restaurant reviews and travel

  • North Shore Hawaii Part 5- The End

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    I couldn’t post about the good eats here on the North Shore and not mention this food truck…. The Haleiwa Beachside Galley. Their Kalua grilled cheese sandwich knocked us off our feet! We also had some of their bowls and other dishes and we loved them all. I wish we had time to try out more of their food. This truck is hidden behind umbrellas so it is hard to see off the street. It is right next to Sharks Cove Grill (can’t miss it… right across the street from Sharks Cove). Seriously people.. stop here.. you won’t regret it! Forget about the food trucks with all the hype. They don’t deliver good food but hidden gems like this one sure does!

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    Also in the town of Haleiwa is Lanikai Juice. This place makes good acai bowls (but didn’t beat Haleiwa Bowl) and makes fresh juices. A great stop if you want to take a “healthy” break during your stay here. 

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    So many of you told me I HAD to try Opal Thai in Haleiwa! Here I am with the owner… such a nice guy! This guy and his restaurant is practically famous! He told me he moved here from Northern California and started with a food truck. *On a side note… you know my huge restaurant recommendation in San Francisco, The House? He used to work with the chef there! He couldn’t believe I not only knew about the restaurant but that it is one of my absolute favorite restaurants ever!

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    When you sit down (Be prepared for a wait. The place is small and hugely popular!), they give each of you a menu. I don’t know why they bother because Opal, the owner, asks what kind of food you like and dislike and he orders for you. Some people are bothered by that, but I loved it! That’s service people! Everyone has different tastes and he brings what he thinks you will like best. I wish more restaurants were like that!

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    This was by far our favorite dish! We kept asking him what it was and he wouldn’t tell us until we had eaten it. Good thing because it was stingray! Had I known that beforehand I am not sure if I would’ve enjoyed it as much. It was amazing with an array of different flavors dancing in your mouth. 

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    This noodle and seafood dish also won our hearts over. We ordered too many dishes to show them all to you but these are two great examples of his food. Opal Thai definitely did not disappoint!

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    Well folks… that’s all she wrote for now! This was our first time to visit the North Shore and to say we loved it is putting it mildly. The home, beaches, food, people, weather and all it had to offer was perfection! If you have never been…. You should! The memories made here are priceless. Until next time… Aloha friends!

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  • Hawaii 2014 North Shore Part 4

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    Prior to coming to the North Shore, I didn’t care for acai bowls of any kind. They just didn’t thrill me. My family all loves them but me? Eh! Enter… Haleiwa Bowl’s acai bowl. Man… I couldn’t get enough! I drove here almost every day to get my bowl fix! I tried almost every acai bowl on the North Shore and this is the only one I loved. Huge recommendation people!

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    I had a lot of people recommend this place to me! Come to find out.. the owners go to the same church and same ward I was attending every week. They own their own farm and use all their fresh produce here at their bakery/ restaurant. This is located in the town of Haleiwa.

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    This is a loaded turkey sandwich… they only use freshly baked turkey. They bake their own bread (lots of choices to choose from) and as I said before, use the produce grown on their farm. So good! They are also known for their smoothies (we had their peanut butter smoothie and it was out of this world good!) and their sweet baked goods. 

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    There is a beach in the North Shore called Turtle Beach because there are a ton of sea turtles that hang around the shore of the beach. It was amazing! We couldn’t believe how many turtles were there! I highly recommend you stopping by this beach. You can’t miss it. Just look for the beach with a ton of people standing on the shore looking into the water. That’s what caught our attention every time we drove by. So glad we finally stopped to check it out for ourselves!

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    Every Thursday from 3-7, is the Haleiwa Farmer’s Market at the Waimea Falls park. Admission is free and there are some good grub to be had here! Unfortunately when we went we weren’t in the least bit hungry but I had to try a poke bowl that they custom make to your liking. Wow… it was the absolute best poke I have ever had! Definitely check out this place. Great grub, great produce and lots of others things to check out. 

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    While we are on the subject of poke.. we heard the best poke on the island was at a market up in Kahuku called the Superette. Don’t be afraid when you see this market. It looks very old and run down on the outside. I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in to see a sparkling clean market on the inside. Anyhow, we bought a couple of containers of two different kinds of poke they make. It was good, but not the best in my opinion. Poke is a popular thing in Hawaii… so it’s fun to try different kinds while visiting. 

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    While in Kahuku, right next to Kahuku Grill… there is a little take out window for Mexican food. We decided to try a couple of things on their menu while we were waiting for our food at Kahuku Grill (don’t judge… we were on vacation people!) We had a burrito and a couple of tacos and they were so good! A couple that was eating their food told us this was the best Mexican food on the island. I believe them! So if you get a craving for Mexican food.. head over here. You wouldn’t think twice about eating here because it is just a small take out window… but once again… looks can be deceiving! The also have a food truck that they run in the day… and come here in the evenings. Nice people… and yes, they are Mexican. Authentic!

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    Let’s talk hikes! Pictured above are my kiddos after our hike to the Manoa Falls .This is an easy hike that most anyone can do. It’s a beautiful hike and not far from Waikiki. 

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    Here we are on another hike I recommend to only “some” of you! We hiked to the Mauanawilli Falls. You can jump off a 50 foot cliff into the falls. Crazy? Yes. Did I do it? No! But all my kids did and they loved it… although they all admitted that it was pretty freaky and scary to jump from that high up. Is that why I only recommend it to only some of you? No. If you don’t like to get muddy… this hike is not for you. If you don’t like to be eaten alive and end up with at least 50-100 bug bites… this hike is not for you. If you can’t hike long and somewhat far… this hike is not for you. Truth be told… this hike was not for me… but I did it for my family. YUCK! Did they love it? Absolutely, positively loved it. Oh the sacrifices a mother makes!

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    Eaten alive… I tell you!

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    If you haven’t heard of Leonard’s Bakery, you haven’t visited the Main Island. This place is famous for their malasadas (a Portugese doughnut without a hole, and can be filled with different fillings) Leonard’s is supposed to have the best around. We, of course, had to stop by to try them. Now… I have to first tell you that I am not a doughnut lover. I know.. weird. Even as a kid I didn’t like them. So I am not a good judge with these things. But if you find yourself  in Honolulu, stop by here and give them a try. Especially if you are a doughnut lover! By the way… why is there two different ways to spell doughnuts? Donut or doughnut? Weird. 

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    I will end with this beautiful picture from my balcony of a magnificent sunset. What a way to say farewell to another great day!

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  • Hawaii- North Shore Part 3

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     One of the best things about renting a home are the extra rooms you have… so you can invite more guests to be with! My dear in laws and darling niece came to join us for a while. We were so excited to spend time with them! It only seemed appropriate that I greeted them with leis to show our love for them and excitement of their arrival. My oh my those leis smell amazing!

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    Our sweet daughter, Hadley flew in from her humanitarian trip to India. (We won’t talk about the 30 plus hours it took to fly here!) She spent a whole month there and fell in love with the people. We are grateful for the opportunity she had to serve. Makes your heart grow in ways like none other! We were all so excited to see her again! Not a bad place to reunite, eh?

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     While in on the other side of the island we decided to eat in Honolulu. This place was recommended to us by good friends that lived on the island. It is a true “locals” place off the beaten path away from the tourist spots. It serves “local” dishes… which means it is pretty heavy and filling food. If you are looking for local dishes, I definitely recommend this place! We enjoyed it!

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    I sure enjoyed this place and their tasty fish tacos!

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    The steak burrito my hubby had was also a winner! Our whole group enjoyed whatever they ordered. I hear some people feel like it is a Cafe Rio knock off but not as good. As for me… I would go back!

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    We had to try the Famous Ted’s bakery. Here is a sampling of what my mother in law bought one morning. Some things were better than the others. Grandma’s are the best… always supplying sweets and treats! 

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    My favorite thing Ted’s Bakery makes is this Chocolate Haupia Cream pie. Honestly… nothing else here was that good to me. I tried a lot of their pies and cakes. Maybe I am too picky?

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    There are so many places to hike on this island! My hubby and I took off for a “little” hike not far from Sunset Beach and came back about 3 1/2 hours later! We had fun getting lost on this beautiful and lush island. 

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    We rented a two man kayak and a couple of paddle boards for the month that we were here. Between swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking… we definitely never got bored at the beach! We just couldn’t get enough of that amazing Hawaiian water.

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    And last but not least, are photos of our favorite place… Seven Brothers. It was ridiculous how many times we ate here! Funny thing is … we never tired of it!

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    Look at those huge onion rings in that burger! And that messy sauce… perfection!

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    Could you get tired of eating this? Never! Good thing we were very active on this trip!

    Until next time…..

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  • Hawaii 2014 North Shore Part 2

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    I love it when one of you give me a recommendation for food. Thanks to Andrea Schvaneveldt I found this tiny food trailer! Actually I drove by it many times and missed it because it is so small! I finally spotted it one day… thankfully! It is right by Sharks Cove on the ocean side (I was looking on the opposite side of the street). Pictured above is Ryan, the owner and the nicest guy around! Man oh man alive, I wish all sandwich places served sandwiches with their quality, organic, fresh produce and fresh, unprocessed meat! With my first bite I knew this place was something special.

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    This is my favorite… fresh turkey and bri with all the fixings. He also puts on an amazing sweet yet tangy spread on the bread. The best sandwich around! I also loved his chicken curry salad… so good I tell you!

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    On sundays we attended an LDS ward on the island. The people there are so kind, welcoming and loving! Such a sweet spirit felt there. Sundays for us just isn’t right unless we go to church!

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    After church we drove to the LDS temple to walk the grounds. It is so beautiful!

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    On the temple grounds is a visiting center that we also had to opportunity to go to. All are welcome and I highly recommend it!

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    In Kahuku, there is this cute cafe that serves panini’s, salads, smoothies and some desserts. They grow everything on the land and offer tours too. 

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    Our trip got perfect once my sweet hubby flew in to join us! Taking a month off was not an option for him, but luckily he was able to join us for the last half of the month! Of course almost the second he got here, the kids and him ran out on the beach to hit the volleyball around. I couldn’t resist taking this shot of “my people” from the top balcony… that’s happiness right there!

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    A huge tourist attraction on Oahu is the Polynesian Cultural Center. I cannot tell you enough how great this place is! We had such a fun, fun time! Worth every penny!

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    My kiddos trying to light a fire at the PCC. The entertainment here is top notch!

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    A moderately easy hike for those interested is the hike that takes you to the top of Diamond Head. This is one of the many views from the top. Just look at that view!

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    Here’s one of the views from the back side. I love when you get a “prize” at the top with views like these!

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    After our hike we decided to reward ourselves with amazing burgers so we headed to Seven Brothers in Laie. Seven Brothers is the restaurant the Hanneman family owns along with Kahuku Grill. They offer almost the same menu but not exactly. Seven Brothers makes ice cream shakes that are unreal… they are so good! You have to make sure to order one! They only offer vanilla and chocolate, but trust me when I tell you they were the best vanilla and chocolate shakes we have ever had! Pictured above is the Cowboy burger and crazy fries. I loved them all but I think this one was my favorite.

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    A shot of another one of their amazing burgers. You can’t go wrong with any burger you decide to order. My hubby ordered a different one every time we came and loved each one! I don’t think we have eaten so many burgers in our lives, but we couldn’t resist coming back for more!

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    They also make another amazing dessert called peanut butter rolls. Basically dinner rolls with an amazing peanut butter sauce served with ice cream, coconut and chocolate sauce. Yep…. we fell in love with this one too. I have to tell you that once we went to Seven Brothers, we preferred it over Kahuku Grill. We found their food to be cooked more consistently… and come on… those shakes that they offer just calls our names every time!

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    You simple cannot come to this island without visiting the famous Hanauma Bay. It is a protected marine life conservation area that is stunning! Just look at they water! Perfect place for some awesome snorkeling!

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    Another must visit is to Pearl Harbor. There are quite a few places to explore here. Our first stop was to the USS Missouri. What a great piece of history to be able to learn more about.

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    We also had tickets to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, but right before our time to go on the ferry, the wind kicked up and they closed it. We were still able to visit the museums and watch a film about that tragic day in our country’s history. If you haven’t been here before, it is a must stop.

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    One night when we finally got around to getting dinner… most places had closed down. We headed into the town of Haleiwa and found this Thai food truck open so we decided to try it. FYI… it was just ok. 

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    To end on a happy note… this food truck in Pupukea is amazing! It is just down the road a bit from Foodland. We absolutely loved their Coconut Curry Quinoa, Spicy Tuna Quinoa, and their BBQ Kalua Pork Quesadilla. That pork quesadilla blew us away! We went back several times!

    Man… writing about all this amazing food makes me hungry! Oh how I miss these places! Stay tuned for part three….

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  • North Shore Hawaii 2014 Part 1

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    This past summer our family spent the month of July in Hawaii… the North Shore to be specific. We had never been to this part of Hawaii before but it was highly recommended to me as I was searching for a place to stay for the month. I can now see why people love it there! I have so much I want to share with you for those of you that might want to come here in the future. I will be doing several posts to cover everything I want to share with you. 

    We rented an amazing home on the beach that is pictured above. The beach is Log Cabins and is next to Ke Iki beach and Pipeline. As you can see from the picture the water in North Shore is calm in the summer. Good thing because that is exactly what I wanted… calm, serene, warm and beautiful water. This beach was especially perfect because it was practically empty with the  exception of our family. Now that’s paradise!

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    Here is the picture of the back side of the home we stayed in. A wrap around porch on both levels and ocean views from most rooms. 

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    If we weren’t on the beach, this was the most popular spot to hang out. Reading… napping… snacking… just relaxing and looking out on that beautiful ocean. 

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    Here’s the upstairs porch which had a daybed type of bench. Another perfect reading or napping spot. 

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    The kitchen met most of my needs as a cook with a Wolfe range and oven and a Sub Zero refrigerator. And of course… more ocean views!

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    There are two master bedrooms upstairs and both have that stunning ocean view. Sleeping with the sound of softly crashing waves is music to my ears. Heaven I tell you!

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    In addition to the two master bedrooms, there is an additional guest room with a queen bed and this kids bunk room that has SIX built in wall bunks! It also has a big flatscreen TV, X box, foosball, lockers and a large desk. My kids loved it!

    The whole home has hard wood floors and stone floors in the bathrooms which I loved. No gross carpet! And all the walls and ceilings are white wood paneled… a Pottery Barn look and feel. 

    So many of you inquired about the information on this home we rented so I decided to show you a bit of it and give you the link to their site for more information. It is privately owned by two local Southern California families(the nicest people!) and they have not started renting it out until spring of this year. Lucky us!

    Here’s the link for those of you that are interested. http://www.Kewaena.com

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    Now it’s time to talk FOOD! The North Shore is all about food trucks. I am not a huge fan of food trucks as most of you are but I did find some seriously amazing ones that I will share in my posts. This here is the famous Hula Dog. To be fair, I am not a hotdog fan, so I got the veggie dog and found it bland. I took two bites and tossed it. On the other hand, my kids (My son and his new wife is pictured above)… all five of them loved it as well as their lemonade. Their buns are huge!

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    Matsumoto’s shaved ice is a very popular and famous place on the island. There is always a long line out the door so you bet I was excited to try it! We were all so disappointed with this place. The shaved ice was not fine and fluffy and the syrups were not great either. I seriously cannot understand why people flock here and love it. Sorry but it was a “Jenny fail”.

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    Another hugely popular but a “Jenny” fail was the Giovanni Shrimp food truck. It really wasn’t anything special. My kids all agreed. I don’t get the hype about this truck.

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    Right by Giovanni’s in Pupukea (there is a food truck plot) is a Korean type of bbq meat truck. That was not Korean BBQ people… a poor imitation. Not recommended!

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    Ok… so enough with the negative (hey… I have to be honest with you all about how I feel… right?) and on to the winners! In the same food truck plot (I call it a plot because there are literally a bunch of food trucks on a plot of dirt) there is a frozen yogurt food truck called Ono Yo.This is their only location and can I tell you that I have never had frozen yogurt this good! I mean.. we had to come here daily! They tell me their yogurt is made from greek yogurt so I don’t know if that is what makes the difference but whatever it is… they have a winner! After talking with a lot of people, I found that I am not alone with my over the top love with this place. It is worth the drive no matter where you are on the island of Oahu. Really! My favorite is their tart (I don’t like tart yogurt at any other place) and fruit flavors topped with fresh fruit. Their guava flavor is not served often, but man… it is beyond delicious so make sure to order it if they have it the day you go!

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    Also in Pupukea is a place called Kahuku Grill. Man… their burgers and crazy fries are out of this world good! It is owned by a local family and they know how to put together some incredible burgers!

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    The above is the Shem burger that is loaded with guacamole. Hand formed juicy patties that are freshly ground daily make such a difference!

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    Also at Kahuku Grill is this…. Banana Bread Sundae. I about died when I took my first, second, third and so on… bite. Moist and flavorful banana bread, coconut and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. Simple but not to be underestimated in it’s greatness. The mother of this family bakes this bread for the restaurant every day! Way to go Mama Hanneman!

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    Not in the mood for a burger? They also offer coconut shrimp and fish plates. We couldn’t get enough of this place!

    Part two coming soon! 

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  • Miami Getaway and Good Eats Part 1

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    Every year in January, my hubby comes to Miami for a conference and I get to tag along and have an indulgent week of R&R at the beach, spa, amazing restaurants and beautiful hotels like this one. This year we stayed at the FountaineBleau. One of the nicest hotels in Miami. Don’t mind if I do!

    IMG_5777The beaches in the Miami (We stayed in South Beach) are beautiful! Beautiful fine sand, clear warm water and gorgeous weather for most of the year. I love that they have beach service in front of the hotels. Padded beach loungers with covers, umbrellas (upon request), beverages and food. Not bad, huh? 

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    One of my favorite restaurants in the area is Ola. It is a fantastic, creative, delicious restaurant that combines the amazing flavors of a lot of the Latin countries. It never disappoints! We usually go with a very large group of clients of my hubby’s but this year it was just the two of us. 

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  • Maui Eats and Fun Part 2

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    With so much going on I have not had a chance to finish sharing you with you all the rest of my Maui Trip post by post. So much good food and fun to share with you! So here we go…

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    Let’s start with my favorite place in all of Maui…. Ululani’s! And here is the crazy thing… I don’t really like shaved ice!  That is, until I came here. I am seriously obsessed with this place! It is a daily addiction when on this island. 

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    It is an obsession with the whole family. They have so many flavors and we all have our own favorites. My personal favorite is the filipino lime and passion fruit over a scoop of coconut and a scoop of macadamia ice cream. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! We tried the top recommended shaved ice places on the island and no one even came close to this place. Make sure you stop here and remember…. I warned you about how addicting it is!

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    I heard about this place and had to try it. It is a casual outside eatery that sits by the ocean and the prices will make you happy… very reasonable unlike most places on the island. I will go over the best dishes we tried. If you can’t tell by the name, they serve mostly traditional Hawaiian type food. 

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    The lighting was terrible so sorry for the poor quality of the photo. This is their Korean BBQ ribs (aka Kalbi) and being a Korean I know good kalbi. This did not disappoint!

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    If you are a garlic fries lover like we are you want to order theirs! Yum!

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    Oh my… their poke was one of the very best poke we have ever had! Order this? Definitely!

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    Their highly recommended pineapple upside down cake was so good I am showing you a blurry photo of it. Get it… that’s all I have to say. 

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    The next morning we headed to The Gazebo for breakfast and found a 45 minute line. A wait is standard for that place but we were too hungry to wait that long so we headed a cove or two over to The Sea House. 

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    Just look at the beautiful bay this restaurant overlooks and sits on! This restaurant gets five stars on their view and atmosphere.  Ok…. on to the food!

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    Their chicken butter lettuce wraps made the grade and makes for a great starter.

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    This is the Polynesian Chopped salad and oh my goodness… I want to go back for this alone! See that edemane puree on top? Yum!!

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    As simple as this stir fry looks, it was delicious! Another winner.

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    And last but not least, are their fish and chips. My in laws love fish and chips and they were ooooohhhing and aaaaaahhhing  with each bite. I would make a pretty good guess that this is a definite pick for you fish and chip lovers! On a side note… my son really wanted fried rice (a common dish eaten here on the islands) so he ordered it of course. It was tasteless and bland. Bummer for him!

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    After breakfast we decided to go for a drive on the other side of the island that none of us have ever explored before (past Kapalua). We heard there was fabulous banana bread to be tried over in those parts, so off we went! The road is very, very, VERY narrow in parts (as in only one car can travel on it at a time) and we hit a jam up as there was traffic coming from both directions (and to make things more interesting, there were no guard rails on the narrow road with a drop off hundreds of feet below! Yikes!). Lucky for us, an impatient native got frustrated with us tourists messing up with his commute so he directed everyone and got the jam cleared up and everyone on their merry way. *Another side note, two of my kids were pretty much freaking out looking out the window down the drop offs. They thought for sure we were going to go over. This drive is definitely not for the faint of heart! I thought it was a great adventure!

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    After all that drama… we finally arrived at Julias… the banana bread shack! My true opinion? I wouldn’t drive 2 minutes for this bread. Not sure why it is so famous. Maybe for the fun adventure of finding it? They did have an awesome dried coconut candy type stuff though. 

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    Later that night, we headed to this place in Whaler’s Village in Kaanapali. Truth be told, the other restaurants had too long of a wait and this one didn’t, so we gave it a shot. I know that is never a good sign but we had a good experience here. 

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    I wasn’t very hungry so I ordered this starter plate of roasted Brussels Sprouts Milenase. It was divine! My father in law looked over at my plate and asked what I ordered and when I told him brussels sprouts, he wrinkled his nose in disgust. I asked if he liked brussels sprouts and he told me his mom used to make them when he was a kid and made him eat the disgusting little things. Ha! I told him brussels sprouts have come a long way since then and asked him to give it a try. He couldn’t believe these were the same things he was forced to eat as a kid. Preparation is key in all things!

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    Another starter (can you tell none of us were very hungry this night), that was very good was their poke. We love a good poke!

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    Their burger also did not disappoint! We didn’t try any of their pasta, but we would definitely come back here. Another fun and food filled day on the island. Truly paradise!

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  • Utah Eats Part 4

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     Before I get to the eating, can I tell  you how amazing Park City is? We only used to visit in the winter to go skiing/ snowboarding and boy have we been missing out! That is saying a lot coming from a Southern California girl who loves to live at the beach all summer long. This place is so stunningly beautiful and has the best biking trails! The Rail Trail is one of the easiest trails there. My hubby, son and I ventured out one day on this particular trail and got wonderfully lost. Not really… it was more of an adventure… trying to figure out how to get back to our hotel. We ended up biking 18.5 miles. I love a good workout! And a good workout I got!

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    My hubby checking his app to see which way we should go. This is after about 10 miles or so. Thank goodness for technology. We might have biked forever without it!

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    Until I found this place…Riverhorse on Main… I have not fallen in love with any particular restaurant in Park City. Boy am I head over heels in love with this place!

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    Great looking restaurant with a great ambiance. They also have a large patio with a lot of seating. We ordered A LOT of food, so I have a lot to share with you below.

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    This is their watermelon and mango salad. We loved it!

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    Their sashimi was fresh and excellent.

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    Now this starter was unique. Goat cheese panna cotta with figs. Creative and delicious. I liked it… worked for me!

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    Their Wedge salad. Also delicious! I don’t know how I forgot to take a picture of my favorite starter of all! I guess I was so enamored by it, I couldn’t think straight! We ordered a mushroom risotto that was probably one of the best risottos I have ever had. We all just died over it!

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    On to our entree’s. This was their trio of of wild game. It was amazing. I promise you it was not gamey in the least bit. It was by far my hubby’s favorite dish. 

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    This my friends was my favorite entree of the evening. The wild caught sockeye salmon served with the most amazing potato croquettes. Simply divine!

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    When in Utah, you must order fresh trout! It did not disappoint.

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    My son wanted steak so we ordered the center cut filet mignon. Yup… he was in heaven.

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    And last but not least, we ordered the sesame seared ahi. It was good but not memorable. The ginger risotto that came with it was not the best though. 

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    Now this was memorable! Their truffle macaroni and cheese. I am a huge lover of truffle anything and so this was right up my alley!

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    For dessert, we ordered the peach torte (pictured above), warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, blueberry pie and the mud pie. All the desserts with the exception of the warm chocolate cake were a disappointment. Not worth your money or calories. 

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    As a pre birthday celebration, my daughter asked for her favorite dessert on the planet. Plain ole vanilla ice cream. She was thoroughly satisfied and happy with her choice. Who’s daughter is this?!

    The final word on this place is… go! I finally found a restaurant in Park City I can’t wait to go back to. But I must warn you… you it is a very pricey restaurant so come prepared with very deep pockets!

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  • Utah Eats and More Part 3

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    I have so much to share with you about this trip! Bet you want to go to Utah about now. Just wait… there is so much more. 

    IMG_0040We love to go to the local farmer’s market they have in Park City. Here one of my son’s is enjoying a chocolate dipped frozen twinkie on a stick. He wanted to try something different from his beloved chocolate dipped frozen banana. I have a confession to make. You know how I do not like fast food or processed food and am proud of it? Well, I love twinkies. There… I said it. I grew up on twinkies and I have never shaken off my love for the little devils. Gross, I know. But I can’t help myself. Once, when in South Beach Florida, I found a fantastic chocolate shop that sold great milk chocolate dipped twinkies. Now I am talking good quality chocolate people. I took one bite and thought I died and went to twinkie heaven! My husband looked at me like I was daffy and frankly, was grossed out by the whole thing. Not me… I devoured the whole thing in nothing flat and couldn’t have been happier! Ok… sorry to get side tracked. I think about twinkies and that just happens!

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    Look what else we found at the Farmer’s Market. A roasting fishing pole. It can hold up to four marshmallows or hotdogs. What a great invention. We love it! Seriously love it!

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    This is a fairly new restaurant called Plum Alley. The owner, Ryan Lowder opened this restaurant next door to another one of my favorite restaurants, The Copper Onion, which he also owns. Plum Alley specializes in South East Asian cuisine and it is fantastic! Get ready, because I have a lot of dishes to show you from this place.

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    They have fantastic steamed buns. I love how they serve it taco style. This one is their braised short rib with kimchi. Loved it!

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    Their pork belly steamed bun was out of this world good too!

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    Now this dish was probably my favorite of all. Simple, but so flavorful and adding a fried egg on top? They know how to win a girl over! This is their wok seared zucchini with mushrooms. Their menu changes, so this particular dish will change out with whatever vegetable happens to be in season at the time. Get it. That’s all I have to say.

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    Persian cucumber salad. Fresh and delicious. 

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    Spring Peas side dish. Yum!

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    Chicken Stir Fry. Awesome!

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    Pad See ew. Charcoal smoked pork, chicken, rice noodles with seasonal greens. Oh my! It was a flavor party in my mouth.

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    Duck Stir Fry. Another hit.

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    Plum Alley Ramen with their house noodles. We couldn’t get enough of that broth!

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    Pandan Ice Cream. A special for the night. I could’ve eaten the whole bowl by myself. Actually I pretty much did.

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    Another House made ice cream for the special tonight? Chocolate cashew. Ok.. if you twist our arm.

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    This is one happy and satisfied group! We had an awesome waiter too. If you like Pan Asian food, this place is a must!

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    The following day we headed out to find the “crater” hot spring located at The Homestead in Midway. 

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    Pretty charming looking place. Charming enough that I had to take a picture of it! I am a sucker for anything “charming.”

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    Here we are… headed in. Oh we love adventures and discovering new places!

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    This is what it looks like inside.

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    There is an opening at the top. It was a fairly rainy day so this was a perfect activity. Luckily the rain had stopped while we were in there. 

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    The water is very warm and blue. They don’t have any jumping off spots so this is pretty much what you do. I think we paid somewhere around 15.00 a person and got about an hour to swim. It was a fun adventure but definitely not something we would return for. Stay tuned for part four!

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  • Amazing Utah Eats Part 2

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    Yes, this post is all about amazing food! A full day of amazing food! And some side activities too… because we are well rounded people. I’d say we were rounder after this trip than before it started! By the way, all the places I will tell you about in this particular post are located in downtown Salt Lake City.

    IMG_0009This place is all the rage for a particular baked treat that is out of this world good! 

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    Have you heard of a kouign amann? I never did until recently and I do not know how these amazing delicacies never made an appearance in my life before! They are a buttery, caramelized, crispy with a gooey inside, flakey dream. Although this is my first and only experience with this treat, apparently Les Madeleines makes the best. FYI… kouign amann (pronounced kween-ya-man) is a specialty that was born in Brittany France. So make this a huge priority next time you find yourself in Salt Lake City. You can thank me later… because I know you will!

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    As I told you I am crazy and make my family follow in my crazy ways….. so right after we left Les Madeleines, we headed to a cookie shop to try their goods. Ruby Snap Cookies…. oh my.

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    They have SO many flavors and I can guarantee they will have one that has your name written all over it. Each one of us picked a different cookie that we chose as the best. The most amazing thing about this place? They let you sample as many of their cookies you would like and the sample is half of their big cookies! I sampled just about every one in the case! Look at the top of this picture and you will see some of the many samples I tried that I lined up. Well…. what was left of the samples. Let’s just say I can definitely handle my sweets. Maybe too well?

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    Here is the box with the cookies we selected. A plethora of everyone’s favorites. And their sugar cookies? The only ones I like outside of my own. I seriously love this place and highly recommend you coming and sampling the soft and perfect cookies before you make your selection. You have been forewarned… sampling these babies are not for the faint of heart. You have to be be able to handle all of the sugar!

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    It was time to take a break from food and sweets so we could be ready to enjoy dinner in less than four short hours! Downtown Salt Lake has a new shopping mall called City Creek. Here are my two shopping loving girls.. happy as can be.

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    Right across the street from City Creek is Temple Square. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons) built this beautiful temple that stands majestically in temple square as well as two visitor centers and other beautiful and historic buildings. If you have never had a chance to visit Temple Square, I highly recommend it! They give tours too.

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    Me and my girls in the visitors center enjoying the statue of Christ. I love this place!

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    Now… on to the secret (speakeasy) restaurant that I have hinted about. Not only was it yummy, but a fun and unique experience too! I will walk you through the whole experience. This is what you will walk up to. Bodega is a front that they built when they built the restaurant(complete with graffiti on the windows). This place is opened up just two short months ago. Inside you will find a small market on one side and a small bar on the other side. You wouldn’t think there was anything else to this place…. unless you know the secret! 

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    Above a doorway you will see this neon sign. Did you notice that THE REST is the lit part? Well, that is because after you go under the sign, there is a door that will lead you to The Rest (the name of the name of the secret restaurant). You can only go through the door if you are given a key. And just how do you get a key you ask? If you call and make a reservation, the person at the store will hand you a key with  your name on it. 

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    Here is mine with the number of people in my party. To get the number for The Rest, you call the store (Bodega) and ask for the number for the restaurant below. Here is the tricky part. When you call the number, you have to leave a message for a reservation. If you don’t get a call back, you are in! They will call you back if they are full and cannot fit you in. Good thing I told you, right?! Lucky for me, a friend (thanks Mosi!) knows the owner and had the owner call me directly and got us in. I never would’ve figured out the whole “you are in if you don’t get a call back” thing.

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    Here we go!

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    We are in! Did I mention the restaurant is below the market? Once you enter through the door, you head downstairs. 

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    This a landing area as you head down the stairs. There are a lot of stuffed animal heads throughout the place. This is as far as I am going to show you. Yes, I took pictures of the restaurant (which is very cool by the way), but I want you to see it for yourself for the first time when you go. It is part of the experience! They also have a sitting library room. Loved this place and so did my kids. Now… let’s talk food!

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    This is one of our starters. Deviled eggs with pork belly bacon. SO good!

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    Sorry for the poor quality of the pictures, but it was not a well lit restaurant so this is what you get. Now these my friends are onion rings made with pickled onions. Inventive and Y.U.M.M.Y!

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    Beer can chicken with the most amazing potato and mushroom side dish. They bring it out to show you the cooked bird before they take it back to cut it into pieces for you. The chicken is so tender!

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    This is their Hobo Trout. Amazingness…. serious amazingness! By far everyone’s favorite at our table. I don’t know how they make trout so over the top good, but they do. Trust me and order this!

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    They only offer one dessert and this is it. Blueberry filled beignets with a mocha cream side. It wasn’t the best beignets I have had, but they weren’t the worst either. We ordered more than what I showed you but I liked the entree’s I showed you the best. There was a lot we didn’t get a chance to try this time around. I know I will be back. My whole group loved the whole experience of this fun place. I can’t wait to take my hubby here (he had to fly home for 24 hours and missed this dining experience). You all should make a point to try this place out when you find yourself in the Salt Lake area. It is such a fun experience and they offer great food too! 

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