An introduction to ceviche

I was recently made aware of the unsettling fact there are people who are not familiar with ceviche. As this is easily my favorite dish while traveling both home and abroad, this disturbs me so much I immediately find it necessary to share its flavors with the world.

In the midst of a roadtrip across the state of Oregon, a fellow hiker on a Crater Lake trail inquired about the Spanish phrase etched across the front of my turquoise tank top: Mancora, PeruEl mismo Caribe pero con ceviche“. I informed him that I had picked it up in the Peruvian town of Mancora and that it proclaimed the town to be “the same as the Caribbean but with ceviche“.

That’s when it happened.

“What’s ceviche?”

If you, too, find yourself agreeing with this question, do yourself a favor and put this dish on your culinary radar and search out the nearest available ceviche outlet immediately, even if that place is Baja, Mexico.A native dish of Central and South America, the simple, citrus infused masterpiece traces its roots to coastal Peru. A dish comprised of raw fish which is freshly prepared, the cubed meat is then marinated in lemon or lime juice and served with an assortment of onions and spicy chili peppers. Like any good regional cuisine, the exact recipe will vary from place to place, such as the Peruvian ceviche being drastically different than the ceviche found in Ecuador or Mexico where it’s garnished with a spice the Peruvians call aji.

Frequently served with a side of sweet potato or peanuts, those who are concerned about the idea of eating raw fish can find comfort in the fact that the citrus in the marinade actually serves to naturally cook the fish. The result of the spice, citrus, and freshly caught fish creates an oral explosion that will send you running back to a coastal town whenever given the chance. Some things in life are possible to have too much of, and ceviche will never be one of them.

Not to be relegated to Latin America, various forms of ceviche can also be found in places such as French Polynesia where the fish is instead marinated in fresh coconut milk and served with carrots and red onions. The Tahitians call this poisson cru. In Hawaii, locals have been known to doctor the fresh ahi tuna caught in the offshore waters and prepare it with anything from soy sauce to sea salt to seaweed. Known as ahi poke, the dish is starting to creep its way onto appetizer menus along the west coast of the U.S. and beyond.

Having grown up in the middle of the Pacific ocean (Hawaii) and a frequent visitor of Latin America, ceviche and its various forms have forever been one of my culinary staples. Understandably harder to acquire in places such as central Oregon, where I currently find myself singing the praises of raw fish, I nonetheless felt it was my social responsibility to introduce this dish to the greater traveling world.

If this introduction turns one person on to what is easily my favorite dish on the planet, I can consider this to have been a noble cause.

Top 10 restaurants on Maui

Being isolated in the middle of the world’s largest body of water doesn’t mean you have to be isolated from top notch cuisine. On the contrary, so many cultures mingle in these off-the-beaten-path locales, some of the best food in the world can be had here. Maui’s cuisine is an example of one of these melting pot food cultures. Native cuisine, Asian accents, mainland staples, and completely new creations mix to form a very fun island dining experience.

Picking the top 10 restaurants on Maui is like picking the ten best places to drink in Ireland. The variety of menu options, price ranges, and atmospheres can be mind-boggling to a tourist only on Maui for a short time. Lucky for you we’ve done the research (read: extensive eating and sampling) and selected some of the best places to get your grub on. These picks cover a wide variety of cuisines and are hot spots for both locals and visitors.
Mama’s Fish House

Mama’s (photo above) is the place all romance-seeking couples must visit before leaving the island. Many walk away with tears in their eyes – both from the extraordinary service and food, and from the price of their check. Mama’s is not cheap. In fact, the prices are down right outrageous. But a meal at Mama’s is required dining, and for good reason, the restaurant has a long tradition of being the most romantic spot on the entire island. There aren’t many places that can rival the perfectly curved palm trees and immaculately manicured garden grounds in the light of a Maui sunset. After the valet parks your car, because there are no other parking options, stroll through the grounds to see the outrigger canoe and a traditional wooden tiki before being seated. The menu typically includes fish caught off the shores that day by local fishermen. The name of the angler who pulled your fish in will be listed on the menu above the description. The service is impeccable – we didn’t even notice when our glasses were being filled. The chef prepares some scrumptious dishes and incorporates fresh local ingredients such as coconut and macadamia nuts.

As mentioned, the valet parking is a must, since the space for your ride is non-existent beyond what is reserved for valet. The restaurant is located just beyond Paia on Hana Highway. There is no slow night at Mama’s, so reservations are highly recommended. Dinner for two and a bottle of wine will easily set you back a few hundred dollars. The food and service will impress, for sure, but it’s the million-dollar sunset you’re paying the premium for. If celebrating a special occasion, let them know when you make your reservation – a personalized card will await you along with other special treats.

Merriman’s at Kapalua

Mama’s may be the place the locals recommend to tourists, but Merriman’s is the place they keep to themselves. Merriman’s prices could put a dent in your vacation budget, but the food will be etched in your memory forever as one of the best dining experiences you’ve had. The chef, Peter Merriman, takes the “farm to table” concept and makes it a reality with this restaurant. Working hand-in-hand with local fisherman and farmers he has sculpted a menu packed with fresh-from-the-garden (and sea) foods that explode with flavor.

Merriman’s features several organic menu items and the friendly management and staff pride themselves on the restaurant’s support of locally grown foods. Of the menu items we tried, the butterfish with lobster was superb, and the scallops (pictured above) were creamy and seasoned to perfection. Since the fish is caught only hours before it hits your plate, it holds its full taste. Both menu items we tried paired well with the grenache we ordered. The wine list is extensive and has something for every taste. Merriman’s makes for an excellent alternative to Mama’s for your fine dining experience on the island. Located north of Lahaina, this indulgence is situated in the Ritz Carlton complex.

Fred’s Mexican Cafe

Now that we’ve gotten a few of the more foo-foo places out of the way, let’s talk affordable fun. Fred’s may not be a likely name for a Mexcian restaurant, but you’ll soon forget the name once you peruse their authentic Mexican choices. Fronting South Kihei Road, the main drag in Kihei, this double-decker restaurant/bar sees its fair share of traffic. Breakfast is a good choice at Fred’s, with excellent bloody marys and homemade muffins. Several shops and a busy local beach are located within walking distance making it a great lunch stop while you’re out exploring. Walk off that huge burrito after lunch, or just let it cook in your belly while sleeping in the sand. Lunches will cost $20-$30 for two including drink and tip, which is considered a cheap lunch on Maui.

Pupu Lounge Seafood & Grill

This is another Kihei favorite that doesn’t break the bank. Pupu means appetizer in Hawaiian, and you’ll find pupus all over the island. You can even buy a shirt here flaunting the fact that you ate their pupu. Interestingly enough, the Pupu Lounge isn’t the cleanest place. In fact it might be a little off-putting upon arrival with the dingy carpet and the scattered dirty tables. Squint your eyes a bit and allow enough time for your food to show up. You’ll be happy you stuck around. Seafood reigns here and they pride themselves on how fresh it is at the Pupu Lounge. Fried or grilled, they have a variety of the ocean’s bounty ready to be cooked up. Or if you prefer your food a little less cooked, try the ceviche. Ceviche is seafood, often shrimp or fish, that has been marinated in lime juice and spices. It is not cooked in the traditional sense. Instead the meat is broken down by the acidity of the lime juice. The Pupu Lounge has some of the best ceviche on the island, and if you like lime, cilantro, and seafood, you’ll be a happy camper.

Star Noodle

Star Noodle is located in Lahaina – well sort of in Lahaina. At the top of Kupuohi Street there is a small warehouse district, and tucked into the back of this is Star Noodle. Its location makes it a somewhat hidden gem in west Maui. While most tourists in Lahaina stick to the shops and restaurants on Front Street, those who venture up the hill a bit will find something special.

Sure, Star Noodle is a fun noodle restaurant, as you would expect, but their pupu selection is extensive as well. This makes for a great place to appetize into bliss, and snagging food off a table mate’s plate is acceptable, and completely expected. Prices are affordable at around $10 a plate, making this is a place you can bring the family and keep the bill to a minimum with wise ordering strategies. Star Noodle opens for dinner at 5:30 and the locals flock, so be there when the doors open or be ready for a wait. If you do have to wait, it’s worth it.

Big Wave Cafe

Back in the south Maui town of Kihei there is a mythical breakfast joint which breaks the laws of the Maui universe – Big Wave Cafe. The food is excellent, the seating is open-air, and the coffee is delicious and hot. Breakfast is breakfast though, right? Wrong. Maui has its share of waffle, omelet, and muffin slingers, but Big Wave has something most of the others don’t, mainland prices. The regular menu prices are affordable but if you eat before 9am you will be treated to a combination breakfast with meat, eggs, coffee, and more for as little as $3.99. Trust me when I tell you that a Maui meal for two coming in under $10 is as rare as a mountain in Kansas. That is, unless you are a big fan of Taco Bell.

Ono Gelato

Ono means “Good” in the native language and “Gelato” is an Italian ice cream delicacy – and “good ice cream” is exactly what they do at Ono Gelato. They serve up this whipped creamy delight in three different towns across the island – Paia, Lahaina, and Kihei. Ono Gelato may be considered an ice cream shop, and not a restaurant per say, but it’s still a must-try eatery on the island. Made fresh every day, Ono Gelato believes that, “gelato tastes better with organic ingredients” and “cows should just say no to drugs.” After sampling enough flavors to substitute a meal, I agree wholeheartedly. Their locally grown fruits are busting with flavor and the organic whole milk gives the gelato a rich texture. With dairy and non-dairy versions of their frozen specialty, and flavors ranging from coconut to doughnut, everyone in your group should be able to find something to love.

Buzz’s Wharf

The atmosphere is decent, the service is fair, and the view of the harbor is good enough. So why did Buzz’s Wharf make the top 10 restaurants on Maui list? I have one word for you – shrimp. More specifically, the markea prawns flown in from New Caledonia in the south pacific. Buzz’s is the only place on the island you can get these delectable little sea monkeys. These prawns don’t taste like your average shrimp from the gulf of Mexico or Thailand though. The markea prawn tricks your palette into thinking you’ve just tasted a lobster rather than a shrimp. This doppelganger won’t set you back as much as its larger crustacean cousin.

The Tahitian platter costs under $30 and features the markea prawns. Dipping the tender meat into hot butter could convert even the most dedicated of lobster lovers. Dinner is the best time to indulge here. Enjoy watching the waves crash on the rocks, the lights of south Maui, and of the boats docked just outside in Ma’alaea harbor as you scarf down your lobster-like shrimp.

Sea House

Situated on Napili Bay, this favorite of west Maui has stellar sunset views. The sundown spectacle draws hordes of diners to Sea House every day. The location is directly on the beach, and perfect for romantics who want to enjoy the sun slipping below the horizon. The prices at lunch can accommodate a family on a budget. The combination of families at lunch and lovers at dinner is the secret to Sea House’s success – that and the food. Lobster, filet mignon, and a host of sushi and salad options provide enough variety to satisfy anyone. Sea House is located in the Napili Kai Beach Resort, north of Lahaina.

Cheeseburger Restaurants

Formerly known as “Cheeseburger in Paradise” this chain has adjusted its name due to some trademark conflicts with a certain island-hopping, guitar-strumming crooner. Cheeseburger Restaurants may seem like a generic brand for a business, and hopefully they’ll fix that, but their burgers are not generic in the least. Your cravings for meat will be satisfied here by plump portions of beef stacked with melted cheese and the crisp veggies of your choice. The original locations sits on the shore on Front Street in Lahaina, and this two-story open-air building is a fantastic place to catch a sunset, drink a talk cold one, and fill your belly. The fries at Cheeseburger are fat, salty, and delicious too. What did you expect from a high class burger joint?

Cheeseburger offers a truly Hawaiian restaurant experience, but don’t be surprised when you hit Vegas and see that the chain has spread its wings and landed on the strip. A good restaurant can’t be held down.

Undiscovered New York: Rambling Red Hook

Welcome back to Gadling’s weekly series, Undiscovered New York. Being the global metropolis that it is, criss-crossed with highways, cargo ships and landing airplanes, you may find it hard to believe that any part of New York City could be considered isolated. But the fact of the matter is that there are still some parts of the city that could easily be labeled “the place that time forgot.”

One neighborhood that holds such a distinction is Brooklyn’s Red Hook, a charmingly disheveled waterfront district cut off from the rest of the city by the BQE Expressway. Red Hook’s reputation as a working-class, hardscrabble industrial port area is well earned. From the mid 1800’s until the middle of the 20th Century, this was a thriving hub of marine-based commerce in New York City and home to around 20,000 residents, primarily longshoremen.

But by the mid 1960’s, a changing shipping industry had moved many dockworking jobs to New Jersey. The departure of these jobs from Red Hook, along with the completion of the BQE, sent the neighborhood into a period of decline. The 1970’s through the 1990’s saw the area ravaged by crime – LIFE Magazine even went so far as to declare it the “crack capital of America.”

Yet by the end of the 90’s Red Hook was taking a turn for the better. An influx of new residents, attracted by the neighborhoods cheap rents and gorgeous views of the New York Harbor were opening new businesses at a record pace. Recent years have seen further development, including a huge Fairway grocery store, the recent arrival of furniture behemoth IKEA, and a house for castmembers of MTV’s popular reality show The Real World.

Still, despite these changes, Red Hook maintains a unique charm unlike any other part of New York. Want to eat a chocolate covered Key Lime pie on a stick? How about taking in sweeping views of New York harbor and aging industrial relics? Click through for Undiscovered New York’s guide to Red Hook.
Red Hook Food
If there’s one thing that has New Yorkers talking about Red Hook, it’s the many unsung food spots. If you’re anywhere north of Key West, Red Hook is ground zero for some of the country’s best Key Lime pie at Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies. This unassuming shop is nothing more than a small counter and a refrigerator with some freshly made slices of citrus-y heaven. If you simply can’t wait to try it, get yourself a swingle, which is a personal-size key lime pie on a stick covered in chocolate. Enjoy it outside on a picnic table while you take in some of New York’s best harbor views.

The other amazing food spot in Red Hook is the Red Hook ball fields, home to what is arguably New York’s most authentic collection of Central and South American cuisine. On weekends during the warmer months, the fields host lively soccer matches, and the competition is ringed on all sides by food vendors offering everything from mouth-watering ceviche to milky Horchata drinks to cheesy pupusas.

Van Brunt Street Strip
If lonely Red Hook could be said to have a main strip, it’s probably Van Brunt Street. A range of quirky and eclectic businesses crowd both sides of this thoroughfare, reinforcing Red Hook’s shifting reputation as a home for artists and artisans. LeNell’s is Red Hook’s liquor store and then some, stocking a diverse range of small-batch liquor and exotic mixers for the cocktail enthusiast. Meanwhile dessert specialist Baked offers a mouth-watering array of muffins, cakes and cookies. Those looking to discover their inner longshoreman should stop off for a pint at Sunny’s Bar, a proudly old-school local watering hole since 1890.

Urban Exploring
One of New York’s greatest forgotten pleasures is urban exploring. While there have been great benefits to the city’s gentrification, it’s also stripped away some of the quirky buildings and spaces that once gave the city its character. Red Hook still retains an essence of this “gritty” charm, and it can be amusing to get lost on its many deserted side streets and alleyways, revealing a number of deserted architectural relics. You might stumble upon the imposing Red Hook Grain Terminal, which looms ominously along the area’s waterfront. Or you may meander past the ancient Clay Retort and Fire Brick Works Storehouse, a well-preserved Civil War-era factory that dates to 1859. Meanwhile, massive cruise ships drift by like lumbering giants as they inch their way into the nearby Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. It is perhaps bittersweet to note that one of Red Hook’s most iconic wrecks, the Revere Sugar Refinery, met the wrecking ball in 2007.

Undiscovered New York: Take the 7 train to Latin America

A traveler could spend years exploring the vast region of the globe known as “Latin America.” From the picturesque colonial villages and indigenous cultures of Mexico, to the caipirinhas and Amazon rainforest in Brazil, to gauchos and cosmopolitan Buenos Aires in Argentina, Latin America is a region that defies easy categorization. But what if I told you that with a 30 minute subway ride from Midtown Manhattan, you could visit all of Latin America in a single afternoon?

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating (slightly). But the fact of the matter is that immigration from Latin America to the Big Apple is thriving, and visitors can reap the benefits by taking a mini-tour of Latin America in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. In just two hours along a strip of Roosevelt Avenue, one of the borough’s main thoroughfares, I had the chance to sample delicious Mexican street tacos, visit the shop of an indigenous Amazonian fortune teller and gorge myself on some Argentine sweets at a local bakery.

Tired of New York City pizza? Looking to get some Latin flavor during your trip and save you that flight down to Bogota? Join Undiscovered New York as we tour Roosevelt Avenue, New York’s “mini Latin America.”
What’s to Eat?
Perhaps the biggest attraction along Roosevelt Avenue is the authentic food. What all can you eat? There’s no simple way to answer this question – the amount of food and the countries it comes from is simply mind-boggling. Within a single block you are confronted with street trucks selling Ecuadorian specialties, Cuban lunch counters, cheesy arepas, and Mexican pastries among others. Particularly well-represented are the cuisines of Ecuador and Colombia, with numerous spots selling favorites like seafood stews with hominy, encebollado and fried plantains.

I quickly located a nearby taco stand and ordered myself a soft tortilla stuffed with spicy chorizo. After topping it with some lime and chili sauce I was enjoying some south-of-the-border snacking bliss. But no meal is complete without dessert, right? I stopped in B’Aires, an Argentine-style bakery, where I picked up some pastries stuffed with dulce de leche. Next I visited Vallecito Bakery, a Mexican pastry shop where I sipped on a bottle of lime Jarritos. I’m going to have to go back some other time for the Peruvian ceviche and Uruguayan morcilla. I was too stuffed!

What Else is There to Do?
After you’ve finished polishing off a few authentic tacos or that cup of seafood stew, you’ll probably be looking for something to do. What I found most interesting about this stretch of Roosevelt Avenue was browsing the various shops offering regional crafts and services. Day of the Dead is nearly upon us, and many of the Mexican vendors were selling brightly colored candy skulls, decorations and Pan de Muerto, the holiday’s special bread. I also discovered several shops advertising “Amazonian shaman” fortune tellers. The stores are filled with ritual indigenous trinkets and totems as well as “authentic” Amazon shamans who can tell your future. If shopping or fortune telliing isn’t really your thing, there’s plenty of bars along the strip offering nightly live music from their country of origin.

How to Get There
Though it may seem far away, making your way to Jackson Heights is not as hard as it may seem. Visitors near Times Square or Grand Central Terminal are only a short train ride away. Just grab a purple 7 train heading towards Flushing Main Street in Queens. You’ll be getting off at the 82 St – Jackson Heights. The strip of Roosevelt that runs from 80th to 90th streets is pretty much ground zero, with great restaurants, shops and bars branching off in all directions from the main drag.

Are you ready for some authentic Latin American culture? Vamos!

Ceviche Peruvian Style

Ceviche, I’m beginning to find is a lot like Caribbean & Latin American Carnivals. Everyone says theirs is the best and if it’s good ceviche it feels a lot like a carnival on your taste buds. I’ve had Peruvian style ceviche before and will admit it gives the others a run for the money. I know I’m no where near ready to head into a kitchen to try to prepare this fabulous dish, but if you’re up for a small challenge I hand this one off to you. Lima Delhi on blogspot cooks up pieces from Peru and India. In this particular blurb they give a round of sound for Peruvian Independence day and the secret recipe for ceviche! Contain your excitement and get into the kitchen!

y feliz independence dia! (Mi espanol es muy malo. Don’t laugh.)