Sunday, November 30, 2008

Favorite places to eat on Kauai


Hamura sign 2 yrs ago.
On a previous visit back in May 2006, I compiled a list of eateries that were the utmost favorites of mine. These places were located in the west to southeast areas of the island, in towns along the stretch of miles between where I lived and temporarily worked. Suffice to say that a lot can change in the course of two years and I had great fun working on a new list of favorites. Most are tried and true from the previous list, while a few are new faces and places that haven't even been in business for a year. The listing is not in order of preference, but follow a clockwise direction beginning from the north shore of Kauai, so without further ado...

1.Pau Hana Pizza/Kilauea Bakery - Kong Lung Center, Kilauea
Written up in the NY Times, my only regret is not living close enough to this wonderful bakery-slash-pizza shop. What's so great about it besides the breads, delicious pizzas (loved the Billie Holliday one), delicious pastries and casual island decor? The fact that they open 7 days a week, 6:30am - 9pm, and stock earth-friendly biodegradable utensils on the counter. Eat Kauai, love Kauai.
The "Billie Holliday"
2.Java Kai Coffee Shop 4-1384 Kuhio Hwy in Kapaa | 5-5183 Kuhio Hwy in Hanalei
I've only been to the location in Kapaa, but I was instantly taken with Java Kai on the first visit. Great coffee, great breakfast treats, but it was the choco-covered apple banana and accompanying acai berry parfait (acai puree layered with yogurt, granola and apple bananas) that sealed the deal. They make tasty breakfast burritos too!
3.Hamura Saimin Stand - 2956 Kress Street, Lihue
What more could I possibly say about this saimin stand? It is truly a "cultural" dining experience, and has been reviewed over, and over, and over by so many people wanting that authentic feel with the real island deal. Don't leave Kauai without slurping a steaming bowlful with an order of grilled teriyaki beef or chicken sticks on the side and a slice of lilikoi (passionfruit) chiffon pie. All other places, eat your heart out.
4.Tip Top Cafe & Bakery - 3173 Akahi Street, Lihue
This place is a local favorite, and that in itself should be enough to describe Tip Top. Homestyle-cooking at reasonable prices, this diner is famous for their oxtail soup - a soothingly delicious broth with napa and mustard cabbage, peanuts, and bean thread noodles with melt-in-your-mouth oxtail underneath it all. I like how they had both finely julienned and freshly grated ginger with cilantro as a garnish for the soup. ONO! They also make these killer chocolate-covered eclairs and cream puffs too.
5.Papalani Gelato - 2360 Kiahuna Plantation Road, Poipu (Poipu Shopping Village)
Pining for a taste of Italy after swimming with the fishies at the beach? Then head over to this gelato shop in Poipu. With, at most, an assortment of 18 gelato and 12 sorbetto flavors to choose from, it is heaven in paradise. Newly opened in the earlier part of this year, they'll give you a free taste of any flavor (the acai/apple banana sorbetto was excellent) but my favorite is always pistacchio. If my italian husband were here, he'd have to concur that yes, they do gelato right. Very, cool Website.
6.Kalaheo Café & Coffee Co. 2-2560 Kaumualii Hwy, Kalaheo
Always a pleasant breakfast hangout on the westside. With the airy, tropical feel of the place, it's almost as good as enjoying coffee and hawaiian sweetbread toast out on my family's lanai. The Bonzo Burrito is still a favorite but breakfast specials like the scrambled egg tortilla sandwich offers a tasty change of pace. Website
7.Imu Hut Cafe 1-3529 Kaumualii Hwy, Hanapepe
Located right on highway 50, I usually come here for the Hawaiian Plate. But on a recent visit I went for a salad of mixed greens and tomatoes with a couple of grilled seafood kebabs over the top. It comes with a creamy sauce - slightly sweet, slightly tangy - which is thick enough for dunking the moist chunks of salmon and mahimahi. Good stuff. A welcome change to the mainly meat diet that I was on day in/day out.
8.Ishihara Market - center of Waimea town
If "this little piggy went to market" were in the town of Waimea, he'd be skipping on over to Ishihara Market for something to eat and maybe a cold beer. Breakfast and lunch bentos (japanese-style boxed meals) every day. Cookies, pastries and assorted pies (in the refrigerated section) from bakeries around the island — a fine example of small local business helping one another. I recently had a laulau plate and wasabi poke for only $13.26 total. Could not finish it all.
9.Aaron's Kitchen & Henry's Famous Lechon - 3611 Hanapepe Road, Hanapepe
The best filipino food on Kauai's westside. Pinakbet, pork/chicken adobo, mungo bean soup, squid guisado....this place is known for it's delicious filipino cooking at prices that can't be beat. Steam table offerings might vary from day to day but the menu board has popular items like lechon kawali (pan-roasted pork) or kambing kilawen (blanched goat in vinegar). I could exist on meals like this with no complaint.
10.Yumi's Restaurant - 9691 Kaumualii Hwy, Waimea (right next to the theater)
If and when I do visit Kauai, you can find me at this place. Famous for both their apple and coconut turnovers, I wrote a little something about Yumi's Restaurant here. As of this write-up the restaurant (under new ownership) hasn't hit the one-year mark yet. That'll be on December 19th, a few short weeks from now. Good luck Gina!
11.The Wine Garden - 4495 Puhi Road, Lihue (across from the community college)
I saved this for last as it doesn't quite fit into the category unless your personal dining style requires a bottle of vino on the table. Voted as Best Wine Shop of Best of Kauai, I am inclined to agree yes! yes! yes! like a cup runneth over. The shop is small and intimate, yet their selections are well thought out with a price range for all pockets. My most recent splurge - 2004 Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon "Signature" - this one we will cellar. Buon Natale MotH!

Inside Kalaheo Café & Coffee Co.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I see sea glass by the seashore

Last month I had the opportunity to go beachcombing along a rocky shore hidden behind a sugar plantation. As you can see, that canefield is cultivated on red dirt that extends all the way out to the Pacific coastline, yet I can't imagine that this less-than-glamorous scene would ever be a visitor's idea of a day on the beach in Hawaii. Where are the swaying palm trees? No swimmers, surfers, and babes in bikinis? No sandy white beach?

Rest assured that those things do exist here (Waikiki and Oahu's North Shore for example), but if you're a jewelry designer this type of "glass" beach is like stumbling upon gold. Among the rocks and pebbles and chunks of dead coral, broken shards of colorful glass and porcelain fragments "litter" the water's edge. Worn to a smooth, frosted finish by sand and sea, beach glass is what my uncle collects to create beautiful one-of-kind pendants of his own design. Each shard is inspected before the best are transformed into lustrous works of art.

Exclusively Kaliki Designs is based out of Pasadena, CA but all glass used comes from the island of Kauai. Begun as a hobby over a decade ago, examples of my uncle's creations are shown at right (sold at craft fairs on the mainland and here in the islands). At one such event I was seriously impressed by the magnitude of his work, as hundreds of pieces were displayed neatly on the table. Each pendant, he explained to me, is produced through a multitude of steps and even holds copyright distinction. There is no website available but if you are interested in purchasing, I can give a contact email address. Of course it should come as no surprise that one of these will be among the items in the contest giveaway. The one in the center which I've affectionately dubbed "mermaid's tear" will come with an 18-inch black silk cord w/clasp.