Dining Outside the Home: Café Portofino in Lihue, Kauai! Do you need a reason to love lasagna? Might it be the oven-baked pasta bathed in layers of zesty spices, fresh herbs, meat sauce, and Italian cheese? Just thinking about it is mouth-watering. Well, you don’t need to travel to Northern Italy from the Pacific Ocean. Café Portofino, a beachfront restaurant on Kauai, serves up a plate of happiness and satisfaction by bringing the Italian deliciousness right to your table. Their classic lasagna combination features the rich meat sauce of cravings as well as a creamy white sauce to die for. This is not your ordinary lasagna. Taste it to believe it.
Dining Outside the Home: Mon Ami Gabi in Las Vegas, Nevada! An afternoon shower can provide a welcome respite from constant motion along the Las Vegas Strip. Slip through the French turquoise doors of Mon Ami Gabi at Paris for a sip of this and a nibble of that. Might I suggest an unpretentious Aperol Spritz to accompany the “Fruit de Mer” succulent Shrimp Cocktail platter. The magnificent essence of orange moscato is aromatic with citrus notes, which makes it perfect for any afternoon.
Dining Outside the Home: Café du Parc in Washington, DC! For al fresco dining under a canopy of trees among the flowering planters of a French bistro, take a seat at the sidewalk table where the flurry of Pennsylvania Avenue never ends. This is how to take it slow with a strong admiration for everything French. Coffee and croissants, for starters? Mais oui. The Croque Madame is a Parisian delight with smoky ham, Swiss cheese, a soft-cooked egg with a slightly runny yolk, and velvety smooth Béchamel sauce. Experience the enticing cuisine while taking time out. You’re worth it.
Dining Outside the Home: Old Town Mexican Café in Key West, Florida! When a restaurant boasts of an abundance of hatch chiles and fresh, local ingredients, you begin to wonder if Santa Fe style Tex-Mex might be a good choice for dinner. Anytime the weather is hot, and the drinks are cold, it draws a crowd on Duval Street for seafood favorites, like skewered shrimp marinated in lime juice and ginger. Take a swig of on-the-rocks margarita. The salted rim offsets the spicy salsa you can’t resist tasting now and then. If you’re in the neighborhood, take advantage of Happy Hour specials. There’s no rush here.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Homemade Tortilla Chips! Ever wonder why your favorite Mexican restaurant has such incredible tortilla chips? Well now you can make your own café-style chips at home. Begin with flour and corn tortillas the day before. Just open the packages and let them breathe overnight on the kitchen counter. This simple step removes any excess moisture and allows them to fry up crispier. Sprinkled with sea salt and dipped in chunky salsa is practically a dream come true.
HOMEMADE TORTILLA CHIPS
2 cups vegetable oil
1 package yellow corn tortillas, extra thin
1 package flour tortillas, soft taco size
Sea salt to taste
Cut each corn tortilla into 8 wedges. Use entire package. Set aside. Cut each flour tortilla in half and then into strips. Use entire package. Set aside. Beginning with one cup vegetable oil in a large skillet, heat the oil on medium setting until a tortilla sizzles. Avoid smoke. That means the oil is too hot. Place a handful of corn tortilla wedges into the hot oil. Do not overlap. Fry for 1-2 minutes until the chips are golden and crisp. Use tongs to flip over half way through, if necessary. As the oil is used, reduce heat to avoid smoking. Use tongs to remove chips from oil; drain on paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat in batches until all corn chips are fried. Add remaining cup of oil to skillet. Repeat with flour tortilla strips. Store in airtight container at room temperature. Enjoy!
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.
Dining Outside the Home: Gina’s Anykine Grinds Cafe in Waimea, Kauai. Head west on Kaumualii Highway until you see a landmark theatre in a town called Waimea that’s been around since 1948. Right next door is an island-style food joint well-known to locals as Gina’s Anykine Grinds Cafe. The family-owned place is small, with tables inside and out, yet very friendly and inviting. Try the Hawaiian favorite, Loco Moco. It’s a scoop of white rice, all-beef patty, an egg your way, grilled onions and mushrooms if you choose, and then a blanket of brown gravy over everything. This dish will get your engine revved for a day of hiking, surfing, shopping, and exploration. Savor every bite, then enjoy your day.
Dining Outside the Home: Café Portofino in Lihue, Kauai! Feel the romantic rhythm of northern Italy in a tropical destination overlooking the beach. This is paradise on the island of Kauai. The food is true Italian cuisine, the wine from cellars across the world. Café Portofino, a family-owned business, offers fresh seafood and locally sourced vegetables as well as classic dishes. Notice the Red Beet Salad and Grilled Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo, both celebration-worthy. Chat with the wait staff. Their friendly reception is warm and connected with deep-felt hospitality. For a memorable evening, especially bringing in the New Year, treat yourself to a taste of Italy.