Saturday, June 30, 2012

Holuakoa Gardens & Cafe, Holualoa, HI

Nestled on the volcano above Kailua-Kona, is the small artistic town of Holualoa. The primary industry of this town is art, lined with art galleries from one end to the other. The Holuakoa Gardens & Cafe is a very nice restaurant (and separate coffee shop) in the center of town. Eat in an outdoor environment covered by beautiful trees, a flowing river and pools filled with beautiful fish. The food here is a bit upscale but we gave it an 8 out of 10. The fresh squeezed lime aid was very delicious and refreshing. We ate from the brunch menu, which had a wide variety of dishes. I at the huevos rancheros, which was not exactly traditional, with a flour tortilla served on the side, black beans, eggs of course, and country potatoes. Huge portion. I couldn't finish it all. It was tasty. My friend had the polenta and vegetarian lasagna, and said it was good. Also, he ate about half and brought the rest home. You should definitely check out Holualoa for the many art galleries and when you're there this is the place to eat. Oh, and check out the big pink hotel. Go in, and ask to go to the bathroom. You are sent down a precarious path to a bathroom cantilevered out over a cliff with the most breathtaking view of Kona ever. So whether you need to go or not, bring a camera and take a photo out the window!

Up Country Bakery & Cafe, Captain Cook, HI

If you want to eat where the locals eat, this is the place. Fantastic bagel sandwiches for lunch or breakfast, all served on freshly baked bagels. There is a nice selection of specialty coffees, and smoothies as well. The cabinet are also filled with delicious looking breads and pastries. The people here know people by name and are incredibly friendly, even to a newbie. It's conveniently located a block away from the Manago Hotel, so if you're staying on the cheap, you can eat like royalty. I had the bagel and log, while my friend had a very nice farmer's special breakfast bagel. Both were very yummy and I give this place high marks. Good job! And thanks Marco for making us feel so welcome. We'll be back.

Mi's Italian Bistro, Kealakekua, HI

Mi's served a very nice Italian meal. The menu was nicely varied, and the food was nicely prepared. This restaurant is very good by Big Island standards. If you eat at fancy Italian restaurants, you may find that the food here is simply good, not write your mom, great. The restaurant is nicely appointed and romantic. One suggestion I'd make is to put some dark curtains around the kitchen. Glass windows surround the kitchen, brightly lit with glaring fluorescent lights that kind of kill the mood, and kind of ruin what the atmosphere they have obviously worked hard to create. I had the Italian Sausage rigatoni. It was spiced nicely and the bread was tasty. My friend had the baked polenta and said it was good. I'm not going to rave about this place, but if you want a nice meal and you're in South Kona, eat at Mi's. You won't be disappointed as long as you're not expecting a 5 star restaurant.

Kea'au Wine Market, Keaau, HI

Sadly, the Kea'au Wine Market is no more.

Here was my review for the sake of history.

Behind many a great meal is the perfect wine. I found this gem of a wine store tucked away in the Kea'au Farmer's Market, diagonal across the street from McDonalds. It's a small store but has a wealth of different wines from around the world, carefully selected by the owner for having something special to offer. Too may times I've been in wine stores that have whatever is trendy, or has the right label. This store has what is wonderful, and you will walk away with more than wine, you will walk away with an education. They make sure you know what you're buying. The great thing is that you get incredible wines and I think almost every wine in the store is under $20 and most around the $13 price point. So, affordable great wines and an education, you can't go wrong. The farmer's market also has a really nice selection of locally grown veggies, and I really like the smoothie place on the end. Go for the wine, take home some veggies to eat with it, and treat yourself to a VERY nice smoothie.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Yen's Cafe, Hilo Hawaii

Yen's Cafe was recommended to us by a foodie as her favorite restaurant in Hilo. Yen's serves a combination of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. The flavors are bold, fresh and different. I haven't eaten in enough Vietnamese restaurants to know what authentic Vietnamese food tastes like, but I can imagine it's something like this. All the vegetables are grown by the restaurant owners, and wonderfully prepared. I had the number 20, which is a rare steak and noodle soup that was so delicious I ate every bit of the very large portion. I tasted the crepe and vegetables my friend had and they were perfectly prepared and delicious. The prices were very reasonable and the family-served food is very friendly and warm. It's a bit off the beaten path on Wainuenue, near Kinoole Street. If you like Asian cuisine, this is a must!

Puka Puka Kitchen, Hilo, HI

There is only one good place in East Hawaii to get falafel, and that's the Puka Puka Kitchen along Hilo's Bayfront. A small restaurant with big taste. We thoroughly enjoyed the food and the service was great. It is also very conveniently located for people shopping downtown, or visiting Hilo. It's a great stop for vegetarians and health-conscious eaters. You'll like it.

AlohaMexico, Kea'au, HI

To enjoy this wonderful Mexican food you will need to visit the Kalapana Night Market on Wednesday nights. This couple of wonderful cooks has developed a wonderful tasty set of dishes. We had the very delicious cheese and spinach enchiladas served with the most delectable homemade pickles. They also specialize in ceviche. If that's anything like their pickles it will be a wow. They told me they will soon be opening in the Makuu Farmer's Market on Sundays. In the mean time, The night market is worth a visit, and look for the AlohaMexico booth for a real treat. They also do catering so send them an email at chef@alohamexico.com.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Moonstruck Patisserie

Just back to Hawaii from 5 weeks in Europe we were eagerly looking for that extra quality European food possesses. I'm happy to say we found it. The Moonlight Patisserie is a small baked goods restaurant and store downtown Hilo. Just walk in and you already know just by looking at the wide selection of delicious looking pastries that you have gone to heaven. We stayed and ate a quiche for lunch. It was fantastic, and the coffee is brewed fresh in a French press for each person, a very nice touch. Alice, the owner, was so pleasant to talk to we could hardly leave so we had some of her Swiss berry tart. What I loved about this tart is that you could really taste the berries and it didn't feel like a bolus of sugar in your mouth. It was a success. I'm already a big guy, and try not to eat too many pastries, but when I do, it will definitely be from Moonstruck Patisserie.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia

If you find yourself in Philadelphia and you're hungry find your way to the Reading Terminal Market. It's a 10 minute walk from Independence Hall. This fantastic place is a true marketplace, farmers market, gourmet and local foods. I have a couple of recommendations.

Olympic Gyros has very nice gyros. The owner really was concerned that we like the food. That's a nice touch. Another place is Carmen's Cheesesteak. The sandwiches are huge and tasty. More importantly, if you feel like you haven't visited Philadelphia without having a cheesesteak but you're vegan, never fear. Their vegan cheesesteak
Tasted totally authentic. I highly recommend Carmen's.

Restaurant Mykene, Leuven Belgium

This beautiful restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating near the incredible City Hall. I ordered the kangaroo filet. It was served with a vegetable lasagna in red pesto. My friend had what was called a veggie burger but had no bread. The veggie patty was served on a bed of potatoes and smothered with a lovely Brugge cheese.

If you have never had kangaroo before it tastes like a cross between beef and chicken. In other words, very mild beef.

The food was fantastic and the service was fantastic. Look for this restaurant.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Home Cooking

Tonight we ate at home in Utrecht but I thought I would write about it anyway. We had a wonderful squid ink pasta with mushrooms lightly sauteed in butter, salt, pepper and  a sprinkled Sicilian spice mix, and just as they were getting soft I added thinly sliced summer truffles. This was added to the pasta along with olive oil from a private grove in Spain given to us as a gift, fresh mozzarella cheese, and sliced Sicilian sausage that had been cooked in a tasty chopped tomato marinara. This with a nice baguette and it was a perfect meal. The summer truffle sounded better than it was, as it was lightly flavored that the mushrooms overpowered it. All in all, great stuff.

Monday, June 4, 2012

India Port Tandoori Restaurant, Utrecht, Netherlands

Along the waterfront of the Oude Gracht in Utrecht  you will find this lovely Indian restaurant. I ate here alone tonight. I started with a nice glass of white wine served with a complimentary plate of papadam, a peppery cracker accompanied by a spicy mint chutney and a tamarind sauce. Both were excellent. I can usually judge an Indian restaurant by its mint chutney alone. So, I knew I was in for good food. Tonight I had the lamb tikka masala served with rice. I also ordered a side of raita, a yoghurt and cucumber dish I really enjoy and to make things special, a peshwari naan, that had every sweet thing such as raisins in it you could think of. All were delicious. I wish the raita had more cucumber. Everything was spiced perfectly and served piping hot. The service was excellent and the restaurant appears to do a brisk business. The building itself is a low arched restaurant built in one of the tiny wharf warehouses along the gracht (canal). This certainly added to the old-world flavor. I thoroughly enjoyed this restaurant.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Manneken pis

OK, it's not a joke. Anyone who has been to the Low Countries knows that this is a chain of french fry restaurants. That's where Thijs decided we were having dinner in Amsterdam. It was not my first choice, but since I ate here I thought I would write about it. For those of you unfamiliar, Belgium is truly the home of the french fry, not France. The restaurant that claims the first french fry is just down the street from a very famous statue, the one of the little boy pissing that we see in every other garden store in the world. The name of the statue is manneken pis, or literally, statue pissing. French fries, or simply fries, here would be more like what people in the United States would call steak fries. They are big and thick fries. At Manneken pis they are served hot and in a cone and smothered on top with one of a dozen sauces, normally mixed with some kind of mayonaise and then topped with chopped onions. A small wooden fork helps you dig those messy things out of the cone. They are actually quite delicious. OK, it wasn't my meal of choice with all that Amsterdam has to offer, but fries it was. I couldn't eat all mine and shared them with a homeless person sitting next to me. I'm sure it wasn't his meal of choice either. But, I'm sure they were good to him as well.

For more information you can visit http://www.mannekenpis.nl/