New Things: Kona Brewing, eat well cafe

Kona LongboardMy favorite part of my Hawaiian vacation in 2006 was the beer.

I drank a lot of it.

Without going into the gory details, I was on a 7-day cruise in Hawaii.  The food was unpalatable, the surroundings insanely beautiful, and I was on the cruise with my soon-to-be-ex and my parents.

My ex and I pulled through our issues for one week, bonding over beer.

My relationship with my mother is a lot better now, and I haven’t spoken to the ex in years, but every time I think about my very first craft brewery experience, I think of that blessed, blessed Kona Longboard.

Kona was easily my favorite island that I visited in Hawaii.  There are two things to do in Kona:  drink coffee and drink beer.  We spent part of the time at a cafe, watching the ocean and drinking Kona coffee.  Eventually, we got tired of the coffee and walked down the main road near the dock.  We spied the Kona Brewing Company sign in the distance, and decided we needed to go there.  The place wasn’t situated to actually be reached by the road we were on, but we made our way through some brush and Lord knows what else.  But we made it, at 2 PM, post-lunch rush and pre-dinner rush, and we had the place nearly all to ourselves.  We had some of the best food we had on the trip, a couple of beers, and eventually made it back to our cruise ship.

Sort of a last hurrah, if you will.

In the subsequent 7 years, I’ve had Kona maybe twice:  once at a great beer bar in New York (House of Brews) and once because Carla and Tom brought me back a six pack.  I’ve been wishing and hoping that Kona would distribute in Ohio, and last night– I got my wish!  There was a launch party for distribution in Ohio at Hahana Beach (the perfect surroundings, really) yesterday, and I managed to snag an invite.  I’m trying to cut back on the alcohol for the new year (calories!) but I had to have a few sips of my beloved Longboard– still tastes great.  I also got a sip of Carla’s Big Wave Golden Ale– equally delicious.  You should start seeing Kona products in bars and restaurants across the city (and, indeed, state).  Try some.

I also went to the opening of eat well cafe, opened by Renee Schuler of eat well celebrations and feasts.  She’s in the old What’s for Dinner? location in O’Bryonville, serving food from lunch to late dinner this week, and opening for breakfast next week: think Panera hours.

cupcake And actually, that’s a good way to describe the concept– it’s got the things that (admit it) we like about Panera: breakfast and lunch, reasonable prices, healthy choices.  The difference?  It’s local, sustainable and far more delicious.  I nibbled on some killer guacamole with baked tortilla chips and crudite, tiny Mrs. Miller sandwiches (with roast chicken, hard boiled eggs, smoked paprika aioli and bibb lettuce), and shots of butternut squash soup.  Tiny cupcakes with salted caramel, peanut butter, chocolate ganache and pretzels were the grand (petite) finale.

She has a kid’s menu (all very healthy and kid-friendly< breakfast until 11 AM, and lots of fresh vegetables on the menu.  I have a feeling that when I want to head out of the city– or go on a business lunch– this may be my favorite little spot.

A pleasant surprise: Mocktails.  Schuler doesn’t drink commercial soda, so she wanted an array of different beverages to provide something besides just water or tea for those avoiding aspartame or HFCS.  Ginger Bliss, which is ginger simple syrup, lime, mint, and club soda is delicious, refreshing and a little special.