Anniversary Category

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 7 & Final Aloha

Nine, count them nine, zip lines were ridden with much hootin’ and hollerin’ by yours truly! One of the zip lines was 1200 feet long! Princeville Ranch Adventures did a nice job introducing us to zip lining, and we even got to jump off a lil’ cliff into the natural swimming hole where the tour ended.

For lunch, we got an interesting tip. Apparently, one of the best cheeseburgers this side of Kauai was at a Chevron gas station in Princeville. Sounded good to us! The North Shore General Store had tasty and fresh burgers made from locally raised, grass-fed Kauai cattle. Their fries were extra good too. For dessert, I indulged with a fat scoop of Kauai Pie – Kona coffee ice cream, macadamia nuts, toasted coconut, and chocolate fudge – from Lapperts. And Jordan had a lillikoi-watermelon-lychee shave ice from Kauai’s Best Shave Ice which proved true to its name, believe it or not.

The rest of the day we relaxed poolside and then had a beautiful and intimate dinner at Red Salt at Koa Kea. Unfortunately, I sacrificed decent pictures for romantic lighting, but Red Salt provided a more inspired culinary experience for me than some of the other dinners we’d had on the island.

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Naturally, as Jordan I sat quietly on our patio back at the hotel, we were a bit morose given our departure the next day. But as we reminisced on our 10 year anniversary visit, we realized how many first-time experiences we had in Kauai. And I knew, we could leave knowing there would be many more first-times in the years to come.

And wouldn’t you know it, but as we were driving toward the airport the next day, we decided to have one more first-time experience before we left. So we stopped at the Koloa Fish Market in Koloa. There was absolutely no way in Hawaii, I was going to leave without having an authentic “plate lunch”.

Koloa Fish Market is a small storefront that screams “local,” outside and in. I ordered two Hawaiian plates, and while I waited, I witnessed a raucous exchange between a local dude who walked in for a pick-up, and the guys running the place. The conversation was bursting with good, loud humor, and Hawaiian slang.

When I was handed our two styrofoam containers, each weighing what seemed 5 pounds each, I knew we had come to the right place. We parked at a local baseball field near the store, turned off the engine, and had our very own Hawaiian picnic in the car while watching a Little League game.

No fooling, this was a seriously delicious meal. Our plates included chicken long rice, lomi salmon, lau lau, and shredded Kalua pig. You will crave the succulent and sweet lau lau pork, its herbaceous flavor and scent imparted by the taro leaf wrapping.

How could we possibly be depressed leaving Kauai if our bellies are full of this all the way home?

Mahalo, Kauai. 🙂

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 4

Needless to say the soreness of my joints welcomed a jacuzzi, sauna, and steam in the morning; all the more because I was about to head out for my first open-door helicopter ride. The forecast showed heavy clouds, strong winds, and rain, but there was no turning back now. I was off to Inter-Island Helicopters for a private 60 minute tour of the island in their peacock blue Robinson R-44.

Inter-Island provided exceptional service despite the shoddy weather and it did make for an exciting ride. I actually enjoyed the pitching and weaving of the helicopter, as well as, the occasional sea and rain sprays across my face accompanying each turn. It made for the kind of ride I was hoping to experience! The Napali Coast looked mysterious and even more dangerous with the misty tumultuous weather. I don’t think I could ever tire of the views.

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After my flight of boisterous fancy, I had a roaring appetite. Jordan and I decided to let our bellies lead us through the day. We got in our midnight blue Camaro convertible, and headed toward Hanapepe and Lihue where we could stop at a local sporting goods store and hopefully, enjoy some local comfort food.

On the way to Hanapepe, we spotted Paco’s Tacos food truck parked in an empty parking lot. We figured, meh, probably nothing anyway. Let’s keep moving.

Pfft! Yeah, right!

These tacos were some of the most memorable morsels from our whole trip. Super fresh, grilled mahi-mahi tacos with shredded cabbage, lime, pico de gallo and cilantro sauce. And equally good carnitas and carne asada tacos. Hit da spot.

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After admiring some especially kitschy refrigerator magnets at a local store, we drove to Lihue to hit up Haimura Saimin. Saimin is a Hawaiian original that mixes Japanese ramen, Chinese mein, and Filipino flavors, into a big bowl of steaming savory broth. It’s Hawaiian comfort in a bowl, and the joint speaks for itself. It’s the epitome of a tropical island diner complete with a menu just as small and quaint as the place itself.

I highly recommend ordering a bunch of chicken skewers and putting the chicken pieces right into your bowl of saimin, along with generous amounts of hot mustard, hot sauce, chili vinegar, and a little soy sauce. Own your saimin!

We ordered the lilikoi chiffon pie for a little sweetness. Imagine if you scooped a chunk of bubbles from the top of a bubble bath, sprayed it through with tangy sweet passion fruit, and topped it with fluffy whipped cream. It was an ultra-airy end to a heavy, savory lunch.

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Last spot on our food tour was Fish Express which is a full-on local “deli” that offers a wide variety of fresh Hawaiian fare including local fish, poke, fish jerky, and raw seafood. And if you’re lucky enough to get there for lunch (which we weren’t unfortunately), they also offer Hawaiian-style sandwiches and gourmet lunch entrees like fish “blackened with guava basil” or “macadamia nut crusted [fish] with lilikoi.”

We decided on a bunch of funky pokes and ahi peppered jerky to go. And we also were pleasantly surprised to find boiled peanuts – one of Jordan’s all-time favorite snacks from the South! Who would have thought we’d be eating boiled peanuts and kimchee octopus poke in a parking lot of a Kauai-ian deli in the middle of the Pacific?

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Ok, I lied. We still had some room left for another sweet. After a little mobile research, we pulled into a strip mall parking lot and walked into Tropical Dreams which offers super-premium gourmet ice cream. Started by husband and wife team John and Nancy Edney who source more than 50% of their ingredients locally and are dedicated to using environmentally-friendly and sustainable means of production for their ice cream, this was the best ice cream I’d ever had. I mean, EVER.

The proprietor of the place – a “expat” from NYC named Daniel – was feeling extra chatty (queue teenage son’s eye roll), so we got foodie star treatment! While giving us taste after taste of the incredibly delicious ice cream, Daniel proceeded to illuminate us on his strong opinions on fiber optics, entrepreneurial ventures, Kauai, and why Tropical Dreams covers their ice cream bins with lids despite snotty tourists turning their noses up because they can’t see all the flavors on display.

After I literally tasted every flavor, I landed on chocolate coconut almond to which Daniel insisted he add a generous dollop of peanut butter. This was seriously flavorful ice cream. If you’re ever on the Hawaiian Islands, definitely try to find a Tropical Dreams shop!

Sigh, wish I could have gotten a better picture. This definitely doesn’t do the real thing justice.

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After a much needed nap back at the ranch, we couldn’t believe it but before we knew it, we were getting in the car again to go to dinner at Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill.

I know.

But it’s OK. We were on vacation. Isn’t gluttony a virtue when you’re on vacation?

It might have been the full belly talking, but I wasn’t too hyped on going to Josselin’s despite all the positive recommendations. Although I’d been eating very well, I wasn’t so sure that fine dining restaurants on Kauai were doing anything that interesting beyond dishes that could satisfy the greatest common denominator of flavor palates visiting the island day after day.

Thankfully, I was proven wrong by some dishes at Josselin’s! It started with the “muffin” assortment which included miniature biscuit-like rolls flavored with ginger, Thai curry, and cilantro. I know I’ve got a bread “thing” but these really perked up my taste buds.

The watermelon salad was disappointing, but the naan with spicy merguez, roasted eggplant, and mint was a huge win.

What was truly the pièce de résistance, though, was the 36-hour braised pork belly with apple kimchee and Lehua honey – an unbelievable, locally sourced honey from bees that feed exclusively on the Lehua flower which only grows on the ohi’a tree.

The honey glaze created a sweet candied shell keeping the wonderful juices inside every chunk of pork you pulled off with your fork. No knife necessary. The kimchee splashed spicy and tart refreshment at the back of the throat, whilst the salty sweetness of the meat meandered over the tongue. Chestnut, vanilla and basil also remarkably came through each bite.

The experience was kind of astounding. In fact, it was so exceptional that we finished off most of it, despite our stomachs being full to bursting.

Needless to say we did not order any dessert! And this time I’m not lying!

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 2

If only every morning would wake me with seaside breezes tickling my skin! Made all the difference in the world.

Today we freely explore and acclimatize ourselves to Kauai; that is, after a monster breakfast with a slew of skittering Mina birds and leaping koi keeping us company.

Our exploration started with a mini-hike along the sandstone cliffs overlooking Shipwreck Beach. Although we liked to imagine grand pirate ships crashed on the shore, littering their loot across the sand, it’s actually named for a small abandoned boat that made it’s home there for years until Hurricane Iwa took its badly decomposing shell back to the sea. Also just below the water’s surface are jagged volcanic rocks endemic to Kauai which makes for some killer body surfing. Notice that I decidedly use the word “killer” to describe surfing there.

Seeing those big waves whet our appetite to visit one of the best beaches for body surfing, Poipu Beach. We’re talking plump waves converging at odd angles to create ideal conditions for some heady surf!

After a sufficient beating, we indulged in a couples 80-minute sports massage and looked forward to what is considered the most romantic place for dinner in Kauai – The Beachhouse.

Starting off with soft floury ciabatta and plenty of butter, we dove into fresh local fish ceviche served in a coconut shell, tempura-fried Ahi maki stuffed with crab. Our main courses included locally caught Oni, black forbidden rice, a grilled coconut sauce, and fresh green papaya. Jordan had wasabi-crusted Mongchong or local butterfish with lillikoi beurre blanc. Lillikoi or passion fruit – all types of which flourish all over the island – is a beloved and ubiquitous staple on local and restaurant menus alike.

Although the Beachhouse isn’t going to win any Michelin stars, the ingredients were treated simply, allowing them to be delicious just on their own.

Stuffed and intoxicated on a luxury cocktail of sunset and seaside, we caught the finale of a luau, complete with impassioned fire twirling display, from our window and quickly drifted off to sleep.