“Wine” of the Week: Maui Blanc Gold, Maui’s Winery, Ulupalakua, Maui, HI

Proof that wine does indeed grow in all 50 states, the lone winery on Maui produces some very noteworthy wines from myriad fruits. Conveniently known as Maui’s Winery (there are also wineries on The Big Island and O’ahu), the winery itself is not so convenient for visitors. Maui’s Winery is easily a half day trip, at least an hour from Kahului, way high up in the upcountry beyond Kula. It feels like the top of the world there, or at least the island. No, there are no roads that lead from Wailea up the hill to the winery, as convenient as that would be (“Only Oprah” is allowed to use those back roads I was told at the tasting room).

It’s only convenient if you spent the morning exploring the volcano Hale’akala, but well worth the drive for more than just the novelty of drinking wine from Hawaiian terroir.


Let’s first understand that these wines aren’t exactly going to be getting 90+ plus points from Wine Spectator. It’s a fine terroir, but there’s a reason humidity isn’t a grape’s best friend. The tropical climate and volcanic soil are excellent for many vegetables and fruits, including pineapples. That doesn’t mean pineapples age elegantly into wine like Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Pineapples do age into admirable wine, though, that is certainly worth at least trying.

For most of the 180,000 yearly visitors to Maui’s Winery, the big question is, “What will pineapple wine taste like?”

The answer is very simple: It tastes like a less sugary, more refined pineapple juice. In many ways, pineapple wine is much more pleasing because of its restrained sweetness compared to regular pineapple juice. Everything is very balanced with a beautiful guava nose leading to a semi-dry wine, teetering between fresh fruit and floral influences. Some mineral notes arrive at the close letting you know this is a thorough, full-frontal wine that is absolutely drinkable. Maybe too drinkable for those of who know how quickly well balanced Mai Tais last.Continue reading ““Wine” of the Week: Maui Blanc Gold, Maui’s Winery, Ulupalakua, Maui, HI”

Plat du Jour Thursday April 25, 2013: The “Other Top 100 Restaurants of the World” List

The Foodie Top 100 Restaurants: Worldwide were unveiled this morning.

Wait, hold on. I thought they were supposed to be unveiled on Monday in London?

Yes, that is correct. The World’s Top 50 Restaurants (that really is a list of the top 100 restaurants) presented by San Pellegrino and Restaurant Magazine will be announced on Monday April 29. That is the world’s best known and most contentious list. It’s the list once dominated by El Bulli and recently Copenhagen’s Noma Restaurant has been the winner for three years running.

Today’s list on the other hand is called The Foodie Top 100 Restaurants: Worldwide, courtesy of Glam Media. The 100 restaurants are not ranked in any order, so you can’t ascertain if Noma is higher than Alinea. The goal of this list is to be more transparent and relevant to the younger foodie generation, actually using that modern fervent gourmand term so often despised those it is meant to label. Here, foodie is intended to be nothing but a positive term.


The transparency can be found everywhere. The extensive list of runner-ups is also included, so you can see that somehow Paris’ Ze Kitchen Galerie is included in the top 100, but the likes of Paul Bocuse, Belgium’s In de Wolf, and the United States’ Manresa could only be in a top 200 or 300. Ze Kitchen Galerie has some exciting cooking going on in the Paris’ Left Bank, but really, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, especially if this list factors in service and atmosphere as it claims to (will admit that yours truly had a not so positive experience when I dined there, not trying to pick on them).

The names of judges are transparent. You’ll recognize the likes of Ruth Reichl, Jonathan Gold, Gael Greene, Patricia Wells, and Alexander Lobrano. Continue reading “Plat du Jour Thursday April 25, 2013: The “Other Top 100 Restaurants of the World” List”

Restaurants: Crudo, Phoenix, AZ

There are all sorts of lessons that the restaurant world should take note of from this dynamic hidden neighborhood spot along the busy Indian School Road thoroughfare at the border of Phoenix and Scottsdale, which I’m told is known as Arcadia. Before you delve further into the countryside paradise concept of Arcadia, this mini-mall filled version is much more akin to Los Angeles’ suburban town Arcadia than Tom Stoppard’s idea.

Though the address says Indian School, it really could be somebody’s backyard or a parking lot alleyway instead, since this desert treasure of a neighborhood bistro is tucked away from apparent view on the rear side of the Gaslight Square shopping center. I would venture to guess at least 50% of diners might do the same as me, parking their car in the front assuming they’ll find the restaurant here somewhere, only to stumble onto it ten minutes later. In Phoenix’s heat, those could be ten very long minutes. For this restaurant, I would walk from Downtown Phoenix for the smoked olives.


This suburban speakeasy equivalent restaurant is the second iteration of Crudo. The chef Cullen Campbell’s original was a hit from 2009 to 2011, actually sharing space with a salon further east in Scottsdale. I’m not sure what it is with Crudo and hidden locales within shops or shopping centers. It proves to diners that a little research goes a long ways into uncovering where hidden talent is being displayed behind the stoves, behind the jewelery stores.

Phoenix is one of the country’s most underrated dining regions, often only thought of as the faraway scorching hot home to Chris Bianco’s mythical pizzas. Amongst the Valley’s shining dining room stars, Crudo is no doubt one of the elite.

Crudo's crudos
Crudo’s crudos

Crudo Part II just celebrated its first birthday. What a celebration I hope it was for such an accomplished restaurant after its initial year. But hold on folks. The actual birthday celebration will be held tomorrow, Thursday April 25th. Diners in the desert should be on their way to the phone for reservations immediately after finishing this article.

Continue reading “Restaurants: Crudo, Phoenix, AZ”

Beer of the Week: Smokejumper Smoked Imperial Porter, Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, CO

When it comes to Colorado breweries, it’s hard to say who is the Rocky Mountain highest in the eyes of the national beer scene. Oskar Blues might be the best known, if for any other reason than their importance in the advancement of canned beers. Perhaps, it might be one of the cult favorites, such as Avery or Great Divide, with their powerful barleywines, aggressive IPAs, and molasses-thick stouts. Then there is always Coors and the “New Coors,” also known as New Belgium. Then there are some fifty- plus breweries around the state that intense scholars of the subject might know about, but you most likely are not familiar with.

Not tremendously far from New Belgium’s brewery in Fort Collins and sharing Longmont, the same otherwise nondescript farm town along the Front Range as Oskar Blues’ brewery, is Left Hand Brewing Co. While the other tasting rooms either are in the spacious brewery room itself or resemble frat rooms, Left Hand could be the corner pub if it weren’t for the national level quality of what they serve. This is where Norm Peterson would get a nightly pint if he followed Wes Welker west from Boston.


Left Hand started in 1990 as the home brewing project of Dick Doore. For those of us who aspire as homebrewers, it never fails to astonish me how some can continue on to make such incredible brews, while the rest of us could never dream of opening a place like Left Hand. Doore teamed with ex- college friend Eric Wallace in 1993 and started the Indian Peaks Brewing Co.

Then the lawyers got involved. Another brewery was making a style at the time with the same name. Cease and desist is never a fun game. Hence, the brewery’s new name came from the local southern Arapahoe Indian tribe’s leader, Chief Niwot, whose name translates to “Left Hand.”Continue reading “Beer of the Week: Smokejumper Smoked Imperial Porter, Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, CO”

Monday’s Neighborhood: Kapalua, Maui

On this late April Monday, it’s snowing in Denver and still crisp Autumn weather in the Northeast. Spring hasn’t quite got the message yet that it was supposed to start a month ago (meanwhile it’s summer already in California).

Which of course then makes us think of Mai Tais and beaches in the tropics. Honolulu’s high today was a cool 82.

For this Monday’s neighborhood of the week, we say a very warm “Aloha!” to beautiful Kapalua, a resort area in the northwest corner of Maui.

Kapalua almost always is spoken in terms of golf with its 22,000 acres of luxury condos spread between the coast, two eighteen hole world-class golf courses, a golf academy, a Ritz-Carlton, and Highway 30 at the top of a steep incline to the east. Golf is in the air everywhere, you can’t escape it. Fortunately, you can be rest assured the courses are far enough from the beaches to not hear “Fore!” when sunbathing.

The Pineapple Grill's Ahi & Heirloom TomatoTartare, Toasted Macadamia Nuts, Maple-Meyer Lemon Emulsion, Local Avocado Cream, Tobiko
The Pineapple Grill’s Ahi & Heirloom TomatoTartare, Toasted Macadamia Nuts, Maple-Meyer Lemon Emulsion, Local Avocado Cream, Tobiko

The PGA golf season’s first event, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, occurs the first week of January each year on Kapalua’s Plantation Course (Dustin Johnson won this year). While the rest of the country is marching back to work through snow after New Years, the golf world is savoring the Kapalua sunshine and splendid views west towards Molokai.


On Maui’s West Coast traveling north towards Kapalua you have the New Orleans-evoking charm of the area’s “town,” Lahaina, then the decidedly un- Hawaiian skyscraper hotel-resorts of Ka’anapali, followed by the more subdued communities of Kahana and Napili Kai (for our readers’ interest, the Maui Brewing Company’s brewpub is in Kahana). Then you reach our destination, beginning with Kapalua’s Bay Course, full of Cook pine trees everywhere, with views over Napili Bay. Continue reading “Monday’s Neighborhood: Kapalua, Maui”

Guatemalan Cuisine: In Search of Pepian

During my week traveling around Guatemala this past winter, I couldn’t escape the awe-inspiring natural beauty this Central American country presents no shortage of. The almost crayon- colored blue water of Lago de Atitlan in the country’s west with its handsome twin volcano backdrop mesmerized me for my two hours on the lake. It was a good thing I wasn’t our miniature boat’s captain. It’s even more captivating than Crater Lake.

I had never seen such a dramatic, scarred landscape as the area near the summit of the Volcan de Pacaya. The sweeping views of the impossibly charming preserved colonial town Antigua, like Lago de Atitlan guarded by formidable- looking volcanoes on two sides, force you to never let down your camera.


Then in eastern Guatemala, amidst the tropical lakes and jungles, are some of the most striking Mayan ruins anywhere to be found. After a full day of meeting monkeys, talking with toucans, and exploring the ruins and climbing the steep pyramids at Yaxhá and Tikal, I started to become that jaded tourist who gets “pyramid-ed out” from the relentless ancient splendor of this civilization who disappeared long ago. I still can’t wrap my mind over how these ruins still remain in these precious corners of the world, with numerous lessons we can still learn from many centuries later.

Nature and culture were the focus of this trip. Food was not. Wine and beer were not. This was not a wine-tasting in Bordeaux and Burgundy extravaganza. This was far from flying to Tokyo to sample meticulous sushi and yakitori bars.

Indeed, food and drink were not the purpose of heading to Central America. Neither was the weather, as outside of the jungle, the temperatures were essentially the same as my Northern California home at that time of year. In fact, the wind chill may have even been cooler in Guatemala than San Francisco.

Kacao's Pepian
Kacao’s Pepian

However, one cannot appreciate new corners of the globe and the wonderful people that make up the fabric of these fascinating countries near and far, without sampling the local cuisine. That meant I was constantly in search of Guatemalan cuisine, particularly the country’s national dish: pepian.Continue reading “Guatemalan Cuisine: In Search of Pepian”

My Neighborhood: Burgers and Craft Beers in Claremont, CA

Editor’s Note: This article begins a series of hyper-local neighborhood dining guides called “My Neighborhood.” Our goal is to find the spirit of what truly are the dining destinations within the important social fabric of a neighborhood. Each neighborhood’s dining story is unique and engaging. We’re hoping at the same time to uncover some undiscovered treasures and also learn from classic legends that continue to thrive. These are the restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, and markets that help make “home,” truly your home. If you’d like to write about your neighborhood, please feel free to contact me via e-mail or Twitter: @TrevorFelch.

We’ll start with the town of Claremont, California, where years ago yours truly spent his college years at Claremont McKenna College and began my food writing career as the dining critic for the Claremont Colleges’ newspaper The Student Life. You can even compare my Back Abbey review and my article on the just-opened Eureka Burger (my finale article before graduation), with the paragraphs later in this article on both burger and craft beer establishments several years later. Do note how our opinions, years apart, are nearly identical.

Claremont, also called the “City of Trees,” is about 30 miles east of Downtown Los Angeles, the furthest eastern city in Los Angeles County. The city is known for its Claremont Colleges Consortium and for being a sophisticated oasis amidst the sprawling suburban sea that is the San Gabriel Valley. It is certainly not known as a dining destination, though it should be.

Without further ado, here is Pomona College senior Brian Shain’s Claremont, California. Continue reading “My Neighborhood: Burgers and Craft Beers in Claremont, CA”

Tuesday’s Project: Two Comfort Recipes for Tonight

Tonight wherever you may be, we all need some comfort cuisine during these tragic times.

More than any other night, this evening seems perfect for two classic Boston icons: a bowl of clam chowder and some Indian Pudding for dessert. We may be thousands of miles away from New England, but hopefully comfort food such as these two dishes can bring us closer to those affected by yesterday’s tragic events.


Let’s first start with the chowder that you can find up and down New England and even at many of the most recent Presidential inaugurations, courtesy of Legal Seafoods. Make sure not to forget stirring in the flour during the middle of the recipe, or the chowder will curdle and lack the necessary thickness.

Finish with dessert, which has to be Durgin Park’s Indian Pudding, the molasses and corn meal based dessert served at this Faneuil Hall landmark for the past 180 years. I’m not sure if Samuel Adams enjoyed the pudding, but I certainly do centuries later. Be very careful not to burn the top and at the 5 hour mark, use a toothpick for measuring the interior’s moistness.

Courtesy: http://www.roadfood.com/Recipes/36/indian-pudding
Courtesy: http://www.roadfood.com/Recipes/36/indian-pudding

Keep in mind the baking time is 5-7 hours. Don’t even think of enjoying this without a scoop of ice cream– vanilla or an earthy flavor such as pumpkin or the umami- filled burnt sugar flavor at Cambridge’s fantastic ice cream shop, Christina’s.

In times like these, this is what comfort food is for. Hopefully some clam chowder and Indian Pudding from two Boston legends can provide a few moments of solace this evening.

Boston Restaurants Giving a Helping Hand

Here is an ongoing thread of Boston restaurants that are currently having or planning fundraisers for those affected by yesterday’s tragedy and the heroic first responders who helped save so many other lives.

Many thanks to Easter Boston for putting together this list and to the many chefs and restaurateurs volunteering their precious time and resources for this important cause.


Plat du Jour: Tuesday April 16, 2013: How Do You Like Your Espresso & Major League Diets

On this spring Tuesday afternoon, we’ll give you an espresso jolt with this excellent and very thorough comparison of “Third Wave” espresso with the classic Italian espresso, courtesy of Erin Meister at Serious Eats.

Yours truly is a classic “Third Wave” coffee drinker, consuming one of these types of espressos each afternoon (or many more than one if away from San Francisco on assignment). Interestingly, my “local” cafe is really an Italian caffé of the sort where if you order an espresso, it’s meant to be a quick one minute shot and you’re out. I often describe this Italian espresso as “watery” and “meager,” so it greatly benefits from a dollop of steamed milk foam as a macchiato. Is the espresso on its really that bland and liquidy? Well, yes it is. It’s not meant to be swirled, sniffed, and examined from all angles like the “Third Wave” espressos.


Is one of the espresso types better?

Absolutely. There is no debate that the “Third Wave” style is the superior product. The depth, the wood, citrus, and herbal notes, complete with its silky structure compared to the Italian’s water– this isn’t even a contest.

However, as the article so beautifully explains, there is a complete difference in the barista’s process, the beans used, and often even the machines that pull the shots and grind the beans. The most glaring reason for the “Third Wave” espresso’s superior body and complete flavor profile is usually because more of the beans are used, creating a much denser shot with a smoother, thicker texture.

It’s an art and a science to pulling espresso shots. For me, there really isn’t a question here of which I prefer, but I know many advocates for both sides. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. If you’re an espresso drinker, you already have a clear preference.Continue reading “Plat du Jour: Tuesday April 16, 2013: How Do You Like Your Espresso & Major League Diets”