Effusive Hawaiian Vacation Post (aka “Food of Oahu”)

Three days ago my husband Anthony and I returned from what was hands-down the most incredible vacation of our ten years of marriage–and probably of our entire lives. I can only describe our six days on Oahu as The Apex of Vacation. We went as a celebration of our tenth anniversary–July 16th, if you want to send us a card next year ;)–and if everyone could look forward to a trip like this, maybe more marriages would make it to ten years, because it. was. fabulous. Like Tom Selleck’s Magnum, P.I. mustache fabulous.

Some of the highlights:

We had the good fortune to know an excellent travel agent who booked us at the Moana Surfrider, the oldest hotel on Waikiki Beach (built in 1901), which oozes turn-of-the-century charm:

We even had an ocean view!

And in six days, we got to see so much of the island of Oahu and did several once-in-a-lifetime activities, like a helicopter ride,

swimming with dolphins,

Not pictured: Anthony hurling vehemently off the side of the boat

an off-the-beaten path tour with a guy who seriously needs his own TV show, stat,

“Watch me weave an entire raft out of these tree fibers, then floss my teeth with what remains!”

and hikes to Moana Falls

and Diamond Head.

All in all, it was a spectacular trip and I wish I could send all my friends (especially the ones with kids) on one just like it.

But this wouldn’t be a food blog post without a few words about the food of Oahu! It seems that Hawaii is not a destination people seek out for its cuisine in particular, but we did enjoy some great food while we were there. (Though we may have been a little influenced by the scenery that accompanied it. And I’m not talking about all the beach bodies…but whoa, the beach bodies.)

I’m not sure that we ever exactly ate “traditional” Hawaiian food, but that seems difficult to define, anyway. Wikipedia says there are five distinct styles of food that make up Hawaiian cuisine, representing Polynesian, Asian, and European influences. That being said, we did have some meals that match what I would envision when I think of “Hawaiian food.” At one beachfront lunch at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore, Anthony had a firm white fish (I can’t recall the name of the fish–I know, get with it, food blogger!) with vegetables and a purple sweet potato coulis. Who knew sweet potatoes came in purple?

I, like the big fat American I am, ordered the barbecue pork sandwich and fries (but it had a bun made of taro, a native Hawaiian tuber! So it squeaked into the Hawaiian food category.)

Then there were the several farmers’ markets we came across. The tropical fruit was stacked in vivid piles of greens, reds, yellows, and oranges, putting my husband the tropical fruit enthusiast into deliciousness delirium. I think he dropped 30 bucks on fruit in a matter of 15 minutes.

Anthony deeply entrenched in Banana Bliss

One farmers’ market also featured gobs of pastries, coconut peanut butter (MUST try to make at home–it was to-die-for), and this guy juicing sugar cane.

Which we immediately spent another 5 bucks on. (Worth it. Like limeade with a unique twist.)

While we were in Hawaii, one of my goals was to try sushi. Here at home, I’m a very cautious sushi fan…cautious not necessarily for safety’s sake, but rather because I’m just not sure I can convince myself I like it. (Also I refuse to eat imitation crab.) We have one locally owned sushi place in Tempe I absolutely love and compare all other sushi places to. So far nothing has come close. I figured Hawaii would be the place for really top-notch sushi, though, with their water-water-everywhere-and-lots-of-fish-to-eat setup. You’re not gonna believe me when I say that I still prefer Sushi Kee in Tempe, Arizona to a highly reviewed sushi place in Honolulu’s Chinatown. But there you have it.

Bento box: California roll, Ahi, rice, Miso soup, some other kind of tuna, and greens

At least I live close to Sushi Kee, not 2900 miles away. Much easier access. P.S. When you go to Sushi Kee, get the spider roll.

Next, it wouldn’t be a tropical vacation without the requisite umbrella-topped fruity drinks. I don’t think I’ve ever had a cocktail at lunch before, but when we ate at Shore Bird, a veritable institution on Waikiki, it seemed like the time to break my own taboo. (Plus, the mai tais were $3.50. Come on.) A mai tai is a rum-based cocktail flavored with fruit juice like orange or lime–a recipe I really must remember to look up, because it was delicious and super refreshing.

Finally, a tiny Hawaiian language lesson: have you ever snickered reading the words “Pu Pu Platter” on a Chinese menu? (I have not. You’re all so immature.) Well, “pu pu” is Hawaiian for appetizer, usually a mix of meat and seafood finger foods. Now you don’t have to worry about what will show up in your takeout…and how many napkins you might need. As a matter of fact, Anthony and I enjoyed quite a bit of pu pu (pu pus?) during our stay, because our hotel package included access to the Moana Surfrider’s “Beach Club,” a fancy secret room that provided breakfast and a heavy-apps dinner. It was an awesome way to minimize expenses on eating out and the food was quite good.

I’m not going to make any jokes about what on this plate is the pu pu.

So, my friends, Hawaii is an extraordinary place and I am so thrilled and thankful to have traveled there. And happy to be home again where I can do my own cooking in my own kitchen with my own family to feed. (Just wish someone else would keep doing my dishes.) 😉

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