Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year-New Decade


4 Jan, Monday. We are still on the Big Island for another few hours. Many thanks to Cynthia for dedicated note taking for the blog. Thanks to all my friends & family, especially all of you who read this. Thank God for Cynthia; thank God for whatever still works on this aging body of mine. Lots of plans for next year, but just now, looking back, Cynthia and I have eaten at many fine restaurants since we started traveling together. Many waiters & waitresses have been memorable; my apologies for neglecting to recognize them while I worked obsessively on the Rambo book volumes. Three of five books are in print, and I am now finding the time for correspondence. Dale deserves first mention; he is the very personable omelet chef at the Hyatt on Waikiki who can carry on a convoluted conversation while keeping innumerable orders in his head and putting on an incredible performance of cooking and flipping six omelets at once. Charlene is our favorite waitress there, the seating hosts are very friendly, and we've never had a bad experience there. (Be forewarned that their all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet is wonderfully good but correspondingly expensive.) Recent servers in Hawaii whose names I've learned are Chris at Bongo Ben's in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and Herbert at the Kona Inn, also in Kailua-Kona.

Now for a list of restaurants w/ dates and memories.

First, amongst the pile of receipts are reminders of these fun occasions:

Cynthia goes ga-ga over fleurs, so we stopped at the nursery just downhill from the condo on 22 Dec and bought a poinsettia. It seemed like the right thing to do to make her Christmas special because she gifts dozens of her friends with poinsettias for Christmas - never mind that the techie in me said, "but we drive past magnificent stands of poinsettia bushes growing tall & wild every day.!" (Cynthia swooned and loves my "consideration." The wild poinsettas are unbelievable, but we haven't gotten a picture yet.)

Walmart provided the most fun toys. They sell garden clippers for $5.98, a retractable saw for similar price, and best of all, a sickle for $4.18. These provided great fun and exercise whacking away at the vegetation, shrubs, and thorns that overhung the highway shoulder "walkway" between the condo and the Aloha Angel Cafe.

On 23 Nov 2009 we met Jane to look at the condo advertised in the West Hawaiian News. The sunset view from the balcony swept Cynthia off her feet, so we signed the agreement to spend the month of December there. Jane recommended the Aloha Angel Cafe for breakfasts, but indicated that the best dinner was probably at the Kona Inn Restaurant. It was indeed very good, and Herbert, our waiter, does an outstanding job. Their dining room looks out over a lawn to the ocean, and they floodlight the surf at night; it is marvelous. We went back on Dec 6th & 7th and 11th. Herbert recommended Bongo Ben's as the best breakfast if you enjoy seeing the locals.

We tried Bongo Ben's in Kailua-Kona, and we liked it. We showed up again the next day, and Chris, our waiter, remembered most of our specialty order ... and he gave Cynthia an affectionate air-kiss. We also ate there Nov 25 & 27, Dec 4, 6, 15, 18, 19, 20, 22, and 28, and once already in 2010. The two big draws, besides Chris and the food, are the views of the ocean breakers across the street and the pleasant post-breakfast walks oceanside. The breakers can be marvelous. 29 Dec 2009. Chris is back! (He had been "on vacation.")

We have two other favorites for breakfast: the Aloha Angel in Kealakekua, within walking distance of the condo. The walk alongside the roadway is a bit noxious, but we lack discipline and need the exercise. We enjoy all the waitstaff there, and even the cook (the owner) knows our order now. (They don't take American Express, so the dates will come later.) They are open 7 days a week, but only for breakfast & lunch.

The other favorite is the Coffee Shack in Captain Cook. (Yes, there is a town by that name.) It is a longer drive, but the food is excellent, and one dining room overlooks an outstanding wide shoreline view. This turned out to be our favorite breakfast meal because the omelets were always least greasy/oily & the coffee was slightly better too. We thoroughly enjoyed our usual waitress, but her name is lost to posterity. We've eaten there 8 Dec 2009 et al. (They don't take American Express, so the dates will come later.)

Jackie Reys Ohana Grill in Kailua-Kona has become Cynthia's favorite. She really likes their Greek (?) salad. We've eaten there 8, 9, 15, 20, 27, 29 & 31 Dec 2009. One waitress in particular is always happy & sociable, but we don't know her name.

Keei serves great food and would be within walking distance except that neither of us wants to walk alongside that busy highway at night (highway 11). They don't accept ANY credit cards and are closed Sundays. Cynthia really likes the Honaunau green salad. 12 Dec 2009

Thanks to George's suggestion, we finally ate at Island Naturals Mauka just past the Aloha Angel in Kealakekua. Their salad suits us perfectly and has proven fresh and tasty. We've eaten there several times since 28 Dec. (George is a helicopter mechanic.)

The VERY BEST ocean views are at the Kamuela Provision Company in Hilton's Waikoloa Village. Cynthia likes it so well that we spent a special New Year's eve at Waikoloa just so that we could enjoy the food & the view. The breakers are awesome. We ate there 25 Nov w/ John & the girls, 31 Dec 2009 & 1 Jan 2010.

We treated ourselves to one other "night-out" while here - at the Kilauea Lodge in Volcano. (Yes, indeed, that is the name of the town.) We had enjoyed lunch here on our "circle island" tour, but Christmas eve dinner and Christmas breakfasts were both big disappointments. The Lodge was a quaint & interesting place to stay, so we don't regret our decision. The Volcano House inside the National Park was a similar disappointment. My advice is to pack a picnic basket if you stay that far south.

Probably the best food & service on the island is at Merriman's Market Cafe in Kamuela (I thought this was in Weimea) - also most expensive. We ate there 24 Nov and 13 Dec 2009 at dark when we tried to leave at 11am and circumfrenciate the island by roadway. It was an awesome day.

Costco was the big surprise. THE ABSOLUTE most wonderful find was a 6 lb bag of pretzels with low fat & low sugar for 6.69, Edamame snack peas for 6.29, and 3lbs of blueberries for $6.59. CostCo gasoline is .50 cheaper than the next closest competitor nearby. Even Hilo prices were higher than Costco.

Kona Natural Foods next to Safeway & Walmart has the right stuff at the right prices for us. Their bulk rolled oats and walnuts were substantially less than anywhere else on the island.

Strange that the French and sourdough breads baked in the Safeway store are least fat, least sugar of any.

Target prices seemed good until we became Costco members. We scored Christmas lights and artificial tree (with kalidescopic fiberoptic lights).

When we first arrived here on the Big Island, we stayed in our time-share near the Hilton Waikoloa. It was a rude awakening to find that there are NO ocean views in the entire time-share location. It felt like a bait-and-switch since we had so enjoyed the views while staying at the Waikoloa when we bought the time-share. Oh well. The best breakfast on the island is still at the Waikoloa, but it is also the most expensive. The omelet chef is also personable and enjoyable. The hostesses remembered us (after a moment), and it was a treat to see little Sally again. We ate there about four times including the Thanksgiving feast.

The other fantastic place to dine and watch sunset is at the Fairmont Orchid in Kamuela, just north of the Hilton Waikoloa. The food is great as is the ambiance.

This takes us back to Waikiki. Our very favorite breakfast is at the Hyatt Regency Terrace Grill. We ate there 18 Nov and 2 Dec and probably several other times. Our favorite lunch/dinner was at Duke's Canoe Club because they have great ocean view, good all-you-can-eat salad bar, and the distance was just right for our walk. We ate there 17 & 18 Nov. We ate at Ruth's Chris Steak House once on 20 Nov - good food as always.

Then there are a few places we want to avoid:
The IHOP in Waikiki was OK once, but not good afterward.
Don Ho in the Aloha tower Market Place in Honolulu was abysmal.

The Doubletree Alana in Waikiki wins the honors for most outrageous charge: $36.75 for a six-pack of Diet Coke. Cynthia had taken advantage of the hotel's offer to stock items in the room in advance, but when we arrived in the room, the six-pack was not in the 'frig, so Cynthia called the desk. Room service brought the six-pack and a bill for $36.75. After several more hassles, the hotel finally retrieved the six pack & refunded the amount.

As always, I enjoy writing - too bad I run on and on and on. Love from Ron Beatty

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