Hawaii favorites: 12 for 2012

This post is all about our favorites things to chow in Hawaii.  It was hard to pick only 12 things because there’s so much good food to eat in Hawaii.  Be sure to check out these places and let us know what you think!

In no particular order….

1.  Ahi Poke: seasoned raw fish, traditionally made with limu (seaweed), onion, and salt or soy sauce.

2.  Shave Ice: so many delicious flavors!  Made even more tasty with accoutrements such as condensed milk, mochi balls, azuki beans, or ice cream.

   

3. Puka Dogs:  This place is good enough to be featured on Anthony Bourdain and Food Network, so check it out to say you’ve been.  Plus the dogs are unique and delish!  We love the short lines and friendly staff at the Kauai (Poipu) location.

    

4.  Hamura Saimin: Legendary hole-in-the-wall noodle joint on Kauai.  Go early and be sure to get the large special, BBQ beef or chicken sticks, Diamond Head strawberry soda, and a slice of homemade lilikoi chiffon pie.

      

5.  Poi Donuts: The best poi (taro) donuts are from Kamehameha Bakery in Kalihi on Oahu.  The regular glazed donuts are to die for too. They literally melt in your mouth.  You will never look at Krispy Kreme the same.  Be sure to order ahead because the donuts sell out fast!

6. Fresh fruit:  From papayas to apple bananas, it’s all super good and relatively easy to find.  Just head to a local farmers market for the freshest local, organic stuff.

      

7.  Xiao Long Bao:  Let’s be honest, this is a staple on our list.  From DC to California to Hawaii, we’ll clearly go anywhere and everywhere for tasty dumplings.  The XLB in Hawaii are really good.  Better than anything we can get in DC and also reasonably priced!  Be sure to check it out.

8.  Breakfast at Cinnamons:  This restaurant in Kailua serves the best breakfast ever!!!  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the guava pancakes.   As with most other things that are fabulous, GO EARLY!!

9.  KCC farmers market: Held every Saturday morning on the grounds of Kapiolani Community College near Diamond Head.  Go early because it gets touristy and crowded FAST.  Lots of yummy prepared foods of every variety.  Hike off the calories and gluttony at Diamond Head.  We didn’t get around to going this time so no pics to share.

10. Traditional Hawaiian food: Poi, lau lau, lomi salmon, the works!  Try a luau for the entire experience. (sorry, didn’t take any pics of this)

11.  Malasads: fried balls of dough covered in sugar.  So delicious when eaten warm.  Nothing else like it in the world!!

12. Pastele: we like to think of this as a Puerto Rican version of a tamale, but made with green plantain/banana.  Sorry, didn’t take a picture. Ate it up too fast!

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Hawaii vacay – Part I

Mrs. Chow grew up in Hawaii so we went back to spend the holidays with her family on Kaua’i and Oahu.  This trip was filled with the things most important in life–family, friends, fun, and food!  We’ve been back for 10 days, and here’s what we miss most…..(after family and friends, of course!)…….

Stunning views….

        

Beautiful beaches…

Local drinks….

      

And, of course, the food!

Including desserts….

Dogs (as in puka dogs)…..

And donburi….

This barely scratches the surface of all the great food we ate, so another post or two is definitely in order.

While the food in Hawaii was great, the best part of the trip was spending time with family.  We can think of no better way to bring in the new year. Resolutions for 2012, you ask?  We’re actually saving them for a really fun game at my dad’s office holiday party. Goals?

Eat less?  We’ll see.

Blog more?  We’ll try.

Go back to Hawaii?  Definitely!

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LeoNora Bakery – take two!

He says potato, I say po-tah-to. He says tomato, I say to-mah-to. He says Senator In-NO-way (as in Inouye), and I say OMG–that is not how you pronounce it!  For those who don’t already know, Mr. Chow and I are opposites, especially when it comes to snack preferences. He’s a salty person, I’m a sweets person. I’ll take cookies over chips, brioche over bagels. ANYDAY.

In spite of my dessert proclivity, I don’t frequent bakeries in the area very often. Partially because I have a temporary restraining order against desserts that start with the letter C. But things are a changing in 2012 thanks to LeoNora Bakery.

My love affair with LeoNora began when I tasted their offerings at Arrowinebaguettes and then buttery brioche. Most recently, they opened up a cute little shop in Clarendon where the ovens are hot and the pain au chocolate is super fresh. We checked it out on opening day. Lots of free samples everywhere. Yum!

On our first visit we bought sweet little dessert thingamajigs (Gougeres?) that are perfectly delicate, airy, and sweet.  The main baker at the shop mentioned that the sugar on these things is purchased from the one and only place in the US that sells it.  Wow!  We savored each bite of these. And closed our eyes, too.  Mmmmmmm.

We also picked up a container of six mini hazelnut cakes.  Half were gone before we got home.  These cakes are really moist and have a great hazelnut taste.  Perfect for an after dinner dessert, early morning breakfast with a cup of tea, or just a snack for no reason at all!

Last but not least, we got two mini quiches.  One spinach variety, another ham(?) and cheese variety.  The crust on the quiche is amazing. When things are little, I fear they will be dry or hard.  But this was the exact opposite.  Every bite was buttery, flakey, and totally delicious.  A bit pricey for each, but totally decadent and worth it.

Please check this place out!!  It’s amazing, UH-mazing, a-MAYYY-zing (or however you want to pronounce it)!

LeoNora Bakery
1108 N Irving St
Arlington, VA 22201
703-300-2572
orders@leonorabakery.com
Twitter: @LeonoraBakery
Check out LeoNora’s website for additional baked items for sale, as well as delivery information.

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NYC Vacay – Recap

We just got back from a vacay in Hawaii!  It’s snowing here in DC, so naturally we dream of soft, sandy beaches and fresh coconut water, plus MORE VACATION!  Funny how our jet-lagged brains think of vacation right after vacation.  So what better way to reminisce about bygone holidays than by recapping our trip to NYC in early December.

This trip to NYC was very special for a number of reasons.  Family, food, fun, holiday decorations, and best of all….Hugh Jackman on Broadway. I would tell you to go and see the show now, but it was over faster than Kris Humphries could say annulment.

So fast forward to the part where we stop talking nonsense and get to the FOOD.

First stop: Macarons at Cafe M
My Aunt Cee frequents this cute cafe in Koreatown because it’s close to work and is cozy as a macaron-selling cafe should be. Cafe M sells other goodies and drinks, but we had our game faces on so we stuck with macarons. They have a ton of different flavors–all colorful and delightful. My favorite was vanilla. The cookie part of the macaron isn’t quite as delicate as Laduree; but for half the cost and 45 mins less of a wait, this is a great option.

      

After Cafe M we walked to Eataly–Mario Batali’s Italian Heaven.  I was gaining weight just dreaming of this place.  Unlimited amounts of pasta, pizza, and every other carb imaginable?  Yes, please.

  

Sadly, Eataly was a bit of a let down.  It was really crowded and all the lines were long.  It almost felt like a tourist trap.  However, the worst part was when we were told by the panini cashier that they ran out of mozzarella.  It’s like going to a Chinese restaurant and being told they ran out of MSG.  Crazy right?  I  immediately had a flash back of Brit Brit running around outside with a shaved head, sketchers shoes, and a big pointy umbrella.

In spite of the mozzarella shenanigan, we ordered two different panini and the arancino.  The panini bread was ridiculously hard and the other ingredients didn’t taste fresh or fabulous.

  

Eataly sorta redeemed itself with the arancini, but not enough to warrant a return trip.

After Eately, we jumped on the six and made a beeline for Laduree (for write up, see previous post).

After Laduree, we decided to trek to Totto Ramen for an early pre-theater dinner. Totto gets rave reviews on Yelp and other sites, so we endured a 60 minute wait in the cold to eat here.  Was it worth it?  YES!! Best meal of the day!

Totto’s ramen is seriously TO.DIE.FOR.  I ordered the spicy vegetable ramen and it was full of veggies, including fresh avocado. Yum!!  The only thing that didn’t work for me was the spiciness.  It was rated like one chili pepper on the heat index, but my lips were on fire so this might be more like 23.6 peppers on the heat index.  If you like spice, I’d recommend getting the spicy sauce on the side so you can add incrementally.

Mr. Chow and I did a quick switcharoo and I was a million times happier with the spicy miso ramen.  This was advertised as like five chili peppers on the heat index scale, but tasted like one.  The broth was still super tasty and the noodles were cooked to perfection.  The pork was also insanely good.  Thinly sliced and grilled with a nice brown char.  Fatty, porky deliciousness.  Yummmm.

My cousin, Kay, got the regular miso ramen and really loved it.  Overall, this place was a winna!  While we love Toki Underground and would go nowhere else in DC, Totto’s broth, pork, and noodles are so much better.  We recently had a bunch of ramen in Hawaii (where we think the ramen eating is pretty good) and even that paled in comparison to Totto.

This trip to NYC was so full of fabulosity, Kimora Lee Simmons would literally burst out of her Baby Phat jeggings.  We can’t wait to go back!

Cafe M
315 5th Ave
(between 31st St & 32nd St)
New York, NY 10016
(212) 213-8393
http://bakerym.com/index.asp?

Eataly
200 5th AVENUE
NEW YORK, NY 10010
Entrances on 5th Avenue and 23rd Street
(212) 229.2560
http://eatalyny.com/

Totto Ramen
366 W 52nd St
(between 8th Ave & 9th Ave)
New York, NY 10019
(212) 582-0052
http://www.tottoramen.com/

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NYC Vacay – Laduree

This time of year is magical, fun, and whimsical. Just like the macaroons at Laduree in New York City. It’s no secret that Mrs. C LOVES macarons so there was no way we could go to NYC without a stop here.
  

We tried a variety of flavors–raspberry, pistachio, caramel, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, cinnamon raisin–just to name few. The verdict is that these macaroons are delicious. The cookie is light and the filling is so full of flavor. Our favorite flavor is the caramel. We could eat a whole box in 2 minutes flat. But the fancy box and six macarons set us back $25, so we savored each bite.

Santa didn’t bring Mrs. C a trip to Paris this year, so for now she is thankful to have Laduree macarons just a few hours away in NYC.

Ladurée New York
864 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10021
Phone: 646-558-3157

Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.
Sunday: 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

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Oriental Gourmet – Weekend Dim Sum Lunch

Alas, we are revealing one of our favorite hidden gems–the weekend dim sum brunch at Oriental Gourmet restaurant in the Lee-Harrison shopping center in North Arlington.  The Lee-Harrison shopping center is one of the last places we’d expect to find an authentic Chinese lunch. I think we walked by Oriental Gourmet at least 37 times; absolutely clueless about what we were missing, but probably really hungry. Go figure.   

We tend to frequent Oriental Gourmet more often when the weather gets cooler because some of our favorite items are hot and soupy.  The thing we love most is the salty soybean milk.  At $1.65, this is a bargain, not to mention that it’s big enough for two to share.  Don’t let the name of this dish fool you.  It sounds boring, but it’s totally the opposite.  Warm, salty, spicy, chunky soy milk with scallions, pickled vegetables, and pieces of Crispy Cruller.   You must try this dish.  The only other place we’ve been able to find this in the DC-area is a Chinese place in Tysons by the Hummer dealership.  But the food went downhill a while back so we stopped going.

Another favorite is the Beef Sirloin Noodle Soup ($7.25).  You can get it spicy or regular, and also with or without tripe and all the other chewy good stuff.  I prefer regular (as in not spicy and not full of cow “pasta”), but Mr. Chow likes it spicy with all the good stuff.  This is a dish we can find in a bunch of other Chinese restaurants, but Oriental Gourmet’s version is good because it’s not too bland and the meat is tender and plentiful.  Secret note: our favorite version of this dish is actually at a Chinese restaurant in the Fair Oaks Mall!

The xiao long bao is another staple (of course!). Not as good as Din Tai Fung, but still very tasty. $5.25 is also a pretty good price for 8 medium-sized juicy buns. This dish takes a bit longer to make, so order it as soon as you sit down. Other faves are the rice cakes with shredded pork ($9.25) and the scallion pancake aka Chinese scallion crepe ($1.95). The rice cake is really tasty and is not something we can easily find at other Chinese restaurants. The scallion pancake is easier to find, but the version at Oriental Gourmet tastes homemade with lots of fresh scallions!

  

If you’re like us, when you find something that is secretly really good, you want to hog it all to yourself.  But we adore the folks at the restaurant and really love the food at Oriental Gourmet, so we want to tell the world about it (i.e. all six of you reading this!). Now that you know our little secret, please go check out this place. Don’t hog–tell all your friends about it too!:)

Oriental Gourmet Restaurant
2503 N. Harrison St
Arlington, VA 22207
703-534-7182
Dim Sum Lunch: Saturday and Sunday, 1130am until 2 or 230pm

Updated with image of menu below for your viewing pleasure.

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Ray’s^3

Our run of amazing 3’s has come to an end.

The inflatable ghosts are packed up for the winter.  And Ray’s^3 simply did not live up to what we’ve come to expect from anything in the “Ray’s” chain. Mr. Chow is a big fan of the Ray’s restaurants.  Like big time.  Huge.  Humongo.  So his expectations were not high, but rather–appropriate–given the successful history with Ray’s.

We dined at Ray’s the night before Thanksgiving.  It was empty when we walked in around 7:30pm.  We chalked it up to the holiday.  But perhaps that wasn’t it.

The menu at Ray’s consists of the items from all the other Ray’s restaurants, including steaks, hamburgers, and steak and cheese sandwiches.  Plus a couple of other fun things.  Note that the online menu doesn’t match the menu we ordered from in the restaurant.

Sadly, Mr. Chow’s meal was a big disappointment.  Mr. Chow ordered the Bertolucci steak, which is a hangar steak with roasted bone marrow.  The meal comes with fries, bread, and a salad.  The bad: the fries were cold, the salad was drenched in dressing, and the steak was a really small (1x1x8) cut of meat that was cooked almost well done although ordered medium.  The good: The bone marrow was tasty and the bread was pretty good, too.

   

I ordered the spicy chicken (I can’t remember the actual name of this dish).  The meal comes with 2 pieces of spicy fried chicken, cornbread, mac and cheese, sauces, and coleslaw.  I subbed a green salad for coleslaw.

   

The good: The chicken was really moist and crispy, and the the piranha sauce was tasty as usual.  The bad: The service left much to be desired, especially on a night when there were only about 6 other tables filled in the restaurant.  The chicken was not spicy or flavorful enough.  I had to dip it in sauce for maximum flavor explosions.  The sauces offered were Piranha and what tasted like pureed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce from a can; spicy.  The cornbread, like the fries, was stale…..it tasted like it’d been sitting out for a day or two.  The mac and cheese was grainy.  I could taste the flour or something in the mac and cheese.   At the end of the meal, I had half my chicken left, and just about all the other food the meal comes with.  I didn’t bother to take any of it home.  Overall, a humongo disappointment from Ray’s.

Mr Chow said as we left the restaurant, perhaps good things don’t come in threes.  If you want a steak or a hamburger we recommend going to the originals: Ray’s Hell Burger or Ray’s the Steaks.

Ray’s To the Third
1650 Wilson Boulevard
On The Corner Of N. Quinn Street
Arlington, VA 22209
703-974-7171
http://raystothethird.com/

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