Monday, May 28, 2012

De Postkamer Grand Cafe

This lovely cafe is located in the village of Spakenberg Netherlands. The village was once a thriving fishing community. But like many coastal cities in the Netherlands it was frequently destroyed by storms and floods. When the great Zuider Zee was enclosed by dikes these villages were no longer destroyed. In this area entire new areas of land were built up but the fishing was no more. The great fishing boats are still here and used for touring and fun. This cafe is adjacent to the old harbor. Here I had what was undoubtedly the best apple pie anywhere. I've eaten apple pie in Julian California which I'd supposed to be some of the best. But this was ten times better. Have a meal or at least have a coffee and a slice of pie.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Restaurante Aben Humeya, Granada, Spain

Aben Humeya came recommended and it certainly disappoint. First, this restaurant has the most direct and fantastic view of the Alhambra possible. We ate here at 9pm and so saw the Alhambra switch between sunset lighting and the most majestic night lighting. The restaurant itself is simple, basically an enclosed patio. The service was nice, but we waited quite a while for our food. As a nice gesture we were served a complimentary cream gaspacho that was to die for. We had a vegetable risotto that was nicely seasoned and well prepared, along with a pork dish covered in a cream sauce with highlights of chocolate. You couldn't really taste the chocolate, but the sauce was quite nice and the pork was good enough. Without wine the dinner for two of us was only 33 euros, so a fairly good price for a nice place, and a spectacular evening view.

Restaurante Marrakech, Granada, Spain

We have headed south from Madrid and we are now in the southern city of Granada. After arriving we walked along the Darro River and decided to eat in a small place along the way. In this Moorish/Spanish city we decided to try Restaurante Marrakech. The food was very good, not write home to momma about, but good. The hummus was nicely prepared and plenty of it. I have had hummus, primarily in the U.S. where it has become heavily spiced. This was just nice plain old hummus. The Arabic bread was very delicious, which made everything else seem fantastic. We had an Arabic salad, which was chopped salad in a nice lemon vinaigrette. The falafel was nice, topped with a nice yoghurt sauce. This place, like many here in the city, has a very nice variety of Moorish and English teas. I would give this place high marks. Good service, conveniently located, great value and good food. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Restaurante Palacios Toledo, Spain

We had a wonderful experience at the Restaurante Palacios. This warm and friendly restaurant is a short walk from the great cathedral of Toledo. The interior gives you the feeling that you could be eating here at any time in the last 500 years. There was a wonderful selection of food, but the best deals where the two course meals. There was a wide selection of first courses. I had the gazpacho, as I am eating gazpacho soup everywhere in Spain. It was the first time I had gazpacho with bread in it. It's a matter of taste, but it gives the gazpacho a thicker texture. I'm told this is preferred but then the soup can not be saved for a long period of time. The second courses allowed for a choice by price, with about seven selections in each price category ranging from 8.50 euros to 18.90 euros. I had the carmusas, a local pork stew, with potatoes that was an amazing taste treat. Some of the other dishes local to the Toledo area are pollo al toledana, and perdiz a la toledana. I thought this restaurant served really tasty food and felt that it was a great value. Toledo can be a bit of a maze, so you might have to look for this restaurant, but it's definitely worth finding. It is located on Calle Alfonso X El Sabio.

Lateral, Madrid, Spain

Tapas are the true gems of Spain. With dinner at 10pm, tapas are the wonderful small appetizers eaten any time in the afternoon before dinner, or even as a dinner replacement. Lateral is the local restaurant favorite of our host here in Madrid. He told us that it's the best value for money, and definitely serves some of the best tapas in Madrid. When looking for it on Calle Velazquez, you will see that it is spelled with the last L backwards. Each item on the menu ranges between about 3 and 7 euros. We had crepes de setas (mushroom crepes), crema fria trigueros (cold asparagus in cream), quesadillas de acelgas champignon (spinach and mushroom quesadillas, and one of my personal favorites), tortilla espanola (Spanish tortilla), tartar aguacate con gamba (a really wonderful chopped avocado and shrimp), albondigas ternera (fantastic meatballs), patatas (spicy quartered potatoes), rojo pimientos rellenos (small red peppers -not spicy- stuffed with meat YUMMY), bread and for dessert, a chocolate tart and crepes dulces. That may seem like a lot of food for three people, and it was but we ate every bit of it, and the price only came to 61 euros, and that included beer and coffee for the three of us. Lateral was certainly one of the most delicious places we've eaten at so far in Spain. When in Madrid, I definitely recommend this place for both the food and its modern design. Service was fantastic.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ritz Madrid

Ok, this was not a dining experience but something to talk about anyway. After touring the Prado and seeing some of the most unusual and unexpected artwork imaginable, we decided to sit in the Ritz Garden restaurant for a cold drink to relax. There were three of us, two of us had a Coca Cola and the other a cafe Americano. There were as expected, even though the service was extremely slow. I think they were hoping we thought we got our money's worth, as the bill came to 35 Euros, ($44). Honestly, it wasn't that special. It's not as if we met Brad Pitt or anything.

La Casa de los Garcia -Serrano

Tonight was a special dining night, the kind of night you can't get in a restaurant. We are staying in the home of one of Madrid's finest cooks. Tonight's meal began with a lovely gaspacho de tita, a delicious and flavorful gaspacho with all the trimmings. With the bowls cleared and the delicious flavor of the gaspacho still on our tongues we began shelling and eating the gambas blanca de vuelva cocida, a light and tasty shrimp dish. Next came the warm torta del casar extremadura, a soft and strong cheese in a shell. The extreme flavor of this cheese was not for everyone, and luckily we were eating under the Iberian stars, so that the odor was not offensive to others at the table. Served next were the manchego castilla la mancha, an aged and slightly hard manchego that went perfectly with the first class jamon de jabugo vuelva de andalucia, finely stripped aged ham, and the tomato kumoto con ajo y aceite de oliva, a special fuerte tomato mixed with strong garlic and olive oil straight from the family's farm. To fill out the meal there was a delicate tortilla espanola and two types of pan. This could not have been a more perfect meal.

Cafe de Oriente

The Cafe de Oriente sits in the fabulous Plaza de Oriente nestled between the Madrid Opera and the Palacio Real, a truly incredible park with statues and trees, grass and people. This is a perfect place to relax in the afternoon. This was not really a dining spot for us, but we decided to have a snack an a beer. Of course, I ordered the gaspacho and my friends both had Spanish Tortilla, (Omelette).  The gaspacho was fantastic, as were the tortillas. The Heineken, well was cold and delicious. I highly recommend this as a place to stop in the afternoon for a snack. The menu was large and varied but we focused on the snacks. One thing, as we were leaving, my friend, a Madrid native, said the restaurant was very expensive and we paid for the location. For me, coming from Hawaii, the prices seemed fine. The beers were 4.95 Euro each.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

La Barraca, Madrid

Eating in Madrid is off to a slow start. The family who I am staying with decided to try a famous paella restaurant for my first meal. They had never eaten at La Barraca. It is located near the center of Madrid in a small side road, perhaps a little difficult to find. The walls are lined with old photos of famous people who had eaten there in the past. We had a lovely Spanish wine from the northwest of Spain and an appetizer of jamon, which my Spanish friends told me was only a moderate quality.

I had a gazpacho soup, which was fine. It was tasty and served with about 6 different toppings provided by the waiter. Taste-wise, maybe a 6 or 7 but nothing to get excited about. We ordered paella mixta for the full paella experience of both chicken and seafood. After eating half of the food I asked something I would not ask unless I were writing a food blog, as I was their guest, but I asked them to rate the paella. Immediately they all held up 4 fingers on a scale of 1 to 10. I had to agree. I have had much better paella in restaurants in the United States. The arroz (rice was spiced appropriately, but certainly nothing special). One mussel, one small piece of fish, two dry and tasteless gambas (shrimp) and dry and tasteless chicken. All in all, a disappointing first meal in Spain. I've now been promised better experiences, some home cooked meals that I will also write about. I am told that paella is not really a dish that Madrid is known for, so, if you are not looking to get your socks knocked off, this was ok to poor.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Casa de Luna revisited

Here it is, about one month since my last visit and as a bonus it happens to be Cinco de Mayo. Also next week I leave for Spain. So for the next couple of months most of my posts will be about European restaurants. I am blogging from the restaurant so this is real time. The place is packed with a 30 minute wait. I am happy to see its success so far. I ordered a Cadilac margarita $9.90 and the mix was a bit tasteless. But, the drink is plenty strong which may take the edge off the rest of the post. The folks sitting next to me at the bar ordered the nachos. It looks plentiful. They said they liked the tapas. Seated quickly and the server remembered me, a nice touch. They have switched to the full menu now. We ordered the cheese ring again, and the cheese puffs, a quesadilla, gazpacho, carnitas enchiladas and a beef burrito. The cheese puffs were ok, nothing special for a deep-fried food and it's hard to get quesadillas wrong. But then I sent the gaspacho back. Not only was it the worst gazpacho but possibly the worst soup I have ever tasted. The enchiladas were shredded beef not carnitas or if it was carnitas it tasted like shredded beef. I don't know which is worse. The enchilada sauce wasn't. It was spicy tomato sauce with zero Mexican spices. The beef burrito came nicely presented. It should have stayed that way. It was tasteless and pasty. It actually tasted like children's non-toxic paste. The Mexican rice..., ok I don't know how you can make rice more tasteless than plain rice, but somehow they managed to make it less flavorful than plain white rice. Beans yuck. The salsa improved a bit.  I'm now home and had to eat something to get the taste out of my mouth. This was undoubtedly the worst meal I have ever had in a restaurant, of any kind, anywhere. The meal came to $70 with two drinks, two appetizers, and a burrito and an enchilada plate. Way over-priced even if it happened to taste good, which it didn't. This was a 'sinko' de mayo experience for me. I won't be back until they get someone else to prepare the food. Oh, and we stopped at the store on the way home and the checker heard us talking about the restaurant and she said her friends told her the food was tasteless and expensive, so it's not just me. I want to like the food. I want to say nice things. Sorry, just can't here.

Urban Spoon

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hilo Bay Cafe

Hilo Bay Cafe is my favorite restaurant in Hilo. The food is always well-prepared and flavorful and the prices are really reasonable for Hilo. Tucked away in what is commonly called "The Walmart parking lot" This restaurant sits nestled between a couple of cell phone offices and another restaurant that I will review at another time. Started by the couple (no longer a couple) who were the proprietors of Island Naturals. As I understand it, he got the store, and she got the restaurant. It seems, business-wise, to have worked out well for both of them. There is a full bar and a nice wine list to accompany a fairly continental cuisine. Pork chops, pot pie, meatloaf, steak, and even a couple of vegetarian dishes are all tasty. If you happen to be a vegetarian I can speak highly of the roasted portobello  mushroom. I'm not vegetarian and really like the pork chops and the ribs. They also have a nice scallops meal and the specials usually includes the fresh catch, which in Hilo is usually one of the three local fish, ahi, ono or mahimahi. There is always a special entre, which is not simply a menu item marked down for the night, but something usually pretty special. I have eaten here often and I have to say that I usually end of choosing the special, because it is. I've never been disappointed by a meal here. I know that they also really support local growers.  This both supports the community as well as provides the tastiest and freshest produce.

You will notice that I never talk about desserts in my reviews. That's because I am a big guy and have to watch my weight. But I have eaten the desserts here and they are quite nice. Which is why I don't eat desserts here!

The service is excellent and friendly and the restaurant, for being in a strip mall in a chain store parking lot, is actually well-appointed. It gets pretty busy at night, so reservations are always a good idea. Monday through Saturday the are open for lunch until the end of the dinner seating. Sundays they are open for dinner only starting at 5pm. Good value, good food, great service. You can't go wrong.

I first posted this in May and because I've been traveling I haven't been back until now, and it's already August. Last night I had a really wonderful meal. The potato leak soup, one of the specials, was particularly nice. The mushrooms in filo dough were excellent and the beef brisquit was more than I could eat and very delicious. Even the seasoned shoestring fries with truffle mayo were really well done. Kudos again.