Grilled Category

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.

An Adventure Anniversary in Kauai: 10 Years!

As I walked over the gap from plane to paradise, I immediately smelled sea salt in the air as its light moisture descended on my skin, wrapping me in a warm dewy embrace. We had finally arrived in Kauai.

Expectations were already running high given the accolades I received for Kauai from what seemed myriad friends and colleagues, and yet I sensed this island would still manage to surprise us.

Kauai – home to a variety of climates on any given day, stretches of grassland ideal for raising cattle, dense fragrant jungle forest, beaches ringed by ancient rocky cliffsides, and “red dirt” soil rich with iron giving it its famous rust-like hue – promised adventure, perhaps even danger. This trip would be quite a contrast from the lazy luxury I’d experienced 10 years ago in Maui for our honeymoon. Kauai seemed the ideal destination for an adventure anniversary.

And of course, exploring would require plenty of energy-fueling eating.

But first: get our bearings, eat some fresh local ahi tuna (ideally, pool-side), and relax.

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The Dock is the casual eatery on the upper level pools at The Grand Hyatt in Poipu on the southern coast of the island. Nothing fancy, but I have to admit, this hit the spot. No fuss. No muss. Just fresh ahi. The Kalua BBQ pork sandwich was tasty as well.

Done and done. Now nothing but sun and sun.

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After a truly praiseworthy hour with our concierge extraordinaire Maren, we took a quick hike up the cliffs on Shipwreck Beach which is conveniently located right next to the hotel. This public beach area is aptly named given the rocky cliffs and ocean-side outcroppings. Seasoned local body surfers love this spot for its breaks. Definitely not for newbs. The waves here are raucous and relentless.

The hike gave us our first taste of Kauai’s rugged natural beauty and unforgiving terrain. Even for avid hikers like us, the Garden Island will make you work for it.

We were stoked.

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Unfortunately our first dinner on the island at Tidepools was disappointing, but romantic. The restaurant seemed to float on a picturesque koi-filled lagoon in the middle of the gardens at the Grand Hyatt. But it seemed Tidepools took its popularity a bit for granted.

My local baby romaine salad was so heavily dressed, it was white, and the ahi I had was sadly overseasoned to the point of being salty. It was almost like it was seasoned twice by accident. The ingredients were top notch, too. Sigh.

Jordan’s opah was much better, but the fish still had to fight for attention alongside the strong Creole-flavored sauce and succotash of potatoes, corn, edamame, and crab. It was decent, but the dish still seemed a bit heavy-handed.

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All in all, no matter. We were in Kauai. The Garden Island awaited us tomorrow.

Our dopey smiles said it all as we drifted in a sleepy haze through sweet-smelling greenery back to beckoning crisp white pillows.

Smattering from the Big Apple: Part 2

It was sunny but a bit colder, and definitely more windy on our next February morning in Soho, but nothing was going to keep us from a morning lunch on the Lower East Side at Katz’s Deli. That’s right. I said “morning lunch,” not “brunch.” Once you see what we ate, it’ll make more sense.

Katz’s Deli
205 E Houston St

Given that Chicago has its own famous Jewish deli/cafeteria called Manny’s, the comparisons were inevitable. But it’s like Sophie’s choice over here, so I’ll just call out the stand outs.

Pastrami – Katz’s by a long shot.
Beef stew – Manny’s. It’s the gravy.
Lox and Bagel – Manny’s. Good at Katz’s but where’s the onion and tomato?
Knish – Katz’s. I’m no expert on Knishes but the chewy yet crispy texture of the dumpling, and really savory and peppery potato mash of Katz’s was highly memorable. I can’t remember how my last knish from Manny’s tasted, but that could just be my bad.

Looks like it’s a tie in the end. I guess it’ll take some more field research. Oh darn.

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Katz’s Deli in NYC and Manny’s in Chicago – two culinary institutions that I hope stay around forever and forever.

I weep for the pastrami I’ve consumed in the past as it’ll be hard to go back, if at all. Seriously, it’s as good as the legends say. Maybe even better.

If you’ve never had the delight of eating a knish, put it on your to do list. If you like savory mashed potatoes and fried dumplings, run don’t walk.

Oh and a side (or platter) of homemade beef stew doesn’t hurt either especially when you’ve got a chewy bit of knish to sop up all the brown gravy.

I admit it was hard leaving Katz’s without trying some other things like the matzo ball soup, chopped liver, cheesesteak, corned beef, and so much more, but people now were piling in and the love needs to be shared even though you really just want it all to yourself. Plus I think I needed to change into stretch pants.

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New York has the best toy store for those of us who love collecting art/urban vinyl toys. It’s called Toy Tokyo in the East Village and it’s simply put – a mecca of ultimate toy awesomeness. Managed by a staff of genuinely cool dudes like Lauren and David, Toy Tokyo never lets me leave empty handed. This time I scored big time with this Sam Flores vinyl figure. Check it!

I was still reveling in my find – annoying Jordan with the fact that “I got the last one!” – as we walked underneath some magenta awning for a snack.

East Noodle Robatayaki
119 2nd Ave (between 7th St & St Marks Pl)

This is our go-to place to sit down and have a drink and/or snack and revel in the toy purchases we just made down the street. It’s straightforward, super casual, and tasty if you’re looking for some charred and juicy nibbles of meat, veg, and seafood cooked on the robata or Japanese grill. East Noodle also offers steaming bowls of pretty tasty ramen. And for those of us who spent their load on toys, it’s cheap!

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Now it was time to visit my second favorite store in NYC – Forbidden Planet – which is one of the best comic book stores in the nation. It’s a bit of a trek north in Greenwich Village, but walking myriad blocks in NY don’t seem to phase me at all. Everywhere you go there’s something interesting going on…or being cooked…in a truck.

A-Pou’s Taste Truck
This was such a lucky find – Taiwanese potstickers! Turns out the owner Wen Pin won the Vendy Award for “Rookie of the Year” in 2010. These rectangular potstickers were so savory, porky, chewy, and umami-y to the max. Dip it into a little seasoned sriracha on the side and wooooo!

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It was dark outside by the time we headed back down south to call it a night. Of course walking down Broadway is such a bad idea if you’re trying to get home. Uh, hello, shopping! My legs were screaming at me to stop, but I kept telling myself that all I needed was a quick pick-me-up. Espresso? Gelato? Falafel? OMG, tacos!

Tribeca Taco Truck
What another great find! Some swear these guys have THE best tacos. Maybe it was the chilly night, maybe it was my need for a hot snack, maybe it was that my legs were turning to jelly, or maybe it was the Tribeca Taco stuffed with chorizo AND al pastor topped with cilantro, onion, picante rojo and salsa verde!

Jordan and I took our taco babies back to the hotel, plopped down on the bed, opened the steaming styrofoam and went to town. Super flavorful and kicked up with heat, the tacos were warm and soft and perfectly balanced with the richness of the chorizo, the toothsome tenderness of the al pastor, and the tart and refreshing cilantro, onion, and salsa combination.

The end to a perfect day. Adios Nueva York! Te amo!

Spring in NOLA: Roadfood Fest 2011

The day finally arrived for one of the key reasons we decided on March for our visit to NOLA.

New Orleans Roadfood Festival!

I felt like Adam Richman from Man Vs. Food by the end of it, but it was worth it!

Here are some of this year’s highlights!

The Court of Two Sisters
Buttery, homey, and packed with crawfish flavor, Crawfish Louise is a truly unique dish!

Turtle Soup – slightly tart, deep and intense

Creole Delicacies Catering

Andouille Jambalaya

Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant

Flaky, savory, delicious Crawfish Pie

Johnson’s Boucaniere

Traditional Boudin Sandwich

Royal House Oyster Bar

Outstanding, smoky, meaty oysters!

Central BBQ

Although not a New Orleans spot, still a must-eat treat! The bark in and of itself was enough to travel to Memphis to scarf down!

Louis Mueller Barbeque

All the way from Texas, the brisket was smoked overnight in this bad boy.

And last but not least…

Dessert!

Plum St. Snoballs
The one and only Southern ice treat with flavors that this girl had never even heard of! Nectar cream, anyone?

My very first Snoball! Spearmint, Nectar Cream, and Condensed Milk (as per the nice man behind the counter’s reco)!

Sweet cherry and grape icy sugary bomb. I felt like Bart and Milhouse after the infamous Squishy “episode” they had together.

In my book, Roadfood Fest was a tasty success and some of these first-time flavors still linger with me to this day. Now, where to find nectar cream in Chicago…