Hilo, Hawaii

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If you’re headed to Hawaii and want to escape the crowds and noise, Hilo town, on the Big Island is a nice detour off the beaten path. Hilo is still untainted by mass commercialization and retains its rural, small town  feeling that makes for a decent day trip. Of course, this is just a small snipet of what Hilo has to offer, but there’s always next time, right? We jumped on a crack -of -dawn flight from Oahu to Big Island (Hilo) and spent a day there, returning on a late flight.

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Ken’s House of Pancakes

1730 Kamehameha Ave. /Hilo, HI /website

We arrived in Hilo around 8am and were in need of coffee and something to eat.  Ken’s is a popular breakfast spot with the locals, it’s open 24 hours and serves an array of traditional breakfast as well as local favorites. Of course, they are famous for their thick and fluffy pancakes. Folks, it’s nothing special here and not at all fancy but it’s an institution and they do have the breakfast basics.

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Hilo Farmer’s Market

400 Kamehameha Avenue/ Hilo, Hawaii/ website

This is the place to go for local fruits and vegetables. They have it all and the selection is good. I always find something new to me each time I visit. This time, I was introduced to dragon eye fruit (longan) which is similar in texture and flavor to lychee (my favorite). Below are the branches from which the fruit grows.

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Hilo Flower Market

400 Kamehameha Ave/Hilo, Hawaii

Right across the street from the farmer’s market is a small flower market stocked with anthuriums, lilies, orchids and a few others. This is the best place to pick up a bundle of fresh flowers. Not only are they all beautiful, but the prices are very reasonable as well.

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 Rainbow Falls

Wailuku River State Park/website

After the market excursion, head west of downtown Hilo on Waianuene Avenue toward Rainbow Falls. It’s an easy waterfall to see and requires no hiking if you’re not up for it. The mist from the falls usually produces rainbows but not on this day. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful sight.

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We opted to take a short walk up to the Boiling Pots area above the falls. On the way, we saw this massive banyan tree and loads of ginger plants perfuming the air along the walk.

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Above the waterfall at the Boiling Pots. On occasion, you’ll see a few people cooling off in the water.

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 Big Island Candies

585 Hinano Street/ Hilo, Hawaii/ website

By this time, you’re going to be ready for an afternoon pick-me-up. Program that GPS and find your way to Big Island Candies for sweet treats. They have a coffee bar and huge selection of locally made candies, cookies, and chocolates. I remember back in the day when they just did shortbread cookies. They were famous for their buttery macadamia shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate. Simply delicious. Since then, the selection has exploded and there’s something for everyone and so many options it can be a challenge to decide which ones make it back with you.

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52 Weeks: 35/52

These last days of summer have been speeding by. Some weeks, I just don’t know where the time went. In a way, it’s a good thing in my world that summer is coming to an end. I’m ready for the city to quiet down and for the days to get a bit cooler. This week was over in a flash for me and the camera phone did not get much action, but here’s a glimpse of the week:

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San Diego had the Festival of Sail going on so we rode down on bikes and took a walk around. It was mobbed and hot so we didn’t stay long but I did enjoy seeing the tall ships.

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Panorama view.

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On the way to Coronado at sunset.

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On a hike in Hawaii and trying to keep from getting the red mud all over my shoes. So far, I’m doing a good job!

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Mochi ice cream, green tea flavor. Stay tuned for a Hawaii post and find out where to get really good mochi ice cream in a rainbow selection of flavors.

Hope your Labor Day is filled with good times and maybe a BBQ or two. Have a good one!

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52 Weeks: 34/52

Hey hey! It’s been a great week in Hawaii exploring new places and revisiting oldies while reconnecting with friends and family. The week was jam packed and lots of fun. Here’s a peek at some offbeat stuff:

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There are few things better than fresh picked wild fruit. At the moment, I can’t think of anything sweeter than guavas from the tree in the middle of nowhere.

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Sunset from Top of Waikiki.

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North Shore tourist must-do: Matsumoto’s Shave Ice. Umm… quality is slipping and not as good as back in the day, but it’s the only game in town.

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Trespassing to photo abandoned buildings. Always fascinating.

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We braved the shrimp truck and didn’t die. Would you risk it at a truck that looks like this?!? Normally, the answer is a resounding “no” but it was somewhat reassuring that turnover was high.

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Huge banyan tree on the way to find some ruins.

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Super hot chiles. Small but mighty. These tiny peppers pack a punch to the mouth and a burn to the gut but they’re good.

Hope you all are having a smashing week!

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52 Weeks: 33/52

We had a nice break from the same-ol routine and got out of town for a few days. Here’s what we were up to:

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Blue skies

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Goodbye dreary SF…

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Hello sunny Oahu!

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Diamond Head crater

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We hit the ground running, no slouching for us. Soon as the plane landed, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and hoofed it up to the top of Diamond Head. It felt good to stretch our legs after the long plane ride.

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There must always be an incentive for hard work… Shaved ice rewards afterward. My favorite flavor is lilikoi (passion fruit).

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Cooling off after a long and hot/sticky walk.

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Banyan trees are plentiful here.

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After seeing this, I’m certain I won’t be getting my hair done by Daniel.

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Furikake Popcorn

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Know what goes well with an ice cold beer? Chips you say? Meh. Peanuts? Sure, but not what I have in mind today. If you’ve never had furikake popcorn and you enjoy a frosty beer, then this snack was made to pair with that beer… especially if it’s of the Japanese variety. I did you a favor and will proceed to dazzle you with my incredibly easy and fuss free snack that’s a sure crowd pleaser. Did I mention there’s no stove or oven involved in this goodness? I know, almost too good to be true. If you’ve got a microwave, you’re half way there. Let’s get to popping.

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Furikake Popcorn:

Serves 2 as a snack

1/4 cup popcorn kernels

1 paper lunch bag

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

1/4 tsp salt

1 T furikake (Japanese rice seasoning)

1/4 cup spicy rice crackers

1/4 cup nori

Place popcorn kernels in a brown paper lunch bag with the toasted sesame oil. Fold ends twice and shake to distribute the oil among the kernels. Microwave on high for 2- 3 minutes (depending on microwave) or until there are 4-5 seconds between pops. Mine took exactly 2 minutes.

Add the furikake and rice crackers to the popcorn bag while popcorn is hot. Shake up and transfer to a bowl. Top with nori and enjoy while hot.

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Fish Taco Enchilados

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In addition to sandy beaches and great climate, San Diego is known for excellent fish tacos. Interestingly, these delicious fish tacos are made in the Baja style which can be had by driving an extra mile past San Diego. The real deal. Hands down, the best fish tacos I have tasted so far are in Baja. Thankfully, we can get some pretty great tasting tacos right here in town. I usually go for the fried fish over grilled, but have found through tasting trial and error, some places are better at one or the other. Lately, I’ve been loving the enchilado tacos which are marinaded in a chile sauce and then grilled or cooked on a flat top. I’ve been making my version of enchilados almost every weekend. I’m definitely hooked and these tide me over until the next time we can get down to Baja… or our local taco truck.

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Fish Taco Enchilados:

1 pound fresh grouper fillets (mahi also works well), sliced into 1 1/2- 2″ strips

4 cloves garlic

1/3 cup grapeseed oil

3/8 oz dried chile (25% chile arbol, 75% togarashi), blackened

1 T shoyu

1/4 red onion, sliced very thin

1/2 habanero chile, sliced very thin

pinch dried oregano

juice from 1/2 lime plus additional lime wedges for garnish

cilantro for garnish

cabbage, thinly sliced

2 radishes, thinly sliced

2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

sea salt to taste

Chile Marinade:

In a wide mouth container, combine garlic cloves, chiles, grapeseed oil, and soy sauce. Using an immersion blender, blend until until chiles and garlic are minced. Set aside. As the mixture rests, it will separate and the chiles will sink to the bottom. Just stir with a spoon to get it all incorporated again once ready to use.

Habanero Relish:

In a small bowl, combine the red onion slices with the habanero. Squeeze the lime juice over and toss with a fork. Add the oregano, sprinkle with salt and set aside.

Prepare the grill. Wile you’re waiting for the coals to be ready, marinade the fish.

Marinade the Fish:

Place the sliced fish fillets in a pan large enough to accommodate all in a single layer. Spoon the chile marinade over the fillets, coating both sides well. Cover and refrigerate.

When the grill is ready, remove the fish from the refrigerator and sprinkle the fillets with salt. Grill to desired temperature, flipping the fillets over half way though. They cook very quickly so don’t even think about stepping away to tend to another task. When they are properly grilled, place on a clean dish and cover with foil.

Prepare the tortillas:

Place your tortillas on the cool side of the grill. Let heat up and soften on one side, then turn over and immediately sprinkle 1/8 cup cheese onto the middle of each tortilla. Grill until the cheese is melted. This should only take around 30 seconds. As all grills cook slightly differently, you might have to move the tortillas between the cool and warmer sections to ensure they don’t char or burn.

Place one slice of fish directly on top of the melted cheese. Top with cabbage, habanero relish, radish, and cilantro. Finish off with a squeeze of lime.

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52 Weeks: 32/52

Heat and humidity is creeping back so we spent the days trying to be as cool as can be. That means lots of air conditioner and cold drinks. Here’s a glimpse of what this past week looked like:

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Checking out an exhibit by James Drake at MCASD: An Anatomy of Drawing and Space. Interesting drawings and prints but my favorite was the video installation of huge pigs devouring the contents of a dinner table.

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Ending the day with a cold beer at Border X Brewing.

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This fancy low rider was parked outside.

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Another Space Invader installation that I just discovered in downtown.

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Relaxing with a whiskey and soda while watching Johnny Marr cover Smiths songs. Not bad. I’ll take what I can get.

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This speaks for itself.

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Vegetarian tacos from San Diego Taco Company.

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Almost twilight in Logan Heights.

Happy weekend to you all!

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Esquites

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One great thing about summer is the simple pleasure of having a few extra hours of sunlight in the day to sit on the porch sipping a mint julep– when life’s busy schedule allows. On days when this is not possible, I take pleasure in the bounty of a summer corn harvest. I love corn in almost all renditions. There is hardly a dish I would pass up, unless it included mayonnaise. In that case, it’s all yours. I’ve been known to grab a styrofoam cup brimming with esquites from street vendors when in Mexico. I can’t resist. This is truly a pleasure that has yet to disappoint me. I thought I’d share this simple recipe because it’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy corn. Of course, there are infinite ways to make esquites, but in my opinion, the simpler, the better to let the natural sweetness of summer corn really shine through.

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Esquites:

3 ears of corn, remove kernels and set aside

1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped fine

1/2 onion, diced

2 clovces garlic, minced

2 T  olive oil (more if needed)

salt to taste

2/3 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half vertically

cotija cheese for garnish

cilantro, a few sprigs for garish

1 lime, cut into 4 wedges

crema (Mexican sour cream), optional

Saute the onion and garlic with olive oil on medium heat for 1 minute. Cover and let cook on low heat until they turn translucent. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the chopped serrano chile and corn kernels and turn heat up to medium high. Saute for 1-2 minutes and add salt to taste. When corn has softened a bit, remove from heat and add the tomatoes. Stir to combine and transfer to a bowl. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and cotija cheese. Enjoy with sour cream and a squeeze of lime.

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Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Toast

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I’ve never had $10 toast and likely never will. For me, it’s more of refusal to cave to a ridiculously over priced trend and shining example of band wagon jumping. It’s just not for me, but you go ahead if that’s your thing. I won’t judge. There’s absolutely no reason for me to fork over an obscene amount of change for toast, however fancy. Yes, it looks pretty and is hand made, not to mention the convenience which I suppose is a huge draw and is all very tempting, I know.

Since anyone can be handy in the kitchen and perfectly capable of growing his/her own tomatoes, stopping by a farmer’s market, or selecting produce over hot cheetos we can make our own version of fancy toast. It tastes great, comes together quickly and with minimal ingredients. The best part? You can make an entire tray for $10 or less. Run and tell that.

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Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Toast:

yield: 2 servings

1 ripe avocado

1 small clove garlic

pinch of kosher salt

juice of 1/2 lime

2 sprigs cilantro

handful of heirloom tomatoes, quartered or sliced

1 T avocado oil

2 slices sourdough bread

Quick Guacamole:

Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and salt together to make a paste. Add the avocado and mash to desired consistency. Add lime juice. Set aside.

Assembly:

Toast the sourdough slices, spread a generous amount of guacamole on 1 side of each slice. Top with tomatoes, cilantro garnish, drizzle with avocado oil and sprinkle with sea salt to taste.

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Salmon Collars

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I was on a mission to find some grouper and maybe some sardines this weekend at the fish market. No sardines, yes grouper, and some delicious salmon collars. What a nice surprise. Fish collars are far less expensive cuts of fish than the commonly seen and beautifully displayed fillets. They have an abundance of flavor and are usually quite meaty. A simple preparation and restraint in ingredients is the best way to enjoy this lesser known piece of fish.

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Broiled Salmon Collars:

2 salmon collars

Sea salt

1 T toasted sesame oil

Sansho leaves for garnish

1 lime, juiced

1/2 cup soy sauce

Prepare the Collars:

Fresh fish should not have an overwhelming “fishy”odor, but nevertheless, it will have some sort of fish smell. This technique aids in lessening the fish smell while softening any “fishy” taste. Pat the collars dry and sprinkle sea salt on both sides. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for 15- 20 minutes. Gently remove the salt with a paper towel and wipe each side while patting excess liquid dry. It’s important to dry the fish as much as possible before cooking.

Ponzu Dipping Sauce:

Combine the soy sauce and lime juice in a non-reactive container and set aside.

Preheat the Broiler:

Place collars skin side up on a foil lined sheet pan. Lightly brush on sesame oil and season with salt to taste. Broil 5 minutes and then flip collars over and broil another 5-7 minutes until done and the ends are a bit charred. Remove from broiler and garnish with a few sansho leaves.

Serve with brown rice and a simple salad.

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