Tag Archives: ny strip

Vaucluse

My wife picked up a nice Gilt City deal for this joint that gave us $200 to spend for something like $100. I had heard great things about the burger here, so I figured it was time to check it out now that there was a flash deal at play.

The cocktail menu is pricey at $18, but very nicely crafted.

We shared that burger (the “White Label Burger”) as an app. The patty is an aged beef blend; the cheese is fontina; and it’s topped with a tomato jam and dijonnaise.

They cook it nice and rare, so you don’t lose any of that aged funk to the heat. It’s a potent burger, and part of me still loves a classic roadside American burger better, but this is kinda like having a steak between a bun. Definitely nice.

And like any good French joint, it’s served with frites.

These were pretty good, but not quite on the level of Boucherie, which has now become my benchmark standard, to which all French fries must be compared.

We also tried the calamari stuffed with lobster and rice.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much lobster to this dish. In fact, I couldn’t really find any or taste any in the bites I had. In any case, the tomato sauce was nice, as was the cook on the squid.

My wife had some rabbit, truffle and cheese ravioli for her entree. This was a small portion size for $25, but they at least warned us ahead of time that it would be.

They were excellent. Each raviolo seemed to be partitioned, with one side having the rabbit, and the other side having the cheese.

Of course, I had steak.

This was served with some dressed watercress, but I quickly brushed that bullshit aside. I sliced it up so you could see the perfect cook temp on this prime NY strip steak.

This was actually a steak frites, so it came with more fries and a peppercorn au poivre on the side. Well, I asked for it on the side so I could get this intense shot of foodpourn.

Did you just bust? Because I did.

I ate every bite. It was a great little steak. I didn’t detect any aged flavor, and I assume they would have advertised that if it were the case. Not too bad at $44, but on par with the Jubilee rib eye steak frites that I had just the other day for $40. 8/10.

We shared a lemon tart with basil ice cream for dessert. This was really pretty, and tasted a bit like a key lime pie with the herbaceous basil ice cream on top. We liked this a lot.

Oh and I should mention that this place also brings out an amuse at the beginning, as well as petit fours at the end. I only snapped the amuse, which was a tiny popover style bread with a truffle cream filling. The dessert capper was a chocolate hazelnut bite.

UPDATE 8/18/18

On a second trip, I came in to promote the burger for the Altamarea Group, as well as to try some other items with a group of Instagrammers. Here’s what we had:

Escargots served on bone marrow.

Veal carpaccio.

Steak tartare.

Squid ink spaghetti.

Those rabbit epaulettes again. So good.

Wild boar strozzapreti.

The White Label burger.

Duck.

Veal chop.

Tomahawk rib eye. This was a 10/10 – absolutely perfect.

And some desserts.

VAUCLUSE
100 E 63rd St
New York, NY 10065

Atoboy

Atoboy is a new Korean fine dining joint with a new concept; you choose three dishes for a $36 tasting with a bowl of rice. The menu is set out in three sections, which are somewhat similar to an app, salad and entree breakdown. You choose one of each, but can add additional items from each section at an upcharge of $9, $12 or $15, depending on which section you’re choosing from. White rice and some kimchi (both cabbage and tomatillo varieties) comes with your meal, but they also offer a seasonal rice for $2 extra. Currently, the seasonal rice is a white rice that’s been mixed with powderized nori.

The portions are a little small, but they’re all really well executed and delicious. Since I came here with Jay from The Dishelin Guide, we sampled an extra entree item as well as a dessert in addition to our three courses each. Here’s what we had:

Eggplant with snow crab and tomato jelly. While this doesn’t look pretty or even sound particularly appetizing, it was actually pretty tasty. I’m generally not a big fan of eggplant to begin with, but I was pleasantly surprised.

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Littleneck clams with avocado cream, rice crackers and gochugaru (red chili flakes). This was pretty good. I’ve never had clams with avocado before. It was pretty interesting. The rice crackers gave the dish a nice dynamic texture.

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Next was grilled avocado with horseradish, cotija (hard cow’s milk cheese) and trout roe. I’ve never had grilled avocado before. I just assumed doing anything to a ripe avocado would result in guacamole due to the softness. Perhaps these are grilled while they’re still a little bit hard to avoid structural breakdown? In any case, this was a tasty and healthy dish.

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This next dish is highly recommended, and was one of my favorites of the night. Squid rings, stuffed with pork and shrimp, then topped with salsa verde. The squid was perfectly cooked and tender, and the stuffing gave a nice salty and fatty flavor. Plus, it was really pretty.

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Now we move on to the big winners from this dining experience; the entree selections. We started with crispy pork jowl on a bed of barley, ssamjang (spicy and sweet sauce/paste) and romaine.

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The crispy skin and under-layer of fat were delicious, and as I bit down into the meat beneath, my mouth came alive with salivation. Great dish!

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Next up was the brisket with melted foie gras, garlic and ginger. This was really hearty and delicious. The beef was super tender and can rival any top notch BBQ brisket you might find out there at a pit smoker competition (though this one was admittedly not prepared the same way with a smoker – it’s just the same cut of beef).

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Our last entree item was the strip steak. This came with a tofu skin and celery salad, and everything was lightly dressed with sesame oil.

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The steak was super tender and flavorful. They marinade the steak with kiwi to allow the enzymes to slowly tenderize the meat before it is cooked. That may be the reason why there was a healthy amount of grey banding around the edges of the meat.

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The outside could use a slightly better crust, but I imagine they need to be careful not to overcook the steak, as it isn’t very thick. This was a big success though, overall, and it tasted like wagyu. 9/10.

For dessert we tried this black raspberry cake with hazelnut and pistachio, which was garnished with fresh blueberries. This is the only dessert that’s made off-site by another pastry person. The texture was almost like mousse, and the look reminded me of Italian tri-color cookies. Very nice.

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Although expensive at $80 each after tax and tip, this was a satisfying, unique and delicious Korean fine dining experience.

ATOBOY
43 E 28th St
New York, NY 10016

Petrossian

NOTE: THIS JOINT IS NOW CLOSED (for renovations)

Occasionally you come across a meal that changes the way you view particular food items. I’m a steak man. Clearly, this is known. I’ve eaten hundreds of cuts in my endeavor to find the best that NYC has to offer. I thought I’d pretty much seen it all in the world of steak. What else could there be, aside from some aged wagyu, or something completely ridiculous and rare? But just when I was starting to get a little bored and comfortable with my favorite food, Petrossian Chef Richard Farnabe came through with a completely unique and utterly genius steak offering.

Photo from www.therestaurantfairy.com
Photo from www.therestaurantfairy.com

The cut itself is something with which we steak aficionados are familiar; a 28-day, dry-aged strip loin (NY Strip). This lean cut hails from Four Story Hill Farm in PA. But Chef Richard’s preparation is what sets it apart from the panoply of great meats in the city of this cut’s namesake; it’s cooked to a perfect medium rare all the way through, and topped with bone marrow and caviar.

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Caviar? Why would someone do that, you ask? Well, having eaten it, I have a hypothesis: The natural brine and salt content in the caviar compliments the aged taste of the meat in a tremendous way. Aged beef has a certain flavor profile to it – earthy, funky, and highly concentrated. The caviar, being naturally salty and funky in its own right, is the perfect pairing with this kind of meat. It helps bring out those aged characteristics while also providing a juicy pop and briny burst to each bite.

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And, as you might expect, the marrow adds some nice fat flavor and texture back into the lean cut of beef. It really is a brilliant conception. In my opinion this is probably one of the best strip steaks you can find in town. 10/10.

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It’s accompanied by a semi-raw, ice cold asparagus salad. This adds some acidity and fresh green flavors to the meal, deftly balancing the punch you’re getting from the steak.

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And that’s not the only beef I tried. On the appetizer menu, they offer A4 wagyu topped with grilled sturgeon.

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This comes with a pickled quail egg and some caviar as well, along with a little crispy potato cube. When eaten together (beef and fish), you are experiencing that same beautiful pairing of earth and sea, one enhancing the other. The sturgeon had a flavor that was reminiscent of a good, Japanese style grilled eel. The slightly candied or caramelized, almost sweet top coating on the sturgeon pulled out a lot of those rich beef fat flavors from the steak. Another 10/10. For the record I believe this was sliced strip loin, but since it’s A4 wagyu, I will include it in my “other cuts” section for catalog purposes.

Now that I’ve gotten the most important things out of the way, let me briefly discuss the remainder of the meal. After all, the rest was just as impressive as the meats reviewed above. Even the table bread and drinks were nice.

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Petrossian explores elements of both classic French cuisine and Russian/Eastern European cuisine, and there is a healthy presence of caviar and smoked fish in the dishes, aside from having a robust stand-alone caviar menu. The starting amuse, for example, features both French technique and Russian cuisine, along with both caviar and smoked fish.

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What exactly are you looking at here? Three items.

(1) The lollipops are smoked salmon with cream cheese foam dipped in beet foam to make a shell;

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(2) The cubes are savory caviar marshmallows;

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(3) The spheres are chocolate foie gras truffles with gold leaf.

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These concise, decadent and dynamic bites set the tone for the entire meal. Petrossian is truly one of the few great places to indulge and splurge with a high quality meal where it’s actually worth the money, and where there is no pretense, no elitism and no unnecessary vegetable worship.

The next item that came out was a terrine-like foie gras brulee with smoked sturgeon and a pomegranate Guinness drop. It came with a little bread puff but I really enjoyed this by itself.

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The Guinness drop was spun sugar and candy-like in flavor and texture, and the foie brulee was rich, creamy and deeply flavorful.

My wife’s starter was the Petrossian sampler, which contained various smoked fish items and caviar. Everything I tasted on this plate was delicious in addition to being beautifully presented.

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Her entree was a special: baby pig, which consisted of an assortment of meats from the animal, including kidney, ear, rib, and crispy skin. There was also a croquette and crispy hash made from the meat as well. I tasted a bit of everything, thankfully, because I definitely would have ordered this if the steak wasn’t on the menu.

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In particular, I really liked the kidney, which was skewered on a sprig of rosemary. That little touch of presentation/technique added a great roasted herb flavor to the meat. Absolutely outstanding. It almost reminded us of Japanese yakitori.

Our sides were sumac pomme souffle, which were like little puffed potato chips, and a bowl of sauteed wild mushrooms with herbs.

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These items went perfectly with our meat courses.

Dessert was a lot of fun as well. We had beignets with a multitude of injectable sauce bulbs, and a smoked wood ice cream chocolate ball, which was covered in chocolate sauce at table side.

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The beignets were very light and crisp, and my favorite sauce was the pistachio. The chocolate ball was rich, creamy and decadent. Really smooth and tasty.

And then these little guys came out with the check: chocolate truffles and marshmallow cubes, both plated on a bed of dark chocolate morsels.

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With Chef Richard at the helm, Petrossian has skyrocketed back into NYC’s short list of high end restaurants that discerning diners simply must experience at least once. I was extremely impressed.

PETROSSIAN
182 West 58th St
New York, NY 10019

Le Rivage

My wife picked up a Gilt City deal for Le Rivage, with which we shared a 62-day dry aged, bone-in Creekstone Farms/Pat LaFrieda New York strip steak, two sides, a bottle of wine and a dessert for about $100. Pretty great deal, especially if you can use a discount when buying the flash deal.

Anyway, Le Rivage is a cozy French joint in the theater district on 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues.

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They gave us some nice table bread with whipped butter to start:

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And the wine was an 80%  Merlot 20% Cabernet blend that was actually pretty good.

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Chef Paul Denamiel cooked our steak to a perfect medium rare.

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The long, 62-day dry aging process imparted a bit of nuttiness and funk to the flavor of the beef. This baby was masterfully prepared. It definitely can hang tough with some of the best steakhouse cuts in the city. Get your ass over here and try it, if it is still available on special. I give it a 9/10. Why not the full 10? I felt like it needed just a hint more salt, maybe just some finishing salt even, but not much.

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The steak came with two sauces, so dipping into these added some of that saltiness that I was looking for from the seasoning. The sauces were a wine reduction and a peppercorn:

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Our sides were actually very abundant. We ordered broccolini and fries, but they brought out two dishes of fries, one dish of broccolini and one dish of carrots. We had lots to bring home.

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I’m a big fan of broccolini, and I cook a mean broccolini at home quite often. I was impressed with it here. It was simply treated with seasoning, garlic and oil. The carrots were buttered and slightly sweet-glazed, and the fries were nice and crisp.

For dessert, we went with the chef’s recommendation, which was a Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookie and a sweetened, spiked milk.

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So simple, yet so tasty. After chatting with the chef for a bit, we learned that he is best friends with Pat LaFrieda, and that Jaques Torres is his godfather! That’s a serious pedigree, and it shows in Chef Paul’s abilities. He did a great job on the steak, especially.

I definitely recommend giving this place a shot, especially if you like to take advantage of Gilt City deals (not sure if this one is still available), or even just their regular three course price fix specials, which are offered daily for between $25 and $40. Very reasonable.

UPDATE – 6/30/16

I went back to Le Rivage to try Chef Denamiel’s award winning French Onion Soup Burger today. Holy fuck, people. This thing is absolutely amazing. It’s not a surprise that he won the “Judge’s Choice” award in New York City Wine & Food Festival’s 2013 “Burger Bash” with this baby, beating out the likes of burger master Chef Capon in the process.

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His patty grind is usually between 60/40 and 70/30 lean/fat, and the beef also comes from Pat LaFrieda, just like the steak I reviewed up above. He seasons the patty with salt, pepper, drawn butter and brown sugar before it hits the grill. After the first flip, he puts on a slice of a Swiss gruyere type cheese called Emmenthal, which melts around the patty to seal in the medium rare juices. This then gets placed onto a butter-toasted sandwich-sized English muffin, and then topped with cognac-reduced confit onions, and then a bechamel cheese sauce for good measure. The top bun is placed on top, and then the French flag toothpick with roasted cocktail onion and gherkin gets popped on. Viola – perfection.

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This is definitely one of my new favorite burgers; it really is unique. I walked out with a full belly, but I was still craving another one. Pretty sure I will be back again very soon, especially because the place is close to both work and home.

UPDATE 12/8/16

Burger still on point:

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Even my maniac food photographer homies agree:

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Croque Madame is stellar!

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Quiche is the best I’ve ever had in my life:

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You can even buy it frozen, to go, to fire up at home!

And the escargot is executed with perfection:

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Garlic bacon frisee salad: amazing. Tangy and delicious.

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Beef Bourguignon: hearty and soul-warming.

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Grilled Salmon:

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Flan:

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Peach Melba:

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LE RIVAGE
340 W 46th St
New York, NY 10036

Crispo

Crispo is a gorgeous Italian joint down on 14th Street near 8th Avenue. My buddy and his girlfriend have been coming here for years. I had never heard of it, but when he told me about it, I knew we had to try it out together as a group.

We started with a bunch of apps. For that reason, and because I knew we were also going to eat pasta and steak, I took it easy on the delicious and generously portioned table bread.

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First, we had a sampler app trio of speck, aged goat cheese and mozzarella rice balls. The meat and cheese came with dried fig and an apricot/fennel jam. Both the speck and the cheese were great, top quality products.

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The rice balls were addicting. You can easily catch yourself popping a bunch of these in a row without even realizing what’s going on. They were perfectly fried to a golden crisp on the outside, and the inside was both firm from the rice yet oozing with delicious melty fresh mozzarella cheese. Not heavy, salty or greasy, which is the opposite of what you sometimes get when these are done wrong.

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The next app was a nice, simple fried calamari. This also came with fried zucchini. There was a cornmeal aspect to the breading here, which made for a nice crisp crunch. That’s fried parsley on top, too.

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Our favorite app was this crispy pork belly topped with a melted gorgonzola-stuffed fig. Underneath the pork belly was crispy polenta, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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This was one of the most tasty apps I’ve had in a while. In fact, I think this could be an incredibly successful entree as well if just magnified in proportion. Seriously, I could eat this all day. The fat is cut with the acid, and the funk of the cheese takes the flavors off onto a ride that’s more wild than the fucking Great Space Coaster.

So after all of that, we were finally ready for some pasta. This place seems to be somewhat famous for two pasta dishes in particular: the Spaghetti Carbonara and the truffle ravioli. I know what you’re thinking. “Spaghetti Carbonara? I can get that crap at any halfway decent Italian joint.” But here’s the rub: most Italian joints fuck up their Carbonara with cream, making a dense, salty and overly-heavy pasta eating experience. Real Carbonara, from what I understand, doesn’t have any dairy, other than the cheese you grate over the top! The creaminess is achieved via egg yolk.

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Break the yolk, mix it around a bit, and you’re ready to rock. Just sprinkle in a green veggie and some crispy pig bits. I must say, this Carbonara was divine, and like none I’ve ever really tasted before. Not only was the pasta cooked just right, but the ingredients were well-balanced, and nothing was too salty. A big problem I usually have with Carbonara is sweating like a pig while I eat, because of all the FFFFFFFFFFUCKING salt that’s usually in it…

The hand made truffle ravioli were nice and al-dente, served in a simple brown butter type sauce, and the portion was large for a very reasonable price. I was expecting like six somewhat large ravioli in the bowl, not a dozen.

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Now to the meat. My wife and I shared the New York Strip steak, which was simply grilled and then topped with a mound of red wine reduced onions.

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The steak was cooked perfectly to medium rare.

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While I wasn’t a huge fan of the onions (I’m a purist), I did find myself going into them every so often out of an enjoyed curiosity. The meat itself was nice, tender and flavorful. 8/10.

The steak also came with parmesan herb fries. These were really crispy, and the parmesan acts as a cheese-funk seasoning that replaces the standard salt. Very nice.

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Last, we had some creme brûlée, pot de creme and pistachio gelato. I didn’t snap the gelato pic for some reason, but I did pull the trigger on the cremes (the two come in one dessert order – bonus).

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I was blown away by the quality of the food here, the service, the ambiance and decor, and the portion sizes. I’m ashamed that this place never made it onto my radar in all its years in operation. But not just that: the prices are really fair. All of the food described here, plus about two or three alcoholic drinks per person (wine, cocktails, beer, after dinner drinks), plus a round of coffee for everyone with dessert, only came to $105 per person, with tax and tip included (we had four people at the table total). I was shocked.

Needless to say, I’ll definitely be back here, because there is a lot of shit on the menu that I want to try (like the pork shank).

CRISPO
240 W 14th St
New York, NY 10011

Meat 201

Meat 201 is an advanced examination of the four major cuts of beef that you’re likely to see at a steakhouse. The four major cuts are Filet Mignon, Strip Steak, Porterhouse and Rib Eye. For more general information about these cuts, and for information about other cuts of beef, please see my MEAT 101 and MEAT 102 posts.

1. Porterhouse

Etymology: There is some difference of opinion on the origin of the word “Porterhouse,” with several restaurants and cities claiming to have created the name. For example, Martin Morrison served large T-bones in his Pearl Street (Manhattan) “Porter House” around 1814. This history was popular in the late 1800’s, but some say a Cambridge, Massachusetts proprietor by the name of Zachariah B. Porter added his name to the steak. Still, others argue that the Porterhouse name stems from various 19th Century U.S. hotels or restaurants called Porter House, such as the Porter House Hotel in Flowery Branch, Georgia.

Anatomy: The Porterhouse is a cut of steak from the short loin portion of the animal that contains both strip loin and tenderloin meats. See the highlighted portion in the diagram below:

It is cut from a lumbar vertebra that is sawed in half through the vertebral column.

The downward prong of the “T” is a transverse process of the vertebra, and the flesh that surrounds it (spinal muscles) makes up the meat of the Porterhouse.

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Essentially, it is a large T-bone steak from the rear of the animal that has two different types of meat (tenderloin and strip loin), one on either side of the “T.” In the picture below, the strip loin or Strip Steak is on the right, and the tenderloin or Filet Mignon is on the left.

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The small semicircle at the top of the ‘T’ is half of the vertebral foramen, which is the name of the hole that passes through each vertebra for housing and protecting the spinal cord. They run the whole way up the back, all the way up to the brain of the animal.

The anatomy of a Porterhouse differs from that of a T-bone only in that the Porterhouse contains a larger portion of tenderloin than its T-bone counterpart.

This is primarily due to the fact that Porterhouse steaks are cut from further in the rear of the animal, from lumbar vertebrae, where the tenderloin is much thicker. Experts differ, however, on how large the tenderloin must be to differentiate a Porterhouse from a T-bone. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications state that the tenderloin of a Porterhouse must be at least 1.25 inches thick at its widest, while that of a T-bone must be at least 0.5 inches.

Here is a shot of a short loin with multiple vertebrae still intact and not portioned out into individual Porterhouses and T-bones.

You can see on the left there is a good sized, thick portion of tenderloin. That thins down as you move the the right, and seems to disappear by time your eyes reach the far end of the cut.

Just to drive home the anatomy a little more, here is a great excerpt and image from Russ Cooks:

“Up close and personal, this is where the T-bone fits.

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photo credit: http://www.russcooks.com/images/t-bone-illustration.png

The black line across the top of the two T-bones pictured here is the outside (top of the back) of the steer. You can see the T-bone in the schematic illustration higher up on this page as the topmost part labelled Rib. Above the ribs, what you touch if you pat the steer’s back, is the New York strip. Beneath the ribs is the tenderloin from which a filet mignon is often cut. T-bone steaks cut closer to the shoulder are known as Porterhouse while those cut closer to the loin are just T-bones.”

Preparation: Most times, T-bones and Porterhouses are either grilled, seared in a pan, broiled or blasted with high heat in specialty steak ovens made for charring the outside of the meat without over-cooking the inside. Butter is essential, and heavy seasoning is important as well. Herbs and garlic help boost the flavor too.

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Flavor: Since this cut contains both the Filet Mignon and the Strip Steak, I refer you to the flavor sections for those cuts below, with a notation that the bone being left in often adds a more robust flavor while helping to retain tenderness and juiciness. These are very popular items at steakhouses because they can be cut large enough to feed anywhere from two to four people. Additionally, with two different types of meat in one steak, one can vary the flavors that one experiences with each bite.

2. Filet Mignon

Etymology: Filet, in culinary terminology, means boneless. Mignon, in French, means dainty or small. As such, this is a steak ideally suited for chicks: small/dainty, and with no bone.

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Occasionally on a steakhouse menu you will see a “bone-in filet.” Given what I just mentioned above, that phraseology is completely self-defeating and confusing, as it simultaneously means both “bone-in” and “boneless.” However, it seems this sort of language is becoming commonplace. If it were up to me, I would prefer “bone-in tenderloin” to be listed on menus instead. There is no wording conflict with that phrasing, and it is an accurate description of what is being presented. In other words: all Filet Mignon is tenderloin, but not all tenderloin is Filet Mignon.

Anatomy: Traditionally, a Filet Mignon was cut from the anterior end of the tenderloin. In the beef chart image below, you can see a portion of the tenderloin section highlighted in red.

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That is where Filet Mignon was typically located, though most butchers label all steaks cut from the tenderloin as Filet Mignon (this allows for larger portions). The tenderloins run along both sides of the spine. They taper from thick, in the posterior of the animal, to thin in the front.

In their unbutchered form, they contain what’s called the “silver skin” still attached to the flesh. This is a thick connective tissue that is pretty much inedible. When butchering the full tenderloin, you will want to slice that off (it is NOT tender).

While this next photo is a repeat shot of a lamb vertebra Barnsley chop (the mutton chop from Keen’s), the anatomy is exactly the same for beef. This will illustrate exactly where the filet comes from. Essentially this is a double porterhouse, with a filet and a strip on each side. In addition to understanding the Filet Mignon, this image is useful in demonstrating the anatomy of the Strip and Porterhouse cuts as well, since they all come from the same place – the vertebrae of the animal:

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Preparation: Preparations of this cut vary greatly. You may see this cut sliced thin and pounded flat, served raw for carpaccio. You may also see it finely chopped for tartare. A simple pan sear with butter and herbs, however, is probably the most common preparation.

Yet another style is Chateaubriand, which is a large section of the thick portion of the tenderloin that is roasted boneless, then sliced and served with a reduction sauce.

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There is also Beef Wellington, which is a portion of tenderloin that has been coated with pate and then wrapped in puff pastry dough prior to cooking.

Flavor: Widely considered the most tender and least fatty cut of beef on the animal, the flavor should be uniform from one end to the other, with very tender and soft texture the whole way through. There is hardly any fat content in the standard cut of Filet Mignon. Some chefs will wrap the filet in caul fat (a lacy, fatty, web-like membrane that surrounds the stomach of an animal) before cooking. The webbing melts away during cooking and imparts a fat flavor into the meat. But it is more common to use things like butter, or to wrap a filet in bacon to add the fat flavor into the meat.

3. Strip Steak

Etymology: According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, this steak is marketed under various names, including Ambassador Steak, Club Steak, Hotel-Style Steak, Veiny Steak, Kansas City Steak and New York Strip Steak. Delmonico’s offered Strip as a signature dish way back in the early 1800’s. Due to the cut’s association with NYC, the New York Strip Steak name was born.

Anatomy: The Strip is cut from the other side of the tenderloin, across the vertebra on the T-bone or Porterhouse.

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Also known as strip loin, the Strip Steak is cut from the short loin part of the animal, from a muscle that does little work, like the Filet Mignon. It is generally more tender than the similarly situated but more posterior-located sirloin section of the animal. While it is essentially the same kind of meat as sirloin, the muscles in the rear do a bit more work than the short loin, so can be a bit more tough.

Preparation: For me, the Strip is best at medium rare, to preserve the tenderness and reduce any mealy or grainy textures that can develop from overcooking. It is always best to get a really great quality cut for this chop, something prime+, as all the intra-muscular fat, or marbling, will become soft and the muscle will tenderize all over.  You will often see it marinated or rubbed with spices, to impart additional flavors, but grilling and broiling in the traditional style is fantastic as well, especially with butter and herbs.  It can be served bone-in or boneless. Leaving the bone in will impart more flavor and help with the cooking process, since the bone conveys heat into the center of the meat while locking in juices.  At home, marinade this puppy in something like soy sauce and garlic, and slap it on the BBQ for a few minutes on each side and you will have the perfect home-cooked steak.

Flavor: This cut contains fat in levels that are somewhat in between the tenderloin (virtually none) and the Rib Eye (plenty of good, melty fat). Like the tenderloin, there is little variation throughout the cut, so the flavors and textures are more uniform for the Strip Steak, unlike the Rib Eye which has varying textures and flavors from one end of the cut to the other. The texture of a Strip can sometimes be a little bit grainy or mealy, and a bit more tight than a Filet Mignon or a Rib Eye – especially if it’s cooked too much.

4. Rib Eye

I’ve saved the best for last. The Rib Eye is the most ultimate of steaks, period. It is an awesome cut of beef.

Etymology: The etymology on this is pretty self-explanatory. The “rib” part of the name is because this cut of meat is connected to a rib bone. The “eye” part of the name is a reference to the circular, more centrally located portion of the cut that is more uniform than the outer portions of the cut. You will likely see the Rib Eye steak, or rib chop, called by many names.

For example, the Cowboy Rib Eye is a bone-in version of the cut:

There’s also the Tomahawk Rib Eye, which is so named for its resemblance to a Tomahawk-style hatchet. When butchered, a long “handle” of rib is cut clean to expose the bone (it is “Frenched,” as they say), and the steak meat is left at the end of the handle to form the hatchet blade:

Here’s a shot of my buddy; he’s about to get clobbered with a Tomahawk Rib Eye by Chef Josh Capon at Bowery Meat Company:

There’s also the Delmonico cut, otherwise known as a Scotch Filet. Applying what you’ve learned here, you can probably guess that this cut is boneless (filet means “boneless” in French). Delmonico’s claims this cut as their own because they named a house special boneless cut Rib Eye steak after their restaurant, way back in the early 1800’s when they first opened.

Anatomy: The rib section of beef spans from ribs six through twelve, and, obviously, hails from the rib section of the animal.

Rib Eye steaks are mainly composed of the Longissimus dorsi muscle (the “eye” portion of the steak) and the Spinalis dorsi muscle.

The more anterior your cut, the more Spinalis you’ll find in the steak. The Spinalis is the coveted cap of meat that wraps around the fatter end of the steak and usually has much more marbling than the rest of the Longissimus eye, or interior of the steak. That “fat cap” is also sometimes butchered away from the remaining eye.

photo credit: http://www.acookblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/IMG_7574.jpg

Highly skilled butchers know how to remove it from its position across an entire standing rib roast section of ribs, so as to keep it all together as one giant cut. But then that ruins the rib chop, in my opinion, since you’re taking away the best part. Some steakhouses have taken to tying several Spinalis cuts together in a spiral formation to create an all-fat-cap steak. Bowery Meat Company has one such cut, which they call the Bowery Steak:

STK also offers one on special from time to time:

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The Spinalis has a more intense marbling, and, thus, much more flavor and tenderness. If you are so bold, the next time you order a Rib Eye at a steakhouse, ask for an anterior “chuck side” cut that has more of this fantastic Spinalis muscle.

Preparation: There are a ton of ways to prepare a rib steak. The most comon forms are searing in a pan, grilling, or broiling. Another common method of preparing this kind of meat is roasting. A “standing rib roast” is a section of Rib Eye steaks that has not yet been portioned into individual steaks.

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When this rack of ribs is roasted slow and low to a pink medium rare, the end product is called Prime Rib.

It then gets sliced out into portions for individual consumption. This is a mammoth cut that we got from Burger & Barrel:

I know what you’re wondering, and the answer is Yes: Prime Rib and Rib Eye steak are the same exact thing. They are just prepared differently, using different cooking methods.

Cheaper cuts of rib steaks are actually the most common type of beef found in Philly Cheesesteaks as well. The meat is cut super thin and then cooked on a flat top with cheese, onions and other toppings, then shoved into long sandwich bread (incase you’re an asshole who has no fucking clue was a cheesesteak is).

Side Bar: is a Philly Cheesesteak better than a Cheeseburger? I think so… Man… Now I’m hungry for both…

Flavor: This steak has a high fat content, and that makes it very important to have a quality cut of beef, or an aged cut of beef. In high quality and aged cuts, this fat will render out or melt away much easier during the cooking process. This will impart a tremendous amount of flavor into the steak, and it will leave the remaining flesh with a very tender and soft texture. Don’t be afraid of the fat. Fat is not the same as gristle. Fat is good. Fat is your friend. Any good butcher will get the gristle off and leave the good fat behind. And when that good fat is REALLY good, it’s like having a delicious beef jelly with each bite of steak.

As discussed above, the Rib Eye is really like having two steaks in one (The small Spinalis or fat cap, and the larger Longissimus eye). The Spinalis is soft, tender, has lots of fat flavor and sometimes develops a crisp during cooking. The eye is more dense, but still well marbled so that it retains intense flavor. The eye is more uniform than the Spinalis. So: two steaks in one, kind of like the Porterhouse. Plus, there’s a nice, meaty beef spare rib to gnaw on at the end, if you order a bone-in chop.

Since there is generally more fat and marbling in this cut across its entirety, you will get better flavors than with the tenderloin or Strip, in my opinion. Clearly, high fat content is not for everyone. If you want to avoid fats in your diet, then go with the tenderloin. I actually really enjoy the flavor of fat. Fat, now, is sometimes referred to as the sixth flavor sensation. There were always four: (1) savory, (2) sweet, (3) bitter and (4) sour. “Umami” claims to be the fifth, and is meant to encompass the earthy, funky, fermented flavor sensations that you experience with mushrooms, truffles, aged beef and blue cheese. I just dislike the word “umami,” so I use “earthy” instead. The sixth is “fat,” apparently, as decreed by various food people who get paid to sit around and do these things. I’m not sure how it works, but I seem to be able to recognize a distinct sensation on my tastebuds, along with a buttery flavor and slippery feel, whenever I eat shit like pork bone ramen or a Rib Eye steak. Maybe there’s something to it?

Anyway, I hope this was an informative and educational post for you meat minions out there. Knowing this shit, I think, is very important.

Lahaina Grill

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.

Todarello 9.6.15

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.

Marea

After seven months of living on top of this restaurant and pining for a bite of the cuisine within, my wife and I finally got a chance to check it out.

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I had heard insane things about this joint: “Best restaurant in the city;” “Best Italian food in the country,” and so on. The place has been awarded two Michelin stars, and with a four-course price fix menu at $99/pp, it was a no-brainer that we’d hit this place up.

First off, excellent fucking martini – one of the best in town actually, garnished with three perfectly soft Castelvetrano olives.

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And amazing table breads like fresh olive or black pepper focaccia:

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First was an amuse of smoked fish on a sesame cracker. This was a nice bite:

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My wife started with six oysters, one of each available variety; two from Massachusetts, two from Washington, one from Rhode Island, and one from Virginia. She preferred the two from Massachusetts. They were served with a balsamic mignonette that cut the fishy flavor of the west coast jammies, and the other sauce was a bright citrus motherfucker that I liked a lot.

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I had the grilled octopus with smoked potatoes. This was really nice and soft, with a great char flavor, though I HAVE had better grilled octopus around town.

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For the pasta dishes, we tried the red wine braised octopus fusilli with bone marrow. This was a little heavy, but full of flavor. The octopus wasn’t up to snuff in this dish, which was depressing, but the pasta itself was perfect.

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The winner of the pasta dishes was this gramigna (small, extra long, curly, elbow style pasta) with wild boar sausage and savoy cabbage. It was lighter than you might expect, perfectly dressed, perfectly seasoned, and absolutely fucking delicious – especially with the addition of some bread crumb crunchy shits on top. I could eat vats of this, and THIS ALONE is why I can get behind their two star Michelin rating. Amazing plate of pasta.

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For the entrees we had duck breast and steak. Let’s start with them duck titties.

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The duck was served with a crispy polenta, which was nice but lacked a little flavor. The greens were overly tart, as if overdone to cook the bitterness out of the broccoli rabe (which was a little overcooked anyhow). The duck itself was nicely cooked, but after digging into my steak for a bit I really couldn’t take the iron-rich, blood-riddled, gamey flavor of the duck for too long. It was good and everything, nice crispy skin, etc. I just couldn’t go there, because I was busy with this:

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It was cooked nicely to medium rare.

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This is a sirloin, 50-day dry-aged, served with braised romaine lettuce and a fucking wonderfully fatty bone marrow panzanella bread. I sometimes dislike the grain and texture of this cut, but I really didn’t have any other choice for beef. I’ve had better strip or sirloin preparations elsewhere, and I suspect this cut was not from the “NY-Strip” side of a proper porterhouse. Perhaps it was from the T-bone area, which is less desirable (hence the 50-day dry-aging, to give it a boost). In any case, I ate all of it, so there’s that.

Dessert was nice, but there was some unexpected tartness in my wife’s panna cotta (from the green apple, not the roasted pineapple sorbet). Despite the tartness, this was still the better of the two desserts that we sampled, in my opinion.

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I had the lemon tort, with which I totally expected the tartness. It had a cheesecake texture, and I loved how the ginger, citrus, and cinnamon gelato cut the lemon flavor.

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When the bill came, there was a small amuse of candies to try. A passion fruit marshmallow, a tart white chocolate sort of thingy (which I didn’t like), and a white grape granulated sugar gelatin (also very tart). Actually, I wasn’t really a fan of any of these, now that I think about it.

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In sum, we will definitely be coming back to try some more stuff, particularly the fish items, which, maybe, we should have gone with on this first visit. We’ll definitely sample more pasta dishes as well. Some of those things must really shine, and I suppose that’s why they received two Michelin stars. Otherwise I’m sort of baffled.

UPDATE: 6/25/16

My wife and I cashed in some OpenTable rewards points to the tune of $70, which we used toward dinner here. This time we stuck strictly to pasta and fish, with the exception of dessert.

First, we had this lovely crab meat paccheri pasta, which was the big winner for the night. The sauce was a rich butter and tomato concoction that I went wild for.

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This tagliolini with clams and calamari was nicely executed as well, with a texture and shape that was similar to ramen. Other than that it was a classic riff on a white clam sauce dish. Very nice.

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For the fish courses, we had halibut and monk fish, both roasted. The halibut was served on a bet of sautéed spinach and topped with shaved water chestnuts and an olive. The fish itself was just slightly overcooked, but I didn’t mind because the spinach and water chestnuts added that moisture back in.

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The monk fish was similar in texture to catfish. Nice and hearty, with a snap that almost resembles lobster meat. This was served with beans, trumpet mushrooms and hazelnuts. While I liked this a lot, my wife wasn’t a huge fan of the flavors. We both liked the halibut better in any case.

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For dessert we had blueberry doughnuts, or bombolini. These were absolutely delicious. They were stuffed with blueberry filling, and dusted with blueberry sugar. They came with lemon curd and honey for dipping. Only downside is that this order, which came with five “munchkin” or “doughnut hole” sized doughnuts, was a pricey $14.

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MAREA
240 Central Park S.
New York, NY 10019