Thursday, October 19, 2006

My dinner at Frasca

Between dealing with work and preparing for my upcoming trip to the Far East, I have not had much time to think about a new post. However, I thought that I would share an experience about which I originally posted on the Good Eats Message Board. While the original post has vaporized into the ether of the Internet, I am happy to share it with you here:

(From August 2005)

Last week, my girlfriend and I decided to book a weekend trip to Boulder, Colorado for a little R&R. While we mostly wanted to get away from work, we also thought that it would be fun to see if we could find some way to have dinner one evening at Frasca Food and Wine. Both of us had wanted to check out the restaurant after reading that Executive Chef and co-owner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson had been named one of the 10 best new chefs in the country by Food and Wine Magazine. We were hoping to get a reservation for the Monday night prix fixe dinner though we weren’t too optimistic as we only booked our tickets on Wednesday, which didn’t get us a lot of lead time. I called to see if there were any available tables on Monday. As it turned out, they had one available, though it was a table for six. I decided to take the table, as I figured that we could round up four of my friends to join us for dinner that evening.

Unfortunately, I figured incorrectly; as Monday rolled around, it was looking like it was just going to be the two of us. As we made the drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park Monday morning for a day of hiking, I saw that Frasca had called my cell phone and left a voice mail asking me to confirm our dinner reservations. Before I lost cell phone coverage, I called the restaurant and left them a message saying that we would have to cancel our reservation. I apologized for the late cancellation but added that we were still interested in coming if we could just get a table for two. By this point, I had pretty much eliminated the possibility of visiting Frasca on this visit (as we were flying out the following afternoon) and went off to enjoy the trails of the park.

After a good afternoon of hiking, we got back in the car and started making our way back to Boulder. When I got back into cell phone range, I saw that I had a voice mail waiting for me. One of the hosts had called us back saying that they were sorry that we had to cancel our reservations and, surprisingly, while he wasn’t sure what he could do, he also said that if we still interested in getting a table for two, we should give them a call back. Though it didn’t sound too promising, I figured that it was worth a shot. I called back and someone named Bobby took my call. I explained that we would take anything that they had available that evening and, to my surprise, he said that he’d definitely be able to work something out for us if we didn’t mind coming by a bit later in the evening. After this fortuitous change of events, my girlfriend and I made a beeline back to the hotel for a quick shower and change of clothing so that we could make our 9pm reservation.

We arrived right on time and the place was quite busy, which is unusual for a Monday evening in Boulder. As we waited for the hostess to get our seating ready, a gentleman walked up and introduced himself to us, “Hi, I’m Bobby. We spoke on the phone earlier today.” It turned out that Bobby was Bobby Stuckey, co-owner of Frasca and Master Sommelier. He shook our hands and warmly welcomed us to his restaurant. He told us that it was really nice that we could work something out that night. He said that while he wasn’t able to arrange a table for us, he got us seats, front and center, at the dessert bar. Of course, we didn’t mind this at all. As he led us to our seats, he asked us where we were from. When we told him that we had flown in from the Bay Area for the weekend, he got excited and told us that both he and Lachlan had moved to Boulder last year from the French Laundry. He asked us about our favorite dining spots in the Bay Area and gave us some of his personal recommendations. He told us a little bit about himself and his background and talked about the inspiration for the food. The cuisine at Frasca is based on the cuisine of the alpine region of Italy, located near the Slovenia border. The cuisine is based on using fresh ingredients and balancing the individual flavors of the each ingredient in simple and rustic dishes.

The Monday night prix fixe menu consists of three courses: a starter, an entrée, and dessert. The menu changes weekly based on what happens to be in season. Both the starter and entrée course had two selections. Since we wanted to try as many different things as we could, we decided to get different starters and entrées and split them. At the dessert bar, we watched as the pastry chef behind the counter also prepared scrumptious plates of cured meats using a hand-cranked slicer, so we decided to start off with the salumi platter on top of the appetizers that we ordered with the dinner. We also went with the wine flight that was suggested for this evening. Being wine neophytes, we figured that we would play it safe and just go with the Master Sommelier’s selections. Because these wines were paired with the prix fixe menu, we also asked our server for a wine (her choice) to go with the salumi platter.

The salumi plate came with paper-thin slices of three different types of cured meat: prosciutto, Italian speck, and coppa from New York. We wrapped the meat around house-made grissini, which are thin Italian breadsticks, and dipped it into rafano, a horseradish sauce made with crème fraiche. It was a perfect way to start our meal; it wasn’t too heavy, but was packed with flavor. The wine that the server selected (a white wine – I can’t remember which varietal it was though) was crisp and went very well with the saltiness of the cured meats and the slight kick of the rafano.

Next came the starters. On this evening, the starters were a chilled melon soup and an heirloom tomato caprese salad. The soup was bursting with the flavor of ripe cantaloupe and was a great accompaniment for a warm summer evening. The caprese was made with house-made mozzarella cheese and was a wonderful mix of tomatoes, cheese, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. They went very well with the paired viognier from the wine flight.

For our main courses, we had a bowl of house-made tagliatelle with corn and oregano. The noodles were unbelievably buttery and each bite was bursting with sweetness from the corn. The other entrée was a roast pork loin with mashed dates and bacon. Normally, I hate ordering pork out at restaurants because it always seems to be overcooked, but the loin was cooked to a perfect medium doneness and was moist and succulent. The entrées were paired with the two wines, a Shiraz and a zinfandel. Surprisingly, these wines were from a vineyard in Southern California (near Santa Barbara, I believe), but went very well with these hearty dishes. On the night of our visit, the owner of the vineyard was at the Frasca and he actually served us for this course.

Dessert was house-made peach ice cream with vanilla mousse and almond crunch, which was a great way to end our meal. Throughout our dinner, we watched the pastry chef put together the desserts on the other side of the bar and we eagerly awaited our turn. The ice cream alone was very rich, but paired with the heavy mousse, the dessert was decadent.

The service at Frasca was nothing short of spectacular. The service was prompt and attentive without being obtrusive. Our server made sure that our glasses were filled as necessary and that we had everything that we needed on the table before we actually needed it. She took the time to answer our silly questions about the wine and food. The pacing of the food was perfect; we never felt like we were being rushed through a course nor did we feel like we were waiting around for the next course to show up. In addition to our server, Bobby dropped by our table every so often to check in us and to pass along some personal anecdotes about his experiences in the Bay Area, which we clearly enjoyed hearing. At the end of the evening, he came by and gave us a list of places in SF that he liked and asked us to say hello to some of the people there if we chose to pay them a visit. After the last of the entrées had left the kitchen, Lachlan came out and went around the restaurant, checking at each table to see how things were. Basically, they made us feel like the evening and dining experience was really about us and meeting our needs. The amazing thing was that, looking around the dining room, it seemed that everyone in the restaurant was getting the same level of attention and service that we were getting.

After a three hour gastronomic experience, we stumbled out of the restaurant, a little tipsy, comfortably full, and very happy. As we were leaving, I heard my name being called from across the dining room. One of bartenders was an old student of mine back when I taught at CU and thought that he recognized me from across the room. Bobby confirmed that I was who he thought that I was and got us together for an impromptu reunion.

The Denver Post food critic said that from now on, his life will be divided into two parts: before he ate at Frasca and after he ate at Frasca. Now, I won’t go that far, but I would say that this was one of the best dining experiences that I’ve ever had, if not the best. Not only was the food fantastic, the service was out of this world. This is one of the few times that I felt that dining experience was as important as the food itself. We will definitely go back to Frasca the next time we’re back in the Denver/Boulder area. For those of you who live on the Front Range, we cannot recommend it highly enough.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hawaii Part IV: Wedding Bells

We would have likely stayed in Maui for our entire trip if not for the Oahu wedding of my sweetie's friend from back home. Indeed, the wedding was the impetus for our trip to the islands in the first place.

Day 7: After a complementary buffet breakfast at the Kuhio Beach Grill in the hotel, we went to check out the USS Arizona memorial. Commemorating the military personnel who perished during the attack on Pearl Harbor, including the 1177 aboard the ship, the white memorial straddles the sunken hull of the battleship. After queueing up for a ticket, we checked out the exhibits that describe the events leading up to the attack and the subsequent effects in the visitors' center while waiting for our pontoon ride to the memorial itself. I have to give major props to my girlfriend, who endured the endless lines and the unbearably long wait for our turn to visit the memorial.

After leaving the memorial, we stopped by Leonard's Bakery for some fresh, hot malasadas, the Portuguese take on the doughnut. We each enjoyed a couple of malasadas, one filled with a creamy custard and another simply dusted with granulated sugar. After polishing off the sweet confections, we hurried back to our room and changed for the welcoming reception at the Hyatt for all of the visiting wedding guests. Despite the heat on the lanai, we enjoyed made-to-order sushi and other finger foods, while we cooled off with some icy cold adult beverages and visited with my girlfriend's twin brother and her other friends from back home in the Poconos. After the reception, we made a return trip to Duke's, where we hung out with some of the other wedding guests until we made our way to the Rock Island Cafe for a late-night snack of "Duke's" pizza and cheese fries.

Day 8: Taking advantage of the wedding event-free day, we decided to take a drive up to the North Shore. Before heading up, we stopped for a late breakfast/early lunch at Nico's at Pier 38, a little eatery nestled between warehouses in the middle of the commercial fishing district. You might expect good fish there. Not only will your expectations be met, you also get the fish at great prices. My girlfriend's plate of furikake pan seared ahi with a ginger garlic cilantro dip and my fried tuna belly set us back less than $20. The fish in each dish was generously portioned and very fresh; I wouldn't be surprised if the fish were still swimming the daylight broke that morning.

We then started our way north on the Pali Highway. Our plan was to meet up with my girlfriend's brother and high-school friend who were playing golf up at the Turtle Bay Resort. We stopped to gaze at the scenic overlook at Nu'uanu Pali, the site of one of the great battles in Hawaiian history, before continuing along the windward shore of Oahu. Just a short distance before Turtle Bay, we saw a bunch of cars parked alongside the highway and a long line of people queued up to a little roadside shack. Naturally, we pulled over as well to see what was going on. It turned out that we had stumbled onto Romy's Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp, a little family owned and operated stand that serves up some of the tastiest shrimp in the area. Though neither of us was particularly hungry, we still wanted to check it out so we split the cocktail shrimp plate. We were not disappointed. The shrimp, harvested daily from the ponds just beyond the stand, were firm, plump, and tender, a perfect delivery device for the spicy cocktail sauce that accompanied the plate. After polishing off our second breakfast, we met up with our friends at the golf course and headed out to the proverbial 19th hole at Haleiwa Joe's for some drinks.

No visit to the North Shore would be complete without some shave ice. So after hanging out for drinks, we figured that we would head down the highway another few hundred yards to sample some shave ice at the famous Matsumoto's. In business for more than 55 years, this little store turns out over 1000 servings of shave ice on a warm summer's day. After splitting an icy treat, we doubled back to Waimea Bay Beach just in time for sunset before heading back to Honolulu. Once again, we were treated to a spectacular Hawaiian sunset:

After getting back to Honolulu and picking our friends up from the airport where they dropped off their rental car, we decide to grab a small dinner. After getting completely lost on some residential neighborhoods, we stumbled onto Ezogiku Noodle Cafe, where we each enjoyed a nice bowl of ramen (with curry and miso-flavored broth) and gyoza before heading back to the hotel for a good night of sleep before the big wedding day.

Day 9: This morning, we woke up and grabbed a quick breakfast at the Kuhio Beach Grill. As a little surprise for me, my sweetie had set up a massage session for the two of us in the hotel spa. The massage was fantastic; it really helped work out the knots in my back and was thoroughly relaxing. After going back to our room and cleaning up, we changed into our far-too-hot-for-the-weather wedding attire, we headed over to another hotel just further down Waikiki Beach to catch a bus that would take us over to the wedding. Even though the walk was only three blocks long, I was feeling quite overheated by the time that I boarded the bus. Luckily for all of us, the A/C on the bus was working quite well.

After a beautiful and short ceremony at church, we boarded the bus once again and were given a short tour of Honolulu while the wedding party was busy with photos. We drove over to the Punchbowl National Cemetary of the Pacific, before heading over to the State Capitol and the 'Iolani Palace, with the entire tour narrated by our hilarious driver who kept telling us that he really just wanted to take us to the liquor store. Eventually, we made it to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel back on Waikiki Beach for the wedding reception. By this time, the temperature had subsided, which made for a very pleasant evening cocktail hour out in the reception area overlooking Waikiki Beach. Dinner was also fabulous: we started out the meal with a tasty lobster bisque en croute (which was unfortunately not the best choice for this hot weather), followed by a crab and seafood salad. The main entree was grilled filet and garlic prawns with assorted vegetables. For dessert, we were treated to a guava sorbet with fresh fruit as well as wedding cake. All in all, it was one of nicest weddings that I have attended.

Day 10: We had an early flight back to the mainland, so there wasn't anything really too exciting that morning. I will mention that we had breakfast at the nearby Cheeseburger in Paradise, a place that I wanted to check out in both Lahaina and Honolulu. Unfortunately for me, I found out that "Cheeseburger in Paradise" = "Overcooked Food" + "Crappy Service". I'm mean, how can a place that purports to specialize in cheeseburgers cook a beef pattie so long that it is literally crumbling from the dryness?? After the disappointing breakfast, we headed for the airport.

Though by this time I was looking forward to going home, sleeping in my own bed, and finding some less humid weather, I found myself thinking about and looking forward to my next visit to the Islands. For those of you who have never been to Hawaii (like me prior to this trip), I recommend that you give it some serious thought for your next getaway. It is a fantastically beautiful place where you will experience some unforgettable memories.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hawaii Part III: From Maui to Oahu

Day 5: Seeing that this was our last full day in Maui, we decided to head out to the beaches once again. We had read some really nice reviews about Kapalua Beach, so we decided to check it out. We actually had no idea where the beach was located other than that it was somewhere in the Kapalua Resort, so we ended up driving around for a bit until we saw a pristine strip of sand behind the Ritz-Carlton. After parking the car and trudging across the expansive resort with our beach chairs and snorkel gear, we realized that we weren't at Kapalua Beach after all, but rather, we had arrived at D. T. Fleming Beach. As it turned out, it wasn't a problem at all, as we enjoyed the sun and sand as much we did at any of the other beaches we had visited earlier in the trip. One of the nice features of Fleming Beach is that the surrounding palm trees provide a good deal of shade, of which I took advantage while I read a book in my beach chair. After a few hours of lounging around, we started getting hungry and went in search of some nearby eatery.

After a short drive, we found a restaurant, the Sea Horse, at the nearby Napili Kai Beach Resort. As luck would have it, we noticed a sign indicating coastal access as we drove around looking for a parking spot. Could it be? Yes! We had found Kapalua Bay! Wanting to take advantage of our good fortune, we stopped for a quick bite at the Sea Horse, splitting a cheeseburger and small sampler platter, and headed over to the beach. The Sea Horse was on a nice beach as well, but we opted for our original destination. By the time that we had arrived at the beach, it was already getting late in the afternoon, but the sun was still warm and the water inviting. Unfortunately, the afternoon surf had kicked up a lot of silt into the water, so snorkeling wasn't ideal, but we were still able to see a lot of fish in the offshore coral reefs. We hung out at Kapalua Beach for a while, not leaving until the sunset. Unlike the day before, the skies were mostly devoid of clouds so we were treated to a spectacular Hawaii sunset.

After cleaning up back at the B&B, we pondered our dinner options. We had heard from some of the other guests that there was a small hole-in-the-wall place nearby that had great food, so we figured that we would give it a try. This little restaurant, Honokawai Okazuya and Deli, turned out to be a gem. Located in the less than appealing AAAAA Rent-A-Space Center, Honokawai Okazuya was off of the radar of most visitors, but it was definitely known to the locals, as the line was nearly out the door as we arrived. The original owner was formerly a chef at Mama's Fish House, the award-winning restaurant in Central Maui, and he developed the menu and recipes that are still being served today. It was hard to choose a dish as the menu, located on a plastic board behind the cash register, had so many delicious-sounding choices, but my girlfriend settled on the teriyaki steak and panko encrusted mahi-mahi, while I picked the mahi-mahi sauteed with a butter caper sauce. Both dishes were simply outstanding. The sauteed mahi-mahi was one of the best cooked fish dishes that I had eaten in a long time. As one of the other B&B guests had said, that dish would be a $30+ item if you put it on a fancy plate in a fancy restaurant, but it only cost $12 at Honokawai Okazuya. Of course, it was served in a styrofoam box instead of a fancy plate, but that was just fine with me. After finishing our delectable meal, my sweetie was in the mood for ice cream, and not just ordinary ice cream, but Roselani's, which is made locally in Maui. We drove over to the Lahaina waterfront in search of ice cream. We walked up and down the main street and found several ice cream shops, but not one of them featured Roselani. Disappointed, we stopped in one of the shops and got some Lappert's, another Hawaiian-made confection. As we walked down the street, we eyed yet another ice cream shop and saw they were, in fact, a Roselani vendor! Not ones to waste good ice cream, we finished off the ice cream in our hands and headed off for seconds. It was a very sweet end to a sweet day.

Day 6: As we were scheduled to fly from Maui to Honolulu in the late afternoon, we decided to pack up and head back toward Kahului. We stopped off for another plate lunch at Da Kitchen and planned out the afternoon. Over chicken katsu and Kalua pork, we talked about driving out on the road to Hana for as long as we could before turning around to catch our flight. We drove about 20 miles or so before we saw a pack of cars parked on the side of the road. We stopped the car and saw a sign indicating that there were a couple of waterfalls a short hike away. We exited the car and wandered down the trail that led into the thick tropical forest. Eschewing the closer (and smaller) waterfall, we worked our way deeper into the wilderness until we saw something off in the distance. We had found our waterfall! Unfortunately, I was not wearing the proper foot attire to slosh through the foot-deep water to take a closer look at the waterfall, but luckily my sweetie was better prepared. This is what she saw:

After lingering for a while at the waterfall, we headed back to the car and decided to start driving back toward the airport. We still had a bit of time to kill, so we stopped on the way back to check out the ocean at the couple of spots along the shore. We had hoped to see some surfers out catching some waves, but we must have been there at the wrong hour. We headed back to the airport, dropped off the rental car, checked in, and sat through an uneventful half-hour flight to Honolulu.

Making our way from the airport to the hotel turned out to be an irritatingly long and slow drive. Who knew about the crappy traffic in Honolulu? After checking in to our hotel, we decided to check out the famous Waikiki Beach locale where we were staying. First, we wanted to grab some food and recalled from our dining experience at Sansei a few days earlier that there was a sister restaurant in our hotel. Neither of us were up for an elaborate dinner, but we decide to head there anyway. We must have been thinking on the same wavelength that evening, as we both ordered ramen soup dishes. My girlfriend went with the dungeness crab ramen and I picked the Sansei special ramen. Of course, being in a sushi restaurant, we also ordered a couple of pieces of sushi: the Sunshine Surprise and unagi rolls. Both of the ramen bowls were delicious. I noted that the broth in the crab ramen has a buttery finish to it, which was confirmed by our server who said that it was finished with truffle butter. Very luxurious!

After dinner, we wandered across the street and found ourselves walking through the white sands of Waikiki Beach. We took a nice, late night stroll along the beach. There were still a lot of people out, including a number of people still splashing out in the warm water under a moonlit sky. We walked for a while and decided to stop off for a nightcap at Duke's. We found a beachside table, sipped on a stream of mai tais, and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Waikiki until last call.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hawaii Part II: Haleakala or bust

Continuing the story of our adventures on Maui...

Day 4: Today, we decided to take a break from beaches to check out Mount Haleakala, the massive shield volcano that makes up the eastern three-quarters of Maui. Many people head up to Haleakala (or "house of the sun" in Hawaiian) to catch the sunrise. However, this would have required us to get out of bed and hit the road by 3:30am, so that was out of the question. Instead, we decided to take a leisurely drive up to the summit, stopping at a few places along the way. Our first stop was Makawao, one of Hawaii's last remaining cowboy towns, where we checked out some boutique shops and art galleries, including a glass-blowing shop where you can watch the artisans ply their craft. After walking around this small town, we were getting a bit peckish, so we decided to head off to lunch at the nearby Hali'imaile General Store. Operated by award-winning chef Beverly Gannon, the General Store is well-known for its innovative Hawaiian cuisine. On that count, it did not disappoint. We started our lunch with Bev's Famous Crab Pizza, which was quite delicious. We then split two plates; one was a macadamia nut encrusted mahi-mahi filet with curried mashed potatoes and the other dish was a Kalua pork enchilada pie. Both dishes were quite interesting and very tasty. However, we were a little disappointed with the subpar service that we received, though admittedly we did hit them during their lunch rush. However, what really irritated me was that my Diet coke with two refills cost me nine dollars. That's nine dollars for a three glasses of fountain soda, three glasses that were mostly full of ice to start with! In my opinion, that's a ridiculous markup, which our server conveniently neglected to mention to us. I don't think it's unreasonable to charge for refills, but c'mon, this was silly. This time, we calculated our tip on the bill less the cost of the soda.

After lunch, we decided to check out the Ali'i Lavender Garden on our way toward Haleakala. This garden, located on the uplands on the way toward the volcano, features 45 different types of lavender. If you are a fan of lavender, this is the place to visit. At the gift shop, you can buy all things lavender, ranging from soaps and candles to food items, such as lavender chocolate brownies and lavender pepper seasoning. By the time we left, I must admit that I was a bit lavendered out. Our next stop: Haleakala.

The road to Haleakala is winding and full of switchbacks, though fortunately it is wide with hard shoulders and guardrails, so it is a long but reasonable drive. The twenty or so miles from the main highway to the summit takes about an hour, but your patience will be rewarded. Once we poked through the cloud deck on our way up to the summit, we were treated to some spectacular views:

We hung out at the summit for a while and even ran into another couple from the Bay Area who was staying at the same B&B where we were staying - small world. We lingered at the top for a while, taking many photos of the rugged landscape surrounded by pillowy clouds. We had thought about watching the sunset from the summit, but not willing to wait two hours, we started to head back to the valley. The drive down Haleakala takes as long as the drive up, so by the time we got back to the main highway and found a gas station to fuel up our gas-starved car, the sun was making its way down toward the horizon. We found a nice little park with a view of the ocean, but the evening clouds prevented us from seeing the sun actually set, though the sky was tinted with beautiful shades of red.

By this time, we were also starving. As we headed back, we decided to stop off for dinner at A Saigon Cafe, a little non-descript Vietnamese restaurant in Wailuku. It is so non-descript that our directions to the place told us to drive around a sleepy little neighborhood until we saw a glowing neon "Open" sign. Both of us were a touch under the weather and were looking forward to a warm bowl of pho, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. My sweetie chose the Mi Won Ton (Won Ton Egg Noodle Soup) while I went with the Pho Tai Bo Vien (Rare steak and meatballs). The soup and the summer rolls that we split were very filling and definitely hit the spot. After dinner, we started on our way back to the B&B, ready for a good night of slumber after a long day.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hawaii Part I: Maui

I just got back late last night from my trip to Hawaii. My sweetie and I had a great time lounging in the sun and sand and enjoying some great food. Here's a synopsis of the first part of our stay in Maui:

Day 1: We arrived at Kahului after an early morning departure from San Francisco. After the long flight, we found our way to Da Kitchen, a Hawaiian plate lunch place conveniently located just a few blocks from the airport. My girlfriend ordered the Hawaiian plate lunch consisting of pork lau lau, Kalua pork, chicken long rice, and lomi lomi salmon, while I opted for the loco moco. Of course, both plates came with the obligatory two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. Each plate was enormous, with easily enough food for two people.

Sated with our plate lunches, we made our way to Lahaina, to the bed and breakfast where we were lodging during our stay in Maui. We chilled out for a while after our long journey before we headed into town to check out the local trinket shops and art galleries prior to our dinner at the aforementioned David Paul's, located in the heart of Lahaina waterfront. We were tempted by their tasting menu, but after a long session of hemming and hawing, we decided to order a la carte. We started out dinner with a couple of appetizers: the crispy blue corn crusted chile relleno and the Cake Walk, a trio of little bites of Kona lobster cake, Louisana rock shrimp cake, and seared ahi cake. Both the chile relleno, which was stuffed with prawns, scallops, and cheese, and the Cake Walk were excellent. The presentation on the Cake Walk was particularly impressive, drawing comments from the couple sitting at the table next to us. For our entrees, my sweetie had the Maui onion and sesame seed crusted ahi, which was a bit underwhelming, while I went with the Kona coffee roasted rack of lamb, which was excellent, even though the coffee flavor really didn't come through. Overall, dinner was good though it was quite expensive.

Day 2: We started out the day by driving down to Makena and having the Sunday champagne brunch at the Prince Court at the Maui Prince Hotel. The buffet was very good, with a nice assortment of sushi and sashimi to go with the traditional brunch buffet fare, which included made-to-order omelettes and roasted meats from the carving table. After brunch, we headed out to nearby Big Beach, where we sat out and soaked in some rays and played around in the warm ocean water. It was very relaxing. After a couple hours of sun, we headed back to Lahaina so that we wouldn't be late for dinner at the Old Lahaina Luau. The ocean-side luau, considered by many to be the best and most authentic on the island, features an all-you-can-eat menu of traditional Hawaiian foods, such as Kalua pig, poi, guava glazed chicken, and taro salad, all of which you can wash down with a never-ending stream of drinks from the open bar. After dinner, the luau puts on its nightly entertainment program of song and dance, presenting the history of the Hawaiian people and culture, which both of us thought was pretty cool.

Day 3: After a quick breakfast at the B&B, we again made our way to the beach, settling this day at Black Rock Beach at Kaanapali, where we relaxed under the warm sun. I also gave snorkeling a try for the first time, under the guidance and watchful eye of my sweetie, who made sure that I did not get myself into any trouble. The water was very clear that morning so we were able to see several varieties of fish swimming in the waters near the beach. My girlfriend also saw a sea turtle, which ventured into the rocks near the shore after which the beach is named. After being thoroughly exhausted by the sun and the snorkeling, we headed for a quick lunch at the Aloha Mixed Plate, where we enjoyed another plate lunch, though one that was much more reasonably sized than our meal two days earlier. The shoyu chicken, for which the restaurant is well-known, was especially good, both flavorful and juicy.

We headed back to the B&B for some rest before heading out for dinner. That day, we were celebrating two years together :-) so we wanted to try out someplace nice, though neither of us were up for anything too formal or elaborate. We settled on Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar. The restaurant had relocated and opened in a new location just a few days earlier, so we had a little adventure finding it, driving around the Kapulua resort several times before my eagle-eyed girlfriend caught its new location next to the Ritz-Carlton resort. We settled down at the sushi bar and both quickly decided on the omakase menu. The omakase dinner started with a nice bowl of red miso soup, followed by ten pieces of nigiri sushi, ranging from baby yellowtail to o-toro, all of which were very good. While enjoying our dinners, we engaged in a nice conversation with the sushi chef, who really hooked us up by sending out an extra full order of o-toro nigiri and some ahi poke - both on the house! We finished off our dinner with some deep fried tempura ice cream, which we both really liked. It was a very nice conclusion to an excellent day - a great day on our anniversary.

Next up: Our last two days in Maui before moving on to Waikiki Beach.