Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

Cambria crushes it with a laid-back vibe and tasty cuisine

When asked about the past weekend and a trip to Cambria I was surprised how many people had heard about Hearst Castle (it's nearby) but never ventured for a visit to this charming, coastal town.  I expected the usual:  beautiful scenery and ocean breezes (so romantic!) but the cuisine and coffee were the things that really surprised this traveler (ok, really more of a day-tripper.) 

Hearst Castle:  it's a must.  We took the 45 minute tour and then walked around to check out the views, art sculptures and pool.  Yes, it's a bit tourist-y but fun to take in a bit of history amid the grandeur.                     

Fried green olives stuffed with cheese.  The best of all worlds!

All that walking worked up appetites so we headed to dinner at The Black Cat.  It's hard for me to convey how much I really loved this restaurant except to say we ate here both nights during our stay.  The Black Cat serves "innovative fresh farm fare" which translates to almost everything on the menu is superb (the opinion of Funfeasts, of course!)  Here's our menu for two nights:

Starters 
  • Fried olives - enough said!
  • Pork belly with gigante beans.
  • Black bean soup (who knew black bean soup could be THAT good?)
  • Cauliflower gratin.  This was definitely overkill but I couldn't resist.
Entrees
  • Rib eye with black quinoia (drizzled with a ginger-scented sauce.)
  • Duck, risotto and bok choy (overall my favorite dish.)
  • Pesto pasta and prawns (this one disappeared really fast so no comment.)
Dessert
  • Dessert the first night was a salted chocolate pot de creme, good but...
  • The sticky toffee pudding and caramel sauce really took the cake (no pun intended)  the second night. SO rich and flavorful it was hard to keep spoons from colliding in the bowl.  
Pork belly and gigante beans - giant flavor

The rib eye with quinoa. 

For breakfast and coffee here are a few options: 
  • Allocco's Bakery, next to The Black Cat, for housemade cookies and pastries with friendly service.
  • Redwood Cafe for breakfast outside on a sunny day.
  • Cambria Coffee - Main Street - serves house-roasted blends and items from the French Bakery up the street                                                                                                                                 
Should you venture out to a few wineries in Paso Robles, check out Penman Springs Vineyard (loved their Syrah), Sculpterra with amazing gardens and the Red Soles Winery.  Red Soles was my favorite and most laid-back in atmosphere but there are many places to stop and taste from Cambria to Paso Robles.

Finally, for places to stay, check out the Chamber of Commerce website.  We ended up at San Simeon Pines which is a bit retro but easy on the budget and very clean.  Plus, the location is perfect for a stroll on the boardwalk and a view of the ocean.

This was a long post but there is a lot to love about Cambria and the surrounding area.  Thanks for reading!

Dicky's BBQ - Dallas Airport

Layover in Dallas?  No problem.  Make a stop at Dicky's BBQ in Dallas (Terminal C/Terminal E) and fill up on brisket, ribs and a slice of homemade pecan pie. 

I loved the food so much I actually stopped on my way home despite a much shorter layover and a connecting flight in another terminal.  This time they had the mac and cheese (they were out the first time.)

Brisket po' boy.  Oh boy!
I ordered the brisket po' boy with extra sauce which seemed the way to go.  Although I'm not sure I needed the bread it did keep everything neat and tidy for quicker eating between stops.

 

Dicky's BBQ Pit

Locations
Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport
Terminal C, Gate C6, 3200 E Airfield Dr, Irving, TX
(972) 973-4820

DFW
Terminal E 12
Dallas, TX
(972) 574-3798

Summer Travels - Pacific Northwest

It's way past the end of summer and I'm ashamed to admit I am only posting my August road trip adventures NOW.  Never fear though, the magic of the Northwest is timeless in my opinion and even more so in the Fall.

The trip was somewhat spontaneous and came about due to extra vacation days available, nice weather on the horizon and the lure of being in a car for 15 hours.  Seriously, for me there truly is nothing like the open road and the freedom that comes with it. 

While on the road it's always an interesting challenge to find good food that won't require a three hour wait.  Although not a quick stop, Sa.la.me in Ashland Oregon helped fuel our batteries for the road ahead AND transition into a relaxed state-of-vacation mode.

Sa.la.me
47 N. Main Street
Ashland OR 97520
541.708.5881
 
Bruschetta with fresh cheese - Sa.la.me, Ashland OR




 









Once in the Northwest we hopped a ferry headed for Port Townsend, a charming town that boasts amazing views of the water, a plethora of Victorian houses  and Sea J's for fish and chips (with lots of really good tartar sauce.)


Crispy fish and creamy tartar sauce at Sea J's


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sea J's 
2501 Washington Street
Port Townsend WA
(360) 385-6312
 
Following on the fish and chips theme - some might call it an obsession - we stopped at a relic from the past on our way back to the Bay Area...Skippers Fish and Chips in Roseburg Oregon. 

I was trying to express my love of this chain but the run-down mall it was housed in didn't generate as much enthusiasm as I'd expected from my driving partner.  Buying a case of clam chowder - "it will last longer" boasted the cashier - and fitting it into our packed trunk was quite the challenge but worth the effort in my opinion. 

Anyway, I'll always have the memories of Ashland...and 12 cans of chowder for the rainy days ahead!
 
Skippers Fish & Chips
2090 NW Stewart Pkwy
Roseburg OR 97470
541.672.0909 

Northwest Best: Bernie's, Full Sail Brewing, Roots and friends!

The food scene is definitely hopping in Portland and a quick weekend getaway to visit friends was the perfect excuse to indulge.   We started with a visit to Bernie's Southern Bistro in the very lively Alberta Arts district which was the perfect way to get the party started. 

Key highlight at Bernie's: sitting outside under the trees awaiting our very large portions of fried chicken and mac and cheese.    Of course we ordered way too much but we walked away happy and ready for the arduous task of shopping and hanging out (basically doing nothing.)  Note:  I am NOT complaining here.

Day two we hiked Hardy Falls which served up fresh air and a good dose of nature.  Next up, Full Sail Brewing in Hood River.  With a stunning drive along the water and then a big burger plus salad (gotta have something healthy!) our day was pretty much complete and our trip began to wind down.

Our last day we packed our bags and made a stop at Roots in Camas WA.    Roots is one of those places where you get food and service exceeding your expectations despite the  modest suburban strip mall location.  Don't skip the crab benedict or the Walla Walla onion tart - both amazing! 

Although I seemingly make light of the trip - but not my obsession with the Portland food scene - my true purpose was to catch up with longtime friends over many cups of hot coffee and meaningful dinners.  Past memories and meals tie our friendship together and continue to knit us close despite the many miles now between us.    

So thanks to my wonderful friends for setting aside precious time to connect and remind me what really matters in life.  YOU.

Bernie's Southern Bistro
2904 NE Alberta Street
Portland OR  97211
503.282.9864
berniesbistro.com 

Full Sail
506 Columbia Street
Hood River OR 97031
541.386.2247

Roots
19215 SE 34th Street Suite 110
Camas WA  98607
360.260.3001

Villa Valentina, Drunken Sailor and Cazuelas in San Jose del Cabo

Although it's summer in the Bay Area and my vacation now seems so long ago (really only a month ago) I'm still hungering for Baja and the food I love so much.  Tacos were the vision - and we did partake - but we also ventured out to restaurants for meals which captured the essence of the region and time and time again reflected the hospitality of the people. 

Martini-time at Villa Valentina
Three standouts on this trip include the following:

The Drunken Sailor 

Located near the new marina (look for Hotel El Ganzo) and sporting a casual, beachy vibe this place really delivers.  We ordered the taco chino; a tortilla filled with panko coated shrimp and topped with a cilantro sesame dressing.    In addition I tried the enchiladas verde filled with shrimp and just the right amount of tang and spice.   This was a nice start to the trip.... 

After dinner we hung on the deck of the very cool and sophisticated Hotel El Ganzo.  El Ganzo is jaw-dropping with it's chic decor, relaxed vibe and roof top pool.   The rooms vary from waaayyyy over the top (one has a ping pong table AND workout room) to more subdued but all boast views of the marina and on this night were served up by Gerry, our effervescent host and impromptu tour guide.  

Next up a trip to Todos Santos to see the real Hotel California.  Of course we were famished upon arrival and a taco platter plus ceviche with red pepper cream salsa was in order.  I admit I had an Eagles soundtrack playing in my head "Welcome to the Hotel California..." but it wasn't until we visited Hacienda Cerritos I felt the dream materialize.  Beautiful stonework, pools overlooking the Pacific and a friendly cat jumping around to greet us made for a delightful day trip away from the core. 

Villa Valentina

Part home decor store, art center and restaurant is the best way I can describe Villa Valentina.  Throw in well-prepared food and the sound of a local musician on his guitar and you've almost got your own romantic movie.   

My dinner companions ordered the huarache (chipped duck with mole, really terrific) and chicken with - you guessed it - more mole.  As odd as this sounds, I ordered the fish and chips thinking it would be fun to see how other cultures prepare this iconic American dish.  In this case, Villa Valentina nailed their rendition and put their own stamp on it with fresh local sea bass perfectly cooked and served alongside wedge cut potatoes.  And don't forget the tarter sauce (I didn't!) 

The huarache with chipped duck and mole.  Incredible!
 
Cazuelas del don

Located in San Jose del Cabo off the tourist loop this local restaurant is about as authentic as you can get.  The premise is that each day the owner slow cooks meat, vegetables and spices and then you get to choose how the concoction is served up.  On  this day we were treated to La Ira; arrachera, chile poblano and cebolla (plus a few other ingredients.)  I opted for the baked potato, my companions the torta (sandwich) and volcan which seemed to translate to "all piled up on a crispy tortilla". 

The torta at Cazuelas (check out the crispy cheese!)
This was probably one of my favorite places and not just because the food was so interestingly delicious.  It's because it was served with a dose of pride and much warmth by the owners themselves.  To this day my travel companion lights up when talk turns to Cabo, Cazuelas and that lovely torta!

Hot feet and a warm soul in San Jose del Cabo, Baja California

It started around January... a recurring vision of sandy beach and fiery sun to warm my soul...  and didn't ease up until I was poolside with a plate of  fish tacos and a generous helping of smooth guacamole.  Cabo has become the stuff of my dreams and the place I think of first when I want to unwind and unplug. 

Last year I travelled to Cabo and stayed at the Hilton which is very plush and a great way to touch down for a few days of doing nothing (which is quite pleasant I must admit!)  This year it was the same but after a few days we changed hotels (Casa Natalia, boutique hotel) and locations (San Jose del Cabo) for a walkable experience via newly cobblestoned streets and updated core.

Fun, funky art adds beauty and character to Casa Natalia
 
Great for relaxing poolside



I loved Casa Natalia with its ultra chic setting and simple but comfortable rooms.  The hotel is right on the plaza so you can go out for a coffee at the French Riviera (great pastries) and then check out Casa Dahlia (art, light food) or Mi Casa Azul (nice collection of items for you or your home.)  Casa Natalia (whew, seems like everything here starts or ends with a "casa") also offers breakfast delivered to your room for dining al fresco. A great way to start the day!
 
Fresh fruit for our daily desayuno...breakfast!

One thing I will say is this:  Casa Natalia offers natural cooling with ceiling fans and open windows which isn't for everyone but was fine with us.   If you are looking for air-conditioned bliss, a larger hotel is probably a better fit.  However, the location and amenities overrule the lack of A/C in my opinion (unless of course it's the middle of summer when it's blistering hot.)

 Next up:  the food and fun of Cabo.  Don't miss the next post coming your way soon!

Boulevard Mijares N. 4
San Jose del Cabo
Baja California Sur 23400, Mexico
 
Mi Casa Azul Studio
 
Casa Dahlia

French Riveria

Yosemite Wildflowers in Bloom Hite Cove Trail


I’m forever looking for weekend getaways which combine my favorites: beautiful images to photograph, outdoor exercise and of course, food.  Along came an article about local spots where you can view the Spring blooms and voila!  We were on our way to El Portal to hike the Hite Cove Trail near Yosemite. 

Turns out the timing was perfect as the crowds were minimal, hotel rates reasonable and the hills truly were alive with a painter’s palette of color.  There’s still time to plan a trip as the flowers will continue to spring alive until sometime in May.   Here are a few notes from our trip:

The highlight

Hiking the Hite Cove Trail! It's about 4 miles one-way so take plenty of water and wear comfortable shoes (that seems obvious but figured I’d say it anyway). The trail winds alongside the river for views of blooms and the pleasant sound of water in the background.



Vibrant orange poppies everywhere!
Where we stayed
Yosemite View Lodge. Comfortable and reasonably priced. The best part? The back door opened to a view of the Merced River creating the perfect ambiance for our evening wine/cheese fest. 


Yosemite View Lodge - a view from the balcony
Places we dined
Savoury’s in Mariposa. About 45 minutes from the hotel and worth the drive.  I ordered off the menu and a) they were not annoyed and b) it was delicious (a shrimp linguine – perfectly cooked.)


Ahwahnee Hotel for brunch. A little pricier than your standard buffet ($45) but this isn’t really your standard buffet.  What you get is an amazing array of delectable items served up in a grand setting creating an experience well-worth the price of entry.
 
Ahwahnee Hotel brunch (ok, so this was my third - and last - plate!)

Yosemite View Lodge
El Portal (off Highway 140)
209.379.2681
www.yosemiteresorts.net 

Savoury's
5034 Hwy 140
Mariposa CA 95338
savouryrestaurant.com 

Ahwahnee Hotel

A view from Monterey, Big Sur

It was a nice way to cap the year: a quick trip to Monterey and Big Sur complete with a sprinkling of sun to set off the scenery and provide a backdrop for last-minute resolutions.  Mine definitely included getting away more often given the proximity to such beautiful natural eye-candy!
 
Speaking of eye-candy the Portola Inn, located on Monterey Bay, boasts a fair amount of well-appointed decor put together by someone with an eye for fabulous spaces.  The reason I mention this is that all the details come together to create a sophisticated yet welcoming atmosphere where you instantly want to kick back and relax.  "Why go out all night when we can hang out in such a room?"  was the question I asked immediately.
 
Of course we did manage to get motivated to leave when our appetites beckoned.  We ambled down the street to Montrio recommended by the hotel staff and found a small table in the very crowded restaurant. We sampled the luscious lobster mac n cheese, a bistro steak (with truffle fries - wow!) and a sweet creamy bread pudding served alongside passionfruit ice cream.  A nice find indeed.
 
The next day we saw the line for breakfast at Rosine's snaked out the door requiring us to keep our patience in check and go with the crowd.  The food was good, with large generous portions that could have fed 3-4 per plate (I am serious about this.)  When reading about the history of Rosine's this seems to be part of their "claim to fame" (in Monterey at least!) and it seems like something that resonates with customers.  For me personally I always feel guilty leaving so much food on the plate and eating it all was definitely out of the question.
 
Our last stop of the day was Nepenthe (Big Sur) where we sipped hot spiced cider against the backdrop of the Pacific.  The chill in the air was tempered by the welcome winter sun and I couldn't help but make a mental note to visit again during summer (although the crowds would probably be more visible.)
 
Overall, rather than looking forward to the new year I took a moment to catch my breath and count my blessings which are beyond measure.  And with that, we were on the road home again to get ready to ring in the new year.
 
Holiday decor in Monterey Bay

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur

NY favorites: Locanda Verdi and Peppolino

With so many restaurants to choose from in Manhattan deciding on dinner can be daunting.  This recent NY visit I opted to check out two of the same restaurants from last years' trip and was reminded why some always sizzle:  consistent quality, delicious food and attentive servers.
 
Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich Street New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-3797
 
Italian food in a sophisticated setting.  A few of the favorites: duck
meatballs, spaghetti all' matriciana and clam pasta.  The spaghetti was pure comfort food; a bit rich and just the right amount of spice.
 
Hint:  do make reservations if you can or you'll be in for a wait.  No matter of course given the busy, booming bar and scene that goes with it.
 
Clam pasta at Locanda Verde NY
Clam pasta - Locanda

Chocolate budino at Locanda

The perfect blend of spice and savory - Locanda
Peppolino
281 West Broadway New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-9983

Italian food seemed to be my cuisine of choice this trip so Peppolino was high on my list.  You can't go wrong with many of the entrees but  definitely don't skip the ricotta cheesecake.  This is not your
typical cheesecake; less sweet and vastly richer than most, it's their
signature dish...and rightfully so.

Ciao!

To broil or not to broil?

As crazy as it sounds I’ve always feared burning my food under the broiler.  That fear was put to test over Labor Day weekend on Don Pedro Lake while houseboating with friends.  The propane bar-b-que wasn’t working so well - really not at all - and we turned to the oven/broiler for dinner (even though the cabin seemed like an oven on some days.) 
 
Since that weekend soooo long ago (where DID the summer go?) the broiler has become  less daunting and more useful as a cooking method/tool in my kitchen.  Below is a simple recipe for roasted tomatoes (the broiling is the finishing component) which are delicious – and beautiful - on a plate and  your palate.
Roasted, toasted savory tomatoes
·         3-4 tomatoes, cut in half
·         2-3 slices white bread, crusts removed
·         ½ cup gruyere, swiss or parmesan cheese
·         ¼ t crushed oregano
·         Salt/pepper
·         Olive oil for drizzling 

 
Heat oven to 350 degrees.   
 
Run the bread through a food processor to make coarse crumbs.  Add the cheese and process until the bread and cheese are the same “crumb” size.  Combine with the oregano, salt and pepper (to taste). 
 
Drizzle the olive oil on the tomatoes and then place the tomatoes in the oven.  Roast until soft in the center (about 20-30 minutes).  Remove from the oven and turn on the broiler.  

While the broiler is heating up, mound the bread crumb mixture on each tomato half.    Place under the broiler until the crumbs are golden (about 5 mins) and crunchy.  Enjoy!


Broiled tomatoes with seasoned breadcrumbs and gruyere cheese.

Cabo Delights

San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas
About a week before our vacation, someone, somewhere asked "where are you going?"  I blurted out "Cancun" and my friend - at the same time - said "Cabo".  Houston...we've got a problem.

Cancun was my first choice for a seaside destination so I admit I didn't expect to to love this vacation or Cabo too much...but I did.   I loved San Jose del Cabo because it was as much about the breath-taking scenery and amazing food as it was the incredible warmth from the people we met along the way.   And our newfound friends indulged my quest for tasty tacos by trekking around in a relentless pursuit of pescado perfection (and carne asada too!)

It all started with a simple order of fish tacos at the Hilton where I was instantly hooked:  flaky local fish garnished with salsa and chipotle cream plus a watermelon mint beverage to wash it all down.  My version of poolside bliss.    
                                
Next up:  Asi y Asado located on the main road between San Jose and Cabo (across from Costco.)  Asi y Asado features a taco-focused menu with my favorites being the pescado and arrachera topped with a cabbage-y coleslaw, beans, cilantro and avocado sauce.   If you go, make sure to order the hibiscus tea!

A stop at Las Guacamayas (San Jose) resulted in tacos al pastor - marinated pork on a vertical rotisserie carved to order - and thin-rolled fried cheese as an appetizer.   The food and atmosphere felt authentic and the crowd very non-touristy.  A fun way to cap my
Cabo-taco-extravaganza!

Other great places for food include French Riviera and CasaDahlia - both in San Jose as well.  French Riviera dishes out a bevy of fine fare which includes delicious chocolate croissants and cheese from...you guessed it...France.  Casa Dahlia (within walking distance) serves up art by day and wood-oven pizzas by night in the ultra charming garden courtyard.  This is where we met Hector and Lisa who become our vacation mentors and food-finding friends during our stay. 

At Hector's urging we signed up for a Sunset Cruise on the Eco Cat which turned out to be delightful and memorable.  We took in the beautiful scenery and open air surrounded by friendly staffers armed with drinks and offering impromptu dance lessons.  Cost is about $35USD - a bargain for what you get in return.

All in all I've been on my share of trips which were nothing special and those that were stellar in memory.  This one takes stellar and wraps it around the earth a few times before landing on spectacular as the top prize.   And it all comes back to the amazingly cool, supremely gracious people we met who introduced us to arrachera tacos, hibiscus tea and dancing on deck of the sunset cruise.
So to Hector, Lisa, Tammy and everyone else - muchas gracias!

More to see and do in Cabo and the surrounding area
  • Voila - San Jose del Cabo - this is a home decor store + courtyard cafe
  • Las Guacamayas - San Jose del Cabo | calle marinos col chamizal, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. Must try: tacos al pastor and the thin rolled fried cheese appetizer.
  • La Taquiza- Av. Leona Vicario S/N Col. | Centro Entre Revolucion y Carranza, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  Tacos in an open-air venue  (Located right next to Paisas which is supposed to be good too - but they were closed when we stopped for lunch.)

Art Galleries


Just plain fun

  • Eco Cat Sunset Cruise - Awesome - fun crew and amazing scenery and a bargain at $35USD (May 2012)
Lodging

  • Pueblo Bonito Rose Resort & Spa.  The pro's:  the beach and swimming are close.  Also, this is a good place to stay if you want a lively, party-like atmosphere.
  • El Encanto (San Jose) -   We didn't stay here but I will next time.  Super cute with a great courtyard pool and a small chapel in the back.
  • Casa Natalia (San Jose) -  We didn't stay here either but this was heavily recommended by Hector (which tells me it's great)
Transportation - to and from the airport


Terramar 1.314.754.8808.  Cost:  approx. $107USD.  Yes, it's pricey and a taxi is a better bargain.     However, if you want a nice, soft landing once you are in the area, this is a good way to go.

Palm Springs eternally vintage

Want the ultimate in getaways?  Then consider Palm Springs where it's like a trip times two: you can immerse yourself in a host of activities AND travel back in time to the 60's.  A short stay will reset your attitude and you too will depart feeling like an official member of the rat pack.

The decor at the Orbit In boutique hotel

For the outdoor enthusiasts Joshua Tree offers breaktaking scenery and great photo opportunities.


Joshua Tree at sunset

Downtown palms in Palm Springs
Check out the Cabazon dinos while on your way to the outlets where they have the best of the luxury brands.


Dinos in the desert!

Where we stayed
Orbit In
562 W Arenas
Palm Springs CA  92262
877.996.7248
Where we dined
Lulu
California Bistro
200 S. Palm Canyon at Arenas
760.327.9898

Santana's
Burritos (yum)
61761 29 Palms Hwy
 Joshua Tree, CA 92252
(760) 366-8263
Seriously killer burritos and homemade salsas. A great place to stop for lunch on your way
to Joshua Tree.

Cabazon Outlets
48750 Seminole Drive #100      
Cabazon, CA 92230      
(951) 922-3000


Seattle stops: Hudson's and Daily Dozen Donuts

I haven't lived in Seattle for years but each time my feet touch down it takes about a nano-second and then it's like I never left.  The pace, slight chill in the air and even occasional bouts of gray pull me back and I'm once again a Pacific Northwesterner.

Today we made the usual loop of breakfast and a stop at Pike Place Market...with a twist.  The twist is that I have a new favorite breakfast joint - Hudson's - which I've written about before but couldn't resist as an encore.  Yummy biscuits served alongside savory sausage gravy plus crunchy, tender chicken fried steak make for the perfect blend of comfort breakfast at its satisfying best.

Biscuits & gravy at Hudson's

Next stop:  Pike Place Market.  Once again, no matter how many visits it's always the same.  Vibrant, bustling with energy and filled with mouth-watering snacks, it's a visual and tasty feast.

Daily Dozen donuts

Rain or sun, Seattle always shines for me!

Scenes from Shasta

Beautiful!

The flavors of summer...tomatoes and homemade ricotta

My Kauai - 2011

The last time I set foot in Kauai was almost two years ago and fond memories of the tropical setting, hiking trails and temperate weather were calling me. With a strong desire to leave the wet, chilly Bay Area weather behind (and they call this Spring?) I couldn't say "Aloha" - or book my plane ticket - fast enough.

As the plane touched down my visions of sunny, humid weather quickly gave way to thunderstorms and rain showers for a few days. Yes, I said it. A few days.  And I wondered what I'd do besides look at chickens roaming freely (from a hurricane a long time ago) and hearing thunder roll (which is much more interesting in a movie than in a too-small Harley Davidson themed hotel room). Someone, somewhere had a sense of humor. It just wasn't me.

All funny stuff aside, it really did pour. And just when I started to think the trip to Costco would be a shining moment the sun came out to christen the tropical wonderland of Kauai.




















With the weather finally on our side we took advantage of the beach plus sampled food from both ends of the price - and formality - spectrum. I've listed not only the eateries but also the places we stayed in case you are planning your own Kauai vacation.

Hotels

Hotel Coral Reef















Hotel Coral Reef
On the Beach
4-1516 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, Hawaii 96746
808.82.4481

This is a family run business and it's pretty low key. Want to rent a movie? You simply select from a stack and take it back to your room. Just don't expect any Netflix-like selection - or late fees - because the cost is a very acceptable:  free.

Rooms are clean and most have a nice ocean view. The pool? It's ok but if you stay here the real allure is that you can hang on the beach nearby. Unless, of course, it's pouring.

Overall, the Hotel Coral Reef is close to the beach, close to some good eating places and generally well-priced. And yes, this is where we encountered the Harley Davidson themed room!

Ko'a Kea
At Poipu Beach
2251 Poipu Road
Koloa Hawaii 96756
808.828.8888

Ko'a Kea, simply put, is all about making the people who stay feel welcomed and wanted. The staff is lovely as is the hotel itself with a bar poolside and a pretty great restaurant to round things out. In fact, don't even think about skipping a breakfast of eggs benedict with the pancetta hash. It's sinful but amazingly delicious (and calorie free I am told!)

At almost twice the price of the Coral Reef, it's not a steal. But factor super comfy rooms, a pool spanning the center of the hotel property and a good swimming and snorkeling beach right in front and the value starts to add up.

As a friend put it: "If you're going to splurge, this is the place to do it" and she's right. Given the chance I'd do it all over again and next time order two servings of eggs benedict!


Tuna at Ko'a Kea - stunning presentation!














Food

Mermaids Cafe
1384 Kuhio Highway
Old Kapaa Town
808.821.2026

This is a take out place where they serve fresh fish regularly caught by the Mermaids crew. In addition to the locally caught fish, the crew helps out at the nearby vegetable garden where much of the produce is produced.

We enjoyed a tuna wrap with wasabi cream and a fresh lemonade. Prices super reasonable and food is fresh. A nice start to the trip!

Pono Market
4-1300 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI
808.822.4581

Also located in Old Kapaa Town, this place is easy to miss but do look for it because they have good sandwiches and lunch plates for a quick and easy bite. I personally like the tuna poke (raw tuna with soy and other delectable additions) served at the deli counter. Delish!

Kauai Pasta
4-939 Kuhio Highway #B
Kapaa Hawaii 96749

We enjoyed a pretty simple but very tasty dinner of pasta marinara and salad. Like the other places listed, this was not a wallet buster but beware: the large portions are best split between two people (we learned our lesson!)

Puka Dogs
Poipu Shopping Village
2650 Kiahuna Plantation Dr.
KOLOA /HAWAII 96756
808.742.6044
http://www.pukadog.com/

Recommended by a friend and located near the Koa Kea. Their specialty?  Grilled hot dogs in homemade buns with your choice of salsa (pineapple, mango etc.) and condiments on the side. My take? Good, but a hot dog, chips and fresh squeezed lemonade (while tasty) landed somewhere around $19.50.

The gelato place next door though (can't remember the name) is another story. YUM. I ordered the Salt Pond (flavor?) which doesn't really conjure up the right image but had a curiously addictive salty sweet taste I couldn't - and didn't - resist.

Waimea Brewing Company
9400 Kaumualii Hwy
Waimea, HI 96796

Probably had the best tuna poke we tried on the island!  A big plus: the sun came out long enough for us to sit back after hiking the Waimea Canyon and enjoy the setting. Really loved this place.

Pomodoro Italian Ristorante
2-2514 Kaumualii Highway
Kalaheo, HI 96741
(808) 332-5945 ‎

Met the owner who moved from Manhattan by way of New Jersey. Her husband is from Italy and cooks up the homemade pastas and sauces which made me swoon. The dinner rolls are homemade (yum) and the waiter gave me a great tip: take olive oil and balsamic - half and half - then add freshly grated parmesan to make a dip for the rolls. Something I must try at home!

The Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant
5-5016 Kuhio Highway
808.826.6113
We drove up to Princeville and stopped for a quick bite. Loved the drinks and the onion rings (wow - wasn't that a random comment!)

Must Do

Helicopter ride over the island. We went through Jack Harter to secure seats in a 4-person open air helicopter for roughly $500 (two people). If you want a good view of the island and a photo session, this is not to be missed!

A view from above




















Back to reality

I've been back at work for a few days and my tan is fading almost as fast as the supposed "vacation glow". But if I close my eyes and listen carefully I can almost hear the waves crashing and feel the peacefulness which comes from a nothing-to-do state of mind and drink in hand. Mahalo!

This is the life!

Making my way to Manhattan

I'm on my way to Manhattan for a long weekend and hopefully some great food adventures.  Oh, and to visit a friend of course. 

What started as an early morning jaunt to the airport and the usual slow-moving lines ended up being slightly comical, for me at least.  While waiting in line to board my flight I saw a woman slowly walking toward friends with a huge bag of sandwiches.  She was obviously not cut out for the walk (apparently her wheelchair hadn't arrived) and they had been holding up the entire line so that she and her companions could board.  "Why did you have to walk to the other end of the airport for sandwiches?" growled one of her companions.  In my groggy head I thought "Isn't it obvious?  Because the food on planes is abhorrent or absent."  At this point I clutched my bananas and peanut butter cookies tighter for fear of being separated.

Faced with a long layover in Seattle I took my time getting out of the departure area and onto the internal tram.  My brain must have stayed in San Francisco because for the life of me I couldn't figure out which stop was the right one for my connecting flight gate.  After three complete rounds on the tram and two departures I found myself outside security again.  "You didn't have to leave the security area, the gate was within walking distance."  Isn't there something about someone stating the obvious AFTER the fact?

The saving grace of my layover was a pleasant lunch at Anthony's Fish Bar that didn't empty my pocketbook (I'm saving that for Manhattan.)  A plastic platter of cod and chips with water (tap) was $8.79.  And the tarter sauce was pretty darned good too.

Finally ready to board my flight to NYC, I am excited about the culinary discoveries and sights awaiting me.  Hopefully I won't encounter the same roundtrips on the subway before reaching my final destination!

Tacoma Glass Museum and Glass Blowing


Outside on the "Bridge of Glass"

Tacoma Glass Museum
1801 Dock St.
Tacoma, WA 98402

While in Seattle recently we decided to step outside our normal line-up of "things to do" and head south to Tacoma. Being a fan of Dale Chihuly, the famed glass-blower, I wanted to see the Glass Museum and some of his handywork.

Turns out much of the museum contains a fair amount of work by world-renowned Preston Singletary. Singletary has a wide range of pieces on display which reflect his Northwest Native roots as well as pieces created in a more modern European style. Beautiful!

Equally impressive are the pieces based upon artwork produced in the children's workshop on the premises. Essentially the kids get to draw in the studio and in some cases a glass piece is created based upon the drawing. One lucky child receives the glass art and a second (identical) piece is kept in the Kids Design collection. All the work is done in the "hot shop" which is a huge open forum where the public can see the piece being created. t's all good fun on a drizzly day in the Northwest.

Want to create your own piece of glass handiwork? There is a glass studio up the street where, for $65 you can work side-by-side a professional to create a custom vase or other piece of choice. Again, a very interesting and unique way to spend the day.

Tacoma Glassblowing Studio
114 S. 23rd Street
Tacoma WA 98402253.383.3499

info@tacmaglassblowing.com
Owned by Mark and Jeannine Sigafoos



Places to stay:
Marriot
http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/seatd-courtyard-tacoma-downtown/

Hotel Murano
http://www.hotelmuranotacoma.com/

Casual dining:

Duke's Chowder House
3327 Ruston Way
Tacoma, WA 98402-5309
(253) 752-5444

The Lobster Shop
4015 Ruston Way
Tacoma, WA 98402
253-617-1907