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Posts Tagged ‘Hawaii’

Food in Hawaii

Not being a big fan of mahi mahi, or of pineapple in my entrees, I wasn’t expecting to like the food much in Hawaii.  Of course, I didn’t do any research, online or otherwise, before we went, so I had very little idea of what to expect (and also, I tend to like food, plain and simple, so the chances that I would absolutely hate Hawaiian food were low to nil).

Leonard's malasadas, by _e.t, posted to Wikimedia Commons

I learned that like on the mainland, there are foods of  many different ethnic groups represented here.  We ate Mexican food for lunch on our first day, and Japanese food for dinner (at least mine was an udon stir-fry– Bo had a beef curry with some sort of strange and characteristic spice: allspice, maybe?).

While out and about with Bo’s cousin Eben and his wife Angelica, who live on the island in order to do research in the rainforests, we were introduced to the malasada, a fine and dangerous pastry of Portuguese origin.  Reminiscent of the jelly doughnuts my dad used to bring home in a box on Saturday mornings, these are large fried dough filled with anything from passionfruit puree to bavarian cream to pepperoni and mozarella, and appropriately sprinkled with either sugar or salt.  They’re a proverbial coronary waiting to happen, but oh! so good!  I especially liked Baker Tom’s malasadas, from the stand next to the main highway from Hilo to Laupahoehoe (I am not the only one who feels this way!  see this blog entry posted just a day before we visited Baker Tom’s for the first time).  It seemed like stir-fried rice and teriyaki bowls are common items sold at these kind of food stands in Hawaii.  Like the malasadas, they’re greasy, but good.

And Spam!  how could I leave out spam?  When we asked Eben where there was some local place where we could get lunch with Regan and Rob, he asked if we really wanted someplace local.  We ended up at Cafe 100, a semi-open-air walk-up place where Regan dutifully ordered the Hawaiian standard: fried spam over white rice with brown gravy over all.  Otherwise known as the loco moco, it also comes in different varieties, such as the salmon loco, which is what I had.  Since brown gravy seems to be a synonym for “cornstarch and water with brown food coloring,” I’m not sure if I can recommend it, but it sure was good after a day of hiking and snorkeling and swimming in the sun. 

Finally, there is the Fruit.  How could I even think of leaving out the fruit?  On our first day, we were served fresh papaya halves by our B&B hostess.  I never thought I was a papaya fan, but try squeezing fresh lime juice across the top.  Mmmm!  Pineapples were another thing.  At the Hilo farmer’s market, they weren’t any cheaper than at Costco in Medford, OR, but they were about a million times tastier.   And, I must give credit to Regan for my last endorsement.  Coconut, fresh, off the ground and pounded open– is delicious!  Forget the milk (I thought it was gross).  But the flesh is creamy and delectable.  It’s a lot of work, but worth every bit of it.

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Rain, rain, everywhere

The rainy side of Big Island was great!   I can see that it might get depressing day after day, watching the sun rise and the brightness grow in the east, and then the clouds gather in thicker and thicker until it’s completely overcast and starting to mist or rain.  What a fake-out!

me and Angelica, photo by Eben

But for a visit of a few days, the moisture and gloom was bearable, especially because of the verdant pastures and rainforests that mark this side of the island.  The scalloped edge of the east coastline is marked by a magnificent waterfall at the apex of each incision.  The proliferation of plant and animal life is breathtaking.

Akaka Falls

My favorite plants were the ferns and their big crazy fiddleheads.One advantage to living on an island with such a dramatic difference in weather from one side to the next is that it’s easy to get over to the sun when you are tired of the rain!  It’s only an hour or two of driving to switch from not enough water to too much.

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The second day of our trip saw us raring to go out on the ocean in kayaks.  Bo found a great business, Plenty Pupule Kayaks, on the internet, so we checked out of the B&B and headed over there.  Just as the owner and employee were helping us lift the kayaks onto the roof of the rental car, one of them looked over her shoulder.  “Awfully windy out there,” she observed with some concern.  The owner walked over to the corner of the building to look at the water, and became concerned as well.  First he made us promise to come back with the boats after checking out the water, because he would rather refund our money than have to be involved in a search after we’d been blown out to sea.  Then, we talked some more and decided to give up on kayaking for that day.  We headed to Kiholo bay anyway, which is considered to be kind of a locals beach.   We took a long walk from south to north, where we snorkeled a bit in the northern tip of the bay, which was at one time dammed off as a freshwater fish pond, but now is brackish.  Because the water was fresher than sea water, it was hard to see very well, but it was my first time getting close to sea turtles.  I wasn’t trying (I couldn’t see well enough to know they were even there) to get close, but suddenly as I was swimming around, I looked down, and there one was!  It was a bit startling, and being so new to snorkeling, I was a little scared.  I tried to remember not to pull the snorkel under the water and just breathe normally, so I survived.  Phew!  I guess the turtles thought I was okay, though, because it seemed like every time I looked around behind or under me, I saw another one just a few feet away.

Kiholo was a magical experience.  It was such a big stretch of coastline that it felt deserted, even though there were lots of (presumably) locals camping just under the treeline and other folks walking and sunning themselves.  We also walked by a couple of luxury mansions and we couldn’t tell if they were exclusive resorts or homes… later we found out that they were both private homes, one of which belongs to the guy who invented the pacemaker.  After a dip in the Queen’s Bath (a lava tube hole filled with freshwater), we got in the car to head to the east side of the island and Eben and Angelica’s house.We took the long route by way of the town of Hawi, on the tip of the Kohala peninsula.  This area was my second-favorite part of the big island, after the southeast Puna area.  Kohala is the name of the oldest of the five volcanoes that make up the big island, and the area is covered with grass, the occasional tree, and wind farms.  I could almost imagine that we were in the rolling hills of upstate NY or eastern Washington state, until I looked out the other side of the car to see the ocean and the dim outline of Maui in the distance.  This whole area is part of the Parker Ranch, at one time the largest ranch in the United States and now run by a trust.

The setting sun lit our way from behind as we crested the pass on the Hawaii and passed through the town of Waimea on our way to the east side.  As if on cue, we moved into the darkness and steady rainfall.  We were officially on the rainy side of the island, a new phase of our visit!

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Hawaii– the dry side

We spent the first couple days on the west– or “dry” side of the Big Island.  The trade winds down there blow from east to west, and because the center of the island is a couple of 9,000-foot volcanoes, all the moisture from the clouds drops on the east side.  So, the west side is like a desert, while the east side is covered with rainforest.  This explains why all the resorts and other tourist attractions are on this side: the beaches here are sandy, while the east side tends to have a rocky coastline.  The golf courses, watered by artificial means, are set within resort amid shopping malls and restaurants.  We didn’t spend much time around any of these places, though we discovered that there are some very nice beaches near some of the resorts, and because the coastline on Hawaii is 100% public property, access must be provided every mile or so around the perimeter.Because we got in so late, we were glad that we had already booked a room at a B&B called Nancy’s Hideaway for the first two nights.  Up above Kona/Kailua about six miles out of town, we were cushioned from the highway noise and general tourist scene in the Nohea Studio room.  After a leisurely breakfast on our lanai (a native word for a covered patio or deck), we meandered down to town with no clear plan.  Thus it was that we found ourselves at Kona Brewing at 10:30, just in time for the tour.I’ve never been a big fan of Kona Beer (too malty, not hoppy enough), but I still like to visit breweries and get free beer, which most of them serve after you take their free tour.  In this case, I found it fascinating that the business was started in the early 1990s by two guys from Oregon– the founders of Kettle Chips, in fact.  The bottled Kona beer that is sold on the mainland is brewed in Portland at a brewing co-op facility there.  However, since it’s not cost-effective to make all their different beers over here, they just produce two “flagship” flavors (the lighter, more malty ones, it turns out).  The tastes we were served at the brewery in Kona were much better, more hoppy and flavorful in general.  That, plus a conversation about healthcare with a Canadian couple from the tour, made the end of the tour the most interesting part.

After the tour and tasting (which, amazingly enough, ended exactly at 12 noon), we walked away from the rapidly populating brewery dining room, found a little Mexican stand downtown, and then drove down the island’s eastern coast, ending up at Keakekua Bay and Pu’uhunoa o Honaunau National Historic Site (we national park ranger types are insufferable that way– we always have to go check out NPS sites while traveling, even when we’re on vacation).  Keakekua Bay was our first experience in the ocean on this trip, and it was amazing!  The bay marks the site where, many hundreds of years ago, Captain James Cook landed on what was then one of the Sandwich Islands.  But never mind that– just think of warm salty bathwater with colorful coral and fish everywhere as soon as you put your masked face under the water.

I failed to mention before that the trade winds were shifted for our first two days on the island, and that they were therefore approaching from the west.  This made the water very choppy– not ideal for snorkeling, or kayaking, which was another activity we had planned on during the first couple days.  It also meant that the west side of the island got some much-needed rain, a fact that didn’t really please us as vacationers.  The shower came pouring down about 20 minutes after we got out of the water from snorkeling, so I used the opportunity to get out of the car in my bathing suit and rinse the salt water off.  Then we toured the national historic site, which turned out to be a really nice spot (the English translation of the name is “place of refuge”), a pahoehoe lava beach point sticking out into the ocean with a little bay that was perfecting for seeing turtles and launching canoes.  We toured the reconstructed historic structures alone (since it was raining) and continued out to the beach, where I watched hermit crabs in the tide pools and Bo caught an amazing humpback whale fluke in profile (I always miss great wildlife sitings like that).

We slowly made our way north up the coast again, stopping at a bookstore/health food store plaza to buy a bottle of wine and green salad, which we took to another beach to consume while watching the sunset.  We were glad to get back to Nancy’s quiet “hideaway” at the end of the day, to watch a movie and relax before a restful night.

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Big Island

Here’s where we were last week.  I especially like zooming in and out on the island, and looking at it in the satellite view.

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