Wednesday, March 26, 2008

made it!

After a plane ride, a layover, another plane ride, a monorail and train ride, I'm back.

My butt hurts from sitting ALL DAY long. The weather was quite warm (about 60F) when I got off the 1st plane, but became chilly after the sun set.

The highlight of my day was this in my snack box...a milk chocolate dipped shortbread cookie from Big Island Candies.

It was nice to be home for two months. I got to spend some quality time with my parents, grandma, relatives and some friends.

Hopefully my luggage which I sent from the 1st airport comes safely tomorrow. Thanks Satoshi for letting me go home every year!

Monday, March 24, 2008

happy easter

I've seen "whole" rainbows before, but this is the first time to for me to see a "whole" rainbow, so close-up.

Another orchid started blooming the other day. This one is quite tiny, and hardly any fragrance.

Hope you are enjoying your Sunday.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

afternoon tea at kahala

Today, BFF and I went to the Kahala Hotel & Resort. This year, we are celebrating milestone birthdays, so we decided to treat ourselves to the Afternoon Tea service at the Veranda.

We both got the Classic Tea Service (US$28 + tax). This includes a lot of different items plus your choice of Mariage Frères Tea. I was first introduced to Mariage Frères by another blogger, whose blog as of 2012 is no longer, and now love their teas. I decided to choose a "flavor" that I can't find in Japan...Bouddha Bleu, a green tea sprinkled with blue cornflowers. The fragrance is light and very relaxing. BFF chose the Wedding Imperial, a golden Assam kissed with a hint of chocolate and caramel. With a splash of milk, she really enjoyed this one.

On the top tier, was the hotel's scones--cranberry scones and chocolate chip scones. Since BFF bakes, she wasn't impressed by these. Actually they reminded us of the local stone cookies. Kind of dense and more like cookies.

The middle tier had the "traditional" high tea fair--Goat cheese and apple crostini (cheese from Maui's Surfing Goat Dairy), Maui Onion tart (caramelized onions, fresh thyme on a savory pastry), Confit of Tuna Sandwich (with fresh basil mayo and lemon), Smoke salmon mousse (piped into a cucumber cup topped with tobiko)

And the bottom tier had several tea treats--Pavlova tartlet (passion fruit cream, meringue & fresh fruits), Mai Tai Eclair (pastry shell filled pineapple & rum cream then dipped in chocolate), Strawberry Shortcake (a light fluffy cake filled with strawberry jam and cream) and Guava Linzer (a hazelnut shortbread filled with guava marmalade).

We really enjoyed the bottom two layers and the time we spent there. (Thanks BFF!)

Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Avenue
Honolulu, Oahu
Phone: 808.739.8888

Saturday, March 22, 2008

hawaii bakes and eats

In the last post, forgot to share with you some baking that I got to do with Mom this past week. Cinnamon rolls and pie crust manju. The rolls were delicious, not too sweet.

We didn't get to try the manju because she is planning to sell it at the Taste of Hongwanji on March 30th. This is an annual event held at the Honpa Hongwanji in Nuuanu. But, if you like flaky pie crusts and sweet bean paste, you'll love this.

We went to the Poke Stop for lunch today. The last time I went here was last year. Mom and Dad tried the Surf 'n Turf (US $9.00 +tax), I tried the Poached Shrimp Po'boy with Remoulade (US$8.95 + tax).

Mom and Dad both agreed that the meat was a bit tough, but if they had better plastic utensils, it might have been easier to eat. I liked what I chose, though the bread was a bit too hard for my liking. I ended up eating the salad with the shrimp and tossing most of the bread away.

It is Good Friday here, hope you enjoy the Easter weekend.

Friday, March 21, 2008

odds & ends

After this cymbidium bloomed, my Grandma gave it to my "aunty" to take care of it. Yesterday, my "aunty" gave it back to us to give to Grandma because it was flowering.

This white iris was blooming in our yard.

This type of orchid is called "honohono". It has a very light, but beautiful fragrance.

The other day, I was at a garden shop and they were selling these l-o-n-g plantings of honohono. The cheapest started at US$20.

One of my favorites...bagel with peanut butter and honey. I used to love going to the bagel place on Pohukaina (I forgot the name of the place and I think it was Pohukaina), but they are now only selling their bagels in bulk at Sam's Club.

The African tulip trees are in full bloom. Bright orange. The flowers really look like tulips too.

Many homes and offices in Hawaii have these dust pans made from old oil cans.

While walking down Kalakaua Avenue the other week, I was amazed at how beautiful the sidewalk area was. Lush and very tropical, but not tacky.

Many people were sitting on the grass, under trees, looking at the surf. I'm really going to miss being in Hawaii.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

wild ginger

Since I had a doctor's appointment and didn't have wheels, I tagged along with my mom today. She met her friends at Wild Ginger in Kaimuki for lunch. This place serves Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, Chinese and other cuisines.

This place had mixed reviews, but I'm glad we didn't listen to the bad reviews, because the food was actually really good.

I don't have any pictures of the food because like I said, I was tagging along with my mom and didn't want to embarass her in front of her friends.

Anyway, we had the spring rolls, beef salad (very spicy), spicy mango sauce chicken (real chunks of mango!), eggplant garlic sauce tofu, the house crispy noodles and the fried snapper (fried snapper placed on top of thai curry then coated with another spicy sauce). Everything was very tasty with just enough spices. Price per person (there were 6 of us) came out to about US$13 (with tip).

The parking is quite small, but located in the back. It is several doors down from Harry's Music.

Wild Ginger (UPDATE: this place is now closed)
3441 Waialae Avenue at 9th Avenue
Kaimuki, Oahu
Phone: 808.738.1168

Monday, March 17, 2008

odds & ends

Just some odds and ends on this lazy Sunday.

We recently got to try some Two Ladies mochi from Hilo. My grandma's friend came to visit and brought these.

Satoshi wrote and said that he went to Takayama this weekend. There was snow. So much snow that the water wheel was frozen.

Here he is with his friend.

Leaving you with some flowers and plants from around my parent's house.

Happy Sunday and have a good week.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

culture shock

Being away from Hawaii for about a year leaves me with some culture shock in general when I come back to Hawaii for a visit.

On this trip....Everywhere you look there is Whole wheat, Organic, Fat-Free, Low Carbs, Multi-Grain. In Japan, they are just barely touching upon these things.

On TV, there are Reality shows, and commercials talking about Quick Weight-Loss, Reverse Mortgage, Credit Card Debt.

At the stores, it is all about Gift cards. Japan has only started this recently.

The biggest shocker was that there are TONS of storage places. Around our neighborhood, some people have so much stuff piled in their garages that they can't park their cars in there. Which makes my walks in the morning kind of dangerous--I have to step off the sidewalk and onto the street many times to walk around their cars (which stick out onto the sidewalk because they can't park in the garage...sigh).

The price of gas is about $3.50/gallon or more in some places. And they predict it to go higher with summer approaching. Our excise tax rose to 4.712%, because they want to put in a rail system, which won't run past Waikiki or the airport, so I'm not too sure as to who this rail system will serve and how it will alleviate traffic. This excise tax is almost as high as Japan's 5% (which Japan wants to eventually raise to 15%...double sigh)

On the semi fun side, this guy was literally dancing for his wages. A tax preparing office hired him to attract customers. This reminded me of waving signs for candidates during election season. Sure beats those noisy speakers in Japan.

Other than that, once I got used to all the channels, I've been enjoying cable television, with the Food Network (loved watching "Barefoot Contessa" and "Ellie Krieger"), Travel Channel (loved catching up on "No Reservations"), and I'm hooked on a Korean soap opera on the Korean channel, which luckily had only 8 episodes, so I can see the end of it.

In a week or so, I'll have to get back into the swing of Japan's culture shocks that have taken place while I've been away.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

jammin' & jellin'

Last year, mom made some jellies and jams while I was home.

This year, she made a new kind of jam using the loquat. Loquats are called biwa in Japanese.

A nice thing about houses in Hawaii, is that most people have fruit trees. Our neighbor has a loquat tree, so we picked the loquats on our side of the wall and mom made jam. (By the way, in Hawaii, as long as stuff is on your side of the wall, you're allowed to pick it. This is the "rule of neighbors" as I understand it. Nothing is written down, but "you just know".)

After making the jam, we shared one bottle (there were only 2) with our neighbor and she was impressed. This jam was tart from the lemon juice that mom put in, but the texture reminded me of apricots. (Another "rule" is that whatever you make with the "stuff" you've received, you share with the person that gave you the "stuff".)

Depending on the type of fruit, mom makes jams or jellies. Like if a fruit tends to have worms, she'll make jelly from the fruit so that she can strain out the pests.

Here are some other jams and jellies that mom made before I came home and some while I was home.

Poha is Hawaiian for cape gooseberry. We used to have a poha bush, but now mom gets her poha from one of our "aunties". (In Hawaii, we call many non-related people, but family friends, "aunty" or "uncle".)

Surinam Cherry, she's made this before. And I think she got these fruit from a friend.

She also made Ohelo, this is related to the cranberry and only grows near the Volcano area on the Big Island. Ohelo is the Hawaiian name for it. I remember visiting Grandma's and stopping on the side of the road to pick these berries. Mom got the berries to make this jelly from the "aunty" that gave her the poha.

Do you make your own jams and jellies? If so, or if not, what is your favorite?

Have a nice weekend!

Friday, March 14, 2008

pastry house

There is a new pastry place in Aiea called Pastry House. It is a couple of doors down from Kiawe Grill.

When I got there, there was a line. Which gave me lots of time to check everything out.

The best part of buying these pastries was the lady standing in line before me, she was kind enough to point out all the ones she's tried and why she liked them so much. (Only in Hawaii!)

I got a chantilly coco cream puff (a lot like Liliha's though Liliha's is still the best!) (US$1.89+tax), an eclair (US$1.89+tax) filled with chocolate cream and a custard horn (US$1.59+tax). Total US$5.73 tax included.

The lady at the register was really nice too. She was very friendly and gave everyone in line something to snack on in the car. Here's my treat (though I did share with my mom and dad...yes, we cut everything 3-ways), a mini chocolate tart.

We enjoyed everything and they weren't too sweet. Though the cake slices seem a bit pricey (US$2.50 and up), I think I would go back to try them.

Pastry House (UPDATE: 5/2013 this shop no longer at this location)
98-090 Kamehameha Highway
Aiea, Oahu
Phone: 808.484.9289
Open from 6:30 a.m. on weekdays and 7:00 a.m. on weekends

Thursday, March 13, 2008

wally ho's

I recently got an email from my friend Tom. You may remember that he and I had lunch at Wally Ho's earlier in my visit home.

I should have saved his email, but he wrote something to the effect of...When do you go back? I've been thinking about that blackened ahi plate at Wally Ho's. Need to go back...need to do this before you go back., after I smiled, then chuckled, I emailed him back and we arranged to have lunch.

Since he lives nearby, I picked him up and we were off to Wally Ho's.

So, he had...the blackened ahi plate (US$12.95) and said it was just alright. I asked him if he anticipated it to taste awesome and then was let down. But, apparently the fish wasn't fresh fresh, it tasted more fresh frozen.

I, on the other hand, loved my dish. I ordered the mini korean garlic chicken plate with tossed greens (US $6.95) The chicken had a slight coating, was fried then dunked in their korean garlic sauce. Tender and moist! I chose oriental dressing and it tasted like chinese chicken salad dressing (my favorite!) Not something to eat on a work day, or on a date, because of all the garlic, but really nice flavors!

It was a nice lunch chatting about his upcoming vacations and other life "stuff". (Thanks Tom!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

starbucks vs starbucks

Just thought I'd point out several differences which I've noticed about Starbucks in Hawaii and Japan.

First off, you should know that I never used to go to Starbucks when I lived in Hawaii. My love of coffee started with Lion Coffee and it is still my first choice.

In Japan, Starbucks is called "sta-ba" or "bucks", whichever way is a shortened version.

When I moved to Japan, I was amazed at the many coffee places Japan had. But trying to find a place that was "smoke-free" was like finding a needle in a haystack, until I stepped into a Starbucks.

So, here's what I've been noticing...

In Japan, we have the beverage size "short", actually I like this better than the "tall" cups--I can never finish a "tall" here (in Hawaii).

The desserts served in Japan are French looking and dainty. The ones in Hawaii are just too huge!

In Japan, they ask you if you'd like your coffee in a mug (to save on paper cups). They don't ask you that in Hawaii (or at least for the three times I've gone they didn't).

In Hawaii, they have Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity). I don't think they have this in Osaka...yet.

After finishing you go to the wastebasket and sort out your trash in Japan--down to the liquids. Oh, and in Japan, if you happen to be leaving while an employee is walking past you, they'll take your tray (service, huh?). In Hawaii, you just throw everything into the same bin, no sorting to recycle.

All in all, both are expensive.

Does your Starbucks do something different where you are?

p.s. that white blob in the photo is a petite vanilla bean scone (US $.95, which is actually cheap!). The icing is quite sweet, but it keeps the scone underneath quite moist. It went well with black coffee.

UPDATE: 3/21/08 took Whitney's advice and ordered a "short" in Hawaii. They don't advertise it and it is really the perfect size! (Thanks Whitney!)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

hawaii bakes & eats

Yesterday, tried a coffee cake recipe which I saw in a local newspaper last month. I just loved the fact that I had counter space to work on. (my counter space in Japan is the size of an 8½" x 11" piece of paper....really!)

Cocoa-Yogurt Coffee Cake adapted from Honolulu Star-Bulletin (HSB)
“By Request” Feb 20, 2008 : Makes 18 cupcakes

6 tablespoons butter
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 ½ cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup plain, non-fat yogurt

¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Cream butter & sugar. Add vanilla and eggs.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt
Add dry ingredients to egg mixture alternately w/ yogurt until combined
Spoon some batter into the cupcake liners.
Sprinkle filling on batter.
Top with remaining batter.
Bake at 350F for 12 minutes. Test for doneness with toothpick.

NOTES: I had put too much batter into the liners and didn't have enough to cover the filling. This recipe is easy and the cupcakes come out really light and not too sweet and goes nicely with a cup of black coffee.


Monday, March 10, 2008

cholo's and a new friend

Yesterday, my Aunty took me to Haleiwa. It had been awhile since she had been there and awhile since we've both had Mexican. We stopped at Cholo's for lunch. It was our first time there and we were surprised at how popular the place was.

I had the veggie burrito (US $9.00) and my aunty had the meat taco salad (US$10.50)...sorry my photos were a big blur...but the burrito was good, peppery with lots of vegetables inside. Plus, I love the fact that they serve free chips and salsa. In Japan, you need to buy them. Thanks for a nice afternoon, Aunty!

I also wanted to show you my new friend, Griffey. He is the neighbor's dog, a big guy, but a cutie. He's quite shy, but came close enough for me to snap his mug. When I first came home in January, he would just bark and bark, but now when he hears my rubber slippers dragging in the patio, he runs to the fence to say, "hi".

Have a nice week!

66-250 Kamehameha Highway
Haleiwa, Oahu
Phone: 808.637.3059

Sunday, March 09, 2008

hawaii cooks & eats

Made some chicken for dinner yesterday. Got the recipe from the May 2007 issue of "Body & Soul" magazine.

Super easy and delicious.

Macnut Crusted Chicken Breasts adapted from "Body & Soul" : Serves 4
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1/3 cup macadamia nuts
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
ground pepper
1 large egg white
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 oz each)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Lemon slices for serving
Green salad

Preheat oven to 425F(220C).
Whiz panko, nuts, cheese and pepper in food processor until fine.
Beat egg white.
Dip chicken in egg white then into crumb mixture.
Heat oil in nonstick pan on medium heat.
Lightly brown both sides for 1 to 3 minutes each.
Put onto foil covered pan and bake for 8 to 12 minutes.
Serve with lemon and salad.

NOTES: The chicken breasts in Hawaii/U.S. are HUGE! depending on the size of your chicken you may need to make a little more of the crumb mixture. I didn't add salt because my mom is watching her salt intake, but if you want to season your crumb mixture and the chicken with salt...go for it! With the Parmesan in there though, it didn't need extra salt. I think I may try making chicken nuggets/strips the next time.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

hawaii eats...and shops (tries to)

Today was the grand opening of Nordstrom's. It is their first store in the Islands and boy, was there a lot of hype about it.

Since my friend, Gaye had the day off, we decided to check it out.

What I didn't realize was that there would be a traffic jam even before I got close to the mall.

Not wanting to sit in traffic, I got off the freeway and found myself stuck in traffic in Kalihi.

Since I was near Gulick Avenue, I stopped in at Nanding's Bakery.

The last time I was home, we checked them out, but they were already sold out of their famous Spanish rolls.

Luckily, it was still quite early in the morning and they still had them. 3 for US $1+tax. How can you go wrong? Soft, buttery goodness. (I'm glad I had enough will power to save them until I got back home to share.)

So, how was Nordstrom's? Packed...the store seems smaller than Macy's and Neiman Marcus (which are both in the mall). I dunno, but it also seemed that everything was a little over hyped. Oh well, with all the local businesses that they pushed out for the land to build on, hopefully they are here to stay.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

boot's & kimo, kalapawai market & cafe

After seeing Kathy's post about Boots and Kimo's, I had made a mental note to try it when I came home. Luckily, my mom had e.s.p. about it too and wanted to try this place also.

Since we'd heard so many good things about the place and that it was quite popular, mom, dad and I jumped into the car to make it to the restaurant by 7 a.m. (opening time). (We had actually asked grandma to join us, but since it was too early for her, she asked that we bring some back for her, "if it was good".)

On a weekday like today, the place was actually quite empty. So empty that the a/c which was blasting made the place...fahreezing! There were several take-out orders while we were there, but for the most part, we had the place all to ourselves.

The guy that took our order didn't have time for chit-chat and had very little personality, so it turned out that even though we had ordered different short stacks (2 banana and 1 banana-mac), we ended up with 3 short stacks of banana-macadamia pancakes (each US$6.50+tax). Chunks of banana were in the two pancakes.

Each order was topped with their famous macadamia nut sauce. A creamy, buttery sauce topped with chopped macadamia nuts. (No need for the fake maple syrup which was on the table.)

One thing I love about living in Hawaii is that almost everything is open early. In Japan, you usually have to wait until 10 a.m. to go shopping or even to have breakfast somewhere. If you ask me, the whole day is pretty shot by then.

Another thing that I had forgotten about Hawaii were the free coffee/tea re-fills. In Japan, they are obsolete. It was nice to have my cup of coffee "warmed-up" with a little more coffee. The short stack was the right size for our appetites.

Since we were in Kailua, we also went to check out the Kalapawai Market. Mom and I both were interested as to what they sold there.

Mom was disappointed, she thought they would have been more of a "market" and had more fresh veggies there. I liked the place. There was a coffee corner, where you could buy beans as well as an area to "decorate" your cup of coffee with cream and sugar. There was also large wine area, a small grocery area (selling canned goods), as well as a deli area. (Check out this Spam can, but don't ask the price, you may faint.)

We checked out the deli area and picked up our lunch. (I know, we had just finished breakfast, but since we were in Kailua, may as well pick up lunch too...)

We got the turkey pepper wrap and a hummus bagel (total US$11.29 tax included).

The bagel looks small, but this is the size we're all supposed to be eating. I enjoyed the hummus and the veggies.

The wrap was filled with thinly sliced turkey, lots of veggies and a roasted pepper spread....delicious! This place is a perfect stop before heading to the beach!

I think the next time I'm home (even though I still have a little more time on this visit) I should explore more of Kailua, there are many new shops and eateries.

Boot's & Kimo
131 Hekili Street (UPDATE: they moved to 151 Hekili)
Kailua, Oahu
Phone: 808.263.7929
Open Monday-Friday 7:00-14:00, Saturday & Sunday 6:30-14:30
Kalapawai Market
306 S. Kalaheo Avenue
Kailua, Oahu
Phone: 808.262-4359

Kalapawai Deli & Cafe
750 Kailua Road
Kailua, Oahu
Phone: 808.262.deli (3354)
Both locations open daily from 6:00-21:00

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

hawaii cooks and eats

You may or may not have wondered what is causing these reddish/orangy sunsets and sunrises. It is apparently the pollution in the air. Most air pollution in Hawaii is known as "vog" or volcanic smog. This is the sulfur and smoke from the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island (Island of Hawaii) mixed with the rest of the pollution in the air. Who would have thought something so yucky could create something so beautiful?

Changing the subject, mom and I did some baking yesterday. She made okara scones (hopefully I can pry the recipe from her). And I made scones from "The American Test Kitchen Cookbook". The one on the left is the okara scone, kind of dense like an oat cake. The one on the right is the ATK scone made with lots of butter. The okara one wasn't too sweet and the ATK one was light and really buttery. Both would be a great thing to have for a quick breakfast or snack.

Leaving you with an orchid that bloomed a couple of days ago. I've put up pictures of this orchid in the past. Glad to see it bloomed again this year.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

palisades drive-inn

Sunday started off with this beautiful sunrise. Loved how it lit up the sky. The birds were chirping. It was the making of a beautiful but hot Hawaiian day.

Lunch was from Palisades Drive-Inn. This is just up the street from where I grew up.

I think these are the original owners of the restaurant, though I'm not too sure (there was a burger place here previously during my elementary years).

Dad had the mini shrimp curry. Lots of shrimp and big veggies. The curry wasn't too spicy, but just right.

I had the mini sweet-sour spareribs. These spareribs were more fatty than I'm used to, and the sauce was a little more gingery. I guess when your mom and grandma makes "the best" spareribs, nothing can really come close.

Anyway, we were both rather disappointed because the rice was really mushy and it wasn't because there was gravy on it either. Oh well, for US $9.84 tax included for the two plates, I guess you cannot really complain. Plus, service was at the speed of light.

Palisades Drive-Inn
2321 Auhuhu Street
Pearl City, Oahu
Phone: 808.456.4888
Monday-Saturday 10:00-20:30, Sunday 8:30-20:30

p.s. Happy Girl's Day!