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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

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 in Portland 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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Hawaii Food and Wine Festival 2013

Food lovers in Honolulu know that there are a few events worth marking in your calendar. Restaurant Week in November. Taste of Marukai. Joy of Sake. Made in Hawaii Festival. Eat the Street.

And then there’s the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. It’s truly in a different category than those listed above, because of the chefs that it attracts from not just around the state, or even around the nation, but from all over the world.

Last night I was invited to the first Oahu event of the 3rd annual Hawai’i Food and Wine Festival, Under the Modern Moon: Morimoto & Friends, held at the Modern Honolulu, outdoors and poolside at their swanky sunrise & sunset pool bars.


I admit that when I first looked through the list of chefs, only a few names were familiar to me and even those required a read through their bios to get a full picture of their culinary backgrounds. Hawaii is home to so many amazing chefs and restaurants, and I think I have a pretty good idea of who’s who locally from getting to know their restaurants and styles, but nationally and internationally I’m a bit clueless unless I’ve seen them on TV or eaten at their restaurants in person. But once I started digging a little bit into the backgrounds of not just the chefs, but the mixologists as well, it became clear right away that this is a whole new caliber of event, unlike those that I’ve attended here in Honolulu.


It’s true that ticket prices may seem a bit steep, and the portions are on the small side, but this allows you to walk around, sample everything and compare notes with your friends or other diners, then head back for multiples of your favorites. I definitely did not leave hungry. Many in the crowd had been there last year, or even to both the first and second annual events, and obviously enjoyed it enough to return.

Another perk of the event was some great people watching! I was a bit starstruck the entire evening, and it was so fun to see chefs chatting with one another and hearing who they were interested in seeing at the Festival. I talked to chef Nico Chaize (of Nico’s Pier 38) who mentioned that he was hoping to meet Grant Achatz from Alinea in Chicago. Alinea has been on my culinary bucket list forever, but Nico gave me a whole new appreciation, plus made me want to buy Achatz’s book – he has an amazing history! You learn something new every day.


The best dish of the night for me was a tuna tartare by Floyd Cardoz of North End Grill in NYC (and Top Chef Masters winner), who turns out also to be a really cool guy. His son was plating right up there with him and his crew truly looked like they had the most fun of the evening. The tartare was a perfect little portion of poke topped by a beautifully cooked quail egg to break into it. I’m such a sucker for a perfect runny egg, but I overheard many people say that this was the dish of the night for them as well, so I know it wasn’t just me!


Another standout for me was the famous fried chicken by Charles Phan of the Slanted Door in San Francisco. It was a buffalo wing like no other – crispy skin and so moist inside. I may or may not have gone back for two more at the end of the night when they were closing and the portions got big. (Note to self: come prepared next year with ziploc bags, I totally would have taken those home when they were trying to give them away! Ha!)

It’s no secret that I love food. It’s truly become the biggest passion for me in life. Some people are really into music and follow their favorite bands religiously. For others, they may emulate their favorite quarterback or sports team. For me, food is my favorite form of art – it’s the ultimate sensory experience. Beyond just taste, you engage your other senses – tonight there was the texture of crispy cornflake coated prawns from Bryant Ng of Spice Table, there were the sounds of food-centric conversations all around as people looked for their favorite dishes, there was a ridiculously beautiful sunset over the pool where white lanterns had been strung overhead. It was my culinary dream come true. My heart (and stomach) are full.


A huge mahalo to the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival for allowing me to be a part of this event. Hawaii is an amazing culinary destination, and it was such an experience to meet the chefs and to hear first-hand how much they love and appreciate the food culture here – their love for Hawaii, the people, the energy, and the ingredients really shone through in the dishes.

Here’s a peek at scenes from the Under the Modern Moon: Morimoto & Friends event:

Tips for attending the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival:

– Go early! Although it’s not quite as bad as some mainland festivals, some of the more popular booths do run out of food. I’d highly recommend showing up promptly at 6pm when it opens (or a little before) for the first crack at all your favorite chef stations beforehand, and the shortest lines.
– Do your homework! It can be a little overwhelming when there are 15 food stations spread throughout the venue, so it pays to take a peek at the talent lineup to have a few of your favorites in mind.
– Bring friends! One strategy that worked for us was to have a “home base” where we could all meet up to try dishes together. Similar to the “divide and conquer” mentality that I’d advise for Eat the Street, if you bring friends, you can take turns bringing back multiple dishes to your “home base” to minimize wait times.
– Check out the entire space – It was easy to have missed a whole side wing on the upper level, but I’m glad that I wandered out that way – there were OnoPops, wine and dessert stations, and a ton of seating (which can be rare in some of the more crowded areas).
– Save your glass – Your signature HFWF glass that is handed to you as you walk in is what you’ll use for wine tasting, plus it becomes your souvenir when you leave.
– Purses & pockets – both are helpful for stashing chopsticks, napkins, and other must-haves while you’re roaming in search of food, Instagramming your favorite dish, or trying to text a friend who you’ve lost in the crowd. You can never have too many hands at an event like this and it helps to have a place to stash the necessities.

>> Want to see for yourself?

Hawaii Food & Wine Festival continues through September 9th. While some events have sold out, you can purchase tickets and view the entire schedule here. Feel free to post comments or questions if you have any, and enjoy the Festival!

Thanks again to Hawaii Food & Wine Festival for hosting me for this event!

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Made in Hawaii Festival 2013

Despite the crowds, ridiculous parking fee, and the fact that I spend more than I budget every time, I love the Made in Hawaii Festival and I continue to go every year. It’s a chance to support local small businesses and to see what’s new from around the state. This year there were more vendors from the outer islands (especially Maui) and it’s great to see their products showcased here on Oahu.

Here’s a look at some of my favorites from this year’s Made in Hawaii:

Adoboloco - Booth 384 (Arena)

Picture 1 of 11

Adoboloco is my latest hot sauce obsession. I have every hot sauce they've ever made, including the very limited edition Habanero Pineapple which is made with 100% local ingredients and which you can ONLY get at the Made in Hawaii Festival this weekend. Prices range from $8 - $10 per bottle.

>> Click “next” above for the rest of the slideshow

Admittedly, I did not have time (in the 3 hours I spent there) to visit every single booth, so I’m sure I missed some gems. However, I think I did well by my “greatest hits” and got to try some new things as well. Not pictured above, but worth a visit are: [Ki-ele] jewelry in booth 237, Maui Preserved (I missed this one, shucks!) in booth 538.

Tips for your visit to the Made in Hawaii Festival

  • Parking at the Blaisdell costs $7. Carpool with friends or allow yourself extra time to walk a little bit to find street parking around Thomas Square or down towards Kapiolani Boulevard.
  • Admission is $4 per person (kids 6 and under are free) and you can save $1 off if you snag a coupon from a First Hawaiian Bank branch.
  • The festival is HUGE! Don’t miss both sides – the Exhibit Hall is the largest, but there are also lots of booths in the Arena. If you have limited time, check out the list of vendors and their locations in the official program.
  • Food demos and entertainment happen throughout the weekend! Check out bands like Kapena, commedian Frank Delima, and chefs from Cactus, Tiki’s, Chai’s, and more. The program lists all the entertainment & demos.
  • Bring cash. Although many vendors now accept credit cards, there are some which are cash only. The ATMs at the Blaisdell charge a fee.
  • Go early & be patient. It gets really crowded at the festival, try to go as early as you can – 10am is less crowded than mid-day. Some vendors also sell out – Kanemitsu Bakery from Molokai did not even last the whole first day!

Made in Hawaii Festival 2013

Neil Blaisdell Arena & Exhibition Hall
Dates: Friday 8/16 – Sunday 8/18
Hours: Friday & Saturday 10am – 9pm, Sunday 10am – 5pm
Cost: $4 per person, $7 parking

>> This is just one of the awesome events happening in Honolulu during August 2013. Be sure to keep an eye on our foodie calendar for other great events year-round.

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Cheers to Good Health!

After the glorious excess that was Birth Month, I’m finding a need to gain some balance back into my life, especially in my eating habits. I won’t lie, April was a month with some truly amazing meals shared with some of my nearest and dearest, many of which I still need to post. Starting with May, I’ve made a few changes and one of them is buying a blender and starting each day with a green smoothie.


I never thought I’d be “one of those people” who rave about juicing or smoothies. I always said I preferred to chew my vegetables rather than drink them. Plus, I love breakfast, especially savory foods like eggs and bacon. I’d read about those crazy diets where people have nothing but juice and shake my head. I also felt that I wouldn’t be able to give up having some kind of carbs for breakfast – usually some toast, rice, or other starch helped me to stay full until lunch.

A few of my friends had been juicing (or blending) and I got to try a glass of juice that actually started to change my mind when staying with a pro-juicing friend in February. I don’t remember all the ingredients but the key flavors that stuck out to me were some that were surprising – beets, bell pepper, cucumber and garlic. Garlic! It sounded awful but there was plenty in there to balance out with some sweetness, including apple, so the raw garlic ended up just giving it a bit of a zing and a more savory flavor.


Still not sold, I started asking some of my other friends for their juicing recipes and looking online for more savory juice blends. I checked into the price of a Vitamix and recoiled at the sticker shock, pushing the idea of juicing wayyyy to the back of my mind. At the time, I was still saving up for my birthday treat to myself – Vintage Cave.

Yet what finally pushed me over the edge was a friend who I know to be quite caffeine-addicted who casually mentioned swapping out some of her daily coffee for juice and feeling more energetic. That made a believer out of me! I knew I wanted a blender (like Vitamix) rather than a juicer, because I didn’t like the idea of removing so much fiber from the fruits and veggies. I know some people prefer juicing because it’s easier to drink or tastes better with no pulp, but I honestly don’t mind. What eventually sold me was reading the reviews on a Nutribullet. The $100 price tag was the perfect investment in my health.


After almost a month of having a green smoothie for breakfast every day, I can say that I do feel more energy and I think starting the day with a cup of fruits and veggies really does help me to make healthier choices throughout the day – I’m starting to crave more veggies and less meat or carbs. Rather than dieting or cutting things out, I’m working on adding in healthy options into my lifestyle and this has been a great start. Yes, I still indulge here and there, but I feel less guilty when I do!


My favorite smoothie starts off with kale. I find that if I cut it up, wash/dry and then store it in a bag in the fridge that it easily can last a week and a half – yet it never lasts me that long. A big bunch at the farmers market usually costs $2 or $3 and is enough to use for salads and smoothies all week. After a big handful of kale, I add a few veggies – cucumber, bell pepper, beets, a bunch of mint leaves. A piece of ginger for some bite. Cut up watermelon stored in the freezer to use as “ice cubes” and fruits like tangerine, mango, or berries. I love that I can sneak in healthy superfoods like sea asparagus, soaked chia seeds, etc. I try to keep my ingredients as colorful as possible going in. The Nutribullet comes with three different cups so I always prep more than one and store them in the fridge, so there’s always one ready. Cleanup is just rinsing the cup and blade out in the sink, and since I’m blending (not juicing) there isn’t a lot of pulp to throw away.

It might not be for everyone, but if you’ve considered adding more fruits and veggies into your diet, I highly recommend giving green smoothies a try. Cheers to good health!

>> What about you? Have you given juicing or green smoothies a try? Got a favorite ingredient or recipe to share? Feel free to leave a comment.

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Things to do on Maui: Upcountry Farmers Market

Driving through Upcountry Maui just never gets old to me. On my last trip home, my dad took us up the back roads where we usually go running. Driving through the old Haleakala Dairy lands, I rolled down my window to take in the smell of eucalyptus and the moist scent of the rain the night before. The jacaranda trees were just starting to bloom, the purple flowers always remind me of the big tree we had in our yard growing up…

We took the scenic route for sure, but we were on a bit of a mission: to check out the new Upcountry Farmers Market.

It seems like lately it’s become trendy/hipster to shop at farmers markets and some debate the authenticity of all the “local” produce – especially when you see booths offering garlic or mainland cauliflower, things that just don’t grow we’ll in Hawaii – people start to wonder just how much is truly local. Some will also turn up their noses at the handcrafted items or the booths selling cooked to order meals and wonder where are all the farmers?

But I think there’s room for all of these things. If I can get local produce, and also the garlic I won’t have to go to the grocery store for at the same time as I pick up a beautiful ham and egg basket for breakfast and a snack for later – why not?


I grew up at my moms table at the swap meet. She was a crafter and made all kinds of things – I remember Christmas ornaments, Hawaiian print bags, cute little rubber stamps. I saw her having that rapport with her regular customers, I’ve heard people haggle. So I have an utmost respect for anyone making their living at these markets.

Sure, shopping at a farmers market can be more expensive at times (although many times its cheaper and also fresher so there’s less spoilage) but I will happily pay a couple of extra dollars for something that someone puts their heart and soul into. That’s what I’m supporting.

The Saturday Upcountry farmers market was a great example of this.

As we walked down the aisle of booths, it made my heart happy to see the camaraderie – people catching up with neighbors and friends, and passionate vendors selling their goods. A little girl squeals with delight as a baby chick is placed into get hands. A musician sets up a blues piano while another plays “When You Wish Upon A Star” on a violin.


I lingered over a beautiful lineup of pastries and the women running the booth chimed in that the lemons for their lemon tart were all from their backyard, as were the edible flowers. Isn’t it lovely?


Kula strawberries were only $3 a box, though I was tempted to go for the 2 for $5. That’s cheaper than in-store!


Farm fresh eggs…


…and Easter bunnies!


Fresh ravioli with homemade ricotta, pastas, and sauces starting at $5


My favorite new snack: fresh seaweed strips that are hand painted with a flavored macadamia nut paste (this one is shiso/ume) and then dried. Vegan, gluten-free, and delicious!


There were fresh wheatgrass shots, massage tables, feather earrings, fresh juices, and beautiful flower arrangements too. All in all, a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning.

Upcountry Farmers Market
Kulamalu Town Center (behind Longs)
Saturdays 7am – noon

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