Friday, March 30, 2007

comforts of home

Well, I've been home for about 3 days and I think Satoshi and I have talked about 15 minutes tops! He is very busy and comes home very late, then goes to work very early...sigh.

Since he didn't need dinner last night, I decided to try something new. I had bought these sardines in olive oil when I was home. I thought it would be good if I roasted them with some veggies, garlic, capers and herbs.

I was right, the aroma from the oven was heavenly and it tasted great.

For dessert, I had a chocolate macadamia drink made by Doutor (a Japanese coffee maker) who teamed up with Hawaiian Host--which I think was Hawaii's first chocolate macadamia nut candy maker. (I found this at the convenience store) Gosh, this tasted just like eating one of their candies! Creamy and nutty. Delish.

Hopefully I can get adjusted to spending a lot of "me" time, though with Blogger being down a lot recently, it is a bit hard. I guess I should start reading all those books and magazines that I brought back with me.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

hints of spring

Well, my flight back was quite smooth but very LONG--9 hours plus! The food was actually decent on the flight (either that or I was REALLY hungry!) My luggage came in okay and nothing went wrong in customs or immigration. I did come back to dreary Osaka weather with a light drizzle, which made me homesick for the great weather conditions in Hawaii!

Just wanted to show you what was waiting for me on my lanai.

Anemone--I planted these for the first time this year, I think they grew very nicely.

Mini-cyclamen--this plant has been very fruitful every year! Pretty red blooms and lots of them.

Hyacinth or as the Japanese call them, muscari-- these were also a first time planting, I don't think these did too well.

And the star of the lanai--tulips! These are my favorite flower. I'm surprised at how tall they got. Last year, our tulips were about 2 inches in height.

It should be another week before the sakura (cherry blossoms) are in full bloom. The weather is warming up though and I don't really know what to wear! Living in Hawaii, there aren't 4 seasons so there isn't much to worry over with clothing. Now coming back, I need to figure out what to wear without looking too warm or not wearing enough and catching a cold or something.

I hope your week is going well. Blogger was down in the posting area for a couple of days and I am glad that it is finally back up and running so that I can post!

Monday, March 26, 2007

odds & ends

Just thought I'd tidy up a few odds & ends before returning back to Osaka by telling you a few cultural things experienced while here in Hawaii.

There is a new smoking law--no smoking in restaurants or bars and a person smoking must be 20 feet from an exit of any establishment. I thought it was kind of sad that these guys had to gather on the median at the airport in order to have a puff, but am glad that I don't have to deal with cigarette smoke while eating at an eatery--something I really hate having to tolerate in Japan.

The excise tax on Oahu has gone up from 4.166% to 4.712%...that really takes its toll when buying big items. They are trying to save up some $$ with this increase to get a monorail system built on Oahu. I don't really see how their plan will work by eliminating the airport and UH (the university) as stops. Plus, if it is an elevated rail, it will take away what little sky we can see between the skyscraper condos and buildings.

Will the force be with you? Maybe, if you entrust R2-D2 with your mail...the postal system has put out several of these cuties at cities around the U.S. in conjunction with a new promotion that is coming out on March 28. This one was in front of the post office in Downtown.

Well, my vacation has come to an end. It was great being home, hanging with my parents, relatives and friends...Making new ones and re-connecting with some...Trying new places to eat and revisiting favorites. I can't wait to get back into my kitchen and start up my adventures in Japan...see ya!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

hawaii eats (part 10)

Yesterday was great day. For lunch, we checked out PF Chang's China Bistro. This restaurant is from the mainland and opened in September 2006 on the ground floor of a luxurious condo. Here's just a taste of what we sampled.

Chicken lettuce wraps--their version is a bit spicier than the version I made a while back, but their's were still very good.

Great Wall of Chocolate--this 6-layer semi sweet creation is served warm with a raspberry puree and a HUGE scoop of Haagen Dazs Vanilla ice cream, very decadent!

We also had Mongolian Beef which was a bit on the sweet side and their Double Pan Fried Noodles with Shrimp--I think you could probably get better Chinese at a traditional Chinese restaurant, but for a mix of modern and traditional, this is the place!

PF Chang's
1288 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu
Phone: 808.596.4710

On Thursday, I was walking around Ala Moana Shopping Center with my friends, Wen and Steph and ran into a classmate, Paul Ogata. Since graduation, he's gone on to bigger and better things and is...famous! (photo from Paul's website)

Recently, I've chatted with him on forum boards and emailed, but we hadn't seen each other, well, since graduation.

I had known he was coming to town to do a show, but didn't know much of the details. We were thrilled when he gave us tickets to the show!

It was my first time to the Hawaii Theatre and also my first time to see stand-up comedy. At first, I was a bit shocked at the kind of language they use and things they talk about, but found myself laughing so hard I was even crying at times! (Thanks Paul!)

All in all it was a great day! Hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

hawaii eats (part 9)

One thing that I like to eat when I come home is Mexican food. In Japan, you can find some eateries, but they are not cheap and there aren't that many of them.

I noticed Diego's Taco Shop a couple of trips back but never got around to going to try them.

Today since my dad and I had to find our own lunch, I suggested we go and check them out.

We ordered the chicken torta, which is a kind of sandwich. A 6" cuban bread (kind of like a poor boy roll) is spread with refried beans, tomato, shredded lettuce, sour cream, cilantro, cheese and shredded chicken. The bottom of the sandwich was a bit soggy, but it tasted like a burrito filling on bread. I think the next time I go there, I'll try their burritos or crispy rolled tacos.

Today is the first day of spring. In Japan it is called Shunbun no hi and it is a National holiday. Just thought I'd show you some orchids that started to bloom around my parent's home. (Actually, I think these plants overheard my mom say that she was going to throw them out and bloomed in order to be spared!)

Diego's Taco Shop
719 Kamehameha Hwy.
Pearl City
Phone: 808.456-7578
Closed Sundays

UPDATE: as of 3/2012, this place has closed

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

hawaii eats (part 8)

Well, it is the last week of my "vacation"...sigh. I've only been home for 9 weeks, but I have accumulated some stuff! Thank goodness Satoshi came and took most of it home. My aunty will also be coming to Japan in April and has been asked to take a box for me too...What did I buy? coffee, tea, other food items, BOOKS and magazines!..you would think that Japan doesn't have these things? They do, but they are sometimes REALLY costly.

For the most part of my "vacation", I've been seeing my friends, visiting with family, helping around the house and driving my parents around. We don't have a car in Japan, so this is my chance to get in ALL of my driving until my next visit.

Like I've said previously, Hawaii has a diverse culture and when you crave a certain cuisine you can probably find it. This morning on a local program they featured a local bakery, Nanding's Bakery. This bakery makes Filipino treats. My mom and I oohed and aahed at what was shown.

Luckily, we had an errand to run in town, so we made a detour to this bakery. Unfortunately, the hype that started from the program had sold most of their items out by the time we got there.

My mom was only able to get a few items--ube loaf and ensemadas.

The ube loaf might actually be mongo loaf, because it tasted like it had sweet bean paste inside instead of purple sweet potato filling. The bread is so soft and fluffy--it was like eating air.

The ensemadas were labeled ube (purple sweet potato) and macapuno (coconut), but all were ube. This buttery roll is topped with a good slather of butter and sugar. When you chew, there is a kind of crunch to it as you eat the sugar crystals mixed in with the soft buttery top. I think I would have preferred it without the ube....still, I'm gonna miss all of this.

Nanding's Bakery
918 Gulick Avenue
Honolulu
Phone: 808.841.4731

Sunday, March 18, 2007

ku-cha-ne-ku-cha-ne

I've learned a new saying from Satoshi...it's called "ku-cha-ne-ku-cha-ne". What does it mean? "eat-sleep, eat-sleep"...because that pretty much sums up what we've up to since he's come home. (wait a minute, since I've come home too!)
Friday, with all the changes going on in Waikiki, Satoshi was curious to see what was happening. We walked from Hilton Hawaiian Village ALL the way to the end of Waikiki. A majority of hotels are going under renovations and along with these renovations are the property name changes. Boy, I can't even keep them straight! Anyway, while walking through Waikiki I saw this group of people having a surf lesson. (Hang ten!)

And people gazing at the ocean. (You know, I miss not having benches to rest on in Japan--they are obsolete!)

Lunch was at Ryan's Grill. This place holds a special place in our hearts because it is where we went on our first date.

I was surprised to find out that they serve all of their menu items all day. We started off with some seared ahi (tuna), this tuna is coated with togarashi(chili) and sesame seeds. And served with a wasabi(japanese horseradish)-ginger aioli. They used to use a cajun spice on the outside of the ahi, but this version was still very tasty.

Fried calamari with a black bean aioli and a chili cucumber salad. This version was very light, previously they had a tex-mex flavor to it.


French onion soup--rich broth, cheese and onions...how can you go wrong?

Romaine lettuce with maytag blue cheese crumbles, slivered almonds and egg--crunchy goodness.

Saturday, Satoshi had to leave to go back for work. So, for breakfast, we hunted out one of his favorites...loco moco.

I had seen a restaurant called Koa Pancake House while we drove in Wahiawa the other day, and somehow that had stuck in my mind. I looked in the phone book and was pleased to find a location in Waipahu.

Satoshi couldn't decide between loco moco and eggs benedict (another of his favorites)...so he ordered both! Both servings were huge, as usual. The eggs for the benedict weren't runny, so he was a bit disappointed, but said that everything was delicious still the same.

I ordered the chocolate chip short stack with eggs and bacon. The pancakes were light and fluffy and had LOTS of chocolate chips inside.

The bacon could have been a bit crispier, but went well with maple syrup on them.

So, it is back to the grindstone for Satoshi...Everyone including me was sad that Satoshi had such a short stay.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Ryan's Grill
Ward Centre
1200 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu
Phone: 808.591.9132

Koa Pancake House
Waipahu Town Center
94-050 Farrington Hwy C1-2
Waipahu
Phone: 808.671.7172

Saturday, March 17, 2007

climbers unite!

Remember last July (wow, has it been that long ago?) some of us climbed Mt. Fuji? I posted about it here.

Well, a couple of weeks ago while shopping at a market, my Aunty Merle and I ran into one of our climbing members, May. (In Hawaii, you'll often run into people you know at the market) Since most of the group lives on Oahu, they have gotten together after the climb once before.
Anyway, we got to talking and since Satoshi would be in town, we talked about getting the "Mt. Fuji Group" together for dinner.

So, the emails and phone calls went out (Tony doesn't have internet) and we were able to get most of our group together. Most of the group is retired and since my brother is working and was home last month--he couldn't make it.

Instead of going to a restaurant, we came up with having a pot-luck party--everyone bringing something then noshing and chatting. This idea was nice because we could leisurely eat and be loud!

It was a lovely gathering-- everyone reminiscing about the climb, talking about what they've been up to, sharing new travels and planning new adventures.

Friday, March 16, 2007

hawaii eats (part 7)

Today Satoshi and I took my Grandma riding to the North Shore. On the way, my grandma mentioned that her friend had told her that the sakura (cherry blossom) were in bloom in Wahiawa. So, we got off the freeway and drove around Wahiawa town. Apparently, this part of Oahu is at a higher elevation so trees like these from Okinawa are able to thrive.

We happened upon a tree in someone's front yard, so we pulled over to take some snaps. The cherry blossom season is supposed to start next week for Osaka, so hopefully I'll be able to enjoy some of it when I return in two weeks.

After our cherry blossom viewing, we got back onto Kamehameha Highway and headed towards Haleiwa--this is Satoshi's "must visit" area every time he comes home. Another "must visit" is Kua'aina. This place has been making burgers since the late 70's. A specialty is their avocado burger (Satoshi's fav)--a half of an avocado is placed onto a 1/3 lb. or a 1/2 lb. burger with tomato, lettuce and a grilled onion. My favorite is the BLT & Avocado--a half of an avocado added to a BLT (bacon-lettuce-tomato) sandwich....sigh, good crispy bacon is so hard to find in Japan!

Check out the size of the ketchup! Plus, each table has a roll of paper towels, this should give you an idea that these sandwiches are NOT made to be eaten while driving in your car!

On our way back, we checked out the high surf at Sunset Beach. It was a nice drive and we had a nice lunch with my Grandma.

meeting up with friends

Today Satoshi came to Hawaii. We both had to re-new our driver's licenses this year, so we planned to do it while I was home.

One of Satoshi's friends, the Dois, are also on vacation here, so we got together for drinks at the Halekulani.

Then headed over to Restaurant Row to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. This restaurant has been in Hawaii since 1989 and a another one will open soon in Waikiki.

Since our dinner was a little later than usual, I decided on having the Chop Salad (half portion).
And the veal osso bucco ravioli appetizer--these ravioli were huge and a bit too salty for my liking.

Satoshi had their petit filet with jumbo shrimp--Two 4-oz. filets with grilled jumbo shrimp on top. (Look at all the butter that was used on that thing...enough to clog an artery or two.)

Still, we had a nice time and I hope the Dois enjoyed their vacation.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

hawaii eats (part 6)

One of the cool things about growing up in Hawaii is the diverse cultures and cuisines. Most times, if you crave something, you'll almost always be able to find it somewhere on the island.

Before the internet and blogs, most establishments were known by "word of mouth" or from info in the newspapers.

Since we had an appointment in Kailua, we decided to check out a Portuguese bakery my mom had heard about that made great malasadas.

We investigated in the phone book to get the address, then looked in our pocket map and went to check out Agnes' Bakeshop. Now, if you check out their website, they boast "the best malasadas", we decided that since we weren't going to eat what we bought right away, we would have to try their malasadas another day.

The assortment that we picked up were (top row) 3 scones, (middle row) a brownie, (bottom row) their bread pudding and a walnut sticky bun...Everything was delicious! I love Hawaii!

Agnes' Bakeshop
46 Ho'olai Street
Kailua
Phone: 808.262.5367
Closed on Mondays

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

hawaii eats (part 5)

Today was my cousin D's last day here before returning to the mainland. We got together with her co-worker, H and H's sister, A for brunch--they had been vacationing on Kauai for the past two weeks and had a two hour lay-over before catching their flight.

Brunch was at Nico's and unlike my experience here at lunch, which I posted about (here). It was really nice and quiet. I had the fish omlette, which was the catch of the day (ahi-tuna) cubed and seasoned with garlic salt and other spices then folded into an omlette with green onions. Very filling with two scoops of rice. (sorry no photos!)

After dropping H and A at the airport, D and I went holo-holo(roaming around). We checked out Wholesale Unlimited--a great place for local snacks.

Dinner was D's choice and was picked according to Honolulu Magazine's Best of issue. She chose her favorite, chicken katsu(chicken cutlet) and we tried a place noted in the magazine called Kaffe Imperial.

In recent years, I've started writing down where I've eaten and what I've eaten, and since this restaurant has been around since 1992, I think I may have actually tried this place before. The katsu was deep fried but not greasy and it was very crispy too, something that only katsu from Japan can usually accomplish. She agreed that the katsu was good.

It was nice visiting with my cousin and I hope she enjoyed herself too. Living far apart from family can be rough at times, but it makes getting together, times to savor.

Kaffe Imperial (UPDATE: this shop is no longer in business)
725 Kapiolani Blvd, C-112
Honolulu
Phone: 808.593.2626

Monday, March 12, 2007

foodie kind of weekend

Friday, I went to check out the Annual Bead Show at Ward Warehouse. This bead show is small compared to others, but a nice way to check out local and mainland vendors. About two years ago, I went and it was packed with people! Today, since everyone was still at work, it was nice to be able to leisurely browse. I picked up some pewter findings and a bead stopper gadget. Afterwards, I met my Aunty and Dawn for dinner. We went to Assagio's--a local Italian restaurant located in the Ala Moana Shopping Center. The food was good and we had a nice time chatting and catching up.

Saturday, my parents had a luncheon in Waikiki, so I dropped them off and took the car. I stopped in at Palama Market near Kaheka. This market caters to Korean foods and groceries. Ever since coming home, I've been craving Korean sushi or kimbap (US $3.66). This sushi has takuan (pickled radish), egg, carrots, either watercress leaves or spinach and bbq beef. The nori (seaweed) is coated with some sesame seed oil.

Paired with a bottle of tea, this lunch was perfect for sitting on a bench at Sans Souci Beach to watch the waves and the people.

As I waited for my parents to give me "the call" to pick them up, I wanted something sweet and I remembered my Aunty Marian telling me about Diamond Head Market & Grill having great scones (my fav!) So, I drove up the street to the market and checked out what they had. The scones looked way too big and kind of oily, so I had a package of their cookies in hand...while standing in line at the register, I noticed the refrigerated case and found this...

Okinawan sweet potato with haupia (coconut pudding) pie(US $3.66)--a mac nut crust topped with Okinawan purple sweet potato and haupia pudding. Their crust wasn't as crisp as I like it, but it was a very generous portion and the fillings were a bit too sweet. What can I say? my mom's is WAY better!

Still, I enjoyed this dessert while looking at a glimpse of Diamond Head through the trees. Thank goodness they called after eating this dessert or else who knows what else I might have bought to eat or drink!

Tonight for our weekly Sunday dinner, mom made hoisin sauce (Chinese barbeque sauce) ribs. I really like this dish--meaty and the sauce is delicious!

Dessert was a pie from Anna Miller's, this restaurant is known for their pies and I hear they even have a restaurant in Japan! Dawn picked out a strawberry-haupia pie, it was freshly made but hadn't quite set yet, so it was a bit soft, but the crust was really good and the pie still tasted delicious!

Whew! lots of eating the past couple of days...hope you had a nice weekened and have a great week!