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Nota Bene

May 18, 2017

During our first full day in Toronto, which was somewhat of a gray, windy and drizzly day, we did a lot of walking around and exploring of various sights in the city.  The seasons had definitely changed over from summer to fall, and it was gorgeous walking around downtown Toronto.  Being huge hockey fans, and one of the reasons we even traveled to Toronto, we had to check out the Hockey Hall of Fame, so that’s what we spent most of our morning doing.  In the afternoon, we wandered over to North America’s only true castle, Castle Loma.  By the time early evening was upon us, it was finally time to enjoy an early dinner at a restaurant a few blocks down the street from our hotel room, just around the theater district.

Nota Bene, lauded as the “Best New Restaurant” in 2008 when it first opened its doors, serves up a contemporary Canadian cuisine with a bit of a French-Asian flair.  At the beginning of 2016, when Chef David Lee became the sole owner of Nota Bene, he re-opened it’s doors with a new concept, design and menu.  Born in England, and coming from a French and Asian background, David Lee moved to Canada after many years working throughout Europe in Michelin starred restaurants.  Today, Nota Bene is a representation of Chef Lee’s creativity and unique style, which continues to make Nota Bene one of Toronto’s most sought after restaurants to dine at.

The inside of the restaurant features a very modern and contemporary feel with a bit of an underwater feel to it.  The space is clean and bright, with decorations of dried coral hanging from the ceilings in an open and comfortable space.  It’s actually much larger inside the restaurant than it appears from the outside.  The restaurant also features a full bar in the front half of the dining room, and the quiet, intimate dining space in the back half of the room.  We arrived early, shortly after the restaurant opened, and before the theater crowd really started arriving, so we had the restaurant nearly to ourselves for most of our dining experience, which was fantastic.

To start off our meals, my husband and I both ordered drinks.  For my husband, he chose The Adamson made with basil infused bourbon, Casa Marion vermouth and black walnut bitters.  I chose a drink that couldn’t have been more different, the lychee cactus pear juice.  The idea of basil infused bourbon in The Adamson, was intriguing, to say the least.  And to bring home the point, there was a basil leaf draped across the ice cube in the glass.  My husband said that the drink really had a strong basil aroma, which I could definitely smell, but that the taste of the basil in the drink itself was quite minimal.  The drink was nice and strong and very reminiscent of of an Old Fashioned with a little twist.  However, my husband did say that the longer he let the drink sit, the more that the basil flavor was infused into the drink.  For me, my lychee cactus pear juice might have been the prettiest drink I’ve ever ordered.  The bright pink/fuscia color was gorgeous and inviting.  The drink itself was fabulous and very light.  I loved the sweetness of the lychee that I could taste in every sip of my drink.  The cactus pear gave the drink its flavor and was the balance to the lychee mute the sweetness that the drink needed.  This was a good start to the meal.

As an appetizer, I decided to order the hamachi ceviche.  Prepared with coconut, nori essence, Thai basil, mango-chili paste and yuzu, I was slightly concerned that the dish might be spicy.  The waiter suggested that I could get the mango-chili paste on the side rather than in the dish, and therefore, any of the potential spice in the dish would be eliminated.  The dish was gorgeous and the flavors were amazing.  I tried the mang0-chili paste, and while it wasn’t all that spicy since the mango added the sweet to the spice, the dish was just as fabulous without the mang0-chili paste.  The hamachi was fantastic and incredibly fresh.  The flavors in the dish with the tang from the yuzu which provided the citrus the ceviche needed balanced with the cool, tropical flavor of the coconut, the refreshing earthy flavor of the Thai basil, and the textural crunch of peanuts was fantastic.  The dish was refreshing, fresh, and incredibly flavorful.  I was slightly hesitant at first about ordering the hamachi ceviche, but in the end, I had nothing to worry about as the dish was just fantastic.

As if my husband didn’t have enough foie gras the night before, he decided to order the Quebec foie gras dish for his appetizer.  Served up with duck prosciutto, spiced pear, toasted seed & nut crumble and sourdough bread, this dish was the essence of ultra luxury.  The dish was colorful and beautifully presented with the foie gras sitting at the center of the plate almost like the sun with the rays of the sun being the pieces of duck prosciutto.  My husband said that the foie gras was like butter and absolutely melted in his mouth.  The duck carpaccio, which neither of us had ever seen on a menu before could only be described with one word, “wow!”  The dish was rich and delicious and yet light with great flavors that just combined together so well.  The nut crumble added crunch and the greens added a bit of freshness and earthiness to balance the richness of the prosciutto and the foie gras.

For dinner, my husband ordered the ricotta ravioli topped with shaved black truffle, parmigiana and chives.  It was the idea of shaved black truffle that put the dish over-the-top for my husband and he just couldn’t resist.  After all, he’d already had foie gras and duck prosciutto, why not finish off the meal with some black truffle.  Of course, the truffle was served with ricotta ravioli, and anything stuffed with cheese is always going to be a winner in my husband’s book.  The dish was fabulous, but would you expect anything less?  The flavor combination of the ricotta and the truffle was a perfect combination.  And believe me, the restaurant did not skimp on the shaved black truffle at all, there was truffle in every single bite.  The ravioli’s were like fluffy pillows that were perfectly stuffed and cooked.  This dish may have lacked protein, but it was filling and rich none the less.

As a side dish to go with our dinner, we ordered the shaved onion rings with horseradish creama and dill.  Light and crispy these onion rings were superb.  Cut thin and lightly battered, the rings were deep-fried to a golden brown and stacked high on the plate.  To finish it off, the onion rings were then drizzled with a horseradish creama and chopped dill.  The creama was fabulous and really made the dish.  The flavor of the horseradish was strong and really opened up your senses with quite the bite, but that’s how my husband and I love our horseradish.  The dill added a great herbaceous flavor to the dish.  My husband and I absolutely loved how simple, and yet how terrific this dish tasted.  It was a fun and whimsical side dish to accompany our meals.

I figured seafood would be a good option for my dinner, so ordered the wild sea scallops and side stripe prawns.  The seafood was served with apple & celeriac salad, smoked bacon pommes puree and green onion.  The wild sea scallops were perfectly seared with a beautiful caramelization on the inside and sweet tender meat on the inside.  I absolutely loved the flavor of the scallops.  The side stripe prawns were a good accompaniment and actually a good pairing with the apple and celeriac salad which had a nice tang from the Granny Smith apples and a terrific crunch to balance the tenderness of the seafood.  And one of the best flavors of the dish was the smoked bacon pommes puree.  With each bite, you could definitely taste and smell the smoked bacon, and the flavor permeated throughout the smooth puree.  The texture of this puree was almost unlike anything I’d ever had before, and with the flavor of the smoked bacon, I was hard to even remember that I was eating potato puree or a fancy form of mashed potatoes.  The dish was filling and delicious and everything I could have asked for when I ordered this dish.

By the time dinner came around, we were both a little full, but we’re also never one to say no to at least taking a peek at the dessert menu.  After a quick perusal, we actually each decided to order our own dessert.  Luckily, the desserts were pretty small, so we were both able to finish our desserts.

My husband ordered the sticky date pudding with pecan praline, rum raisins and brown butter ice cream.  Raisins and date pudding are definitely not my choice, but my husband really enjoyed his dessert.  After one spoonful of the sauce and the a taste of the rum raisins, my husband’s first words were, “whoa!”  My husband said that after a few of these rum raisins a person could get drunk off of them, in other words, the flavor of the rum was very strong.  For him, it was awesome.  The combination of the pudding and the light sweetness of the dates along with the cooling effect of the brown butter ice cream, which was rich and creamy was a perfect combination.  The dessert wasn’t overly sweet, which is exactly the kind of dessert that my husband looks for.

For my finishing dish, I ordered the molten chocolate cake.  Chocolate cake and sweet dessert, this is exactly up my alley.  Served with milk chocolate ice cream, amarena cherries, white chocolate ganache and salted pecans, this dish was certainly very sweet.  The presentation of this small molten cake surrounded by ice cream on one side and white chocolate ganache on the other side on a black slate plate was very pretty.  The molten cake had obviously just come right out of the oven, and the milk chocolate ice cream was just starting to melt from the heat emanating off of the molten cake.  I loved that the white chocolate ganache wasn’t too sweet, as it balanced out the sweetness of the melting chocolate coming out of the cake.  The milk chocolate ice cream balanced it all out and added the cooling, refreshing flavor.  The salted pecans added crunch and just a hint of salt to make this a salty, sweet dish.  I’m not a cherry fan, so I left the amarena cherries alone.  After a large and filling dinner, this smaller dessert was just perfect.

Our dinner meal at Nota Bene from the first drink, all the way to dessert, was scrumptious.  The service was fantastic, and the atmosphere was intimate and relaxed and perfect for what we were looking.   Every dish was flavorful and well prepared and presented, the flavors melded together well and there was just enough creativity to make our dinner stand out.  The location of Note Bene, right in the heart of the theater district also makes it an ideal place to dine before and after any theater show.  Again, it’s easy to see why Nota Bene is so highly acclaimed and is listed as one of Toronto’s top restaurants.

Canoe Restaurant

May 8, 2017

Over Canadian Thanksgiving 2016, my husband made plans for us to take a long weekend trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada.  Toronto is a city that my husband has wanted to visit for quite a while now but for some reason or another things just never worked out, not even mentioning the fact that for some reason airfare between Los Angeles to Toronto always seems to be so outrageously expensive.  But finally, the stars aligned and we planned ourselves a trip to Ontario’s capital city.  After flying a redeye from Los Angeles into Toronto and arriving in the wee hours of the morning, we had made plans to pick up a rental car and head out to Niagara Falls for a quick day trip.  Luckily, from the airport Niagara Falls was a quick hour-ish jaunt.  A beautiful early fall day, we picked the most wonderful day to travel out to the US-Canada border.  After returning back to the airport to drop off our rental car, we made our way into Toronto and arrived into this great metropolitan city late in the afternoon.  We had made plans later that evening to enjoy a meal with a view at a restaurant within walking distance to our hotel.

Canoe Restaurant, located on the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower building in downtown Toronto is a wonderful celebration of the history and culture of Canada with cuisine that they call “Inspired by Canada’s Raw, Rich Land.”  Having been a mainstay of Toronto cuisine for over 20 years, Canoe seeks to inspire and connect people through cuisine by sourcing only the highest quality and finest ingredients from throughout Canada.  Canoe describes their menu as “inspired dishes reflective of our country’s diverse landscape, history and culture.”

With an expansive interior dining room that is decorated in a very minimalistic style and accentuated with earth tones and wooden accent pieces, the entire dining room is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the beautiful skyscape of downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario beyond that.  In one corner of the restaurant, nearest to where we were seated was a beautiful open kitchen with some bar-style seating for those who wanted a front row on the inner workings of a world class restaurant.  Canoe has often been listed as one of Canada’s top restaurants and dining here, it’s easy to see why.

Canoe Old Fashioned made with Crown Royal Northern harvest rye, Maker’s Mark bourbon, sugar, Angostura bitters, and orange peel was my husband’s drink of choice.  After a sip of his drink, his comment was “thumbs up!”  He thought that the Canoe Old Fashioned had the right mixture of rye and bitters without too much orange.  In other words, there was the essence of orange, but it wasn’t the primary ingredient in the drink, and the drink was nice and strong.

Prior to our meal arriving, we were served with Canoe’s own potato and bacon bread which was served with a white bean and sumac spread.  The bread was fantastic, but very dense and filling.  It must have been the potato which caused the bread to be so dense as it looked light with a bunch of air pockets, but picking up a piece and you could feel the density.  After a bite into the bread my husband’s comment was, “whoa!”  The bread was incredible with a light potato and bright bacon flavor.  You could clearly taste both ingredients in each bite.  The white bean and sumac spread was interesting, somewhat like hummus in texture and slightly in flavor.  However, I think my husband and I both liked the bread on its own without the spread so much.

Since we had been traveling, essentially since the previous evening when we flew our red-eye flight, and didn’t really stop to have a proper lunch at Niagara Falls, we were starving by the time dinner came around.  For his starter, my husband chose the s’mores foie gras.  Personally, I didn’t think that sounded appealing at all, but luckily, we weren’t sharing an appetizer, so my husband could order whatever he wanted.  The s’mores foie gras was served with graham cracker crumble, chocolate sauce and toasted marshmallow cream, everything you would have assumed would be a s’mores treat, well, except for the foie gras.  My husband really enjoyed the smoky caramelized marshmallow foam, it added that depth and layer of flavor.  The combination of the foie gras and the chocolate sauce was a winning one in my husband’s estimation.  He thought that the foie gras was so rich and tender and the sweetness of the chocolate sauce just added to both the sweetness and richness.  The waffle it was served with added depth and a blank slate for flavor as well.  The dish was so rich and creative, it was hard to tell if this was more like a dessert or an appetizer.  My husband loved the creativity and he even said that if this wasn’t such a classy restaurant, he’d be tempted to lick the plate clean as the graham cracker crumble, rich foie gras, marshmallow cream and chocolate sauce were such a fantastic combination.

I went with a completely different type of appetizer.  My choice was the Ontario burrata served with unripe strawberries, arugula, K2 Milling crisp, and smoked canola oil.  Can you ever go wrong with burrata?  Add in the idea of unripe strawberries and it just sounded intriguing.  The plate, much like my husband’s s’mores foie gras was so beautifully and artistically plated.  The burrata itself was very fresh, and rich and creamy.  The creamy inside of the burrata was heavenly.  Combined with the unripe strawberries, which had a tang to them, and the peppery arugula, it was a combination of creamy, tangy, and peppery.  The K2 Milling crisp added crunch and texture and yet another different flavor component.  Even though each ingredient had a different flavor profile, they all seemed to compliment each other quite well.  My favorite flavor on the profile was the arugula pesto that really just brought all of the ingredients together into one cohesive dish.

When it came time for dinner, I decided to go for something filling and heavy.  My entrée choice was the Ontario beef rib eye.  Apparently, I was very interested in everything that was locally sourced from the local province.  The Ontario beef rib eye was served with braised short rib cannelloni, B.C. pine mushrooms, charred eggplant, Mill St. AP sauce, and Okangan hazelnuts.    I really loved the rib eye, it was so tender and juicy and flavorful.  It was cooked to a perfect medium rare, as requested.  However, I will say that the beef was a little bit fattier than I had expected it to be, so I could have done with a little bit less fat.  The short rib cannelloni was different and interesting.  The short rib was tender and delicious, the idea to put it into a cannelloni was creative, but somehow didn’t seem cohesive on this dish.  The charred eggplant and the hazelnuts actually worked as accompaniments for the dish and the Mill St. AP sauce is definitely a Canadian thing that requires a bit of an acquired taste that I just don’t have.  But the star of the dish was certainly the beef, and the beef is what’s for dinner.

My husband also decided to try out a meat dish in the form of venison.  Cerf de Boileau venison served with swiss chard, mulled lingonberries, preserved garlic scapes and wheat berries.  It was the addition of lingonberries that intrigued my husband about this dish, and being a lover of venison in general, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  While this dish had a lot of ingredients and a lot of strong individual ingredients, the combination of flavors was perfect.  Served on a maple leave embossed plate, the highlight was the venison, which was very well cooked.  The lingonberries provided the tartness and punch of flavor that the dish needed to counteract the gaminess of the venison.  The dish was filling, but my husband had no problems whatsoever in clearing off every last scrap of food off of his plate.

We may have eaten a lot of food by this point, but we still had room for dessert, and after looking over the dessert menu, we each decided to get our own dessert.  For my choice, I went with the milk chocolate + kernel peanut made with 46% milk chocolate, banana butter and caramel ice cream.  Alright, anything called banana butter is going to get my attention.  Again, like every other dish we’d been served at Canoe, I absolutely loved the creativity of how the ingredients on the dish were combined, put together and plated.  The banana butter was more like banana foam that provided the base for the other ingredients on the dish.  The banana butter had a nice subtle banana flavor that was terrific, but it wasn’t too sweet so that it overpowered the chocolate.  The chocolate cake was spongy and moist and was a perfect textural contrast to the banana butter.  The peanut brittle was fanatic and the chocolate had just the right touch of sweetness and cocoa flavor.  This was the perfect dessert for someone like me, with my tastes, to enjoy.

My husband ordered a dessert we had trouble pronouncing, the vinarterta.  Luckily, our waiter put on his best Italian accent and told us that the vinarterta was certainly the most fun dessert to try to pronounce along with being his personal favorite dessert.  The vinarterta consisted of wild blueberry compote, mustard ice cream, and rosemary birch syrup jelly.  I think it was the mustard ice cream that really intrigued my husband, combined with wild blueberry compote, he just had to have it.  With a description in the menu that starts off with mustard ice cream, it was the first ting on this beautifully plated dessert that my husband decided to try.  Personally, I expected that mustard ice cream would be tangy, much the way mustard powder is when you add it as a seasoning into your cooking, however, after one spoonful of the ice cream, my husband told me I had to try it because it was completely the opposite of what he expected it to be.  And sure enough, the mustard ice cream was sweet and delicious, and had you not told me it was mustard ice cream, I don’t think I’d ever guess what the main ice cream flavor was.  It was rich and smooth and creamy with a hint of sweetness that spoke to a unique ingredient, but one you would never expect from mustard.  The dessert was deemed to be “very good” by my husband who that the combination of the ice cream and the wild blueberry compote blended together very well.  The cake was light and fluffy and mild enough to soak up the flavors of the ice cream and the blueberry and the rosemary birch syrup which helped give the dish a very woodsy, fresh flavor.  My husband was more than satisfied with his dessert choice.

Canoe was a culinary delight.  With ingredients and dishes that highlighted the culinary style of Canadian cooking and flavors, we were taken on a food journey through this intriguing and diverse country.  The level of creativity served to us amongst dishes such as s’mores foie gras and mustard ice cream, it was lovely to see that these flavors actually did work and that the beauty of the plating actually translated to amazing food to fill our bellies.  With a beautiful setting right in the heart of downtown Toronto, it’s easy to see why Canoe is one of Ontario’s, and Canada’s, most distinguished and highly acclaimed restaurants.  If Canoe is a representation of Canadian cuisine, sign me up for both the creativity, beauty and flavors.  I’d definitely recommend Canoe to anyone looking for a nice meal when they come to Toronto.

 

Creamistry

May 4, 2017

By now, if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll know that I am a huge sucker for ice cream.  I feel, sometimes, that I live, eat, breath and dream about ice cream.  I think about when I’m going to have more ice cream, I select flavors of ice cream in my dreams, I think about how eating ice cream makes me feel.  Pretty much, I’m crazy for ice cream.  I’ve always joked with people that there are two food items I would never say no to, and that is ice cream and chocolate.  So, last year, when a new ice cream joint opened in our neighborhood, I told my husband right away that we needed to check it out.  I’m embarrassed to say how many times we’ve been there since that first visit.

Creamistry is a new-age, hi-tech ice cream joint that starts off with the basic ice cream ingredients of cream and flavoring, combined it with gastronomy gadgets such as liquid nitrogen, to create your very own customized ice cream creation.  Nothing is made until you order it, and then you can watch as the ingredients and flavorings you chose are combined together in a mixing bowl with liquid nitrogen until it forms the perfect scoop of creamy, delicious ice cream.  Half the fun is watching the “creamologist” use the liquid nitrogen and gaze upon the amount of frozen ice clouds that coming streaming out of the mixing bowl, onto the counter, and out into the store.

There are three steps to making your customized, made-to-order liquid nitrogen ice cream creation.  The first step is to choose your base.  There are four different ice cream bases that you can choose from to create a small cup, large cup, or a shake.  The base creates that base layer that will be used to ultimately flavor your ice cream.  The base that my husband and I have always chosen is the signature premium cream.  It is described as being “rich and indulgent” and is the creamiest of all of the 4 ice cream bases.  There is also an organic cream version made with 5 simple ingredients and USDA certified as 100% organic, kosher and non GMO.  Of course, if you don’t want rich, and creamy and full-fat, or if you aren’t looking for a dairy-based dessert, there are a couple of other options for bases.  There is a sorbet base which is non-dairy, water based base used to make fruit sorbets in a limited number of flavors which include: blood orange, green apple, mango, pineapple and pink grapefruit.  Or there is a coconut milk base that is a non-dairy, vegan base that is also lactose, gluten and egg free for a healthier, non-dairy cream dessert.

 

Step two is to choose your ice cream flavoring.  The flavoring you choose gets added to the base you chose into a mixing bowl.  These two simple ingredients together combine to create the flavor of your ice cream.  There’s a wide variety of different flavors to choose from in various categories.  There’s your traditional flavors of caramel, chocolate, French vanilla, Madagascar vanilla bean, and mint.  There is the ever kid-popular flavor of cotton candy.  And there’s the hip new option of salted caramel.  There are various nutty flavors, all which go well with the coconut base such as coconut, nutella, pure roasted pistachio, Reese’s peanut butter and taro.  There’s a cookies and cake category that includes birthday cake, cheesecake, cookie butter, Oreo, and tiramisu.  There’s fruity flavors such as black cherry, fresh banana, strawberry and strawberry milk.  There’s coffees and teas such as espresso, matcha green tea, milk tea and Thai tea.  And there’s the very popular cereals category which includes Cap’N Crunch, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, French Toast Crunch and Fruity Pebbles.  Being creatures of habit, I’ve tried the Cinnamon Toast Crunch, fresh banana and espresso.  And while some of the other flavors such as tiramisu and strawberry sound really good to me, I can’t get myself to switch to other flavors as the ones I’ve made have been so tasty.  My husband has always stuck with either Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Fruity Pebbles.  And yes, they really do put actual cereal into a bowl with your chosen base.  And while you may think that doing that may make for soggy cereal, it’s amazing how the end result turns out.

The mixing bowl is attached to a stand mixer that has a special hook up for the liquid nitrogen, and then, as they say, the magic happens.  The stand mixer is turned on, some liquid nitrogen is added slowly while the mixer is still going and all the ingredients combine together.  The reaction of the liquid nitrogen mixing with the liquid base of the ice cream creates this cloud of cold gas that fills the countertops, much the way dry ice reacts when it comes into contact with liquid.  The liquid nitrogen freezes the base and flavoring component immediately and within minutes creates ice cream!  It’s such a simple concept, and an amazing process.

The final step is for the Creamologist to scoop the ice cream out of the mixing bowl and into a cup.  This is also the last step in your customized ice cream creation as you can now add as many, or as little, toppings as you want to your ice cream.  The toppings can be mixed into the ice cream, so therefore before the ice cream is scooped out of the mixing bowl, the topping is added and everything is mixed together, or it can be placed on top of your ice cream scoop.  The possibilities are endless and the toppings are numerous.  Toppings include chocolate curls, Heath, Kit Kat, mini M&’s, mini chocolate chips, mini gummy bears, mini marshmallows, mochi, rainbow sprinkles, Reese’s cups, Twix, fresh baked brownie bites, Cap’N Crunch, cheesecake bites, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, cookie dough, French Toast Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Oreo, fresh banana, fresh strawberry, almonds, pecans and walnuts.  And of course, it wouldn’t be ice cream if you couldn’t top it off with whipped cream, strawberry sauce, chocolate fudge, caramel, kiwi, honey, blueberry sauce, mango, Nutella and marshmallow sauce.  There are so many combinations you can make.  Unsure, the first time around, I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to order so I stuck to flavors that I knew and was familiar with.  I chose the espresso flavored syrup with the signature premium base and asked for bananas to be mixed into the ice cream as my topping.  The espresso syrup combined with the signature premium base created a very creamy and delicious ice cream.  It was thick and rich and absolutely amazing.  I loved it.  And while you may think that bananas and coffee don’t go together, I’d beg to differ as bananas go with any flavor possible.  And for me, this was a perfect pair.  Fresh banana slices mixed right into fresh made espresso ice cream, it was a winner!

My husband, decided to be a little more adventurous that me and wanted Cinnamon Toast Crunch added to his signature premium base and then topped with caramel sauce.  Again, my first thought was, “cereal added to cream? Ew, wouldn’t that just make it soggy?”  But I couldn’t be more wrong.  Sure enough, actual Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal was added directly into a mixing bowl with signature premium ice cream base and mixed with liquid nitrogen to form ice cream.  Surprisingly, the cinnamon toast crunch cereal was crunchy and cinnamon-y and delicious.  The mixture with the cream was perfect and again, created very creamy and smooth ice cream.  The caramel sauce added just the touch of sweetness the ice cream needed.  My husband really liked the texture and creaminess of the ice cream.  The texture and the smoothness and thickness that you can achieve with just the combination of the creamy base and the liquid nitrogen is amazing.  It looks like ice cream, and taste luxurious like good quality ice cream.

As I’ve said, since our first visit to Creamistry, I fell in love with it and my husband and I have been back numerous times.  Occasionally, we’ve both even tried different flavors and combinations.  I’ve had fresh banana ice cream topped with fresh strawberries and cheesecake bites.  What’s a better combination and strawberries and banana?  Again, you have to understand how much I love bananas.  Banana ice cream is just up my alley, add fresh bananas and mix it in with signature premium base to create a flavorful, creamy ice cream.  Add fresh, ripe strawberries and small cheesecake bite squares, and it added sweetness, tanginess and richness to a fantastic cup of ice cream.

My husband has mixed up the Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal with Fruity Pebbles instead as he wanted something colorful and different, so he topped his creation with blueberry syrup.  I think he liked this combination even more than the Cinnamon Toast Crunch ice cream as this was crunchier and more colorful and more flavorful whereas the Cinnamon Toast Crunch was just cinnamon-y.  And of course, blueberries are my husband’s favorite fruit, so the blueberry syrup is the perfect topping for his fruity pebble ice cream.  Since he switched it up and left the Cinnamon Toast Crunch ice cream behind, I decided to get Cinnamon Toast Crunch ice cream myself instead of the banana ice cream and topped it with strawberries and cheesecake bites.  That was also a fantastic combination as the cinnamon, the cheesecakes and the sweetness of the strawberries creates a filling and delicious ice cream combination.

There are thousands of combinations that you can create at Creamistry, from mixing up ice cream flavor combinations to mixing up the toppings.  You can even make milkshakes, affogatos, or have a brownie sundae or your ice cream put into a waffle bowl.  The combinations appear to be limitless.  Who knows, maybe one of these trips, my husband and I will be willing to mix it up again and try different flavors and different combinations.  Although, right now, I think we’ve been perfectly happy with the combinations we’ve created so far.  And we’ll continue to go back to Creamistry again and again.

 

Mama’s Fish House

April 25, 2017

During our last full day in Maui, we decided to do the Road to Hana drive.  Starting out early in the morning, we headed down towards Hana.  One of the last little towns you drive through before you actually start the Road to Hana is Paia, which is more of a little hamlet than an actual town.  But one thing we noticed while we drove through Paia was a restaurant that we had on our short list of places we wanted to try while we were in Maui.  After many hours on the road traversing down to Hana, we decided to  turn back at the end of the road and come back the way we had come rather than risk going the long way around over the dirt road to get back towards Ka’anapali.  Since we were coming back towards Paia, and we hadn’t stopped to eat all day, we decided this would be the perfect time to stop in Paia for a late lunch/early dinner meal.

Mama’s Fish House is a North Shore Maui institution.  Often cited as one of the best restaurants in Maui, one of the best restaurants in Hawaii, and listed as one of the top 100 restaurants in the United States, Mama’s Fish House is world-renowned for  its tropical Hawaiian flavors and the freshest fish on the island caught daily by local fisherman just off shore.  The brainchild of Floyd and Doris Christenson from Southern California, they first visited Maui shortly after Hawaii had become the 50th state in the Union, and the island was so underdeveloped there was only one hotel on the whole island and you couldn’t even access Ka’anapali beach without cutting through thick groves of trees.  Having visited Maui, they had fallen in love with island living and Polynesian culture and friends of them urged them to go and visit Tahiti and other South Pacific islands.  Upon returning home to Southern California, the Christenson’s sought out a sailboat and learned how to navigate to prepare themselves for a journey that would take them from San Diego down to the far pacific reaches of the Marquesas Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, New Caledonia and beyond.  Setting out with their young son, and giving birth to a daughter along the way, the Christenson’s sailed themselves all over the South Pacific using nothing but rudimentary navigational equipment and then sun to guide their way.  For Doris Christenson, during the time of their trip, unless the weather was bad, she always cooked and prepared a home cooked meal in the ship’s make shift galley.  When they arrived at their various destinations along the way, Doris met and befriended locals, gathered local fruits and vegetables and learned local cooking techniques which she would then perfect and experiment with on her family.  After some time sailing the South Pacific, the Christenson’s decided that if they were ever to make their dream of owning a restaurant come true, they would do it in Maui.  Reports from friends had told them that Lahaina was growing and the tourist industry was about to explode in Maui.  Ka’anapali beach was finally accessible and major hotel chains were being built.  So the Christenson’s returned to Maui, bought the property in Paia where Mama’s Fish House stands today and opened up shop determined to serving only the freshest fish possible from local fisherman and fresh organic produce grown right on the island of Maui.

The restaurant featured a lovely, and very large, open air dining room.  In fact, the restaurant is so large that there are several separate and distinct dining areas.  Each dining area had tables that faced out towards the front of the restaurant and the private beachfront just beyond the restaurant.  With windows that were completely open to the outside, you could just sit and enjoy watching the shady palm trees sway in the cool afternoon breeze while you listed to the surf lap up against the sand.  It was all quite relaxing and comfortable and welcoming, despite the fact that the restaurant was actually quite busy.

A day of driving the curving, mountainous roads of Hana, we were definitely ready to relax and kick back.  So we decided to start our meal off with a couple of drinks.  The drinks which were appropriately presented with paper umbrellas to cap off that tropical vibe.  Admittedly, these were the first paper umbrella drinks we’d been served our whole time in Hawaii, so while kind of kitschy, it was quite nice.  I ordered the strawberry guava fizz made with strawberry guava mixed with lemonade and a splash of soda.  I loved the fizz of the drink, and fizz really was an appropriate word.  The guava nectar tasted spectacular, but when does guava not taste good?  It really is the signature flavor that reminds me of Hawaii.  But it was the strawberry flavor in this drink that added the hint of sweetness that the drink needed to mix with the flavor of the guava and the slight tartness of the lemonade.  My husband decided to order Aunty Karen’s Lemonade.  Made with lilikoi, kula lemon and cranberry juice with mango, this was a pretty drink.  Unfortunately, my husband thought that the drink tasted a little bit too much like pink lemonade and he had trouble tasting the lilikoi and the mango over the sweetness of the lemonade and cranberry juice mixture.  My husband expected with the flavors mixed into this drink that it would be a little bit more tropical in taste, with more of the lilikoi flavoring coming through.

Before our appetizers and entrees were brought out, we were presented with the chefs compliment starter of a small cup of asparagus bisque.  The soup was quite delicious with a very smooth pureed taste.  You could certainly taste the fresh, earthy flavor of the asparagus in the bisque which was accentuated with some chopped parsley.  At first, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea of asparagus bisque, but it actually turned out to be quite tasty and a terrific item to whet our appetite.

In addition to the asparagus bisque, we also received the traditional bread basket, although this time it was a loaf of poppy seed bread made with local honey.  The bread was terrific and my husband and I devoured the whole thing in seconds.  It very much tasted of a loaf of wheat bread with just the right touch of honey which added enough sweetness to the bread to give it some depth of flavor.

As we were starving and hadn’t eaten anything all day, we decided to order two different appetizers.  Our first dish was the Kauai shrimp won ton with macadamia nut dipping sauce.  This was fantastic.  The shrimper nice and large, and the won ton wrappers were perfectly fried to a crisp golden brown.  The sweetness of the shrimp was only offset by the sweet and sour tang of the macadamia nut dipping sauce which was a terrific contrast to the sweet and crispy shrimp.  And as an added bonus the cabbage slaw upon which the crispy fried shrimp were sitting atop was quite delicious and tasty with a bit of a seasame oil dressing.  This appetizer was my choice and I was quite pleased with it.

My husband, for his choice of a starter choice the Maliko Bay tomato and Maui onion salad with pine nuts and Point Reyes blue cheese dressed with Maui olive oil and 18 year aged balsamic.  And while this dish sounds a bit like a caprese salad, it sort of is, but with a Hawaiian flair.  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting all that much from this dish, but Mama’s Fish House proved me completely wrong.  After his first bite of this dish, my husband’s first words were “Wow!”  The use of the Point Reyes blue cheese was fantastic and gave the contrasting flavor in this dish that balanced out the sweet tomatoes and sweet onions.  The Maliko Bay tomatoes were terrific, perfectly ripe and nice and sweet with terrific flavor.  The Maui onion salad was also nice and sweet, as Maui onions are known to be. So instead of having an acidic and tangy salad, we essentially had a very nice and sweet salad offset by the tangy blue cheese.  The Maui olive oil and the aged balsamic just added the right touch of acidity needed for this marvelous dish.

For my meal, I chose to order the uku, which is a Hawaiian blue-green snapper.  At Mama’s Fish House, to demonstrate that the fish is caught daily and is as fresh as possible, the menu actually tells you the name of the fisherman who caught the fish and where it was caught from.  In this case, the uku was caught by Kalae Hickcox bottom fishing at 1,000 ft depths.  Uku is a popular table fish in Hawaii as it has a reputation for having a moist, firm and delicately flavored, translucent pink flesh.  With this uku dish, the fish was steamed with Hana ginger and sizzling peanut oil and served over a bed of local steamed vegetables and with a side of coconut steamed white rice.  The fish was perfectly light and flaky and very well steamed.  The flavor of the peanut oil and the ginger was completely infused into the fish and the vegetables.  The vegetables which included baby bok chop were fabulously light and a perfect compliment to the fish.  And the coconut steamed white rice was terrific and was the starchy side this dish needed.  The two filets of fish served with the dish were huge and definitely filling.  My favorite part of the meal was definitely the beautiful and slightly salty peanut oil and ginger sauce combination.  After not having eaten all day, this meal perfectly hit the spot for me.

My husband, for his meal, chose Mama’s Fish House’s signature dish of mahimahi stuffed with king crab and baked in a macadamia nut crust.  As with my uku dish, the menu described that this mahimahi was caught by Mike Fisher trolling through the Alenuihaha Channel.  The fish was served atop some lemongrass rice pilaf which my husband quite enjoyed.  The rice had a great light lemongrass flavor which my husband could definitely taste.  The combination of the mahimahi with the king crab was a fantastic combination and very well prepared.  The sweetness of the crab meat with the flaky fish made for a good flavor combination.  The fish itself was nice and light, so this wasn’t a heavy meal at all, even though it seemed as it though it might be a heavy meal.  There was a light pineapple salsa topping the mahimahi and the sweet and tang of the pineapples also added to the flavor profile of the fish.  The steamed baby vegetables served as a side was also a nice treat to go with this fish dish.  But the star was definitely the fresh mahimahi.  My husband was quite pleased with this dish and was glad he decided to order it.

While we’d already eaten quite a bit, my husband and I really had worked up an appetite on our explorations and had decided that we could each afford to order our own desserts.  For me, I couldn’t help but choose the Kauai chocolate pie which was baked in a caramel cookie crust.  Seemingly like a chocolate mousse pie the filling was smooth and delicious without being overly sweet.  The caramel cookie crust was fantastic and gave the pie a crunchy texture which worked well with the smooth chocolate mousse filling.  Atop the cookie crust was a thin layer of caramel spread over the cookie crust so that when you brought up a forkful of pie, you got chocolate mousse filling, caramel sauce and the cookie crust.  The pie was topped with fresh whipped cream on the edges and slices of ripe, delicious strawberries.  Also decorating the plate were fresh blueberries, star fruit and guava.  The Kauai pie tasted a little tropical, a little sweet, and a whole lot of good.  The pie was also very nice and light, which meant that I didn’t feel stuffed by the end of the meal.

For his dessert, my husband ordered the Polynesian black pearl.  Honestly, this may have been the prettiest dessert I’ve ever laid my eyes on.  In fact, it was so pretty, I almost felt bad that my husband was about to devour it.  The menu described the dessert as being liliko’i chocolate mousse in a pastry seashell.  But that’s such a simplistic description for what was an amazing dessert.  The “shell” of the black pearl was made with a think cookie rounded to look like the shell of a pearl.  The “black pearl” itself was the chocolate mousse with the lilikoi center and then surrounded in smooth chocolate ganache so that the light glinted off it to shine like a black pearl might.  The entire shell and black pearl was set atop at bed of chocolate and lilikoi sauce artfully designed to look like light rays shining off the shell and accentuating the whole dish.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  But was even better was how delicious the dessert was.  Honestly, it’s worth going to Mama’s Fish House just for the Polynesian black pearl dessert.  The mousse was absolutely smooth and delicious and finding the lilikoi center was a nice surprise to add a tangy bite to the chocolate mousse.  The chocolate ganache added another layer of flavor to the entire dessert with the pastry cookie shell adding texture and crunch to the desert.  The lilikoi sauce was heaven on the plate and really balanced out the chocolate dessert.  My husband and I were both in love with the desert.

Finally, as if we weren’t already stuffed to the gills, we were presented with a plate of homemade haupia.  Haupia is a traditional coconut-milk based dessert that is found all over the Hawaiian islands.  Traditionally, made with heated coconut milk and arrowroot starch, the two mixed together until it thickens and forms a gelatin-like dessert.  Essentially, haupia almost has the consistency of coconut jello, but with much more depth of flavor.  My husband and I loved the light coconut flavor to the haupia and despite the fact that the treat looked more like a nougat, it was nice and light and easy to enjoy, just like a small jello square would be.  This was the perfect way to round out a delicious meal.

As it turned out to be our only meal of the day, our late lunch, early dinner at Mama’s Fish House was the perfect ending to our quick Hawaiian getaway.  After our meal, we took a quick walk around the restaurant’s private beachfront property and enjoyed the views of the Pacific Ocean just before the sun started to set.  Feeling the ocean breezes, reliving our adventures on our drive on the Road to Hana as well as the lovely flavors of the meal we just enjoyed, this just felt so right.  To be here in this moment at this time.  Our meal at Mama’s Fish House just capped of our quintessential Maui day.  Beautiful sights, jaw-dropping views for miles, and delicious, tropical, fresh food to fill our bellies.  We really couldn’t ask for any more from this day, or our trip to Hawaii.  Can’t wait until we find ourselves traveling back to Hawaii again to see what other adventures await us.

Black Rock Kitchen at Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa at Ka’anapali Beach

April 19, 2017

While in Maui, we stayed at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa at Ka’anapali Beach.  We had a beautiful ocean view room with a gorgeous view of the famous Black Rock at Ka’anapali from where we could watch the nightly torch lighting and rock diving ceremony from the Black Rock at sunset.  This black lava rock outcropping is one of Ka’anapali’s distinguishing features, a place that the local Hawaiian’s believed to be a sacred spot on the island, and the torch lighting and cliff diving is in tribute and honor to the local gods and spirits.  Located at the very end of the beach closest to the Black Rock, the Sheraton Maui Resort is primarily focused on and around the Black Rock itself.

Each morning during our stay at the resort, we were treated to a bountiful buffet breakfast at the Black Rock Kitchen at the Sheraton Maui.  As the name would indicate, the restaurant was located in the shadows of the beautiful black rock with both indoor and outdoor seating.  The outdoor seating, just off the main pool area of the hotel provided wonderful views of the grounds of the resort, but also of the Black Rock that loomed over the property.  A gorgeous buffet spread, featuring some uniquely Hawaiian foods and flavors is just the wake up call we needed each day for our Hawaiian getaway.

What is breakfast without your standard eggs, bacon and potatoes?  Scrambled eggs, or hard boiled eggs were set out for everyone to pile high on their plates.  Country potatoes with sautéed green peppers and onions as well as crispy, bacon provided the starch and salty fatty breakfast meat everyone needs to fuel up for the day.

If bacon isn’t your thing, there was also grilled ham steaks, a vegetable quiche and of course stacks of buttermilk pancakes.  For the pancakes, there was your traditional butter and maple syrup, but you also had your Hawaiian choice of coconut syrup for the tropical, sweet addition to the flappy jacks.  Bread pudding with creamy creme anglaise as well as oatmeal was also on offer.

Of course you could also get an array of various boxes of cereal with milk, or start your morning off with a variety of toast and bread with bread and different flavors of jam.

Or there was also a variety of different pastries and baked goods including various Danishes, fresh banana bread, which Maui is known for, croissants, chocolate croissants, bran and chocolate muffins, and even some sort of coconut cake.  You could also get English muffins and bagels too with cream cheese.

If you wanted cold cuts and smoked salmon instead to make a morning sandwich, you could do that as well.  Accompaniments included thin sliced red onions, capers, sliced cucumbers, tomato slices and various spreads.

Being in Hawaii, where Asian culture and influence is prevalent, as well as Asian tourism, there were various breakfast items that certainly had more of an Asian influence.  Hot miso soup was on offer, to which you could make a bowl and add your choice of nori, green onions and uzumaki fu (wheat cake).  Grilled catch of the morning, which was mahi mahi filets were offered as well as teriyaki grilled white fish along with steamed white rice and accompaniments of picked daikon, cucumber and konbu.

If you wanted a more traditional western offering, there was an omelet station set up where you could get a made-to-order omelet with all of the fixings – diced ham, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, baby shrimp, onions, cheese, etc.  Of course you could also get fried eggs and sunny side up eggs as well.

Of course, there’s always going to be those who want a healthier option.  Being Hawaii where fresh fruit is plentiful and always in season, there was plenty of fresh and delicious fruit to be found.  Fresh cut pineapple, honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon along with bananas, oranges and apples.  There was also segmented peaches and pears as well as fresh strawberries and fresh cut papaya.  All of which you could enjoy with cottage cheese, plain and strawberry yogurt.  I love that you get the tropical fruits like the fresh papaya that you normally wouldn’t find at any other buffet breakfast at many other hotels around the world.

Finally, my favorite part of this breakfast buffet was the make-your-own Belgian waffles.  As a kid, I used to see make-your-own waffles at a bunch of hotel breakfasts, but because people can’t play nice and overfill the waffle maker and burn the waffles and do other bad things, many hotels got rid of their waffle makers.  But here, at Black Rock Kitchen, they offered make-your-own waffles as a breakfast option, and you know I made myself a waffle every single day.

Simple and delicious, and definitely filling, Black Rock Kitchen offered a bunch of toppings for the waffles.  Fresh sliced strawberries, pineapples, raspberries, chocolate chips, maple syrup, coconut syrup, whipped cream, chocolate chips and powered sugar, this was like sugar heaven for me.  Make a fresh Belgian waffle, top it with strawberries and chocolate chips, sprinkle on some powdered sugar and add a dollop of fresh whipped cream, and it was fabulous.  Chocolate and strawberries, a beautiful combination.

With options like Belgian waffles, made-to-order omelets and bacon and ham, what more do you need to start your morning off right?  Ok, you could get fresh cut fruit and a bowl of cereal to go with some toast.  But we’re on vacation, why be healthy?  I’m never going to eat like this at home, so I might as well live it up while I can when I’m on vacation.  Black Rock Kitchen certainly provided me all the tools I needed to make my breakfast wishes come true.

Roy’s

April 13, 2017

Since we had been out and exploring a large chunk of Maui since the wee hours of the morning, we came back to the hotel to rest and relax in the afternoon. It was so nice to spend the hottest part of the day just relaxing and listening to the ocean waves as they lapped up against the shore and everyone played in the water.  As evening approached, we knew we had to go out on search for some food, but we didn’t really want to go far.  Luckily, right in Ka’anapali, in the area right behind where the hotel was located was a large golf course and right near the front entrance to the Ka’anapli beachfront where the golf course is located, is a popular restaurant that we were able to get last minute reservations to.

Roy’s is a world famous restaurant from Hawaiian cuisine pioneer Roy Yamaguchi.  Born in Tokyo, he got his first taste of Hawaii on vacation while visiting his grandparents in Maui.  Eventually, Roy graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and after working in LA and making a name for himself, he decided to return back to Hawaii, closer to his origins and the first Roy’s opened in Honolulu in 1988.  Serving Hawaiian-influenced cuisine, including fresh seafood, steak and sushi, Roy was one of the original chefs who put Hawaiian-influenced cuisine on the map.  Today, Roy’s can be found not only in Hawaii, but also on the Mainland in California, Arizona, and throughout 5 other states in some major US cities.  Here in Maui, Roy’s is located just off the golf course, and in fact, the table we were seated at was a window table with a clear view looking right onto the golf course itself.

To start off our dinner meal, my husband decided to order a pint of Maui Brewing Co.’s La Perouse.  My husband had no idea what kind of beer La Perouse was, other than he wanted to try something local and what could be more local than a beer made by the Maui Brewing Co.  Turns out that this is a Belgian inspired ale brewed with coriander and local citrus which was a pleasant surprise to my husband.  My husband described the beer as a mellow light summer beer.  Generally, my husband is one who tends to like the darker, more full-bodied ale’s, however, even though this was much different than what my husband is generally used to, he did quite like the light, citrus flavor of this beer.  Additionally, I think because it is Belgian inspired, my husband enjoyed it as well as Belgian ales tend to be what he gravitates towards.

As an appetizer, my husband and I chose to start off our meal by ordering the Roy’s Style Dim Sum Canoe for Two.  We just couldn’t decide between a bunch of delectable sounding appetizers, so why not order a sampler plate for a little bite of all of them?  The dim sum canoe for two was made up of pork & shrimp lumpier, baby back ribs, ahi poke, shrimp sticks and crispy chicken potstickers.  There were two samples of each item, so that gave both of us a chance to get just a little taste of each of the items.

The pork & shrimp lumpia are really a fancy term for egg rolls.  Wrapped in a wonton wrapper, the pork & shrimp combination was perfectly fried.  The lumpia are nice and crispy and crunchy and the pork flavor of the lumpia really comes through.  The sauce that was served with the lumpia was quite tasty as well, as it was a combination of soy sauce and something with a little heat to it.

The baby back ribs were quite tender and sweet.  The meat literally was falling off the bone, and the glaze that was atop the ribs was quite sweet and lovely.  These ribs were quite meaty, more so than what I generally think of when I think of baby back ribs.  The Asian-inspired flavors with the toasted sesame seeds was terrific.

Ahi poke was served in a rice cracker shaped like a bowl and lined with seaweed inside.  I loved the unique serving bowl because the rice cracker bowl was edible and the seaweed added a nice salty flavor that mixed well with the flavors of the poke.  The poke itself tasted fresh with good sized chunks of ahi tuna.  The flavors of the soy sauce and the Maui onions together with the coriander seeds and the fresh fish were terrific.

The crispy chicken potstickers had a nice, light chicken flavor to it.  The chicken was tender, but in comparing it to the pork and shrimp lumpia we tasted, this chicken potsticker tasted a bit bland.  The sauce it was sitting atop was a mixture of some sort of soy sauce and a sriracha mayo.  The potsticker could have done with being a bit crispier on the outside to help distinguish the different textures.

Finally, we had the shrimp sticks.  The shrimp was terrific.  Big, huge, juicy shrimp which were nicely grilled and tender.  The sweet flavor of the shrimp really came through, and that cocktail sauce that the shrimp were served with were just fantastic.  The bite of horseradish in the sauce was there, and paired with the sweetness of the shrimp, it was a terrific combination.

 

For our entrees, my husband ordered the duck two ways with a char siu breast and a ginger confit leg, the duck was served with Molokai sweet potato, baby bok choi and lilikoi dragon sauce.  The plate was so beautifully presented, and the Molokai sweet potatoes really stood out in their beautiful purple color.  Unfortunately, my husband didn’t particularly like the flavor of the sweet potatoes as he thought they tasted chalky without any really flavor to them at all.  The char siu duck breast was excellent.  The breast was nice and tender and the bbq flavor was smoky and terrific.  That was my husband’s most favorite part of the meal.  Topping the char siu breast was some pineapple salsa which had a bit of a spicy kick to it which combined well with the smoky flavor of the breast meat.  Also, the ginger confit duck leg wast meaty and tender.  The ginger flavor was accented well by the pickled onions topping it.  The lilikoi dragon sauce was terrific and flavorful and helped bring everything on the plate together as one coherent dish.  However, with the multiple flavors of the duck, the bok choy, the potato mash, the picked onions, the pineapple salsa and the lilikoi dragon sauce, it did seem that there was just too much jam packed into one plate and it became a bit busy rather than just focusing on one item or one flavor profile.

As a side to our meal, we also ordered the bacon cavatappi mac & cheese.  First off, had we know that the dim sum canoe for two was going to be so filling, we never would have ordered a side dish to our meals.  Luckily, this mac & cheese was a smaller portion size, so it wasn’t too bad.  The ma & cheese lived up to its billing and was loaded with bacon flavor.  It was light and cheesy and the cavatappi was the perfect pasta to use.  There was also a great smoky flavor to the mac & cheese also, which was really nice and also heightened the bacon flavor.  And the panko breadcrumb topping also gave the dish a lot of crunch, which was terrific.

For my dinner, I chose the “Chinese style” jade pest steamed mahi with sizzling peanut oil, baby bok chop and ginger soy served with a side of steamed white rice.  The steamed mahi was amazingly light and flaky.  The fish tasted buttery and was very fork tender.  The sizzling peanut oil and soy sauce combination was fantastic with just the touch of saltiness necessary to add flavor to the fish.  The bok choy was very tender and it soaked up that amazing peanut oil and ginger soy sauce flavor which made the bok choy very tasty.  For me, the side of rice was terrific as rice and fish go so well together, and again, the rice could also soak up the flavor of the peanut oil and ginger soy sauce.  This was a terrific light meal after the very filling appetizer.

When it came time for dessert, my husband and I each decided to get our own dessert.  Luckily, the desserts were quite small and individual sized, so getting two desserts wasn’t too bad.  My husband ordered the Sugar Loaf pineapple upside-down cake served with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce.  After a very filling meal, my husband appreciated the smaller, individual size of this dessert.  It was just the perfect size for what he was looking for.  The pineapple upside-down cake was described by my husband as “excellent.”  It had just right touch of sweetness and the vanilla bean ice cream was a terrific accompaniment to the light cake.

Roy’s melting hot chocolate souffle was my choice for dessert.  Though, this was more like a molten lava cake rather than a souffle.  Decadent chocolate cake with a hot molten center, the cake was served with raspberry coulis and vanilla bean ice cream.  This dessert was served sweltering hot, right out of the oven.  As soon as I cut into it, you could see the hot chocolate ooze right out of the center of the cake.  The outer crust was very nicely cooked, almost like the nice crispy outer crust of a brownie.  The chocolate cake was fantastic, not too sweet, just the right touch.  The raspberry coulis had a good bit of tang to it to cut the sweetness of the chocolate.  And of course, the vanilla bean ice cream had the perfect cooling effect contrasted against the hot chocolate cake.

We walked out of Roy’s stuffed to the gills and happy.  We’d been wanting to dine at Roy’s for the past two years when we were in Honolulu and just down the street from the original Roy’s.  But for some reason or another, the timing just never worked out for us to dine in Honolulu, so we were happy that we finally got a chance to dine at Roy’s in Maui.  The food was certainly Asian-inspired Hawaiian cuisine and delicious.  My husband and I were both happy with what we ordered and everything tasted fantastic.  Maybe we’ll have to visit Roy’s here in Southern California now that we know how delicious it is.

Honu Seafood & Pizza

April 4, 2017

After a rather perilous and sometimes harrowing drive on Maui’s “Death Highway” we found ourselves back in Lahaina again.  By now, we’d essentially made a 360 degree traverse of West Maui or Maui’s “head.”  Since we’d been up since 3 am, we were in need of some serious sustenance and since it was just about 1 pm, it was a good time to go and find ourselves some lunch.  Prior to traveling to Maui, my husband and I had already come up with a short list of restaurants and eateries that we were interested in trying if the situation arose and we were in the neighborhood.  This late lunch meal was one of those situations where we were hungry and found ourselves not too far away from one of those restaurants we had on our list.

Honu Seafood & Pizza is located at the end of Front St. in Lahaina.  In fact, it’s the main drag that runs through town and the restaurant sits on the end of Front St. that leads out towards our hotel at Ka’anapali.  Honu Seafood & Pizza is one of the latest in a long string of restaurants that Mark & Judy Ellman have opened together throughout the Hawaiian Islands.  Originally from the Los Angeles area of California, and both having a background in restaurant service and cuisine, the Ellman’s arrived in Maui in the late 1980s and made the island their home.  They, along with many other acclaimed local chefs in the area started a food movement of creating Hawaiian regional cuisine and were featured in a book which concentrated on this food movement along with chefs the likes of Roy Yamaguchi and Sam Choy.  Honu Seafood & Pizza opened its doors in 2010 and considers itself a quintessential seafood eatery featuring fresh, local fare and often organic produce grown on a farm owned by the Ellmans in Lahaina.

From the outside, Honu Seafood & Pizza just looks like another roadside eatery, but once you step inside, you know you’re dining in a tropical paradise.  You could never imagine the view you get from inside the restaurant just by looking at it from the outside.  As you walk inside, you first notice the brightness and lightness of the space.  It it is an incredibly open and airy space that is filled with natural light.  There’s a big bar right beyond the hostess stand with lots of local beer on tap.  But it’s what lies beyond the bar and past the main dining room that really draws your attention.  There is a wide covered patio that opens up completely right onto the beautiful Pacific Ocean.  The waves lap right up against the tiny beachfront that the restaurant occupies.  There was a brief rain shower that had passed by right before we arrived at the restaurant causing the tables and chairs right up against the oceanfront to be a little wet, so the hostess sat us at an outdoor table back one row from the water.  But as no one would be sitting at the waterfront tables, we essentially had a beautiful, unobstructed oceanfront view while we enjoyed our lunch.  You just couldn’t ask for anything better than that.

While we had just enjoyed a cup of homemade passion fruit lemonade during our drive from Julia’s Banana Bread, my husband couldn’t resist ordering a cup of Honu Seafood & Pizza’s lilikoi lemonade.  Again, it was a warm late summer day, and a rain shower had just passed leaving behind some humidity, so what could be more thirst quenching than a cup of lemonade.  Flavor that lemonade with some lilikoi, and my husband is sold.  Like POG, lilikoi, or passion fruit, is just one of those flavors that my husband and I both love and can’t get enough of whenever we visit Hawaii.  It’s the tropical tang and taste of passion fruit that you just can’t find anywhere else.  However, my husband felt that this passion fruit lemonade had more lemon flavor than passion fruit flavor, and while he could taste the passion fruit, it was so subtle.  He would have much preferred a stronger, deeper passion fruit flavor that was stronger than the acidic lemon flavor.

For my drink, I opted to sample the lilikoi no-jito.  That’s right, you guessed it, a no-jito is just a fancy way of calling a virgin mojito., this one flavored again with lilikoi.  I told you, my husband and I really do like the passion fruit flavor.  Like any good mojito, my no-jito certain was filled with muddled mint who’s flavor really did infuse into the drink.  The drink was very fruity and definitely had the passion fruit flavor but also had that mint flavor infused throughout.  The drink was really quite refreshing and satisfying, especially now that the day has gotten quite humid due to the short rain storm.

As we really hadn’t had anything to eat all day, and it had felt like we had been up and at ’em for almost 12 hours already today, we decided that we could order a little more food during lunch to help fuel us through the rest of the day.  For an appetizer, we decided to order the fresh burrata mozzarella.  It’s definitely not a traditional Hawaiian dish, but having fresh burrata just sounded cool, refreshing and delicious.  Served with tomatoes, hazelnut cherry bread, olive oil, 20 year balsamic and sea salt, this was a terrific appetizer.  While hazelnut cherry bread wouldn’t have been my first choice in bread for the burrata, it actually worked really well with this dish.  The tang of the cherry bread actually accentuated the sweetness of the burrata and the acidity of the tomatoes and the balsamic and sea salt.  The bread was still nice and warm and toasty and crunchy, and that was fantastic.  The burrata itself was creamy and smooth.  The whole dish just tasted so fresh.  The combination of the tomatoes with the balsamic vinegar and the sea salt and the olive oil was just so perfect, and it really highlighted the flavors of the burrata.

For lunch, I ordered the grilled fish sandwich served with coleslaw, fries, homemade tartar sauce and Korean aioli sauce for a bit of heat.  The fish for the grilled fish sandwich was munching, which is a terrific flaky, mild white fish.  The fish was grilled to perfection with nice grill marks which added flavor to the sandwich.  The homemade tartar sauce was just terrific and really added flavor to the fish sandwich.  I was pleasantly surprised at the nice size of the fish filet they gave me with the sandwich, so it was perfectly filling and exactly what I was looking for.  These are the flavors that remind me of Hawaii.  The fries were a nice mix of shoestring cut regular potato and sweet potato fries.  They actually went well dipping them into the tartar sauce as well.

My husband ordered the bikini blonde battered fresh ono fish & chips served with coleslaw, tartar sauce and Korean aioli for his lunch meal.  My husband really enjoyed that they served the fish in large battered filets rather than strips as you sometimes see fish & chips served.  The ono was a nice flaky white fish that has some body and held up well to being battered and fried, and yet the flavor of the fish still came through.  The batter was really nice and perfectly fried.  The batter wasn’t too thick and some of the sweetness from the beer came through.  There was a nice even coating of batter, and the batter held up well and didn’t start to fall apart and come off the fish or get too soggy and sop up too much of the oil.  The fried fish had a nice crunch to it and there was so much of it, it was quite filling.  Again, my husband also enjoyed the mix of potato fries and sweet potato fries, and homemade tartar sauce just brought everything together nicely.  This meal really hit the spot.

At the end of our meal, the one thing my husband and I both commented on was how this meal really hit the spot.  Honu Seafood & Pizza was exactly what we were looking for at this exact moment.  The view from our outdoor patio seat watching and listening to the waves lap up against the beach, with the breeze blowing and just some humidity in the air was just so comforting and peaceful – classic Hawaii.  The food was fresh and the flavors were vibrant and delicious.  The drinks were cool and refreshing.  And this was just exactly the meal we needed after the long day we had already had visiting Haleakala National Park and then driving Death Highway.  With this kind of food, this setting and environment, what is there not to love?