A Taste Trip To The Mediterranean

Casablanca chef Sarah Foster and owner Elizabeth Foley-McGinn -- cheers!

Casablanca at Kiahuna Plantation is a perfect place to enjoy beautiful Kaua’i evenings. The warm and inviting atmosphere immediately embraces my husband Dan and I as romance blooms in the open-air dining room.

Owner Elizabeth Foley-McGinn, who also is the chef Tuesday nights, is passionate about food. While growing up in Rome, her culinary roots were nursed by her grandmother, and her ancestry is evident in the casual yet elegant flavorful meals that are characteristic of Mediterranean dishes.

Chef Sarah Foster, 31, strictly adheres to Foley-McGinn’s style and finds creative expression in developing her own specials. The two seek out the best ingredients on a daily basis.

There is a family conviviality among the staff, and that festivity and warmth is extended to the guests. General manager Michael Douglas Hummel has worked with Foley-McGinn since 2001 and was right by her side when Casablanca opened in 2003. Daughter Mia Foley warmly seated us and was very knowledgeable about the food and wine.

Zarzuela con Mariscos:
Spanish seafood stew

Casablanca has an extensive wine selection and I recommend allowing the staff to pair wines with each course.

Knowing that good wine doesn’t have to be expensive, and working with small vineyards, Foley-McGinn offers her customers wine at very reasonable prices. Glasses average $7 and bottles start at $19. Mollydooker Winery in Australia, which received two Top 10 Best Wine in the World ratings by Wine Spectator, will be featured in a wine tasting Oct. 9.

We decided to let the owner pick our meals and were very happy we did! As we settled into our comfortable chairs enjoying Mike Young’s Hawaiian music, the Mozzarella Fresca ($11) arrived. Fresh house-made mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto, baked and then drizzled with a fig, port and cinnamon sauce. The sweet and salty outside combined with a warm and creamy inside had me proclaim, “I love this dish!”

A salad made of peppery arugula from Kailani Farms, goat cheese from Kauai Kunana Dairy and oranges from Omao was exciting and made our taste buds come alive.

Chocolate Bliss

Soon a succession of “sample” courses featuring Casablanca’s signature dishes (entrees range from $16 to $35) appeared. First up was a beautiful New Zealand rack of lamb, grilled to perfection and so flavorful that I will henceforth compare all other lamb to it. The Spanish seafood stew was instantly gratifying and inspired Dan to call it “high-end comfort food.” The quality of the beef was apparent in the flavorful and tender cut of rib-eye steak. Dry-rubbed with sugar and salt for a “dry aged” essence, this is an entree for meat lovers.

Dessert, a chocolate pie, was light yet dense with pure chocolate flavor. Delicious!

Menus change seasonally, and Foley-McGinn’s thoughtful preparations are obviously food of love, coming from her heart straight to our plate infused with her passion for Mediterranean cuisine.

Casablanca at Kiahuna Plantation is a romantic dining spot

Open Tuesday through Sunday; Reservations recommended: 808-742-2929.

Dinner 5-9 p.m.; Lunch and Tapas 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Happy Hour: 2-6 p.m.; Just On Sunday Brunch: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Live local music Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.


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