Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Arancino on Beachwalk

One of our main goals while staying in Waikiki was to be able to walk to every dinner. Definitely doable. It was so nice to walk along the beach almost every night. Even better was that with the exception of Chart House Waikiki, every meal was yummy. One night we decided to try Arancino on Beachwalk. It's a popular place and we made reservations the day before we went, so we ended up going a little early for us (5:30) BUT we got to walk back to the hotel along the beach, into the sunset, which was gorgeous.
We were seated right away. I liked that we were against a wall/shelf, so it felt cozy. SP chose prosecco and I chose chardonnay to drink. Here's what we enjoyed eating:
Rosemary focaccia with olive oil/balsamic dipping sauce. Really, really tasty.
Zuppa di Aragosta (lobster bisque with sherry). Really tasty - one of the best lobster bisques I've had.
Insalata Rucola Con Prosciutto (arugula, prosciutto, Ho Farms heirloom tomatoes, parmesan cheese & homemade Italian dressing). Yummy plate of one of our favorite salads.
For SP, Branzino alla Griglia, which I think was a special of the day. I'm not surprised he chose the fish over pasta or pizza, especially because he knew I'd need help with my pasta. But before helping me, he scraped clean his plate, so I guess it was good.
I chose Spaghetti Blue Crab with zucchini and tomato and parmesan. So. Good. I didn't even care that I am terribly messy when I eat spaghetti and usually avoid doing so in public. I just kept my head down and chewed and slurped and tried to contain the whipping, splatting spaghetti (my twirling skills are not very impressive, either, I usually twirl a blob way too big for my mouth).
For dessert, we shared Crema Catalana (lightly frozen orange crème brulee infused with grand marnier). It was super cold crème brulee with lots of orange flavor and a wonderful hard crust (take note, Chart House Waikiki). Yum! Next time we'd each want our own, no sharing.
We also ordered cappuccinos.

We both enjoyed our food at Arancino. Our server was terrific. They had no problems omitting garlic for me. We'd definitely go again.

  Arancino Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cenacolo Restaurant

This weekend we finally made it to a restaurant I've been wanting to try for a very long time: Cenacolo. It's in North Huntingdon, which explains why it took so long for us to finally to get there. Without traffic, it's about a one hour drive from home and includes driving on the Parkway East, which is the portion of the parkway I consider always traffic nightmare. To me, it seems like the inbound/outbound Parkway East always has some sort of horrid traffic incident stacking up traffic at the tunnels. Sure, the Parkway West & Fort Pitt Tunnels can stink, but we know several ways around that. The Parkway North seems to be OK. But the Parkway East? Going from Robinson to points past Monroeville? It makes us groan and shudder in fear.

Going was a last minute decision, so we decided to try for a late lunch/early dinner since we didn't have reservations and didn't think we'd be able to get dinner reservations on such short notice. Plus, the plan was to go after we visited a new-to-us bakery that is also far away and also means traveling the Parkway East. And we didn't want to go until after we did the weekend errands/shopping. We decided we'd just go and hope for the best!
I think we arrived around 3:30 pm. We were the only ones there so I was surprised when the hostess asked if we had reservations. We were seated in a room near the kitchen, so it was a little busy & noisy with lots of servers and workers arriving for work and walking back & forth getting ready for the evening diners. We were given a bowl of olives (yum!) and ordered iced teas and white wines to drink.

Was it worth the drive? For homemade Fede pasta and sauces? Yes. Here's what we enjoyed:
A salad of arugula, parmesan, tomato, and balsamic.
Bread and butter.
SP's Seafood Tagliatelle (Shrimp, Scallops, Calamari, Mussels, Spicy Marinara). He said the seafood was cooked perfectly. He ate all the seafood and half the pasta then brought the rest home to snack on the rest of the weekend. It was spicy and, to me, smelly from spice/garlic. He loved it.
I chose Ricotta Gnocchi (Short Rib Ragu, Porcini Mushrooms & Roma Tomatoes). Best gnocchi ever. So pillowy, soft, flavorful, melt in your mouth good. Delicious tender short rib with lots of flavor. I ate half and brought the other half home.
After dinner limoncello and tiny cookie. Yum!

We both thought our food was terrific and we'd go back. Next time, we'd plan ahead and make a reservation at a better dinner time for us. Since we were eating early, we didn't try any appetizers or desserts and we'd like to try some of those. It worked out nicely this time. We were able to get to the bakery and buy some treats, then stop by a car dealer (the search is starting, but realistically, we won't do anything until next year), then find Cenacolo, and they were not crowded so we were able to enjoy tasty Fede pastas.

Cenacolo Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, May 26, 2017

Worst Meal Ever: Chart House Waikiki

Chart House Waikiki is without doubt one of the worst meals we've ever eaten at this price point, probably the worst. It is criminal what they are charging for this food. I don't care if the restaurant is on the water with a view (if you are seated next to a window). I left so incredibly disappointed, and hungry, looking for a Subway on the walk back to the hotel. I was in fear of some kind of stomach revolt because the food was that revolting. We should have eaten at the Red Lobster next to this place.
We were not seated next to a window, but at a far back table next to the server station so we had the pleasure of listening to the professional and personal chit chat all evening. Lovely. We have eaten at Chart House restaurants before, so I was shocked at the dated and shabby-feeling decor. Even the menu seemed very old school compared to other Chart House restaurants at which we've dined.

**IMPORTANT TIP** Turns out that's because this Chart House Waikiki is NOT part of the Landry's Chart House chain. It is not related to the Chart House restaurants in Monterey & Cardiff, where we've dined, or the other ones at which my parents have dined (Las Vegas and Marina del Rey). I wish I'd realized this before we made the reservation and went.**

I can't believe they can even use the Chart House name.

We each had a glass of wine and decided to go with the Special Menu of the Month: appetizer, soup/salad, entree, dessert for $56/person.
Kimmi’s Firecracker Unroll. I don't know what this is supposed to be. A deconstructed sushi roll? With 3 servings of rice on the bottom? SP says it was unspectacular.
Fried Calamari. This is a crime against calamari. The worst fried calamari I have ever been served. It was so tough and rubbery. It took me forever to chew a piece enough to swallow it.
SP chose Caesar Salad. It was salad. It just isn't presented as nicely as what we're used to at this price point.
I chose New England Clam Chowder. I've eaten a lot of clam chowder in New England. When my parents lived in NH and I'd visit, my mom & I traveled around so I had clam chowder from a lot of different states and restaurants. We had clam chowder when we visited Texas SIL when she lived in MA. I also ate a lot of clam chowder last summer in San Francisco and Monterey. This Chart House clam chowder was disgusting. Bland. Thick. Seemed like if it sat much longer I'd have to skim a skin off the top. I had 2 spoonfuls and was done. It was not even the right color for New England clam chowder. What did they do to it?!
For his meal SP chose Mahi mahi (the menu says "fresh tasty and delicious, this is a favorite of Kama’ainas in the know! Your choice, grilled, oven sauteed or cajun style").
SP would never ask for well done fish. Clearly, they did not prepare it as he requested. He ate it and said it was tolerable but not worth the price point.
I chose Baked Stuffed Shrimp ("Jumbo Gulf Shrimp stuffed with Dungeness Crabmeat, baked golden brown and topped with hollandaise"). I've eaten a lot of shrimp stuffed with crab. It's one of my favorite dishes. I've even eaten it at a Chart House (in Cardiff). These shrimp were overcooked. The hollandaise looks like melted American cheese draped on top. The crab tasted funny. Even SP thought it tasted off. There was no way I could choke down these overcooked, tough, tasteless shrimp with their weird tasting crab and suspicious hollandaise. Worst stuffed shrimp ever.

So I complained/explained. They offered to replace the dish. I didn't want to try the shrimp dish again, and the other options didn't appeal to me, so I asked for the short ribs, which were listed as an option on a less expensive fixed menu.
Braised Shortribs ("Braised Boneless Prime Grade Shortribs with Tomato Red Wine-Cort Sauce"). Does that dark brown sauce look like it has tomato and red wine? No, and it didn't taste like it either. It was gross. The meat had a lot of fat. It seemed like every bite I tried to take had a blob of fat. Ick. When SP asked me how it was I looked at him and said it was like they'd used a canned stew. I'm not going to name the canned stew I mentioned because that's probably an insult to the canned stew.

I ate the asparagus.
Next up, dessert. New York Cheesecake for SP. He took one bite and said it was warm and starting to get soft/melty. He thinks they prepared it for the table, anticipating bringing dessert, then let it sit out while I was, unexpectedly, served a replacement meal and therefore, the cheesecake sat out too long. Warm cheesecake? No thank you.
I chose Crème Brûlée. I was pretty disappointed and irritated at this point. I took my spoon and pierced the surface, expecting to get a satisfying crack. Nope. No crack. Just plunged down into slightly runny creme brulee. We get a better crackly sugar topping at home when we make creme brulee.

At this point, the servers were ignoring us. No one wanted to deal with the obviously displeased customers. It took a while to flag someone down. That person went off and got a manager. I explained my issues with the meal and how disappointed I was.

In their defense, he did offer to take the cost of my meal off and charged us only for the wine and the cost of the mahi mahi. So the meal cost us half what it would have cost. But this does not change the fact that the food quality does not at all reflect the price point or the name of the restaurant.

I cannot suggest this restaurant to anyone. If we are ever again in Waikiki, we will not be dining here. Not even for the view - which, for us, was simply a different angle of the view we had from our hotel room balcony. Even paying just half of what it would have cost was too much.

Chart House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

This weekend is a 3 day weekend! That unofficial start of summer! Time for grilling and being outside. Last weekend we bought flowers (the usual petunias in white & purple) and transplanted the herbs and veggies we started in the dining room. Googer did an amazing job caring for our little plants while we were away. They look great! This year we bought a few herbs, too, to supplement the ones we started from seed.

Tonight is Game #7. I don't know if I can handle the hockey stress. Still trying to get over game 6.

We're still dealing with the 2 big mishaps from vacation. Despite having access to the park ranger police report, the car rental company has been asking SP for a statement via email. Problem is, he's not getting their emails, as he told them when they called, so he didn't know they wanted a written statement. They even verified his email and he still isn't receiving their requests. Grrrr.

As for the airline that broke my wheelchair, well, I have realized that nothing will make me OK (less angry) with what they did. I've had my chance to yell, berate, complain, vent, whatever you want to call it, and they've apologized but I do not feel less angry. Perhaps this is because every time I have contact with the airline, they have the facts wrong? Like emailing me about my electric wheelchair when it's manual and I've never said otherwise. Like asking if my seat belt extender was fixed when it's a brake extender and seat sling that were broken. The sheer level of incompetence leaves me exhausted and wanting this whole thing to go away and if I just give up any hope of any kind of compensation, it will, but it irks me that just because of dumb luck for them, they won't have to pay anything for rendering useless my personal, custom designed wheelchair on the first of 3 legs of flying.

Meals This Week:

  • Sloppy Joes 
  • Salad with shrimp (not grilled this time, just frozen & thawed, ready-to-eat tiny shrimp)
  • Dessert: Blondies

What We're Watching:

  • Everything. We were gone 2 weeks. There's a lot on the DVR.
  • We're letting Fargo, Genius, and Silicon Valley pile up for summer viewing.
  • Except for Gotham, we are caught up on everything else.
  • Really excited for the season finale of The Americans next week. What was Tuan thinking? And what's going to happen with Oleg?
  • Amazing Race. Can the teams form an alliance to get rid of that super annoying, whiny, high strung Brooke girl? If she cannot do something in 2 seconds, if it requires effort, sweat, time, she starts crying and whining. I do not know how her team mate can stand her.
  • Curious to see where Scandal and Grey's Anatomy go next season. I think next year is the last year for Scandal - ? I think it's time. The show has become a little too crazy and convoluted.
  • It was great to have Cat Grant back for the last 2 episodes of Supergirl. The show needs her back full time.

What I'm Reading:
Magazines. They piled up. I have a library book, too. I am slowly making my way through the magazine stack. Sadly, some have 2 issues stacked up.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Roy's Waikiki

One of our favorite, if not the favorite, meals from vacation was at Roy's Waikiki. We made reservations for a Friday evening before we left Pittsburgh. It was a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel along the beach. Here's what we enjoyed:
This bowl of spicy edamame was waiting at our table. I didn't eat any (spicy) but SP thought they were fantastic. He ate two bowls of them.
SP started with Iichiko Blu Shochu while I opted for chardonnay. Later on he had some Hakutake Shochu.
We shared Sweet Home Waima-Nalo Salad (Nalo Mesclun Greens, Creamy Herb Dressing). The dressing was fantastic.
SP chose what I thought was a small meal but it's what he wanted: Tetsuyaki - Big Eye ‘Ahi Poke-Yaki (Hamakua Mushrooms, Topped with Peppercorn Soy). He said it was excellent.
I chose Shellfish Orzo “Mac & Cheese” (Kona Lobster Tail, Crab Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp, Prosciutto, Lemon, Tarragon). This is many of my favorite flavors/food on one plate. Delicious creamy, cheesy orzo mac & cheese. Roasted tomato. Zucchini. Shrimp stuffed with crab. Finally shellfish paired with mac & cheese that wasn't overcooked, tough, rubbery. It was so darn good. Not to mention the prosciutto, the lemon, and tarragon, one of my favorite herbs. I allowed SP 2 small bites of orzo and he was allowed to have the shrimp tails because I don't like trying to pry out the bit of shrimp under the tail shell. This was a "keep your fork off my plate because it's so darn good I'm not sharing" meal.
Post dinner tea: mango peach for me, some kind of green tea for SP.
SP was all about the Pineapple Upside-down Cake dessert. I don't like pineapple, so this was all for him and he ate all of it.
I didn't really want dessert, I was pretty full, but pineapple cake wasn't going to cut it and I couldn't just sit there, sipping tea, while SP enjoyed a dessert. So I opted for Roy’s Melting Hot Chocolate Soufflé with Vanilla Ice cream & Raspberry Coulis.
It was good, a little rich and decadent for my tastes these days, and I couldn't finish it. I wish I could have shared it with someone.

Everyone at Roy's was friendly, helpful, attentive - terrific service. Delicious food. Relaxing atmosphere. We had some other delicious dinners, but for some reason, this is the one we keep saying was our best meal of vacation. I'd go back to Hawaii just for that shellfish mac & cheese.

Roy's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Missing Bag & Blue Water Shrimp

We got up very early the day we left for vacation. Our flight was at 7:30 am. It was 5 hours to San Francisco, then a 3 hour layover, and then 5 hours to Honolulu. Once we arrived in HI, we trudged through the airport looking for the rental car area. Honolulu is not, in our opinion & experience, a very nice, easy to navigate airport compared to others. We got lost, had to ask for help twice, it was hot & stuffy because it seems, from our experience, that only the "boarding gate rooms" are air conditioned, but finally we found the rental car place. I can't remember what kind of car they gave us at first, but it just wasn't going to work for us for a week. The passenger seat was not a good height for me to transfer into from the wheelchair.
So we spent time asking for a different car. SP got the keys, transferred the luggage from one car to the other, got me in, and off we went, 30 minutes through traffic to our hotel. A very cheery valet greeted us and unloaded our bags. He said to us,"Just these 3 bags, right?"

Uh, no. There should be 4 bags. He and SP searched the car. Frantically. One bag was missing. My personal carry on. With the passports. And my prescriptions/vitamins for 2 weeks. And other items I did not want to be without. The only bag without a luggage tag. The brand new bag that was on its very first trip. Thank goodness I had taken out my small, travel crossbody with my sunglasses, credit cards, cash, and cell phone.
The stress level was high. Way high. As SP drove back to the rental car place, I frantically tried calling them but of course, no one answered any of the options. We finally got there, he slammed the car in park and ran to the first guy he saw. They went into the building. I waited in the car, at maximum stress level, wondering why was it my bag that got lost (as if another bag would have been any better)? About 10 minutes later SP returned with my bag. Thank goodness it was still in the original rental car. Thank goodness in that hour no one else had been given that rental car. SP claims he simply didn't see it in the black trunk because it's a black bag.
Crisis averted. Not a great start to vacation. We drove another 30 minutes back to the hotel, spent 30 minutes checking in, dumped our stuff in the room, and since it was 7 pm Honolulu time (which was 1 am for us), went in search of dinner. We went to Blue Water Shrimp. Super casual. Order at a counter, take a seat, they bring your food to you. I think they started as a food truck and while there is still a food truck, there also is this stand at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort.
Since it was 1 am for our minds and bodies and since we weren't super hungry, we shared the calamari. A large calamari steak that was delicious, breaded with panko, covered in lemon butter caper sauce, served with some brown rice, corn, and salad. Feeling the need to hydrate after a day of air travel, we drank lots of water with the meal.

Then we walked around a bit, went back to the room, got settled in, and went to sleep by 9:30 pm.

Tip #1: ALWAYS do a bag count. Every time you move them. That's what we did the rest of the trip. I probably annoyed the heck out of SP with the bag checks and counts. It got especially annoying once we moved from Oahu to the Big Island because then we also had a small cooler and a bag of car snacks.

Tip #2: Even if it's your personal carry on, attach a luggage tag. We spent the trip looking for a souvenir luggage tag and finally found one at Blue Hawaiian Helicopter after our helicopter tour. It is now attached to my black bag. Also, next time, I think I'll tie an obnoxiously bright scarf or bandanna on the bag like I did with our black carry on suitcase.

Tip #3: Blue Water Shrimp is a yummy first night meal.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Home From Hawaii

View of Diamond Head from Puu Ulalakaa Park
We've been home for 6 days from our 2 week trip to Hawaii. Sunday was the first day we woke up and were not still exhausted. It was a fabulous 13 days, but the 14th day, the travel home day, was a nightmare and left us the most exhausted we've ever felt.
View from Makapu'u Point (I think)
I was never much interested in traveling to Hawaii. It was where, it seemed for a while, everyone went for their honeymoon, ugh. We don't swim, suntan, surf, paddleboard, kayak, hike, fish - what would we do? Turns out there is plenty for us to enjoy - we ended up feeling like we wanted an additional 1-2 days in each place.
Walking along Waikiki Beach
We started off our trip in Honolulu. We stayed in Waikiki at Hilton Hawaiian Village. I think this was an excellent location. We had a lovely room view, our own private balcony, and we were right on the beach/the paved walkway along the beach. On the other hand, it took a very long time to check in, to check out, to get an elevator going down, and to get the car from the valet. It seemed as if the lobby was in perpetual chaos. And for the last 3 nights there were four loud, inconsiderate 20-somethings in the adjoining room (those doors to join 2 rooms do not keep out noise; we could hear everything).
La'ie Point
Here's what we did/saw on Oahu:
Sunset, Waikiki Beach
 After a week, we flew to Kona and drove via Saddle Road to Hilo where we spent 3 days seeing:

View from our room in Hilo (Grand Naniloa Doubletree)

Ahalanui Park
Next we drove along the Hamakua Heritage Corridor to get to our hotel on the Kohala Coast. Along the way we stopped at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and we tried to see Kahuna & Akaka Falls but the falls are not wheelchair accessible and SP didn't want to leave me sitting in the hot sun while he hiked it.
Onomea Falls
Our first full day in Kona we took a helicopter tour of the entire island with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. It was amazing, even if I did have to take some of airplane meds to handle the helicopter ride! After the helicopter tour, we drove around the northwest/Kohala area.
Lava and steam from Halema'uma'u crater, seen from Jaggar Museum & Overlook
The next day was our final day in Hawaii. We drove south to Kona, through town, all the way down to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. The park is not wheelchair accessible. I sat in a pavilion and listened to a park ranger presentation while SP toured the park. He got super sweaty and hot while I stayed relatively cool! After that, we drove through coffee country, and the rain, and it rained all the way back to the hotel so we didn't stop anywhere else. When I say it rained, I mean it really poured. Neither of us wanted to stop to pop into a shop or coffee tour. The pier in Kona was even closed off.
Sunset view during dinner at Kamuela Provision Company
The next day was the nightmare trip home, which I'll write about later.

It was an amazing trip and I'm so glad I finally changed my mind about traveling to Hawaii.