While planning our time in Malta, I thought a side trip to the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. The village of 3500 is well known for their Sunday Market, so I thought instead of heading here for a day excursion, why not spend two nights in a sleepy fishing village? It seemed like a nice way to break up our stay on the island. So we took our time; had a morning espresso and spent most of the morning walking around Valletta.
At about 10 we caught our bus right outside the gates of Valletta. 40 minutes later we were getting off our bus in Marsaxlokk. It was overcast and rainy on this morning and walking along the waterfront, we had no idea where our hotel was......
So we stopped at one of the cafes and asked. As is the norm with places like this; the folks were really nice and the gentleman actually walked us to the hotel, which was tucked away on a side street near the end of the harbor close to the transition to an industrial area.
Our room was ready and waiting for us so we got an early check in, freshened up, then headed off to lunch. It was drizzling off and on, so I decided on just going to one of the most well known seafood restaurants in the village; Ir Rizzu.
As it was noon, the place had just opened.
The dining area is quite large....the service fine, mostly young kids, so it was kind of well, like a place where young kids are serving you......kind of uneven, though they did try.
Things started off with a gratis appetizer. I recognized the "bigilla", basically mashed beans....doesn't it look like something you'd get at a Mexican Restaurant? I did like the "ful-bit-tewm", the white beans with garlic.
There's something about the bread on Malta that I really like. This wasn't as yeasty, nor did it have the wonderful texture of what we had the night before at Il Horza, but we still enjoyed it.
We also went with a bottle of a local white from Pjazza Regina winery. A combination of three grapes, it was nice, light, refreshing, and went relatively well with the seafood.
As is the norm for us; we went with a meal of appetizers; starting with the classic Maltese Fish Soup; Aljotta.
This was like a very fishy bouillabaisse and not my favorite thing in the world. Salty and not enough acid to take the edge off for me.
The Octopus was a workman-like effort.
A bit tougher than I prefer, but the flavors were nice....great salt-herbs.
The mussels were quite large, though still moist. They hadn't cooked it to death.
Simple was probably the prudent thing to do with this. Not bad.
The best item were the "Mediterranean King Prawns". Again, nice and simple, cooked to perfection.
Wonderful flavor, nice and sweet, the Missus loved those heads!
Overall, this was a decent meal. Nothing fancy by any means, but simple, and a nice way to start our stay in Marsaxlokk.
Of course, what red-blooded male doesn't want to check out a collection of armor, swords, cannons, and other weapons? It brings out the little boy in me.
What makes this even more interesting is that the entire collection is housed in their original buildings.
Even though the size of the collection is a small fraction of the size it once was....due in part to pilferage by Napoleonic forces during the French Occupation of Malta, it is still quite impressive.
And of course, one could not visit the Armoury without reading about the "Great Siege". In 1565, the Ottomans laid siege to the island. If you recall, back in 1522, the Knights had been defeated and left the Island of Rhodes.
This time though, things would be different. Outnumbered an estimated 8 to 1, the Knights and the people of Malta hung on. Eventually, with morale low within the ranks of the Ottomans, a relief force of Spanish landed, handing the Ottomans a defeat.
It was a great moment in the history of Malta. The Grand Master, Jean de Valette, was Malta's key influential figure during the Great Siege. Indeed, the city of Valletta was built and named in his honor.
We headed back to our dwelling, making a stop at the corner store for some water, diet coke, and something the Missus came to really enjoy; a soft drink produced in Malta called Diet Kinnie. She told me it reminded Her a bit of the beloved Laoshan Cola.
We got back to the apartment and took a short nap.
It was a really special moment for us....the interior of the cathedral a gleaming golden jewel. The concert was one that had only been performed once before, ages ago, written by a composer from Malta.
The owner of our apartment told us his favorite restaurant is Il Horza....so we dropped by the evening before and made reservations for dinner. It would be one of our favorite meals of this trip.
The location and interior is quite unassuming....the menu is quite interesting as you'll see from the dishes we ordered.
But first there was this bread.....
Yes. This bread. Possibly some of the best I've ever had. Yeasty, crusty, not too dense, just plain wonderful. As with many things in Malta, we'd have another encounter with this bread again.
Our least favorite dish of the night was the Fish Stew with Black Rice and Shellfish.
We could never get into the really fishy flavor they like here in Malta. I mean, I like consommé de 7 mares and all that, but this was too much for us.
The Hay Smoked Barbary Duck Breast with Asian Pork Springroll and Greens was an interesting mash-up of familiar flavors and textures.
The duck was tender and delicious, the springroll crisp, the flavors balanced. Nothing was overplayed and this was a nice fusion of flavors.
The Stuffed Quail with Truffle Mousse Wrapped with Pancetta was delicious as was the very porky, Pork Tongue Croquette. For some reason, we didn't enjoy the shaved fresh summer black truffles, but of course the Missus loved the quail egg.
The Crispy Local Pork Belly was lovely. Crisp initially, then melting away......
The house made smoked pork sausage was also lovely, very tasty, straight up flavors. Quite nice.
The Missus loved the "dessert"; unpastuerized local cheese, milky, yet refreshing.
The service was good, the ambiance very nice and romantic....a very good meal.
Il-Horza 6, St. Christopher Street Valletta, Malta
We took a walk back to the apartment. As I mentioned before, the streets of Valletta are usually pretty quiet at night....not on this night as there was a concert happening outside a nearby restaurant.
It was kind of neat....anyone could come by and hang out on the steps....maybe buy a glass of wine at the restaurant and chill.......
We slept in on our last morning....well, if you call sleeping until 730 sleeping in. Our food experiences in Utah seemed a bit disappointing, but we decided to give one last popular restaurant a shot. Since they didn't open until 10am, we decided to walk on over to Temple Square, the headquarters for the LDS.
It was nice and fairly crisp and we were enjoying the day as we passed the convention center.
We passed the Creek Shopping Center, with shops like Tiffany, Nordstrom, and the Apple Store....and closed on Sundays! I'm guessing it has something to do with being right across the street from Temple Square. We were greeted as we entered and asked if we'd be visiting "Music and the Spoken Word", which is the Sunday morning televised broadcast. We were interested, but told the nice folks that we would have to leave fairly quickly. We were told it was no problem since the rehearsal was going on. We were free to leave anytime before the 930 start.
Which is how we got to watch part of the choir's morning rehearsal in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Quite impressive.
Speaking of impressive, the entire complex is dwarfed by the towering Salt Lake Temple.
The grounds features beautifully manicured gardens, a huge conference center, administrative buildings, several historic houses; the "Lion House" which used to be Brigham Young's residence. It had to be large because Brigham Young had 57 biological children, and the connected "Beehive House".
Temple Square is Utah's most visited tourist attraction, with as many visitors a Utah's 5 National Parks combined!
We saw a lot of folks taking photos....they all seemed overjoyed, almost giddy, at being here.
From the Beehive House, we headed North and got on North Temple Street and headed west. SLC's streets are set-up in a very simple (once you get sued to street with the same name with North/South/East/West) grid system. Our destination was on North Temple and was just under a mile and half walk. Things did seem a bit more "gritty" as we crossed over the I-15. A mere half block later we were at our destination; Red Iguana.
We arrived a few minutes before opening. The exterior looks a bit worn and shabby, but I had read that this is one of the most popular restaurants in the city....Mexican....in Salt Lake City? The place opened and we were told to sit anywhere our hearts desired. Our server; I'm hoping my memory isn't mailing me was named Stephanie. She was super outstanding, so very friendly, accommodating, and gracious.
Within a flash chips (not very good) and some salsa (nice and picante) found its way to our table.
We had come here to try the mole....but was having a difficult time deciding. So Stephanie said not to worry, they put together a sampler for us to try.
What really shocked me was how much I enjoyed the version of Mole Amarillo, not quite the traditional version; this one had raisins and habaneros...sweet with heat. We whittled down the sauces to versions we liked....but was stuck on four. Again, making us half and halfs were not a problem. You gotta love the service.
We choose chicken; which was simple simmered bird. The first combo was half Mole Verde and Mole Poblano ($15.99).
The verde was nice and nutty, but was over-shadowed by the rich, sweet, and spicy mole poblano, which tasted closest to versions I've had before.
The second was Mole Negro and Mole Amarillo ($15.99).
The mole negro was fine, though not nearly as good as say......El Tejate. The unconventional mole Amarillo, sweet and spicy stood up well. It was by far our favorite.
The rice and beans (and the tortillas) were pretty routine and not very good.
And while the food fell short of amazing, it was good, easily our best meal during this trip. And the service was wonderful. Our server is a fairly recent transplant and we chatted about SLC's uniqueness, things that caught her off guard when she moved here. The affinity for sandwiches and burgers; how you can look down Main Street on some days and not see a single car..... She made our meal a pleasure.
Red Iguana 736 W North Temple Salt Lake City, UT 84116
We walked back to the Residence Inn and managed a short catnap before leaving for the airport.
Perhaps the food really didn't stand out on this trip. But the views, well they were priceless.
After a light lunch (and interesting beer) we checked in at the Residence Inn, SLC. This room was even bigger than the Provo location and things looked new. We then had a nice short nap. The staff here was quite friendly and nice. The location is right on 300 South aka West Broadway.
The Greek Orthodox Church is right across the street as is Pioneer Park.
The location was quite convenient. Our dinner destination was just a half mile walk down the street. A couple of things we noticed right away.....there are tons of chain restaurants in SLC. And in spite of all the cars parked; the streets looked empty.
I had made dinner reservations at The Copper Onion. The menu looked perfect for us. Man, in spite of how the streets looked; this placed was packed to the gills. The dining room seemed on the hot and stuffy side, so since the weather was mild we asked if we could get a table on the patio. They only too happy to oblige.
Our server was a really gracious, friendly, and knowledgeable young man named Michael. He made the meal a seamless process except for the time they took our plates and silverware away then brought us our next course...leaving us stranded. But other than that, we enjoyed the service.
We started with the Wagyu Beef Tartar ($11).
Man, look at all that crostini. This didn't quite do it for us. The beef was too chewy, it was under seasoned...I really missed that velvety egg yolk which adds richness without interfering with the refreshing aspect of the beef, which the salsa rosa did. The arugula, fresh, crisp, not overly bitter, dressed simply was the best part of the dish.
The Escarole Salad ($10) looked quite sloppy.
The greens were really nice and crisp, but I wasn't a fan of the balsamic they used which was extremely sour, lacking the rounded balance, and touch of sweetness that we love in a balsamic vinegar.
The best item of the night was the Wagyu Roasted Bone Marrow ($18).
Man, that marrow was awesome....simply prepared, rich, smoky, with a touch of salt which was provided on the side. The Missus made sure to have every single little morsel.
Luckily, we made sure to keep the salt provided for the bone marrow. We needed it for the Griddled Duck ($23).
Funny thing; several items seemed in need of salt...which led the missus to say, "hey, this is SALT Lake City, right?" The duck, with a light sprinkle of salt tasted fine. It was cooked a nice medium rare. It was cut a bit too thick. also, the plating seemed a bit dated and ponderous. That red stuff you see on the butternut squash puree is actually duck blood......I don't think the duck rested long enough after prep. Loved the upland cress, peppery and refreshing. The Portobello was totally under-seasoned and the gills hadn't been cleaned, so it left a huge black blotch in the orange-blood tinged, plate.
The Missus did love Her order of Beets ($4), though.
The service here was excellent. The food however, seemed a bit uneven to us; in terms of flavor, presentation, and finesse. Still, I'm glad we tried the place.
The Copper Onion 111 E Broadway Salt Lake City, UT 84111
After dinner, the Missus decided we needed to burn off that bone marrow so we walked all the way to Trolley Square, then back to the Residence Inn.
We passed the modern looking public library and the City and County Building along the way back.
Man, so this was Saturday night, huh? We finally passed a couple of groups of people as we walked up South Main Street. As we got close to the hotel, we stopped by Squatters Craft Beer, which was packed in spite of the empty streets (strange, I know) and picked up a couple of bottles to try as a nightcap.
The Squatters Bumper Crop Honey Ale was fine, nice head, hints of citrus and honey (of course). The Wasatch Evolution Amber Ale is pretty blah.....
Still, the weather was nice...we kept the windows open all night and the Missus sure slept well!
Tomorrow, we'd have one last chance for a good meal in SLC before heading to the airport. Would we find it?
I woke at 530am on our second morning in Utah. The previous day, had been quite amazing....well, the views, not the food. We decided to head off to a district of the massive (337,598 acres) Canyonlands National Park, known as Island in the Sky, a mesa that towers a thousand feet over the rugged and picturesque terrain below. I got the Missus up at around 6am....we showered, packed up and headed out into the dark morning.....pretty much like the day before. This time though, our target was much closer, a bit over 30 miles or so away. The classic location for viewing the sunrise in the Island in the Sky district is the Mesa Arch which frames the East rising sun. We had run into maybe two cars on our drive to the Mesa Arch, but were surprised when the parking lot was almost full! Taking the short half mile walk to the arch, we could see an entire line of paparazzi folks with camera gear already set-up!
It was crazy. I heard one guy telling another he'd camped out overnight and got to his "spot" to set-up at 5am! Serious folks!
I just headed off to the side to photograph the dramatic sunrise.
The Missus hung back and took a photo of the sunrise through the Mesa Arch.
And while it was a bit of a hazy morning, the views were still quite dramatic.
We walked back to the car and headed off to the Grand View Point Overlook and took the 3 mile hike around the rim of the mesa.
I really enjoyed this hike. The views were just stunning. I probably enjoyed this more than the Delicate Arch, which was the Missus' favorite.
You can see for miles in the distance; view the amazing terrain, and just try to take it all in.
The hike is easy, you can read more about it here and here.
And no, there aren't any fences or barriers......which just adds to the drama. (Click on the photos to enlarge)
We made one last short stop at the Shafer Canyon Overlook, before hitting the road and making the 200 mile trip back to Salt Lake City.
I made a short stop in Green River to refuel, then drove all the way through.
Our destination? The rather hip neighborhood in SLC called Sugar House. During our stop at Whole Foods a couple of nights back. I got into a nice conversation with the very friendly young lady at the deli counter. When I mentioned we were from San Diego...she bent over and whispered; "do you like to drink beer???" I whispered back, "we sure do....but why are we whispering?"
Anyway, she recommended a stop at the Annex by Epic Brewing. So that's where we went. The place has this "club license" which means they can serve alcohol without having to serve food. The server was really nice and explained things to us...took our IDs and scanned them and did the whole thing.
I would have really enjoyed this place except for one thing....the bartender was a jerk. Apparently he didn't like us, and decided to serve and chat to his "friends" rather than pour us our beer, which took 25 minutes to get to us. Other than the three people at the bar, the place was totally empty. I think the last straw was when a group of eight came in after us and got their drinks before us. Even our server profusely apologized telling us, "I'm sorry, but I don't have control over pouring your beer". Too bad, my Belgian Style Golden Ale was quite nice.
I felt really bad for our server when I told her, "I think we'll be headed out." And asked for the check....so I left her a nice tip...after all, it wasn't her fault the wanna be hipster behind the bar was a jerk. Nuff said.
The Annex by Epic Brewing 1048 E 2100 S Salt Lake City, UT 84106
In retrospect, maybe it was fate that drove us from the Annex to Wasatch Brew Pub next door.
This place was a bit more busy and our server was wonderful. I also loved the names of the beer; Chasing Tail Golden Ale, anyone? This almost made me forget I was in SLC.
And then the Missus saw the beer I "just had to order".... the Polygamy Porter on Nitro....yep, you heard that right. I just can't help but crack up. I loved the glass....in fact, the Missus and I should have bought a couple for our friends. And then there's the beer's tagline; "Why have just one...." You gotta love it...
This was pretty light, mild coffee, nice and creamy from the nitro. Not the best Porter I've had....but surely one of the best names!
The Missus ordered the Jalapeno Cream Ale, which was quite good. Unlike a lot of chile beers, this one had a nice kick that came through. Great fragrance of jalapenos as well. It went well with the food we had.
The Shishito Peppers could have been roasted a bit more.
But the Missus really enjoyed it.....the portion size was quite large. It needed a bit more salt, but the peppers were really fresh. Some of the larger, older ones had a bit of sneaky heat as well.
The Missus really wanted more veggies and we had dinner reservation for what I thought was going to be a rather rich meal, so I didn't veto the "Super Food Beet Salad". The beets were really tasty, having that balanced sweetness I really enjoy. The vinaigrette was nice, slightly citrusy, never getting in the way of the ingredient's flavors.
I honestly have to say; I'm still not a fan of fruits in my salad...especially mandarin oranges...though the Missus enjoys them.
In the end, I'm glad we ended up here. The service was pleasant, the food, while nothing special was ok, and we got a couple of good laughs as well. The beer will not make you forget about San Diego, but you'll never forget that sign.....
Wasatch Brew Pub 2110 Highland Dr Salt Lake City, UT 84106
Thanks to Cathy, you probably didn't even notice I was gone for a few days, did ya?
A few weeks back, I could tell that the Missus, who had been working really hard was just itchin' for a trip. I had just finished watching an episode of Inside Man...a rarity for me since I've been too busy to watch television over the last couple of months. The episode was about America's National Parks. When the little tidbit about the average age of the typical visitor to a National Park was mentioned, I was shocked. Can you guess what it was? 57? I recall living vicariously thru the stories that kids I knew whose parents would take them to Yellowstone, or some other national park over the summer would tell. We were too poor to travel, but I'd always told myself "someday....." The Missus had been wanting to visit Arches National Park for a while; so I guess "someday" had arrived.
So I quickly planned our escape. An evening flight to Salt Lake City. I decided to stay in Provo since it would cut off an hour of our drive time. We'd be getting to Provo by about 830 pm or so. I did a bit of research to see what was open after 9pm......yikes....not much in Provo or Orem. So what I decided to do was to take an extra hour out, head to Whole Foods in Salt Lake, grab a salad, some nuts(which would keep us the whole weekend), some charcuterie, and head to Provo. So our first real interaction with folks in Utah was at Whole Foods and let me tell you....I just couldn't believe how really nice the two young ladies who helped us were. I'll have more on the young lady at the deli counter later. Strangely, Whole Foods was almost totally empty, at 730 pm...so were the streets of downtown Salt Lake City. We loved the Residence Inn in Provo, full fridge, sofa, living room...even though we'd only be staying the night it made us feel at home.
We headed out before 6 am the next morning. It was hard to see much since the sun didn't come up until almost 7 am.
The drive was interesting....we saw unmelted ice by the side of the roads....snow had fallen as recently as the week before we arrived and if I recall correctly, more snow is set to fall there Wednesday into Thursday this week!
We stopped for fuel, some vitamin D, and a good stretching of our legs in Price.
We arrived at the gates of Arches National Park at around 845am, and managed to drive past the gates by 9am. The Missus wanted to check out the Visitor's Center so we made a stop there. Here's the deal. We had made no plans (except for one must see) and decided just to let the road be our guide. I knew it was going to be amazing just by the view out the window of the Visitor's Center.
I had printed a map earlier, off the National Park Service Website. Maps tell you distance, you can determine location....but they don't indicate what the area looks like. Which was pretty darn beautiful.
We stopped at the trailhead called "Park Avenue" because it resembles the towers that line the famous boulevard in Manhattan.
We then drove just a short distance when I couldn't help but stop and just look in wonder.
In this panoramic shot (click on to enlarge), you can see "the Organ" (second from the right) and the "Three Gossips" (three little nubs to the left of the Organ).
If you ever visit, Balanced Rock should be a must stop. there's an easy short trail...we saw a woman using a walker on the trail. It's pretty amazing.....the Missus kept saying "who knows.....this might just fall and crumble any day now" during the entire time here.
There's this strange sense of scale when looking at these large sandstone formations...it really doesn't look that large from a distance....but up close..... So including people in our photos actually helps to illustrate scale.
From Balanced Rock, it gets a bit more crowded. After all, the Windows area is a must stop.
This is another very easy trail. You can visit the North and South "Window" and also the Turret Arch across the way, via a very easy trail.
It's a very popular area.
As is the "Double Arch" (right across the parking lot), two arches that meet at a single spot....formed by water in a "pothole" according to the signage.
My favorite view were the formations named "Parade of the Elephants"....which really looked like elephants!
Our next stop was the one the Missus was really looking forward to. It meant stopping near an area called Wolfe Ranch. Near here is a side trail where you can view petroglyphs......one of my favorite sites on this trip.
Beyond this point lay what the Missus wanted to see. It was easy trail to this point. Beyond this was a fairly steep trail of what they call "slickrock". Still, I saw many a mom and dad making their way up the side of the mountain with a baby strapped to their back. Granted, they were decades younger than me....but still......
The big payoff here was a close-up view of a iconic symbol of the state of Utah. the Delicate Arch.
It is striking....and as the Missus said, "you know.....this might just fall and crumble any day now!"
The descent was actually harder on my joints than the ascent. But we finally made it back to the car and onward to Moab. I wasn't really inspired by any location in Moab, so I let the Missus choose. She decided on Moab Brewery.
Utah has some of the most restrictive alcohol laws in the US. And Moab Brewery is located almost at the end of the one major thoroughfare, Main Street.
We decided to eat in the bar area. The woman who served us was so nice. We asked about the local liquor restrictions and apologized for not quite knowing it. Her reply, "oh, no problem......I tell everyone who is not a local anyway, so they know." Anyway, anything draft is less than 4 percent ABV, you can get bottled beer, which is considered "liquor", as in hard liquor. There are "tasters", but no "flights".
Anyway, I went with a Hefeweizen, which was decent, non-descript, fairly generic, though quite refreshing.
We weren't too hungry and decided on two things......
Starting with the Jalapeno Beer Fries ($6.59).
We both actually enjoyed this. The Jalapeno Powder gave this a bit of a "kick", the fries had been dusted with flour and were crisp. The "beer sauce" was like nacho cheese with salsa....but was strangely addictive...in a "college dorm room" kind of way.
We also ordered the Gazpacho Salad with Grilled Chicken ($9.99).
The vinaigrette was decent, this hit the spot as we wanted something cold and light for lunch.
The service was nice, the food...well, I've had much worse in San Diego.
Moab Brewery 686 S Main St Moab, UT 84532
And so we hit the magical hour of check-in. Which we did....followed by a short nap.
Upon getting up, we decided to head back to Arches for the sunset.
First we visited the area called the "Garden of Eden".
Then it was off to the Windows for the sunset.
The difference in views and how things look at various times of the day is fascinating. Also, you start noticing more on your second visit.
And so we watched the sunset from the Turret Arch.......
We awoke bright and early after a wonderful first day in Valletta. Now of course, after our morning walk, the question arose.....we're here, now what? I had made a few plans, but nothing for this day. So we decided to go ahead and catch the bus to Mdina, called "the Slient City" a walled city with a history going back to 4000 B.C. and first fortified by the Phoenicians as far back as 700 - 1000 B.C.. That's Malta, they talk about things based on centuries.
The bus bays are located right outside the City Gate of Valletta. The city of Floriana basically starts right where Valletta ends.
Finding your bus is easy. Go ahead and get tickets at the booth, ask the very nice lady for the bus going to Valletta, and walk to the bay, in this case #9, where the buses to Rabat go.
While waiting you can take in the Triton Fountain and the various statues like "Christ the King" (to the right) which was designed Maltese sculptor Antonio Sciortino.
Since only residents, emergency, and government vehicles are allowed within the wall of Mdina, you'll get off a short walk away, in the city of Rabat, which is right outside the walls of Mdina.
We saw quite a few tour buses out side the city walls. So, on this day, the "Silent City" wasn't so silent.
Because of the location, high on a hill, Mdina had a strategic significance. When under the rule of the Roman Empire, Mdina was where the Governor built his palace. The Normans conquered Malta in 1091 and further fortified the city with a large moat and thicker walls.
One of the main reasons we visited Mdina was to see St Paul's Cathedral. We were told that it was the equal of St John's Co-Cathedral and also had some historic significance. Supposedly, the Cathedral is built on the spot where Governor (now Saint) Publius met the Apostle Paul who was shipwrecked on Malta. The original cathedral was of Norman design and was destroyed in an earthquake in 1693. The current structure was designed by Lorenzo Gafa and finished in 1702.
Like St John's Co-Cathedral, one of the more interesting features were the tombs laid in the floor. Most of these were of various clergymen.
The Missus noticed something interesting about the tombstones; the Galero and Tassels. We both had no idea what it represented.
We queried one of the very friendly attendants on the significance of the hat and tassels. We were told these represented clergy; the tassels represented their rank and accomplishments within the church. A single tassel would be a priest, two tassels represented a rector, six tassels on each side is a bishop. interesting, huh?
When did find quiet backstreets, less than 300 people live within the walls of Mdina, the place did take on a mysterious air.
Most street were busy, though not extremely so. Another one of our favorite places was the Carmelite Church and Priory. The monks of this priory follow a strict rule of separation from the external world. In other words, it's a cloistered order. We were told that the monks still live in the buildings and above the priory. It's an interesting view into a different world and definitely worth your time if you're in Mdina. During the French occupation, all the silver was removed from the church. In September of 1798, the French returned to finish off the job. The story goes that a young boy climbed to the top of the belfry to sound the alarm and Maltese Rebels locked the doors of the church, starting the Maltese Revolt.
By now, more tourists had arrived. So we did a quick walk and took some photos of Malta from the city ramparts.
I believe we found the only cloud over Malta on this day!
It was getting hot and crowded, so we decided to depart. But not without first taking a short walk around Rabat. We found the streets interesting....everyday life happens here. We had a cup of coffee at one of the shops and when we saw what looked like the trimmings of a recent festival...we followed.
And ended up at St Paul's Church and Grotto.
The church is built on the site where St Paul stayed and preached when shipwrecked on Malta.
From here we walked back to the bus stop and headed back to Valletta. It was pretty warm and we wanted something light to eat. On one of the sloping side streets I located one of the places I had read about named Piadina Caffe. A Piadina is an Italian flatbread. Considering Matla's location relative to Italy, I thought this would be a nice little stop.
This tiny shop specialized in Piadinas (of course), foccacia's, salads, and coffee.
It would turn out to be a favorite of the Missus who just really wanted a salad as an alternative to all the rather heavy food we'd been eating on this trip.
She got a quinoa salad....strange I thought, but well priced. She loved it....I guess She had been missing salad.
I had the Prosciutto, mozzarella, and rocket (gotta love the British influence) piadina (4 Euros), which was surprisingly good.
I love the ratio of ingredients on this one...the salty and savory prosciutto, milky mozzarella, the peppery bite of the arugula. The flatbread had been pressed and was crisp. This was just what I wanted and needed...something not too heavy, but satisfying.
The Missus enjoyed this so much.....we ended up returning later on our trip.
Piadina Caffe 24 Triq Santa Lucija Valletta, Malta
Bolstered by caffeine......we were ready to do a bit more exploring.
The Missus and I have a pretty nice routine for our "easy" days when we visit "home".
Things start with breakfast. The Missus can never get enough papaya.......there's nothing even remotely close to this stuff on the mainland. And I love good pineapple. What do you expect from the grandchild/child of Maui Pine plantation workers?
We then head off to the Missus's favorite swim spot; of all places, Ala Moana Beach.
We head out right after the morning rush hour....it's a week day so it's all the old timers, students, and Japanese tourists taking wedding photos.
I've always been amazed at how they seem so easy going, wearing wedding gowns and tuxedos in humid, 85 degree weather. But after chatting with folks like Kat, I understand.
On this morning it wasn't one, but two sets of couples taking photos.
While the Missus swims, I usually do a complete lap of Ala Moana Park and sometimes even head off toward Ward Avenue. On days like this one, I can't help but think, "man, to believe that I used to take all of this for granted".
Once out and dry, the Missus and I will head off across the street to Honolulu Coffee Company for a Kona V60 pour over for the coffee snob.
And while it doesn't wow Her like it used to. It's still a good cup of coffee.
Honolulu Coffee Co (in Ala Moana Center) 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Ste 3066 Honolulu, HI 96814
We then head off and do our various errands. On this day, we decided to head off to Kahala Mall; Whole Foods and the Apple Store were calling. I decided on stopping off at another of my old favorites, in my 'hood, Gina's Bar-B-Q, still going strong 23 years later.
You know, I remembered when this place first opened. It's typical Local style Korean, our version of a Meat and Three. You order your entrée(s) and get three of what we call "vegetables", basically panchan, and the proteins are cooked to order.
It's a very popular style, the most popular is probably a chain called Yummy Korean BBQ. Every one has their neighborhood favorites when it comes to the local kine Korean BBQ places. I used to like Kim Chi II, though I haven't been there in maybe 20 years. My mom liked Choi's Family Restaurant, many of my friends love Soon's in Salt Lake (Oahu, not Utah....).
I'm old enough to remember when Foodland, which is now on the other side of the parking lot used to be in this spot. My good friend's second job was with Foodland. I also remember when there was a very popular video game place here called....if I recall, "The Space"???? I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong. I remember once going to use the restroom and finding two huge bags of pakalolo right on the washbasin!
Anyway wanting to check out the state of the food at Gina's, I ordered a "special", still a bargain at eleven bucks or so. It comes with bulgogi, kalbi, and the item I used to really enjoy (second best - the spicy chicken was #1), the BBQ Chicken.
Anyway, we took it to go, got a small salad at WF in Kahala and proceeded to dig in. The bulgogi wasn't up to snuff, dry, bland, and tough. The kalbi was typical local style, nice flavor, but not the best. That chicken was still a winnah! Nice shoyu flavor, slight sweetness, chewy, but in a good way. There was of course, the equivalent of three scoops of rice under all of this, soaking up the juices and drippings. The "vegetables" were passable....I'd say, even better than what I get here at some of the rather pricey Korean places.
Even though it's more about a good value, the chicken is not bad.
I'm hoping to head back to Gina's for the spicy chicken next time. Hopefully, I won't have to wait another decade.
Gina’s Bar-B-Q 2919 Kapiolani Blvd Honolulu, HI 96826
Our last morning started just like the previous one did. The Missus slept in a bit and I took a walk, much shorter this time, and no donuts. We would be grabbing breakfast before checking out and heading to the airport. The Missus really wanted to go back to Tasty N Alder yet again. However, they didn't open until 9, which would be cutting things a bit too close.
So instead we walked one block over to Cheryl's on 12th which opens at 8am on Sundays.
The space reminded me a bit of the London Plane, not as fancy or hip, but this was part market, bakery, deli, as well as restaurant.
We were greeted with a bright smile and led to a nice little table.
Ordering for me was quite easy, though the Missus needed a bit of time.
Meanwhile, our coffee arrived along with some very light, warm, beignets.
The Missus went with the Wild Mushroom Omelete ($9):
While it kind of looked like a hot mess, the flavors were good, sweetness from the caramelized onions and the milky-salty feta cheese balancing out the earthy mushroom flavor. The potatoes were mediocre, bland, greasy, and without color or and crispness.
Minus the avocado and this could have easily been served at, say, Like Like Drive-In, or some other local spot on Oahu. There was a generous portion of sliced and nicely sautéed sausage, decent flavor, nicely spiced, lot's of sausage in the fried rice as well, though the rice was much too hard and needed some shoyu to kick it up a bit. Still, the Missus poached a good amount of the sausage (and the avocado), and this was well worth ten bucks.
Cheryl’s On 12th 1135 SW Washington St Portland, OR 97205 Hours: Mon - Sat 7am - 8pm Sunday 8am - 4pm
In retrospect, we could have easily spent a few more days in PDX. As it was, we missed a few places we had on our list....unfinished business as it were.
It was actually a nice walk. The sky was overcast, but it never rained.
We crossed the Willamette on the Burnside Bridge and passed the iconic Portland White Stag sign.
Traffic looked pretty heavy along Burnside.
You could tell spring was approaching as the Cherry Blossoms were starting to bloom. It was quite a lovely sight.
Our destination was a restaurant named Davenport, which I had read used local ingredients in simple dishes, with excellent and refined technique. The idea is to let the ingredients shine. The Chef Kevin Gibson is a semi-finalist for the James Beard; Best Chef: Northwest category.
There area couple of interesting things about the place, there's no large sign, you have to find 2215 East Burnside, then look for the "red door". Also, the phone conversation for making reservations was, well, interesting.....a woman picked up the phone with simply "hello"...... I had to ask if this was Davenport. At the end of the process, I noticed they hadn't asked for a phone number, so I inquired if they needed one. The answer, "no....if you show up, you show up...if you don't, you don't." Ok.... Well, we did show up.
The menu is ever changing.....in fact, it changes almost everyday.
We loved the menu and it was quite easy to choose our courses.
We had heard that Co-owner Kurt Heilemann curates an amazing wine list. So we asked our server, who was just perfect, efficient, professional, but not stuffy if he would select a glass to pair with each dish.
I will say, that even though I'm not an oenophile, I really enjoyed the pairings. I'm not going to go into detail about the wine, though I will say, the first glass...that Riesling, pared with the foie gras mousse was just perfect. It was without a doubt the best pairing of the evening. When I mentioned how beautiful the stemware was, our server told us it's hand-blown Zalto stemware.
The foie gras mousse was nice, smooth, rich, all you could ever want.
The pate was good, quite refined, balanced in flavor.....perhaps a bit too perfect. Loved the bits of hazelnut which gave it a nice contrasting texture.
For us, it was the pickled sunchokes that really got our attention, great crunch, perfect flavor. The salad was my least favorite....it tasted like it had been dressed with plain white vinegar, as it was way too sour; the pomegranate seeds didn't help adding another layer of tart and tannic flavor to everything.
The rapini, which was beautifully charred, bitterness subdued, smokey flavor enhanced was wonderful.
The addition of the breadcrumbs which added more crunch, only to be balanced with the boiled egg white and richness of the egg yolk just elevated the dish in my opinion. The anchovy was a bit too strong for the dish as just a squeeze of lemon was perfect.
We finished with the grilled lamb shoulder.
Slightly toothsome, but still tender enough considering it was shoulder. The lamb flavor made the perfect, "yes, you are eating lamb" statement. It was perfectly seasoned, a bit too rare for the Missus, but I loved it. The salsa verde really didn'y play into the flavors for me.
Overall, a very nice meal. In terms of service and timing, things were just perfect for us. While we enjoyed our meal, which was good, nothing really extended it into the "great" territory for us. Now the prices, well the food only came out to $60! The wine at $45 almost matched the price of the food. We weren't complaining though as in terms of cost, we thought this to be a reasonably priced meal.
Next time, I think something more along the lines of Le Pigeon would be the Missus's cup of tea.
Davenport 2215 East Burnside Portland, OR 97214
Of course, we weren't quite ready to call it a night. Candice had recommended that we stop in at Belmont Station. So the Missus decided we needed to work off at least a portion of our dinner....so add another mile-and-a-half to the tab. The streets looked rather dark on SE Stark Street and Belmont Station shone like a pearl in the night.
Basically an amazing bottle shop, with a huge 1200+ bottle list. Connected to the shop is the "Biercafe" which has a nice selection of items on tap.
Our "beertender" was a very nice...cool guy. The Missus got a sour and I ordered something that looked quite interesting - the New Belgium Cocoa Mole Spiced Strong Dark Ale. I was asked if I like "interesting flavors" and said yes. The guy behind the bar said, "folks here either love it or instantly dislike it". Me, I loved it....
Like a pseudo porter, with a pronounced chili-chocolate aroma. Since I love chili beers, I really enjoyed this. Mild spice that very slowly intensified, but never really got too hot. The flavor was quite complex. Even the Missus, who is not a big fan of porters really enjoyed this one.
It was a nice way to end our evening.
Belmont Station 4500 SE Stark St Portland, OR 97215
By this time, the Missus had figured I'd done enough walking for the day and decided we could catch the bus back. She did have a change of heart as we crossed the Belmont Bridge and decided to ring for a stop. But after all the walking I had done that day. The stroll back to the hotel was nothing.
Such is a typical day for us when travelling...lots of walking and lots of good food....and drinks!