Hello! The school year has begun and I am exhausted and always sweaty. Azusa has been in the 100s, and it has been quite humid some days and extremely dry the others. Not even a trace of a light breeze going through. A big fat bummer if you ask me… I can’t tell if it’s worse than Kai’s new dorm room in hot, humid Hawaii, where he lacks an AC unit.
A few weeks ago, I had the CHORE of traveling to Hawaii with my mom and brother so we could move Kai into his dorm for freshman year at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The trip started off a little rough, because we were scrambling and trying to get ourselves situated with a rental car and other things. It definitely didn’t help that we were all so unbelievably hungry and grumpy because no one wanted to eat the mediocre airplane food. They did give us a Honolulu Cookie Company shortbread cookie, which are the best cookies in the world, but I will get back to that later. Anyways, I hate to admit it, but I was absolutely the WORST culprit. I was snappy and made too many sassy comments while we were waiting for Kai’s checked bags to come down the carousel and my mom was trying to get us a rental car. I usually carry snacks wherever I go, but for some reason didn’t think too far into how I’d feel after a 5 hour plane ride.
We finally left for the airport and told my mom to stop at this little place called Joe’s Grill Express, which was recommended to me because apparently they have some pretty good Loco Moco. If you’ve never had it, you’re missing out. Beef, spam, runny eggs, rice, and gravy goodness in a styrofoam take-out container. Well, it turns out, my mother missed the exit and so we headed out to our Airbnb still hungry and cranky… or at least it was just me that was hungry and cranky…
While Kai napped at the Airbnb, my mom and I headed out into the most touristy area in Waikiki in search of something to suppress the monster inside me. After a few blocks, we came across a farmer’s market, which I was totally not expecting, but was very pleased with. There was so much fresh fruit. We bought pineapple and bright red pitaya (also known as dragon fruit) which led to some interesting pink pee! Sorry, that was probably too much information…
Not only were there vendors selling the best fresh fruit I had ever eaten, there were people selling my mom’s new favorite thing, Crispy Beef Jerky, teriyaki-furikake flavor, and cute old grandmas selling baked goods and spam musubi. Speaking of spam musubi, my count was at nearly 10 in the first 24 hours of our trip. Honestly, my count would’ve been higher, but I wanted to try other foods and not fill my belly with spam and rice.
For dinner that night, my cousin who just moved out there, came to pick us up and suggested we go to this underground Japanese walking village underneath the massive Ala Moana mall. We agreed to let him take us and it was such an interesting experience. There were so many vendors and little restaurants strung together in a huge maze of food coma-worthy meals. We ate way too much while we listened to people get up and sing some songs for the Karaoke Night that was going on.
The next morning, my mom and I woke up at the (butt) crack of dawn because Hawaii is three hours behind LA, so we were waking up at our normal hour. We stayed in bed for an hour or so and I researched and scouted out some breakfast. We settled on checking out the 7-Eleven, since our cousin told us that they had some good spam musubi there. I was excited, so we walked a few blocks from our Airbnb to the closest 7-Eleven. Let me just say, that spam musubi was probably one of the best ones I ate during the trip, of course right behind the ones the sweet elderly woman made because grandma love… ya know?
Then we headed out for probably the LONGEST day ever. We went to Target, then Bed, Bath and Beyond, then back to Target and then to Kai’s dorm… We probably went to target at least 40,000 times during that trip, and I am NOT exaggerating one bit. His dorm looked really interesting from the outside, because it is a circular building. But, as soon as we walked in, we noticed how old, dirty and scrappy it all looked. And to top it all off, there was no air conditioning. I was sweating buckets and once again was so cranky and tired due to lack of food in my body. We wandered around to check out eateries around campus but everything was closed due to special events and such. We settled on a mini market a couple hundred feet from Kai’s residence hall and I bought, you guessed it, spam musubi.
We stayed with Kai for a little longer, but my mom and I needed a meal more substantial, so we headed out to Foodland. It was the end of our second day, and I still hadn’t eaten any poke, so we bought a few groceries and a 1/2 pound of Limu Poke. I opened that container in the car, and my mom and I consumed a good portion of it in the car before we even got back to the Airbnb. That night, parking was a nightmare, but I felt at peace with it because of the beautiful tub of raw fish in my belly. My mother would probably say something a little bit different…
On Thursday, we had a pretty full day. We walked a lot and were constantly checking the health app on the iPhone to see how many miles we walked or how many steps we took. In the morning, my mom and I woke up and headed out to explore Waikiki and get some food. My mom and I decided to go to Marukame udon which is a pretty reasonably priced udon place with tons of tempura sides— cafeteria style. The thing is, the place didn’t have air conditioning, and eating a big bowl of hot noodles didn’t help. I was sweating BUCKETS. It was so gross… SO gross.
My mom and I wandered around and then headed back to our place to get ready to pick up Kai for another day of shopping and gathering things we missed for his dorm. We headed out to the Ala Moana mall to pick up a mini fridge from Target, dropped it off, picked up Kai, and then headed right back to the same mall to shop around. I would just like to say that the whole situation was very overwhelming and probably could’ve been done more efficiently. But it already happened and it doesn’t matter. I just remember being cranky that day, the reason being it was past lunch and I was hungry.
We shopped around but realized no one was in the mood to do anything unless we had some food in our bellies. Earlier in the week, Kai joked about how he wondered if there were any Islands restaurants in Hawaii and coincidentally, we passed by one in our search for grub. We all made eyes at each other and simultaneously suggested, “How ‘bout Islands?” I don’t think anyone actually said the words, “Yes,” but somehow we found ourselves sitting in a booth that felt so familiar, eating a big plate of cheese fries, along with burgers and sliders to go around. My mom mentioned that it was some of the best food we had eaten that trip, which I had to partially agree with. I mean sure, the poke and spam musubi were delicious, but we were in the mood for some big, hefty, feel-good meals.
We dropped Kai back off at his dorm and my mom and I headed back to our Airbnb and went out to the International Marketplace once again. But this time, we were going to do some serious purchasing. Remember how I mentioned the Honolulu Cookie Company? Yeah, we spent way too much money there. To be fair, we weren’t purchasing the cookies to pig out on all by ourselves, we were buying gifts for our friends and families. Speaking of which, I think I still have a few cookies left in my fridge, which I will be munching on throughout the duration of this blog post.
I have to also mention that we stopped at the same Farmer’s market that day, but didn’t score too well because apparently you gotta get there early to get the good stuff. We still bought some dragon fruit and pineapple to munch on, as well as some beef jerky that my mom and I almost forgot to pay for because we were so excited.
At this point, we still hadn’t seen the ocean, so I begged my mom to walk with me to look for 5 minutes, risking the lives of all our chocolate dipped cookies. To be completely honest, I didn’t care one bit. I even had a second thought to put my bathing suit on real quick before we left, but didn’t think I would need it. I walked so fast with my mom trailing close behind me. As soon as I saw the water, I was in awe. You could see Diamond Head to the left, and the sunset to the right. The water was clear and warm and I felt like a little kid.
On the way to the beach, I passed by this little hole in the wall ice cream and sorbet shop called, Henry’s Place. It was recommended to me, but wasn’t a top priority this trip. Boy, was I wrong. When I say it is the best frozen dessert I’ve ever put into my body, I absolutely probably mean it. Sorry, it’s hard for me to commit to statements of that nature. I bought the pineapple-mango sorbet and it was indescribable. They use natural flavors in their products and the funny thing is, they put their sorbets and ice creams in little styrofoam cups with the flavors written in sharpie. It’s far from glamorous, but it is the best darn sorbet you’ll ever eat. After that evening, I made it a priority and stopped by every single night until we left. Something to note for next time is that they run out of all their best flavors pretty early in the day, so try to go early!
For dinner that night, we met up with Kai and our cousin and headed back to the International Marketplace. We decided to eat at a Korean restaurant that served a bunch of BBQ dishes and spicy tofu soups. We’re pretty lucky to have grown up eating high quality Korean food, living near Koreatown and near our family members who can really cook up a storm. The restaurant wasn’t too special and didn’t have very good kimchi, but definitely got the job done. Also if you look closely at my seaweed packet, you can see that I had a cute date!
Friday was one of my favorite days of the entire trip. We spent the day on the North Shore and had a slower morning. My mom and I visited the Honolulu Coffee Company near our Airbnb before we grabbed Kai from his dorm. The inside of the building had a giant area in the middle where employees roasted coffee beans in a crazy looking machine. There was a window where you could see people baking the treats for the café area, there was a gift shop, and plaques and photos all over the walls to tell the story of the company. I’m not a huge coffee gal, but I was so stunned at everything going on. Afterwards, we grabbed Kai and hopped on the road for the hour long drive to our destination.
We spent the drive reminiscing and hanging out. So about 13 years ago, my dad filmed a movie, called Forgetting Sarah Marshall, at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore. He was there for a couple months, so my mom put us in an independent study at school and we left for a little less than a month. We stayed at the resort with our dad and got into a little routine where we went to the beach in the morning, came back to do some homework and rest, and then went out to the pool. On weekends when my dad was off, we went around the island and explored. We visited Pearl Harbor, the Polynesian Cultural Center, the Dole Pineapple Plantation, and so much more. It was a dream and I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience that. Another fun fact about that whole situation: My brother and I are in the Cast and Crew photo for the movie and we are sitting right in front next to Mila Kunis and Jason Segel. Apparently my dad introduced us to a bunch of members of the cast and crew. Do I remember? Absolutely not.
Anyways, we went back to the beach we played on every day and made a pit stop at Foodland for some more poke. We rented a couple chairs, an umbrella and a mask and snorkel for Kai to mess around with for an hour. Every time he went under, he’d see fish and immediately hand the mask for me to look, but every time, without fail, I would go down right after him and see absolutely nothing. But also I would go down first, see nothing, then Kai would go down immediately after me and see fish! So frustrating. We also ended up ordering a yummy light lunch from a Cafe/Take-out window on the beach, so we could pig out later on this special meal in Haleiwa.
After we wandered around town, we planned on going to this shrimp truck called Giovanni’s. When we got there, we saw this massive line of people and didn’t even want to try to get into the little parking lot. We decided to find another place to eat even though we had been looking forward to the garlic shrimp plate throughout the entire trip. We were a little bummed about missing that opportunity, but headed back to another shrimp truck we passed by on the way to Giovanni’s. While it wasn’t quite what we were anticipating, it still satisfied our craving (for now) and we even got to check out a new açaí truck parked right next door. This açaí place was incredible. The açaí was so pure and didn’t have any added fruits or anything. It tasted unlike any other açaí bowl I’ve ever had AND it was pretty dang inexpensive (chew on THAT, Santa Monica/Brentwood açaí bowl rip-offs).
We headed back to Honolulu and dropped Kai off at school for some other orientation activities he wanted to go to. My mom and I headed to our Airbnb for a much needed fat nap and some food. My pal recommended Maui Brewing Co. for good beer and good food, so we settled on heading there for dinner. I was a few days away from 21 at that point, so I couldn’t drink but I could absolutely eat. I looked MBC in Google Maps and found out there was one nearby AND within walking distance. My mom and I decided to walk over for dinner and let me just say it was an EXPERIENCE. We were seated at a table under a drippy ceiling and came across a couple employees trying to wipe the metal beam so it would stop dripping. My mom ordered a flight of beer (which I took sips of… shhh) and we also ordered pork buns as well as probably the most INCREDIBLE salad I have ever eaten.
SIDEBAR: Let me tell you about this salad. It was the perfect combination of tastes and textures in my mouth. It was a kale salad with sliced red onion, locally sourced feta cheese, and CRISPY QUINOA. Let me just say, it was incredible. The crispy quinoa?! Who even thought about that? I think that was the ingredient that determined whether or not it was a good salad. I mean sure, the kale was pretty good and the red onions and feta from a local vendor, but man, that crispy quinoa brought the whole thing up to a whole other level.
On the way back to our Airbnb, my mom and I couldn’t stop talking about how incredible the salad was. We even joked about going back and eating the salad again before we flew back to LA… Or at least we thought we were joking. On the way back, we also stopped at Henry’s place pretty late in the evening to grab another sorbet. Because it was a Friday, and because it was pretty close to closing time, there wasn’t much of a selection and so I grabbed the last exciting flavor, açaí-berry. It tasted like the extra added sugar version of a plain old açaí bowl, but I wasn’t complaining. It was still an incredible sorbet that I gobbled up pretty quickly walking back to the Airbnb, which wrapped up our second to last night in Hawaii.
On the morning of our very last day in Hawaii, we woke up fairly early (as we had been the entire trip because TIME ZONES YAY… Hawaii is 3 hours behind LA) and headed out to the Kapi’olani Community College Farmers Market. It was closer to Diamond Head Monument which was pretty cool to see up close. But let me tell you, the KCC Farmer’s Market is INSANE. It’s like the Saturday Downtown Santa Monica Farmer’s Market on major steroids. There were so many booths set up early in the morning with vendors, farmers, performers, you name it. I was 100% in my element. I could not believe the variety and options I had. My cousin ended up meeting us there because it turns out his place was nearby. He was looking for fresh produce and of course, I was just looking for snacks. I bought a box of sliced mango (which was unbelievable. Far tastier than any mango I have ever eaten) and a mango lemonade. I wanted to spend all my money buying produce and trying foods from all the vendors, but I had to keep in mind that we had less than 24 hours left in Hawaii and there was no way I would be able to eat everything I wanted to buy. After wandering around for a while trying friend green tomatoes, different types of pineapple vinegars, and a bunch of fruit, we headed to Kai’s dorm to pick him up for one last (half) day of fun.
We were trying to figure out where to eat lunch, so our cousin asked us what we had in mind to try and gauge what the vibes were. My mom had mentioned that we hadn’t had any good Hawaiian comfort food yet, so we headed to the famous Rainbow Drive-in. We ordered two big Loco Moco plates, another plate with fried fish, and a Loco Moco bowl, which in hindsight was a dumb idea because there was too much food AND we had already eaten a little bit at the Farmer’s Market. The food really hit the spot though, and the four of us stuffed our faces to the brim. We also mentioned that we hadn’t had shave ice yet and so we headed next door to the shave ice and poke place. I know I did explicitly state that we were so stuffed, but if there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I always have room for dessert… no matter what. I got a huge, round shave ice cone with POG (passionfruit, orange, guava) and watermelon and it just really hit the spot like none other.
Kai wanted to watch his school’s very first football game of the season down at Aloha Stadium, so we ended up taking him back a bit early so he and his roommate could catch the big buses that were taking students over. It was definitely an emotional goodbye, but I tried to suck it up to make it a little easier. My mom sobbed and I could tell Kai got a little teary, I know I definitely couldn’t help but let a few tears out. It was definitely crazy to think about Kai being a whole ocean away, but as I am finishing this blog post, it has already been over a month and I think everyone has adjusted pretty well (again I apologize for such intense procrastination on my part hehe).
As my mom and I headed back to the Airbnb, we stopped to grab Foodland poke one last time. I even snagged a bag of Maui onion chips as well. We gobbled up about half the container in the car and finished eating the rest when we got settled inside the Airbnb. Shortly after, I food coma-ed out and took a little snooze while my mom chatted on the phone and read a little bit of the book she brought. Then I was up and ready to do something but my mom was getting ready to take a nap herself.
I decided to hit Henry’s Place one last time and grab a treat for now and a treat for later. Because it was pretty late in the afternoon on a Saturday, the fridges with the styrofoam cups of sweet, sweet goodness were running low for the day. I managed to snag a coconut sorbet and decided to try one of the ice creams as well, the honeydew ice cream. If you didn’t already know, I am a big ice cream gal and hold all ice creams to very high standards. I ate the coconut sorbet while my mom was still napping and decided to save the honeydew ice cream for the after dinner dessert. The coconut sorbet had chunks of coconut in it and was perfectly sweet, I was chowing down but also trying to savor the cup.
When my mom woke up from her nap, we headed back out to Maui Brewing Co. for the best salad in the world and some other bites. This time, we ordered the kale salad and a burger as well. My mom also ordered a margarita for us to share on the sly (don’t rat us out, I was two weeks away from turning 21). It was a pretty darn good burger, but that salad really hit home once again.
SIDEBAR: I tried to recreate the salad when I got home and invited a few pals over for an impromptu dinner party. I used the oven to crisp the quinoa, but it didn’t turn out as light and crisp as the (probably) oil-fried quinoa from MBC. Nonetheless, the salad was pretty dang close to the original and I’m proud of that. Shoutout to my dad who somehow passed on the skills of being able to taste something and recreate it at home down to me.
After dinner, we wandered around and shopped a little, looking for last minute gifts to bring back to friends and family and then headed back to the Airbnb to get some rest before our incredibly early flight. As soon as we got back, I ran to the fridge way too eagerly and cracked open my cup of honeydew ice cream. To be completely honest, I didn’t really enjoy the ice cream. I really loved the flavor and the taste, and I’m not sure how they made the ice cream, but it left a waxy feeling in my mouth and it felt like there were waxy chunks of who-knows-what scattered in the ice cream. I couldn’t even finish the cup and was sad to throw it away. I mean I really try not to waste food, but we were heading to the airport in a few hours and there was really nothing I could do.
It was definitely a pretty crazy, packed trip trying to move Kai into school and visit the places we wanted to visit. As you might have guessed I had an extensive list of food stops that I wanted to make on this trip, but because of all the craziness that came with logistics, we hardly made a dent in the list but then we tried a few places that were not on the list. The next time we go visit Kai, we’ll definitely focus more on food since this time, we had no idea what to expect.
Thank you for reading this extra long blog post and thank you for being patient with me! It took a little longer than anticipated to write this baby, but I’m glad it’s finished. School, Internship, and just plain ol’ life really gets the best of me sometimes. Expect a recipe for the Kale Salad soon!