Local Hawaii ingredients used with an international flair
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
New book on dangers of Bovine Growth Hormone
Parents in Canada, 28 European Member States, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Japan don't have to worry about their children being exposed to bovine growth hormone in school lunch milk. That's because those countries have all banned the use and import of U.S. BGH milk and dairy products.
Back in the USA, although overall milk consumption has decreased by something like 10 percent, the sale of USDA certified organic milk is said to be growing by an annual 25 percent. The price gap is also narrowing... thanks to, I really choke up when I type this, Wal-Mart.
So there's a surplus of milk and still Monsanto pushes farmers to buy its rBGH, the genetically altered form of BGH. rBGH is said to be used in about 1/3 of dairy farms. This is good for Monsanto but of course bad for cows and consumers. How bad? Read about what it does to cows and why they then have to be given antibiotics to keep them alive in this book by Dr. Samuel Epstein, What's in your Milk? An introduction by Ben Cohen, Co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, can be found here.
From the Forward to this book:
The risks of cancer to consumers and particularly their children, especially those enrolled in the Public School Lunch Program, are undisputable.Cheap organic milk is not going to get me into Wal-Mart, but perhaps downward pressure on the price of organic milk will make it more available elsewhere. We buy our lowfat organic milk at Costco.
Dr. Epstein's book is available from Amazon.com .
Amazon groceries with free delivery appear to be a real deal
A post on Ian Lind's blog alerted me that Amazon.com not only carries grocery items but ships them for free if the order is over $50. I seem to be the last person to find out about these things.
Ian lives on the North Shore so he doesn't have the ready access to all the shops we have here in town, and with the price of gasoline these days, anyone driving into town from a remote location must be thinking also of the expense that adds to a shopping trip. On a Neighbor Island where costs are highter and stores even fewer, perhaps having purchases delivered right to your door is even a better deal.
Actually, I'm not sure, but the minimum may now be $25 for free shipping. I haven't actually ordered anything yet, so I can't report if this works.
I wanted to explore some bechmarks to see if ordering from Amazon.com could be competitive. As it turns out, I don't use very much that they carry. We do the majority of our food shopping at the KCC Saturday Farmers Market, no longer at Safeway. Many of the brands Amazon.com carries are not familiar to me.
So I selected Celestial Seasonings for a test. The brand is carried almost everywhere. I found that most of their products come in a box with 20 tea bags and the prices seem to be the same across the product line unless a store is running a sale on a particular flavor. So I took notes as I visited some stores. Since we were visiting the Big Island, I checked the prices there as well (and was surprised, I thought they would be higher than Oahu!).
Finally, I happened to notice something on Amazon.com that we do use, canned Irish oatmeal. So I just checked on that. Most stores don't carry it here.
Here is the comparison:
(Island Natural and Abundant Life Natural Foods are both in Hilo.)
Safeway currently has a sale on Celestial Seasonings (buy one get one free until today) but Amazon.com is still cheaper.
As you see, Amazon.com did very well -- and with free delivery, too (assuming you can put together some other items or even books to make up the minimum order). You can't order just one box of tea, you have to order six. If that works for you, you can save.
So while we believe in "think globally, shop locally" the discounts and free delivery are very enticing. For someone who, for mobility reasons, can't get out to shop very easily, free delivery might be a godsend.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Some like it hotter
It used to be that the only place in Volcano Village on the Big Island of Hawaii that would be open late for dinner was Kilauea Lodge. So we'd make reservations on the day we planned to drive down to the coast to see red-hot lava flowing into the ocean. After witnessing new land being created before our very eyes we would humbly drive back and relax over a great meal.
But sometimes you can't get reservations at Kilauea Lodge since everyone else is doing the exact same thing. And it has gotten a bit pricey, though still a good value.
Now there is an alternative, and a tasty one too: Thai Thai Restaurant, just down Old Volcano Road from Kilauea Lodge.
As we learned on Oahu, it's important that the chef be from Thailand if you want an authentic Thai experience. No "Evil Jungle Prince" made-up dishes here. That's an Oahu invention, not a Thai dish.
We just had to have the Tom Yum soup (spicy lemongrass soup with shrimp or meat). We ordered with shrimp (Tom Yum Kung, spelling varies according to the restaurant). This is a dish that we would happily order any time of day in Bangkok. We once used our time at Bangkok Airport between our incoming flight from Rangoon and our outgoing flight to Tokyo to grab a taxi to a nearby hotel and order up some of this classic soup. But we're weird.
The problem with ordering it in the States is that it is a miracle if it is spicy enough. I don't know why it is that people like spicy food, but there are some dishes that just have to have that certain near-death kick to them. Tom Yum Kung is one of those for us. It is also our test of a Thai restaurant.
The menu at Thai Thai Restaurant offers the options mild, medium, hot, and Thai hot, so we asked for Thai hot. Thus began the negotiation. The chef explained that "Thai hot" was very hot. Maybe too hot. We said that we knew that, we've been to Thailand, we like it that way, please don't spare us at all, it's ok, and so forth. We're survivors. All the while I expected that the soup would be toned down to avoid trouble (two farangs [foreigners in Thai] screaming in pain or running out of the place or something similar). After all, it's safer for the restaurant to humor the poor souls who order "Thai hot" even if they claim they like it, because of course they likely never had it really "Thai hot." Why test the limits of a customer's endurance?
But after some talk and enough name dropping that we established our creds as Bangkok regulars, we did get a dish spicy enough (maybe 80% "Thai hot"?) which was flavorful as well.
Of course, "heat" is not the only measure of a dish. The flavor, aroma and texture should meld perfectly with the spice. And it's a plus if it reminds us of the similar dish we enjoyed in Thailand. This soup met our expectations.
We were eating lightly so we ordered Pad Sea Eaw (broad noodles stir-fried with Thai broccoli). This dish shouldn't be so hot. It was well-balanced and tasty.
We ended with chilled mango served with warm sticky rice in an ocean of coconut milk, another favorite.
We went back the next night to further explore the menu. We tried the Tay Poh Curry, a green curry with peanut sauce, and also garlic and pepper beef. More negotiation this time with the waitress who was a farang like us. Again, we prevailed.
As we dined, I noticed that this negotiation was common to almost all the diners who came in that evening--the discussion of how spicy the meal should be, the cautionary warnings, and the eventual determination of an appropriate spice level.
In truth, there is no mistake in ordering a dish less spicy than one can tolerate, or less spicy than one might have had in Thailand. Our Tay Poh Curry was not highly spiced, but spicy enough. It was outstanding, though we could have done with less coconut milk, a personal preference (Thai Thai imports their coconut milk, rice and some other ingredients directly from Thailand, we were told, and the greens are grown on their own farm). Next time we'll just ask for less coconut in the curry.
This raises a final point I'd like to make--the diner can express a preference in a Thai restaurant, though few seem to do that. This is one difference between eating in Thailand compared with eating in a restaurant in the States. For example, the cliche Green Papaya Salad, if ordered from a menu here, is prepared the way they always prepare it so that everyone gets the same thing. If ordered at a food stall in Bangkok, you get to say how sour or sweet or salty you like it, and can even taste a couple of times to check that the outcome will be just the way you want it.
We'll be back at Thai Thai Restaurant next trip to the Big Island, and we'll just ask for our curry with less coconut milk. And of course, we like things Thai hot.
After a day on the volcano, with all that steam, sulfur and lava being thrown around, the heat of the meal fit in perfectly. Somehow it seemed exactly right.
Thai Thai Restaurant
19-4084 Volcano Road
Volcano Village, HI 96785
(open 5 p.m. till 9:30 p.m., last seating 8:30 p.m.)
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