July 30, 2014

Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii: Kilohana Plantation; things to do + restaurant review

Kilohana Plantation  3-2087 Kaumualii Hwy., Lihue, (808) 245-5608. 

This former plantation is now a pleasant complex with shops, a few amusements, and a restaurant.

Tudor mansion at Kilohana Plantation in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii

●A quick visit involves exploring the shops in the restored 1935 Tudor Wilcox Mansion that was once the island’s most expensive home.  You can extend your visit with a stroll the grounds.

Kauai Plantation Railway train at Kilohana Plantation in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai Plantation Railway  (808) 245-7245.  Fee.  Make your visit even more fun with a ride on the narrow-gauge train here for a 2.5-mile ride through the 104-acre grounds.

visitors photographing animals at Kilohana Plantation in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii

You’ll see farm animals, exotic fruit trees, and gardens planted on the former cane fields.  A farmer’s market sells fresh produce grown on property, and a gift shop purveys souvenirs.  A horse-drawn carriage ride is another way to tour. 

Gaylord's restaurant at Kilohana Plantation in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii

Gaylord’s  (808) 245-9593.  L M-Sat, D daily, SunBr; $$$.  Reservations recommended.  Do plan in time for a meal at this sheltered open-air restaurant in the back of the main house.

dessert at Gaylord's restaurant at Kilohana Plantation in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii

It has a relaxed atmosphere, the menu features island fish and local produce, and dinner is served by torchlight. 

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

Or at least stop in at the Mahiko Lounge bar for a superb mai tai.  Bartender Laurie Shibao uses fresh fruit juices in her creations, and one of the ingredients that sets her mai tai apart and makes it the island’s tastiest is the fresh sugarcane juices she secures via an antique machine.  Plus, she uses Koloa Rum from the factory right next door. 

    ●Koloa Rum Company Store & Tasting Room  (808) 246-8900.  Daily.  You’ll find this local rum in the island’s best mai tais.  Free rum tastings occur every half-hour, and an assortment of other Kaua’i-made products are available for purchase. 

    ●Clayworks  (808) 246-2529.  At this working artist’s studio and gallery you can make and glaze your own souvenir pot.

    ●Luau Kalamaku  (877) 622-1780.  Tu & F nights.  Before the feast held in the former carriage house,  you’ll have a chance to visit the shops, ride the train, and participate in some traditional Hawaiian crafts and games.  Hula dancers and Samoan fire dancers are part of the show. 

Recipe for Kauai Fruit Salad.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 28, 2014

Introduction to Kauai, Hawaii


coastline of Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and well-known for dramatic, lush scenery featuring jagged green mountains and deep  valleys.  It has 90 miles of shoreline and 50 miles of uncrowded white sand beaches, plenty of waterfalls and rainbows, and rainforests populated with rare native species.  And because it is the only Hawaiian island with no mongoose, it has a large variety of birds and plenty of small white egrets.  Surprisingly, it also has the largest coffee plantation in the U.S., which grows five varieties of beans and more than a million coffee trees.

sign for wettest spot on Earth in Kauai, Hawaii

Though approximately 500 inches of rain each year make this the wettest spot on Earth, the weather is generally perfect.  I’ve heard locals say, “When it’s sunny, it’s 82 degrees.  When it rains, it’s 82 degrees.” and “If you don’t like the weather, drive 10 miles and wait 10 minutes.”

This island has been the setting for many Hollywood movies, including Speilberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park and Elvis’s Blue Hawaii.  As you sightsee, you’ll probably recognize some of the settings.  The Kauai Movie Book is also helpful. 

rooster at Kilohana Plantation in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii

An island building code promises that no new structure can be higher than a coconut palm, or 4 stories.  There isn’t much nightlife—things pretty much close up by 9 p.m.-- and you’ll be glad of it if you get woken up at dawn by one of the island’s many “free range” roosters.  (Because of jet lag, I usually woke up before them and in fact rarely heard one.)  Due to their ancestors’ cages being overturned by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, wild chickens also run loose--to the delight of children who love to chase them and feed them.  However, these plentiful poultry do sometimes ruffle the feathers of locals with their pesky ways, and they have divided opinions on how to handle the situation.

Kauai is a place to wind down.  Another local told me, “No one is in a hurry here.  It is considered rude to honk.”  So don’t!

Hawaiian Airlines counter at Oakland Airport in California

And did I mention--Hawaiian Airlines is the only U.S. airline still serving free meals . . . and with complimentary wine!

Join me now as I begin reliving my recent visit to this spectacular island in upcoming blog posts.  

Note:  To avoid confusion, I have decided not to use the 'okina in my spellings of Hawaiian words.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 25, 2014

Dublin, Ireland: Wild Wicklow Tours; things to do

Wild Wicklow Tours  + 353 1 2801899.  E25-28. 

This family-run company is known for its excellent guides, most especially Denis O’Reilly, who becomes your local Irish friend for the day and entertains non-stop with interesting and often funny stories.

The tour of County Wicklow--known as “The Garden of Ireland”--begins with a trip down the coast and a stop at Dun Laoghaire Harbour in Sandycove, where our guide lives, to view the thick-walled former British army tower that James Joyce lived in here in 1904.  We also observed a “polar bear” bathers club doing their daily swim in the chilly waters.  These spots are located near The Forty Foot beach on Dublin Bay.

tea time at Avoca Handweavers in Wicklow area near Dublin, Ireland

Then it was on through Killiney and Dalkey--home to celebrity rock singer Bono—and then a stop at Avoca Handweavers to relax over tea and a delicious baked item in a cafe overlooking a garden holding

world's largest cypress tree in Wicklow area near Dublin, Ireland

what is claimed to be the world’s largest cypress tree (standing beneath its branches feels like being under a natural umbrella).  I wish we’d had more time to browse this extraordinary shop’s selection of woolens, crafts, and more.

Then we were off to Sally Gap in west Wicklow, where we saw scenic heather, bog lands, and--if it isn’t a rainy, foggy day—a lake that looks like an overturned pint of Guinness.  This area is where Excalibur, Braveheart, and P.S. I Love You were filmed, and where Meryl Streep danced in Dancing at Lughnasa.

Jakes Bar in Laragh in Wicklow area near Dublin, Ireland

After enjoying all the scenic back roads, we passed the village where actor Daniel Day Lewis lives and stopped nearby in Laragh, another small village, for lunch at Jakes Bar, a traditional Irish pub.

Glendalough in Wicklow area near Dublin, Ireland

The tour concludes in Glendalough with a visit to a rustic 6th-century monastic settlement, where we walked to a scenic lake

Glendalough lake with Jameson Whiskey in Wicklow area near Dublin, Ireland

and toasted our day with a complimentary tasting of Jameson Whiskey.  What a wild, fun adventure!

Meals and tips are not included.

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images and videos ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 23, 2014

Solvang, California: Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard; things to do

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard  1500 Alamo Pintado Rd., (805) 688-3032.  Tasting daily 11-5. 

Set on the outskirts of town in the splendid Santa Ynez Valley, this farm produces more than grapes.  Formerly devoted to horses, then to growing organic vegetables, it has settled now into vineyards plus olives, pomegranates, peonies, herbs, summer vegetables, and peaches.  To fully enjoy a visit, bring a picnic to eat under the shady buttonwood trees the property is named for (actually California sycamore trees).  Begin with a tasting, select a wine to go with the picnic, and then pick up some fresh fruit at the adjacent farm stand.

winemaker Karen Steinwachs conducts a tasting at Buttonwood Farm Winery in Solvang, California

Wine tasting occurs in a pleasant open room decorated with paintings by one of the owners (some of the art also appears on the labels).  One of the oldest wineries in this area famous for being where the movie “Sideways” was shot, Button’s vineyards were planted in 1983 and first harvested in 1991.  According to winemaker Karen Steinwachs, Merlot has not recovered since release of the movie which celebrates its 10th anniversary is this year.  “ ‘Sideways’ was good for Pinot Noir people, not so good for Merlot people,” she says.  “We don’t grow Pinot Noir grapes here.”  Wines we tasted including a fresh, aromatic 2013 Zingy Sauvignon Blanc blend and a smooth and peppery 2010 Cabernet Franc (100%).  “We’re known for Blanc and Franc,” quips Steinwachs.  We also sampled a 2012 Pinot Noir made with grapes from Hibbits Ranch in nearby Lompoc, but no Merlot.  

farm stand at Buttonwood Farm Winery in Solvang, California

After leaving this informative tasting room, we visited the farm stand and picked up a lug of beautiful ripe peaches to take with us.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 21, 2014

Solvang, California: Peterson Village Inn + Cafe Provence; hotel review + restaurant review

The Landsby  1576 Mission Dr., (800) 321-8985, (805) 688-3121.
40 rooms.  Breakfast included. 

high four-poster bed at Peterson Village Inn in Solvang, California

Centrally located, this Old World-style hotel has some high four-poster beds that are almost as high as the one celebrated Danish author Hans Christian Andersen wrote about in his princess and pea story.  Breakfast in the dining room features pastries from the town’s Olsen’s bakery, and special packages sometimes include dinner plus tickets to a Pacific Conservatory Theatre performance. A renovation will occur in early 2015, with all rooms and public areas being refreshed.

I continue to be surprised by the good restaurants found in hotels.  Cafe Provence, which features European and Mediterranean cuisine and an award-winning chef, was empty when we entered, and I immediately had second thoughts.  

house-cured salmon at Cafe Provence at Peterson Village Inn in Solvang, California

Our delightful server and my spectacular starter course of house-cured salmon with pickled cucumbers and crostini—a nod to Danish cuisine--put me at ease.  

salmon dinner at Cafe Provence at Peterson Village Inn in Solvang, Californi

For my main course I enjoyed perfectly prepared fresh wild-caught salmon with scalloped potatoes that could have benefited from a tad longer cooking.  Oh well, it’s always unusual for everything to be perfect.
pork schnitzel at Cafe Provence at Peterson Village Inn in Solvang, California

My husband also chose well--a crispy Danish pork schnitzel topped with tasty creamy mushroom sauce.

oeufs a la Neige at Cafe Provence at Peterson Village Inn in Solvang, California

At a time when I often find myself bored with dessert selections, I was blown away by “oeufs a la Neige.”  Translated as “eggs in the snow” and often called “floating island” it is a wonderful concoction of meringue atop crème anglaise.  OMG, it is so good!  Midway through, more diners did come in and join us, but it was a light night apparently because the local Pacific Conservatory Theatre stage company was on a short hiatus. 

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 18, 2014

Dublin, Ireland: The Bank on College Green + The Long Hall; restaurant reviews

The Bank on College Green pub in Dublin, Ireland

The Bank on College Green  20-22 College Green, Dublin 2, +353 (0)1 677 0677.  B-L-D daily. 

Located in the oldest region of the city, this site has been occupied since Viking times.  In 1892 the Belfast Bank acquired the property and constructed this grand Victorian building, whose Franco-Scottish exterior is one of Dublin’s rare examples of Scottish sandstone.  The interior, which was once the main banking hall, is stunningly ornate, with a stained-glass ceiling, mosaic-tiled floors, and spectacular hand-carved plasterwork and cornicing.  Huge Chatwood safes are now part of the decor, and the original vaults remain downstairs.  Now, in the humongous open interior space of this sedate “superpub,” you can enjoy a relaxed meal and drink. 

The Long Hall pub in Dublin, Ireland

The Long Hall  51 S. Great George's St., Dublin 2; +353 1 475 1590.  M-W 4-11:30pm, Thur 1-11:30pm, F-Sat 1-12:30am, Sun3-11pm. 

This old-school pub features an ornate Victorian decor with filigreed mirrors and carved-wood snugs (enclosed booths).  In addition to perfectly poured Guinness, the pub is known for serving potent gin and tonics.  Barmen still wear white shirts and black ties, a sign that this is a historic establishment.  Note that there is no food service or music.  When I visited, we were hungry and so wound up going about a block away for dinner at The Market Bar.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 16, 2014

Dublin, Ireland: The Winding Stair Bookshop & Restaurant; restaurant review

Winding Stair Bookshop in Dublin, Ireland

The Winding Stair Bookshop & Restaurant  40 Lower Ormond Quay, across river from Temple Bar area via Ha’penny Bridge, + 353 1 8727320, Dublin 1.  L-D daily. 

A particularly popular meeting place for writers, musicians, and artists in the 1970s and ‘80s, this atmospheric spot is both a café upstairs--featuring simple, old-fashioned, high-quality Irish fare--and a cozy bookshop downstairs on the ground floor, where coffee, tea, and wine service is available.

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image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 14, 2014

Dublin, Ireland: Staunton’s on the Green Guesthouse; hotel review

Staunton’s on the Green Guesthouse  83 St. Stephen's Green South, 5-min. walk to Grafton St., +353 (0)1 4782300, Dublin 2.  3 stars.  40 rooms.  E109+.  Breakfast included; room service.  Parking E10. 

Reasonable rates and a central location across from Stephen’s Green park make this Georgian guesthouse a prime choice for lodging.  You’ll be able to walk to most major sights.  The house’s own garden leads into the hidden Victorian Iveagh Gardens featuring a rustic grotto, fountains, and paths.  Guest rooms in this elegant 1750s Georgian building (actually a melding of three separate houses) are large, and each has a garden or park view.  Architectural features include magnificent marble fireplaces and elaborate plaster ceilings.  Rooms in the back are quietest, and some have French doors opening to the garden.  Breakfast is served in a basement room, and a room-service breakfast is also an option at additional charge.  This vintage property has plenty of character and a friendly staff, and though I didn’t actually stay here, my site visit convinced me to add it to the top of my Dublin lodging list for the future. 

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image courtesy of the venue

July 11, 2014

NYC--Queens--Jackson Heights: La Casa de los Antojitos; restaurant review

La Casa de los Antojitos in Jackson Heights, Queens, NYC

La Casa de los Antojitos  81-08 37th Ave., Jackson Heights, (718) 779-2949. 

This bakery packs ‘em in with delicious pastries—don’t miss the guava stuffed bun and the spinach empanadas--housemade soups and meats, sandwiches, tamales, fresh-squeezed juices, milkshakes and ice cream (yummy papaya and pineapple as well as intriguing sour sop), and flan.  Take-out grilled Peruvian-style chicken with plantains is also quite popular.  Counter service keeps prices low.

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image ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

July 1, 2014

NYC: Kefi Greek Cuisine; restaurant review

Kefi Greek Cuisine  505 Columbus Ave./84th St., (212) 873-0200.  L M-F, D daily, Sat-Sun Br; $$.

Luxuriously spacious, this Greek taverna has a lower bar level separated by a few steps from the upper-level main dining room.  I was dining with my daughter and infant granddaughter, so we were pleased to be able to bring in the stroller and have the baby next to our table on the bar level.

Lunch items included pita triangles with a delicious array of spreads and a spectacular pickled beet salad with string beans and Greek yogurt.  I advise skipping the eggs dishes, which are really “eggy” and bland.  This day we stuck to vegetarian items, but delicacies include housemade sausages and octopus items as well as more Greek dishes.

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

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers