Feb 232015
 

I’ve often wondered what my last meal on earth would be. When posed with this question people usually want comfort food: pizza, burgers, lasagna, ice cream and pie. I always thought pizza and ice cream would be my choice. After my meal at Imperial, I vote for Doug’s Fried Chicken!

Doug Adams came up 3rd place in the most recent Top Chef season. He’s from Texas but moved to Portland and has been bouncing around at various impressive Portland restaurants before become Sous Chef at Imperial under Vitaly Paley. This season of Top Chef was pretty good and from the start I was hoping Gregory would win. He’s another Portland chef at Departure (a great place!).

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In the end it came down to Gregory, Mai and Doug. I was bummed when Melissa left. I felt like she was better than Mai, who ended up winning. I thought Melissa’s dishes looked the best and she had a nice personality–Mai not so much. I was SO BUMMER when Gregory didn’t win. Loved him.

Anyways, it was Michael’s dad’s last night in Portland before flying home to Texas and Michael got us reservations at Imperial. It was crazy–a Tuesday night and the place was packed! I guess the popularity of Top Chef has caused a boom in business. :)

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Michael has been raving about Imperial for ages now and this was the first time I’ve been. Now I’m kicking myself for not going before all the Top Chef groupies. :) What a cool place! It’s in the Hotel Lucia and the decor is modern and chic, the whole vibe is really cool.

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I wasn’t sure what to order. Everything sounded so intriguing! Even the Crispy Fried Pigtail….! I had my eye on the sausage du jour until I found out it was Blood Sausage (no thanks). In the end all three of us ordered the Doug’s Fried Chicken. We shared an order of the fries (I ate more than I planned on but not so many that I regretted it).

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Michael’s dad said they were the best fries he’s ever had. I thought they were pretty darn close (nothing compares to duck fat fries). I got a glass of a Pinot Gris that was way too sour for my liking (it was like eating a lemon) and ended up getting a lovely glass of Cab Franc (which I rarely drink but LOVED so will have to look for it elsewhere).

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This was kind of my last meal. After a weekend of indulging when Michael’s dad was visiting, it was the last decadent meal before I was getting back on track!

Michael ordered a salad and I had a few bites. It was the “Winter Citrus Salad”. It was salad greens, pistachios, grilled onions, tomatoes, grapefruit slices and an Oregon black truffle vinaigrette with the black truffle shavings on top. Holy COW. BEST SALAD EVER. I’ve never had a salad this good. I had two bites and wished I’d ordered my own. It was incredible. Absolutely, hands-down, incredible. And it was just a salad!

The waiter brought out the housemade hot sauce that was in an old-fashioned eye-dropper bottle and honey. Apparently they have beehives on the roof and make their own honey! So Portland. It was amazing, though.

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The place was so packed and service was slow, but that was expected. I figured it was the new-found celebrity. The waiter was great though and checked in frequently. The fried chicken came out on cast iron skillets atop tree stump trays. :) Again, totally Portland. But the presentation was incredible.

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Two large pieces of fried chicken with a watermelon salad on the side. Sounds simple but it was so fantastic. The watermelon was perfect, which was weird because it’s off season. The watermelon chunks had pickled onions, fennel and a tart vinaigrette on it. It went perfectly with the chicken.

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The watermelon was so juicy. How was the chicken? It was pretty darn good. Most importantly: Michael’s dad said it was the best meal he’d ever had and wants to come back to Imperial every time he visits. :) I loved the chicken. The hot sauce could have been a little spicier for my tastes, but other than that everything was great. I loved drizzling honey on top of the fried chicken. I’d never thought of that before. So smart!

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Somehow we got talked into dessert. I have no idea how because we were all stuffed and certainly didn’t need anymore food. It was the last dessert and we snagged it. It had been popular that night! We got the “Texas Sheetcake”.

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It was warm, gooey chocolate cake topped with honey ice cream (which I thought was pecan at first) hazelnuts and toasted marshmallow. IT WAS AMAZING. OMG. Thankfully we split it because it was so rich but seriously, I could have eaten that whole thing on my own. Wow. No words. So good.

Sadly, we did not spot Doug in the kitchen. Maybe someday. Everything tasted amazing and the service was fantastic. It was a good night all around. Yes I overdid it. I knew I was as I was partaking. This was most definitely my last meal. :) Now it’s back to eating like normal–but man oh man, what memorable food!

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Oct 142014
 

Instead of doing a bunch of posts in a journal form about our vacation I’m going to break it down into just a few categories and call it good. I do want to share some of the experiences and photos of our honeymoon with you all, though. I mean, you’ve stuck with me through all the wedding planning! Here is the reward: umbrella drinks and beach photos.

This post is specifically about some of the restaurants we went to in Maui on our honeymoon. We were staying at a condo and cooked breakfast every day and most of the lunches we packed picnic style. Dinner is where we splurged. So this post definitely looks like a food orgy, I apologize for that, but also keep in mind that we were there for 9 days. :) Enjoy!
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Leilani’s on the Beach

We stopped here for a snack and a drink after spending most of the day at Kapalua Bay Beach. We’d packed a lunch and had that on the beach but worked up a little bit of an appetite swimming. We got the onion rings (probably the best I’ve ever had) and the poke bowl (also fantastic, one of the better ones we had on the island).

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Fantastic drinks! They actually sold IPAs in Hawaii, shocker. Michael got one and it was great (can’t remember which one, maybe Maui Brewing Company?).

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I got the “1944” and absolutely loved it. They said it was their version of a “classic tiki cocktail” (i.e. Mai Tai) with several different rums, fresh lime juice, orange curacao and orgeat (which I later found out was a syrup made out of rose and orange water). It was so amazing. One of my favorite drinks on the trip.

Cafe O’Lei 

We went here for dinner our first night in Maui. We started with the Flatbread “pizzas” and got the Artichike, Kalamata and Feta one. I liked it. It was simple and not greasy. Michael wasn’t a fan, he thought it was rather boring.

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Then we shared the calamari. It was pretty good but not as good as some of the calamari we’ve had in Portland. I had their house salad that was absolutely fantastic. I cannot remember now what their special house-made salad dressing was but it was so good.

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Service was fast and friendly, food was pretty good but nothing all that special.

Sea House

Michael booked us a nice table here for a later dinner. We missed the sunset, which was a bummer, and because it was so dark couldn’t really see how great Napili Beach was (but I knew it was great from photos). The restaurant itself was very nice. The staff was on top of everything, really friendly.

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They brought out some kind of loaf of freshly baked bread. It reminded me of sheep herder’s bread  (my cousin makes it for family gatherings–so good!). This version had oil and herbs in it. Yum!

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Michael got the surf and turf special–steak and a lobster tail.

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I got the crab stuff jumbo prawns that came with Maui onion mashed potatoes and green beans. The food was so amazing. It was very, very rich, but one of the better meals we had in Maui.

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I didn’t have room for any more food but they brought out a complimentary dessert since it was our honeymoon! And this was the best cake I’ve ever had. It was a coconut tiramisu with whipped cream and fresh mango, pineapple and melon on top. There were toasted coconut on top of that.

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It was seriously the best dessert I’ve ever had. I LOVED it.

Star Noodle

This was a super out of the way, hard to find place that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere in Lahaina. It was on my “must try” list and several people recommended it!

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It was family style dining and seating. The place was packed when we got there and we were sat in the middle of the room on the long table. So there we strangers on either side of us. Which was slightly weird, didn’t make for intimate conversations, but it was alright.

We started with the Steamed Pork Buns (Duroc Pressed Pork, Hoisin and Cucumber). They were small and packed with flavor. The buns were soft and airy. All of it was so tasty!

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Then we got the Filipino “Bacon & Eggs”. It came out on a cast iron plate, sizzling like fajitas at a Mexican restaurant, with crispy pork, onions and tomatoes on it and an egg cracked on top. We were supposed to mix the egg around to cook it and mix it with everything. This was AMAZING. Wow. So good. I would go back just for this!

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Next we got the Pad Thai. It was just okay. It wasn’t anything particularly memorable but it wasn’t greasy like the usual Thai restaurants are.

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Even though we were stuffed, Michael wanted to order the Vietnamese Crepe. It was a giant, crispy crepe filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts  with Nuoc Cham and a pile of fresh greens. You put the shredded carrots and greens (mint, Thai basil, lettuce) in the crepe and then wrap the crepe with the giant lettuce leaf in order to eat it. It was messy but delicious. We did not eat all of it because we were so full.

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I’d go back here for the “bacon and eggs” and pork buns in a heart beat!!

Kono’s on the Green

We went here based on a recommendation by our condo owners. They left a list of their favorites and this was one of them. It was a nice restaurant overlooking the golf course not far from our condo. It was not on the beach but you could see the ocean in the far off distance.

First and foremost, best Mai Tai I had on the island! Amazing! AND SO STRONG. I had no idea how strong until I’d already ordered a second. I only had those 2 drinks that day and wowza did it get me! So delicious–not too sweet, made with their own recipe.

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Second, the service was fantastic. Our waitress was friendly and chatty and the food came out really fast. AND they had happy hour. We ate dinner for half the price we would have paid had we gotten their later. We started with the coconut shrimp. Then we got their pizza. Michael wasn’t a fan of the crust but I liked it a lot. It was thin and just the right amount of crispy.

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Probably the best part (other than the Mai Tais) was the live music! There were some older folks there playing salsa music and they sounded great. There were also tons of people dancing! There was this older Japanese gentlemen (I’d say 70’s?) with his beautiful wife that were out there most of the evening salsa dancing. Sometimes other people (older gentlemen) cut in but everyone was dancing and having a great time. It was so much fun to watch! Definitely an older crowd but I had a blast.

Three’s Bar and Grill

We went here for lunch our first full day there. The atmosphere was cool, we sat outside on the patio that was covered with giant palm trees and plants. There was a musician singing and playing guitar; he was singing Hawaiian music and other mainstream hits just with a Hawaiian flair to it. He was really good.

The drinks were delicious and strong. I don’t even remember what I got but it had hibiscus in it!

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The food was also excellent. We got the crab cake appetizer that I loved. We also got one sushi roll that was so spicy I could barely eat it.

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We both got the poke. We were dying for some poke after the AMAZING stuff we had in Kona. Sadly, nothing really came close to it in Maui. While this ahi poke was delicious, it wasn’t mind-blowing and we were kind of disappointed.

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While the food and drinks were good here and we enjoyed our leisurely lunch, it was probably the most expensive lunch we’ve ever eaten and that was a humongous downer. It made not really like that place and this was the last time we bought lunch I think (we packed lunches the rest of the time).

Da Kitchen

I have mixed feelings about this place. We went to the one by the airport and the one in Kihei, and while the food was fantastic, the service wasn’t great. The first time we ordered the pork wontons and the fried spam musubi. I know, I know. Spam! I’ve never had it before and was reluctant to try it but I’m glad we did. It was SO GOOD. Surprisingly.

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We also got some beef kebob things. The food was really good but the service was slow (and it wasn’t crowded). Not only that, I paid and the waitress asked if I wanted change. I said yes. I mean, she was assuming I was going to tip her 50% of the bill?!?! Then she proceeded to ignore us for a bit and not bring the change. I had to ask for it again. That pissed me off. I tip well when food and service are good, but if the service is crap I am not a happy camper.

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Then at Kihei we ordered some stuff to go and walked back to our condo. While it wasn’t that far (about a 10 minute walk), I was very frustrated to find out when we go back that they forgot to give us one of the things we ordered. Ugh! Michael kindly walked back to get it (my knees were really hurting that night and the prospect of walking back again made me want to cry). So all in all, the food was good but I wouldn’t give this place good ratings for the service.

Coconut’s Cafe

This was a little cafe in the land of strip-malls in Kihei. That was one downside of Maui — lots of places were strip-mall locations and that kind of killed the atmosphere. Not that I needed something fancy every time but mall food? No thanks.

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Despite the lack of atmosphere, the food here was cheap and good. We both got the fish tacos and they were by far the best fish tacos I’ve had in a long time.

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They were messy and hard to eat and worth all the mess!

Jawz Fish Tacos

This was another place that was on my list. I’d read some great things about this food truck and wanted to give it a try. We saw it the first day we were in Maui when we left Big Beach. A few days later after exploring another beach we drove back to Makena in order to get some lunch from the food truck.

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It was pretty cheap, but a little more expensive than typical food trucks. The service was fast and friendly. We got our fish tacos and ate them sitting on the tailgate of our SUV on the side of the road, both of us wrapped in beach towels, dirty and dripping from the ocean.

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The tacos were flavorful and delicious, my only complaint was how skimpy they were on the fish! It would have been even better had there been some more pieces. I looked online later and that seems to be the common complaint by visitors. More fish! But it still tasted great.

Mama’s Fish House

Okay. I know, I know…EVERYONE told me “Go to Mama’s Fish House!” I heard it from so many people that I added it to our list. When we got to Maui and heard that reservations were sometimes difficult to get, Michael booked it and the soonest we could get was our last night in Maui at 4:45. Early bird special! Whatever. Our days were pretty short there anyways because the sun set at 6:30.

As the trip went on, I started to have second thoughts about going. I read the online menu and wasn’t all that blown away by it. We have amazing seafood options in Portland so the idea of spending THAT MUCH on it was a major turn-off. Michael was beginning to agree, especially after we had our special fancy dinner at Sea House.

I suggested on that Monday that we stop by Mama’s for a drink to check it out and then we agreed we’d cancel our reservation on the way out.

It was the day we attempted to drive up to Haleakala Highway to the volcano (more on that later). We came back down, stopped in Paia and Makawao and then went to Mama’s for a drink. It was like 3pm. Way too early for dinner anyways. We got there and the place was SUPER CUTE. So unique and just amazing. The beach area was so romantic and enchanting with the torches and palm trees. Just amazing.

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The restaurant is completely open and it’s huge. Gorgeous Hawaiian flowers were everywhere. There was no AC and it was definitely hot and stuffy but we didn’t care. We sat at the bar and ordered drinks. I got a glass of Pinot Grigio. Then they brought out a loaf of their to-die-for poppy seed bread and butter.

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In addition to that they brought out these little shot glass sized cups of soup. Who wants soup on a hot day? Doesn’t matter, the soup was an amazing touch and it was so delicious! It was a tomato, curry, coconut bisque that I need to find a recipe for!

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We ended up ordered an appetizer– the lobster guacamole with house-made chips. Oh.My.God. Best guacamole of my entire life. Best ever. Seriously.

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I also ordered a side of the wild boar (Kahlua pig). That was pretty much dinner for us, albeit early. Yep you guessed it, as we were leaving we told each other we were NOT canceling our dinner reservations for the next day!

Part Two

The next night we went to Mama’s for our reservation. It was kind of nice that it was a little early for dinner because it wasn’t as crowded and it felt very laid back and intimate. We were escorted to a primo table with a great view. There were fresh flowers and a nice card congratulating us on our honeymoon!

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I ordered The Relaxer drink – it was amazing. And beautiful:

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They brought out that amazing loaf of bread. This time the soup was some kind of creamed asparagus. It was great!

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We decided to try and save some money (yeah right) and order two appetizers and one entree and share everything. We started with the Mahi mahi rolls and ahi sashimi. The sashimi was caught that morning by someone that worked at the restaurant and you could tell. The ahi melted in your mouth like it was warm butter. So amazing.

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The shared entree we got was the “Traditional Hawaiian.” It was like a sampler plate with grilled mahimahi, wild boar wrapped in a leaf, ahi poke and some sides that I don’t remember but were really good (except for the Poi–yuck!).

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I also ordered their Maui Onion soup (French onion soup) and it was fantastic. One of the better versions I’ve had.

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We didn’t have room for dessert but our waiter was so amazing and he seriously talked us into getting one. We decided to share the chocolate pie that was sort of a cross between a cheesecake and a mousse with caramel in it and baked in a cookie crust. Talk about amazing! Here is the dessert:

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And because it was our honeymoon, the waiter brought us a complimentary serving of their amazing house-made ice cream. Talk about amazing. It’s not like vanilla ice cream is all that exciting, but this was outstanding. I don’t know what kind of magic they put into their food but everything was perfect!

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It was the perfect finale for our trip!

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