Writing

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

Friday, August 24th, 2012

I have been busy before in my life, but never like this.

On an average day, I

a) write eight pages (a chapter) of my new novel (plus all the research related to the information actually placed on those eight pages)

Dozer begging for an elk burger.

b) walk the dog two or three times

c) clean the house in some fashion, which includes but is not limited to: vacuuming, mopping, wet vacuuming/carpet cleaning, dusting, pillow straightening, stuff putting away-ing, junk mail tossing, fridge emptying, bed making, cat litter box cleaning, sheet and towel washing, toilet scrubbing, etc. etc. etc. etc. ETC. Argh!

d) work on freelance queries

e) work on freelance assignments

f) give a hypnotherapy session

g) work on hypnotherapy-related advertising/marketing/SEO stuff

h) work on developing the seven other sites I have in some stage of development

i) work on totally revamping this site (really! I have been studying advanced WordPress and even took a class: it’s a lot less intimidating now, and I think I can pull it off. Considering this list it won’t be next week, but I think it will be before the end of 2012)

j) entertain/chat with people staying with me

k) write food reviews

l)  eat for food reviews (more time-consuming than you would think. Can I tell you how many “one man show” restaurants and food trucks I’ve eaten at lately where a solo guy is cooking for the whole place? Way too many…)

Poli Poli: a redwood and eucalyptus forest near Kula.

m) work on my garden here at the house

n) work on my garden up in Hai’ilemaile (okay, that one isn’t daily, but on the days it does happen it takes ALL DAY)

o) work out

p) pay bills and other thankless tasks that must be done

q) fret about turning 40

r) pray the already done novel will be read and SOLD (!) soon so I can take a half-dozen items off this list

s) play Words with Friends (okay, okay, I can see where you think this item isn’t necessary, but who will wipe the floor with my friends if I don’t?)

t) answer email (which I’m pretty poor at…and very slow)

u) return phone calls: ditto

v) remember to feed the pets

w) make coffee and cook food

The editor didn’t use this one, but I thought it was kind of funny: the debris left behind by that wood-fired pizza. ;)

x) remember to feed myself

y) clean up the horrible mess that cooking and feeding myself makes of my NO DISHWASHER (**sob**) kitchen

z) shower once in a while and put on clean clothes

 

Oh, and as of yesterday I want to start my own food truck. I have a truly genius idea. I even have the name. I would run it at lunch time and maybe the occasional weekend night. Now I just need $20K for a food truck…

So should that task be aa or should I just switch to a numbering system? Or switch to a numbering system and stay one step ahead and join AA just in case? Might not be a bad idea to join AAA, too, while I’m at it…

Hey…

Did I put blogging on this list?

I don’t think so, which  means valuable time is being a-wasted talking to you lovely peeps. Gotta go work on a, c, g, k, p, q, u, x…

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Fleetwoods on Front Street Opens

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Roasted Maui Tomato Soup-fleetwoods-lahaina

Roasted Maui Tomato Soup. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

Standing 6’6” and having founded and remained an active member of one of the biggest bands of all time, it’s safe to say Mick Fleetwood is not subtle.

The same can be said for his brand new restaurant in Lahaina, Fleetwoods on Front Street. The space is at once lavish and welcoming, featuring a large bar, ample dining room dripping with portraits of 70s rock gods, and a stunning roof top terrace with a decidedly Moroccan vibe.

Scott Leibfried, known to reality TV fans as Gordon Ramsey’s sidekick on both the Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares series, heads up the kitchen. The resulting menu is something of a Maui meets grown-up pub food affair. Only four days into operations and our generally well-informed waitress seemed confused by a few menu items, indicating changes are already underway. Presumably this will be the norm for the first few months, as Chef Leibfried becomes adjusted to what products he can and can’t consistently obtain here on Maui.

Classic Clam Chowder

Classic Clam Chowder. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

Maui Now sampled a range of items from the comfort food-based menu, starting with the Roasted Maui Tomato Soup ($8), one of the few vegan offerings. The San Marzano-based soup, finished with a basil oil, was thick and rich with tomato flavor. In truth, it fell a little more on the pomodoro sauce side than soup, but one presumes many of these items will be reworked in the upcoming weeks. It was accompanied by a wholly unremarkable piece of toast with some sharp cheddar melted on top.

The clam chowder ($10), however, was outstanding. Rich, flavorful, and dense with clams, it was everything one would hope. The accompanying package of Westminster oyster crackers (“the chef’s favorite crackers”) were hardly necessary, and the first spoonful made it clear why this chowder has won awards.

The hand-formed Wild Mushroom Ravioli ($12) were…read the rest here!

And in other news, I built a website for a great lady  and her yoga business (Easy Yoga Maui) – and I think it turned out pretty great, as well.

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If you don’t love me now…

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

(I wrote this a few days ago, thought I published it, and now realize I never did: oops.)

So I’m trying out a new restaurant tonight, just opened by Mick Fleetwood, the founding member of Fleetwood Mac. He’s  lived here on Maui for a while, and I’m really hoping it’s good…for both of our sakes’. The fact that he brought on a well-known TV chef’s right hand guy is, I suppose, promising. It’s promising if one assumes that to be on TV is to be a good chef. That may not pan out so well in the Rachel Ray department, but as for someone like Gordon Ramsey, well, I’ve eaten at his restaurant in Atlantic City and it was great. Granted, I don’t think he was within 100 miles of the kitchen that night, but still…

However, in contrast, I’m just now remembering a meal I had at Tom Collichio’s restaurant (disclaimer: no idea if he was in the kitchen), Craftsteak, in Las Vegas where my medium rare steak had to be made THREE times before it was actually medium rare. And this was like a $65 piece of meat and they didn’t so much as take $5.00 off the bill or send a manager over to apologize or anything. Grrrr… Tom Collichio.

But I digress, as usual.

In case anyone has come here trying to figure it out: now you know what the newest food writer in town looks like..

I’m hoping Fleetwoods is good because I’m already weary (and leery) of reviewing places that  are mediocre or worse. Why does Maui suck so much in the food department? If you read Yelp reviews like others might read an issue of People, you’ll see over and over things like, “It’s okay Italian…for Hawaii.” “It’s acceptable…for Hawaii.” “It’s good…for Hawaii.” It’s true. I remember coming here for the first time in 2002 and was astounded at how downright bad (not to mention breathtakingly expensive) the food was.

Surely something can be done about this. We have fertile land and great weather. People raise cattle and there are wild pigs and an ocean full of fish and lobsters (in season). There are scads of organic farms. Just because it’s a tourist economy shouldn’t mean that mediocrity is okay. In fact, it should be the opposite. It should be BETTER than what people are used to so that they want to come back again and again.

<<<climbing down from high horse>>>

So anyway, two nights ago I got a shockingly expensive and rather bad pizza from a new restaurant. All they serve is pizza, so I will be making a return visit in the hopes they can improve their performance (and actually prepare it somewhat like how it’s described on the menu) so I don’t have to publish the review I’ve already written as-is. :\

I’m annoyed that I’ll have to drop another $30 to craft a review that will no doubt anger them regardless (the first experience had some low points that were notable and will be retold), but I really do want to be fair.

In fact, I’m rooting for them.
I really am.

But there are (major) kinks. And pricing issues. And I guarantee my experience was not unique. In other words, if they don’t straighten some of this out, their brand new place will go under. End of story.

So what’s the problem?

Truth be told, underneath it all I’m a really nice person: ridiculously nice even. And that part of me is doing some inner back flips as it somewhat pains me to make some of my “blunt assessments.” Moreover, there are bound to be ruffled feathers, hurt feelings, and yes, probably even straight up hostility directed my way…and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m a little worried about that. I would never want to harm anyone’s business or livelihood, and I honestly offer up my criticism in the spirit of helping them. Really.

I’m probably over-thinking this, but today I found myself writing an explanatory page on my Vanessa Wolf Freelance Writer website. Forgive me as I mention it again with different words: girl’s gotta eat too and now that I’m a Hawaii-based freelance writer, I also have to promote myself any which way I can.

So anyway, I am realizing I suffer from “please love me-itis,” and I’m probably going to have to get over it right quick. What’s that quote about if everyone loves you, you must not be doing it right? Well, I would presume with food critiques that’s a given.

Ironically enough, all the feedback thus far has been outrageously positive, but I can feel the storm clouds gathering – especially with this pizza business I mentioned. It wasn’t just that the pizza was bad, but the owner was downright condescending, telling me that a clearly missing ingredient was invisible. Okay, okay, he said “translucent,” but still…

That’s where I get into a pickle. See, I want to be nice, but I also feel like that little detail needs to be mentioned. If people are spending $26 (before tax and tip) for a mediocre pizza that doesn’t match the description on the menu, maybe you could do a little better than telling them dismissively that  it’s got invisible ingredients on it when they ask. Maybe you could apologize or offer to remake it or bring out the missing stuff? Maybe?

The dilemma is I feel like mentioning this incident isn’t very “nice” of me, but it is honest. And it did happen. And so it will be included. At any rate, for now, that review will rest on the back burner as I look forward to my upcoming meal at Fleetwood’s. In anticipation, I’ve already started to work on some prose. Let me know what you think:

“While the kidney pie didn’t make me cry or break down, it did rather notably shatter my illusions of love. All that was left was to pick up a doggy bag of the pieces and go home.”

“The Reuben rings like a bell through the night and wouldn’t you love to eat it…”

 

 

 

 

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Another one bites the dust

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea, Some Menu Changes

August 1st, 2012

Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef, previously working in Portland, Oregon. She offers her blunt assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.

By Vanessa Wolf

kale salad-monkeypod

The Kale and Macadamia Nuts salad from Monkeypod Kitchen. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

Peter Merriman’s Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea offers a broad menu “dedicated to handcrafted food, drink, and merrymaking.”

Eager to partake in the culinary party, the first item on board was the Crispy Rock Shrimp and Calamari ($13.95). This is an enjoyable appetizer that, until recently, was exactly what one would expect.

However, they just changed the menu, and those who don’t tend to read the fine print might be surprised to find that what they expected to be a piece of seafood is actually a battered and deep fried chunk of pineapple. Points for creativity, but it was both unexpected and not particularly appetizing (and there was a lot of it). The buttermilk aioli, however, was…

Want to know? Follow this link.

I also updated my freelancing website: vanessa wolf

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Game On!

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

I am officially a published food critic, and I’m loving it.

fry basket

OUTTAKE: this photo of my fry combo didn’t make the cut. In contrast, it was the highlight of the “meal.”

Granted, now whenever you eat with me, it takes five times as long because I have to photograph everything from seventeen angles (turns out I’m as obsessive about the photos as I am with all my artistic pursuits) and I insist on photographing and tasting your food too. Hell, if strangers would let me, I’d move in on theirs.

I also (now: my vacuum cleaner days are over) taste everything slowly and write down my extended thoughts. Word from the now wise to anyone thinking you’ll remember the details later: you won’t.

Other annoyances of dining with me in my new role?

  • Unless I’ve already reviewed it, every dining experience – and that means food cart to pizza to fancy dinner – is work, meaning DO NOT TOUCH IT UNTIL I HAVE A PRETTY PICTURE! **I reserve the right to totally freak out if you break that rule.**
  • Total overkill is the new black. I just went to a buffet and plated everything like a food stylist. The pictures – if I do say so myself – look totally amazing, so it was completely worth it, but I have to imagine this would grow tedious for a dining companion. Certainly the waitress was wondering what the hell I was up to. The one benefit of Maui is that people assume you’re a tourist with trigger finger: some people photograph every second of their vacation
  • This ain’t no fooling around. Be prepared to be interrogated for words clearly and vividly describing the food in your mouth. “It tastes like a burger” is going to you nothing but grumbling from me. In other words, chew slowly and think hard: your answers better be good.

“Velvety?”

“Yes. Velvety.”

hot dog stand

OUTTAKE II   Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think this is some pretty fine food photography for a rookie.

“So if I told you I just ate some velvety onions, would you have any idea what they actually tasted like?”

“Um….”

“Would you think they tasted like red velvet cake?”

<<<nervous coughing ensues from the witness and questioning ceases>>>

Yep. I probably won’t have any friends left by the time this is over.

To keep the budget down (there are two ways to look at this gig: I’m paid to eat a couple dishes at a restaurant and I write for free, or I’m spending money to eat and getting paid to write about it. Not ideal, but still better than not getting paid at all.) Anyway, like I was saying, to keep cost under control, I’ve also signed myself up to test recipes and give feedback/guidance. Until requests start coming in from readers – I’ve put out a plea for them to ask for recipes from local restaurants which the chefs will hopefully be willing to give up – I’m going to start with cookbooks written by local (or at least those with a restaurant on the island) chefs and do my worst (which actually, of course, means very best: see the bit above about obsessive tendencies) with them at home.

***sudden thought: do I need to get permission to post a recipe published in a cookbook? I would think so, right? They’re all over the blogs…but this is actually a media publication, so now I don’t know. Is it enough to cite the source (the cookbook details) or do I have to ask first? If anyone knows, please chime in.***

Monkeypod Kitchen Ocean Breeze

OUTTAKE III This is an Ocean Breeze: ocean vodka, st. germain, lime, and simple syrup. It also had egg whites in it, but for some reason that isn’t listed. (???) I didn’t end up talking about this in the review, so here ya go.

In preparation, I’ve bought some cool shaped white china at Ross and I’m even considering an EGO light, although cost is an obstacle (it’s $107 on Amazon). Practical application could pose an issue, as well: likely bringing a lamp into a restaurant and asking to sit by a plug so I can set it up ***might*** give me away. For now, while I can, (and trust me…considering the existence of this blog and the 2.2 billion photos of me on it…”while I can” means maybe a couple months) I am doing my reviewing incognito. I suppose I could go all Ruth Reichl and wear disguises (finally! A reason for my candy apple red wig to hit the town!), but we’ll see how it all plays out organically first.

Anyway, that’s all that’s fit to report from me. Depending on how long it takes me to get through some actual money generating work this week, I will be starting a new book (novel) on or as close as I can get to August 1st. Again, keeping a roof over my head has to take precedence (stupid roof), but once that’s done, I’m raring to go.

 

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