Channeling Anthony Bourdain, my new husband and I walk straight by the lady selling leis to tourists at the airport. The aroma of blossoms in the air has been replaced by the smell of exhaust, planes taking off and landing overhead. I count on my Hapa boy to take me straight to the good stuff. He does not disappoint.
Ono's Hawaiian Food was the first stop. Unassuming exterior, line out the door...good sign. The sign on the door read "Wait here to be seated. No get mad." Maybe the tourists in front of us couldn't read pidgin, as they were instantly antsy. "Let's just go to Taco Bell" (across the street), a line which will forever be cemented in my mind as "dumb ass tourists." As soon as they left, the line disappeared, and we all found homes at worn-down booths, walls covered with pics and newspaper clippings from their former famous guests. The sign on the bathroom door read "out of order", but when I asked the waiter he said "go 'head, it works."
At Ryan's suggestion, the Combo Plate was my welcome to the islands. LauLau (slow cooked pork wrapped in taro leaf), "How do I eat this?"...Dive right in! Lomi lomi salmon ("Lomi" means to "massage", salmon is massaged into the other salted ingredients, tomato & onion), kalua pork, poi, sticky rice, pipikaula (in short, Hawaiian beef jerky), Haupia (a coconut pudding dessert)...I am in LOVE! Ryan seems ok with my new affection. He pays in cash, the only thing they accept. $25 later (including tip), we are on our way.
Reveling in the fact that I no longer have a tiny wedding dress to fit into, I am immediately game for dessert. Oh Leonard's, this is my love song.
Malasadas are the Portuguese take on fried dough, something just about every culture does in one way or another. A doughnut without the hole, a beignet but bigger. The Leonard's Bakery cooks them to order, serving warm delectable clouds with a dusting of cinnamon sugar. I must admit to you that we visited Leonard's Bakery six times during our 10 day visit. We couldn't help but comment on the consistency of their product...it was perfect, every time. I now have a new food baby which I lovingly refer to as "Mali".
Poke is an obsession in the islands. It's truly everywhere! My favorite was the poke bar inside the Tamura Market in Waianae. There were so many different kinds that it prompted me to do a little research. Turns out, "poke" is the Hawaiian word for to cut, or slice. Fresh cubes of raw ahi served with sesame oil & shoyu (Ryan was proud of me that I didn't say soy sauce). We switched up the variety from day to day: green onions, macadamia nuts, limu (seaweed), cabbage. We tried tako poke (octopus) two times. One time was kinda chewy. We ate poke every single day. I think had it before breakfast a couple of days?! My poke centerfold shot (would have felt so naked without my chopsticks) didn't make the screening process :) Oh, how I miss that poke bar.
Some of the best food of the week came from the Willow's Restaurant, the venue for Pakele Live concerts. It looks like Avatar inside, ancient trees and trickling waterfalls, and it has since 1944. I ordered the braised short ribs and had some concerns about only having chopsticks to eat them with. They were so incredibly tender, no fork necessary! The kimchee salad is an idea that I've already stolen...twice. The spicy fermented cabbage is tossed with lettuce and fresh cabbage, an amazing compliment to the savory short ribs. We also had the most amazing fried rice I've ever tasted, with bacon & Portuguese sausage, I couldn't keep my hands off of it long enough to take a picture.
Eating local food seemed easy here. The fertile volcanic soil works wonders. We feasted on ripe pineapple, papayas, local coffee. A little stand selling fried green tomatoes took this southern girl home in one bite!
Snow cones are dead to me. It's all about the shave ice! The machine rapidly shaves the tiniest of pieces of ice, think the texture of a snowflake! We visited Aoki's Shave Ice, because Ryan suggests that Matsumoto's is where the locals send all the tourists. I like mine with ice cream on the bottom (some folks do Azuki beans too), so about halfway down you end up with a creamsicle :) This one was served with a spoon & a straw (the straw was new to me), but was key in my enjoyment of this messy pile of deliciousness.
A place we would have missed without the help of our new Oahu ohana, Irifune on Kapahulu Ave. Server extraordinaire, Jahnys, takes care of every table in the house during the 2 hour window they serve lunch! The place is a local favorite. There is a television that has been converted into an aquarium in the lobby. While the restaurant doesn't serve alcohol, BYOB is welcome here. I trust the guidance of Jahnys and her ku'uipo Stan...lead us to yumboree. Irifune is known for their garlic Ahi..something I would have never ordered without guidance. It has been my experience that tuna cooked beyond medium-rare begins to resemble cat food very quickly. This changed my world views. The Ahi was cooked through, with a crisp sear on the outside, and moist tender middle. Still, I don't know how he did it. Marinade? Cooking temperature? This fully cooked garlic Ahi salad was magic! Another winner, the summer rolls were show-stopping...smoked salmon, rare tuna....wrapped in rice paper. After multiple courses, I'm still happy to see the lychee sorbet (palate cleanser) and the dessert arrive: bananas rolled lightly in crepes, topped with haupia pudding.
A perk of our lovely condo, I loved playing with Hawaiian food. Breakfast, made in my bikini daily, usually consisting of portuguese sausage, eggs & rice. I made spam musubi for the first time, which can't exactly be called fine dining, but did make my new husband very happy! Dinner meant playing with local flavors: macadamia nut crusted mahi over curry & coconut stir fry vegetables. Blame it on the Honeymoon, food seemed very sensual on this trip. As in, pleasing to many of the senses...taste, smell, feel, sound. We revel in all the good things in life. After 10 days of near-gluttony, I'm still not ready to come back. I did say my appetite was insatiable, yeah?