Oven Roasted Tomatoes

I don’t know who/what/when I was inspired to first try putting tomatoes in an oven, but I know that I was just in the early aughts of my twenties, living in my Berkeley apartment and getting very into cooking. Since my first apartment was small, cheap and didn’t have a real oven, my first batch was made in a countertop version that I hope I never have to use again in my adult life. These oven roasted tomatoes, especially ones at the peak of their season, are easy to make but so, so savory. I prefer this recipe with Roma tomatoes, but any juicy, thin-skinned and meaty tomato will work just fine. My favorite way to eat it? Alone (as in the tomato itself, not me), over a piece of toast with burrata and chopped basil, or as a pizza topping alongside some spicy sausage.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Ingredients

1 lb. tomatoes (your pick, but I like Romas)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 tbsp. freshly cracked black pepper

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400ºF and line a sheet pan lined with foil for easy clean-up.

2. Wash and pat your tomatoes dry before slicing them in half. If you’ve gone the non-Roma route and are using a more rotund tomato, slice into quarters. I don’t see the need to deseed these, so skip it and save some time.

3. Now get ready to get your hands dirty. Spread your tomatoes across your sheet pan and coat generously with 1/2 of your salt and freshly cracked pepper, then sprinkle on all of the olive oil. Then flip those tomatoes around with your fingers, covering them with olive oil. Once they’re coated, make sure the seed side is facing up and then sprinkle with the rest of your salt and pepper.

4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until your tomatoes have wrinkled and deflated (sounds sad, but true). Enjoy!

Vacation Beauty Essentials

As a seasoned island veteran (twice counts, right?) I’ve perfected the art of packing the perfect bag of vacation beauty essentials that withstand the heat, sun, sand and TSA. To sum up my tropical beauty routine, it’s all about simplicity, sun protection, and surf-friendly (as in water-resistant). And not that it’s out of the ordinary from my everyday beauty routine, all of it matches my no-makeup makeup routine, but even simpler—where no brushes, only fingers, are required for application.

Everyone Hand Sanitizer Spray

My nightmare: porta potties. I love the beach, the sun, dipping in and out of the water for hours, napping on the sand and all of those things that oceanside life provides. But, when you’e living that beach bum life, your bum occasionally has to take a visit to some nasty places. That’s why I can’t not pack a bottle of hand sanitizer spray wherever I go for quick spritz/cleanse from my least favorite place—the porta potty.

Would I purchase again? I mean, sure, it’s just hand sanitizer.

EiR NYC Surf Mud Sunscreen

While on vacation, I tend to transform into a surfer girl with zero worries or cares, except for avoiding sunburn. I’m famous in my family for burning on the first day of vacation, nearly every vacation, but this sunscreen has kept me burn-free (on my face, the body’s a different story) for my past two island visits. Yes, it leaves a slight whitewash to application areas and you have to be a little careful to not get it on clothes, but it stays put seemingly all day and through all types of water activities.

Would I purchase again? Yes!

Ursa Major Essential Face Wipe

Man, I felt so smug and smart when I was buying a 20 pack of these Ursa Major wipes. I thought it would be genius to carry these around in my beach bag and use them to wipe down my face and underarms after spending hours in the sun and sand. Instead, I constantly forgot to use them after a day at the beach and instead they got the most use back at the hotel to wash my face when I felt too lazy to turn on the sink. They do a great job of removing grime, leftover makeup and sunscreen though!

Would I purchase again? Maybe—they didn’t get as high of use as I was expecting.

Glossier Zit Stick

Even if my email is on vacation mode, I’m doing things that are FOMO-inducing for others instead of the other way around and am fresh-faced and makeup-free for most hours of the day, a zit can and will find a way to my face. Glossier’s Zit Stick, a mix of benzoyl peroxide and other things, does a killer job of clearing a spot up in 48 hours.

Would I purchase again? Yes!

Herbivore Botanicals Orchid Face Oil

I’ve already shouted my praises for Herbivore Botanicals before, but I’ll do it again—I LOVE THEM. My skin gets extra thirsty while on vacation and particularly in warm weather, but I don’t like to slather a heavy cream on at night. So, instead, I’ve cracked the code for tropical weather wherein I mix a couple drops of face oil with my everyday moisturizer. The result? Fresh, dewy skin in the morning that’s ready for another day of fun in the sun.

Would I purchase again? Yes!

Clinique Pep-Start Daily Sunscreen SPF 50

If you, for some odd reason, not headed to the beach during a beach vacation and choosing to stay landlocked, it doesn’t mean you have an excuse to skip the sunscreen. This one by Clinique is light, layers over moisturizer and under makeup like a dream and is easy to throw in your bag for throughout-the-day application.

Would I purchase again? Yes!

Tweezerman Slant Tweezer

I’m a planner. Which when it comes to prepping for a beach vacation, I open up my calendar, work backwards from my departure date, then schedule a perfectly time wax appointment to defuzz. Another thing I’ve learned to plan for? Errant hairs that pop up post-wax. That’s why I can never not pack my Tweezerman tweezers—which are still sharp after years of ownership.

Would I purchase again? Yes (but I hope I don’t have to).

Glossier Lash Slick Mascara

I have definitely written this before, but if there’s one form of makeup that I could not live without, it would be mascara. Lash Slick is by no means my everyday mascara (that seat is currently taken by Dior’s ‘Pump N’ Volume’), but it’s non-irritating, waterproof and natural-looking application make it my vacation staple, especially in water environments. Even through a day of snorkeling, dips in and out of the water (pool or beach), it stays on without looking overdone or flaking.

Would I purchase again? Maybe. I have another holy grail mascara, but this one is great for a light, more natural look that’s water-resistant too.

Glossier Cloud Paint in Beam

I see little to no reason to bring a makeup brush on a tropical vacation. I’m always running dewy (not sweaty, thank you!), which just defeats the purpose of powder. That’s why I leave my powder blush, highlighter, anything at home and leave it to liquid formulas to do the trick. Even though I can blush at the drop of a hat, I still like a fresh cheek, so I reach for Glossier’s Cloud Paint in the peachy-tone of Beam and simply apply it with the swipe of a finger.

Would I purchase again? Yes!

Vapour Illusionist Concealer

Even off the islands, this is a daily staple as I’ve started to transition my beauty cabinet to natural, non-toxic skincare. To be honest, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a concealer that would do the trick of covering zits and dark circles from late nights, and last the whole day. Enter this concealer by Vapour, which is formulated with beeswax, sunflower seed oil and other earth-friendly ingredients. It never feels heavy, provides ample (but not heavy coverage) and is slightly buildable if you need it to pull double-duty on any given day.

Would I purchase again? Yes (and already did).

Spicy Soba Noodle Salad with Shrimp & Kale

Remember that Katy Perry song, “Hot N Cold”? That was the JAM my junior year of high school. That and Coldplay’s “Yellow” and NPR’s “Fresh Air” podcast were the mainstays as I did homework in the library after school. Now is it really that surprising to learn that I was *not* Homecoming queen? ANYWAYS, Ms. Perry’s jam deftly describes how you can eat this spicy soba noodle salad—either very hot, fresh out of the pan, or chilled in the fridge for a few hours. It’s spicy, savory and slightly healthy because you’re cooking with soba, which is made out of buckwheat flour (most soba noodle brands are gluten-free) and packed with plenty of fiber. Add in your protein of choice and you’ll maybe be swoll by the end of the week.

Spicy Soba Noodles with Shrimp & Kale

Ingredients

1 bunch Dino kale, de-stemmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. hot chili oil (Sambal Oelek, Tapatio, Dynasty, your choice)
2 tbsp. sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. sesame seeds
3 cups soba noodles (after being cooked)
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

1. Cook soba noodles according to package instructions. Rinse with cold water to prevent your noods from sticking together, then set aside.

2. Next, get your sauce made. In a small bowl combine your soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, garlic cloves, ginger and sesame seeds. You’ll be using 1/3 of this sauce to cook your shrimp/protein. 

3. Heat a skillet on medium heat and add in your shrimp/protein once your pan is hot. If you’re cooking with tofu or shrimp, coat the bottom of your pan with a little cooking oil, but if you’re going with ground meat, you can rely on the meat juice.

4. Once your protein has cooked solo for about 3 minutes, add in the 1/3 reserve of your sauce and your chopped kale. Stir fry to gether and make sure your protein is fully cooked (shrimp should be bright pink, ground meat should be a nice shade of brown, and tofu is yummy when it’s slightly golden). 

5. Turn the heat off and grab your noodles on the side and the rest of your sauce. Add it into the pan with your protein and mix together. Garnish with a little bit more chili sauce and sesame seeds. Enjoy! 

Sausage and Broccolini Cast Iron Pizza

Does your family have one of those childhood tales that have stood the test of time? Like one of those stories from when you were still in diapers that they still tell to your friends that are literally in front of your house, waiting in their car to pick you up or that one boyfriend they were meeting for the very first time? You too? Since we’re already on the subject, my story is that I used to stand in front of the window of our old pizza haunt, in my diapers, transfixed by the pizza makers who would be flinging dough into the air. My parents would always joke that they thought I would be a pizza maker one day. Well, jokes on them, because I am! Except, this time I’m not in diapers.

cast iron pizza

Sausage and Broccolini Cast Iron Pizza
Ingredients
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/3 pound fresh ground pork or chicken 
1 bunch of broccolini (skinny broccoli), chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup burrata cheese
1/2 cup of pizza sauce 
Fresh pizza dough (I’m not a dough girl, so I bought mine ) 
1 tsp. lemon zest 
Cracked red pepper 
Salt and cracked black pepper 
1 tbsp. grapeseed or any high heat oil

1. Pre-heat your oven to 475 degrees. If you purchased your pizza dough from the store, let it rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes so you can roll it out with ease on a floured surface.

2. Since you can’t eat raw sausage, brown your ground pork or chicken with salt, cracked black and red pepper and your pressed garlic in a pan on medium-high heat. Once your meat has browned, set it aside to cool and keep that grease in the pan!

3. When your oven reaches 475 degrees, pop your cast-iron pan into the oven to heat up for 5-8 minutes. This will help the bottom of your pizza crust get, well, crusty. 

4. As your cast iron pan heats up, add your broccolini pieces into your other pan with your meat grease and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until your broccolini is a brighter green and has a little give when you touch it. Then, set it aside with your browned meat. 

5. Now it’s time to channel your inner pizza maker! My dough to pan ratio is to have at least 1/4 inch of dough in your pan when it’s rolled out. For my 10″ cast iron, I used a softball-sized amount of dough. Roll your dough into a pizza shape on a lightly floured surface, with a bit of oil on your rolling pin or on your hands if you’re pin-less. Once your dough is rolled out, take your cast-iron pan out of the oven, coat the bottom with your high-heat oil and carefully place the dough into the pan, making sure that it reaches the edges. 

6.  Then, pop the dough back into the oven and cook for 5 minutes. Then once the dough has become a little bubbly, bring it back out, add your pizza sauce, meat, broccolini, and burrata on top and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until your crust is a beautiful golden brown (or however you like it!). 

7. Add a little lemon zest and cracked red pepper on top and enjoy! 

The Oh Wonderful Guide to Oaxaca

730 days ago, I landed back in San Francisco, refreshed, still in awe and maybe just a little hungover from an 8 day trip to Oaxaca. Located much further south (and more central) than resort destinations like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, Oaxaca City was a vibrant pocket of Mexico just perfect for my first trip to the country. From the bright pink houses (you should know I love those) to the tan mountains set against that clear blue sky, to the rainbow colored woven rugs in Teotitlan—I was instantly smitten by Oaxaca. By the time I left, the food, the beauty of the city, and the vibrancy of the people made me really love this city. 

What to See in Oaxaca   

Hierve el Agua

Hierve El Agua

Do yourself (and your travel companion(s) a favor and head out on a 1.5 hour drive to Hierve El Agua. Depending on the time of day, you might have the natural springs and hike all to yourself—perfect for snagging uninterrupted shots of the spring and the valley below. Do the 30 minute hike underneath the springs to get a full view of the calcified waterfalls, which look eerily look like a real one.

Mitla

Mitla sits 45 minutes outside of Oaxaca City in Tlacolula Valley, where the heart of the Zapotec culture and center of pre-Hispanic Mexican culture. Just like Monte Alban, it’s pretty remarkable that you can wander around an archaeological site almost untethered and climb into underground tombs, climb into the old temples and touch the same rocks (and blocks) that the Zapotecs built and used everyday.

Monte Alban
Monte Alban
Monte Alban

Monte Alban

It’s not every day that you can drive 20 minutes outside of a city and wander into an archaeological site—that’s still being excavated. Get ready to roam around the artificially flattened hilltop that’s surrounded by temples, tombs, more temples and elevated altars that require a steep incline to view. You can’t beat the sweeping vista that you can see once you get to the top of one of the temples.

What to Do in Oaxaca

Palenque Tour
Palenque Tour Oaxaca

Palenque Tour & Mezcal Tasting

So your #1 reason for visiting Oaxaca might be the mezcal, so do yourself a favor and schedule a palenque tour before you leave. Once upon a time, mescal was the poor man’s drink of the Oaxacan state since agave grew nearly everywhere. It’s trademark smoky flavor comes from the 2-3 day process of cooking the agave heart buried under volcanic rock and dirt. But don’t worry, it’s all earthy, not dirty—unless you drink too much.  

Agustin Oaxaca Cooking Class
oaxaca cooking class

Oaxacan Cooking Class

Do yourself a favor and take a cooking class in Oaxaca with Esperanza and the hilarious (and ultra-talkative) Agustin. You’ll learn how to make two kinds of salsa, molé, deep-fried quesadillas and probably some other things that I’m forgetting. Plus, there’s unlimited beer and mezcal if you choose to drink (that much) while you cooking and eating all of this food.

jardin de ehtnobotanica
jardin de ehtnobotanica

Tour Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca

So nice, we went there twice. Right behind the walls of the former convent, turned museum, is the ethnobotanical garden that now grows all the desert and coastal plants that you can find in Oaxaca. We learned so much while we were there—there’s a tree that was used as soap! Bugs that are crushed for their natural dye! Cacti that are used as fences! Perfect spot for learning and plenty of Instagram-worthy shots.

Mercado de Benito Juarez
Mercado de Benito Juarez

Mercado de Benito Juarez

Again, if you know me, you know I don’t miss a market stop. This is where I tried cricket for the second time, where the lady vendors just scooped them from a pile of roasted and spiced crickets into a baggie for you to snack and walk with. This is where you can also browse and try all of the Oaxacan cheese your heart desires, drink more tejate, buy a bag of maize if you please, and see every color of the rainbow in vegetable form.

Templo de Santo Domingo

Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca

Located inside the Templo de Santo Domingo, the Museum of Oaxacan Culture is just that. It’s room after room of Oaxacan history, dating all the way back to pre-Hispanic times and up to modern day. Take at least a half a day to roam and learn, or stop by after you visit the botanical garden, which is located right behind the museum.

museo de filatelia

Museo de la Filatelia

Let me use my 3 weeks of Duolingo to teach you what this is: a stamp collection museum. It was only a matter of time before my long-buried passion for collecting stamps would resurface and I guess Oaxaca wasn’t a bad place to rediscover it. But mainly, it’s worth a stop to see old letters that Frida Kahlo wrote to her San Francisco lover and former doctor—so grab a tejate and stop by.

Where to Eat & Drink in Oaxaca

El Destilado

El Destilado

5 de Mayo 409, Centro

2 years later and I still dream of the grilled octopus dish that I had at El Destilado. Founded by 3 guys from the US (2 of whom came from San Francisco’s Michelin star, Saison)—it’s a hole in the wall restaurant with a killer, but down-to-earth menu and an impressive bar program. So good, I made us go nights in a row.

Boulenc Oaxaca

Boulenc

Calle Porfirio Díaz 207, Centro

3 weeks before I left for Oaxaca, I downloaded Duolingo so that I could master Spanish before my flight touched down. By the time we arrived, I had a very strong understanding of una manzana and un pan. Apple and bread, respectively. Un pan came in handy when I read about Boulenc, a Oaxacan bakery that uses locally sourced regional grains and employs European baking techniques for their baked goods, in an old world meets another old world mix that’s somehow, utterly modern.

El Popular

La Popular

Manuel García Vigil 105 Col. Centro

After dropping off our suitcases from a long day of travel, we hoofed it to no particular place in mind and ended up walking by La Popular, where someone was strumming a guitar from inside the restaurant. It was almost like Oaxaca planted this spot for us after our day of flying. The food is traditional and simple—like pozole and tortas, but it seemed to be a favorite for locals and travelers alike to eat, drink and watch people walk down the calle.

tlacolula market
Tlacolula Market

Tlacolula Market

70400 de, Galeana 2, Tercera Secc, Tlacolula de Matamoro

On the very  first day of our trip, we headed out in a tour van to visit Mitla (see above), El Tulle (the widest tree in the world) and then stopped at Mercado Tlacolula for a bite to eat. This is where I knew that nope, we were not in SF anymore and it was great. There were racks of dried and raw meat just out in the open, women beating flies away from the meat with rubber broom-like brushes, stray dogs roaming through the stalls, and merchants selling more varieties of peppers than I never knew existed. Although it’s not in El Centro, it’s worth the drive for the grilled meat, which is usually just served with radishes, raw onions and tortilla on the side.

Los Danzantes

Jardín Centenario 12 Col. Villa Coyoacán

If you’re the type of traveler who needs their plates and utensils replaced after every dish, white linen service, and a curated wine list—head to Los Danzantes for a night out. Even two years ago, I remember listening to a surfer go on and on to his girlfriend about the surf in Puerto Escondido while I tried crickets for the first time. The restaurant itself is stunning, with towering walls that go up at least 24 feet to reach a ceilingless roof. I guess it was pretty cool to eat crickets under the stars.

Mezcalogia

Mezcalogia

Calle de Manuel García Vigil 509, Ruta Indepenecia, Centro

“Drink mezcal like you treat a woman: with a lot of respect and little kisses,” said Victor, my favorite bartender from Oaxaca. I think this trip was the start of my bar rat tendencies on vacation (see my New Orleans trip),where we spent roughly 4 nights at this bar to end the day (fuzzily) with Mezcal tastings, good company, and some educational moments about the history and production of Oaxaca’s famous spirit (literally and figuratively).

La Mezcalarita

La Mezcalerita

Calle Macedonio Alcalá 706, Ruta Indepencia, Centro

Imagine this: It’s a dry 85 degrees, you’ve been walking around with a backpack for most of the afternoon, your silk dress is getting damp from back sweat—then you stumble upon a dim bar that’s icy cold, just like the beer they serve. If that’s not heaven, I don’t know what is. Stop at La Mezcalerita for a taste of local craft beers from Oaxaca and other Mexican states, but of course, you can also expect to find bottles and bottles of mezcal.

Tejate

Tejate

Tricked you! Tejate isn’t a restaurant, it’s a non-alcoholic drink made with cacao and maize, both ground into a paste then mixed with water and sweetener (honey or agave) to make this mid-day (multiple times a day for me) refreshment. The women who run the stalls dip small painted wooden bowls into larger plastic tubs to swirl the mixture around, before scooping it into a cup for you to enjoy in the shade.

Where to Stay in Oaxaca City

Casa de Los Milagros

Casa de Los Milagros

Matamoros No. 500-C (corner of Crespo), Centro

I’m the type of traveler who likes to make a place my temporary home, where I find a new favorite coffee spot and figure out my favorite route home to the hotel. Part of a small, family-run bed and breakfast chain, this location was our favorite between the two that we stayed at. Los Milagros is located in a quieter part of town and only has 3 rooms, the perfect amount to really get to know your neighbors and swap stories of Oaxaca—like we did when we met a couple doing a road trip across Mexico. Talk about travel goals. Aside from being a comfortable place to lay our heads, we also loved the freshly made breakfast every morning served with a hefty side of sugar-coated pan.

Alright, that’s Oaxaca through my eyes! What’s your take? Got questions? Let me know!

Souvla-Inspired Avgolemono Soup

When it rains buckets in SF, I eat bowls of soup. My most frequent delivery order is Souvla‘s lemony and creamy avgolemono soup, with bits of chicken and rice that always settles on the bottom of the bowl (takeout container in my case). This week, I spared myself and my Caviar guys from the rain and did my best rendition of Souvla’s very own avgolemono soup.

Souvla-Inspired Avgolemono Soup

Ingredients

3 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 large carrot, quartered
1 large leek, white and pale green parts cut in half
1 small yellow onion, cut in half
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 large eggs
6 tbsp. lemon juice
2/3 cup of long-grain white rice
Cracked black pepper (to taste)
Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)

1. To make your soup broth, bring 4 quarts of water, chicken thighs, leek, onion, carrot and peppercorns to a simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees. 

2. Once your chicken is cooked, transfer your chicken pieces to a plate to cool, then shred. Discard the other broth ingredients and use a fine mesh sieve to strain the chicken broth back into your large pot. 

3. Return broth to a simmer for about 30 minutes to reduce it to about 2 quarts. 

4. Now, it’s time to make the star of the show. While your soup is further reducing, whisk your lemon juice and eggs together until smooth and bright yellow. Then, it’s time to temper it! Grab a cup of your chicken broth that’s been reducing down and whisk it into your egg and lemon mixture, 1 tbsp. at a time. Take great care to stir it briskly—otherwise you’ll have a plate of scrambled eggs. As your avgolemono mixture because smoother, you can eventually add in the remaining 1 cup of broth. 

5. Now, back to your large pot of broth. After it’s been reduced down to about 2 quarts, it’s time to add in your white rice. Stir regularly and cook for 6-9 minutes on medium-high heat so the rice softens. 

6. Reduce broth and rice to medium heat and add in chicken that you’ve torn into bits to heat it back up. Then, slowly add in your avgolemono in small batches, whisking continuously until your soup looks creamy and rich. 

7. Turn off the heat and let your soup rest for 5 minutes, then garnish with olive oil, freshly cracked black pepper and enjoy! 

Have any questions on how to make the soup? Leave me a note! 

The Oh Wonderful Guide to O’ahu

To say that I was prepared to visit Hawaii’s most populated island, would be a lie. The extent of my prep was buying reef-safe sunscreen and making sure I had swimsuits that fit. Not one ounce of pre-travel research was done. Having only been exposed to the more desolate Big Island, I was expecting white sandy beaches, quiet afternoons with a Mai Tai in hand and lots of palm trees.

Most of this came true, but with 300 more people around.  Even with the crowd (and traffic) there was no shortage of things to do, see and eat on the island. Now that I’m back with a less-translucent skin color, here’s everything that I would do all over again on O’ahu. Shaka!

What to See

Waikiki Beach

If you’re looking for a quiet, serene and secluded seaside spot—Waikiki is not it. Waikiki is bustling with tourists (both international and domestic), packed with brand name shopping that you all know and lines everywhere. But Waikiki Beach should be penciled in as a stop for the pretty blue waters and people watching at the beach. This is also the epicenter of Japanese food on the island, so don’t miss out on fresh bowls of udon, the classic spam musubi and mochi donuts.

North Shore

Unlike Waikiki, you won’t find a single high-rise apartment or chain store on the North Shore. Instead, expect to find a single small town (Hale’iwa) that is home to the most restaurants and shops that this part of the island has. As long as you’re not there during a major surf competition, you’ll have access to quiet(er) beaches, more open roads and views of nothing but pineapple fields or Hawaiian hills. Oh, and the ocean. If you’ve got a car and like taking drives to nowhere, definitely park and put your toes in the sand at major surf spots like Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, Banzai Pipeline, Chun’s Reef and Lani’s (where you also might spot some turtles).

sharks cove oahu

Shark’s Cove

Hankering for some snorkel time while in Hawaii? Hit up Shark’s Cove on the North Shore to see some needlefish, Hawaiian rainbow fish (my fave!), and sea cucumbers—amongst many other sea creatures too! Be sure to pack water shoes that protect your feet from rocks and DO NOT step on the coral (unlike some other folks I had to scold). Anything for you, Mother Earth.

Pow! Wow! Street Art in Kaka’ako

If you’re frequent readers of the blog or if we’ve traveled together, you know that I love me some street art. Pow! Wow! is a public arts project that brought local and international artists together in Honolulu for a week-long mural painting (among other things) extravaganza. It’s very much worth a visit, plus after you’re done looking at the art, you can pop into the locally owned stores and spots in the hood (like Here. and ARVO Café). Stay tuned in other cities, they’re growing quickly and expanding to Taiwan, D.C., Long Beach and beyond.

byodo-in temple oahu

Byodo-In Temple

Traveling in O’ahu sometimes felt like a mini-Japan—from stepping into Mitsuwa Market to driving by a literal Japanese Food Court in the heart of Waikiki. It’s a smaller-scale replication of the actual, 950-year-old Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan and was built to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the arrival of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. Located at the foot of a mountain range, it’s peaceful, lush landscape is totally unexpected. Stop by to slow down.

Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art

Constructed in 1937 by the “richest little girl in the world,” Doris Duke’s Shangri La served as her Honolulu home, which she built from the ground up (unlike her other homes). After being inspired on her around-the-globe honeymoon travels, Duke began construction on her island property and began to collect and fill her home with Islamic art from the inside, out. If you want to pretend that you too, were born into money or thoroughly enjoy art or architecture, stop by. Admission to her home also grants you a day pass to the Honolulu Museum of Art.

KCC Farmer’s Market

If you don’t know, now you know: I friggin’ love a good farmer’s market. As I reflect back on our Hawaii trip, I honestly think this was the thing I most enjoyed. From tasting fresh macadamia nuts, tasting Hawaiian honey, eating fresh rambutan, to drinking fresh sugar cane juice with lilikoi (the best thing I have EVER drank), plan for a quick trip to KCC on Saturday morning or Tuesday evening. Try pairing it with your Diamond Head hike, as the hike is just above the college where the market is held.

What to Do

manoa falls oahu

Hike Manoa Falls

We had big pipe dreams to walk to a waterfall, then jump into it’s running waters for a post-hike swim. Instead, we chickened out and were our rule-following selves and didn’t make it past the “do not climb” sign. The hike up to the waterfall is a quick 20-40 minutes depending on how speedy you are, full of tropical flora and is quite muddy and slick—so be sure to wear non-stick shoes and clothes that can withstand some dirt.

Swim at Kailua & Lanikai Beach

My favorite part about any warm-weather, seaside vacation? Cerulean blue water. Kailua and Lanikai beaches are located right next to each other, but traffic and parking could be pretty hectic to shuttle between the two. Lanikai frequently ranks as one the world’s top beaches, while Kailua is just plain beautiful. Block off an afternoon for each, then hit up Island Snow (see the Eats section) for a post-beach treat.

Hike Diamond Head

For a good sweat sesh, views of Waikiki and an endless expanse of ocean, put up with the crowds and hike Diamond Head. It’s a 1.5-2 hours round-trip hike, where the first part starts off with a paved path, then an easy set of switchbacks that then transforms into a seemingly endless set of stairs to the top. It’s an old army base, so you’ll also walk through a tunnel, then through a bunker to reach the top. Get ready to get sweaty!

Swim with Sharks

As I write this, I’m realizing that we had a pretty adventurous trip. Who would have thought that the girl who was once 100% convinced that sharks might swim up the toilet would one day swim with sharks? We went cage diving with North Shore Shark Adventures and swam with Galapagos sharks which, if you’re wondering, rarely eat people.

Take a Surf Lesson on North Shore

Barrels, big waves and surf competitions. After (many) more lessons—that could be you! If you’re a water baby (like me), it’s worth blocking off some of the day to surf the North Shore, in the very same waters as household names like Kelly Slater and John John Florence. We took lessons with North Shore Surf Girls right off of Hale’iwa beach park (perfect location to head to lunch right after). The feeling of catching a wave really can’t be beat.

Where to Eat

ono seafood oahu

Ono Seafood

Kaimuki | 747 Kapahulu Ave.

Direct and to the point. That is how I like my people and my poke. Ono is a no-frills joint where parking is limited, your food is served in styrofoam take-out containers and you’re simply there to promptly eat, then leave. Get the shoyu and spicy poke, and save room for the Japanese side dishes they have stocked in their fridge.

Marukame Udon

Waikiki | 2310 Kūhiō Ave #124

Even though you might think eating hot noodles in a hot climate is a no-go, try resisting these handmade noodles (made with Sun Noodle flour!). Ordering mimics a Chipotle (or vice-versa) and don’t not load your plate with tempura, onogiri and kaarage before you check out.

barefoot beach cafe oahu

Barefoot Beach Café

Waikiki |2699 Kalakaua Avenue

Good food and views of turquoise blue waters—this is what brunch dreams are made of. Even though it’s technically on Waikiki, it’s situated far away enough from the main strop that you feel like you could steal some generous minutes of silence before you head back into the tourist horde. Go there for breakfast or brunch and order Dad’s shoyu eggs and a freshly blended pineapple, served in a pineapple. 

haleiwa bowls north shore

Hale’iwa Bowls

North Shore | 66-030 Kamehameha Hwy

The perfect spot for a pre or post-surf snack. Like the name implies, Hale’iwa bowls serves up açaí bowls, fresh smoothies and juices to keep you feeling light and fresh in the Hawaiian heat. I sprung for the blue majik bowl, which solicited lots of stares from others, but a lot of good food for me.

Leonard’s Bakery

Oh my malasada. Do yourself a favor and avoid eating any malasadas until you get to Leonard’s. What is it, you ask? “A Portuguese donut without a hole” as defined by Leonard’s Bakery themselves. They’re light, fluffy, but just dense enough. Get the Guava filling and try the Li Hing (sweet and salty) powdered version to get a taste of this island favorite.

Arvo Café

Kakaʻako | 675 Auahi Street

Tucked next to a flower store and complete with an order-at-the-window window, Arvo is the brainchild of Instagram-loved Dixie Rose (who yes, I’ve been following for years) and Casey Wiggins. It’s cute, it’s hip and serves up freshly roasted coffee and Australian-inspired eats like vegemite toast.

Shaved Ice in O’ahu

Lawson Station

Waikiki | 2255 Kalakaua Ave.

Apparently, Lawson is a chain of convenience stores in Japan, but a purveyor of very fine shave ice in Waikiki. No wonder there were so many Japanese snacks in there. Spring for the Hawaiian Punch flavor, it really does pack a punch of finely shaved ice powder.

Waiola Shave Ice

McCully | 2135 Waiola St.

The one, the only and the very famous Waiola. The best food on the island was mostly served in styrofoam containers—no exception here. Pull up and park, then attempt to master the ordering system (number of bowls, ice cream or no ice cream, then flavors one at a time).

Island Snow

Kailua | 130 Kailua Rd

We basically vacationed just like the Obama family in Oahu. But, only when it came to stopping by the very same shave ice spot that they go to too. Get it straight—visit the Island Snow location that’s closest to the beach to increase your chances of run-in with 44.

Need a map? Save this to your phone for your trip!

Alright, that’s O’ahu—through my take. What’d I miss? What do like to do? Let me know!

Chicken Adobo

Chicken Adobo recipe

UPDATE: It’s now been 5 full years since I first had adobo. A friend and I were on our way to a magical place called Las Vegas and made a pit stop at his parents house who refueled us with homemade chicken adobo. I was sold (still am). Below is some adobo-thoughts from my younger self.

It’s my two year Chicken Adobo anniversary! Two years ago, I first mixed garlic, soy sauce, white vinegar, some peppercorns and some bay leaves into a pot, turned on the broiler and made the most glorious chicken I had ever tasted. In between the past two years, I’ve experimented with a dozen or so other recipes and found a few winners and losers. The key to perfect Filipino adobo is using high-quality chicken, the perfect ratio of soy sauce and vinegar, and patience.

Chicken Adobo 
Ingredients 

Serves 3-4
50 minutes

4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 birds eye Thai chilis, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised with the backside of your knife
2 dried bay leaves
Freshly cracked black pepper

1. In a heavy-bottomed pan, bring all of your ingredients but the chicken to a boil. Once you’ve reached a rolling boil, add in your chicken thighs making sure to not layer them on top of each other.

2. Bring your adobo down to a simmer and set your timer for 15 minutes. Once 15 minutes hit, flip all of your chicken thighs over so the other side gets in on that adobo marinade.

3. Let them simmer for 15 more minutes (basically, 15 minutes on each side in a simmer), but bring your oven to the broil setting.

4. Finally, once your chicken has cooked through, place them on a rack over a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan and broil for 5-8 minutes.

5. While your chicken is braising, bring your adobo marinade to a boil in an attempt to reduce down to a sauce.

6. Once your chicken is broiled, place them on top of freshly cooked white rice, spoon plenty of adobo sauce over and enjoy!

Sweet Potato Latkes

*Dates Jewish guy once* but learns how to make latkes from the internet. I guess when you hang out with someone for one minute, it doesn’t mean that you get the secret family recipe. I don’t remember the first time that I had latkes, but I do know that the thought of these fried bites makes my mouth water, especially when I fantasized about a dollop of sour cream on top. To all of my Jewish friends and one foe, happy Hanukkah to you! Also, if anything is sacrilege in this post text me ASAP!!!!

sweet potato latkes

Sweet Potato Latkes 
Ingredients

2-3 chives or green onion stalks, thinly sliced
1 large sweet potato, shredded
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 large egg
1/3 cup neutral oil for frying (I like grapeseed oil)
Cheesecloth or paper towel

1. Grate your sweet potato with a cheese grater. Set the grated potato aside in a bowl that’s lined with cheesecloth or paper towels, then gather into a pouch and squeeze out any excess liquid. Transfer into a dry bowl and set aside.

2. Next, crack your egg in a bowl and mix in your chives or green onions. In the bowl with your shredded potato, mix in your flour, kosher salt and black pepper. Then, add in your egg mixture and stir. Don’t worry if it looks a little on the dry side, your latke will still fry up nicely!

3. Finally, heat up your oil in a frying pan on medium heat. To test if your oil is ready, drop in a morsel of your latke mix and if it sizzles once it hits the pan, your oil is ready. Using an ice cream scooper or a soup spoon, drop your latkes into the frying pan, flattening down your mound with the backside of a spatula. Fry for a minute and a half on each side, or until it’s a crispy golden brown.

4. Once your latkes are ready to come out of the pan, set them aside on a bed of paper towels to soak up any excess oil. Top with a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!

Kimchi Fried Rice with Turkey

Being Korean means that I * always * need have to have a jar of kimchi in the fridge and a bag of white rice (big or small) in the cupboard. To all the roomies I’ve had before (and currently), I’m so sorry. With many, I mean many bags of leftover turkey in my fridge too, it was only natural to combine my two Korean kitchen staples with those remnants from Thanksgiving.

Kimchi fried rice recipe

Kimchi Fried Rice with Turkey
Ingredients

Serves 2

1 cup cooked rice (the key here is to pre-cook the rice the day before and let it chill in the fridge, or have some frozen rice at your disposal)
½ cup cabbage kimchi, diced
1 tbsp. kimchi juice
½ cup leftover turkey, diced
2 tbsp. sesame oil (highly recommend using Kadoya)
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated

1. Add in 1 tbsp. of your sesame oil into a non-stick pan on medium heat and sauté your kimchi and ginger until the cabbage is soft and the mixture is even more fragrant.

2. Once your kimchi is ready, add in your rice, kimchi juice and turkey and cook until warmed. Once it’s ready, plate your kimchi fried turkey rice and get ready for the best part.

3. Okay, you’ve made it to the best part! In the same pan that you’ve just cooked your rice, add the rest of your sesame oil to coat the bottom of your pan and then crack two eggs in and cook sunny side up. Place them on top of your plates of kimchi rice, sprinkle some sesame seeds on top, then enjoy!