Tag Archives: Four Seasons

The Big Island, Hawai’i

Arriving at Kona Airport, we realise how different this island is to Oahu.  There’s miles of arid landscape, next to miles of green rainforest, both interrupted by somewhat violent yet occasionally beautiful hardened rivers of lava.  Mother Nature has been busy here.  It is very literally The Big Island, and you’ll need a car to explore.  Though a guide tells us that it was once upon a time the small island, growing over time from the eruption of volcanoes.

There is a lot to do here, and in our six days we only manage some of what we’d planned, underestimating time and distances, and wanting too to spend time relaxing at our gorgeous resort and enjoying the spectacular sunsets on the “Kona side”.  Funny that the west side is one of the driest spots in the USA, while the island’s largest town of Hilo (pronounced Hee-lo) on the east, some two and a half hour drive away, is one of the wettest.

The boys want to know if Panulu’u Black Sand Beach really is black, and one morning we set off on the two hour drive.  Its a lovely scenic route of coast, mountain, coffee and macadamia plantations.  In some areas they are trying to promote re-growth of plants, but its a hard ask through the lava.

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There are also a few small strips of shops with interesting antique and vintage stores, as well as this…..

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And yes, Black Sand Beach is indeed black.  Shoes are recommended, as understandably the sand is scorching.  So turtles love it, and there are a few wandering around.  One has laid an egg, and someone has built a little protective barrier around it.

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On the way back we stop in at a bakery for a treat. They do a roaring trade in Lilikoi (passionfruit) Malasadas, their best seller.   But I don’t think they are quite as good as the ones at Leonard’s in Oahu.

We next head to Papakolea Green Sand Beach, the southernmost point of the USA.  You’ll need a four wheel drive and some serious experience in off road rough driving to get here.  Otherwise there’s a group of drivers with suitable trucks and experience in navigating the bumpy terrain.  If you’re game, you can walk the rocky three miles from the car park – it is about an hour walk and a tough one in scorching heat.  Calling it green sand is a bit of a stretch, but the setting is pretty spectacular.  Nearby there is a cove where the sand is in fact green, but without such a dramatic backdrop.

On another morning we check out Hapuna Beach which is popular with the locals.  Easy to access and sparklingly clean, it is lovely for a swim.

In Kailua-Kona you’ll find Hulihee Palace, once the modest Summer palace of the Royal Family.  There is no longer a monarchy in Hawai’i, as the members of the family died out.  One of the larger towns in the island, it is still a fairly low key place.  There is a pier which could easily be turned into another Santa Monica type place, but I suspect it is a very conscious decision for the island not to go down that path.

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After walking around, we make a pit stop at Kope Lani Ice Cream which has some interesting flavours.  You’ll find Kona Coffee to be a popular flavour on the ice cream front in Hawaii.  Like Champagne or Parmeggiano, the rules around what can be called Kona Coffee are very strict.  The beans must come from a very specific area, and they are all hand picked.  The coffee plantations are all small family owned businesses; we met a few of the families during our stay, and it really is a labour of love. I would have loved to buy some of the coffee beans to bring home and support them, but at over US$80 per kilo of coffee, it was a bit of a stretch.

Driving up a mountain one day we stop at Holukaloa Garden Café.  Its almost classifies as in-the-middle-of-nowhere, but we are clearly onto something as very shortly the place is full.  They are all about slow food made from scratch. The glorious tomatoes are from the owners farm and under my fish is a bed of unfamiliar but really delicious greens. The Marito’s generous vegetarian lasagne is topped with a tasty macadamia pesto.

The most awesome thing we do is a helicopter tour of the island.  We debate this one a bit as it is quite an extravagance. But I come across a local magazine with an offer for a good size discount, and the deal is sealed.  The friendly ground staff give us a safety briefing (“please turn your devices to helicopter mode” they deadpan) and our pilot Koji gives us a briefing of our route.  The flights generally go for 1.5-2 hours, and Koji advises we’ll be on the longer end today as there is sniper training going on at the military base that day and we’ll have to go around it – I wasn’t  entirely sure if he was joking or not!

It is a pretty amazing way to look at the island.  Kealakekuka Bay is stunning, and apparently the site of Captain Cook’s death – there is a monument there in his honour.

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Along the way the landscape alternates between thriving green and volcanic black emptiness.

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We pass a 10 mile crack in the ground – the result of a 1975 earthquake.

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We then head towards one of the volcanoes.  This one is currently active, but not dangerously so.  Even though we are a long way up, when the pilot opens a small window and tells me to stick my hand out, it is scorchingly hot.

Continuing around the island, we head up to Waipi’o Valley – just stunning. There are some seriously long waterfalls.

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And then we circle back to Kona Airport.  What a ride!

Accommodation

We stayed at the Four Seasons Hualalai – wow. It was fabulous.   And it wasn’t just the stunning surrounds (I have never seen such amazing frangipane trees)…

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…or the turtles wandering on the shore

…but the warmth and sincerity of the staff, and the fact that they think of everything (“ma’am, would you like me to clean your sunglasses for you?”). At the pool station where you can grab towels, there is not only sunscreen, but goggles, toddler swimming nappies, leave-in hair conditioner, and goodness knows what else.  There are very cute toddler sized sunbeds at the small pool (there are several pools, so it is never crowded). At turndown a locally made ceramic jug and cup are placed on each bedside table with cool water. On the balcony, there is a small hanging rack for your swimmers (why don’t all beach resorts do this?).  And throughout the rambling resort, there are several fully equipped laundry rooms for guests so that you don’t have to return home with a suitcase of dirty washing. The rooms and bathrooms are a little dated, but very spacious.

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Sitting on our balcony, I enjoy this local pineapple soda.

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Our booking comes with quite a large voucher for the restaurants which we make good use of, as they are expensive and alternatives are a ten to thirty minute drive away. Ulu Ocean Grill is Japanese/Asian and it holds its own against Sydney’s Sokyo or Tokonoma. And while the prices are similar to Sydney, the servings are much bigger.

The Ahi Poke (pronounced pok-ee, it is almost a national dish) is prepared at the table and served with taro chips. Sublime.

I adore the kochujang sauce that comes with the crispy calamari, I want to pour it over everything.

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The miso Kombacha is perfectly cooked and the side of corn has a sauce with a kick.

Beach Tree, which serves largely Italian, while expensive, is excellent.

If only it didn’t have to end! Ziplines are popular on the island, but the boys did not weigh enough (you need to be at least 70 pounds) so we’ll need to put that on the list for next time.

Four Seasons Kona, http://www.fourseasons.com/hualalai/
Paradise Helicopters, https://paradisecopters.com/

Ulu Ocean Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Three Michelin Star Chinese? Lung King Heen, Hong Kong

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I’m thinking that if a restauarant is Three Michelin star, then, as we’d expect from a Three Hatter in Sydney, it has to be the whole package – unbelievable service, a beautiful room, and sublime food.  Can a Chinese restaurant, often associated with a casual and cheap meal, deliver the package? For Australian readers, I suppose the benchmark has to be Melbourne’s Flower Drum.

The view is indeed beautiful looking out across the river, but the restaurant space itself is nothing memorable. There is a good amount of space between tables so you don’t have to hear your neighbour’s conversation (in Hong Kong this is probably priceless given the tiny apartments they live in!) As I sit down the waiters provide a little stand for my handbag, so it doesn’t have to sit on the floor, which is a nice touch. And the service, while pleasant, does not have the finesse and extravagance of Flower Drum.

On the menu that night:

Amuse bouche (not sure what the Chinese equivalent of that is so going with French!) of fried bean curd – surprisingly delicious

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Wok-Fried Prawns with Fresh Crab Meat in Spicy Sauce.  This is a fantastic dish – flavoursome rather than knock-you-out heat, tender crab, large prawns; I wanted to sabotage the lazy Susan so it couldn’t reach anyone else. Also, see the little condiments tray in the background – they contain sauces which are certainly Michelin-worthy, especially the XO sauce (in fact it has received its own award!).

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Roasted Eggplant and Scallops in Spicy Plum Sauce. The eggplant was slightly undercooked making it chewy, and the sauce was a little on the sweet side.

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Sautéed Duck with Hazelnut and Ginger.  I was looking forward to this, and it was really disappointing.  The duck was tough and the flavour was nothing special.

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But the Wok-Fried Lamb Shin with chilli was fantastic, well flavoured and tender.

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Next, Stir-Fried Minced Vegetables with Nuts in Lettuce Wraps, which was also delicious and came with a great seafood sauce to put on top.

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Then Lung King Heen Lobster Fried Rice with Seafood – awesome fried rice.

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Then a noodle type dish – wok-Fried Rice Rolls in X.O. Chilli Sauce.  We reach another high in this dish, reminds me of top notch hawker style noodles with a great hit of chilli.

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For dessert, its Chilled Mango and Sago Cream with Pomelo.  All this really tasted like was pureed mango.  That didn’t stop it from being delicious, but if you’re after sago texture and flavour there’s not much of it.

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So was this what I would perceive as a Three Michelin Star – probably not (maybe two!!), but it is still damn good Chinese with a spectacular harbour view.

Lung King Heen, Four Seasons Hong Kong, Ph (852) 3196-8888

http://www.fourseasons.com/hongkong/dining/restaurants/lung_king_heen/

The Woods at Four Seasons, Sydney

“Stray away from the city streets and into The Woods” proclaims the website. They do know they are on George Street, right? I half expected to step into a quiet haven, a mass of tree trunks and forest style foliage. But actually its just an open space in the foyer of the Four Seasons with a lot of wood. The Wooden rather than The Woods, perhaps. And a massive woodfire oven.

The Woods is the next venture of Hamish Ingham, who was once the chef at Billy Kwong and then moved onto his own digs, Bar H, at Surry Hills. Thank goodness he didn’t bring any of those uncomfortable stools with him. I booked online and it was smooth and oh so easy (Momofuku – please take note). I did expect an Asian influence here given his pedigree but its your ‘mod Oz’ with a small selection of woodfire (there’s that word wood again) pizzas for the lunchtime crowd. Word gets out quickly in Sydney town, the place had been open 5 minutes and was already packed.

Having eaten way too much in the lead up to Christmas, I opted for some of the lighter choices and to begin my friend and I both started with the chilled green tomato soup. Its always interesting when a plate arrives on your table and its not what you expect. Sometimes its a really good surprise. And sometimes its baaaaaaad. This time, it was a winner – a light, refreshing soup with sweet tomatoes and chunks of bread that had been – no prizes for guessing here – cooked in the woodfired oven. I would have liked a bit more of the actual soup though, there wasn’t quite enough.

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We then moved onto the wood grilled calamari, pork cheek bacon and pickled muntries (never eaten muntries before, but apparently they are the Australian native version of cranberries for the uninitiated). The aroma was wonderful. But it didn’t mention in the menu description that there were hazelnuts – and there were a lot of them – a few too many in my view, as much as I love hazelnuts, and they could have been cut slightly smaller. But overall a great dish.

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We were told before we ordered that Berkshire pork sausage had already sold out. The gentleman on the table to my left must have got the last one; the gentlemen on my right was having the O’Connor Scotch. I have to say, the meat dishes smelled fantastic on both sides. However the waitress had told us the meat dishes don’t come with anything, so by the time you order a couple of side dishes it really does end up being a very expensive main course. By the way at these prices I think its cheeky charging for bread.

As I’d had a relatively light couple of courses, I figured a little dessert wouldn’t go astray. I opted for the Rose geranium ice cream, toasted brioche & white peach caramel. The caramel was intense, and combined with the rose flavour of the ice cream and the simple and relatively unsugared brioche it really was a lovely combination.

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If you go the ‘whole hog’ with an entrée, a woodfired meat main, the requisite sides, and a dessert, this is a fairly pricey meal. But at least the standard is there and I’m sure the place will bag a hat or two in the next round of awards. Tweak your choices a little and you can make it fit within a certain budget and experience the “woodiness”. The service was also smooth which is a good start, as there are often a few kinks in places not long opened.

Nice touch – that evening I received an “Appreciation Email” thanking me for visiting the restaurant and looking forward to welcoming me back.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood………

The Woods, 199 George St Sydney, Ph (02) 9250 3160

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