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Day 3 and 4 in Oahu

Day 3

After a day of doing little to nothing, it was time to do something again on our vacation!  But before any of that, we needed a proper breakfast to start.  Given that CP’s ideal breakfast are blueberry pancakes, no matter where we are, I found him a place that actually served it (you’d be surprised how hard it was…every place wanted to put either bananas or pineapples, which is not all that surprising since we were in Hawaii).

Longhi’s

Now…those 2 pancake stacks look the same with the exception of the topping right?  It is actually the topping that gives it away: one is a buttermilk blueberry pancake (top) and the other is a ricotta blueberry pancake (bottom).  The difference?  One is a good, standard, pancake…the other, is a creamy, decadent disks that will fill you up 5x faster.  Just take a look at the creamy goodness inside:

I had made it through half of the stack before I decided that it was a better idea to walk away than to push through.  CP on the other hand had wiped clean his stack (of 3…instead of 2 because his was slightly lighter than mine).  After our yummy breakfast, we had to make a stop in the Lego store we walked by on our way to breakfast because both CP and myself are big fans of Legos…but CP was just so excited to see a store with nothing BUT Legos.

He ended up buying 3 Starwars character keychains (since it was buy 2, get 1 free) and walked out of the store triumphant and happier.  🙂  With this good start to the day, we decided to go see some of the “sights” of the island…you know, the tourist stops.  It is in us both to do as much one can during a vacation (it’s more myself than anyone), so since we spent one whole day practically doing nothing…it was time to do something!  That’s why we spent the next 2 hours or so at the Waikiki Aquarium.

We learned that this monk seal is best known for “energy conservation.”  CP and I both thought, “How appropriate for this vacation…perhaps we should take a page from its book and we could learn a few things or two on how to enjoy life.”  I loved this seal because: 1. it’s just a blubbery cuteness and 2. lives the life I wish I could.

After spending the time inside a wonderful aquarium and learning about the animal that embodies Bruno Mars’ newest single, “The Lazy Song,”  CP and I decided to do something just completely the opposite.  Here’s a shot of what I’m referring to:

Can you guess where we were headed off to next?…No?  Here’s another clue then:

CP and I were about to take a “hike into history” up Diamond Head Crater!  Let me tell you…it is one, fracking harsh hike into history.  Irony lost upon us? Nope.  Deterred?  Ha! We’re city people in a profession where people think sleeping is inefficient use of hours in the day.  So suck it up, get lathered up (with sunscreen…we’re not stupid, skin cancer is not our agenda for this hike), and “LEGGO!”

There’s CP as we left the paved lower part of the crater’s park, into the rough and uneven terrain. I took random shots throughout the hike, but we hit a point where I was using all my energy to keep myself from slipping and/or twisting my ankle on the uneven trail.

Just when we thought we would never get anywhere, we reached a break from the hike to this gorgeous view:

After a brief break to catch our breath, cool off, snap some shots of ourselves…we continued our trek northward!  Let’s just say it was more uphill climbs before we hit some very steep stairs, followed by a long dark tunnel, then more stairs that were even steeper, then another tunnel before ending at…A SPIRAL STAIRCASE! (insert gasps and shock…feel free…I’ll wait for you 🙂 ).  Once we made it to the top, we were reward with amazing views of the island.  A perfect view down the shoreline of Waikiki beach, and the lush mountains of Oahu.

Needless to say, CP and I were happy we had made it up to the top in one piece for wonderful views.  Even though we were both a sweaty mess, we were champions of the crater for that moment!

Let’s just say the trek down was a hop and skip for us by this point.  Filled with joy and the taste of victory, we sauntered to the car and headed for a victory cool off snack at Waiola again:

A lime and pink lemonade shaved ice over 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream for CP.

And a modest lychee and lilikoi shaved ice for me.  Plus…

A musubi!  You seriously didn’t think I would not get this while here right?  (Side note: I am a BIG fan of spam.  Every since I was little, Spam was a treat for me since Mom didn’t like for us to eat too much of it because at the end of the day, it was processed meat.  However, pan-fried Spam made it to our noodles and ramens, as well as scrambled eggs for dinner.  Needless to say, I ❤ Spam!)  CP on the otherhand had a lot of reserves about eating it.  He, like many mainlanders and the uninitiated, looked at this product only to think of all the rumors about how Spam is not real meat.  Or that it was what kids at camp would call “mystery meat”.  As I explained to CP what Spam was and wasn’t, he made a comparison that I thought was completely brilliant and people can understand: “So basically, it’s like a hot dog?”  Yes! It is!!  Spam is ground and processed pig, with spices and repackaged for consumers.  🙂

Anyways…the conclusion to this story: CP was not only convinced, but HOOKED on it.!  Mission: Complete.

We basically wound down the day by the poolside again at the hotel in the waning sun light.   For dinner that night, CP was craving a hefty hamburger so we ended up going to Cheeseburger Waikiki.  This is a burger chain and…I really did not have anything to say about this place because I was not entirely pleased with my turkey burger.  Not exactly what I would go for in Hawaii, but CP wanted his burger and according to him, it was quite delicious.

Day 4

The following day, we decided to enjoy our day at Dole Plantation! 

There were several attractions you could go to and learn about the plantation and about pineapples.  CP and I went to all 3 attractions.  First stop: The Pineapple Express (…yes, we both smiled and had an unspoken moment there).

On this narrated train ride, you learn about the Dole Company’s history as you ride through the pineapple fields.  During our visit, the fields were bare as the season had passed already.  Given like any proper tourist attractions, proper planning included planting other crops that Dole grows, as well as showing the other fruits that are grown on the island.  The varieties included: banana, mango, lychee, cacao, ti leaf, and others.  Learn something new everyday!

The Dole Garden was next, where you can walk through their garden area to look and learn about the native plants and the many uses of them.  It was a gorgeous garden and a nice learning experience.

We took a brief break to get out of the sun and re-nourish ourselves at the café in the shopping area.  My choice of refreshment?  A Dole Whip!

CP’s choice? A hot dog chili plate with rice:

Strange as it may sound and look, it worked out quite well !

After resting ourselves a little to let the food settle, we headed to the world’s largest maze!  The challenge: find all 8 “check-in” points in the maze as fast as you can.  With our combined powers of navigation, a few mistakes here and there, CP and I successfully made it through the maze in approximately 2 hours.  Victory yet again!

With our satisfaction of conquering the plantation, we headed north for our next mid-day snack stop and the signature food/destination of the North Shore: a shrimp truck.  Our destination: Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.

Tucked into a little forest clearing right off the road, you would easily miss the truck even with a GPS (we had this issue several times during our trip) and we did.  So we made a turn and made our way back.  Their menu is simple and minimalistic, all surrounding the key protein: shrimp.  Given that it was already well into the day, by the time we were there, all they had available was the shrimp scampi.  That was fine by us, all we wanted was to taste the delicious, plump (not-so) little shrimp.

The order comes with a pile of fresh, cook-to-order shrimp (sans the head…thank goodness) and 2 scoops of white rice.  The shrimp was cooked and bathed in a wonderful garlic, lemon, buttery goodness.  To put it simply, here was what CP said to me, “I normally don’t have the urge to lick my fingers, but…” *proceeds to lick his fingers*.  This is a sign because what CP said is true, we’ve eat BBQ and I have NEVER seen him lick his fingers.  Whereas I have no problem with doing so…whether BBQ, Indian, anything!  Thus, this just goes to show you how amazing this was.  I can still smell the strong, sweet garlic smell as I write about it and it lingered with us as we continued on.

We took the drive up to one of the beaches in North Shore to dip our feet in.  However, as you can see for yourself, a storm was brewing and yet, we thought it would just pass like it always did.  Well…let’s just say that did not go quite as so.  As we drove down the west side of the island back to Waikiki, the rain steadily started coming.  By the time we were back at our hotel in Waikiki, it was POURING!  It was flash thunderstorm and it was as if the sky turned into the ocean and gravity brought down all the water to us.  It was a mad house watching everyone trying to run for cover and the streets flooding within matter of seconds.  At one point, one of the sidewalks slightly below the hotel’s main road was a miniature moat or more aptly, a cesspool.

CP and I took refuge back in our hotel room to clean up, in hopes that the storm would pass.  And fortunately for us, it did!  We headed back out to grab dinner at Yotteko-Ya.

This ramen house was small and tucked at the far end of a strip mall.  Unassuming and you would never even think twice about it.  The only way you would go: recommendations or you just so happen to be stuck at that strip mall.  Otherwise, you would never find it.

The restaurant specialized in ramen, but also served fried rice and appetizers.  They also offered a set meal where you could choose an appetizer, ramen, and have either white rice or fried rice.  The ramen soup base choices included: Shoyu, Shio, or Paitan.  Paitan is a rich chicken/pork based broth and has a milky look from the cooked down chicken/pork bones.  Also, you can choose how firm you wish for your ramen to be cooked: firm or soft.

Both CP and I ordered the Paitan ramen with fried rice (no eggs for CP though) and the Kaarage/Gyoza (CP/me).

The ramen you see above you was something else!  I cannot even begin to tell you how wonder, flavorful, rich, smooth, and silky!  I had never had a broth this rich in flavor in all my ramen adventures.  This bowl and my memory of it is what I will use to judge all other tonketsu and paitan broths from here on out.  (I am a fan of Tajima, but putting their broth on a good day up against Yotteko-Ya…it is like a Hefty bag commercial – “HEFTY HEFTY HEFTY……wimpy wimpy wimpy”.)

The fried rice and appetizers kind of just fell to the sideline and to the back after we had our taste of the broth.  Man…I really need a good bowl of ramen right now.

There we go folks! Just two and half more days to go in Paradise!

Longhi’s
3 locations (Oahu and Maui)

Waikiki Aquarium
2777 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI

Diamond Head Crater

Waiola Shave Ice
2135 Waiola St
Honolulu, HI 96805

Dole Plantation

64-1550 Kamehameha Highway
Wahiawa, HI 96786

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
2 locations in Oahu

Yotteko-Ya
1960 Kapiolani Blvd, #214
Honolulu, HI 96826

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Breakfast at Crest Cafe

Weekends when it is not a travel day, is typically a sleep in day.  However, I have been craving breakfast foods lately and I just could not walk away from it.  So I grabbed my best friend LA to head to Hillcrest this morning to Crest Cafe since I had bought a Groupon (my new love).

We made it to Hillcrest a little past 8:30am and the streets were pretty empty so finding a spot on the street was not an issue.  Great start!  As we approached the cafe, I looked into the front windows and saw at least several tables open so that means no wait!!

LA and I were seated almost immediately in the tiny cafe.  I can  see how easily this place would get packed during peak brunch hours.  Given that we both gave up Sunday morning sleep, we were rewarded with a nice table right by the pick up window.  Now it was time to chow down!

That is..after I get coffee into my system because I do not enjoy getting less than 7 hours of sleep, plus not starting my day with a workout.  Thank goodness our waiter, a really nice guy, asked us if we would like to start off with some coffee and it took everything to keep myself from jumping up and say, “HECK YES!”

Once I got coffee into my system, everything seemed to be brighter despite the clouds in the sky.  Best part: it is unlimited refills!

For our entrees, LA went with the cafe’s signature dish, the Creme Brulee French Toast.

Now I will let you absorb this picture of the pile of amazing-ness!  It is 2 thick slices of bread, cut diagonally, soaked in a sweet egg wash and grilled on the flat top.   Topped a huge pile of the whipped cream, fresh strawberries, and a light caramel sauce.  The Crest Cafe Creme Brulee French Toast lived up to it’s name since it did remind me of creme brulee.  Although I loved the taste of it, but it was really sweet so I don’t think I could ever have the whole plate by myself.

Instead, I opted for the savory side for my entree with the Oretga Scramble:

Yes…it was a big plate of food!  Crest Cafe offers to make all their egg selections as either an omelette or a scramble and I prefer scrambles.  The Ortega comes with 4 eggs, Ortega chile, salsa fresca, hot pepper jack cheese and spicy chicken sausage.  It comes with a choice of hashbrowns/homestyle fries and toast, tortillas and beans or cottage cheese and sliced roma tomatoes.

The scramble was great! Granted, it was way too much protein for me, but I still loved it.  The spicy chicken sausage was hot and I wish I had more.  My side choices was whole wheat toast and hashbrowns.  Some of the toast was burnt, but the slices that weren’t made for a great vehicle for my scramble!

Hashbrowns are one of my favorite breakfast sides, but the problem is that I will admit…I prefer restaurants using butter on the griddle rather than oil.  It adds flavor while crisping the outer layers, but with oil…it just adds no flavor and it ends up just oily.  Sadly…these hashbrowns was just oily and tasteless.

Overall though, I had a great experience.  I had browsed through the reviews on Yelp and have heard of the terrible service others have received.  However, I can see that when this place gets packed that the 2 waiter team would be terribly swamped.

Having worked the restaurant industry, I know what it is like and I try my best to give them the benefit of the doubt.  I cannot say how good their lunch and dinner is, but breakfast was darn good.

Crest Cafe
425 Robinson Avenue
San Diego, California 92103


Carb Fest in San Francisco

The best way to sum up my weekend up in San Francisco would be: “Carb overload” and “House”.  I can probably guess that the first phrase shouldn’t need too much explanation, but the second one would need some background.

Before heading out to San Francisco, I naturally did my research to find myself some new places to eat because after going to San Francisco so many times, I realized that I had barely scratched the surface.  I had two days there and I was promising myself that I would try at least ONE new place each day.  The Saturday morning and afternoon was mine to use, as I was meeting up with CP and his dad that evening for dinner.  CP already expressed his desire to go back to Delfina Pizzeria in the Mission.  I was fine with that, but I always have an itch to try new places whenever I go out traveling.

Thus, I found myself wandering the city in morning after a light and quick complimentary breakfast at the hotel. (I needed my intake of fruits for the day!)  Taking the BART all the way to the Embarcadero, I walked to the Ferry Building where the hustle and bustle of the Saturday Farmer’s Market was in full swing.  My goodness…I had never seen such a busy Farmer’s Market and I really wished I had a fridge at that point.  There was so many goodies to buy, but alas…my stomach says nay and I had nowhere to put it L.  After my walk around the market, I walked up the Embarcadero and up to North Beach.

The walk was not as long as I thought it would be, but I was getting parched and growing hungrier.  I had found a little hole in the wall place I read up online and was wondering if I would ever find it.  Finally, my GPS on my iPhone told me I was getting close and ran straight into it!

The House

To be honest, I would have never thought to look into this restaurant had I not previously done my research.  It was off to the side from the main street and was very unassuming , small, and in a neighborhood that is primarily Italian, I would never thought to go here for Asian Fusion.

The interior was small, but they efficiently use every space possible.  I loved the clean interior with its simple decorations.  I felt very much at home when I stepped in.  When I saw how big the place was, I immediately understood why online reviewers highly recommended in getting a reservation here as it got crowded real fast for dinner.

I had just arrived possibly a minute before they opened up shop at 11:30am.  The waitress had to ask the back kitchen if they were open (aka ready for customers) and once she got the ok, I was seated by the window table.  Naturally as you can see from my picture, getting seated was NOT an issue.  I think this place would do better lunches during the weekdays and all around great dinner services.  However, I had the restaurant all to myself on this Saturday afternoon.

The waitress came with the menu and I already knew what I wanted to try: The house made wasabi noodles.  You had the choice of grilled pork or salmon.  I wasn’t feeling like seafood that day, so I opted for the pork, along with a nice tall glass of lychee black tea.

When the plate came out, I was so excited!  It smelled so good and I was literally drooling in anticipation.  Here’s a nice up close shot of the beauty:

Starting from the bottom up: a nice sizable portion of wasabi noodles was the foundation, followed by a pile of julienned cucumber that nestled the grilled pork, and to top it all off was The House’s kimchi.

The noodles were cooked al dente and had nice pull and chew to it.  However, I couldn’t quite get the “wasabi” in it which may be more subtle than in your face so the dark soy sauce covered the flavor.   Nevertheless, the noodles were absolutely delicious.  The cucumber I believe was to cool off the effects of spiciness, but since he dish wasn’t spicy (to my standards) it gave the dish a nice refreshing crunch.  Now the pork was something left to be desired.  It was just grilled pork, with no marinade, and was the saddest part of the whole thing.  My advice to the cooks at The House: MARINADE YOUR PORK!!!!  You have such great flavors going on here and then when you get to the pork, it’s pure disappointment.   Truth be told, I had to stop myself and realize that all the other components were there to make up for it.  The kimchi on top was not quite the traditional kimchi, with the spices and vinegar content toned down, and in addition to the napa cabbage, there was also red cabbage which gave the dish a nice “POP” in color.

Speaking of “color”, let’s just say my meal had a little “colorful” side to it as well.  During my meal, a man in a long, gray coat was walking up the sidewalk by the restaurant.  He stopped briefly by the window and then turned to me, made some random hand gestures and faces.  Then he reaches into his jacket to pull out a “skin” mag to show me.  I just turned away and the waitress only had a little apologetic smile and shrugs her shoulders.  I’m guessing that they’ve seen their share of crazies walking about in front of their restaurant.

Overall, I would definitely order this dish again but I think maybe next time I’ll try it with the salmon.  The House is now on my rotation list for San Francisco!

Whenever I am up in San Francisco, I try to meet up with my cousin who lives and works up there.  I turn to her whenever I am in the area and need my Chinese food fix!  Funny thing is, although she lives in San Francisco, she actually rarely eats Chinese food.  It’s just strange how when you’ve grown up eating Chinese food so much that when you are an adult and are able to make your own meal decisions, it becomes rarer for you to choose to eat the food you grew up with.  At least that’s how it is for my cousin and I, but we will both get our cravings every now and then.

My cousin gave me 2 options on where we could go get our Chinese food fix: either to a restaurant she had taken me to before, or trying a new one.  Now can anybody guess which one I chose? J

Shanghai House

My cousin had found this place also online and was concerned that there may be a long line since the restaurant was really small (do you notice a trend to places I eat?…) and that it was a Sunday, which is the typical day when Chinese families go out and have dim sum.  We kept our hopes high and when we drove by the restaurant, it was not crowded at all.  Score!!

We got to our seats and were presented the menu and a hot pot of tea…so far good.  There were 2 other tables with families eating and everything on their tables looked delicious!  My cousin and I were both so torn because we wanted EVERYTHING on the menu!  Our family had trained us both to be eaters and to never turn down food.  Yet, we both knew that would be impossible to order everything that we wanted.  Don’t get me wrong; between the 2 of us, we can do a lot of damage at a dinner table as evidenced by our eventual spread:

Oh this glorious spread was the BEST (Asian) meal I’ve had since…a very long time?  Let me guide you through our smorgasbord (starting from the far left):

Green Scallion Pancakes: these little babies were pan fried to perfection.  Nice, crispy outside with the soft, chewy interior.  This is the only time when I can say I really, REALLY enjoy scallions.  I absolutely hate scallions as I have bad food associations from my childhood, but presented in this form, I will gobble it right up!

Xiao Long Bao: ok, hands down.  I don’t care what I’ve said before on my site, but these…THESE little white, carb based, explosions of flavors were out of this world.  I had to stop myself from jumping up and down and running all around when I bit into one.  The skins of the bao was thin, not too doughy, but held together real nicely while it was steamed and as I cautiously picked them up with my chopsticks and spoon.  Perfect vehicle in holding the magic within, while giving away with the softest bite…I want to find the person who made these and take him/her home with me.  The inside was well balanced with just the right amount of pork and soup.   I slurped shamelessly with each first bite and happily reached for more.

As I have grown older, I found myself loving these little buns more and more.  I don’t quite know why I never really appreciated them when I was younger, but then again I was a misguided child.  So many years…v_v

Soup noodles with pickled vegetables and pork:  I must thank my cousin for getting me into this dish.  It’s a great, light noodle dish to balance out any meals.  When you have a table full of heavily flavored dishes and fried items, this soup noodle acts a great palate cleanser.  The flavors are simple, clean, and by no means flavorless.  The noodles were soft, but not mushy and worked perfectly with the crispy bean sprouts and pickled muster greens.

Shanghai style noodles: going from clean flavors, back to the heavy and in your face flavors.  The noodles were the big, thick ones that are more suitable for stir fried dishes, which was a little too soft in my opinion.  However, the massive amount of napa cabbage helped balance it out.  The strips of pork were tender and were NOT bland thank goodness.  The dish was really delicious, but it is definitely one of those dishes that stick to the ribs.  This was a nice throwback to my childhood.

Back before I ate everything under the sun, I was a meats and potatoes gal.  No, really…no joke!  I would not touch any seafood, anything green (unless they were the green gummi bears or jolly ranchers), and I limited my animal proteins to only chicken and pork.  Everything else, you can forget it!  I would rather starve (as a form of protest) then eat anything that fell into one of those 3 categories.  So back when I visited my uncles’ restaurant (one of which was this cousin’s dad), I would always order a giant plate of the Shanghai style noodles without the cabbage (or at least pick them out slowly).  I literally grew up on this dish and now when I think back on it, it wasn’t uncommon to polish off one of these plates by myself along with couple small bowls of other forms of noodles.

I guess there are some things that one never grows out of no matter how much you change over the years.  For me, my love of noodles will never be stamped out of me and this weekend just goes to show me that.  I am definitely a more conscious eater, but I realized that if I don’t enjoy what I eat, what’s the point of eating then?!

Houses of awesome noodles:

The House
1230 Grant Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133

Shanghai House
3641 Balboa St.
San Francisco, CA 94121