Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Five Best Meals on Maui

Dear Foodies,

Don't get too excited about this list, because:

I'm a vegetarian. (I love animals. No, they are not delicious. Don't get me started. You'll regret it. I promise.)

I sometimes care just as much, or more, about the decor and ambiance of a restaurant as I care about the food. (Food trucks should have cute outdoor dining areas, or better yet, be a stepping stone to a cute brick & mortar restaurant. With air-conditioning. And comfortable seating.)

I eat food, but I'm not a Foodie. It's rare for me to rhapsodize about a dish, so when I do, it's a very special dish.

I'm allergic to peanuts. (I love peanuts, but not so much as to withstand the swollen lips and full-body rash that my peanut allergy induces.)

I am soy sensitive. (Tummy trouble: enough said.)

I hate wine. I'm real picky about mixed drinks and beer. I'm generally a light-weight about the alcohol beverages with a strong aversion to hangovers.

Even on vacation, Chad and I aren't gluttons. We're both just a little too body-conscious. I would love to be the kind of person who could enjoy more calories and flavors and alcohol, but I'm not.

You've been warned Foodies. Here are my top five favorite meals during my recent trip to Maui.


1. Monkeypod Kitchen (at Whalers Village, Ka'anapali)


The space at Monkeypod Kitchen is gorgeous. One wall features huge windows with views of the pretty beach. The seats and banquettes are upholstered in Schumacher's Chiang Mai Dragon fabric. The glass back wall of the bar encases antique glass fisherman's floats with light bouncing around beautifully. The vibe here is relaxed like, sure, wear your flip-flops and swimsuit cover-up, but also lush and lovely with attention to design.

Remember just now when I said, "It's rare for me to rhapsodize about a dish, so when I do, it's a very special dish."? Get ready, I'm about to rhapsodize about a dish! I had the most amazing gnocchi with mushrooms and kale dish at Monkeypod Kitchen. I ate all but one bite that I very grudgingly shared with Chad. Monkeypod Kitchen also serves lovely, delicious cocktails and pies. I loved this place so much! If you go to Maui, eat here often, and report back to me.


2. Choice Health Bar (at Whalers Village, Ka'anapali)


Chad and I were so beyond tired and hungry one evening in Maui after a rigorous day of hiking. Chad volunteered to scamper over to Whaler's Village and pick up dinner from the Choice Health Bar. We both loved our hearty kale salads and amazing vegan smoothies. Everything here is delicious and surprisingly satisfying. This place serves healthy food with an emphasis on yummy. I wish we had made the time to dine at sit-down restaurant down the road in Lahaina, but the Whaler's Village pickup location was super-convenient to our hotel.


3. Maui Brewing Company (Lahaina at Kahana Gateway Center)



Beer is "liquid sunshine" according to Ruby, our friendly Lyft driver who drove us to and from Maui Brewing Company's restaurant. Chad and I shared a sampler flight of four beers. My favorite beer was the Bikini Blonde Lager, closely followed by the Pineapple Mana Wheat. We shared an order of Tots Dynamite: tater tots with beer cheese sauce, jalapeno, green onion, kimchi aioli, caramelized onion and garlic crema.  We could have stopped there with the food due to the generous portions, but we had already foolishly ordered entrees. Oops. I had exactly three bites of a deliciously hefty Veggie Burger before boxing it to go. Maui Brewing Company gets philanthropy points for donating half the profits from veggie burger sales to the Maui Humane Society! Chad had the veggie Teriyaki rice bowl, sharing two bites with me. Packed with veggies, the rice bowl was tasty and filling.


4. Lahaina Pizza Company



This deep-dish pizza packs a well-prepared punch. Yum! Chad and I each ordered the lunch special of a small house salad and a personal size pizza. We were pleasantly full after our meal; versus lie on the floor and don't breathe too deeply full. Lahaina Pizza Company has many local beers on tap and serves tempting cocktails. We enjoyed the tropical iced tea, instead of a cocktail, because we're no fun. The tea was refreshing with fruity overtones. This was one of the best value meals on Maui, with the added super-bonus of a million dollar view from this second floor restaurant overlooking the beachfront.


5. Frida's Beach House



Frida's Mexican Beach House Restaurant Commercial from Sascha Bauml on Vimeo.

Again with the amazing views, Maui! And, yeah, we ate Mexican food in Maui. We're from Austin. We need fresh salsa, tortilla chips and beans at least once a week! I appreciated the Chile Relleno and a house margarita on the rocks mucho. This meal was on the expensive side, but worth it.

Check back for more from Maui soon.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Maui = Amazing, Part Three




About a year ago when I started planning our trip to the Hawaiian Islands, Chad and I weren't sure which island/islands to visit. I bought a copy of Fodor's Travel Essential Hawaii from Book People. I asked every friend who I knew had traveled to the Hawaiian Islands. I read tripadvisor reviews. I watched youtube travel videos. I also made an honest wishlist for our vacation. Chad and I didn't need nightlife. We didn't want a "city" experience. We don't golf or play tennis. We wanted hiking, rain forests, beaches with wade-in snorkeling and a relaxing vibe. I am a bit scared of active volcanoes, but totally comfortable with a dormant volcano. All of my interviews with friends, reading the guide book, watching youtube traveler videos, reading reviews on tripadvisor.com and reviewing our wish list helped me decide on Maui, and only Maui, for our week-long Hawaiian vacation. Chad and I were both really pleased with our choice. 




Tuesday = Snorkeling Day!

One of the reasons I chose the Westin Maui Resort was its proximity to Black Rock Kaanapali. Black Rock is a prominent rocky peninsula on the North end of Kaanapali Beach. The rock outcropping makes for calmer waves nearby. Chad and I rented snorkel gear from the beachfront towel shack at Westin Maui, easy-peasy. I am not a strong swimmer, so I rented a floaty belt. I looked ridiculous. Better safe than sorry! We strolled about seven minutes down the beach, found a spot to park our towels on the beach at Black Rock and waded into the crystal clear waters. No boat needed! (Fun fact: All of Hawaii's beaches are public, even those in front of exclusive resorts. Hawaii state law requires all resorts and hotels to offer public right-of-way access to the beach, along with public parking. Yay!)

The farther we got from the shore, the less crowded it was. That said, we were careful to pop our heads up every few minutes to stay aware of our surroundings and kept tabs on each other. We reveled in the clear water and the variety of tropical fish we could see. I saw lots of other snorkelers using GoPro waterproof cameras on selfie sticks or on headbands. For a second I envied the GoPro users, but then I remembered to just enjoy the snorkeling. Chad and I saw so many beautiful fish including: butterfly fish, needlefish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, boxfish, damselfish, Moorish idol, goatfish and big marine turtles. A big turtle swam right past me while snorkeling. I tried to be respectful of the turtle's space. These are endangered species. It is against the law to "pet" them, bother them, touch them or chase them. The turtle swam closer to me as an official looking person in a uniform on the shore yelled at everyone to stay at least ten feet away from the turtle. I backed away from the turtle as best as I could in my flippers. I hope the turtle wasn't offended. 

*Click each fish name for links that have photos.*


Here's a lovely GoPro video of snorkeling at Black Rock. Thanks to Jim Sheaffer for sharing!



More from Maui soon, including top 5 meals, hiking at Haleakala and exploring the resort.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Maui = Amazing, Part Two

A bit of history: Before Hawaii became the fiftieth state of the United States of America in 1959, Hawaii was a sovereign nation recognized by the United Nations. The monarchy of Hawaii was overthrown by resident European and American capitalists in 1893. Hawaii was an independent republic until 1898 when it officially became a territory of the United States. The Iolani Palace in Honolulu served as the capitol of the Republic of Hawaii. The Iolani Palace featured electricity, indoor plumbing and working elevators before the White House in mainland United States of America did.

Thanks to wikipedia and the television show Adam Ruins Everything, I had a basic understanding that not all the history of Hawaii was rainbows, beaches and palm trees. There were also plagues brought by germy explorers, stolen land, wrongful subjugation, squashing of native traditions and other shameful stuff most people don't like to think about while on a tropical vacation.



Our tour bus driver on the Road to Hana delivered a heavy-handed sermon on these historical misdeeds and traced his native Hawaiian bloodline, all before we stopped for breakfast. Our tour group consisted of Chad and me from Austin, another couple from some other part of Texas and seven African-American (this is relevant, I swear) senior citizens from Chicago who were all acquainted with each other. Our tour bus driver went on to state as part of his history lecture that Barack Obama was not legally president of the United States of America, because he was born in Hawaii which should still be recognized as an independent nation. This statement was met with stony silence from every person on the bus (besides the driver) and a few dropped jaws.

Later our tour guide/driver relayed a story about chickens on Maui getting loose during a hurricane, explaining the feral chicken population. He said, "Like Malcolm X, these chickens were saying, 'Free at last, free at last. Thank God, we're free at last." (Nope. That is a loose quotation taken completely out of context from a speech by Martin Luther King Jr.) After a beat, one of the ladies from Chicago said, "That's okay. He doesn't know our history. He knows his own history." I appreciate that Carol from Chicago said this, and diffused an awkward and offensive moment.

Assuming you don't get the same tour guide driver we endured, I highly recommend taking a guided tour with a professional driver of the Road to Hana. The Road to Hana features 617 curves, 54 one lane bridges, tropical rainforests, bamboo jungles, black sand beaches with lava tubes, waterfalls, cliffs and tropical streams with pools. We enjoyed the breathtaking scenery while a local, professional navigated the crazy curves and one lane bridges. Our tour stopped at a beach with lava rock outcroppings, a famous black sand beach, Oheo Gulch (a.k.a. Seven Sacred Pools), a lovely local farm to market stand, Wailua Falls, Charles Lindberg's gravesite and another farm to market stand in the rolling hills of the dry side of Maui. The Road to Hana tour allowed us to see an amazing diversity of Maui landscapes and climates. The day we went was drizzly, but the day before we went had heavy rains complete with rockslides. Thankfully we weren't impeded by rockslides, but were treated to rushing waterfalls.

Keanae Peninsula


Keanae Peninsula


Black Sand Beach



The beautiful flowers hanging in those trees are bright turquoise


Baby pineapple plants

Oheo Gulch (a.k.a. Seven Sacred Pools) raging waters

A tall, raging waterfall & some ladies' heads

Maui's version of the Grand Canyon


Due to a brief stop to let road construction clear and traffic on the way back to our resort, our Road to Hana tour took just under thirteen hours. We loved the amazing views on Road to Hana! My photos from that cloudy, drizzly day don't do it justice. In retrospect, I even appreciate the history lesson from our tour guide. But, for real, he should work on his heavy delivery, and consider his audience with a bit more care and thoughtfulness. 

More from gorgeous Maui soon. (So. Much. More.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Maui = Amazing, Part One

Sorry for the delayed travel post. I've been dealing with a bummer of a health issue: nothing serious, mostly just annoying.

After a year (not exaggerating) of research and careful planning, Chad and I finally took a much anticipated week-long trip to Maui in April. Maui delivered everything I hoped for, plus a little extra. Big thanks to Adventure Maui for excellent activities bookings made easy! We got a discounted flight plus hotel package on Expedia, so check them out too for your travel needs.

We flew American Airlines from Austin to Dallas-Forth Worth, then straight to Maui's Kahului Airport. Eight hours in economy on a very full flight felt less than delightful, but the American Airlines flight attendants were very good natured and nice. Free movies on seatback screens and a free meal (veggie wrap with chips & a yummy cookie) made the time pass a bit more mercifully. Landing in gorgeous Maui made the long flight worthwhile.

After a long, scary shuttle ride during which our driver juggled a work-issued walkie-talkie, their personal phone and an i-Pad with route information while weaving over the center line and other lane lines, we arrived safely at the most beautiful resort I've ever seen. Hello, Westin Maui Resort and Spa! Glad to meet you!


photo courtesy of Westin Maui Resort

photo courtesy of Westin Maui Resort

photo courtesy of Westin Maui Resort

photo courtesy of Westin Maui Resort



We arrived on a Saturday evening during light rain. We were tired, jet-lagged and hungry. So naturally we partied all night at the most exclusive clubs. Kidding! We had dinner at one of the hotel restaurants, walked around the gorgeous resort a bit, unpacked and settled in for necessary sleep.

We chose not to rent a car for our Maui vacation, which worked out beautifully. Between the Westin resort shuttle into Lahaina, guided tours with resort pick-up and three Lyft rides (less than $60 total with tips for all three rides), we did not need a car.

Sunday morning Chad and I took the free Westin Shuttle to Lahaina Wharf Cinema Center, conveniently close to Banyan Tree Park. This spectacularly large banyan tree was planted in 1873, and has grown to cover an area of about 0.66 acres, topping out at 60 feet in height with sixteen additional trunks radiating from the original trunk. The shade and benches in this park offered a nice respite from the bustling Front Street noise of t-shirt shops, restaurants and wily pedestrians going nowhere fast.








Chad and I walked around the waterfront a bit, admiring the beach views. We shopped a little for obligatory postcards, shell necklaces and chocolate covered macadamia nuts. Then we caught the Westin shuttle back to the resort to get ready for the evening's entertainment.

One wardrobe change later, we hopped back on the handy Westin shuttle to the Old Lahaina Luau. Greeting guests with a strong cocktail (or a lovely fruit juice for the non-imbibers) set the tone for fun and hospitality. Before the show guests are encouraged to walk around to different cultural demonstrations such as hula dance lessons, wood carving, block printing and photo opportunities. We scored seats right next to the stage, because I booked our reservation eight months before our trip. Chad is leggy, and not especially limber, so I think he struggled a bit with the pillow on the ground seating situation in the front rows. He might have better enjoyed the cheaper chair seats a bit farther from the stage.

The main show started just after sunset. The performers put their heart and talent into the dancing while narrators explained some history of the Hawaiian islands. (Spoiler alert: the missionaries banned traditional hula dancing and native traditions for a long time in a misguided attempt to spread their good news. Not a good look, missionaries.) The music was performed live by musicians off to side of the main stage. Dinner was self-serve buffet style between dance numbers, and was vegetarian friendly with plenty of options. The food was very good, but it was a buffet, so go for the overall experience; not for a made-to-order foodie adventure. Servers cruised by throughout the evening offering more cocktails and juice from the open bar. A giant dessert platter was served family style to each table. Each guest received a thoughtfully packaged mini banana bread loaf on their way out after the luau.









More from Maui soon, I promise. Aloha until then!


Friday, March 23, 2018

Five Songs for Flashback Friday

Something about spring and rising temperatures inspires nostalgia for music, movies, television and books from my spring break and summer times as a wee child. I had advanced tastes and sensibilities, being way too obsessed with MTV way too young. When I was in kindergarten I sang all the Duran Duran songs to the middle-schoolers who shared my same school bus, much to their delight.

1. Duran Duran, "Ordinary World"




2. Jennifer Paige, "Crush"




3. CeCe Peniston, "Finally"




4. Deee-Lite, "Groove Is In The Heart"




5. Run DMC & Aerosmith, "Walk This Way"




Friday, March 02, 2018

Five Things for Spring

Usually Austin does not have winter longer than 3 days, but this year we totally had a cold, drippy winter complete with two snow dustings and multiple freezing days and nights. What?! I'm excited for spring this year in a way that I have not been in years past. Though not officially spring until March 20, I see buds peeking out already. Here are five things I'm looking forward to this spring in Austin.

1. Strolling through Zilker Botanical Garden










2. Kayaking again on Town Lake (a.k.a. Lady Bird Lake)






3. The view from Mount Bonnel




4. Checking out the Yippee Ki Yay installation at Pease Park


Photo from PeasePark.org



5. Visiting Ellsworth Kelly's 'Austin' structure



Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Local Nonprofits I Love in 2018

Amplify Austin Day occurs March 1 - 2 this year. Amplify Austin Day is our city's annual community-wide day of online giving. The 24-hour period provides an easy and fun way for our entire community to give together while helping local nonprofits. Together we raised $9.8M for nearly 700 Central Texas nonprofits on Amplify Austin Day in 2017. Over the past five years, Amplify Austin has raised $35M for hundreds of local organizations.

Chad and I support several nonprofits (local, national and global) with scheduled monthly gifts. Amplify Austin Day provides an opportunity to support many worthy causes. Here are the local nonprofits closest to our hearts. 

1. Emancipet's mission is to make spay/neuter services and veterinary care affordable and accessible to all pet owners. Emancipet envisions a future where all pets are happy, healthy, and living with families whose lives they enrich. 




2. Meals on Wheels Central Texas seeks to nourish and enrich the lives of the homebound and other people in need through programs that promote dignity and independent living. 



3. Central Texas Food Bank is a leader in the fight against hunger for nearly 35 years, with the mission to nourish hungry people and lead the community in the fight against hunger. 





4. SAFE stands for Stop Abuse For Everyone, and is a merger between Safe Place and Austin Children's Shelter. The SAFE Alliance's mission is to lead in ending sexual assault and exploitation, child abuse, and domestic violence through prevention, intervention, and advocacy for change.





5. Caritas of Austin believes that when every person has a stable place to call home, they can realize their full potential and contribute to our community. Caritas builds wellbeing by making sure that people have a safe home, access to healthy groceries, jobs that provide a reliable living wage, and educational opportunities to learn life skills. 






6. KLRU is Austin's Public Broadcasting Service station. I grew up on shows like Sesame Street and The Electric Company. PBS programming taught me the alphabet, how to spell short words, colors and how to share before kindergarten. (I know, HBO bought Sesame Street, but only recently.) As an adult I enjoy BBC import shows and locally produced shows.







Whether you live in Austin or some other lovable place, find ways to support nonprofit organizations you believe in with your time, talents and/or money.


Monday, February 05, 2018

New-ish Network Television Shows I'm Loving

Did you miss me? I got stuck in some January doldrums. I was also reviewing my Spanish language lessons, trying to get up to speed for Conversational Spanish 3 classes. Necesito estudiar mucho.

Here are new-ish network television shows I'm watching and enjoying. All six are either in the first or second seasons. I hope they all get renewed. (Or in the case of The Mayor, picked up by another outlet for another season.)

1. The Good Place on NBC



The Good Place makes me feel hopeful, without being preachy or self-righteous. I love the twists, turns and somersaults this wacky story takes. There are a few episodes that feel a bit slow, but stick with it. You'll be glad when the revelations roll in!


2. The Mayor, was on ABC, currently on Hulu



I'd vote for Courtney Rose for mayor. What a breath of fresh air this young man brings to city politics! Mayor Rose's heart guides him through a steep learning curve, as does his intelligent and driven advisor, Valentina Barella. I love this show! I can't believe ABC pulled it from the lineup so unceremoniously. Maybe some scandal involving one of the main actors or showrunners has yet to break and shed light on the situation, but I hope not. I hope Hulu makes a second season of this delightful show.


3. Kevin (Probably) Saves the World on ABC



I like Jason Ritter's face. He portrays a flawed, likeable, bumbling guy trying to become a better person, and maybe save the world, one good deed at a time. I really want to see how this plays out. Yvette, his spiritual guide, is super-fun while providing a grounding force. She's figuring it out as she goes, wearing really great outfits along the way.


4. Superior Donuts on CBS



The cast of this show is awesome: Jermaine Fowler, Judd Hirsch, Katey Sagal, Maz Jobrani, David Koechner, Diane Guererro, Rell Battle. Each episode feels like a gentle social studies lesson in being a good human with plenty of laughs.

Chad and I got to see a live comedy set by Jermaine Fowler, and he is hilarious. Jermaine picked on Chad a bit for one of the jokes, and (of course) it made us love the set even more.


5. Young Sheldon on CBS



If you already like Big Bang Theory, then this show about the young, precocious Dr. Sheldon Cooper is a solid bet. Although I wasn't as smart as little Sheldon, I was definitely the odd duck in my family growing up, and I can so relate. All the actors on this show are fabulous, and I especially love Annie Potts as the sassy, meddling Meemaw. (Meemaw translates to grandmother for those of you unfamiliar with Southern vernacular.)


6. Riverdale on The CW



I feel ridiculous for watching this show, because it is so over the top melodramatic, and aimed at kids half my age. I love the lush, moody visuals of Riverdale. This darkly reimagined Archie comics world brought to life delivers sudsy soap opera style story lines. Everyone on the show is gorgeous. I might catch up on a few missed episodes later. It's a guilty-pleasure, for sure.