Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hula Girl (catamaran) - Kaanapali

Hula - a Hell'ava Girl

Captain Jack will get you high…
On endorphins,
Endorphins and dolphins,
Dolphins and divin'…
Just a little push and you'll be smilin'

The boat: Hula Girl was the boat to be on since its snorkeling tour didn’t start at some ungodly hour like the others (9am-2:30pm was just our speed.) A toned and tanned Captain Jack greeted us on the beach in front of Hula Girl, a 65 foot, garnet red beauty whose namesake swerved her nearly virgin hips on the sail. Not only was she seaworthy, but she was food-worthy, bringing high end dining to the high seas.

Hula held around 50, but there were only 11 of us, so it was easy to see the Girl as mine. Especially since I could sprawl out and sun myself on taunt nets, comfy with cushions, dozing until we were approached by a group of dolphins. They flipped and preened for our attention like a dog looking for a scratch behind the ears- if only I could reach!

The snorkeling: The welcome distraction had us arriving at our destination all the quicker. We settled in the cutout cove of Honolua Bay Marine Preserve, nature’s design for prime snorkeling (and diving for a few brave souls.) A “sea turtle car wash” was nearby, a regular spot where fish picked turtles clean of debris, but we couldn’t find it. That was ok. We were filled to the gills with sea-life sightings, but our stomachs were empty after all that swimming. The next fish I wanted to see was on my plate.

The food: Chef Noel’s name couldn’t have been more appropriate because his food tasted like Christmas. We feasted on some of the thickest and tastiest ahi on (well, technically off) the island for only $13. Blackening spices brought some heat to this Hulk-sized sandwich and only accentuated the ahi’s bright flavor. Throw in some salty chips and a few bottles of Longboard Ale = Heaven.

And everyone knows that there’s plenty of napping in Heaven, so afterwards it was back to the nets for 40 winks. Filled with the contentment of a practically private charter (gourmet chef included), swimming with the fishes and playing with Flipper, my ears flooded with the white noise of billowing sails and tuned out the real world for just a little longer.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Indigo Grill - San Diego

No Blues about Indigo
Atmosphere: Neon warmth reading, Indigo Grill, in bold, scarlet font reflected off a silver exterior in direct contrast with the rainforest-esque essence pulsing through its woodsy dining room (a tree grew from floor to ceiling behind the hostess stand.) Indigo’s earthy appeal made me feel as if I’d fallen down a rabbit-hole and discovered a lost culture whose native cuisine was gourmet.

Appetizers: We might have needed a dictionary if our friendly server hadn’t helped us with “Indigo lingo.” Menus trimmed in copper offered a variety of unusual dishes with ingredients that peaked my curiousity as much as my tastebuds.

Oven roasted mussels and clams– were champions of the evening and a must order item for anyone who visits here. They were served with chipolte mojo, a broth so creamy and spicy it could masquerade as shellfish bisque (with a bite). When I tell you that this broth danced on the tongue, it sambaed. Served with parmesan, scallion flatbread (for optimal sopping) and shipped from Prince Edward Island (known for its ultimate seafood), these were the tastiest clams my bivalve-loving-buddy had found on the west coast. Even if you’re a little skeptical of mussels, this dish will put your mind at ease- small, plump and succulent.

Caesar salad - I'm a sucker for a good Caesar, though this variation didn't satisfy my needs. I loved the whole, grilled leaves of romaine and addition of fried capers, but the chipotle-anchovy creme wasn't my favorite and though I liked the fig jam and flatbread, it didn't quite connect with the rest of the dish.

Brie covered in pipian and plantains – arrived with accoutrements of every type heaped on the platter: grilled tortillas, scallion flatbread, mole negro, marinated nopales, roasted garlic and jalapeƱo jelly - great for sharing.

Entrees: Blueberry lacquered lamb chops – were a sweet and savory concoction delivering juicy, blissful bites, then upped the ante with a pot of gooey, cheesy potatoes that pulled on my heartstrings as much as they did my fork. Indigo must have slipped something in those taters because I felt my eyes getting heavy and landed in a comfort-food coma directly afterwards (counting lambs, not sheep.)

Pecan encrusted rainbow trout- topped with orange-pasilla buerre blanc, swirled crunchy bits of pecans with salty/sweet butter. Oven roasted potatoes and corn salsa didn’t add much to the dish, but the featured fish made up for it – quite the catch.

Pipian- rojo chicken – turned me off with its pungent flavor. “Just say no to rojo”, since the spices overwhelming the bird (stuffed with goat cheese, pancetta, dried fruits and arugula) made this chicken foul. I still had hope for the polenta cakes that had me longing for some pan fried goodness, but instead they only offered up tasteless squares of cornmeal.

Hickory & apple smoked pork ribs - were coated in a Morita-Kahlua glaze and full of fall-off-the-bone goodness. Not too smokey, plus their sweet and tangy zip from the caramelized Kahlua melded well with sides of Indian corn pudding and shaved pear salad with cilantro vinagrette and walnuts.