Category Archives: Travel Adventures

Great Cheap Eats in Los Angeles

Finally -- the elusive fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man!

Finally — the elusive fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man!

 

On a recent trip down to Los Angeles, I had a chance to try some new favorite eats. All satisfying. All affordable, too. The best kind, don’t you, think?

Donut Nirvana

I’d heard about it, seen pics online and salivated over it on the Food Network. But try as I might, I never seemed to be in Los Angeles at the right time of year to snag a fresh strawberry donut at The Donut Man in Glendora.

Until this trip.

Let me tell you, it was definitely worth the wait and lived up to all the hype.

Imagine a fresh brioche donut split in half, then stuffed to the gills with fresh, juicy whole strawberries that have been macerated in just a smidge of syrup.

What I love is that it’s not overly sweet at all, thanks to the fact that the donut, itself, is not glazed. As a result, the flavor of the berries shine through.

It’s sort of like strawberry shortcake. Only better.

Of course, after making the drive, you've got to get more than one donut. You've got to get a box-load.

Of course, after making the drive, you’ve got to get more than one donut. You’ve got to get a box-load.

A beloved institution for more than 40 years, The Donut Man is sort of in the middle of nowhere. It’s essentially a humble kiosk with a walk-up window in a parking lot shared by a martial arts school, of all things.

If you’re anywhere in the vicinity, do make the drive.

Now, if I can only make it back one later in the summer when the fresh peach donut is available. Yes, same as the strawberry one, but with fresh slices of yellow peaches instead. That’s definitely worth making a return trip.

Grand Central Market is Plenty Grand

Think the Ferry Building in San Francisco — but a version that keeps it a little more real.

That’s Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, a market arcade that originally opened in 1917, but was infused with new life two years ago.

Sure, there are upscale food vendors now such as Belcampo Meat Co., and Bombo, esteemed Chef Mark Peel’s seafood-centric cafe.

Inside Grand Central Market.

Inside Grand Central Market.

But there are also old-school, ethnic outposts such as China Cafe, which dishes up chop suey and egg fo yeung; Valeria’s, which offers a well-stocked Latin pantry of items, including fresh mole pastes to take home to cook with; and La Casa Verde, a large produce market with very down-to-earth prices.

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A Trio of Maui Restaurants

Executive Chef-Owner Jeff Scheer of Maui Executive Catering plates a course at his chef's table dinner.

Executive Chef-Owner Jeff Scheer of Maui Executive Catering plates a course at his chef’s table dinner.

MAUI, HAWAII – On a recent trip here, I had a chance to check out three restaurants: one that lets you get up close and personal with the chef; another that opened only two months ago; and a third spearheaded by a “Top Chef” fan favorite.

The visit and meals were all courtesy of the Maui Visitors Bureau.

The Chef’s Table at Maui Executive Catering

Heartthrob Chef Jeff Scheer may never live down his shirtless photo spread for a story on chefs with tattoos for Edible Hawaiian Islands magazine. (Wherever he goes now, fellow chefs playfully heckle him with “Take your shirt off! Take your shirt off!”)

But the owner and executive chef of Maui Executive Catering has serious cooking chops.

You can taste for yourself at one of his chef’s table dinners offered on Friday and Saturday nights at his catering company’s site that’s hidden amongst a warren of businesses in a low-slung building in Haiku.

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You Never Know What You’ll Turn Up in Hawaii

Atomic red hot dog musubi from Foodland market on Maui.

Atomic red hot dog musubi from Foodland market on Maui.

Like Neon-Red Hot Dogs

Yes, hot dogs the very unnatural color of atomic red are a thing in Hawaii.

Think of them as the red velvet cake of hot dogs.

You can find them in packages in the supermarkets, atop musubi or nestled into buns.

As one Hawaiian-born chef joked to me, “We do like our carcinogens.”

Even though he and his friends grew up on them, none could offer an explanation as to why they are the color that they are.

Even a Maui News article published a few years ago wasn’t able to shed much light on it.

I’ll take a wild guess and surmise they’re that hue to emulate char siu or Chinese barbecued pork. But who knows?

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A Taste of Paradise on Maui

Molokai sweet potato pancakes at Cane & Canoe at the Montage Kapalua. What a way to greet the morning.

Molokai sweet potato pancakes at Cane & Canoe at the Montage Kapalua. What a way to greet the morning.

 

MAUI, HAWAII – In seven days on this tropical paradise, one can do major damage to the waistline. So much for that Speedo or bikini bod.

I can practically live on nothing but poke and papaya when I visit Hawaii. But of course, when you’re a guest invited by the Maui Visitors Bureau, with meals and accommodations provided, you end up eating a whole lot more. Happily, of course.

In fact, I miss the food already. Can you blame me? Just take a look.

Montage Kapualua Bay

One of the newer resorts in the area, the 24-acre, oceanfront Montage Kapualua Bay opened in June 2014. A former Ritz-Carlton time-share, the property still boasts a fair number of privately-owned luxury units. But 50 of them are operated by the hotel, comprising one-, two-, and three-bedroom residences with gourmet kitchens, living rooms and spacious lanais.

There’s also a large fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, spa services, outdoor hot and cold plunge pools, and exercise classes. Yours truly even dragged herself to an early-morning cardio core class one day.

The view during breakfast.

The view during breakfast.

The living room in our suite.

The living room in our suite.

The full-service kitchen, which even has a washer-dryer off to the side.

The full-service kitchen, which even has a washer-dryer off to the side.

One of three bedrooms in this particular suite.

One of three bedrooms in this particular suite.

But first things first. After a very long flight that arrived late at night, my husband and I were so looking forward to breakfast the next morning at the resort’s restaurant, Cane & Canoe.

The open-air restaurant affords a perfect view of the pool and ocean as the sun comes up. Bask in that sight as complimentary mini kabocha muffins arrive to the table.

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Tantalizing Tastes From the 8th Annual Maui County Ag Fest

San Francisco Chef Ritchie Nakano shows off his saimin dish at the Maui County Ag Fest live cook-off event. Nakano was the only chef to use Spam in his dish.

San Francisco Chef Richie Nakano shows off his saimin dish at the Maui County Ag Fest live cook-off event as Maui Chef Jeff Scheer looks on. Nakano was the only chef to use Spam in a dish.

 

MAUI, HAWAII – Despite its rich soil and tropical, year-round growing season, Hawaii actually imports about 90 percent of its food. To promote a growing trend toward locavorism, the Maui County Farm Bureau has hosted its Maui County Ag Festival for the past eight years.

For the fourth time, I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest judge for the event by the Maui Visitors Bureau.

The all-day event on April 4 drew hundreds to the Maui Tropical Plantation to eat, drink, and mingle with chefs and farmers. A lively farmers market gave folks the chance to buy Maui-grown strawberry papayas, avocados, apple bananas and even hand-pounded poi.

An assortment of food trucks made sure there was no shortage of food. In fact, I hate to admit that my day consisted of: Pigging out at Chef Kyle Kawakami’s Maui Fresh Streatery Gourmet Food Truck, which changes its menu according to the local ingredients available each week; followed by judging 12 dishes prepared by chefs in the live cook-off; then judging another 12 dishes in the Grand Taste event, where each chef had to make a dish spotlighting an ingredient grown by a local farm.

Maui Fresh Streetery truck.

Maui Fresh Streatery truck.

The truck's poutine topped with Maui Cattle Co. braised short ribs.

The truck’s poutine topped with Maui Cattle Co. braised short ribs.

My eating didn’t end there, either. Even though I vowed I was done after that, I somehow ended up at the chefs after-party at Chef Sheldon Simeon’s Migrant restaurant, where plate after plate descended upon the table in a non-stop parade.

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