Travel

helenas-sign.jpgIf you want to experience authentic native Hawaiian food, as opposed to the fusion of Hawaiian, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese that is common today, you must eat at Helena's Hawaiian Food. I've been going to Helena's since 1977 and while Helena is sadly gone and the location has changed, the food is exactly the same as it ever was. Absolutely delicious. But don't just take my word for it, Helena's was actually recognized with a James Beard award for outstanding American regional cuisine in 2000.

To say Helena's is an unassuming little place would be an understatement. You eat here, you don't dine. It's the kind of restaurant where they don't clear the tables until customers come in the door. Despite the posters and photographs on the walls, it has zero ambiance with mismatched plastic plates and formica tables. It's all about the food which arrives on small plates that are intended to be shared.

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edenrockGenerally, the time to avoid is the hurricane season that officially runs between 1 June and 30 November. However...

Generally I think avoiding the hurricane season is prudent. But, forget prudence if one has the chance to luxuriate on the beach of St. Jean on St Barths, and dining alfresco at Eden Rock’s Sand Bar – “La belle Vie!” as my friend, Francoise Kirkland would say.

More than likely if someone asks me to describe my favorite meal, my answer would be a lingering joyful alfresco lunch, where the air is luscious and the sun warm. Summer at the Colombe d’Or comes to mind, as does Christmas in St Barths at Eden Rock’s Sand Bar.

So, we rushed the season, and while tropical storm Kate was about to form near the Bahamas, Bill and I were about to have a perfect storm for would-be hedonists: great food, beautiful location, fabulous weather and a lover with which to cherish it all! Heaven.

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witaly115.jpgJill was done.  For three weeks I'd been force feeding her on a take-no-prisoners march through the restaurants of Italy.  I had all but nailed her feet to the floor.  And then four days in Rome – dio mio, Roma!  If you don’t eat well in Rome, you’re an idiot.    

Now she was on strike. “Forgive me, honey, but I have to go light tonight”, she said.  “Just a little grilled fish and a salad.  And no wine.”    

This last was underlined as if to indicate it should have some special meaning for me.    

“Just eat what you want, baby” I said, moving right past it.  My focus was on the menu, planning my point of attack.    

We were in Ristorante Lorenzo in the stylish seaside resort of Forte Dei Marmi, just down from Pietresanta on the Tuscan coast.  Versilia is the beautiful name Italians give to this region.   Lorenzo is not only the best restaurant in town but one of the most stylish, most satisfying in all of Italy.

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santefe.jpg A trip to Santa Fe is at once exhilarating and embarrassing.  You say to yourself, “how can I be so corny and fall in love with the food, the shopping, the art, and the physical beauty all over again?”. And yet, you do, embracing it all as you roll your eyes at your own enthusiasm.  The food, of course, is of superior class with an emphasis on how we want to eat today: local and seasonal.  And each Santa Fe friend has their own passionate reason why their favorite restaurant has the best green chili.  But there is more to the palette of Santa Fe food than traditional Northern New Mexico cuisine, as good as that is.  Here are a half dozen of my personal favorites.  One of the great things about them all is their unique points of view on feeding you. Unique, like Santa Fe itself. 

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On my first day in Paris, on our first tour around the Jardins Luxembourg, a charming Persian woman with bouncy curls and smiling eyes stopped me and my entourage of children and a dog for a chat. "The French drive me crazy," she pronounced. "But living in Paris will mean two things for you. You will become both more refined, and more humble." And so the adventure begins...

frenchcheese.jpgIt turns out that there is heaven on earth.  And it lives in an inauspicious plastic saucer, covered in cling wrap.

This week’s cheese was a seemingly unassuming Saint Félicien.   This little number is made in the Dauphiné region of France, and it is soft and extra creamy.   We took our first bite over lunch with the girls, and at Twiggy Sanders’ suggestion, I was armed with a fresh baguette.   

The cheese starts out relatively contained, but by the third bite, the fresh cream had runneth over into the container.  We started to eagerly mop it up with pieces of bread, and within about ten minutes flat, the entire saucer had been wiped clean.

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