Before I Leave Honolulu…

I moved to Oahu a few months before my 21st birthday. Sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago, but as I look back through old photos before I pack them away, I can remember discovering Honolulu through my 21-year-old eyes.

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(Ok, and mayyybe through a bit of the haze of a 21-year-old hangover.)

Coming from Maui and having had a brief taste of living in New York, I was restless and wanted to do and see more, more, more. I was ready for new adventure. So Honolulu was my compromise – the “big city” nightlife and culture, better job opportunities, but still close enough to my family on Maui.

In my 20s, I was fortunate enough to find myself surrounded by an amazing group of friends. Back then, we traveled in packs, created “theme nights” to celebrate birthdays, raised thousands of dollars for charity, ran marathons and traveled across oceans together in search of adventure.

Our Roaring 20's

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In our 20s, we pursued careers – doctor, lawyer, architect, therapist, accountant, professor, nurse, artist, teacher – with the same passion we went after boys. We took shots, we took chances, we took many, many group photos. I’ve been so proud that I’ve cried during a handful of graduations, including (eventually, and a bit surprisingly) my own.

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Along the way, I’ve also rekindled friendships from my childhood, some going back as far as Pukalani Elementary. We simply picked up wherever we’d left off, and I realized that there’s something to be said about a relationship where the other person knows every single part of your history. There’s no need to tell stories of childhood or growing up, because they were there.

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It was these friends who were with me through the not-so-happy times. We comforted each other through sadness, frustration, loss – smiling through the tears of breakups, arguments, even death. During the times when I felt like I had no fight left, they were the ones who showed up, sat with me and who allowed me to just be me. I’m forever, forever grateful.

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I’ve watched as many of my friends turned into wives and then mothers. I’ve cried tears of joy at each engagement, wedding, and birth announcement, knowing that these strong women have found someone who appreciates just how unique and special they are. Who, like me, would treasure them. Trusting that they are now in good hands.

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As for me, while I haven’t yet found that romantic love or a life partner, I don’t have regrets. I’ve lived my life the way that felt right to me, every step of the way. I did my fair share of staying up all night, sleeping in til noon, I found (and left) a variety of careers, relationships and passions. Of course, I also ate my way through Honolulu and around the world.

All of it has led me to the person I am today. I feel very, very lucky looking back on the time that I’ve spent here.

Now 13 years later, as I prepare to leave, there are a few things that I’ve always wanted to do, yet have never gotten around to. Unfinished business is not my style, so here you go… (drum roll, please!)

Malia’s Honolulu Bucket List

Around the whole island by bus (scheduled 9/1)
Watch the sunset at Kaena point (scheduled 9/7)
Makapuu lighthouse trail for sunrise
Kyung’s Seafood’s sashimi platter
Morning Glass’s Mac n Cheese pancake
Sushi Sasabune or Sushi ii (scheduled 9/3)
Ono Hawaiian Foods (maybe 9/2?)
Izakaya Torae Torae
Sunday Supper at 12th Ave Grill
Liliha Bakery waffle, extra crispy
Kan Zaman
Picnic lunch on Iolani Palace lawn (scheduled 9/2)
Yajima-ya’s mushroom chicken (maybe 9/2?)

Yes, a lot of it is food. I’m sure you’re shocked. ;)

Looking forward to my last few weeks of Honolulu adventures as well as what’s in store for the year ahead!

Tofu McNuggets in Japan?

This morning my dad sent me a link to an article on Huffington Post about McDonald’s Japan launching Tofu McNuggets which made me laugh with their dramatic reaction to the news:

Tomorrow, they’ll premiere their first completely tofu nugget, called Tofu Shinjo Nuggets, and we don’t know what to think. Some are saying it’s a sign of the end times, and to be honest — it just might be.

A sign of the end of times, really? ;)

Personally, although I don’t frequent McDonald’s at home – or many fast food restaurants in general, when we have such great non-chain options in Honolulu – I admit that I sometimes seek them out when traveling. While in Paris, I lamented that I was turning into an American when I gave in to a craving and stepped through the Golden Arches for a Royale with Cheese.

CIMG0691And in Thailand, if the wafting aroma of salty, crispy french fries doesn’t get you as you walk by, Ronald McDonald will even bow slightly with palms pressed together to welcome you in. In addition to the regular menu with Big Macs and Egg McMuffins, you can get items that cater to Thai tastes (congee, anyone?) similar to how we can order saimin or Portuguese Sausage, Eggs & Rice at McDonalds in Hawaii.

So it’s fitting that the launch of tofu McNuggets coincides with the first trip my brother Todd and I will take together – to Fukuoka, Japan! We will investigate and report back. ;)

Pan-fried tofu patties were actually a staple of childhood for us… My grandma often made them, sometimes with canned salmon or tuna added. I actually went back through her recipe cards and found this one that she had copied by hand out of one of her many local cookbooks:

tofu pattiesSo the thought of Tofu McNuggets actually makes me a bit nostalgic. We’re heading to Fukuoka in less than two weeks… stay tuned!

Brewery Hopping in Southeast Portland

Portland is like Mecca for craft beer lovers. You can find small breweries and brewpubs specializing in many different types of brews – sour ales, barrel aged beers, super hoppy IPAs. Thanks to it’s thriving food scene, you can also find many food-friendly beer pairings to go with your food cart finds, shared plates at brewpubs or even to take into your favorite taproom. Drink up and get those walking shoes on for a tour of some of Southeast Portland’s walkable breweries.

Here’s the ground we covered on a recent trip to PDX:

Brewery Hopping in Southeast Portland

Lardo – Eastside

Pork Belly Gyro ($9) at Lardo

Pork Belly Gyro ($9) at Lardo

We started off with a late lunch at Lardo’s Southwest location, but for the purpose of this brewery hop, we’ll suggest you start at their Southeast outpost instead. You can get the same tasty pork-heavy sandwiches (try the Cuban or the Pork Belly Gyro) and wash them down with a good selection of frosty beers on tap – all from the Pacific Northwest. The sides are also worth a try, especially if you can split with friends – the portions are large! Don’t miss the “dirty fries” which comes loaded with pork scraps, parmesan and fried herbs. This was definitely a substantial way to fill up before heading out for the serious beer tasting route that we had planned for the afternoon! Continue reading

Where to Eat in Portland: First-time Favorites

A month has gone by, yet I’m still craving some of the great meals that I had in Portland. If you love food, this town is serious about ingredients and giving them the respect they deserve before they end up on your plate. Whether it’s a lunch with beer and charcuterie, crazy flavor combos in doughnuts or artisinal ice cream, or a quick bite one of Portland’s many casual food carts, it’s hard to leave disappointed.

Here are some of my favorites from my first visit to Portland:

Little Bird Bistro

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Charcuterie and cocktails at the bar at Little Bird Bistro

Little Bird Bistro and it’s big sister restaurant Le Pigeon came up on almost everyone’s list of recommendations for dining in Portland, inclluding Eater’s list of best deals for Portland Dining Month. While we originally planned on getting the Dining Month menu, it was close to the late night happy hour, so we opted to order ala carte instead. For excellent French bistro fare in a cozy setting, this was a great place to catch up with my classmate, Annebelle (of Pulehu Pizza) and to linger over cocktails and wine.

Little Bird Bistro
219 SW 6th Ave
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 688-5952
Reservations | Facebook | Twitter | Yelp

The Woodsman Tavern

Enjoying a variety of oysters at The Woodsman Tavern

Enjoying a variety of oysters at The Woodsman Tavern

This was my first restaurant in Portland, based on my cousin Daniel’s recommendation. As you can see from the photo at right, I didn’t get the memo to wear plaid as an homage to the Pacific Northwest. I said that jokingly when we first arrived, but in reality there were references to lumberjack culture everywhere, including on the menus. To get into the spirit, I started with a cocktail called The Hunting Vest (charred cedar campari, rye & vermouth) which warmed me up right away.

Just about everything we ordered was excellent, but I think the highlights were the platters of Pacific NW oysters from the raw bar, NY steak with marrow butter, the american ham selection, and the cheeky cocktail names. Just about everything is local and brought in from artisinal purveyors as much as possible and the staff is well versed in sourcing for just about everything on the menu. A bit pricey, but worth it.

The Woodsman Tavern
4537 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97206
(971) 373-8264
Reservations | Facebook | Twitter | Yelp

Lardo (West)

Pork Belly Gyro ($9) at Lardo

Pork Belly Gyro ($9) at Lardo

Lardo was another “no brainer” stop because we had gotten so many recommendations for it. When my beer-loving friend Edwin came to meet me in Portland, we chose Lardo to start off a day of beer tasting (blog post to come) with a substantial lunch. Edwin opted for the Smoked Coppa Cubano and I loved my Pork Belly Gyro. For sides we got the Dirty Fries (pork scraps, marinated peppers, fried herbs and parmesan – sooo good!) and Pickled Vegetables.

In a city with such a huge variety of local craft breweries and a menu full of meat-filled sandwiches, it only makes sense that the beers on tap would be tasty compliments to our lunch. I opted to go with the staff recommendation of a local IPA while Edwin got a Pinup Porter and we were both pleased. It was the perfect start to our afternoon!

Lardo – Westside
1205 SW Washington St.
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 241-2490
Facebook | Twitter | Yelp
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Where to Eat in Portland: Food Carts

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Portland’s unofficial motto. Love it!

When I mention to people that I’ve never been to Portland, they’re always surprised. It’s one of the great food cities of the West Coast, and it’s been on my radar for years but I had never gotten around to making an actual stop there for one reason or another. My cousin Daniel moved up there five years ago, so I even had a place to stay. So this year, I found a way to fit it into my plans.

I’m so glad that I finally did!

Although on this trip I had a very limited budget, it was no problem in Portland. The variety of inexpensive and creative food found right on the streets blew me away. Plus I always love the chance to support local businesses, so food carts are right up my alley.

Portland was really one of the first cities to truly embrace the food cart craze, and I’m happy to report that it’s still going strong – it’s reported that there are over 600 food carts in operation. You can find just about every type of ethnic food to match any craving. And I’m not just talking about your standard gyros, korean fusion tacos, or grilled cheese trucks – although you can find excellent examples of all three. When I asked for Portland recommendations, I was told to seek out a Mauritian, a Georgian (the country, not the state), and a Transyvlanian cart. How cool is that?

Sheryl, my foodie partner-in-crime for the day.

Sheryl, my foodie partner-in-crime for the day.

Needless to say I was in food heaven just thinking of the possibilities. So on my first day, my old friend Sheryl was kind enough to meet up with me on her lunch break so that we could try a variety of trucks. Two girls + five food carts in a little under two hours = full bellies and lots of leftovers! That’s my favorite kind of math. ;) Here’s a look at some of the things we tried.

My (Current) Favorite Portland Food Carts

*I have to put the disclaimer here that this is my current list of favorites – I’m sure that given a few more days I’ve have a bunch more to recommend. These were my highlights from my first visit to the magical land of food carts, better known as Portland.

Nong’s Khao Man Gai

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Chicken & Rice ($8) from Nong’s Khao Man Gai

One of three locations, the Downtown cart for Nong’s Khao Man Gai is in my favorite food cart pod at SW 10th & Alder. This was my cousin Daniel’s recommendation and the only cart that I loved so much I had it twice!

The menu is short – they do one thing, and they do it well. Order the chicken & rice and it comes tied up with a rubber band along with a container of light soup to wash it down. So simple & delicious, although a little messy to eat unless you’ve got a table to sit at. In fact, their website has a tutorial video on how to eat Khao Man Gai. Be warned – it will make you hungry!

Nong’s Khao Man Gai (Downtown)
SW 10th & Alder St.
Portland, OR 97205
971-255-3480
Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Yelp

Kargi Gogo

Khinkali - stuffed beef & pork dumplings ($6)

Khinkali – stuffed beef & pork dumplings ($6) from Kargi Gogo

Owners Sean and McKinze wrapped up over two years in the Peace Corps in Georgia in 2012 and opened Kargi Gogo to pay homage to the people, the food, and the recipes they fell in love with while there. I’d never had Georgian food before, so I had to ask for recommendations – I wish I had more time to try them all!

We ended up going with the Khinkali, stuffed beef & pork dumplings, and loved them. I expected the wrapper to be thinner like asian dumplings (they are shaped like Xiao Long Bao), but the outside is more doughy, and for me the taste reminded me of a chow funn noodle.

Kargi Gogo
950 SW Washington Street
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 489-8432
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Delicios

Mici from Delicios ($8)

Mici ($8) from Delicios

My friend Jay is the ultimate foodie. We jokingly call him a “food snob” but really, what it means is that he has high standards for food and everything about it. The ingredients, the preparation, the love that goes into the final product, the experience of eating and the enjoyment that can come with sharing it with good company. So when he declared the Transylvanian cart, Delicios, his favorite food cart in Portland, I knew I had to seek it out – and we weren’t disappointed!

We ordered the mici on Jay’s recommendation and chatted with the cart owners are we waited. They were so sweet and even remembered Jay from his visit a few months ago. As the mici are grilled to order they do take a few minutes, so they also passed out samples of their popular chimney cakes, which were delicious. Or “delicios”, as they’d say in Romania. =)

Delicios
521 SW 10th Ave
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 887-9779
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