Gelati at Valentino’s (Auckland, NZ)

You don’t have to live in Italy anymore to have gelato. It seems that this dessert has taken the world by storm.

As we were walking around Auckland’s beautiful waterfront area, Valentino’s seemed like a very popular place. There were crowds of people in the store. Never being ones to willingly forego gelato, we slipped in. It offers the standard Italian flavors, but the ones that stood out to us were made with fruits native to New Zealand—passionfruit and feijoa. How could we resist? Delizioso.

Passionfruit and feijoa gelati

Adobe Room (Taos, NM)

Like Doc Martin’s, the Adobe Room is part of the Taos Inn, a bar where you can also order snacks. Since we weren’t too hungry, we just decided on a basket of tortilla chips and margaritas. The salsa (☆☆☆) was pretty good, thick, tomatoey and spicy. The chips also came with a side of nice guacamolé. There were many margaritas from which to choose. We went all-out with the Grand Reserve (☆☆☆½) made with Cuervo Reserva Familia, Grand Marnier, agave nectar and lime juice—a bracing, potent and delicious cocktail, pricey enough to seem like we paid for dinner.

Turquoise Room, La Posada Inn (Winslow, AZ)

Along the long I-40 stretch that cuts through the middle of the Southwest, there aren’t too many notable places to have a nice meal. Lots of little places with good, even great food, but not a sit-down dining experience, complete with ambience, good service and fresh ingredients, with a great cocktail or two thrown in for good measure.

To some food writers, the Turquoise Room at the La Posada Inn in Winslow is regarded as the best restaurant in the Southwest. We’re not ready to make such a claim, our regional experiences so far being extremely limited, but much of this enthusiasm might have to do with its location seemingly in the middle of nowhere, its elegant yet casual Southwest motif, and the fact that it isn’t the typical “joint” that is hugely popular along the Route 66 corridor.

Lunchtime is a terrific way to sample many of TR’s signature dishes at reduced prices. At just past 3 p.m., we had no problem getting immediately seated either, generally a greater challenge at normal dinner hours.

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Idle Isle Cafe (Brigham City, UT)

Idle Isle Cafe’s idleberry pie (a la mode)

Michael and Jane Stern’s 500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late lists Idle Isle Cafe’s idleberry pie as one of them. Idleberry is a trade name of theirs and consists of a combination of blueberries, blackberries and boysenberries, a worthy competitor of Springdale’s bumbleberry pie. Located in Brigham City, the cafe also serves other scrumptious entrées. We had a very nice lunch here. The pan-fried mountain trout was very good, served with superb french fries. The rolls are homemade, very yeasty and chewy. Spread with butter and the cafe’s excellent apricot jam, the rolls were gone in no time. We ordered our idleberry pie a la mode, of course.

Pan-fried trout with fries

Homemade rolls with butter and apricot jam

Idle Isle Cafe
24 S Main St
Brigham City, UT 84302

ANZAC Biscuits

ANZAC Day is observed in New Zealand and Australia to commemorate the troops who lost their lives at Gallipoli during World War I. ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps. One story is that the families sent the troops these biscuits (known in the U.S. as cookies) that resisted spoilage because of their lack of eggs as an ingredient, but their undisputed origin is still a mystery. In any case, these are really good cookies, quite crispy, almost as hard as a biscotti. I have a preference for a soft, chewy cookie, so before the first bite, a red flag was raised. But, the hesitation was only brief; the combination of rolled oats, shredded coconut, butter and a sweetener called golden syrup (which is hard to find in the States, though I found some at Whole Foods) was irresistible. And, when dipped in a cup of long black, they were even better.

I found a recipe on the internet, which I’ll try when we get home.

Matsumoto Shave Ice (Hale’iwa, HI)

Lychee/pina colada and lychee/lilikoi shave ices

It was good fortune that we were able to compare not only shrimp trucks but shave ice as well. Earlier on our trip, we sampled shave ice at Waiola store in Honolulu. Matsumoto’s is a destination stop for many fans, including busloads of Japanese tourists. Waiola draws mostly locals. The lines at both can get quite long, though I suspect that it’s more of a problem at M’s throughout the day.

Because the ice here is a bit grainier than Waiola’s, it holds its shape better when topped with syrups. There is a good selection of syrup flavors, including two of my favorites: lychee and lilikoi, though for the life of me, I can’t figure out why the latter should be so bright red. Then again, part of the fun and eye appeal of shave ice are the bright artificial colors. My wife’s piña colada syrup was very tasty, very coconut-y. Vanilla ice cream and kintoki are two extras you can add. I’ve never developed an appreciation for sweet azuki (adzuki) beans, but the ice cream that I added for the first time last year, right here at Matsumoto’s, is something I perhaps can’t live without. The photo above shows lychee/pina colada and lychee/lilikoi combinations.

Matsumoto Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI
Flavors and accompaniments

Bubbies (Honolulu)

Bubbies is a premium ice cream store that has been doing business on Oahu since the late 1980s. They are based in Aiea and have two outlets on Oahu, including one on University Avenue between Waikiki and the university. Oprah’s “O” Magazine featured their island-favorite mochi ice creams. They are served in many hotels and a few Japanese restaurants on the island. We even bought one at Coffee Bean on Lewers. There are many flavors to choose from, including several tropical ones.

On our way to southeast Oahu and the North Shore, we stopped at Koko Marina Shopping Center where Bubbies has a store. The picture at the top shows guava and lilikoi mochi ice creams. We also had a lychee one at Coffee Bean last Sunday. These are really delicious. The guava flavor is more muted than lychee or lilikoi. With their tropical flavors, these are our favorite mochi ice creams (☆☆☆☆).

Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream and Desserts
Koko Marina Shopping Center
7192 Kalanianaole Hwy, D103

Leonard’s (Honolulu)

Custard-filled malasada

Custard-filled malasada

Among the island’s favorite pastries are Portuguese malasadas. Leonard’s is generally regarded as Oahu’s best, and for good reason. Our visit here last year hooked us. My favorite malasadas are those filled with custard. Why are they so good? First of all, they are served warm out of the oven. Their yeasty shell is slightly crispy on the outside, achingly tender and slightly doughy inside. One bite will release the creamy and not-too-sweet custard filling, available in a variety of flavors. The flavor of the month was lilikoi. We ordered it and coconut. Wow!

Leonard’s is a bakery, so it actually does sell other pastries as well as a few savory items, including pao doce, which looks like a sausage with a wrap.

Pao doce

Pao doce

Leonard’s Bakery
933 Kapahulu Ave

Waiola Shave Ice (Honolulu, HI)

The subject of the best shave ice is a hot topic in Hawaii. For years on Oahu, the faithful have been heading to the North Shore to Matsumoto’s (and Aoki’s next door). Even busloads of Japanese tourists stop by there to pay homage. We went there last year and made it a point to stop in Haleiwa. But, there have been those who make the claim that Waiola Shave Ice in Honolulu, within walking distance of Waikiki, makes a superior product, mainly because of the very fine, powdery shave ice. Matsumoto’s has a slightly grainier ice. So, in the interest of the debate, we headed over to Waiola to decide for ourselves. We didn’t know it at the time, but we also made it over to Matsumoto’s later in our trip.

My wife’s ice was topped with lychee and guava syrups and condensed milk, mine with POG (passion fruit, orange and guava) and vanilla ice cream underneath. (As at most shave ice places, you can also add kintoki and mochi balls.) The problem with ice this fine is the melting factor–things will get pretty slushy and sloppy if the weather is too warm, or the syrups aren’t cold enough. Sure enough, as quickly as the syrup was poured, the cone of ice began to slump  slightly (see photo above). The verdict was that I liked Waiola better than Matsumoto’s; today my wife liked them both as being equally superior in their own right, but later (after going to Matsumoto’s) agreed that Waiola is better. The ice is indeed finer, softer, almost fluffy in texture. Because ice cream is so cold, the shave ice closest to the ice cream will solidify and create these crunchy granules at the bottom, so the faster you eat the shave ice, mo betta.

A few other comparisons. Waiola has a few more toppings–li hing mui powder, lilikoi cream, Hershey’s chocolate, all 50 cents extra. You can also order (for 50 cents) li hing mui seeds. Other variations at Waiola include an azuki bowl (shave ice on ice cream, topped with condensed milk, mochi balls and kintoki), ice cream bowl (a bowl of shave ice with three scoops of ice cream on the side and one on top), sundae shave ice (ice cream topped with shave ice, then poured over with Hershey’s chocolate syrup), custard bowl (shave ice topped with flan), mocha bowl (shave ice topped with what might be Starbuck’s mocha mix), each at $4.50. To me, these are excesses that detract from the main event–plain and simple shave ice.

Waiola Shave Ice
2135 Waiola Street, Honolulu, HI

Liliha Bakery (Honolulu, HI)

We stopped at Liliha Bakery on the way back from Helena’s. Customers come here for the coco puffs. There was a line to order the bakery items. A cafe inside also serves meals, breakfast apparently being the favorite time. For the puffs, you get your choice of original, green tea, chocolate or custard, although it’s beyond me why custard is a separate kind. It seems to be in all of them. The custard is lightly sweet and creamy, surrounded by a tender, eggy shell. The effect is not unlike a good cream puff. As of this writing, they are $1.35 apiece. Personally, I didn’t find these desserts to be compelling enough to warrant a return visit. They are certainly good, but Leonard’s is mo betta pastry.

Liliha Bakery
515 North Kuakini Street Honolulu, HI 96817
Baked goods