On a recent trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, I knew there was one place that was definitely on my Bucket List: Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace along the Las Vegas Strip. If you’re familiar with the reality cooking series, Hell’s Kitchen, I don’t need to tell you Michelle Tribble was the winner of Season 17. She was awarded the position of head chef for this Vegas hotspot by owner, Gordon Ramsey. And this is the second time I’ve met her. No matter how busy the kitchen staff is, on a full-scale stage for all to see, excited patrons as well as Instagram enthusiasts stop by to pose for selfies. Chef Michelle, keeping one eye on the crew as she circles the dining area checking out the food, continuously greets curiosity seekers for feedback and photo ops. She really is down-to-earth, very personable, and pays great attention to detail. No wonder it was a privilege to meet her.
“No one saves us but ourselves.
No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path.”
“Cuba is such a beautiful country,
and everywhere you go,
there’s music and people dancing,
especially in Havana.”
~ Julia Sawalha
Dining Outside the Home: Kenji Burger in Kapaa, Kauai. It’s always good advertising when a sign boasts: “We use 100% Kauai grass fed beef,” especially if you prefer a fusion diet of healthy meats and vegetables. Grass fed beef translates into leaner burgers. At Kenji Burger, the Japanese mix of Asian cuisine with American favorites provides a taste extravaganza that’ll leave your head spinning. Think outside the box. Teriyaki burgers, misoyaki fish sammies, spicy poke bowls, loaded sushi burritos, and furikake fries. This is not your ordinary burger joint. See the maneki-neko Japanese cat figurine, with its paw raised, perched on the counter? It definitely brings good luck. Perhaps you’ll give them a try. Kenji Burger is spot on.
Dining Outside the Home: Paniolo Santa Maria-Style BBQ in Kapaa, Kauai. In the heart of Old Kapaa Town, you can get food hot of the grill on the outdoor patio while listening to lively island music. Meet up with family or make new friends across the picnic table. Paniolo’s signature style reflects cooking meat that has been properly seasoned over an open fire. There is an art to moving the grill up or down to control the temperature. The results will amaze you. Plates are served with chili-bean rice, tossed green salad, and grilled French bread slathered in butter. Follow your nose to the woodsmoke aromas of barbecue pork, tri-tip steak, fresh fish, and tender chicken. It’s a toe-tapping happy place to eat.
Dining Outside the Home: Oasis on the Beach in Kapaa, Kauai. Fusion food is spot on at Oasis on the Beach, an open-air restaurant a few steps from the ocean. This is Hawai’i, after all, where the fish is as fresh as the view is captivating. No humdrum menu here. One of the House specialties is the island catch-of-the-day, seared to perfection. Mmmm. Pair it with Thai curry spices blended into coconut milk for a fabulous sauce. Did you notice the farm-to-table veggie chunks to add flavor? Now you’re talking. Don’t forget a scoop of white rice. It’s a meal in a bowl that does not disappoint.
Dining Outside the Home: Hualani’s Restaurant in Lihue, Kauai. Celebrations of life are a good reason to reserve a table at Hualani’s Restaurant, where the ocean stretches forever in a sea of aquatic blue. After all, there’s nothing quite like watching palm trees sway against a torch-lit sky as the sun slides behind the Haupu Mountain Range. Relax with a crafted cocktail. Stretch your palate to try something extraordinary from land and sea like Whole Fried Market Fish, Mashed Okinawa Potatoes with scallions, and Spiced Rum Pineapple Confit. It’s the attention to detail and presentation that embrace a dining experience that will be long remembered.
Dining Outside the Home: Old Town Mexican Cafe in San Diego, California. Tortilla Ladies make it look so easy. It’s probably because they’ve been stretching and rolling dough into perfect tortillas since their youth. Look through the windows. See how easily they handle the rolling pins? After all, handmade tortillas are the staple for practically every single Mexican dish. Not to mention, delicious. At Old Town Mexican Cafe, the food is authentic and has been for decades. If it’s not broken, why fix it? Take the House Famous Carnitas, for example. Crispy fried chunks of seasoned pork are served with chopped onion, leafy cilantro, smooth avocado, garden tomatoes, fresh lime, and refried beans. Wrap them up in warm tortillas right off the grill. Is it any wonder I never tried another dish? Yeah, they’re that good.
Dining Outside the Home: Ainsley’s Café and Harbor Bar in Brookville, Indiana. It’s always a good sign when boat owners swarm to the marina basin to remove slip covers from their vessels. That means the weather is getting warmer and Spring Fever has struck. Ainsley’s Café offers the perfect sunny side view of Brookville Lake and all the activity the lake provides. In the distance you may see a golfer tee off at the nearby Harbor Links Golf Club. Or a pontoon boat leisurely coasting into open waters. Check out the jet skis criss-crossing like synchronized dancers. When you dine on the outdoor deck for a midday lunch or sunset dinner, you may need to pinch yourself as a reminder this is real. The food is as fresh as the air you breathe. Whether it’s a Girl’s Getaway, Date Night, or Family Outing, Ainsley’s Café on Brookville Lake is time well-spent.