Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hawaii Part 2--Noon

Walking around the back streets of Waikiki, I felt like I was in Asia (with perfect timing--who wouldn't welcome a spontaneous trip abroad?). Vendors are squeezed tight against one other, with alleys and walkways leading to discount souvenir shops selling fabulous costume jewelry amongst other useless things. Signs everywhere in Japanese, illegible to me, on the walls near the shopkeepers who are fluent.

Sure, on Kalakaua Avenue it's all Louis Vuitton and Dior, but I like the fact that there are real ramen counters and dive bars in there. I asked the concierge at our hotel, who turned out to be from Japan, where she would go if she wanted authentic ramen close by (I had a cold, and was obsessed with soup). She responded, "well, that depends what I'm in the mood for," and proceeded to describe three different restaurants specializing in different types of ramen (miso-oxtail, pork, or shoyu/sesame). I was impressed. We ended up eating Thai food that night, but still...

The COOLEST thing on the backstreets that I found though, was Henry's Place--a fruit stand on Beachwalk drive. Like the vendors that I loved in Singapore, Henry's sells chilled fruit--pineapple, watermelon, papaya, etc. cut and wrapped up for your convenient, palate refreshing pleasure. I love that! (Okay, don't look to close--yes, those are cans of Vienna sausage--it's Hawaii! Gotta love it...).

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I woke up this morning craving rice. Eggs and rice. Portuguese sausage, eggs, and rice. When I went back to Oahu at the end of September for a wedding, my friends and I had some variation of that breakfast almost every day for a week. It was so ono. A couple times were at the hotel buffet, but the more memorable moments were in Honolulu's old-school coffeeshops. The first was Anna Miller's out in Pearl City where I had breakfast with my cousin and her new born baby. Looking like an American family restaurant at first (pies in the front case, kitchy aprons on the waitresses), but feeling like Hawaii a few steps in (local serving staff, and classic local-style dishes on the menu). I had fried rice and eggs and man, have they perfected that dish--tiny bits of ham (or spam) in there with the green onions and shoyu.

Later that week we stayed in Waikiki, and couldn't resist breakfast at the famous Wailana Coffeehouse across from the Hilton Hawaiian Village (where we were staying, conveniently). The FLUFFIEST banana pancakes were had there, along with, of course, the eggs, and, I'm sure, somebody got rice. Somebody ALSO got half a papaya that cost $5, which I couldn't believe (a $10 papaya!).
This morning, brunching on my favorite breakfast sandwich in Portland*, I flipped through New York Times travel section. It was all about visiting New York on a budget. It seemed to be written not only for tourists, but for New Yorkers who had forgotten what it's like to explore their home city with fresh eyes. What really struck me though, were not just the restaurant recommendations, but the specific dishes that were noted throughout the section (in multiple articles). BRUNCH dishes such as a quinoa-octopus salad, and the "Dominican Farmers Breakfast" of "mangu, fried cheese, fried eggs and fried salami." The creativity of these options intrigued me, but not only that, is the presumed sophistication that the editors expect from their audience. Mangu was not even defined. It turns out to be a dish native to the Dominican Republic of mashed plantains, but it seems that most New Yorkers already know that. Another article, specifically focused on the frugal angle, wrote about another breakfast experience--"we indulged in that classic New York brunch of dim sum at the shiny Pacificana, where the vast spread of dumplings, radish cakes, and really, really good chicken feet came to a puny $11.75 a person." Radish cakes! Chicken feet! He wrote about these things in all seriousness, and in an article not directed at foodies, but the general traveler. This level of comfort with food adventure amazes me.

*That would be the "mini-egg sandwich" at the Detour Cafe. Not listed on the menu, this thing is perfect in every way. Small, but packed with flavor. It starts first with a homemade buttermilk biscuit, seasoned with scallions, corn, and cheddar cheese. In between is placed a single scrambled egg, sliced roma tomatoes, fresh basil and pepper bacon. See the detail in that? Perfect every time for $4.75.