The River Cafe (London Travel Guide For Foodies: Day 3 of 3)

the river cafe

the river cafeFind day 1 of this trip here

Find day 2 of this trip here

This post is dedicated to two men I spent most of my waking hours with between the years 2006-2011: Staffan Terje and Umberto Gibin.

My morning started slow and mindful like it usually does. A little reading, a little journaling, some meditation.

But my zen routine quickly turned into a mad sprint when I received a call from the front desk of our hotel.

“Would you like to request a late check out?” a lady with a friendly voice inquires.

Gulp. “What time is check out?”

“11 a.m.”

“Uh, what time is it now?” I ask with a large lump now forming in my throat.

“It’s 11:45 a.m. ma’am.”

Holy shit!


“We gotta go!”

I’ve always hated black out curtains in hotels and this is a perfect example of why they can be a luxury and a liability at the same time.

I haven’t slept past 7 a.m. in years, but I think after two fast and furious days in London our bodies obviously needed the rest.

In fifteen minutes we were downstairs hailing a cab, completely out of time to visit Bouroughs Market. Bummer.

But, there was no way in hell I was missing River Cafe for lunch…

The River Cafe

We fly in hot with bags and suitcases flailing.

“We have to be out in 45 minutes,” I say apologetically.

“Absolutely, let’s get you set up right away then.”

“May we hold your suitcases for you?”

My mouth drops. I don’t know why I am still surprised at how helpful and kind people are here. The service in London is absolutely unparalleled to what I have experienced in the rest of the world.

the river cafe

I drop my purse and my mom at the bar and start exploring the restaurant.

the river cafeI am immediately transported back to my days cooking at Perbacco.

I scan the dining room.

There’s Sarah, our pastry chef, behind a counter of freshly baked tarts slicing Chocolate Nemesis Cake.

the river cafeI look over at the pantry station, lined with big bowls of ceci bean and kale salad; stewed peppers and blistered tomatoes; and freshly picked apples and I flash to visions of Yati, our pantry cook, squating down peeling beets before service.

the river cafe

the river cafeI look to the left at the expansive French brigade style hot line and see Benji, Alex and Sergio calling tickets back and forth, flipping pans of pasta and searing sardines ala plancha.

the river cafeI snap back into reality when my eyes make their way to the grandiose, neon pink wood burning oven–– the centerpiece of the dining room and kitchen.

It’s magnificent.

the river cafeI walk past its smoldering embers and smell of sweet smoke to the terrace outside. A long garden brimming with squash blossoms, cherry tomatoes, herbs and lettuces line the perimeter of the patio full of sophisticated diners basking in the sun.

the river cafe A man points a healthy bunch of kale out to his little boy.

the river cafeI walk back to the bar and notice that a plate full of fluffy, crusty focaccia fresh from the oven has appeared with three tiny bowls: olio nuevo, cracked black pepper and Maldon salt.

Oh man.

Savoring the bread is like riding a cloud up to heaven. I think, if I died right now I’d be cool with that.

the river cafe

I pick up the menu.

Ordering is easy. I know this food.

Not just in the way I know the names of classic Italian dishes and can tell how a dish will be presented just by reading its menu description. No, I KNOW these dishes. With every inch of my being.

I know them with my hands, the hands that spent hours tirelessly prepping these dishes over and over the same way day after day for five years.

I know them intellectually, from thinking about them every day. Ordering their ingredients, concocting daily specials,  studying their origins in cookbooks.

And I know them with my heart. The part of me that fell in love with Italian cooking and that lights up whenever I smell fresh basil, stir a pot of bolognese or drizzle olive oil over a plate of…anything.

The dishes on this menu were my life.

Grilled bread, covered with a heaping spoonful of those peppers and tomatoes I saw back in the kitchen are covered with purple and green basil leaves and peppery olive oil. A slice of creamy mozzarella di Bufala rests at its side.

the river cafe
Mozzarella di Bufala with bruschetta of grilled Italian peppers, basil and marinated summer tomatoes

Sarde––butterflied and wood roasted sardines––lie under a snowfall of crunchy breadcrumbs, lemon zest, chopped parsley and freshly pitted Nicoise olives.

the river cafe
Sarde – butterflied sardines wood-roasted with black olives, parsley, lemon zest and pangrattato

Beef carpaccio––thinly sliced raw beef top round––is rich and deep red like a ruby. Shaved baby beet, capers and grated horseradish complete the dish along with a glug of good olive oil and crunchy sea salt.

the river cafe
Carpaccio di Manzo – with pink & gold beets, parsley, capers and horseradish

Perfectly al dente ribbons of house made tagliatelle nest chunks of rabbit that have been slowly cooked with white wine and pancetta. Fresh basil. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Simple perfection.

the river cafe
Tagliatelle – rabbit cooked in Pinot Bianco with basil, pancetta and parmesan

We are jamming through these dishes knowing that we have to leave for the airport very soon when I remember…

We must have dessert.

I place an order for their infamous caramel gelato and a slice of strawberry-almond tart while we finish our pasta.

Desserts appear and I am nearly in tears at this point.

I’m back at Perbacco now, sneaking into Sarah’s freezer for a spoonful of caramel gelato.

I smile when I take a bite because I actually remember enjoying Sarah’s more.

The trick to this gelato is burning the caramel, so that its flavor can over ride the fattiness of the cream in the custard. The flavor results in a pleasant bitterness reminiscent of a high acid, full body cup of coffee.

Sarah used to take her caramel to just under burnt, so that the flavor was sweet while still being front and center.

the river cafe
Caramel gelato

But, the tart. OMG.

Is this the best thing I’ve put in my mouth this trip? Or maybe ever?

OK, that’s saying a lot, but seriously this was one of those moments in my life that I will never forget.

The almond tart is chewy and buttery, sweet and nutty, caramelized and gooey. There are so many things going on in my mouth that my brain doesn’t know what to think. And frankly, it doesn’t want to even try.

Perfect, pink strawberries are intentionally placed in precise rows along the top of the tart and dusted in powdered sugar. The fresh, sweet, tart, crunchy berries pair with the tart so well I could never imagine them being apart. There is also a pool of silky smooth creme fraiche on the side for dipping.

the river cafe
Strawberry-almond tart with creme fraiche

Looking around the restaurant I start thinking about Staffan and Umberto and my stack of River Cafe cookbooks at home.

I get it guys.

I “got it” back then, but now that I’m here… I really get it. What inspired you about this place is inspiring the hell out of me now. And I have to say….you have succeeded.

You have taken the feel and beauty of this place and recreated it in a way that is you. That is San Francisco. That is completely unique, yet just like this at the same time.

So, thank you.

Thank you for everything you taught me, and gave me access to, in order for me to arrive at this place.

In this moment.

At this time in my life.

Right now.

Our bartender gets us out exactly on time to catch our flight. Before we know it we are being handed our luggage and settling into a Mercedes Benz Uber outside the restaurant.

On our way to  Heathrow airport I savor the taste of that strawberry-almond tart on my tongue.

In what was one of the quickest meals I have ever had I never felt rushed or stressed once.

I got everything in that I wanted to, and had a lovely time.

It was truly one of the greatest meals of my life.


Read the rest of my London Travel Guide for Foodies: day one here and day two here

* Side note: I always travel with a list of restaurant recommendations longer than I can possibly tackle. Here are the ones I didn’t get to on this trip that I will definitely visit next time…

Bourough Market

Ottolenjihi (Notting Hill)

Ye Old Cheshire Cheese

The Lamb

The Grapes

Darjeeling Express


Pillars of Hercules

The George

Granger & Co. 



10 Greek Street


Dean Street


Smithfield Market

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London Travel Guide For Foodies: Day 1 of 3

london travel guide

london travel guideIt’s 3 a.m.

Time to get up.

Bleary eyed, I brush my teeth and shove my toothbrush, clean laundry and a stack of books into my suitcase. I zip it up, grab my phone and order a Lyft.

There are zero people in line when I arrive at the San Diego airport. But, it’s like a full crowd scene in Salt Lake City. And in Raleigh, a kind southern lady points me to gate C23 in order to complete the last leg of my journey abroad.

A poor excuse for pesto pasta, a documentary on agave and one sleeping pill later and I’m standing in line at the U.K. border at 7 a.m. the following day, dreaming about my first stop…


“We are well known for our Shakshuka. Lots of restaurants are serving it now, but I think we were one of the first. Our chef is a bit of a trendsetta,” our server explains in a beautiful english accent.


“We’ll have that, and one of your almond croissants please.”

“Excellent choice. Our pastries are my favorite.”

london travel guide
House made sourdough and pastries (Nopi)

A cauldron of smoky stewed onions and tomatoes glimmering with toasted cumin and coriander appears with two perfectly poached, neon orange farm eggs and two dollops of creamy lebneh nestled inside. A few sprigs of micro cilantro and two slices of house made focaccia rocking a crusty char and a soft center complete the outfit.

Shakshuka at Nopi
Shakshuka – braised eggs, piquant tomato sauce, smoked labneh (Nopi)

We dig into the croissant. A sugar coated seduction of laminated dough shatters upon impact, leaving a buttery trail of almond infused fairy dust all over the collar of my shirt.

london travel guide
Almond Croissant (Nopi)

“We’re off to a good start,” I tell my mother.

london travel guide
A bathroom selfie from all angles (Nopi)

The heat, rising faster than cars racing over the autobahn, is inescapable as we walk down winding, narrow streets to our next destination…

Lamb and Flag

“it’s the oldest pub in town,” I report, leading Mom down an unassuming back alley. We stumble upon the charming two-story pub of Lamb and Flag. At 11 a.m. it has just opened for the day.

Three tables are already enjoying a round of pints and a cliche of a man dressed in traditional English attire with a mustache holds court practicing politics.

london travel guide
Lamb and Flag pub

“Out of the four local gins on your menu, which would you suggest?”

The bartender doesn’t hesitate. “Why that would be the Sipsmith of course.”

london travel guideHe sets down a rack of clean glassware to prepare our drinks.

“I’ll have the Cornish Gold Cider,” Mom says, eagerly awaiting a cold beverage.

london travel guide
Mom at Lamb and Flag

It’s unusually hot and this city is not equipped with air conditioning. I wonder how long Mom is going to last.

“This was one of Charles Dickens’ old haunts,” I recount from a blog post I’d recently read.

“It’s cozy,” Mom says with a loving twinkle in her eye.

Dishoom (Covent Garden)

“Do we have a table for two?” A young woman wearing a headset inquires to an army inside.

“We can seat you right now.”


The hostess leads us through tiny, crowded tables overflowing with plates of chicken tikka, soupy bowls of dahl and baskets of garlic scented naan.

The kitchen is pumping out food like it’s the Cheesecake Factory and I’m wondering how the hell they keep up with a dining room this busy.

Pau Bhaji, a classic Bombay street food snack, hits the table first. I slather the spicy, mashed vegetables onto lacquered house made buns sampling every sauce on the table: Mint-Coriander, Date-Tamarind and Chili Chutney.

london travel guide
Pau Bhaji, spicy lamb chop, gunpowder potatoes and roomali roti (Dishoom)

Next comes grilled lamb coated in a wet rub of ginger, cardamom, allspice and garlic with fresh pomegranate seeds and mint scattered on top. The meat pulls off the bone in one swift motion.

Tiny round potatoes smothered in toasted, crushed coriander and cumin seeds, cilantro and melted scallion arrive with a side of yogurt for dipping. The grilled starchy side dish is smoky and delicious.

london travel guide
Gunpowder potatoes (Dishoom)

I pick up a piece of roti like it’s a wet rag and tear off a piece. It’s warm and covered in black spots, blistered from the tawa it was cooked in. Perfection.

“I need a reset,” Mom says. Not surprised, I encourage her to go back to the hotel to cool down and get some rest.

I walk off in the opposite direction to find more gin…

Marquis of Granby

The menu says: Gin and Ale house. My kind of place.

The gin selection is impressive. I find one on the menu called Silent Pool. The description says: “Made using the water from the silent pool in the Surrey Hills.”

“I’ll have a double.”

london travel guideWhile the essence of 24 different botanicals delicately dance across my tongue I read a famous poem written by a regular of the Marquis of Granby––T.S. Elliot.

“Let us go then, you and I …”

london travel guide
Marquis of Granby

Virginia Woolf, the woman who brilliantly once said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” also frequented this pub.

As did Dylan Thomas.

I look at the menu again and notice that it includes dishes such as chicken wings and a blue cheese burger. The strings of festival posters strung across the bar don’t exactly go with the antique decor either.

As I longingly reflect on my life and the modern bastardization of this lovely old pub I shuffle through my brain’s rolodex of favorite quotes to a favorite one by Dylan Thomas.

“Though lovers be lost love shall not.”

I get up from the table and walk back out on to the street before the first sign of tears can hit my cheek.

SAID Dal 1923

What is that!?

I look up to see a case full of chocolate truffles, cakes and pastries of every shape and size. There is a towering stack of brownies studded with walnuts staring down at me. And is that an espresso machine?

london travel guide
SAID Dal 1923 chocolate and espresso bar

Time for a detour I think.

“Do you make your chocolate in house,” I ask, staring at the selection of chocolate bars laid out like greeting cards.

london travel guide
SAID Dal 1923

“Yes we do!”

“Let me get a bar of this 72% dark chocolate and one of your SAID mochas.”

london travel guide
Chocolate truffles (SAID Dal 1923)

A cup of coffee appears like an angel rocking a halo, playing a harp.

Two shots of espresso, a dash of steamed oat milk and decadent liquid dark, white and milk chocolate dumped unapologetically all over the rim and saucer of the cup is placed in front of me.

SAID mocha (SAID Dal 1923)


I suck it back like I’m making sloppy, drunk love to the Italian barista with the dark hair and tight pants behind the counter.

This is freiken amazing. Why have I never seen or had a drink like this before?

The Fitztroy Tavern

Ok, one quick pint I think as I enter the Fitztroy Tavern.

london travel guide
Fitztroy Tavern

Two hours later I walk out pleasantly buzzed with a new friend named Frank.

He was sitting at the bar unwrapping a Frank Zappa CD when I saddled up. “They still make those things?” I say with a wink. He looks up through his thick glasses and laughs.

Ok, I can tell we’re gonna be friends.

We settle into a pleasant conversation discussing our favorite Netflix shows, two buck chuck and my career as a chef in San Francisco.

I ask the bartender to recommend a local lager.

“You want to try mine?” Frank says.

God, people are friendly here.

I end up going with the Samuel Smith Organic Lager which is quite guzzable.

An hour later Frank buys the next round.

“I gotta get going Frank. But, let’s take a photograph before I go!”

I shake his hand and inform him that he has just agreed to let me use the photo on my website. He laughs, indicating that it’s fine with him and I head out to catch the Underground.

london travel guide
Me and Frank (Fitztroy Tavern)

Years of living in cities taking public transportation ignites a fire in me as I enter the subway. I walk up to the ticket machine and swiftly select my route like I’ve been living here all my life.

My intuition kicks in and I start navigating tunnels and turnstiles, switching trains and maneuvering through crowds without hesitation. My brain, now completely switched off, relies on my legs which innately know where to go. The rest of my body is now just along for the ride.

london travel guide
Riding the Underground

I happily slip back out onto the busy street like it’s an oversized, fuzzy robe. The rush of the city soothing me like Ritalin calms a kid with Attention Deficit Disorder.

London travel guide
London Underground

Black Axe Mangal

I’m meeting Bianca here.

A young, intelligent, beautiful blond bombshell who I met through Darya Rose. Bianca is PhD bound and studying to become a therapist.

We waste no time diving right into a deep philosophical discussion before barely getting a drink order in.

“Shall we order a bottle of red?”

My mom has rejoined me too. She looks much better after a shower and nap.


Bianca is a doll and plates start hitting the table. They are shockingly good.

Flinstone sized hunks of bones split in half, roasted and slathered with braised oxtails and anchovy-herb butter with bone marrow seeping out of all sides are divine.

london travel guide
Bone marrow, oxtail and anchovy bread (Black Axe Mangal)

A “hot pocket” stuffed with chard, potato and unpasteurized English Ogleshield cheese oozes when I cut it open with a knife. We dip pieces of it in apple jelly and moan over how good it is.

london travel guide
Chard, potato and Ogleshield hot pocket with apple jelly (Black Axe Mangal)

A crunchy terrine resting in a pool of tart, spicy, sweet chili sauce garnished with julienned apple called “Crispy Fuckin Rabbit” arrives next.

london travel guide
Crispy Fuckin Rabbit with sweet chili and apple (Black Axe Mangal)

“Oh that’s good,” I say as I construct another forkful.

A wedge of charred cauliflower appears wearing a glob of smooth, tangy goat cheese, covered in a flurry of chopped cilantro, lemon zest and bottarga is equally as wonderful.

london travel guide
Charred cauliflower, goats’s curd and bottarga (Black Axe Mangal)

So is the Mushroom Mapo Tofu with tempura fried enoki mushrooms with pickled red jalapeños.

london travel guide
Mushroom mapo tofu and enoki tempura (Black Axe Mangal)

I thought the meal couldn’t get any better until dessert came. A frozen candy bar that tasted like Reeses Peanut Butter Cup covered in chocolate and chopped peanuts.

I’m officially in heaven. Don’t anybody pinch me.

london travel guide
Peanut butter bar (Black Axe Mangal)

I wish Bianca well and Mom calls an Uber.

As we ride back to the hotel chatting with the driver I notice how clean the city is and reflect on how kind and respectful everyone is here and how absolutely perfect the day has been.

Welcome to London.

Find day 2 of this trip here

Find day 3 of this trip here

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Maui For Foodies

Punakea Palms

Punakea Palms

The road to Hana is paved with…….not enough restaurants!

Sure, there is world class snorkeling, humpback whale watching and the infamous road to Hana. But if you are a chef or a foodie like me, you plan your trips around food and squeeze those things in only if there is extra time!

If you find that ludicrous, then this particular travel guide is not for you. There will be no beach recommendations or ocean excursions mentioned here. There will, however be a boatload of restaurants, farms and places to get a good drink in this post. Hey, even healthy locavores need to have fun too.

This is Maui for foodies.

Plane from Honolulu to Lahaina
Plane from Honolulu to Lahaina

If you are coming over from Honolulu and landing at Kapalua airport chances are you’ll be wedged in a puka shell sized puddle-jumper such as the one pictured above. I recommend flying into this airport, to avoid the hoards of tourists at the bigger and busier Kahului Airport––located on the other side of the island.

But be prepared, other than a tarmac and glorified hot dog stand you won’t find any amenities at this airport. Have a ride lined up or you’ll be walking to your hotel. Rental cars are a must have on this island.

Lahaina (West Maui)

The towns up and down the west side of Maui, including Lahaina are no doubt some of the most picturesque on the island. Large banyan trees, beautiful beach parks and views of Lana’i and Moloka’i line the coast.

We opted for an oceanfront Airbnb at the Kaleialoha Vacation Rentals for our accommodations. It was a cute little one bedroom with beach access, spacious lanai and fully stocked kitchen. There was a sea turtle that swam around below us every morning.

Airbnb in Lahaina
The lanai at our Kaleialoha vacation rental
Airbnb in Lahaina
View from our Kaleialoha vacation rental

Places to eat near Lahaina

Choice Health Bar

This is a great place to stop for a healthy vegan breakfast, lunch or (non-alchololic and sugar free) power drink. All of the produce used on the menu here is organic and handpicked locally. Menu selections include things like overnight oats, chia pudding, pad thai, kale and quinoa buddha bowls, acai bowls, smoothies and shots of noni juice.

Choice Health Bar
Overnight oats at Choice Health Bar

Merriman’s Kapalua

When you are ready for pau hana (happy hour) and an epic sunset, cruise over to  Merriman’s and grab a spot at the bar overlooking Kapalua Bay. Peter Merriman is one of the founding fathers of Hawaiian cuisine and helped pioneer the farm-to-table concept here. 90% of the food at this restaurant is locally sourced.

And they make a damn good mai tai too.

Merriman's Lahaina
Merriman’s Lahaina

Lahaina Grill

If you are craving classic, old world inspired cuisine and are having a foie gras void in your life (like I was) than this is where you come. It’s not cutting edge but it is decadent. Think escargot, Wagyu beef ravioli with black truffle, filet mignon and lobster. Pro tip––order a few things to share for the table and a nice glass of wine and leave it at that. This place can get pricy.

Seared Ahi and Hudson Valley Foie Gras at Lahaina Grill
Seared Ahi and Hudson Valley Foie Gras at Lahaina Grill
Marcho Farms Veal "Osso Buco" at Lahaina Grill
Marcho Farms Veal “Osso Buco” at Lahaina Grill

The Mill House

Hands down my favorite restaurant on the island.

Tucked inside the Maui Tropical Plantation through a path of botanical gardens and fountains made of old sugarcane cogs, you will find one of the most beautiful restaurants on Maui. And the best part? They farm the majority of their produce on site. The rest all comes from other parts of the island. Everything including the unbelievable table bread (Buttery Hawaiian dinner rolls and rustic sourdough rye? Come on!) and delicate pastas are made in house. Hats off to chef Jeff Scheer.

The Mill House
The botanical gardens at Maui Tropical Plantation
The Mill House
The Mill House
The Mill House
The Mill House
Local Fish Crudo & Mortadella Musubi at The Mill House
Local Fish Crudo & Mortadella Musubi at The Mill House
Chicken Bao Buns & Pork Shank Rillette at The Mill House
Chicken Bao Buns & Pork Shank Rillette at The Mill House
Greens from the farm at The Mill House
Greens and root vegetables from the farm with carrot puree and lemon vinaigrette  at The Mill House
Local fish at The Mill House
Local fish, coconut-cucumber curry and spicy papaya salad at The Mill House
Bone Marrow with Braised Taro Leaf Risotto at The Mill House
Bone Marrow with Braised Taro Leaf Risotto at The Mill House
Chocolate dessert at The Mill House
Chocolate mousse and banana ice-cream with candied cashew at The Mill House

Punakea Palms

Just a man and his coconuts….

On the surface it would appear that Punakea Palms sells farm tours. But, after taking a tour here I know now, that what they are actually providing is an educational experience in natural farming,  sustainability and the health benefits of coconut.

This is a family owned and run operation. In fact, the owners live on the property, so what you are basically taking a tour of is their back yard.

Punakea Palms
The view from Punakea Palms

The owner’s son, Kai is the mastermind behind the coconut groves here. He is both the farmer and the tour guide. Kai starts the tour by giving you some background on the land you are standing on––old sugarcane fields with soil that has been heavily depleted from hundreds of years of burning the land to harvest sugarcane.

It is from here, that you realize Kai and his family aren’t growing coconuts to sell (there is surprisingly not a big enough market and coconut products are too labor intensive to be profitable), they are trying to save the land.

There are a few methods they use to do this: They grow a legume called halloa, which nourishes the soil with nitrogen providing the dry, scorched land with moisture; they water the palms with nutrient dense water from the valley and they have planted pine trees on the property to encourage more rain, helping to restore the ecosystem of the land back to the rainforest it once was before being turned into sugarcane fields.

Kai goes on to explain that coconut palms are indigenous to Hawaii and were the first trees to sprout up when the islands were first being formed by volcanos. They require warm tropical climates with a lot of rainfall, about 20 gallons of water everyday to be exact. He said that the coconuts themselves act as seeds. They fall from the tree and with sun and moisture they set roots and sprout up.

Punakea Palms
Punakea Palms

From here, Kai goes into harvest times and how to check what stage the coconut is in when picked.

At 5 months (or less) the coconuts are not ready. The water is a bit sour and the meat is underdeveloped, like jelly.

At 6 months the coconuts are young and the meat is starting to firm up.

Prime harvest time for coconut water is  7 months. The coconuts will be heavy and when shaken you will hear water sloshing around inside of it. The meat at this point is the perfect texture to scrape out and eat with a spoon.

If making coconut milk is what you desire than you wait until the coconuts are firm, dry and light in weight.

As we sat on the grass under a shady tree (which you will need to take advantage of, since it gets very hot on this farm) Kai cracked coconuts and continued to educate us while we sipped fresh coconut water from bamboo straws.

Water fresh from a coconut is a flavor you will never find in any bottled version. Even if the brand uses non-heated methods for pasteurization.

Kai also dispelled the myth that pink coconut water occurs in nature. Apparently it is only a result of pasteurization.

Punakea Palms
Punakea Palms

Kai finishes the tour by teaching the group some of the ways to process coconuts for eating and drinking. He’ll show you how to use a traditional coconut stool shredder to grate the meat out of mature coconuts. You’ll also get to try your hand at using a more modern coconut meat removal tool to carve out the meat  to make coconut milk with.

Making coconut milk is a surprisingly simple, yet labor intensive process, that involves carving out the meat from a mature coconut, pureeing it in a blender with a mix of coconut water and filtered water and then squeezing it through a nut bag.

The milk that comes out is rich and delicious and will last up to 4-5 days in the fridge. The coconut meat that you capture in the nut bag, by straining off the milk, can be dried and made into coconut flour.

Punakea Palms
Making fresh coconut milk at Punakea Palms


This is the “city” on the island and where Kahului airport is located.

Tin Roof

If you are a foodie, no trip to Maui is complete without a stop to the infamous Tin Roof, owned by Chef Sheldon Simeon

You may remember him from Top Chef season 10 and 14. He is on tap to host the new season of, YouTube show, Cooking in America and his new restaurant HALA this fall. I even hear he is planning to open a Tin Roof on Oahu. Fingers crossed!

His menu is a playful take on your typical Hawaiian plate lunch restaurant. He of course uses local meats, fish, produce and artisan-made products and prides himself on making honest food for his community.

His Mochica chicken is addictive. Crunchy and tender,  glazed with a sweet sauce, furikake and asian rice crackers. The Pork belly is succulent and flavorful. Sides include things like spicy kale salad, ‘ulu mac salad, saimin noodles that you can get dry or with broth and what is called a dime bag (I’ve heard rumors on what people think this is–– some say it is a mixture of crumbled up rice crackers, doritios, furikake and spices).

Save room for dessert because they carry Pono Pies! Ridiculously good vegan and gluten free pies made with breadfruit. I tried the banana-coconut cream version and it was amazing.

Heads up these guys are only open 10am-2pm, they’re closed on Sundays and there is probably going to be a long line.

Actually, do yourself a favor, if you are flying out of the Kahului airport stop by here first to get some ono flight “grinds”!

…and don’t forget to throw down a few bucks for the Pau Hana Fund. (That’s the cash pot for after work beers for all you civilians.)

Tin Roof
Tin Roof
Mochica chicken, Saimin, Pork Belly, Mac-Ulu Salad and Banana-Coconut cream Pono Pie from Tin Roof
Mochica chicken, Saimin, Pork Belly, Mac-Ulu Salad and Banana-Coconut cream Pono Pie from Tin Roof
Pono pie
Banana-coconut Pono pie


No foodie trip to Maui is complete without a tour of upcountry. As you drive out to the countryside away from the coast, climb higher in elevation to the center of the island up the Haleakala crater you will find farms rich in volcanic soil, stunning views and paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys).

Pa’ia –

Pa’ia is where upcountry starts farthest north by the coast. It is a quaint little hippie, surfing town full of great dining options, an excellent organic health food store called Mana Foods and lots of boutique shopping right on the edge of one of the best windsurfing beach in the world.


If you’re only in town one night grab dinner at Milagros. A Mom and Pop establishment serving some of the best Mexican food in Hawaii (believe me, in Hawaii it’s hard to come by). Grab a margarita and some enchiladas, or fish tacos, out on the patio and let the people watching commence.

Makawao –

This is known as cowboy country. In the days of King Kamehameha III he sent vaqueros (Spanish cowboys) from California to come and teach the Hawaiians how to wrangle their cattle. Up until WWII this town provided supplies to neighboring farms, and went all but dormant until a resurgence in the 80’s brought in upscale retail, yoga studios and hip eateries….and of course, there is a cowboy museum too.

T. Komoda Bakery

Legendary bakery specializing in donuts, dinner rolls and their famous cream puffs. Locals say get there early. Past 10 or 11am they just about sell out of everything.


This tiny town is only a few miles long and is mostly made up of a few must-see businesses…

Hali’imaile Distilling Company

Home of Pau Vodka made from pineapples grown right across the street and other spirits made from locally grown ingredients. Tours run every hour.

Hali'imaile Distilling Company
Hali’imaile Distilling Company

Hali’imaile General Store

We have had the cookbook for this restaurant sitting on our bookshelf for years. The food is highly regarded here, but what is equally impressive is their cocktail menu. Ask for Wendy, who has been bartending there for 17 years. The first bartender I have ever met whose favorite tool behind the bar is a blender. She has constructed an entire menu of blended libations. She uses local spirits (some distilled just across the street), fresh herbs, fruit and lots of love in every drink she makes. She’ll even make up a new one right there on the spot for you if you’d like. Be on top of your game, she’s got some good zingers you’ll miss if you aren’t paying attention.

The Lemongrass-Ginger Frost at Hali'imaile General Store
The Lemongrass-Ginger Frost at Hali’imaile General Store

Makai Glass

A fine glass art and glassblowing studio that you can take a free tour of. Sculptures are inspired by Hawaii sea life and volcanic formations and they are incredibly beautiful.

Makai Glass
Makai Glass

Maui Pineapple Tour

Learn everything from how pineapples are grown, harvested and processed. There will be pineapple to sample and even bring home. This is a pretty famous attraction on the island so book your tour in advance.

Kula –

Positioned on the slopes of the Haleakala crater, a dormant volcano and the second largest mountain in the world, is the town of Kula. Miles of pristine farmland boasting some of the most beautiful panoramic views of the ocean that you will find on the island.

Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm

A wonderland of over 7 varieties of lavender broken up by walking trails, gazebos and zen gardens. Farm tours are available daily.

Maui Wine

Pineapple wine? Yep, and many other interesting varietals as well. Sip on exotic wines as you enjoy the beautiful vineyard and breathtaking views.

Surfing Goat Dairy

I love the story of this place. Thomas and Eva, husband and wife team from Germany, were a couple of surfers who came to Maui to “retire.” Over 9 years later they own the only certified humane goat farm in Hawaii, one of two goat farms in the entire state and make award winning goats cheeses that have found their way on to menus all over the country including, at the White House (the variety, Utterly Delicious was served at President Obama’s inauguration).

Surfing Goat Dairy
Surfing Goat Dairy

They raise about 200 goats by hand. They are completely self sufficient in terms of energy (Hawaiian Sea Spirits is the only other farm on Maui that can say that). Their whole farm is decorated with broken surfboards that they rescued from becoming landfill at the dump (they traded the county goat cheese for them).

Surfing Goat Dairy
Surfing Goat Dairy
Surfing Goat Dairy
Surfing Goat Dairy

Their cheeses are light and mild. Pasteurization done immediately after the milking process removes any gamey flavor the goat’s milk could impart. They offer 30 different variations of goat cheese including a cheve that sits in rennet 24 hours, and aged cheese called ping pong and over the top varieties like “Midas Touch” (dusted with 23k gold flakes) and “Perigord” (covered in black truffles and truffle oil.).

My personal favorites were their feta and the Ole, which is flavored with jalapeños, artichokes, lime and cilantro.

Not to mention the goats are damn cute. I loved that they had a special pen for the female goats that were too old to milk anymore called “The Golden Girls Caralle.”

Cheese tasting at Surfing Goat Dairy
Cheese tasting at Surfing Goat Dairy

Hawaii Sea Spirits 

You gotta love a farm that offers you free food right off the bat as you walk in. Of course I helped myself to some bananas and of course they were delicious.

Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery

This is Earl, an ex-bartender and the distillery’s entertaining (and extremely knowledgable) tour guide. He walks you through the USDA certified organic farm filled with varieties of sugarcane from all over the world, the distillation process and concludes the tour with a tasting. An education in finely crafted booze you will never forget.

Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Our tour guide, Earl at Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery

The distillery is known for two premium spirits. Master distiller, Bill Scott has created  Ocean Vodka and Deep Island Hawaiian Rum, both crafted in a state of the art eco-friendly facility using sugarcane grown organically on the property.

Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery

As you tour the grounds you will be invited by lush, colorful landscaping.

Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery

They make a 150 proof white rum that has nuances of banana, coconut, vanilla and marshmallow.

While Rum is defined by its ingredients, vodka is defines by its distillation process.

Earl explains that they first mix the sugarcane with distillers yeast for three days until it ferments. They then take that 10% alcohol “sugarcane beer,” heat it and distill it until it reaches 40% alcohol. This is now called a “sugarcane spirit”. For the vodka, they distill it 40 times until it is super clean. From here they blend the spirit with their very clean and fresh ocean mineral water. This water is part of their claim to fame. It started as a glacier in Greenland. Over the span of 2000 years the world’s current carried it to Kona Hawaii, where it is then tapped into 3000 feet below sea level and brought to Maui to their farm.

Since the only things that matter for the quality of vodka are water, fermentation and distillation Hawaii Sea Spirits has vowed to nail all three.

Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery
The “bar” at Hawaiian Sea Spirits Organic Farm & Distillery

Back at the bar Earl pours shots for everyone. The vodka is slightly sweet, doesn’t burn going down and actually enhances other ingredients when mixed into a cocktail.

He explains that their rum unlike most other rums is made from fresh sugarcane juice and not molasses. It has not been aged or spiced and because of that is completely clear in color. It smells like coconut and tastes like banana bread.

O’o Farm

Organic farm that produces all of the produce Pacific’o restaurant in Lahaina serves on its menu. Their farm tour includes a gourmet lunch with freshly harvested ingredients while enjoying a cooler climate with breathtaking views.

Enjoy Maui

All foodie obsessions aside no trip to Hawaii is complete without a trip to the beach. So do like the locals do––enjoy some good food, quality time with your friends and family and take an afternoon nap by the ocean…. island style.