Hawaii – Oahu – Waikiki

We recently came back from a glorious vacation in Hawaii and after the first stop on the Big Island we spent another week on Oahu in the heart of it all – Waikiki Beach. We stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village with it’s iconic rainbow mosaic on one tower and it’s sheltered lagoon off the beach. This has been a Hilton property since I first came here when I was 15 years old. I can remember walking through the shops in the marketplace and at that time Don Ho was a featured act. I can still hear “Tiny Bubbles” being sung.

This is my favourite spot on Waikiki Beach in front of the glorious pink hotel The Royal Hawaiian. On our last visit we stayed here and I still think it is the best spot on the beach to people watch.

When we first arrive we head to Tropics Bar & Grill to enjoy some cocktails.

Hawaii Five-O is filmed on location here some of the time and so they have some libations that are named after the character’s.

I had a frosty Danno Banano! sweet, cool and delish on a hot evening.

We also tried the Poke Sampler (POK- eh) while the sun sets. I ate this in almost every restaurant. Fresh Ahi in various sauces….so good!

There are many cookie stores with several varieties of shortbread specialities. Honolulu Cookie is the largest and has many locations. They are packed conveniently for taking home and are quite yummy. I think I like the coconut shortbread the best. Go in, they have samples!

I saw an ad for Island Olive Oil while I was on the plane and just had to find out if they were actually growing olives and producing their own oils here. I am passionate about using high quality extra virgin olive oils and have recently been certified as a taster so I had to go in. I discovered that they do not grow olives in the islands. This is a tasting bar much like many all across the world but, with their own Hawaiian influences. They have focused on flavoured oils with many local fruits and they do have a small selection (4) of Pure Extra Virgin Olive Oils from Spain and California. They said olive oil is a relatively new oil for many people locally and they struggle to imagine how to use it but, they are getting the word out slowly. They also cater to a very large Japanese population of visitors who are crazy about olive oils.

Malie Kai sells some truly spectacular chocolates and it is worth seeking them out.

Early morning over the lagoon and my Acai berry bowl with homemade fruit and nut bar. I am totally addicted to this too.

While in ABC Stores I find my dear friend and extraordinary artist Carolyn Quan’s artwork on some local Maui Blanc – Pineapple Wine. We pick up a bottle and find it to be really nice and very different with definite pineapple tones to the light white.

Big Pete had to sample a few local ales!

Big Island Candies is another large cookie and candy store located in the Ala Moana Shopping Center. Such a pretty store.


Lupicia was tea store with the largest selection of teas I have ever seen. Each silver canister can be opened to smell the tea and of course they wil let you try the teas.



They had beautiful tins and gift boxes with every tea you could imagine!



They also sell bags of teas.


Just look at all the large bulk boxes of different teas!! Just mind boggling.

Aloha Gelato had some really great quality fresh made gelato.

I had to stop in and have a Shave Ice from Lawson Station. I had the woman make it half the size they normally make them (just imagine how big they are!) Mine is melon and lilikoi (passion fruit) It was good but the best I have ever had was in a small shop in downtown Kona.

We really enjoyed the free Ukulele (OO-KOO-lel-ee) lesson at the small shop in the Sheraton Hotel. Paul did a very good job training and it was really fun. They also have some truly exquisite instruments there to buy. I will have to save my pennies.

We were walking down Kalakaua Avenue which is the main drag on Waikiki and we stumbled upon the Farmer’s Market at the Hyatt Hotel. Yummy produce and every imaginable Hawaiian specialty.

Macadamia Nuts right from the farm.

Big lines for hot food like Kalua Pig.

Fresh whole or chopped fruit right from the farms. Beautiful pineapple, papaya and bananas.

Rambutans and Lychees.

Fresh Mangosteen!! wow I bought 1 to try and it was sweet and delicious. $3 for one but, they say it has miracle properties.

I have to say I had never seen fresh nutmeg before.

Look at the size of this breadfruit. I have never tried it.

We always go to Roy’s for dinner at least once. This one is located right across the street from one of my other favourite hotels The Halekulani Hotel.

Edamame with salt and spices to start.

A delicious carpaccio and salad.

Fish sampler and rice. Makes me think of the fish song by the Andrew’s Sister (if that doesn’t date me!) “I want some seafood Mama!”

Once I discovered this little stand I ate here every morning. I loved everything I tried. I had a Mana Green bowl, Acai Traditional bowl, Pitaya bowl and they were all so so good and the line was always 20  people deep.

This was the Acai (A-sai- ee) Extravaganza bowl (OMG!! so good!)

A Pitaya smoothie (pitaya is dragonfruit) look at that colour! and a Dr Green smoothie so healthy as well as tasty.

This picture isn’t that clear but this Pitaya bowl is the most incredible pink you have ever seen. I had the Super Green smoothie with kale, spinach, mint, apple, lemon, banana, spirulina and apple juice! The little bottle is a Supergreen, ginger, chia drink.

A great Truffle burger and garlic fries at Rum Fire in the Sheraton Hotel. I do love a good burger.

Not a bad view from your table either! We even saw some green sea turtles.

 and a walk back to the hotel.

A happy Aloha Friday with a big fat full moon and a grand fireworks display. The fireworks happen at sunset every Friday night at the Hilton and a huge gathers on the beach to see it.

On Friday’s and Saturday’s you simple must make a point to stop into the very beautiful Halekulani Hotel and go for a tasty cocktail at the House without a Key to see the former Miss Hawaii Kanoe (Kan-O-ee) Miller. She is there from 5:30 – 8pm and is such a pleasure to watch. I love the traditional Hawaiian music played on the outdoor patio under the beautiful tree with the waves crashing along the shore! HEAVENLY.

Plan a visit to Hawaii it never disappoints!


Hawaii – Waikoloa – The Big Island

I just got back from a wonderful vacation in Hawaii. I have been several times but there is always something new to see, discover and taste. For the the first week we stayed on the Big Island of Hawaii at the Hilton Waikoloa Resort near Kona. Hawaii is the youngest and largest of the island chain. They have one of the most active volcanoes in the world and many black, white and even green sand beaches. I love the Big Island because there are some amazing things being grown and artisanal foods being created here. I have been to a Vanilla PlantationCoffee farmsCocoa farms and each year someone is introducing something new.

It is always fun to look around food markets in any city and this little market was just a short walk from the hotel.

Make sure you get 100% Alaea salt when you are there.

I collect a few things: olive oils, vinegars and salt from all over the world. When you are in Hawaii buy some REAL 100% Alaea salt sometimes called Hawaiian salt. It is an unrefined sea salt mixed with red alaea volcanic clay which is rich in iron oxide. It is expensive and difficult to find unless you are in Hawaii but, it is a lovely salt with the benefits of containing many minerals.

Look at that Black Lava salt.

Kona coffee is grown in this area and is considered one of the best. The small area that grows this delicious coffee is ideal because they have sunny mornings and cool or rainy afternoons, mild nights and mineral rich soil. It is one of the most expensive coffees in the world (1lb was $39.99 US$) but, it makes a great gift to be enjoyed when you get back home and you simply have to try it.

At the local market I found some papayas which are a smaller variety and the avocado which is giant in comparison. I learned to love papaya with fresh lime juice squeezed over it here on my last visit and now that is the only way I like it. Try it!

They love the cookie on all the islands and you can find these shortbread cookies in stores and there are many cookie shops that have many varieties.

A look in the fresh fish case shows a variety of POKE (pronounced POH-keh) is a raw fish salad, often made with Ahi. I think I ate it everyday at every restaurant we went to. Love it!!!

Honestly, they will put Hello Kitty on anything!

We ate at every restaurant at the Hilton Waikoloa Resort. These are some of the ones we loved. I liked the Kamuela Provision Company the best and I am sorry I didn’t take any pictures of our fantastic sunset dinner but, it was our anniversary and I was just enjoying the company of Big Pete in this most beautiful setting right next to the ocean.

The little ice cream shop near the lagoon was a nice place to stop by in the afternoon. They served some local made ice creams that were exceptional.

chocolate coconut macadamia nut

Kona coffee toffee – yum!

I also had the coconut strawberry swirl on another day which was pretty nice.

I loved the Nutty Hawaiian Latte (hot or iced is great!) from Waikoloa Coffee – how pretty!!

I became addicted to the Acai berry bowl for breakfast. It is like a smoothie with granola and bananas mixed in.

Kirin is the Hilton’s Chinese restaurant and there was such an extensive menu to choose from but everything was quick, perfectly prepared and delicious.

An icy cold beer is perfect with fried foods.

crispy spring rolls

pork pot stickers

General Tsao’s chicken, beef tenderloin with green pepper, spinach and garlic and sticky rice.

and a beautiful view!

We had a lovely lunch at Merriman’s a short walk from the hotel. I had been to a Merriman’s on another visit to Kauai and also liked it.

An Arnold Palmer (lemonade and iced tea) and a Lilikoi iced tea (lilikoi is passionfruit)

fresh fish tacos

A Greek salad

Caprese salad

Fantastic fresh fish and chips with these great spicy Tuscan fries.

A beautiful resort in one of the most spectacular places on earth!! This 62 acre resort has something for everyone to enjoy.

Every day ends with a full stomach and a beautiful sunset.

Next….Waikiki beach on Oahu!!

Tuscan Burgers with Chianti Onion Jam and Sun Dried Tomato

There is no secret that a gorgeous burger is my idea of the perfect meal. This one is topped with an onion jam that is slowly cooked with Chianti until it is thick and sweet. I also added a fresh herb and sun dried tomato that completes this beauty.

You will need:

  • I use 50/50 combination of ground pork and beef
  • 1 large onion – chopped (yellow or white)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup Chianti wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6-8 sun dried tomatoes packed in oil (these are softer and pliable than the dried ones)
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves – sliced into ribbons
  • 1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes
  • soft kaiser rolls


Step 1: place meat in a large bowl. Set aside (you want your meat to be room temperature just before grilling) In a small pan add chopped onion, olive oil and salt and pepper. I always use a generous sprinkle of each then re-season at the end if necessary. Cook on medium heat 15 minutes until browned and sweet.


Step 2: add wine and cook until reduced and sticky (maybe 5- 10 more minutes) then add garlic and cook another minute. The wine should almost evaporate. Let rest a few minutes off heat.

Step 3: puree in a food processor and then remove your purple paste to a small bowl or measuring cup. Remove half to be served as your topping and add a drizzle (1 tbsp) of thick aged balsamic vinegar. Mix and set aside. The balance which is approximately 1/4 cup I let cool and add directly to the meat.

Step 4: in a small processor puree the sun dried tomato and garlic and scrape into a small bowl.

Add some extra virgin olive oil and some fresh basil. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Set aside.

Step 5: add onion jam, a bit of your sundried tomato mix, more fresh basil, dry Italian seasoning and chili flakes and mix gently with your hands. I do not add salt and pepper here I add a generous sprinkle to the burgers just before grilling.

Form into patties to match the size of your buns. I make the patties slightly bigger than the buns because they will shrink when cooked. Sprinkle salt and pepper and grill to your preference.

Add your favorite greens, top with Chianti onion jam and sun dried tomato mix.




Dukkah is an Egyptian blend of nuts, seeds, spices and good extra virgin olive oil. It is such a versatile condiment that you can make it thick like a paste, thin like a dipping oil or mixed into some fresh herbs and made into a pesto for tossing over hot pasta. I like to make a batch and tuse some and then freeze the balance for another date. There are many combinations, traditionally they use hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper but, I have added a few touches to make my own.

Don’t forget to use your best quality extra virgin olive oil here!

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios (salted or unsalted)
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts or I used heaped 1/4 cup fresh mixed nuts (easy to find and salted is ok.)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds (whole)
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds (whole)
  • 1 tbsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp flaked sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • approximately 1/4 cup medium to a robust extra virgin olive oil – I used a beautiful Cetrone Colline Pontine made from Itrana Olives from Lazio, Italy

Step 1: gather all your ingredients.

Step 2: in a dry pan add pistachios, other nuts, sesame seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Toast for a few minutes until fragrant and lightly browned to release their oils.

Step 3: add contents of your pan to a food processor and process until ground but there is still some pieces. You don’t want this to be like a uniform powder but, a rough mix. Add salt, pepper, garlic clove and thyme and pulse again for a few seconds.

Step 4: add some dukkah to a small dish and add as much olive oil as you like to make either a thick paste or thin out like a dipping oil with bread or vegetables. You can also use this mix over chicken or fish as a dry rub or wet paste.

If you have any mix left I would store the dry mix in a small container in the freezer. I actually store all my nuts in bags in the freezer because they go rancid quickly if left in the bag or even a sealed jar on your counter.



PHO GA – Chicken Noodle Soup

My husband Big Pete has been feeling under the weather for the last few days and I made him this lovely soup to soothe and revive him back to health. Chicken soup is always a good idea!

You can roast an extra chicken when preparing your Sunday dinner or even pick one up already cooked from the grocery store. Toss some flavourings in a large pot with some cold water and let it simmer for a few hours and magic happens! Strain the soup, remove the chicken from the bones, and assemble a wonderful soup with all the toppings you like the best.

You will need:

  • a roasted chicken – remove most of the skin and breast meat. Keep the breast meat and discard the skin (I have a few roast chicken recipes on this site or try this one
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 2 onions – quartered and stems removed but I add the skin for colour
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic – just squished to release flavour
  • 5-6 thick slices of fresh ginger root
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1/2 – 1 red pepper – whole
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5-6 szechuan peppercorns – whole
  • 10 black peppercorns – whole
  • a handful of fresh cilantro/coriander

To serve – top with some or all of the following:

  • cooked vermicelli rice noodles or thicker rice stick noodles – mine soak in hot water for a few minutes
  • chopped/shredded chicken (1/2 cup per bowl or more if you prefer)
  • thin sliced yellow onions
  • thin sliced spring onions
  • grated ginger (1/2 tsp or so per bowl)
  • grated garlic  (1/2 clove grated per bowl)
  • bean sprouts
  • fresh cilantro/coriander
  • lime wedges
  • thin sliced radishes
  • thin sliced mushrooms
  • thin sliced snow peas/beans
  • sliced baby greens
  • chili oil
  • sambal olek or other chili sauce


Step 1: Take a roasted chicken (you can buy a quality roasted chicken in many good grocery stores – get one that is plain or has lemon pepper vs a barbecue roasted chicken) Remove most of the skin and remove the breast meat. I discard the skin and then set aside the breast for slices on top of the soup. Break off wings, and legs and place bones and meat in a large pot. Cover with cold water. My pot takes 6 -7 cups of cold water depending on the size of the chicken.


Step 2: add aromatics: chop onions (I like to add the skins of the onions assuming they are clean and organic) remove skins from garlic, squish and toss in the pot. Add slices of ginger, star anise, a red chili, a few szechwan peppercorns, black peppercorns, salt (you need salt in this broth!) and a handful of cilantro stems and leaves.



Step 3: let the broth come to a boil for a minute, turn down to a low simmer and leave it alone for 2-3 hours (you can leave it longer if you like too!) Let it slowly, gently blip away on the stove. If you let it simmer away on low you will get a nice clear broth, if you let it boil it will get cloudy.


Step 4: strain the broth and then strain it again through cheesecloth. Remove all the bits of chicken that you have left on the bones. I like to pick away to make really clean pieces of meat with no nasty bits but…if that’s your thing eat everything! Once you have your clear broth taste it and add more salt if necessary (it will be necessary!) then leave the broth in pot to stay hot until you pour over bowls. I find when you remove the skin there is virtually nothing to skim off the soup.


Step 5: chop all your condiments/toppings and soak your rice noodles.


Step 6: assemble your bowls. I add chicken on the bottom, then I grate the fresh ginger and garlic right on the chicken. I add the noodles, the broth and your condiments. If you like it spicy add more fresh chili or chili sauce, if you like mushrooms add a few slices etc… top with some sliced chicken breast etc.


This recipe makes 4 healthy sized bowls of yummy soup!