Hungry in Hawaii
The beauty of Hawaii provides a spectacular backdrop to the life and culture of this unique United State. Of course, a focus for me was the food! Along with enjoying the sights and ambience of this heavenly place, I took notes and photos of the many meals and sights I enjoyed on this relaxing, but too-short vacation.
After arriving at our rented house for the week in Kaneohe, on the well-traveled island of Oahu, my friends and I decided to take advantage of the well-equipped kitchen and beautiful view. A home-cooked breakfast out on the spacious lanai sounded like the perfect thing to acquaint ourselves with our surroundings.
A trip to the local Safeway proved to be a bit of a culture shock, to say the least. Supplies to cook this casual breakfast for four rang up to $101! Granted there were a few other items that weren’t just for that meal, but when a 12 pack of soda costs $6.49, you’re in trouble when you need Coke Zero, Diet Coke, AND Sprite!
Clearly, the cost to ship items from the mainland turned basic necessities into luxuries for us. Refrigerated/dairy items seemed to have the most extreme markup. A pound of bacon was $6.99, 18 count eggs $5.99, 8 oz. carton of half and half $2.49, and a pound of butter $6.59! A half gallon of Odwalla (well, if you’re going to pay a higher price, you might as well REALLY enjoy it) orange juice was $10.99.
The price of the meal aside, it was a delicious one! Of course, just about anything would have been marvelous with the view we were treated to every morning, like the one below.
After our grocery store experience, we decided to let OTHERS do the cooking for us! Our travels took us all over the island, including the popular Waikiki, where I enjoyed a delicious sea bass, served with bok choy, mushroom risotto, leeks and fried nori. The fish was perfectly cooked, and while the bok choy and leeks were a great accompaniment, the risotto was almost too rich. The fried nori garnish was a distraction, adding unnecessary fishiness to this otherwise sublime, delicate dish.
Our quest for fresh, local seafood was more than fulfilled when we were treated to fresh – and I mean just hours old – octopus!
It was the wedding of two friends that brought us to Honolulu. The bride’s mother, Sheila, who lived on the island, was no stranger to octopus. She explained how she prepared the octopus by removing the innards, however she could not get the “beak,” or mouth out this time. After grilling the whole, huge octopod, she cut it into pieces for us to eat. Slightly chewy, with a smoky aroma, the octopus had a firm, almost tough texture, but a delicious, fresh essence. Nothing like eating fresh seafood, right out of the sea! Sheila later showed us the “beak” after carving it all up! Scary!
Kaneohe was minutes away from the North Shore, a beautiful stretch of white-sanded beaches, small coves and crystal blue water. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Jameson’s By The Sea, in Haleiwa.
Jameson’s shrimp cocktail was delicious, with amazingly tender, fresh shrimp in a bracing cocktail sauce made with lots of horseradish and topped with more tiny shrimp. But the ahi sashimi was the best tuna I’d ever had. The tuna pieces were sliced into the perfect width, and had the most clean, fresh, and rich flavor. The spicy sauce was light, but had a nice wasabi kick.
Another memorable meal was had at Tiki’s in Waikiki. Great shrimp cocktail, but the star was the Calamari Katsu. A thick calamari steak was dredged in panko, pan fried, and topped with a sauce of fried capers and lemongrass butter. A “salsa” of blue crab and shrimp finished off this delicious dish. The calamari was fork tender, and the sauce was the perfect balance of salt, citrus, and sweet butter. This was a like a Hawaiian calamari “piccata”!
We weren’t the only ones eating! Great fun was had feeding Chex Mix to the local sand crabs. Diligent and hardworking, these little guys finally figured out how to get a square meal into a round hole! Who knows? We might have set off some major adaptational change in the species. You’ll know when you suddenly see square holes on the beach!
Our trip to Hawaii was amazing. The incredible mountain vistas, the sounds of crashing waves, the lilt of Tiki music, the salty smell of the sea, the grit of the bright white sand between my toes, and above all, the flavors of the island, all created a sensory experience like no other. I can’t wait to go back!