Parisian Foodventures: My Top 5 Meals!

If you’ve been following me on the ‘gram, then you know that I just got back from an INCREDIBLE weeklong trip to Paris with my little family–yes, including the baby in tow! Most people thought we were absolutely bonkers to travel to Europe with a newborn who’s not even three months old, but it was so, so worth it. It was a LOT of work, but also tons and tons of fun. I’ll do another post on tips for traveling with an infant in Paris, so stay tuned ūüôā

For this post though, I want to focus entirely on FOOD. We spent seven nights in Paris staying in the trendy Le Marais neighborhood, and it was so wonderful staying put in one place. Pre-baby, our international trips always consisted of multiple cities with jam-packed itineraries and daily restaurant reservations. This time around, traveling with a baby forced us to slooow down, space out our sight-seeing, and leave lots of room for spontaneous breaks at those darling French cafes people-watching for hours. Yes, it was as delightful as it sounds.

We made a few restaurant reservations ahead of time (a must for most Parisian restaurants!), and made sure to mention that we were with a newborn baby who would be in her carseat sleeping. Because she’s so young, we were able to get away with a few tasting menus, but still opted for more casual vs. stuffy/fancy restaurants. That’s more our style anyway! We had an amazing mix of meals during our stay in Paris – from modern French tasting menus, to delicious North African cuisine, to mouthwatering Italian food, and of course those fantastic pastries. I don’t think there was a single meal that I didn’t enjoy, but here are my top five FAVORITE meals that we enjoyed during our time in Paris.

*Disclaimer: There are obviously a zillion other restaurants in Paris, and we selected places that were convenient for us to visit with a newborn baby, but hopefully this is still helpful in your trip planning! Oh, and tip for eating out in Paris with a baby–make an early reservation (most places open at 7 or 7:30 pm) so that you can get in and out before it gets too busy. Some places might get cranky if you show up with a carseat + stroller (mostly because Parisian restaurants are tiny), but we were so pleasantly surprised with how friendly and accommodating each of the below places were.¬†

1. LA BOURSE ET LA VIE
http://www.labourselavie.com/en/  

My carnivorous hubby was obviously on the hunt for the best steak-frites in Paris, which is how we ended up at La Bourse et La Vie, a modern (and slightly Americanized) take on a traditional French bistro. With super minimalistic decor, and an uber-cool wait staff, we were in for a stellar meal. I’m so glad we found this place, because I’m still dreaming about that¬†incredible¬†rare steak au poivre with thick, crispy potatoes cooked to perfection. We split one steak, which was probably for the best, but I kiiiinda wish I devoured one on my own. So. good.

2. LES ENFANTS ROUGES
https://www.les-enfants-rouges.fr/ 

Les Enfants Rouges was probably THE most convenient restaurant we went to in Paris, because it was located right next to our Airbnb. It was also just an incredible meal. A tiny restaurant located in a side street of Le Marais with a Japanese chef, Les Enfants Rouges was exactly the type of modern inventive French food we were craving for our very first dinner in Paris. We opted for the six-course tasting menu, and our super sweet waitress who had just moved to Paris from Tokyo (and was juggling three different languages) happily described each of our dishes in English. French, with a touch of Asian influence. Our favorite dishes included a beautiful beef & mushroom dish and a mouthwatering molten chocolate dessert with pistachio ice cream.

3. COME A CASA
http://comeacasa7.tumblr.com/

It’s tough competition, but this might have been my favorite meal of all, just because the restaurant was SO ME. I live for tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that make you feel like you’re inside someone’s living room, and that’s exactly what Come a Casa is. It’s a tiny place in a very residential neighborhood owned by an Italian couple that changes the menu daily. Oh, and there’s only like three things on the menu. And everything is simple, fresh, and exquisitely delicious. We sat outside, drank lots of wine, and ate to our heart’s content. Big thanks to my friend Kat (a former Parisian) who recommended this very special place to us!

 

4. EAST MAMMA
https://www.bigmammagroup.com/fr/trattorias/east-mamma 

We were severely depressed on our last night in Paris and had no idea where to go. We wanted to go someplace casual, and I was craving another Italian meal because well, what’s new. I always want Italian. Kat had told me to visit one of the restaurants from the popular ‘Big Mamma’ restaurants so I mapped out whichever one was closest to our Airbnb. So that’s how we ended up waiting in line for East Mamma to open its doors at 7 pm on a Saturday night. Pretty much everyone in the line was speaking in French, which is how I knew we were in for an amazing meal. And boy, did it deliver. We were quickly seated outside, ordered the truffle pasta and a truffle pizza, and…died and went to heaven. To top it off, we polished off a pistachio creme brulee that might have been even better than a Pierre Herme macaron. And that’s saying a LOT.

5. SEMILLA
https://www.semillaparis.com/en 

Semilla is one of those trendy Parisian restaurants that just oozes French sophistication. The local patrons there are impeccably dressed, and the waitresses are just-friendly-enough to still be cool. When we asked for the tasting menu, they warned us that our baby might not last the two and a half hours (…their polite way of saying, please eat quickly) but I’m glad we insisted on it anyway. And our little one thankfully slept through the entire dinner! I loved my meal here–it felt more clean and refined than the modern French cuisine at Les Enfants Rouges, but perhaps with a little less heart. I’d still recommend Semilla for the overall ambience and really, really good food. The sole fish with tons and tons of butter was DIVINE.

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Baby’s First Vacation: Portland, ME & Boston

Will time. please. SLOW. down?! I cannot believe that my baby girl is almost three months and that I only have¬†two¬†more weeks of maternity leave left. Cue tears now. I know it sounds cliched, but the past two and a half months have been the most challenging, yet gratifying and beautiful moments of my life. Time is SO relative – when I think about how long I’ve been away from work, my job feels like a distant memory, but when I think about how much time I’ve spent with the little one, it feels like a mere second. There are so many little projects I hoped to accomplish during maternity leave – baby photo books, finally getting my wedding albums together, blogging about motherhood…but of course none of it happened in the midst of all the newborn baby tantrums, diaper changes, and cuddle time.

One thing that my husband and I did prioritize during this time was travel! Everyone told us that the younger the baby, the easier it is to take them on a plane so we made sure to squeeze in at least two vacations during my maternity leave. We spent a week up in New England, road tripping from Boston up to Portland, Maine, and I’m shocked by how easy it was traveling with our baby! She was a little over two months at the time, so she slept like a champ. Slept through flights, car rides, and even fancy dinners. We’re headed to Europe this weekend (!), so will have to revert back with how that longer international journey goes…

Anyways, I wanted to share some of the delicious meals that we enjoyed in Portland. I was super excited to check out this little town by the water because of its reputation as a foodie paradise. It was the perfect little getaway from Boston for three days. Even though it was still fairly cold in mid-April, we had a great time bundling up the baby and walking through the little cobblestoned streets and enjoying some really fantastic food. The weather probably worked in our favor, because it wasn’t as crowded and touristy as I imagine it is during the summer months. The best part about our stay was that all these great restaurants were concentrated within just a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel (Portland Harbor Hotel) in the Old Port District. Made our lives so much easier with the little one!

Fore Street
http://www.forestreet.biz/

Maine is known for its farm-to-table restaurants, and Fore Street is the very original one that put Portland on the culinary map. I loved the ambience at this super rustic and romantic restaurant with a wood-burning oven in an open kitchen. So cozy! And the meal did not disappoint…a tagliatelle with fresh pesto appetizer, a cold seafood platter, fried shad roe (not pictured, but actually a Bengali delicacy as well!), and some of the best chicken I’ve ever had. Everything was very simply, but elegantly prepared with the freshest of ingredients. YUM!

Eventide Oyster Co.
http://www.eventideoysterco.com/

Literally everyone we spoke to said we HAD to visit Eventide Oyster Co. for the best lobster roll of their lives. And they were right. This was hands down our favorite meal of the trip! Since Eventide doesn’t take reservations, we were lucky to snag a communal table right away since it was off-season and on a weekday. We ordered their famous brown butter lobster roll (unique because it’s on a bao instead of a traditional roll), a fried oyster bun (just as good as the lobster roll!), chowder, and oysters on oysters on oysters. Amazing.

Js Oyster
http://jsoysterportland.com/menu/

Js is the type of place you’d see featured on Anthony Bourdain – grungy & dark with friendly locals with strong accents chatting up the dinner patrons. This wasn’t my favorite meal, but we did enjoy our lobster dinner with steamed clams, which is something neither of us had tried before! And the view by the water was beautiful.

Duckfat
http://duckfat.com/ 

Duckfat is another lunch spot that came highly recommended to us from literally everyone we inquired. It was nice to take a break from seafood on our last day in Portland before driving back to Boston. Duckfat’s a tiny little sandwich shop that’s known for their Belgian-style fries fried in duck fat. The fries, with truffle ketchup and Thai chili mayo, were INCREDIBLE and I could’ve had an entire meal of just those fries. We DEVOURED them, which is why I forgot to get a picture. Oops. For sandwiches, we split the Overnight Duck Confit and House Smoked Brisket. Heavy, but delicious. A great way to end the trip!

Southeast Asian Adventures II: Angkor Wat

If you haven’t read part I of my Southeast Asian adventures post, make sure to check it out here first.

Part II: 

Our whole trip to Southeast Asia was such a surreal and incredible adventure, I’m still not over it. My only regret is not spending more time in Cambodia, which in a mere 24 hours, completely stole (and broke) our hearts. There is so much to say about the strength and grit of the Cambodians, and I’d really love to spend a longer time learning more about this beautiful and resilient country. While things in the United States were sort of unraveling while we were away, being in Cambodia gave us a lot of perspective and taught us so much about acceptance, diversity, and generosity of heart.

Even though we weren’t in Cambodia for long, I’m so very glad that we got to spend a day at the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor, beginning at sunrise. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, with Hindu and Buddhist influences. The various temples in the complex have been damaged and deteriorated over the years, but you can still get a¬†sense of the incredible art and architecture. Some parts of the temple have literally been taken over by trees and plant overgrowth, and somehow this intersection of nature & religion just makes Angkor Wat even more magical. Here are just a few of my favorite pictures.

Angkor Wat at sunrise. Even though we didn’t get the clearest sunrise, there was something so spiritual about marching into the complex along with hundreds¬†of other tourists vying for the best sunrise spot. We weren’t alone by any means, but I’ve never felt so serene and at peace.

 

Tales of daily life on temple walls


The Bayon temple, with morning light shining on the spectacular faces of past kings, was my absolute favorite. Unbelievably beautiful. 

The Tomb Raider temples! Nature crawling its way through temple ruins. 

Thank you, Cambodia. We’ll be back!¬†

Two-Week Itinerary for Italy & Santorini

Ever since my husband and I got engaged, we’ve been dreaming about an extended honeymoon somewhere in Europe. We’ve both traveled to Europe separately, but couldn’t wait to experience its magic together. I spent four years in Paris growing up and planned a trip to Barcelona after graduating from college, while he had studied abroad in Madrid. With our hectic schedules, we couldn’t make a honeymoon work right after the wedding, but boy was it worth the two-year wait.

We explored a couple different countries while researching for our trip, and almost decided against Italy. We were worried it would be too touristy, and it just felt so cliched to travel to Italy for our honeymoon after seeing so many of our friends doing the same. We’ve both also been to Italy during our younger years, and considered traveling somewhere more off the beaten path. Alas, our love for fresh pasta, vino and Italian culture was too strong, and I’m SO glad we decided to spend the majority of our trip in Italy. It’s simply exquisite. Santorini has always been at the top of my bucket list, so I convinced my husband to spend the last few days of our vacation there since we were going to be so close. I definitely need to plan a separate trip to Greece to experience its culture in its entirety, but we’re incredibly grateful that we got to spend a few days in Santorini during our honeymoon. It is beyond words.

Here’s how we laid out our two weeks in Italy & Santorini. September is the perfect time to visit Italy, because it’s at the end of tourist season and the weather starts to cool down ever so slightly (but still warm¬†enough for beaches). We wanted to get a good feel for the country by visiting a variety of different cities, but we also didn’t want to be overwhelmed by packing our bags every 1-2 days. We wanted a good mix of beach towns, wine country, big cities, culture and adventure with things to constantly do. We like to be on the go when we’re on vacation rather than beach bumming for a week straight, so this itinerary worked really well for us and gave us a sense of places we want to visit again for a longer period of time.¬†We also LOVED all the hotels/B&Bs that we stayed at, so I’ve linked details to our accommodations. Okay, enough rambling – here we go!

  • DAY 1:¬†Fly into Naples, rent a car (with a driver – you don’t want to be driving on your own¬†here) and drive¬†directly to the picturesque town of Positano for two days.¬†We’re not huge beach people and wanted to spend more time in other places in Italy and in Santorini, so we decided to spend all our time in Positano rather than town-hopping around the Amalfi Coast.
    • Positano accommodation: Villa La Tartana¬†¬†(cute little no-frills B&B steps away from the Spiagga Grande)
    • Tip: Visit¬†Le Sirenuse¬†for a gorgeous view of Positano’s colorful homes. Rent a private speed boat at Spiagga Grande (super affordable for just an hour or two) for the most breathtaking and luxurious views of the Amalfi Coast. You can drive around the coast with a bottle of Prosecco, visit private beaches, and go swimming. The views of Positano from the boat just can’t be beat.
    • Foodie highlights: We weren’t super adventurous with food in Positano because we were there for such a short period of time but we liked¬†Chez Black¬†for fresh seafood and a stellar waterfront view. Yes, it’s super touristy and on the pricey side, but worth it for one meal.
  • DAY 2:¬†Positano – sight seeing, beach bumming
  • DAY 3:¬†Positano in the morning, then take a car back to Naples and a train to Florence
    • Florence accommodation: Le Stanze di Caterina¬†(steps away from the Duomo with beautiful, art-inspired¬†rooms)
  • DAY 4:¬†Florence – sight seeing (Uffizi Gallery, Scuola del Cuoio –¬†Florence’s leather school with amazing leather products, and sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo)
    • Foodie highlights:¬†Osteria Santo Spirito¬†for a more local feel and¬†Trattoria ZaZa¬†for unbelievable¬†truffle pastas.
  • DAY 5:¬†Florence – sight seeing till the late afternoon (Mercato Centrale for fabulous lunch options and Accademia for the gorgeous David), then rent a car to drive to Tuscany
    • Tuscany accommodation: Fonte de Medici¬†(We got an incredible¬†deal through Jetsetter– the most gorgeous Tuscan villas EVER! A little remote, but totally worth it for the property)
    • Foodie highlights:¬†Lamole di Lamole.¬†Must visit for the most mouthwatering Florentine steak ever. Amazing spot.
  • DAY 6:¬†Tuscany – wine tasting and visiting little Medieval towns
  • DAY 7:¬†Tuscany/day trip to Siena
  • DAY 8:¬†Tuscany, then drive to Rome
    • Rome accommodation: Augustana House¬†(Super clean, no-frills B&B located on a quieter, less touristy part of the city. Nicest staff!)
    • Foodie highlights: We arrived in Rome with pretty low expectations (“It’s too hot! Too touristy!”) but we absolutely LOVED the city. The food in particular was absolutely stellar; the best we had in the country. Highly recommend following Romewise.com¬†for restaurant suggestions and making reservations EARLY – I’m still dreaming about my pasta dishes from¬†Osteria del Sostegno¬†and¬†Roberto e Loretta.¬†Rome is heaven for pasta, bacon and tiramisu lovers. Mmm!
  • DAY 9:¬†Rome – sight seeing (Trevi Fountain and the Caesar Shuffle – Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Pantheon)
  • DAY 10:¬†Rome – sight seeing (the Vatican – absolutely incredible)
  • DAY 11:¬†Rome in the morning, then flight to Santorini
    • Santorini accommodation: The Majestic Hotel¬†(just outside Fira)
    • Tip: Best way to¬†explore the entire island is by renting an ATV! So much fun, and you come across so many lovely little private beaches with family-owned seafood restaurants. Some of the spots we stumbled upon were just magnificent. Santorini is too beautiful for words.
  • DAY 12:¬†Santorini – sight seeing (Sunset Cruise)
  • DAY 13:¬†Santorini – sight seeing (exploring the towns of Fira, Imerovigli, and Oia)
  • DAY 14:¬†Santorini, then flight back to the U.S. via Rome

Sigh, can I please go back already? Hope this itinerary was helpful for your planning – leave me a comment if you have any questions!¬†And just so this post isn’t ALL words, here are some of my favorite pictures from our trip:

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The adorable town of Positano in the Amalfi Coast

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Sunset in Florence from the Piazza Michelangelo 

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View of Firenze from the Uffizi Gallery

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Rolling hills of Tuscany. View from Fonte de Medici. No words. 

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Trevi Fountain, Rome

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Santorini views from Imerovigli 

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Sunset at Oia, Santorini

Travel Diaries: Kauai

The lush, amazing, beautiful¬†Garden Island of Kauai was Part II of my recent Hawaii adventure. If you haven’t read Part I yet, go read it first!

While Maui was all about family, Kauai was perfect for some alone time with my husband. I knew that Jurassic Park was filmed here, so I was expecting greenery, but was still completely blown away by how visually stunning this island is. I’m talking palm tree after palm tree, gorgeous waterfalls everywhere, and the most unbelievable scenery I have ever seen in my life. It’s true what they say – Kauai is just the prettiest.

We stayed at a vacation rental at the¬†Hanalei Bay Resort, which¬†we absolutely loved. It looks like a five star resort with a beautiful lagoon-style pool, has the most stunning views of Hanalei Bay, and shares its beach¬†with the St. Regis (minus the St. Regis prices). I mean, you really can’t beat that. Every night,¬†we would pour ourselves a glass of white wine, sit on the hills facing the bay¬†and¬†enjoy the most spectacular sunsets. I so wish we could be back there!

I’m so excited to share some of my favorite images from the trip – it was incredibly difficult to edit these down, because every part of Kauai is so picturesque. These pictures do a great job of highlighting some of our favorite things about the island – Hanalei Bay sunsets,¬†hiking part of the beautiful Napali coast, kayaking to the secret waterfalls, feasting on incredible sushi, and just the sheer amazingness of Mother Nature.

The beautiful grounds at Hanalei bay resort
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Admiring the bay at sunset, just steps away from our room at the resort…truly breathtaking.¬†

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The view from St. Regis’s outdoor patio – an amazing place to grab a glass of champagne right at sunset

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We hiked the first two miles of the Napali Coast. The full 11 hike mile is considered to be one of the most scenic (and dangerous) hikes in the country and requires overnight camping and permits. The first two miles to a secluded beach is supposed to be the “easier”¬†portion, but it was still¬†challenging for me – lots of ascending and descending on muddy trails with absolutely stunning views. Many hikers do an additional two miles to the waterfalls, but¬†this takes the entire day. We were plenty satisfied with our three hour adventure and recommend this for less experienced hikers.

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I mean, just look at those turquoise waters Рjust gorgeous! We were lucky to do this hike on a clear, sunny day. 

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The delicious sushi burrito from Sushi Girl! A must visit for anyone visiting Kauai- it’s a little hole in the wall stand en route to the Napali Coast with the freshest selection of take out sushi. We went here three times in four days – that’s how good it is (plus the food selection in Kauai is pretty limited).¬†Especially good after hiking.¬†

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Our third day in Kauai, we signed up for a kayaking tour with Ali Kayaks¬†on the Wailua River. This consists of fairly easy and relaxed kayaking for two hours, a moderate hike through a VERY muddy rainforest, and splashing around in a pool by the beautiful secret waterfalls that’s only accessible by kayaking. Such a fun morning adventure! ¬†

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Lazing around on Hanalei Bay beach on our final day in Kauai 

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Shave ice from Hee Fat, considered to be the best ice on the island! I had no idea what to expect, but this stuff is AMAZING. We got the strawberry and coconut real fruit syrup with macadamia nut ice cream on the bottom. So, so good. 

Hope you enjoyed this peek into our Hawaii trip! Be sure to follow me on Instagram @mrsgcg if you’d like to see more snapshots from our trip. And don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any questions or need advice about traveling in Maui and/or Kauai.

Travel Diaries: Maui, Hawaii

Aloha! I just got back from an incredible eight-day trip to Hawaii (four days in Maui, four days in Kauai), and have never felt more refreshed and rejuvenated. Aaand…depressed about being back in concrete jungle Chicago. I. love. the. island. life. Take me back already!

This was my first trip to Hawaii and my expectations were set pretty high, for obvious reasons. Having spent much of my formative years in Indonesia, I felt completely at home in the tropical climate the minute we landed in Maui. The warm air, the exquisite greenery, the dynamic landscape–I just couldn’t wait to soak it all up.¬†The Maui leg of the trip was spent with my immediate family to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday, so it made the whole experience all that more special. My parents and brother love traveling as much as we do, and we¬†were adamant about making the most of our four short days on the island.

In no particular order, I’ve recapped my top five moments in Maui below. Not featured but also deserving special mention: sipping on Mai Tais and listening to the sound of crashing waves from our Maalaea Banyans lanai every night, sunset dinner at Kimo’s,¬†and just the beautiful¬†quietness of island life. Such a necessary break from a busy, stressful summer.

The Old Laihana Luau: Rated one of the best and most authentic luaus on the island, the Old Laihana Luau was a fantastic family experience. We booked the luau for my dad’s actual birthday, and it was the perfect celebration. Gorgeous venue right by the water with a spectacular sunset view, incredible service, traditional Hawaii cuisine (which was pretty good for a buffet meal), fabulous entertainment, and an open bar. All for hundred bucks per person. Not a bad deal and definitely worth it, especially during your first few days on the trip to really get in the Hawaiian state of mind.

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The feast at Old Laihana Luau: Fried rice, roasted pork, mahi-mahi, ahi poke, and stir fry veggies

Snorkeling on Kaanapali Beach: I’m a snorkeling newbie, so my husband and I were really, really excited to to check out Maui’s beaches. We didn’t want to waste¬†a whole day on a snorkeling trip (though I now regret not doing¬†Molokini Crater), but we heard that Kaanapali Beach’s Black Rock is perfect for a quick morning snorkeling dip. We had so much fun swimming side by side and saw a ton of little colorful fishies, including a baby sea turtle! It was amazing and an experience I’ll never forget. I just wish we had a GoPro!

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The unfiltered beauty of Kaanapali Beach – no underwater pictures, but you can see the Black Rock in the distance

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Giddy after encountering a baby sea turtle!

Road to Hana:¬†Road to Hana is probably the most popular drive in Maui – I have major motion sickness and can barely drive, so I didn’t think I would enjoy the long, winding roads as much as I did. With some Dramamine in tow and my road trip-loving husband behind the driver’s seat, the entire fam left early in the AM for the spectacular journey to Hana. As my dad kept saying “it’s about the journey, not the destination” because the various stops along the way are just awesome. My favorite stop was the black sand beach at Wai’anapanapa National Park – we even brought home a lava rock for our home ūüôā Nature is so freaking cool, especially in Hawaii.

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Salted caramel coconut ice cream from Coco Glen, the cutest little stand on the Road to Hana. So delicious and necessary after the winding roads.

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Feelin’ victorious after reaching the black sand beach!

Sunrise at Haleakala Crater:¬†This was actually a little disappointing for us, because the morning we decided to make the one hour drive up to Haleakala Crater was a foggy one and we didn’t see the full sunrise that most tourists rave about. BUT, the experience is still one that I’ll fondly look back on –¬†we all woke up at 2:30 am, bundled up in sweaters and blankets (it’s 40 degrees up there, especially in the early morning!) and drove up to the crater in eager anticipation of sunrise. The atmosphere was really cool and we felt like we were floating in the cloud with other freezing cold tourists. If we could do it again, I’d go for sunset or check it out during the day so you can actually see the crater. Oh, well.

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…Ahi Poke:¬†Is it weird that one of my top five moments is food-related? If you know me at all, then no. One of our first meals on the island was at Maui Fish Market, after snorkeling on Kaanapali Beach. The food options in Maui and Kauai (especially in Kuauai) are limited–at least compared to big cities in the mainland–but the seafood is incredible. We feasted on baja fish tacos, shrimp, and AHI POKE. Maui Fish Market is where we first tried ahi poke, and it became our standard go-to meal for pretty much the rest of the trip. You just can’t beat that fresh island taste. Nom nom.

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So. fresh.

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Mahi-mahi sandwich. Drooling again.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures and stay tuned for my Kauai post, coming next!