Tag Archives: bacon

Chef’s Cut Jerky

I recently got to sample a bunch of different jerky flavors from Chef’s Cut at The Great Big Bacon Picnic in Brooklyn. While the samples they were serving were mainly uncured bacon (in the spirit of the festival), I did try three flavors of said protein, so I figured that was enough for a full product review.

Sriracha is by far the best of the three bacon flavors.

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It was spicy but mellowed out by the natural sweetness of bacon. Really the perfect savory snack if you ask me. Get a bag ASAP, or a gross of boxes stacked high on a warehouse skid of bags. Hope you can drive a forklift…

We also tried maple and applewood. I preferred the maple, but the crew I was with liked the applewood. Either way you win, though, because it’s all fucking bacon.

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As you might expect, this company also makes regular beef jerky, chicken jerky and turkey jerky in various other unique flavors. One that looked nice to me was the buffalo chicken jerky. I’ll  have to try that fucker next.

The Great Big Bacon Picnic

I’m going to keep this short and sweet so you guys can get right down to the food pictures. The Great Big Bacon Picnic is an awesome multi-day event that was held in Brooklyn at the old Pfizer factory to celebrate the awesomeness of bacon. There were tons of businesses and restaurants there, so we got to try a ton of shit. I will highlight the good stuff and give a few extra words here and there. Enjoy.

Best bite of the day was at Tres Carnes, a pork belly taco. Nice and simple, super delicious.

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Meatball with bacon and collared greens from Handcraft:

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Bacon bananas foster with peanut butter:

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Bacon bread pudding from The Brooklyn Tree:

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Some varied flavor selections from the bacon bar:

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Lots of fun to be had with fellow foodies:

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Bacon chocolate chip cookies and Rhoda of Rhoda Cookies:

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Various sliders and mini BLTs were all over the place, all delicious:

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Bacon dust beignets!

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And sriracha bacon jerky from Chef’s Cut. Awesome. I’ll be doing a separate jerky review for this product with more info.

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Hometown BBQ

My first run-in with Hometown BBQ came when I attended Meatopia, a meat lover’s paradise that takes place on the piers over in Hell’s Kitchen. There, I met some of the people and pit masters behind Hometown, and I was thoroughly impressed with everything they presented that day, especially the beef rib.

Needless to say, I made it a priority to get over there and try more.

Hometown is a mix of Texas and Carolina styles – serving up a healthy smattering of both beef and pork, dry and sauced – but it has a heavy NYC influence to the flavor profiles, and the pit masters take lots of free license concerning BBQ fusion ideas.

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As I mentioned in my Guide to Regional BBQ Styles, I believe that NYC is emerging as its own distinctly amazing BBQ style, especially given the varied immigrant communities that touch on the lives of all in this great city.

Hometown takes advantage of that diverse cuisine-culture, as all of the ownership, management and pit masters come from either New York, Brooklyn or elsewhere in the five boroughs. As a result you have menu items like (1) Jamaican jerk baby back ribs, (2) Italian sausage, (3) Chinese sticky ribs, (4) Vietnamese lamb belly banh mi sandwiches and chicken wings, (5) Jewish pastrami-spiced bacon (sinful!), and (6) Oaxacan marinated wood fired chicken and tacos.

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As you can see, the menu is quite varied. And the pit masters will grab anything that comes their way and spin it into a great BBQ fusion dish, whether it’s beef tongue, duck, or whatever, on any given day. Turkey and chicken make a solid presence here. My only regret is that I was too full to try the turkey, wood fired chicken, and Vietnamese chicken wings.

So here’s what we had:

(1) Lamb Belly: This was actually our least favorite of all the meats, but that is by no means an indictment of quality. Think of it this way: You can choose five pounds of gold, or ten pounds of gold. Which do you choose? Ten, of course, but five is still awesome. This meat had all the great soft, yet sticky-crisp flavors that you associate with belly meat, but with the fat flavor of lamb. I can definitely see how this might go well on a banh mi sandwich, as per the menu offering.

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(2) Pulled Pork: This was delicious, especially when adding a little bit of the spicy (bright red) BBQ sauce to it. The meat itself wasn’t over sauced at the outset, of which I was highly appreciative, and it had both a nice sweetness and pickle-pop to it that didn’t overpower.

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(3) Brisket: This was probably my favorite. It was very juicy and had tons of smokey flavor. If you’re a smoke fiend, then add a touch of the smokey BBQ sauce (darker colored container), and you’re instantly transported to wood-fired heaven.

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(4) Italian Sausage: I loved this Brooklyn spin on the classic BBQ joint sausage link. While I do love me some Texas hot links and classic Bavarian sausage, this was a welcome change of pace. It was cleverly served with a light tomato sauce, though it didn’t taste exactly like a traditional parsley and cheese Italian link. The pungent smoke, fire roasted peppers and aged provolone added a whole different dynamic to the meat that truly made it Italian BBQ fusion.

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(5) Jamaican Jerk Baby Back Ribs: Wow. These were really interesting. The jerk spice and sauce create a nice thin bark on the outside, but the smoke causes the flavors to permeate through the entirety of the meat. This was a unique execution of baby back ribs.

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(6) Pastrami Bacon: Pastrami and bacon are two words that perhaps don’t belong together in the NYC Jewish community, as it is straight up not Kosher for Passover, but this was pure heaven as far as sinful eating goes. Crispy, fatty, meaty and all around perfectly cooked, this grill-kissed slab bacon came with a velvety honey mustard sauce that actually paired great with all of the meats we tried.

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We didn’t get down on any sides. Next time. We were so focused on the meat that we lost sight of the other goodies on the menu. I wish we ordered some whiskey sour pickles. My eyes were so dazzled by the meat selections that I completely missed them when I was reading the menu. BBQ + Pickles = Heaven. I am ashamed…

The bars here are great, too, by the way: one in the front, one in the back. They have a Texas vibe, and the drinks are somewhat reasonably priced for the city. My Tecate and neat Jameson came to $13: $4 for the beer and $9 for the whisky.

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The atmosphere here is awesome. It feels like you’re in a warehouse barn that has several fires burning. The smells are invigorating, warm and inviting. This was a perfect refuge from the downpour and cold weather that was happening the day I came here.

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That’s the back room. In the front (through the door to the right of the bar), there’s another big bar room with more tables and a small stage for live music performances. This is the counter where you order your food:

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In short, Hometown is my favorite BBQ joint in the area. It seriously fucking blows away the competition.

UPDATE 7/2/16

My wife and I hit this fucking place like champs today. Here’s a rundown of what we ordered:

Lamb Belly Banh Mi: This shit was legit. The sandwich was packed with good lamb belly meat, and the flavors of the pickled items were just right. The bread was perfect – a buttery French baguette. This baby got the seal of approval from my wife, so you can trust that it is really fucking good. Only downside: there is still some connective tissue in the lamb belly servings. I noticed this last time but didn’t mention it above, because I thought it was maybe a one-off thing.

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Chinese Sticky Ribs: I liked these a lot but the wife thought they were too sweet. The flavors were really layered. Spice, sweetness, and the meat was perfectly cooked to the point where you can bite it and see your teeth marks in the meat.

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Vietnamese Crispy Wings: Another win here. These full wings were nicely crisped and coated with a really delicious tangy and spicy Vietnamese-inspired sauce. Very easy to eat all day.

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Beef Rib: This was a monster. The meat was absolutely perfect. The bark on the outside gives it a textural crunch as well as a shot of electrifying flavor. Fucking awesome. It may be pricey, but if you come here and you don’t get one of these, then you’re a dick.

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Whisky Sour Pickles: This time I remembered to get a side. Since we were having some bread with the banh mi sandwich, I figured I’d steer clear of carbs. The pickles were a wise choice, as they went perfectly with the meats.

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I can’t wait to go back for round three, during which I will try the wood fired chicken and smoked turkey.

HOMETOWN BBQ
454 Van Brunt St
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Parm

My wife and I stopped in here on a Friday night for a quick meal at the bar. We heard great things but never had a chance to try before.

We ordered three items: meatballs, fried calamari with shishito peppers, and the Randy Levine sandwich, which came with fries.

First, let’s start with the weirdly named item: the Randy Levine. It’s a sandwich made of pork belly, plum sauce, Chinese mustard, half-sour pickles and garlic bread. It’s named after something that the president of the Yankees had once eaten in the Catskills.

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Unfortunately the “slow cooked” pork belly was a bit too chewy. I attribute that to fat content that was not cooked long enough at low temperatures to get good and soft. Also the glaze on it tasted a bit bitter and burnt. Bummer.

The fries that came with it, however, were excellent. They’re called “Italian fries” because they’re tossed with herbs and parmesan cheese, I suspect. Nicely cooked and crisp, golden brown.

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The meatballs were great, and I’m a stickler for these fucks. Nothing beats mom’s meatballs. Since these came off as the soft, long-cooked stewed kind, I did find it odd that the center looked medium rare. That had me concerned about whether they used veal or pork in the mix. In any case, no tummy aches from raw meat, and the flavors were great – even the red sauce. It was light and flavorful. Still though: the best way to make a meatball is to fry them in a pan first, get a crispy coating on the outside that locks in the juices, and then slow cook in the sauce on low for a while.

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The star of the meal for my wife (for me it was the meatballs) was the fried calamari with shishito peppers. They had a great crispy crust, a good ratio of rings to tentacles, and the peppers offered a great pop of flavor to mix things up.

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All in the bill came to $85 with tax and tip, which also included a beer and a glass of wine. A bit pricey, but at least three of the four items we ate were tasty.

PARM
235 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10023

Sweet & Spicy Bacon Candy

This one is pretty simple, and it’s something my wife and I make on occasion as a snack for holiday meals.

Get a pack of pre-cooked bacon and sprinkle some brown sugar, cayenne pepper and chocolate powder all over the slices. Bake in the oven to crisp up the bacon and to melt the chocolate and sugar. EAT!

You CAN make the bacon from scratch and skip the pre-cooked aspect, but I like shortcuts. You can find some very good pre-cooked bacon out there these days.

Sarabeth’s

We visited the Key West location of this joint for brunch and liked it a lot. I had a poached salmon cobb salad with a side of duck bacon.

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The salad was on point – salmon was perfectly cooked, and all the components came together nicely. The duck bacon tasted a lot like turkey bacon, and it had a similar texture as well.

The Pines

Last month when I was at Meatopia I had the pleasure of meeting John Poiarkoff, the genius chef behind the wheels of steel at The Pines in Brooklyn.

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In our inevitable conversation about meat and steak, I discovered that his carnivorous endeavors at the restaurant were not only out of the ordinary and interesting, but exemplified that rare love of beef possessed only by a true connoisseur.

For example, he explained how the blade steak (aka Denver cut, part of the chuck) on the menu was prepared sous vide style. It bathes for several hours in a sealed bag, allowing the tentacle-like marbling to render down, making the steak super tender before it gets seared off in a pan for a nice outer crisp.

He also mentioned that he had some rib eyes in an outdoor walk-in that he converted into a dry-aging room. When he said how long they were in there, 106 days, I nearly lost my shit. I kindly asked him again. “How long did you say?” 106 days!

He went on to say that they would soon be breaking the rack down into portioned cuts and serving them as special menu items. Needless to say, I was all over it. I made sure to follow The Pines on Instagram and to keep my eye out for any news about that steak. Sure enough, just a few weeks later I saw the post announcing that they were going to be serving those rib eyes. The very next day my wife and I headed over.

To my excitement, the menu was chock full of delicious looking meat goodies. We sipped on a pair of nice cocktails while we wrestled with what to order.

On the left is The Pines, a rye drink with douglas fir (burnt/smoked pine needles for a really nice woodsy, aromatic nose) and yuzu; on the right is the Air & Sea, a gin drink with dulse, lemon and violet.

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We ended up going for three entrees instead of the traditional apps, sides and entrees routine. But before our first item came out, John sent over an order of duck rillettes. This is aged duck served terrine style with a pastrami sandwich theme: dill sauce (it tasted like pickles), a cabbage kraut, mustard and crunchy puffed rye grains.

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This inventive dish threw us for a tasty loop, and it set the tone for what was one of the most fun, innovative and delicious meals we’ve had in a long time.

John paired the duck with this really smooth, clean sake:

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Oh and there was this nice little amuse of carrot soup/puree with sage oil. It had a spicy and smoky kick to it.

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Our first entree was pork jowl. If you’ve never had this, it is essentially bacon from the face of a pig. It’s cured, smoked cheek meat. If you know anything about the cheek meat of an animal, you know that it is some of the most tender and sought after bits of goodness you can find. This tasted like really awesome smoked bacon. It was savory yet slightly sweet, and sat on a pumpkin and cabbage pancake that was somewhat reminiscent of corn bread.

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I could very happily eat that shit every morning for breakfast, though I may be tempted to throw a fried egg on top – you know – because breakfast is the perfect time to eat like a savage barbarian. Anyway this dish wasn’t heavy or greasy like you might expect from bacon. The curing and smoking helps in that respect.

Our first steak dish came out next. After hearing about that blade steak, I couldn’t pass it up.

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John mixed the normal blade steak plate up a bit and served it with some roasted broccoli, braised oxtail and cheesy potato puree.

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As you can see, there’s even a bit of shaved horseradish over the top to punch up the salt and tie the meat in with the potato. Really nice.

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This steak is incredibly good. John has taken a lesser known, less desirable and rarely featured cut and showcased it in a way that will have you searching for it in every restaurant. It’s easily 10/10 for flavor. It was so juicy and tender inside. Perfectly cooked, as you can see, and the sear on the outside locked in all that flavor. It was super crispy on the outside without any part of the inside getting cooked beyond medium rare. Just awesome!

John paired this with a unique and unexpected rose, which had some tartness to it. The cool thing about The Pines is that, if you’re interested, you can learn a lot about the food you’re eating and the stuff you’re drinking. John gets to know all the people who provide his source material. The vintner of this wine, for example, or the farmers and ranchers who provide the meat and produce. He gets to know their stories, and he shares it with diners for a more rich, engaging experience. I dig and appreciate that, and it’s exactly what I was talking about on here recently – that I want to see more of it.

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I should probably mention here that The Pines sources all of its beef from Happy Valley Meat Co., which is based out of Central PA. Both John and his sous chef Neel Patil (the creative force behind the duck rillettes dish, featured above) are extremely modest in that they attribute so much credit for the success of their menu to those farmers. While much credit is indeed deserved by the farmers, it is very easy to fuck up good meat if you don’t know what you’re doing. John and Neel clearly deserve as much credit as the farmers, because they knocked the beef dishes out of the park!

So now comes the big boy – the 106-day, dry-aged rib eye. John explained that the process for these is as follows: First it hits a hot grill for a little smoke and sear, and those lovely grill marks. Then it gets a nice warm sous vide bath. Last, it hits a hot pan to lock in all the juices and get a crispy sear. Thrice cooked rib eye! Here’s a shot of John holding our cut before it hits the pan:

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And here it is after the pan, resting, but before serving. Just look at that gorgeous sear!!!

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While we waited for it to be sliced and plated, John rolled out another pairing for us.

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This wine was truly incredible. He poured us a taste from two different bottles: one that was just opened 30 minutes prior, an another that was already opened for two days.

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The difference was astounding. The freshly opened wine was really nice and flavorful, full bodied and robust without being overpowering. It had a nice round, smooth finish. The wine that was opened for two days had all the same characteristics, but the after taste was of dry aged beef or truffled charcuterie. It was incredible! I kept going at it. It was like having a delicious meat snack with each sip, and it reminded me of the awesome Trufa Seca sausage I had with my latest Carnivore Club box. It paired perfectly with the steak.

Anyway then the masterpiece came out:

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It was plated with grilled Japanese mushrooms, bone marrow, potatoes that were pretty much confit style, and this awesome kimchi cabbage that was finished with rendered beef fat:

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This right here is the best steak I’ve ever eaten at a non-steakhouse, and I can tell you it seriously rivals the best steakhouses as well – it may even be better than all of them.

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I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how incredible this thing was, and I don’t know if it can really compare to anything I’ve had at a steakhouse other than the long bone wagyu rib eye at Del Frisco’s. This thing is really in that kind of league. And look at how perfectly executed this thing is:

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It was so tender and flavorful. Every bite was a “wow,” and the cap was fucking INSANE! I’ve never had anything like it before. I was expecting a lot of game and funk with this meat, but it was just the right subtle amount of “blue cheese” flavor. It came out most when I smeared some marrow onto the slices of eye meat. And the fat around the cap was even softer and more delicious than the marrow.

I don’t know how we did it, but we managed to fit dessert into our guts as well. Probably because what we saw on the menu was new and unique. We had to try something.

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We went back and forth between two and ultimately left it in John’s hands. He came out with both; the chocolate cake, and the miso butterscotch pudding.

The chocolate cake was mildly sweet because it was expertly cut by the cashew and sage ice cream. The pomegranate balanced the whole thing with a nice acidic and tart zing.

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The miso butterscotch pudding is definitely something for the more adventurous dessert person. I seemed to focus my attention more on the celery ice cream than the pudding at first, but that pudding was so freaking good. The ice cream was like a palette cleanser, and the pudding was creamy and velvety – almost like a liquified peanut butter in texture – extremely innovative.

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With dessert, we sipped on a trio of amaro selections, as well as a bitter lemon soda digestif that was made in house. Of these, our favorite was the Brovo #1 (center). It had a spicy cinnamon flavor that was easy to drink. And, as is true with the other stuff above, you can learn all about the people who make these spirits as you dine, because John and his staff are happy to share that information with you if you’re interested, like we were.

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Want to hear something really amazing? This is the kitchen:

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So small, yet so powerful. It is run like a well-oiled machine by incredibly skilled mechanics, pumping out what is absolutely some the finest food in NYC.

Please do yourselves a favor and go here. They may even give you a quick tour of the aging room out back if you ask nicely. Take a look at the ducks and steaks aging away! I think those ducks are at two weeks, and the steak is something like 86 days.

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I went back with a crew of food bloggers and instagrammers for a nice meal around the holidays.

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Here’s a photogasm of everything we ate, which included a duo of rib eyes – one aged for 35 days and another aged for over 80 days.

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Molasses gingerbread cookies stuffed with fois gras and pistachios:

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Kale salad with toasted barley:

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Grilled radicchio salad:

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Roasted broccoli with shaved horseradish:

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Fettuccine with mussels and chilies in a Parmesan cream sauce:

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Presentation of beef!!!

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Post slicing:

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Gnawing on the bone is always fun:

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Dessert 1: bread pudding.

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Dessert 2: herbaceous chocolate ganache.

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We even drank some Japanese whisky from a bone marrow slide!

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Chef John even got in on the action. Marrow luges rule!!!

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THE PINES
284 3rd Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Slappy Cakes

Slappy Cakes 

This place is a chain that lets you cook your own pancakes at the table on a skillet.

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You order your batter – we chose lemon poppy, their seasonal batter – and then you start making shit.

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Some people get very creative. Check out this design!

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We also tried a funky item – chicken fried bacon. Thick cut bacon that has been battered and deep fried like chicken. What could go wrong? Well, it was a bit heavy. I’m not used to taking on breakfast too often anymore – I usually skip – so this was a bit much for me. I was full until dinner.

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I should also mention the cool drinks we had here. These were non-alcoholic, though they do offer alcohol drinks here as well. Really good lemon and fizz type drinks. All very fresh.

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Cow Pig Bun

Cow Pig Bun

What a fucking weird location for a reataurant. I can understand the brewery being there, as this area is an office park or business park. I suppose people hit this joint for lunch while they’re at work nearby.

The place is like something out of Williamsburg Brooklyn. The decor is corrugated metal, reclaimed wood, filament bulb lighting and industrial meat facility chic.

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The food is great. It’s a small menu, essentially a burger joint with fancy apps and lots of different whiskey and bourbon to sample.

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We tried a flight of flavored whiskey – one was just a blend, then coconut, chocolate macadamia nut, and coffee flavored whiskeys followed. Macadamia nut was my favorite. Sweet and strong.

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We also sampled some of their mixology style cocktails. My wife had an awesome tequila and pho broth based drink, called “Cannibalistic,” and I had a pineapple, lime  and Maker’s called “Butcher Town.” Good shit.

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I ordered the bacon jam burger. This was a potent and powerful burger. The blue cheese didn’t overpower the meat, nor did the bacon, but altogether it was super heavy. I liked it, but I could only put down half (I ate the rest a few days later).

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My wife had a poorly worded sandwich that was called banh mi, but was really more like a pulled pork sandwich. It had pork belly, pulled pork and really nice fois gras butter, but none of the pickled veggies, fish sauce or fresh leafy cilantro that you usually associate with the banh mi flavor profile. In short, it was still good, but not banh mi.

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Along with the drinks, I think the best part of this place is the pork rind chicharones that come with each entree instead of French fries. These morsels were real pig skin fried up to warm, golden, crispy goodness. Amazing.

Maui, Hawaii

Hawaii turned out to be a pretty great gustatory adventure as well as an adventure in the traditional sense. I’ve outlined this post as a sort of breakdown of what we did each day on the trip, including, of course, what we ate. Late on I will break out each restaurant/meal into their own reviews.

Saturday

My wife and I landed on Maui in the early evening on a Saturday. My sister, her husband and her three kids met us at the airport. They go every year for a month during the summer, because my sister is a teacher and has the full summer off from work. She actually used to teach on Maui, hence the yearly visits.

Anyway, my wife and I were promptly lei’d at the airport (insert played-out, sexual Hawaii jokes here), and we were on our way to Kihei for the first few days of our trip.

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We were starving after 10 hours of flight time.

Meal 1: Da Kitchen

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I had a “Big Braddah” combo plate that consisted of imu pit kalua pork and teriyaki chicken. These meats were served on a bed of rice that was seasoned with shoyu/soy sauce, and served with a side of “potato-mac,” which is macaroni salad mixed with potato salad. Pretty brilliant, and it seemed to be an island staple side dish of sorts, as I ended up seeing it all over the place.

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Everything was good. The chicken was really tender, juicy and flavorful. The pork was awesome too. It wasn’t drenched in sauce like I expected, and it wasn’t dry at all.

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My wife ate what I consider to be Hawaii’s signature fast casual dish: Loco Moco. Essentially this is a chopped steak, or a large-sized, seasoned hamburger, on a bed of rice and topped with gravy, onions, an egg, sesame seeds and other tasty things, depending on the particular restaurant. This, too, was served with potato-mac. This was the better meal of the two here, simply because… well, burger + egg + gravy, I guess. It packed a ton of flavor and was a really generous portion.

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I ended up eating half of my wife’s dinner as well as my own. This joint is fast casual, and fair-priced. You order your food and eat at tables like any fast food joint. I was impressed with the quality given the fact that five people ate dinner for a total of $65.

I even tried a bite of my sister’s chow funn (for some reason they use two n’s in Hawaii). This was pretty good too. Big serving size, good, thick noodles too.

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After a gut-stretching meal like that, we slept like babies…

Sunday

…But we were up at 3am for our first sight-seeing outing.

Activity 1: Haleakala

Essentially you wake up psychotically early so you can watch the sun rise up over the crater in the mountains on the east side of the island. It was fucking beautiful. And at about 10,000ft up, the air is a sharp, contrasting 45 degrees Fahrenheit – about half what it is down on the shores at midday.

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Meal 2: Kula Lodge

By 7am we were at Kula Lodge for a nice warming meal before heading the rest of the way down the mountain. This joint actually had a fireplace going, and the well-manicured grounds boast trees, plants and shrubs that would easily qualify this spot as an arboretum. There was even an incredible outdoor cooking station that made me insanely fucking jealous.

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Breakfast was pretty simple but well executed. I had the “Haleakala Mountain of a Meal,” which was two eggs over easy, two pancakes and Portuguese sausage. Since I’m a fat guy deep down, I also added a side of corned beef hash browns. This shit hit the spot nicely. The hash was some of the greatest I’ve ever had. It contained large, juicy chunks of corned beef brisket with all the signature crispy fried bits that you expect from good hash. This was my first time eating Portuguese sausage – awesome. Slightly spicy, a little sweet, and tons of snappy flavor. One thing I particularly enjoyed about this place was the fresh coconut syrup. Fucking awesome on the pancakes and I don’t think I can ever eat them again without the shit. It’s more watery than regular maple syrup, but it has a nice mild, not-too-sweet coconut kick. Lovely.

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My wife had the French toast, which was massive and topped with loads of toasted macadamia nuts for good measure. Excellent cinnamon and nutmeg flavoring that warmed us after that chilly Haleakala mountain expedition. I also got to eat half of this as well. Haha!

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To make the meal even better, we were graced by an awesome full-arc rainbow over the scenic grounds, which was visible in all its glory right from our table, out the big lodge windows.

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Activity 2: Searching for Doughnuts, Finding Wildlife Instead

We drove through the small town of Makawao and the hippy town of Paia, hunting for malasadas (Hawaiian fried doughnuts) in Makawao. Unfortunately the T Komoda Bakery there was closed, and seemingly for good since we tried back again later in the week and it was still closed. We did spot some free range chicken though, just wandering the streets of town:

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We took in the view from Mama’s Fish House but never did end up eating there. I’ve heard great things, so maybe next visit. But the nearby Ho’okipa Beach provided us with a nice view of some surfers…

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…and incredible wildlife: a seal and a sea turtle, just hanging on the beach like lazy fucks:

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Oh, so sorry the haole woke you up, brah! What a life. Oh shit. I almost forgot… There was also a walrus there too, basking in the sun:

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Jerkworthy.

With that, we headed back to our hotel in Kihei, cleaned up a bit, rested, and banged out some shave ice at S&Q’s.

Shave Ice: S&Q’s, Kihei

I had pineapple and coconut with a topping of hao pia (coconut cream). Refreshing, smooth and light. This place is a little shack type joint that serves the ice in styrofoam cups instead of the traditional flower looking cone cup thing.

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Activity 3: Drinking on the Beach

We relaxed for a bit on Kamaole Beach III with some local brews from the Maui Brewing Co. and other local breweries. All awesome. Mana Wheat and Coconut Porter are officially two of my favorite beers now.

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After catching a buzz on the beach and sampling some of my brother-in-law’s Ocean brand vodka (local brand) and Maui rum, we walked over to a BBQ joint for dinner.

Meal 3: Fat Daddy’s Smokehouse

Christian, the owner and our waiter, was an awesome host to us, and ended up giving tons of toys to my nieces, ages six and three, who have somehow managed to become vegetarians. I’ll have to fix that, eventually.

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We ordered a big plate of shit, as you can see below. Texas links, burnt ends, BBQ chicken, pulled pork, brisket, and ribs. We also did some mac and cheese as well as jalapeño hush puppies.

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As a matter of fact we did NOT order the chicken. It was given to us by mistake, but Christian left it for us free of charge. Sweet!

Anyway the links were spicy and smoky. The ribs were tender and correctly smoked – not braised – and had a delicious BBQ bark on them. The brisket was tender as well. All too often brisket comes to me dry and devoid of flavor these days, but that wasn’t the case here. And the pulled pork was moist, not drowned in sauce, and had a great smoky flavor that wasn’t overpowering.

The only down for me was the order of hush puppies. My other family members liked them, but to me they were a little grainy from the cornmeal and not seasoned enough with salt after coming out of the fryer. I also expected more heat from the jalapeños.

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Otherwise this meal was amazing. I even recommended Fat Daddy’s to another pair of haoles who were looking for a dinner recommendation. An extra bonus is the fact that they use spice rub and habanero in their Bloody Mary drinks. YES!

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Monday

Activity 4: Secret Beach, Hoapili Trail, Big Beach, Little Beach

The next day we started with a visit to “Secret Beach,” a beautiful little spot that you might never see if you don’t know where it is.

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Then we followed a nice beach and woods trail out to the razor sharp, rocky and lava-cragged shoreline of Maui’s east coast, where King Kamehameha battled a bunch of bastards way back when. This is known as the Hoapili Trail and the Cattle Road or King’s Road.

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Then we stopped by Big Beach and Little Beach on the way back to Kihei. Big Beach gets its name for its size; it is big and wide. Lots of sand. It’s also walled in by a huge rocky cliff. Pretty neat.

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You climb up that cliff in a small tight crevasse-like spot in order to get to Little Beach, which happens to be a nude beach.

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I didn’t take pics of the old naked weirdos this time.

Meal 4: Cafe O’Lei

Then it was time for lunch at Cafe O’Lei. This joint is nice inside. It’s on the second floor of a strip mall type group of storefronts right near S&Q’s. There’s a big bar in the center of the restaurant, and some interesting paintings by local artists on the walls:

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Here, I really wanted to try either the prime rib or the roast pork entrees, but they are only offered at dinner time. Instead, I had my first official burger of the trip. It was cooked almost correctly – slightly over medium – but the large helping of ooey-gooey cheddar cheese really took this burger up a notch.

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My wife and I shared a pair of crab cakes. These were sweet, using snow crab meat, fruit and avocado in the preparation. Very nice. Meaty and crispy.

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My wife had the Mahi Mahi fish and chips, which were expertly batter-fried to a light, golden crisp. The fries here were top notch, by the way. Really nicely done.

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Activity 5: Brewery

We rested and digested a bit, before heading to the Maui Brewing Company brewery. There I got to sample six more beers:

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The best was the hot blonde; a light amber colored beer with a spicy habanero kick at the finish. Awesome.

Afterwards we walked across to our dinner spot.

Meal 5: Cow Pig Bun

What a fucking weird location for a reataurant. I can understand the brewery being there, as this area is an office park or business park. I suppose people hit this joint for lunch while they’re at work nearby.

The place is like something out of Williamsburg Brooklyn. The decor is corrugated metal, reclaimed wood, filament bulb lighting and industrial meat facility chic.

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The food is great. It’s a small menu, essentially a burger joint with fancy apps and lots of different whiskey and bourbon to sample.

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We tried a flight of flavored whiskey – one was just a blend, then coconut, chocolate macadamia nut, and coffee flavored whiskeys followed. Macadamia nut was my favorite. Sweet and strong.

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We also sampled some of their mixology style cocktails. My wife had an awesome tequila and pho broth based drink, called “Cannibalistic,” and I had a pineapple, lime  and Maker’s called “Butcher Town.” Good shit.

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I ordered the bacon jam burger. This was a potent and powerful burger. The blue cheese didn’t overpower the meat, nor did the bacon, but altogether it was super heavy. I liked it, but I could only put down half (I ate the rest a few days later).

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My wife had a poorly worded sandwich that was called banh mi, but was really more like a pulled pork sandwich. It had pork belly, pulled pork and really nice fois gras butter, but none of the pickled veggies, fish sauce or fresh leafy cilantro that you usually associate with the banh mi flavor profile. In short, it was still good, but not banh mi.

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Along with the drinks, I think the best part of this place is the pork rind chicharones that come with each entree instead of French fries. These morsels were real pig skin fried up to warm, golden, crispy goodness. Amazing.

Tuesday

Meal 6: Zippy’s

My wife and I squeezed in a quick breakfast at Zippy’s before the long and treacherous drive to Hana.

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I had saimin, which is similar to ramen and Chinese soups. It consists of broth, wavy egg noodles, fish cake slices, some pork meat and veggies. The flavor profile was decidedly Chinese but the presentation was Japanese, if that makes sense. I’d say it was a chicken based shio/salt broth, like you’d expect in wanton soup. Pretty good!

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My wife had a breakfast bento box that came with rice, scrambled egg, Portuguese sausage and corned beef hash. Pretty basic. I have to say that the sausage and corned beef here were not as amazing as the sausage at Kula Lodge.

Activity 6: Road to Hana

The drive to Hana was actually pretty fun. I was expecting death or dismemberment from the way it was described by nearly everyone I know who had been there. Parts are crazy and tight, and bumpy in the unpaved spots, but you’re going to be safe if you’re a moderately good driver.

We snacked on some banana bread from the “Halfway to Hana” shack along the way, and got down on a bag of spicy Vietnamese pork rinds along with our leftover Cow Pig Bun pork rinds.

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Afterward we ate a packed lunch of deli sandwiches that my sister scored from the grocery store before we shoved off in the morning.

Along the way on this first day of driving, we saw a nice bamboo forest, some waterfalls, crazy Hawaiian locals who were cliff diving from the road, Wainapanapa (black sand beach), and a gorgeous red sand beach at Ka’uiki Head:

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After a long, hot, sweaty and muddy day, we reached Hana just in time for dinner.

Meal 7: Hana Ranch Restaurant

I like to call this meal “Mai Tais, Fries and Flies.” The setting is beautiful. The joint is up on a hill and you can see out over the Pacific from way the fuck up high on the cliff where Hana is situated.

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But the flies are aggressive here. They swarm on your drinks and food. It was nearly unbearable.

I sucked down my mai tai fast to avoid them, and quickly ordered a second drink that I drank just as fast.

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We started with garlic herb fries, nori sesame seed fries and fried calamari. All pretty good, though I wasn’t quite sold on the Japanese style French fries (furikake). The calamari was more tentacle than ring, which I was a little bummed about, but they were at least tasty.

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I had Kalbi short ribs – ribs cut cross-section style, thin, and grilled with Korean BBQ sauce. These were pretty good and tasted just as expected.

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My wife had some sub par, stringy ahi poke (raw tuna with dressing and spices – like a ceviche).

My feeling is that this town is in need of a good bar or another restaurant to foster competition. Something with a bold and brazen use of air conditioning, too. It’s as hot as Dante’s balls after his stroll through Hades up there. Humid as locker room ass crack too. It is beautiful though.

Activity 7: Mead & Cigars

After dinner we sampled some Nani Moon mead and local cigars from Kauai to get a good buzz before what would likely be an uncomfortable sleep with no AC. Luckily I zonked out pretty quickly, but not before thoroughly enjoying the mead. I became aware of this company when their Instagram account liked and commented on a few of my mead-making photos. I looked into their products and flavors, and decided that we should give it a try. A good choice!

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Wednesday

Here’s what sunrise looked like from the yard of the Tutu’s house that we rented for the night:

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Meal 8: Hasegawa General Store

We started the next day of driving and hiking with the local breakfast of champions from the Hasegawa General Store – spam musubi.

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This was my first time eating spam. Admittedly it was pretty fucking good. It’s served crispy / browned on hot rice with sesame seeds, Japanese seasonings, and wrapped in nori. It tasted like a good sausage mixed with spiced ham to me. I’m sold.

Activity 8: Second Half of Hana Trip

I missed my opportunity to try “Huli Huli Chicken.” Apparently this is sold all over the Hana area from little shacks and grillers. Not only did I not get to taste it, but I didn’t get any pics of it on the grill or any pics of the awesome hand-painted signs beckoning you to try some along the roadside. By time I decided that I wanted it, we had passed the last sign for it. I kept looking for it again, all day. Likely it was too early for the food to be ready anyway, crack of dawn and all, but I should have stopped for a pic of that last sign at least… oh well. I did get some shots of other interesting local signs though:

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Other beautiful sights that day included some more waterfalls, wildlife, Oheo Gulch, a giant cross in the distance on a mountain, a giant fucking spider and St. Joseph’s church.

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Activity 9: Ulupalakua Vineyard

Maui Wine / The Tedeshi Winery makes some nice tasting pineapple wines, both bubbly, and flat, dry and sweet. We had a chance to sample some as we got to the end of the Hana road trip.

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Meal 9: Bully’s Burgers

This is pure roadside awesomeness. This little shack is an outpost for Triple L ranch, which develops 100% all natural grass fed beef.

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They use a special flavoring, perhaps teriyaki, worked into the grind that gives this shit a really awesome uniqueness. My second burger of the trip was a hit. It may look overcooked, but the cheese and flavor was enough to make it work.

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Check out my wife’s “grilled cheeseburger” as well. This was so gooey, buttery and toasty!

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Despite just eating, we ended up stopping for some more food on the way back to our hotel in Lahaina.

Meal 10: Ba Le and L&L Drive Inn

These were two kiosks at the Cannery Mall food court.

L&L Drive Inn

L&L Hawaiian BBQ is a fast food type restaurant that has locations all over the place. There even used to be a location down by NYC’s South Street Seaport, but that has since closed. Anyway, this place has a take on the ramen burger, called the saimin burger, which I tried as burger #3 of the trip.

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It was dry as fuck and hot as fuck, but it was a fun item to try. No cheese, just lettuce and a soy-BBQ type sauce drizzles on. I’d pass on this item unless you really need to try it.

Ba Le

This is fast casual Vietnamese food, which I think needs more of a presence throughout the country. Vietnamese food is generally pretty healthy and fresh, and the staple items like summer rolls, pho and banh mi are so fucking delicious. I already have a concept in mind for a chain that I think would kill… Anyway, we sampled the pho and a classic banh mi. The flavors were spot on, correct to how these items should taste.

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The price for the pho was a little higher than normal, at around $9, but the portion size was big.

My wife and I caught the sunset at the resort, and relaxed for a bit before dinner.

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Meal 11: Lulu’s Lahaina Surf Club & Grill

Since I was bummed about missing out on the “Huli Huli Chicken” in Hana, my wife was googling places that might have it on their menus. She found this joint, and of course I ordered it.

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It was roasted chicken in garlic wine sauce like you might have with steamed clams. I surmised that this couldn’t be right according to pics online.

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The chicken tasted fine, but color of the Huli Huli sauces sold in stores, and the pics of dark-colored chicken online all point to this being NOT the real deal.

My wife tried the ribs here, which were pretty good. They were braised style, fall off the bone. Very tender and juicy.

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The malasadas were legit here, and were filled with a coconut custard cream of sorts. Super soft and flavorful. Malasada’s, incase you need the info again, are Hawaiian doughnuts.

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Overall this place had the feel of a Friday’s or something, but more local to Hawaii. They even had some pool tables and a projection screen n back, so probably much cooler than a place like Fridays.

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Thursday

Activity 10: Pool & Beach

This day was all about lounging by the pool and beach at the resort, both before lunch and after lunch/before dinner.

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Meal 12: Star Noodle

Best meal of the trip goes to Star Noodle. This place has been on the radar for a while, and is well-known among haoles as the place to eat near Lahaina.

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Great drinks at the bar, by the way…

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We had a lot of food, so get ready… We started with bacon and egg appetizer, which is very reminiscent of sizzling pork sisig dishes in Filipino cuisine. This shit was so fucking delicious. It had large, quality chunks of thick bacon, onions, tomatoes and a runny egg, served in a hot cast iron skillet.

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We also shared an order of “Lahaina Fried Soup,” which essentially was a dry noodle dish made with super thick chow funn noodles (again, two n’s on the chow fun in Hawaii for some reason).

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The flavors were simple – ground pork and bean sprouts. But we started adding some of the bacon in with the noodles and it was fucking amazing. If I am ever back here, I will order the bacon and egg appetizer and ask them to mix it with the Fried Lahaina Soup.

Next was the Hapa Ramen. Hapa typically refers to a person who is partially asian, so this is meant to be a partially asian or partially Japanese ramen dish?

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Whatever the case, it was excellent. The pork broth was thick and robust, with some black garlic oil mayu on top for punch. It had sweetness from the fish cake slices and bamboo shoots, savoriness from the touch of miso, and fatness from the poached egg. The noodles were cooked just right.

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Activity 11: Lahaina Town

We walked around Lahaina, an old whaling village, before dinner. One thing we couldn’t miss was the gigantic banyan tree that takes up nearly half the town:

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Meal 13: Cheeseburger in Paradise

Tourist trap? I don’t care. The food and atmosphere were awesome here. You’re right on the fucking pacific.

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In fact when waves roll in hard sometimes you can get sprayed if you’re at a table on the first floor in the back by the windows. There’s a little tiki bar on the second floor, along with a Jimmy Buffet-esque singer/guitarist playing tunes.

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I ordered the classic cheeseburger as my 4th burger of the trip, which came with pepperjack, lettuce, tomato, onion and special sauce on a salt and pepper bun. Really nice looking burger.

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It was cooked perfectly at medium, super juicy and good cheese coverage. The soft bun added a lot of flavor with the seasoning on top. I devoured this thing!

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Drinks were fun here too. I had a Maui lemonade of some sort, which was gin or rum, lemon, soda, and thyme, if I recall correctly.

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We walked across the street for dessert:

Shave Ice: Ululani’s, Lahaina

This shave ice chain is often called the best on Maui. This colorful little kiosk in Lahaina has a great atmosphere, in a cobblestone alley with lots of umbrella’d seating nearby, accommodating customers for the other food places in the alley as well. This joint uses the flower-looking plastic containers instead of the styrofoam. I think I like these better, because they are more iconic, and the shape allows for melted ice to run back into the cup-like base.

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Friday

Friday, again, was mostly all about relaxing in the sun. Bow now we had a shitload of leftovers too, so we ate all of that for lunch. For dinner, we went back into Lahaina.

Meal 14: Koa’s Seaside Grill

Dinner at Koa’s was really insane, in terms of the view.

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We were seated in the corner overlooking that ocean just before sunset. Check out some of these pics I grabbed as the sun was going down throughout our meal:

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The meal itself was pretty good too. We started by sharing a hearts of palm salad. I was somewhat expecting a non-leafy greens salad, and something more along the lines of just hearts of palm, some kind of vinegar dressing with onions and cucumbers and shit. But it was green, as one might expect upon hearing the word “salad.” It was good. It had a nice citrus-based dressing, and all the shit was fresh and bright.

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I had the coconut curry grilled mahi maui. It was a bit is mall, but it tasted really nice, and the fish had a good crisp to the texture. Unfortunately it was a slight bit dry.

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My wife got the winning dish here: kind crab legs and steak.

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The meat was decent – sirloin. I’ve had better. Probably not on par with the aged, prime meats I am used to, but it certainly gained traction with the absolutely delicious king crab legs. Awesome.

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Service here was excellent, and the atmosphere makes all the difference in terms of your dining experience. The host, John offered to take pics of guests near our table since it had the best view in the house. Here my favorite shot that he took of us:

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We skipped dessert in order to try something a little different:

Dole Whip at Lappert’s Ice Cream

This Dole Whip business is dairy free, gluten free and cholesterol free.

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Essentially it is pineapple that has been whipped into some sort of magical soft serve ice cream swirl. Apparently they also have it in other locations, like Disney World or something.

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It was good! Soft, tasty, fresh. It would be very easy to put down gallons of this shit.

Saturday

We slept in a little bit on Saturday morning, and got our start on the day shortly before lunch.

Activity 12: Shopping

We hit a few local grocery stores and picked up some fantastic looking pork rinds and chicken skin chicharones. Look at the quality! These are dense, crispy and really flavorful.

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Also scored some Hawaiian shirts for me, and a decorative glass light-up jellyfish for my wife. And of course, when we drove by an old cemetery along the Pacific, I had to snap a few photos:

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This person still gets lei’d in death:

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Meal 15: Teddy’s Bigger Burger

This is a Shake Shack / Smash Burger type of joint here in Hawaii. You can order your patties in three different sizes: 5oz (big), 7oz (bigger) and 9oz (biggest). Then you can go double on them if you want.

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For my 5th burger of the trip, I went with a biggest (9oz) burger with American, jalapeños and all the fixings. Take a look:

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It was slightly over medium, but not by much. I liked this burger a lot. It had a good bun (though not potato, or “King’s Hawaiian” as I might have expected), great cheese coverage, and quality toppings.

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On the side we tried the tater tots, which were awesome and crispy, and the garlic fries, which were really overloaded with minced garlic.

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Our next activity was also our next meal – a luau.

Meal 16/Activity 13: Drums of the Pacific Luau

The Hyatt in Kaanapali puts on a great show via Tihati Productions. This was a double whammy for my two big hobbies, other than writing: photography and eating.

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Dinner at the luau consisted of the following menu:

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As you can see, if you look closely, it says “Huli Huli Chicken!” I was really fucking excited for this, almost as much as the imu pit pork… but my boo-hooing started again when the sign at the buffet actually said teriyaki chicken. They must have went with teriyaki instead of Huli Huli that night. Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to make it myself.

We started with a shitload of all-you-can-drink items. Blue Hawaiians, Mai Tais, Beer, Pina Coladas, etc.

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Anyway, the performers had a nice little ceremony where they unearthed the pig from the imu pit. This is called kalua pork. The pig is roasted whole in a shallow pit in the ground. The pig is wrapped in banana leaves to keep in the moisture (steamed), and flavored with Hawaiian salts and spices. Since it is cooked directly on hot lava rock and charcoal, there is a really nice smoke flavor to the pig when it’s all done.

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I don’t think, however, that the pulled pork we had from the buffet line was from the same pig that was unearthed in the ceremony. First, it was ready too quickly (most of the buffet was already set up and covered prior to our arrival as well). Second, there was no skin or hot drippy fat to be seen. Most of the meat was on the dry side, though it did have a lot of flavor.

Here’s the buffet line:

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Here’s my plate, locked and loaded:

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The ahi poke was much better here than in Hana, by the way.

Dessert was pretty nice here too. There was macadamia nut fudge brownies, macadamia nut chocolate mousse, coconut custard, bread pudding, and pineapple upside down cake. All of it was really nicely done.

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The luau show itself was really fun and entertaining. Check out some of the pics below. There was even some crazy fire knife dancing!

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Sunday

On our last full day we got an early start with some breakfast at a local joint that we kept driving by each day.

Meal 17: Slappy Cakes 

This place is a chain that lets you cook your own pancakes at the table on a skillet.

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You order your batter – we chose lemon poppy, their seasonal batter – and then you start making shit.

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Some people get very creative. Check out this design!

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We also tried a funky item – chicken fried bacon. Thick cut bacon that has been battered and deep fried like chicken. What could go wrong? Well, it was a bit heavy. I’m not used to taking on breakfast too often anymore – I usually skip – so this was a bit much for me. I was full until dinner.

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I should also mention the cool drinks we had here. These were non-alcoholic, though they do offer alcohol drinks here as well. Really good lemon and fizz type drinks. All very fresh.

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Activity 14: Lahaina Town, Revisited

This time we roamed some of the other streets nearby, found some funky trees and a prison, smoked cigars by the water, and ogled the expensive art at the Peter Lik photography gallery and the Vladimir Kush painting and sculpture galleries, among others. I encourage you to check those links out – their work is really stunning, especially in person and when lit properly with stage lighting.

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Meal 18: Lahaina Grill

Our last meal was a great one, and this joint represents probably the only real-deal fine dining establishment we went to (with Koa’s coming close behind).

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We celebrated our anniversary here in style, and had a really great waiter named Justin, who chatted with us about the all-natural grass-fed steak purveyors on Maui, and the Idaho aged beef guys with outposts in San Diego, which is where they get their meats. That naturally lead to NYC steakhouses and this blog, which he actually took the time to browse between check giving and check paying (when all the convo started).

We started with some awesome cocktails. Mine was a tequila, honey and smoked salt drink, and my wife’s was a jalapeño vodka and cinnamon syrup drink. Crazy good.

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For starters, we had the “cake walk,” which was a trio of lobster cake, crab cake, and tuna cake. All were good, but the tuna was more like a tartare than a cake. Fine by me.

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My wife had a chili relleno for her app. It was served with a blue corn crust and surrounded by a tomato sauce that tasted like homemade chili, and stuffed with cheeses, corn and all sorts of seafood goodies.

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My entree, was, of course, the largest steak on the menu. They didn’t have rib eye but they did have a decently sized boneless NY strip steak. Pretty nice for 14oz.

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I wasn’t crazy about the red wine reduction sauce, but the meat was good quality. It would hang tough in NYC, I think, though certainly not in my top 10. It was cooked perfectly to medium on a skillet – nothing fancy, just real technique:

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My wife ordered the coffee crusted rack of lamb. This was a little gamey for my liking, but it was cooked nicely and the crust had a nice flavor, though not as strong in the coffee department as I might have expected.

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We planned to skip dessert, since we wanted more Ululani’s before our trip home, but Justin brought us out a triple berry pie on the house.

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This was awesome. The berries were smooth, fresh and delicious. The pie crust was crispy and covered with granulated sugar that gave it an awesome texture.

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And then the management came by and took a nice photo of us. They even gave us a card from the staff for our anniversary.

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We ended up going back to Ululani’s for shave ice anyway. My wife had an awesome combo of coffee, chocolate and almond flavorings, with coconut cream topping. Nicely done!

Monday

Oh yeah… We flew home on Monday, but I had burger #6 at the airport. The extra long jalapeño cheeseburger from Burger King, along with some chicken fries and french fries. Fuck yeah.