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Friday, September 24, 2010

Hawaii - North Shore Adventure

Hale'iwa North Shore
ALOOOOHA (again)! When I was in Hawaii, one of the things my friend and I did was take a day trip to Haleiwa, a small surf town located on the North Shore. From Waikiki, it takes almost 2 hours to reach Haleiwa by public bus. On our itinerary for this trip: Matsumoto Shave Ice, Shrimp Trucks, and Surfing!

[Just as a side note, we booked our trip through Expedia, which offered to give us a "Complimentary Breakfast and Orientation" to the island that morning at the Hard Rock Cafe. It turns out they were just trying to sell us tour and adventure packages. We went to check it out (mostly for the free breakfast :P) and found that it wasn't worth the time since we already had plans for what we wanted to do. If you did NOT book tours/adventures or research the island beforehand, you should check out what they have to offer, but if you already booked your own tours/adventures (like we did), I'd suggest skipping the free mini corn muffins, juice and coffee and using your time doing said tours/adventures. After the "orientation," my friend and I lamented that we could've arrived at the North Shore two hours earlier if we had skipped their breakfast and gotten something to eat on our own along the way.]

Inside the Hard Rock Cafe. It was a cloudy, drizzly morning so we were, indeed, praying for surf and good weather.
Now, back to my North Shore Adventure! In the morning, I called North Shore Surf Girls to book our afternoon surfing lesson. Don't let the name fool you: they teach both guys and gals! :) They actually have the option of booking a photographer for your lesson (with an additional fee) to catch all the glory moments along with the wipeouts, but through some miscommunication, the photographer wasn't able to come for our lesson. Total bummer! :(

We arrived at the North Shore around noon and decided to grab some sustenance before heading to our 3 o'clock lesson. (Mini muffins just weren't going to cut it if we were going to hit the waves!)

Matsumoto Shave Ice
Matsumoto Shave Ice
Our first stop was Matsumoto Grocery Store to get Matsumoto Shave Ice. The store was a little ways down from our bus stop and the shave ice is world famous for good reason! Even on a Monday, there was a line! After a mini life lesson in patience, I ordered a small Lilikoi (passionfruit), Guava, and Mango Shave Ice with Red Beans and Ice Cream. My friend kindly pointed out that I got "all the weird flavors" but I thought it was a beautiful tropical mix. I would order it again without hesitation! :)

Shave ice is different from a snow cone in the sense that shave ice is more like powdered snow and doesn't have the crunch you normally get with a snow cone. The red bean and vanilla ice cream (it's the only ice cream flavor they have) went so well with the flavors of the shave ice. My friend mentioned that if they just sold red bean and ice cream, she'd order it and I'd have to say I'd agree! As an Asian girl, I've had my share of red bean ice cream and I have to say that Matsumoto's homemade sweetened red beans with ice cream tasted better than any store-bought red bean ice cream I've ever tried!

Line for Matsumoto Shave Ice
Check out the line! It extends from the inside counter all the way out the store and around the side. After you order, you have to wait some more as they make each order! If this is the line on a cloudy Monday, I'd hate to see the line on a hot weekend afternoon!
Matsumoto Shave Ice Menu
Here's the inside counter and all the flavors. The combinations are endless! If you feel overwhelmed, you can try one of their suggested combos. My friend ordered the Rainbow and enjoyed it.
Matsumoto Shave Ice T-shirts
The beauty of Matsumoto Grocery Store (aside from the shave ice) is that while you wait for them to make your shave ice, you can do a bit of shopping. They have a wide array of shirts and trinkets that bear their name. Even if you don't end up buying anything, you at least get the chance to browse around to kill some time. They do sell some snacks and drinks (hence the "grocery store"), but the majority of their inventory was souvenir-based.

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
Garlic Shrimp Scampi
After doing some research on things to do on Oahu, I found that multiple travel and food sites suggested eating at a shrimp truck on the North Shore. In particular, people recommended Giovanni's and I was elated to find that one of their locations was in Haleiwa. We just had to walk further down the main road from Matsumoto's.

On first approaching the truck, I was actually a little apprehensive. The truck itself looked a bit shady covered in "graffiti." (I had read that Giovanni's allows its customers to sign and leave messages on its trucks.) In my head, I thought, "Man, if I had come here with my parents, we wouldn't have come within 100 yards of this place. They'd be horrified to see me here right now!" LOL! Fortunately, I had come with my friend and we are both pretty adventurous eaters so we pressed on. The small crowd eating at the picnic tables in front of the truck was also a bit reassuring.

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck
When we finally got our orders and dug in, our mouths were in garlicy-shrimpy heaven! The scampi was piping hot and super flavorful! I don't know how they cooked the garlic but even the large chunks were finely roasted without any of the typical garlic harshness. It was quite literally one of the BEST shrimp dishes I've had in my life! My mouth waters at the thought of it as I type this post and my heart breaks at the realization that I can't eat this meal again any time soon... </3 *tear*
Needless to say, we demolished our orders! The scampi was a bit on the oily side, which you can see in the photo, but their menu said they cooked with olive oil so we weren't as bothered by it. Giovanni's also had a Hot and Spicy version on the menu, but I hear it's not for the timid. The guy that was sitting next to us was literally tearing and sniffling as he was eating it. I was very tempted to ask him if he were willing to trade one of his shrimp for mine, but ended up thinking better of it. (We didn't have drinks with us so if the spiciness really was too much, I'd be DOOMED!) I actually read somewhere that you can get the hot sauce on the side so the next time I find myself at Giovanni's, I'm definitely going to do that. (whenever that might be... :'S)

North Shore Surf Girls Surfing Lesson
North Shore Surf Girls Instructor
With our tummies happy, we made our way back to where we were supposed to meet our surf instructor. Carol, our instructor and owner of the school, met us and took us to the surf location. Fortunately, the sun had come out by then and the beach wasn't that crowded. Perfect weather for surfing! Carol gave us a land lesson first and then we paddled out and hit the waves. To my surprise, surfing was a lot easier than I had thought! All the lunges and squats I had done in preparation for my Hawaii trip paid off! :) Even Carol complimented me on my "control" of the board saying that I never stand up until I know I'm fully balanced! Yay for finding a sport I'm actually good at! :D My friend only did the 1-hour lesson but I booked the 2-hour one for myself so once my friend paddled back to shore, I was basically having a private lesson. Carol was extremely accommodating and let you dictate when you wanted to ride the waves by your comfort level and confidence. I would highly recommend this school if you're looking for surfing lessons!
North Shore Surf Girls Contact
There were surfing lessons available in Waikiki from other schools, but I thought Waikiki was too crowded for a beginner like me. North Shore is where they host all the big surfing competitions during the winter so what better place to learn how to surf than where the pros do it! Beautiful beaches, nice waves, uncrowded... you couldn't ask for more! Carol did say that the waves were going westward that day, which was strange for this time of the season, but that didn't hinder us at all. While riding one of the waves, a sea turtle even swam by me. :D The entire experience was truly remarkable. The only thing that I would've done differently was insist on wearing reef shoes. My friend and I ended up getting some cuts on our feet when we fell into the water and stepped on the reef so I would highly recommend wearing reef shoes if you don't tread water that well.
North Shore Sunset
Now that I know how to surf, my next step is... TO LEARN HOW TO SWIM! (Or relearn, actually. I had lessons in elementary school but those didn't end too well.) I know, I know... You're thinking: Why the HECK would you go surfing if you don't know how to swim!? But that's all part of the adventure, right? Haha, a truly memorable trip indeed. :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hawaii - McDonald's Regional Food

Hawaii McDonald's Menu
About a month ago, I went on a grand adventure with my good friend to the beautiful island of Oahu. As much as we wanted to eat to our heart's content (hey! we were on vacation after all!), we realized that our desire to retain our "beach bodies" prevented us from eating anything too extravagant. However, that desire didn't stop us from dining at the local MickyD's. With Hawaii's ample array of local and regional cuisine, you may be wondering why I would waste my time and tummy on something as mundane as McDonald's. BUT it turns out, the McDonald's in Hawaii have a special regional menu that features items that can only be found in Hawaii! (Did you notice anything different on the menu?) When I learned this, I knew I had to check it out!
Hawaii McDonald's Saimin
Saimin is a popular local dish in Hawaii and story has it that the owner of the first McDonald's in Hawaii convinced McDonald's execs to add the item to the menu after taking them to some local saimin places.

While on the island, I did not get a chance to try authentic saimin (something I get to save for next time!) but I would bet big money that it isn't anything like this bland cup of noodle McDonald's gave me. The noodles faintly reminded me of soba noodles and I had to add the soy sauce to get any hint of flavor. The poor excuses for naruto (the swirled fish cake) and chasiu (bbq pork) along with the soggy seaweed made for a disappointing dish. I wasn't expecting anything extraordinary from McDonald's but I wasn't really expecting this either. Haha, at least I get to say I tried it.
Hawaii McDonald's Taro Pie and Local Breakfast Platters

Hawaii McDonald's Taro Pie
Taro Pie
I had read that McDonald's had Haupia (coconut) Pie, which many people enjoyed and I was hoping to try, but at the time we went, they only had fried taro pie. I'm not a big fan of McDonald's fried pies, but I wanted to give this a try since you can't find it on the mainland. The ad in the window showed a pale purple filling (quite typical of taro-filled pastries), but it actually came in a strange, slightly off-putting pink color. The pie itself did not have much taro-flavor. When taken in small bites, it just tasted like sweetness.
Hawaii McDonald's Local Deluxe Breakfast Platter
Hawaii McDonald's Local Deluxe Breakfast Platter
Local Deluxe Breakfast Platter
One morning on the island, we ordered the deluxe breakfast platter, which came with spam AND Portuguese sausage. (You can order the platter with either the spam or Portuguese sausage too.) The rice was surprisingly good for a fast food place. I was expecting it to taste like Minute Rice, but it actually tasted like it came from a rice cooker. The Portuguese sausage reminded me of those long, reddish Chinese sausages because of the tough texture, but the Portuguese sausage wasn't sweet. The platter came with a small packet of soy sauce, but adding it to the eggs or rice would've been a sodium overload. (The spam was salty enough.)
Hawaii McDonald's Fresh Cut Pineapple
Hawaii McDonald's Fresh Cut Pineapple
Fresh Cut Pineapple
In Hawaii, when you order an Extra Value Meal, you receive a small cup of fresh cut pineapple. Something that I noticed while eating at Hawaii McDonald's is that their prices were slightly more expensive than the prices at locations on the mainland. I imagine the pineapple may be playing a role in this. I didn't order a value meal so I can't really comment on the pineapple, but I thought it was just something interesting to note.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

So It Begins...

I've been reading blogs about cooking and baking for quite some time and recently started contemplating about writing in a journal again. (I used to have a xanga back in high school, but that kind of just faded away. Teenage angst sort of does that. Haha!) On a whim (quite literally as I was brushing my teeth before going to bed), I decided to start blogging again. I just love cooking, eating, baking, and trying new things! And I've been doing it for awhile now. So... I thought it was high time to document my culinary adventures - whether they be my own in my kitchen or my experience in someone else's - and to log whatever life decides to throw at me. So... let the adventures begin!
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