Thursday, April 29, 2010

"I'm not really a dessert person"

One great thing about Hawaii is that there are no snakes there. No snakes! The largest land predator in Hawaii is the human.

Strange as it may sound, this helped me sleep at night.

Once you venture out into the ocean though, it's a different story. People would say things like "Oh I don't like that beach, too many sharks." And I would be calm on the outside but thinking: "Too many sharks? I'm inclined to think ONE is too many."

Needless to say, I have what I consider to be a healthy fear of the ocean. I respectfully keep my distance, admiring the lovely coastline, lying in the powdery sand and occasionally dipping my feet in when I need to cool off.

It's probably a shame that I am seafood-averse, since it's everywhere in Hawaii. Probably because it's an island.

Ignore my obvious commentary.

Anyway, even someone with a limited palate, such as myself, can eat amazing food in Oahu.

After picking me up from the airport with a lovely yellow lei (sometimes things are just like the movies), ND took me to the only five-star hotel on the island for dinner at The Halekulani.

Everything in Hawaii is set up to make you feel like you are outdoors, which with their weather, is quite lovely. We ate at House Without a Key and I had delicious roasted chicken with cilantro butter (combining two of my favorite ingredients) a green salad with balsamic and asparagus.

ND, meanwhile, had eaten sushi right after school and ordered only drinks and dessert. The dessert? Coconut cake. I'll caveat this by saying that I'm not really a dessert person. I like it, but day to day I live without it**.

I can honestly say that now, in my post-coconut-cake existence, that I don't want to live in a world that does not include that most heavenly of cakes. It was that good. That perfect, even. The cake was light and sweet, the frosting was creamy and there were raspberries involved. We went back to the same place on Saturday night and ordered different entrees but split another because we could not pass it up.

Another restaurant ND raved over and took me too was an authentic Greek place called The Olive Tree. Their hummus and pita could have filled me up for the evening but the chicken souvlaki won me over as well. I was sorry not to have KS with me to try the house-made baklava at the end of the meal, since it was easily the best I've ever had.

Since it got windy and chilly at night, we also ventured out one night with ND's roommate E for some Vietnamese pho. I had never tried it and for something that looked like a broth-y soup, it was actually very filling. I put some sriracha with it as well, which made me want to learn to cook more Asian dishes.

As is well-documented on this blog, I am also coffee drinker. No, that's being too polite to myself: I am a coffee snob. No one makes better coffee than me and my N'espresso machine. Away from my beloved coffeemaker for an entire week, I knew I would have to make due. What I did not anticipate was liking the local, Kona blend coffee so much. I'm used to one cup of coffee a day and so I got a little amped up on refills a few days when we were having long breakfasts or brunches.

The Saturday morning I was there was a treat because we went and visited the big local farmer's market. I just went to a farmer's market in my hometown a few weeks ago with my mom, so I was expecting something small-scale and charming with a few merchants.

Not at all.

The farmer's market was huge and bustling and a culinary adventure completely on its own. I should have known I would like it after an unassuming table with an espresso machine at the entrance sold me a truly fantastic latte. We walked from table to table to see and smell all manners of fresh fruits, flowers and vegetables; curries, eggs benedict, sushi, pizza, snocones, before settling on slices of pizza that I kept seeing everywhere: a layer of pesto topped with yellow and red tomatoes, fresh mozzerella and chopped basil. For breakfast, no less.

I followed that up with purchasing a fresh coconut, whose water I drank through a straw. It made me look like a tourist but I loved it.

During one day of my trip I randomly asked ND about Leonard's, which kept catching my eye whenever we drove down the same main road through town. ND wanted to curse me for noticing it, but Leonard's, she told me, is an institution in Oahu. Leonard's makes delicious, Portuguese donut-like balls called malasadas, which you can purchase coated in something as simple and time-honored as cinnamon and sugar, or you can get them with different flavored fillings like chocolate, coconut cream or mango.

Needless to say, we stopped and bought half a dozen different flavors to sample.

One book I was particularly glued to during my trip was The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman. If you're not into cooking or don't find culinary school interesting, you probably wouldn't like it, but it made me look at and appreciate the food on my plate and the labor that went into making it so much more. It's such an art form.

My friends in Dallas can expect me to attempt making coconut cake, the farmer's market pizza and chicken souvlaki in the near future. And probably homemade hummus. I'll spare them the guilty-pleasure malasadas.

For now.

Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
-James Beard

**This would later prove to be a false statement, as evidenced by the remainder of this post.

*P.S. I did not link any of the restaurants listed, but if you ever find yourself in Oahu and would like a more comprehensive list of restaurants to visit, feel free to e-mail me!

*P.P.S. Chocolate-dipped macadamia nut cookies. That is all.


tootie said...

I loooved the malasadas there. So delicious!

It sounds like you ate very well in Hawaii!

Bren said...

i went to kauai a few years ago and was snorkling off a beach and saw a shark in really shallow water just off the beach about two feet from me. it was about 6 feet long...i almost died. didn't eat anyone though...guess it was a friendly shark!

Andhari said...

The seafood platters themselves make me drooool! And coconut cakes? I don't know what is it but it sounds so good from the way you describe it!:)