oca root untasted. So it’s no great surprise that on Moorea I’ve grown fond of a local dish known as Poisson Cru. It’s as ubiquitous as it is delicious, it’s on nearly every menu and its flavor defines Polynesia – sweet and exotic. If these islands have a national dish it must surely be this Polynesian twist on ceviche.

Like ceviche, Poisson Cru is raw fish “cooked” in lime juice. However, I don’t really like that comparison because it implies that Poisson Cru is as popular and well-known as ceviche (or sashimi, tartare, crudo, and Hawaiian poke). But it’s not. Maybe today’s best chefs aren’t vacationing in the South Pacific enough because the overlooked Tahitian Poisson Cru becomes uniquely Polynesian with one simple and very local addition – coconut milk.

So why then is it next to impossible to find Poisson Cru outside these islands?

I don’t know. And rather than worry about it I’ve decided that I should hone my Poisson Cru skills before I leave Moorea. So while some in our group head outdoors to snorkel, lounge, or perhaps hike to the Belvedere Lookout I set out in search of good fresh fish.

Having had a strong feeling I’d end up in the kitchen even on vacation I researched the fish mongers on Moorea before I left Los Angeles. So I knew there’s a fish market here simply called the Old Fish Market. It’s listed in all the guidebooks as a “Top Sight” on the island if for nothing else than a chance to view a beautiful old painting of the market by the famed Tahitian artist François Ravello. I’d read that the market is on Cooks Bay near a village called Pao Pao. On the map, it looks like it’s only a few kilometers from Villa Lagon the house where we’re staying. In the days leading up to this trip, I happily fantasized that I’d walk to the Old Fish Market – leisurely taking in the view of the island’s trademark “Shark’s Tooth” mountain – each morning of my stay. So, while on drives around the island, I kept my eyes open for the sign, Cooperatif de Pêche Moorea, after all, what’s  better than fresh fish? Fresh fish with a French accent!

However, I soon realized there’s a reason they call this place the Old Fish Market. It’s not because it’s quaint, or old-school, or even because they sell yesterday’s catch. It’s called the Old Fish Market because it’s closed!

Thon Rouge for Poisson Cru

Which doesn’t turn out to be a problem. You can buy freshly caught fish – mostly tuna, mahi-mahi, or brightly colored reef fish – from a fisherman at makeshift markets casually set up on many street corners. At first, I’ll admit, it’s a little intimidating (and possibly dangerous to my digestion) to haggle over a raw fish hanging from a string by the side of the road. So I thought to myself that the fish at the huge Champion Toa Moorea Supermarket or the hunks of thon rouge at one of the many neighborhood magasins would probably be just fine. And for the first few days, it was. I poached local billfish in banana leaves and I tried my hand at Poisson Cru. Still, in the back of my mind, I knew I was missing out on an authentic south seas experience by not talking to the man or woman who actually caught the fish I was eating.

So towards the end of our stay, I made it a point to seek out a roadside fish stand and buy fish like a local. It was intimidating and I walked away several times. But I eventually came back because I realized that I was suffering from cultural imperialism. We Americans can be very prone to this affliction. I don’t want to be the kind of person who believes that my values are somehow automatically better than the values of another culture. Especially if I’ve never swayed my hips in their multi-colored sarongs before.

Besides, it’s moments like these that let you truly travel the world without merely vacationing from it. Buying that hunk of fish allowed me to see how proud this man is of his livelihood. It probably means good things for his family and the local economy. Still, it’s true, I sniffed and poked and questioned before I handed over my francs.

As for the rest of our stay on Moorea. Well, it’s paradise. From the white sands of Tema’e to waves crashing on the black lava rocks of Motu Tiahua. Whether you stay in the lap of luxury like our place at Villa Lagon, or you plant your butt in the sand and watch the sunset with the locals at a simple pension like Fare Tokoau (the happy, friendly, quiet Airbnb where we ended our stay), it’s all as beautiful as you ever imagined and then some. GREG

Greg Henry at Villa Lagon Moorea Belevedere lookout, Moorea Ken Eskenazi Sofitel Moorea Windy beach Moorea Poisson Cru

Tahitian Poisson Cru (E’ia Ota)

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2-4Published
Tahitian Poisson Cru (E’ia Ota)

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 2 cup cold water
  • 4 cup ice cubes
  • 1 pound raw fish (cut into 3/4-inch chunks, mahi mahi and local tuna are the most Tahitian choices)
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 medium tomatoes (seeded and chopped, optional)
  • 1 carrot (peeled and shredded)
  • 1 cucumber (peeled, seeded, and cut into shards or dice)
  • ½ cup sliced or diced sweet onion (optional)
  • 1 bell pepper (quartered lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced crosswise, optional)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • sliced green onion (as garnish, optional)
  • lime wedges (to taste)

Directions

Brine the fish: Combine kosher salt and water in a large mixing bowl and stir to dissolve the salt. Add ice cubes and soak the fish in the brine for about 10 minutes. Locals swear this makes the fish more tender. Pick out the ice cubes, drain well and set the fish aside in a large bowl.

Toss the fish chunks with the fresh lime juice allow it to marinate for about five minutes then pour off and discard about ½-cup of the lime juice, or to taste. Add any combination of the above vegetables, toss to combine. Carrots and cucumbers are required, the others are optional. Pour the coconut milk over the mixture and season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Garnish with green onion (if using) and lime wedges.

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Tahiti Road Trip: Teahupo’o and The Vanira Lodge

/

Tahiti Road Trip Part Two: Teahupo'o

Turquoise seas. Infinity pools. Gourmet buffets. Silk shirts with floral prints. Air-conditioned thatched-roofed huts hovering on stilts above palm-fringed lagoons. Glass floors that allow you to see colorful fish without leaving your room. Fresh fruit baskets delivered to your fare by a well-muscled hot tāne in a sarong. That’s Tahiti, right? Right… but it’s also Hawaii, Thailand, the Maldives, many islands in the Caribbean and even some parts of Mexico. Idyllic resort travel can be the ultimate tropical experience, but it tends to be exactly the same where ever you go. Not to mention expensive. Very expensive.

Sofitel Moorea

There are other ways to travel.

Tahiti Iti

Tahiti is laid out like a figure eight. The capital city of Papeete sits at the fat, north-west end, of that figure eight. Taravao a much smaller, but still important town is at the pinched center, and then there’s the furthest end of the island – an area known as Tahiti Iti, or more commonly the Presqu’ile. It’s Tahiti Iti where I find myself on this, my first visit to these islands.

Vanira Lodge Tahiti Tahiti

Tahiti Iti is far less traveled but thanks to a world-class swell at Teahupo’o (pronounced ‘cho-po’ by some and ‘tear-hoo-poh-oh’ by others) this part of the island is well-known to surfers. In fact, everywhere I look I see the joy (and facial scars) on the weather-beaten brows of those who travel great distances to conquer demon waves. Many of them say that the break at Teahupo’o is more consistent, more beautiful and more powerful than anything even Hawaii can muster. That exciting combination makes the surfing even more dangerous here because the waves crash over sharp coral lying just below the surface. People die surfing here.

Vanira Lodge Tahiti

Let me just say this: I’m not here to surf. So why am I here?

Teahupo’o

This is what’s running through my mind as I try to sleep on the first night of our stay at the Vanira Lodge near the waves at Teahupo’o. I’m dead tired from the long flight followed by a road trip across the island, but the thundering sound on the reef has made it impossible to sleep. Well, that and the hundreds of roosters. I swear it’s nowhere near dawn but the crowing has been going on since midnight. So I get out of bed, groping my jet-lagged way towards the terrace and the absolutely perfect moonlit view over the booming ocean to peck out these words on an iPhone.

Damn roosters aside, I’m here to see the Tahiti that Gauguin saw. I’m sure that fantasy doesn’t really exist anymore, but the further I get from the sights that draw most tourists the closer I’ll get to that idyll, or so I surmise. In Teahupo’o there are no stop lights, or any sort of fashion scene. People hitchhike and live in flip-flops. You don’t know who is rich or who is poor (unless you look at their flip-flops). It’s the kind of place where you sit, butt in the sand, watching the blue-green shallows of a remote reef and eat Poisson Cru (French for “raw fish”) with your hands. The next few days will be filled with traditional Polynesian villages, beaches, archeological sights, caves, and an outstanding tour of the remote mystical green-mountain wonders of Fenua Aihere and Te Pari.

Tahiti Jungle Vanira Lodge Tahiti Tahiti Iti

Teahupo’o is a land where locals sell pineapple and raw tuna Poisson Cru from bicycles along the beach. There are incredible waterfalls that end at deserted swimming holes. However, there’s also no air conditioning in most places, and thankfully no Starbucks or Costco. In fact, there’s no real infrastructure to deal with mass tourism at all. Still, for a lot of people, that’s the charm. You see, even in Teahupo’o there are plenty of reasons besides surfing to visit. Vibrant and unpolished Tahiti Iti has just enough of everything I seek in a tropical vacation. It’s a place where cold beer and good food mix with a barefoot vibe and a chance for a more authentic glimpse of Polynesia. The surfers and out-of-the-way travelers like me slot into the mellow vibe of Tahiti Iti with ease. At sunrise, people wander down to the waves to see what the day promises. At sunset, the bars dotted around the bay come alive. What happens in between is totally up to each traveler.

Tahiti Restaurant

Teahupo’o: Where to Stay and What to Eat.

Officially, as far as I can tell, there are two “hotels” on this part of the Tahiti Iti: Vanira Lodge, and Pension Chayan. Unless you count Tauhanihani Village Lodge or Reva, which are so isolated they’re only available by boat. However, I did notice that several of the bars had bulletin boards advertising plenty of other accommodations ranging from single room crash pads to large houses. Many of these same places are probably listed on Airbnb.

  • We chose Vanira Lodge and stayed in the Vai Iti bungalow. The bungalows are inspired by Polynesian building traditions with features like exposed beams of varnished tree trunks and open-air floor plans. Two of the bungalows are actual tree houses with balconies above the forest canopy. Others have interesting stone and coral walls with flowering, vegetation-covered roofs. They’re built by local craftsmen to blend in with the landscape, and let the guests enjoy the natural world around them. Most especially the wide open views of the ocean. While it’s not camping you need a certain love of nature to fully enjoy your stay. Along with tropical flowers and colorful birds come bugs and geckos with whom you have to learn to cohabit. Again, for some, that’s part of the charm. But as I said, this is not camping. Yoga and massage are available. There’s a beautiful bed in our bungalow with an ocean view. We have a hot tub on our terrace (with an ocean view). And most importantly everything is done with artistic attention to detail (and the ocean view).
  • The restaurant at Vanira Lodge is listed in the guidebooks as the area’s only upscale dining choice. Still, there are only a few tables under a thatched roof gazebo or scattered around a palm-fringed garden and the service seems to be on island time. However, much is forgiven by the intimate and romantic setting and you won’t want to miss the meal either. It’s a lovely fusion of French and Polynesian defined as “modern Tahitian cuisine” on the website. Highlights include Paraha, a whole reef fish for two.
  • While not exactly a full service “restaurant” there’s something mildly elegant about the rustic little eaterie at La Plage de Maui. It’s a casually sophisticated place where you dine at picnic tables with your toes in the sand and your eyes on the setting sun. It’s not technically in Teahupo’o, but it’s conveniently located on the beach in nearby Vairao. If the view doesn’t put you in a Tahitian state of mind the food certainly will. The steamed fish, or shrimps in a banana leaf with whatever produce is available locally will turn you into a taro and breadfruit fan.
  • There are a couple casual divey beach bars filled with surfers and locals dotted around the bay and surf break at Teahupo’o where you can get fish burgers and of course Poisson Cru. I won’t say one is better than the other, but some are indeed worse than the others. But they’re beach bars, food aside, you’ll love any one of them.

GREG

Fruit Tahiti Iti TahitiLa Plage de Maui dinner, Tahiti La Plage de Maui dinner, Tahiti Greg Tahiti

Save

Save

Day One: Papeete, Tahiti – Briefly

/

Papeete, Tahiti

How many times have you heard it? “I’ve always dreamed of running away to Tahiti.”

I’ve only just arrived in Papeete, the capital city of Tahiti, the most famous of a world-renowned chain of islands known as the Society Islands. Still, it doesn’t take long to realize why so many people share the fantasy. Tahiti really is the quintessential tropical island, rising like a lush green mirage above the cool blue Pacific. My partner Ken and I will be on Tahiti for just three days. It’s not our final destination. That will be two weeks on the island of Moorea. Which, even now, suggestively beckons across the indigo channel separating the two islands.

In fact, Moorea looms so beautifully on the seascape here that it’s hard to turn your back on it. In fact even the airport runway has a panoramic view of it. But I want to get the vibe of Tahiti during our short stay, so I turn my attention to what’s in front of me, and that’s Papeete.

In some ways, it’s typical of many tropical cities I’ve visited. People drink the local beer (Hinano) on street corners, there’s fresh catch-of-the-day smoking on open grills, and children dance to French pop songs blasting on radios. Beautiful men and women lilt past me wearing flowers in their hair as naturally as they breathe. But I’m also struck by the competing notions that Papeete is a scruffy port city that’s as exotic and romantic as anyplace I’ve ever been. Plus it’s buzzing with activity. Scooters and motorcycles snarl among the coconut palms and bougainvillea. Especially around Le Marché, the local market where lazy chaos reigns. You can buy pearls, vanilla, flowers, fruit, strings of brightly colored parrot fish, and all kinds of things made from bamboo sticks and palm fronds. While Papeete seems exciting in its own way – exuding a provincial charm arguably more French than Tahitian –  it’s also a blur of people and touristy areas. Too much for my jet-lagged body to handle at the moment.

River bridge Teahupoo, Tahiti

So within the hour of landing on Tahiti, we turn our attention to the main attraction of our stay here – a road trip to the far reaches of the less-traveled southeast coast. Because slow is the pace we’re looking for: soft breezes, tropical flowers, bird song. That and the freedom to seek out tropical peaks, empty beaches, and regional food. Ken and I have a destination in mind, Teahupo’o village on the other side of the island in Tahiti Iti, but no real plans. We’ll operate as usual on this trek, which means we might or might not stop for any number of things: roadside fruit stands, an awesome show of waves, a bite of fresh-from-the-oven coconut bread.

Palm trees Tahiti

Once on the road my road trip wonder kicks into full gear. Thousands of palm trees whiz by our open windows, their leafy heads nodding happily in what seems to be approval of our meandering route. The road winds between cliff and sea views. With quick peeks into deep valleys and uninterrupted vistas across the jagged coastline all the way, presumably, to Antartica. We come across tidy, flower-filled villages with pastel-colored tin-roofed houses, beautiful surf breaks, and glimpses up jungle rivers. I feel that jet lag drifting away.

Ken hammock Tahiti

I’ll have more on our continuing road trip to Tahiti and Moorea as soon as I can get around to it. The sound of the surf on the reef and the fragrance of gardenia in the air may inspire me to keep writing of my adventure as it’s happening or it could just lull me into quiet repose. We shall see. You can always follow our adventure on Instagram too. GREG

Tahiti sunset All trees Tahiti Papeete Tahiti road trip

 

Tahitian Grilled Steak and Papaya Served with No Apologies

/

Grilled Steak and Papaya

Look up! Does Grilled Steak and Papaya give you a hint about what’s going on my life? I hope so because I can’t seem to muster the concentration to say much more than yummy. That’s partly because I’m in vacation anticipation mode. The next time you hear from me I’ll be in Tahiti. Or Moorea. Or maybe you won’t hear from me at all while I’m away. I can’t promise much with a snorkel in my mouth and a cold beer in my hand. Tahiti. Moorea. Snorkeling. Beer. Obviously, this is a tropical vacation. In that regard, I suppose this post is at least timely even if it’s not comprehensive. Grilled Steak and Papaya sets a tropical tone at any latitude.

If it sounds like I’m apologizing in advance for a series of upcoming slip-shod posts I’m sorry. Oh wait, is that me apologizing for apologizing?

You see, when it comes to this blog I’m a planner. I can even be a pre-planner. Especially when I have a vacation on the horizon. To prepare this little blog for a trip I typically plan way, way ahead. I’ve been known to write a dozen posts in advance then set my blog on auto-publish while I’m gone. I may get a break, but to my way of thinking the blog NEVER gets a break.

Which is why I’m a little surprised the only adjective coming from my fingertips is “yummy”. But the truth is this Grilled Steak and Papaya is indeed yummy. Maybe I don’t need to say anything else.

Of course, there are plenty of other reasons for my loss of initiative. Like all of us, I have bread to “win” and bacon to “bring home”. Why do vacations require so much bread and bacon? Plus, this past year or so has been more hectic than usual. My MIL moved in with us just about 18 months ago. It’s been an all-consuming lifestyle change.

Though I realize the changes around here have affected how I approach this blog, I’ve still tried to keep a lot of the details to myself. It’s easy to sound whiny in 500 pithy blog words. So I’ll just try to say it as simply as I can.

There are many challenges to living with an elderly person with dementia. There are absolute rewards too. However, mentioning the rewards without talking about the challenges would ring hollow. Life’s greatest rewards come with a lot of effort – to pretend otherwise is insincere. So rather than risk sounding glib I’ll leave it with this all-too-true statement: in order to be an effective caregiver, you must first care for yourself.

World Map

So I’m taking a break, packing my sarong, and heading to the South Seas. My MIL will be well cared for. We’ve got a team of family and caregivers in place. It may sound like I’m apologizing for going to Tahiti and Moorea where there will be snorkeling and beer. A place where maybe I’ll post and maybe I won’t. But it doesn’t feel like an apology to me because if I do post it will because I really want to. Because getting away helps me appreciate all the things I love about my lucky life. And one of those things is this little blog. Isn’t that the point of a vacation? GREG

Grilled Steak and Papaya

Tropical Spiced Grilled Steak and Papaya

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2Published

Papaya not only flavors the meat in this recipe, it actually contains an enzyme that acts as a tenderizer. Give it a try.

grilled steak with papaya

Ingredients

  • 1 medium papaya (peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch chunks, divided)
  • 1 orange (zest and juice only)
  • 1 lime (zest and juice only)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 tablespoon packed fresh oregano leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for seasoning steaks)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (plus more for seasoning steaks)
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • water (as needed)
  • ½ red bell pepper (seeded and cut into ½-inch chunks)
  • ½ sweet onion (such as Maui, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks)
  • 1-2 (1 ½-inch thick) steaks (about 12-15 ounces total for 2 people)
  • lime wedges (to taste)

Directions

Make the marinade: In a blender, combine half the papaya chunks, orange juice and zest, lime juice and zest, olive oil, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, black pepper and cayenne if using. Blend until mostly smooth, but flecked with oregano. Adjust consitency with water. It should fall freely from a spoon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine remaining papaya, bell pepper, sweet onion. Drizzle in 2-3 tablespoons of the marinade; toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate the relish until serving time. Can be made up to 6 hours in advance.

Place the steak(s) in a ziplock bag. Pour the remaining marinade into the bag, seal and let it sit, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour. Or you can refrigerate the steak in the marinade for several hours or even overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat the grill. Brush off any excess marinade from the steak(s), season to taste with salt and pepper and grill, turning once, until done to taste, about 3-5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Cut into thin slices, across the grain. Serve with papaya relish and lime wedges.

Grilled Steak and Papaya

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Herb-Topped Chilled Red Bell Pepper Soup

/

Herb-Topped Chilled Red Bell Pepper Soup

It’s July and it’s hot where I live. Is it hot where you are too? Well, when it’s hot it’s time to consider a few changes to your culinary habits. So I have a simple summer Chilled Red Bell Pepper Soup. It’s a great starter for an al fresco evening or even a light meal all on its own. Summer soups have a whole psychology about them that must be considered when choosing how to prepare one. One of these considerations is the balance of flavor. Cold food needs to be amplified. I don’t know why, but salt and acid seem to especially recede once chilled. Also, when it’s hot outside a bit of spice on the tongue tricks the brain into thinking it’s cooler than it really is.

So when you make this Chilled Red Bell Pepper Soup be generous with the red pepper flakes and taste the soup for seasoning just before it’s served.

Red Bell Pepper Soup

Cool and spicy (and properly seasoned) is a great place to start. However, there is more to summer soup than merely chilling something flavorful. A summer soup needs some pizzazz. As delicious as this Red Bell Pepper Soup may be on its own, the real star of the bowl isn’t the red bell pepper. It’s the big pile of fresh herbs on top. In fact, this summer soup has so many herbs that calling them a garnish seems like an understatement. The herbs atop this soup are more like a salad.

So, just like a salad, make sure you have plenty of flavorful diversity. You’ll want to have at least three varieties of herbs to wake up your overheated summertime palate. Choose basil, dill, tarragon, or coriander. From savory flat-leaf parsley to the green tartness of the sorrel – any combination of your favorites soft-leafed herbs will work.

It’s not as hard as you might think to keep a variety fresh herbs in constant supply. I clip or buy herbs once a week or so and keep them lined up on the top shelf of my fridge. I often stand them up in drinking glasses with a little water at the bottom – like cut flowers. Not only does this keep the herbs fresher longer but their grassy fragrance wafts through my kitchen every time I open the refrigerator. It’s a casual reminder to use a fistful of fresh herbs in whatever other unexpected ways I can. GREG

Herb-Topped Chilled Red Bell Pepper Soup

Chilled Red Bell Pepper and Tomato Soup with Fresh Herbs

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Yotam OttolenghiPublished
Herb-Topped Chilled Red Bell Pepper Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion (peeled and chopped)
  • 3 red bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed, then cut into ⅓-inch dice))
  • 1 (15-oz) can chopped tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for seasoning)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cup vegetable stock (plus more if necessary)
  • ground white pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 2 celery spears (cut into ⅓-inch dice)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • ½ clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 cup assorted chopped, fresh herbs (such as basil, marjoram, parsley, and/or tarragon)
  • ½ cup sour cream

Directions

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add two-thirds of the diced bell pepper, tomatoes with the juice, ½ teaspoon salt, bay leaves, ground cumin, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the red bell peppers have softened and the tomatoes have cooked down slightly about 10 minutes.

Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan, lower the heat and cook for 15 more minutes.

Once the red bell peppers are very soft, remove the pan from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Using a hand blender, purée the soup, or use a blender and purée in batches. Adjust consistency with more stock if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper.

Allow the soup to cool about five minutes. While still slightly warm stir in the diced celery, remaining diced red pepper, lemon zest, and garlic. Set aside until it comes to room temperature and then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

When ready to serve remove the soup from the refrigerator. Stir well, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper. Divide the soup among serving bowls, sprinkle over a generous amount of chopped herbs. Garnish with a dollop sour cream. Serve immediately.

 

Save

Save

Rum-Muddled Diplomat in a Cool Dark Corner

/

Rum-Muddled Diplomat

One of my favorite things about good cocktails is the mood they set. It can be as simple as a happy Mojito, as energizing as an impeccable Gin & Tonic, or as sublime as a perfect Martini. You can shoot angry shots lined up on the bar, or set the stage with something more romantic. Cocktails and fantasies go hand-in-hand. Take this Rum-Muddled Diplomat. It’s a drink I developed for my book Savory Cocktails. It’s a spicy rum concoction that makes me feel like escaping the heat of the summer sun by slipping into a cool, dark corner and letting my imagination run wild.

Which is just how this cocktail got its name.

I love the image of a Rum-Muddled Diplomat. I imagine him an older gentleman, dressed to the hilt in some muggy, tropical locale. Most days he escapes the sun by sitting under the slow hypnotic whirl of a ceiling fan in the far corner of a dark bar. He’s a little daft and a little too self-important. Of course he prefers the local rum, and of course, he’s beloved by everyone. GREG

Rum-Muddled Diplomat: Hot Summer Drink for a Cool Dark Corner

Rum-Muddled Diplomat

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1Source Savory Cocktails by Greg HenryPublished

HABANERO AGAVE SYRUP
1 habanero, thinly sliced
½ cup warm water
½ cup amber agave nectar, plus more to taste

Place the habanero and all its seeds in a small non-reactive container. Add the warm water and agave nectar; stir to combine then set aside about 1 hour for the flavors to come together. Strain the syrup, discarding the solids, then taste; adding more agave nectar if you feel it’s too hot, but remember– this is just one layered ingredient.

Rum-Muddled Diplomat

Ingredients

  • ½ lime (quartered)
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 (1-inch) piece unpeeled English cucumber (quartered)
  • 2 ounce anejo rum
  • 3 barspoons habanero agave syrup (about ½ ounce, see notes)
  • 2 dash Bittercube Jamaican #1 Bitters (optional)
  • 1 splash club soda
  • 1 very thin cucumber slice (as garnish)

Directions

In a sturdy, thick-bottomed pint glass from a Boston shaker, use a bar muddler to crush the lime and salt until most of the juice is extracted. Add the quartered cucumber and continue to muddle until you have a fragrant, pulpy mush; it’s okay if the lime and cucumber skins are still partly intact. Pour in the rum and spoon in the habanero agave syrup to the mixture; stir lightly to combine and to remove all the syrup from the spoon. Add the bitters (if using).

Fill the metal part of the Boston shaker 2/3 full with ice. Pour the muddled rum mixture (including pulp) over the ice and then cap the shaker with the pint glass. Shake vigorously until well chilled. Uncap the pint glass and add the club soda. Using a Hawthorn strainer, double-strain the cocktail through a wire-mesh sieve into a chilled cocktail glass. Float the cucumber slice on top.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese Panini Outdoors

/

Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese Panini

A French classic served American grilled-cheese style on Italian bread. Why would I do such a thing? Well, for starters it’s Bastille Day. Though admittedly Bastille Day doesn’t have quite the same pull in North America as Independence Day or Canada Day. Still, they all have one thing in common and that’s the season they’re celebrated – summer. I’ve included Italy in this celebration though Italy’s Republic Day is technically celebrated in late spring. Springtime can be so warm in Italy it often feels like summer. To celebrate these holidays I’ve decided to serve an All-American, on-the-grill grilled cheese sandwich because sandwiches are one of my favorite summer foods. Even when they’re called paninis. Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese Panini.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese Panini

Because it’s summer I’ve chosen to grill these sandwiches on an outside charcoal grill. You could certainly make this Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese Panini in a panini press of even on the stove top. However, I want to discuss the particular challenges of using live fire to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Because of its name you’d think a Grilled Cheese Sandwich would be a natural partner to an outdoor grill. But making a Grilled Cheese Sandwich on the grill can be tricky. It’s easy to end up with grilled cheese ashes.

Two-Zone Grilling

Though I said it was “tricky” it’s really not too tricky because there’s really only one trick to learn: Heating Zones.

An essential concept an outdoor cook needs to understand is the importance of temperature control and how to use a two-zone setup with direct heat and indirect heat areas.

Look at your grill and try to visualize how this might work because every grill is different. Your goal is an indirect heat zone with a temperature around 225°F and a much higher heat live fire zone that acts as the furnace for the indirect heat zone. To achieve this on a charcoal grill push the coals to one side. On a gas grill turn off all the burners except one or two. When it comes time for grilling all you need to do is move the food around the grill to control the temperature at which it cooks. In the case of this Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese Panini, you can get the cheese melted and the bread toasted with nothing more than these two zones and a watchful eye. GREG

Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese Panini Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese Panini

Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese Panini

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2Source Adapted from Cooking LightPublished

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon sour cream
  • 3 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 ounce shreded Gruyère cheese (about ½ cup)
  • 4 slice thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 3 ounce shredded, boneless cooked chicken breast
  • 2 Italian deli-style sandwich rolls (or ciabatta rolls)
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil

Directions

Prepare the grill for two-zone cooking. Your goal is an indirect heat zone with a temperature around 225°F and a much higher heat live fire zone that acts as the furnace for the indirect heat zone. To achieve this on a charcoal grill push the coals to one side. On a gas grill turn off all the burners except one or two.

Meanwhile combine sour cream, mustard and thyme leaves in a bowl; set aside.

Cut the rolls lengthwise in half. Spread an even layer of mustard mixture on the cut side of each roll. Layer cheese, prosciutto, and chicken evenly between two of the cut roll halves. Put the top halves of the rolls in place. Press down on each sandwich so it is compacted. Lightly brush each roll on both sides with olive oil.

Place the sandwiches on the cooking grate over the indirect heat zone. Put a sheet pan on top of the sandwiches and then add two foil-wrapped bricks on the sheet pan. Grill, with the lid open, until the bread is toasted on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully remove the bricks and the sheet pan, turn the sandwiches over, replace the pan and bricks, and continue cooking until the bread is toasted on both sides and the cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes more.

Transfer the sandwiches to a cutting board and cut them in half, or into smaller pieces if serving as an appetizer. Serve warm.

Save

Avocado Pâté with Extra Graisse if I May

/

Avocado Pâté

I think I know what a pâté is. And I thought I knew what it isn’t. However, there’s a wide world between what is and what is not for just about anything. It’s that gray area where creativity abounds. Although, when talking about pâté, it’s probably best to forget the word gray. But how about green? How about Avocado Pâté? Julia Child once said, “The memory of a good pâté will haunt you for years” and a good pâté is simply a purée loaded up with extra graisse. Graisse is fat. Avocado has plenty of fat. Good healthy fat at that.

While avocado is rich you have to admit it lacks a certain unctuous luxury and can’t really hold a candle to a lavish duck liver pâté. Which got me thinking. While I love that addictive iron bite of real foie gras. It’s not what really draws me to the delicacy. It’s the buttery texture. Chef Michel Richard knew this and developed an utterly delicious foie gras analog made with chicken livers which he cleverly called Faux Gras. The secret to his Faux Gras is simple. It’s not much more than chicken liver and butter.

I followed that formula with avocado and made a rich and delectable vegetarian Avocado Pâté. I’m not claiming it’s one bit less fattening than Fois Gras, but I will say it’s certainly not gray. GREG

pâté butterAvocado Avocado Pâté

Avocado Pâté

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 12Published
Avocado Pâté

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe, but firm avocado (peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped)
  • 8 tablespoon unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 lime (juice and zest only, separated)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill leaves
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teas teaspoon ground white pepper
  • baguette slices crackers or cucumber slices.
  • clarified butter (for sealing)

Directions

Place avocado, butter, lime juice, lime zest, herbs, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until perfectly smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.

Scrape the mixture into one 10-12 ounce ramekin or two 5-6 ounce ramekins. Fill to about ¼-inch from the top. Tap the ramekin(s) on the counter to release any air bubbles and smooth the top(s) until flat. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat clarified butter over medium heat until liquid. Allow it to cool somewhat then pour a ¼-inch or so a layer of over each ramekin return to the refrigerator to solidify.

To serve: Remove and discard the butter seal. Serve spread on toasted baguette.

Will keep up to one week while encased in butter. Once the butter is removed it should be consumed within a couple of days.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Serve Swordfish (Again!) with a Simple Pan Sauce

/

Swordfish with a Simple Pan Sauce

A pan sauce is a simple way to dress up sautéed seafood. However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know which fish to choose these days. Many species are overfished or are harvested using horrendous practices that destroy the very environment needed to keep them viable and available to the seafood-loving public. I mean how much sense does it make to fish yourself right out of business? But it’s happening all over the world and unless consumers educate themselves, then we are accomplices in encouraging a situation where we fish all the fish right out of the sea.

Still, it’s not all bad news. The swordfish population is finally in a good place again. There was a period when the swordfish population was collapsing because of overfishing. But after smart efforts to protect the species, including stricter regulation, the fishery has bounced back to sustainable levels. In fact, there are actually more swordfish in our oceans today than there were before the collapse. That’s a success story worth celebrating.

More importantly, it’s a success story worth emulating with other red-listed species. I’m hopeful we’ll see the monkfish, shark, and bluefin tuna populations growing in the next decade. Until then you won’t find them on my plate.

But let me get off my high seahorse and get to the recipe. Well, it’s hardly a recipe. It’s more of a technique for pan frying swordfish. A technique that starts with a brine, moves to the stovetop and finishes in the oven. I hope I make this simple procedure clear in the recipe because I’d like to talk about the pan sauce I’m serving with this swordfish. Mastering a pan sauce quickly and easily is one of those kitchen magic tricks that makes you look like a pro. In fact learning to build a pan sauce could be the highest yielding 25 minutes you’ll ever spend in a kitchen.

Pan Sauce Tips

  1. Use high heat to properly sear whatever you plan to sauce. It creates what pros know as a fond on the bottom of the pan. All you need to know is that these caramelized bits are where the flavor comes from and they’re the essential ingredient for making a quick pan sauce.
  2. Next, remove the seared item and de-glaze the pan (typically with wine) and reduce the liquid. This creates a concentrated, flavorful base for the pan sauce.
  3. At this point lower the heat and add something acidic. Acid builds flavor.
  4. Then turn the burner off to whisk in the cold butter to create an elegant texture.
  5. That’s pan sauce.

PS: One note about the bloodline found in some swordfish steaks. I prefer to cut it away in many cases. It has a strong flavor which doesn’t work well with most delicate preparations. It’s possible to buy swordfish without a bloodline present. However I avoid those cuts, because a bright red bloodline (as opposed to rusty or brownish) is a great indicator of very fresh fish. GREG

Swordfish In Brine Simple Pan Sauce Swordfish with a Simple Pan Sauce

Seared Swordfish with Lemon Caper Pan Sauce

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2Published
Seared Swordfish with Lemon Caper Pan Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 (12-15 oz) 3/4-inch thick swordfish fillet (or 2 smaller fillets)
  • ¼ cup kosher salt (plus more for seasoning)
  • 6 cup icy water
  • ground pepper (black, white, Esplette, it’s up to you)
  • 2 tablespoon canola oil
  • 9 tablespoon unsalted butter (divided)
  • 12 clove peeled garlic (optional)
  • 1-2 sprigs of woody herb (such as thyme or rosemary, optional)
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot (heaping)
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoon capers (rinsed)
  • ½ lemon (juice only)
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • lemon wedges (as garnish)

Directions

Brine the swordfish: Brine the fish in a mixture of ¼ cup salt and 6 cups icy water. After about an hour remove the fish from the brine, pat it dry with paper towels, and place it in the refrigerator for at least six hours or up to overnight.

Start on the stove top: An hour before cooking remove the swordfish from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Just before cooking season the fillet with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil and butter to the pan. Once the butter begins to foam, add the seasoned fillet and also the garlic cloves and woody herbs (if using).

Place the swordfish in the skillet and cook until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. Flip the fish over and remove the skillet from the heat.

Finish in the oven: Place the fish in its skillet in the heated oven and cook 3-4 minutes. Remove skillet from the oven and let it rest 2 minutes and then use an instant-read thermometer to check the interior temperature of the fish. Your goal is 118 degrees F. It probably won’t be there on the first temperature check. In which case return the skillet to the oven for a minute or two and repeat the process until the correct temperature is achieved.

Transfer the cooked swordfish to a warm plate. Remove the herbs, garlic (if using), and most of the fat from the sauté pan.

While the pan is still hot, melt 1 tablespoon of butter, and sweat the shallots until softened, about 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and return the skillet to medium-high heat to reduce by half.

Lower the heat to medium. Add the capers and lemon juice, and cook for 1 minute.

Take the pan off the heat, and add in the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, swirling the pan continuously to emulsify the butter.

Add minced parsley, and season to taste.

Spoon the sauce over the fish, and garnish with a lemon wedge.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save