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buffet

Last Days in Paradise

Day 5

Today, we started our morning with a quick fruit breakfast before heading off to the Pearl Harbor Historical Sites.  Other than the Pearl Harbor Memorial, there are also retired WWII vessels that you can visit.  The Memorial is actually completely free and a ferry takes you to it approximately every 15 minutes.  The other military vessels do cost, but you can buy a package to save some money.  CP and I visited the USS Blowfin submarine and the USS Arizona.  I’ll let the pictures do the story telling.

After our memorial visit, but before the USS Arizona, we needed lunch and we were not going to settle for a crappy hamburger or hot dog.  Instead, we hoped in our car and drove a bit to get to Tanioka’s.  This market was recommended to me by my colleague, an ex-pat, for having the best poke and other great bento items.

Once we were there, the large number of choices made it really hard to for us to decide what to get.  In the end, we bought more than what we could really eat…but the bounty cost us about $35.

Shoyu Poke

Lomi Poke

Spicy Tuna with Sushi Rice

Fish and tofu cakes

Fried ahi with wasabi aoili

Best things we ate out of this massive pile of food?  The Lomi Poke and the Spicy Tuna with the sweet sushi rice.  The lomi poke had a subtle sweetness to it, and a hint of garlic or something else.  The soft cubes of tuna melted away and the seaweed gave away to a wonderful crunch.  Best poke I ever had and not sure how others will hold up to this one.

After that big meal, we had visited the USS Arizona as you saw above.  The winded down pretty quickly after that and we headed off to Paradise Cove for our luau.  Unfortunately…as we got closer to the east side of the island, the sun we had was going away and we were driving into showers, to rain, to heavy rain.  Obviously, the luau was cancelled and we had to reschedule it.

Since that plan went out the door, we decided to head to one of the beaches we saw on our drive the previous day.  We already had all our swimming gear in the car in case of anything and good thing we did!  So instead of a luau, we had a sunset swim on a secluded beach on the northwest side of Oahu.  It was a wonderful way to watch the day end (and to have your honey attempt to block a wave from getting you by doing a head dive as if to take a bullet for me.  Except this was water and it just ended up splashing us both completely).

For dinner that night, we ended up at Duke’s Waikiki to satisfy CP’s craving of surf and turf.  I wasn’t completely hungry, so we followed CP’s craving this time.  One thing that I didn’t know, was that the restaurant company that owns Jake’s Del Mar, owns Duke’s as well.  I was a little surprised by this and found it funny we ended up at a place that had a little bit of San Diego too.

CP’s surf and turf – sirloin and lobster tail, with mashed potatoes and green beans.  He lapped up his meal with a smile on his face…guessing he really like it huh? J

My lomi lomi chicken with rice pilaf was not amazing, but not terrible.  It was just kind of boring and I did not particularly like it.  However, not to fear! Dessert comes and saves my night!

The Hula Pie!  It is macadamia nut ice cream, sitting on a chocolate cookie crumb shell, covered with a layer of chocolate ganache, topped with chocolate fudge and more macadamia nuts and whipped cream.  Man…it was a cold, creamy party in my mouth.  Even CP joined in the dessert (he just steered away from the chocolate, which was fine by me)!

Day 6

Our last full day in Hawaii, we headed straight to Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling!  Unfortunately, we did not bring nor buy an underwater camera, but the experience was surreal.  Since we were there early in the morning (granted…it was chill waters for Hawaii given the storms and cloudy start to the day), the fishes were all out and feeding.  The waves were really mild, so it made for a great snorkeling experience.  We saw many of the species of fishes that we saw also at the aquarium, so both CP and I were super excited about that.

As the day progressed, more sun came out, but the waves started getting a little “rougher” for the bay.  It was harder to find the fishes at that point as they most likely took refuge in their coral homes. At that point, CP and I decided that after 4 hours of snorkeling, we decided to call it a day (for snorkeling).

Since we both worked up an appetite, it was time to get another food icon of the island:

YES! Malasadas! And not just any malasadas, but the famed Leonard’s Bakery malasadas!  We bought a box of 6 with the cinnamon coating, and 1 haupia filled sugar coated malasada.  I was giddy with excitement and joy as I tasted the warm, fluffy, sugary pastry.  I felt my eyes roll behind my head as the wonder that is a fresh malasada can do for me.  CP was looking curiously at the box and my reactions to eating it, and finally was convinced enough to try one.  He was hooked, no questions about it.

After having our fill of malasadas, we went back to clean up and headed off to our luau!

Paradise Cove

Upon entering the cove, you receive a shell or flower lei (depending which package you bought), plus a mai tai or a non-alcoholic beverage.  All around the cove, there were free activities that were happening for the guests such as spear throwing and weaving a head band made from palm leaves.  Since we bought the basic package, I did not have any flowers on me, I immediately went to make myself a headband and bracelet made from the same flowers.

After properly decking myself out, there were several pre-luau shows that we watched including: the flower drop (a guy climbs up a palm tree and lets out a sack of flowers…and he climbed that tree super fast) and demonstration of how fishermen casts out the nets from the shore to reel in dinner.

Then came the revealing of the pig ceremony and a traditional hula dance:

Finally, it was dinner time!  The offerings: kulau pig, baked fish, fried chicken, salad, pasta salad, bread rolls (butter and taro), rice, and poi.  Desserts included: coconut jello, vanilla and chocolate cakes, and pineapple.

The food? It was a buffet, what did you expect? I got exactly what I expected: fair to bad food.  The pig was good, and that was about it on the savory end. The coconut jello was the best dessert since it’s a lot like what I eat at home.

After we all had our fill, the show began!

That was both CP’s and my first luau and we both had a great time actually.  True, it is completely and utterly a tourist attraction, but it was something that had to be done.  Would I do it again?….nah, once is more than enough!

Day 7 – Last day :(…

Sigh…like all good things, it must come to an end.  I was sad waking up that morning, knowing that it was time to go home.  Prior to going, I had to pick up some cookies from the Honolulu Cookie Company to bring home.

I picked up the mix tin box with 15 flavors and a total of 32 cookies.  The flavors include: Butter Macadamia, Pineapple Macadamia, Mango Macadamia, Lilikoi Mango, Kona Coffee, Chocolate Dipped Macadamia, Dark Chocolate Macadamia, White Chocolate Kona Coffee, Dark Chocolate Kona Coffee, Triple Chocolate Macadamia, Dark Triple Chocolate Macadamia, Dark Chocolate Lilikoi, Coconut, Dark Chocolate Coconut and White Chocolate Coconut. My favorite?  The Dark Chocolate Coconut!

Also, we decided to make one last stop to Puka Dog for a to-go lunch.  Just because I wanted to bring something else to eat on our plane ride, just in case that the meal served was not good.

That was our week long adventure in Hawaii.  It was everything I thought it would be and at the same time, the island gave me surprises that I did not expect.  I can see myself definitely visiting the islands again!

Pearl Harbor Historical Sites

Taniokas Seafoods and Catering

94-903 Farrington Highway
Waipahu, HI 96797

Duke’s Waikiki
On the Sand at the Outrigger Waikiki, Oahu
2335 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 116
Honolulu, HI  96815

Hanauma Bay

Leonard’s Bakery
933 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816

Paradise Cove Luau
92-1089 Alii Nui Drive
Kapolei, Hawaii 96707

Honolulu Cookie Company

Multiple locations and online ordering available


Continuation of Valentine’s Weekend

To continue and wrap up the last segment of the Valentine’s Day weekend with CP, on the morning of the end of our weekend in Vegas, I had planned for us to go to my new favorite restaurant in Vegas: MoZen Bistro.

The restaurant is tucked in the elegant Mandarin Oriental Hotel and getting there was a little bit a discovery.  However, since I have been to the restaurant it was not so hard to get to the second time around :).  CP on the other hand thought it was quite hilarious on: 1. how hard it was to get to the restaurant (unlike other restaurants in Vegas) and 2. the door men and women were wearing full coats and top hats. Anyways…on to the food!

It was Sunday early afternoon when we arrived at the restaurant at 11:30am, which is actually my standard lunch hour anyway, so it was perfect!  I had read about their brunch menu and wasn’t sure what to expect exactly:

“Chef Rawat has prepared internationally inspired dishes that include a variety of limitless passed items as well as your selection of a main course and a full dessert and cheese buffet to finish.”

So I was wondering what I would really get…turns out: it was a buffet style for appetizers, first course(s), main course is menu ordered, and buffet style again for dessert.  It was definitely unique and once I saw the layout, I was excited!  I wish I had taken a picture of the layout, but I can recall it by memory.

Starting from the left and moving to the right as it wraps around restaurant: a fresh sushi station with pre-cut rolls made in small batches (2-4 rolls at a time) and cut to order sashimi.  Next to that, was the salad and antipasto station with a wide selections of cold cuts, grilled vegetables, salads, and cheese.  Following that was a table of fresh fruit from melons, pineapples, mix of berries.  Last but not least, was a table spread of cold breakfast items such as pastries, cereals, yogurt, and such.  Finally, the dessert station was actually off to another side of the restaurant that wasn’t as apparent since it was tucked away in a corner.  However, you can never hide desserts from me!

With so many choices, I had to be really discerning.  For my first plate…

Almond Croissant, Spicy Tuna Roll, and Seaweed Salad.  I know, I know…Why did you get an almond croissant with sushi!? Ok, look…I LOVE almond croissants and I could NOT resist when I walked by.  I had to get one, but rest assure…I did not mix the 2 together while chewing :).

The tuna was so fresh, nice and spicy to the way I like it  and the sushi rice was perfect.  The salad was a nice crisp, refreshing palate cleanser for me and I moved on to the croissant.  My, my, my…so fabulous!  The pastry was flaky and crunched each time I bit into it.   Inside was the ever delicious almond paste to add to the decadence of this pastry.

I also got myself a plate of yellowtail and salmon sashimi.  My only complaint with the fish was that I could tell it was fresh, but it was TOO cold.  Sashimi should be chilled, but this was TOO cold and it made me a little sad because I really liked it and the temperature just ruined it for me.  Still…I enjoyed this little plate of fish goodness.

OH! By the way, part of the brunch experience of MoZen includes random little “additions” to the meal that comes as little taster dishes.  They were all different and I’ll just let the pictures do the talking!

Caprese Salad Bite

Shrimp Cocktail with Thai Chili Cocktail Sauce

Har-Gow (Shrimp Dumpling)

Ceviche

There was also steamed mussels and fresh oysters.  Insane right?! And this was just additional dishes that acted like bread and butter that would be passed at other restaurants.  MoZen really knows how to make their diners feel like they’re a million bucks without necessarily spending a million bucks!  Love, LOVE it!

I could not leave without trying a few more items:

This was a mini cinnamon bun lollipop with edible gold leaf!  In the background is a mini mason jar with plain yogurt and fresh berries.  I did not particularly like either of the two taste-wise, but I do like the presentation.

Moving onto CP and my main entrees:

Not a surprise right?  Especially if you know me or have been reading my rants – the Pan seared scallops with tapioca pudding, fried buttermilk chicken liver, bacon & poultry jus.  I was very hesitant on the chicken liver because I have had chicken liver in this rice dish my mom used to make for us during the winter, and I did not like it.  However, once again by battering and deep frying will always make everything taste 10x better!  I really loved the liver surprisingly.  The scallops were seasoned just right (unlike the over salted ones I had the following day at Mister A’s), but it was over cooked.  If only I could take the seasoning of these scallops, with the scallops from Mister A’s, I then would have the PERFECT scallop!  Still the dish was really enjoyable with the tapioca pudding, which made the dish fun to eat even more.

CP went with the following:

The Tekka Don – Marinated big eye tuna on a bed of warm Japanese rice with nori, served with miso soup.  Basically, the marinated tuna was like poke-style marinade, but sashimi sliced.  CP had a dried out, sore throat so this was perfect for him.  He lapped up both bowls and loved every bite of it.  I smiled as I watched him go at the food, reminding me of how his enthusiasm for food has grown so much in the last 3+ years we’ve known each other.

However, the one food group that I have still yet to fully bring CP over is…DESSERTS!

Coffee Creme Brulee

Strawberry Panna Cotta

Housemade Marshmellow with Berries

Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding

I tried 4 of the multiple options which also included cheesecakes, mini cupcakes, etc.   My favorite: the INTENSE coffee infused creme brulee!

All in all, this restaurant has done me well again!  I’ve been here for dinner and now brunch and both times were amazing.  Thank you to the cooking and waiting staff for an great afternoon and delicious food!

MoZen Bistro
3752 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89158

 


Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of the 3 holidays where majority of my family gather together to break bread.  Or in my family’s case, we break out the noodles!

We’ve always done a potluck style Thanksgiving and everybody brings something different.  There are no restrictions on what we have to bring.  However, a few cousins will almost always bring some of the traditional dishes to the table like: mashed potatoes, candied yams, and of course the turkey!  Granted, we do make sticky rice stuffing instead of the “traditional” stuffing.

I have traditionally contributed my share year after year with a dessert.  In the past, I’ve made brownies, cookies, and even a tiramisu.  I really wanted to make something besides dessert.

Now something to share about myself: I can’t cook.  I can cook to survive, which means that I would rarely want to subject others to food of my own creation.  I cook to eat and survive, but I bake to present and serve to others.  Baking comes so much easier to me because it’s a precise mathematical approach.  And helps that I absolutely love it.

However, I decided that if i had a recipe, I could make anything.  So I made not only a pasta dish, but also a “soup”.   Those 2 did not go over so well sadly.  *sigh…*

My cake on the other hand was a tremendous success.  I made a 4 tiered layered cake with alternating flavors of pumpkin and dark chocolate.  I whipped up some fresh chocolate whipped cream for the filling and used some of the extra ganache to keep the cakes moist.  Finishing off the tower with cream cheese frosting and cake crumbles.

This was my first time making a cake that was more than 2 layers.  I was extremely happy with the results given my first time and this was learning experience.  The cakes were moist and not too sweet, which was perfect because the ganache was the sweet touch.  My whipped cream filling kept it from being too heavy, but let’s be honest.  Look at that puppy…having anything after one’s finished eating everything else for dinner (see below spread picture),  it all becomes quite heavy!

Behold!! Our Thanksgiving dining table converted to a buffet line!  I’ll try to remember what we had exactly starting with the turkey and going counterwise:

Turkey (26 lbs) with sticky rice stuffing with taro; Deviled eggs; Green Beans sauteed in white wine, onion and dried shrimp; Shanghai noodles (center); BBQ short ribs; Spring Rolls; Singapore Noodles; Celery Tofu; Cauliflower Sausage Pasta (from me); Garlic Shrimp; Singapore Noodles; Vegetable Orzo Soup (from me too!); Tea eggs; Mac ‘n Cheese; Candied yam (you can only see the corner of it); Guacamole; and Mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy (not in the shot unfortunately).

And we didn’t even have the other desserts in this picture!  We had a pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and pumpkin cheesecake.  Yeah…when my family eats, we EAT.  By the end of the night, we had still so much food leftoever that everybody just started packing food to go home after some exchanges.

What am I thankful for?  I’m thankful for having great people in my life who help get me through the thick and thin.  And I am thankful for the bounty of food as always.

Hope everyone had a great holiday, cheers!


Thai Cafe buffet

My family and I decided to try the only Thai Buffet that I have ever seen anywhere. Thai Cafe in Clairemont has been there for many years, yet I’ve never set foot in it much less try it. So finally today, with a coupon for 75 cent Thai tea/coffee, we gave this place a try.

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522645200_ab173f86a9.jpgWe tried both their Thai tea and coffee. The Thai tea was pretty good, not too sweet nor too watered down. The Thai coffee was decent, but it lacked some of flavors of a true Thai coffee. The best one that I’ve had is still a Thai restaurant in Rowland Heights.

Now as far as the food goes, one must remember that this was a buffet. And we all know how buffet food tends to lose what potential it might have had if it had been fresh due to it sitting on the steam table for some time. That was why I insisted that if we were to try this place out, we go during the weekday lunch rush. This way, the turnover rate is quite high. I was able to sample several items as it came straight out of the kitchen. Here were my plates…

522653061_27e45c5fe0.jpg My 1st plate had: (I don’t remember the actual names) spicy beans, tofu with a peanut sauce, fried spicy squid, and spicy noodle. The tofu and spicy noodle was hands down, the best tasting items, followed closely by the squid. The noodles had just the right amount of spice and the noodles weren’t sticky and cooked al dente. The tofu was good due to the sauce. I love peanut ANYTHING. Had it been fresh, it probably would’ve been even better. And during the course of the meal, I saw a new tray of spicy noodles being brought out, which I quickly went to retrieve some!

522645540_4170d8cd82.jpgHere was my 2nd plate: red curry, krab salad, some mushrooms, and more of the tofu. The red curry was very tasty. I didn’t get any of the chicken because I find that thai restaurants tend to over cook chicken til they are bone dry, but I did get the eggplant, which was delicious.

522653383_6814105e1f.jpgHere’s a plate of fresh pad thai that everyone shared. Even tho it was fresh, it lacked any flavor and just not worth eating, but my dad finished it off. According to him, it was one of the best…I guess we really do have different tastebuds.

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They had fresh spring rolls (as well as fried). On the buffet line, they were out so we asked one of the waiters if there was going to be anymore, the waiter went and asked the cook in the kitchen. Who then came out and told us that he’ll make us some right now and asked us how many we wanted! Wow, now that’s customer service! Well, as promised, the cook made the rolls and BROUGHT it to our table! It was so nice of them to do that. And the spring roll?…It was really good! The rice wrap was so fresh, and inside contained: cucumber, rice noodle, minced chicken, carrots, and cilantro. Yummy!

So my overall impression of Thai Cafe?….I would definitely come back, but only during their rush hours. When fresh, the food is fairly good. And at $6.99 for lunch, plus 75 cent drinks (w/ coupon from SDreader) it’s a steal! Give it a try!

Thai Cafe
4722 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, Ca 858-270-8303