Tag Archives: Waikiki

It started with an email

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I wouldn’t consider myself a risk-taker.

Sure, I’ve traveled to third-world countries without getting the appropriate shots and moved to Chicago without even visiting the city. (I am an Aries!)

But in general, I tend to live between the lines. I don’t paddle out if the waves are overhead and I wouldn’t walk my dogs in the middle of the night.

And to get me to go out on a date with someone I’ve never met before falls into that category.

Here’s what happened: Back in November 2013, I confessed to a friend that I was divorced. It wasn’t something I liked to broadcast. In fact, only a handful of people knew that my marriage was over.

I didn’t tell anyone for a variety of reasons, one of which was not wanting to get set up.

Which is exactly what happened.

My friend sent me over a link to the Facebook page of a guy he had known for a couple of years.

“Single,” he wrote.

“Who is he?”

“He’s a professor at UH, works with us on the wetland project, he does aquaculture mostly.”

“Nice?” I asked. Because that’s really, really important to me.

“Nice,” my friend responded. “And hunky.”

“I seriously don’t care about hunky.” (True.)

“Right…”

After a few back-and-forths — and then a serendipitous assignment on aquaculture — I decided I’d email this guy my friend was raving about.

My attitude was this: “If he’s nice and he’s active and he’s not an idiot or a misogynist or a downer or crazy or an asshole, I’m open.”

So I emailed him about the story. He wrote back the next morning, his message full of useful information. I appreciated his quick and comprehensive response. We became Facebook friends and, a month later, he emailed me this line about that story I was supposed to write: “I’m happy to help, too, and maybe we can meet up sometime in person to discuss.”

We agreed to meet on Dec. 14, 2013 in the early morning to surf at Queen’s — and to talk about aquaculture.

We surfed. And we did talk. But not just about aquaculture.

We wound up talking for six hours at Rainbow Drive-In. And before he got home, he texted me about surfing the next morning, too.

We saw each other every single day from that point on. And six months to the day we met, we were married.

And all it took was an email to a stranger.

I’ve looked back on my exchange with our mutual friend who set us up and I always laugh when I read the message he sent me, begging me not taking on this guy’s last name if we ever got married. (And this was before I had even sent that first email.) “Cat Fox,” he said, was just too much.

And yet, here we are, a year after we met on that fateful morning at the beach, and I’m officially — and legally and happily — a Fox.

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Celebrating our one-year anniversary this weekend at the Moana Surfrider.

It’s still so unbelievable to me that our lives intersected last year, that we were both single at the same time, that we would both instantly like each other so much that in six months we made our relationship legal.

It just seems so surreal.

I barely knew the guy at first. (I won’t lie, I did Google him, but not much showed up.) And I’ve never really been the type to just meet someone like that — at 5 a.m. in Waikīkī, no less.

Yet, that departure from the way I usually operate proved to be the best decision of my life.

I met my husband, my best friend. I’m part of an awesome, supportive family. And my two dogs have another sister. Life couldn’t be better or more complete.

I’m still not going to paddle out in high-advisory surf or move to Syria. (There’s no good reason there.) But maybe, sometimes, every once in awhile, I might shake things up, do something that’s out of my ordinary.

Because you just never know what amazing turn your life might take.

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#NewEats: Breakfast at Tucker & Bevvy in Kapahulu

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I’m always looking for great breakfast spots.

And it didn’t take much convincing on the part of my pal, Melissa Chang (@melissa808), to get me to meet her at 7 a.m. on Wednesday for some ricotta pancakes and roast beef hash at a new breakfast spot on Kapahulu Avenue.

It’s called Tucker & Bevvy (Aussie slang for “food and drinks”) and it’s located in the space vacated by an okonomiyaki shop on the second floor of the Hee Hing Plaza.

Actually, its first location in the Park Shore Waikiki Hotel opened last year, offering ready-to-go picnic food such as turkey cranberry sammies, smoked ‘ahi wraps and veggie stack panini with eggplant and sweet potatoes.

This second location, which opened today, offers fresh and hot breakfast items, from Italian baked eggs to croque madame.

Owners Tony and Cecily Ho Sargent spent the last 17 years running three food businesses in a beachy suburb of Sydney, Australia before moving here. (Cecily is from Hawai‘i and an alum of Punahou School.) So they know what they’re doing — and it shows.

Here’s what the first day of operation looked like and, of course, what we ate:

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We got here at around 7 a.m. and there were already people eating! Good sign!

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Here’s the menu. The drinks — T&B is known for its freshly made juices — are on the back.

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I dined with fellow — and hapa! — bloggers Lena Strong-Morris and Sean Morris. It’s always great eating with foodies because 1) they order everything and 2) they don’t get mad when you want to take photos of their food.

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We ordered the Lean Green ($7.65) with kale, cucumber, celery, green apple, lemon and ginger; and the C Holiday ($7.65, with pineapple and orange juices with some mint. It’s a bit pricey, but the quality of the drink is worth it.

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The restaurant makes a few house-made breads including this cornbread, which comes buttered and grilled. (I asked for extra butter.) It’s not sweet, more of a traditional cornbread, and it was a great way to start the meal.

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One of the standout dishes was this chicken fried rice ($9.50). The chicken is seasoned with garlic and pepper and the rice is tossed with a variety of ingredients including carrots, onions and scallions. It comes topped with two eggs, any way. I seriously couldn’t stop eating this — and it wasn’t even my order!

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We also tried the roast beef hash ($14.50) made with small chunks of prime rib roast and paired with roasted fingerling potatoes and red onions with two eggs. The saltiness of the beef went well with the potatoes and eggs. A very hearty breakfast, for sure!

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Next up, the ricotta pancakes ($9.50) with a strawberry compote. To be honest, the pancakes were so fluffy and sweet, you didn’t even need the compote. Yes, it was that good!

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I was very fond of this omelet with roasted veggies ($10.50), including eggplant, peppers, sweet potato and zucchini. I loved the house-made pesto and melted mozzarella cheese on the top. It really added something special to this omelet.

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Another favorite of mine was this mushroom rosti ($12.50). I loved the combination of the salty and crispy potato cake (hash browns) with mushrooms and wilted spinach tossed in balsamic vinegar and topped with two eggs.

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The most intriguing dish on the menu was this Tim Tam waffle ($9.50) topped with vanilla ice cream and syrup. The waffles are beer-battered and super light. And, of course, there’s the Tim Tams, those super popular cookies from Australia that I can’t get enough of. And now they’re in a waffle? Oh, I’m so coming back!

Tucker & Bevvy (breakfast), 449 Kapahulu Ave. Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. Phone: (808) 732-0050.

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#FieldTrip: Spending the evening in Waikiki

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We just can’t get enough of each other.

The four of us who traveled to Greece a couple of weeks ago planned to meet up with another friend, Dara Lum, who just started a new job as communications director at the posh Hakeulani.

And, of course, we had to eat.

So we decided to check out a new art exhibit at the Waikiki Parc, a swanky boutique hotel on Helumoa Road across the street from the beach.

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For the past year and a half, the hotel has partnered with the University of Hawaii at Manoa to transform what used to be a bare walkway through the hotel into a quaint gallery space to showcase student and alumni work. (It’s called the Parc Promenade.)

For the next three months — the art changes that often! — the works of Nathan J.H. Ditzler of Kailua (above), who graduated from UH and is now a graduate student at West Virginia University, will be on display (and for sale). This is his first solo show.

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His sculptures show a tension between the natural and the constructed — and with a clear sense of humor. I mean, just look at the ones above!

My favorite — and Ditzler’s, too — is “Shaka Mudra” (above), constructed from stoneware and metallic glaze. “It lends itself to art history but has this subversive element,” he explained. “I have to think this historical figure would have had a sense of humor.”

After the art opening, we walked across the street to the Halekulani for drinks at the House Without a Key and dinner at Orchid’s.

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I love this open-air restaurant for a lot of reasons, namely the view and the live music. It’s that classic Waikiki scene visitors romanticize about: the sun setting behind a trio of Hawaiian musicians with a former Miss Hawaii gracefully dancing under a century-old kiawe tree as you sip on your Mai Tai. How does it get better?

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The view from our table was perfect.

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We started with drinks — of course — and I had to sample the restaurant’s famous Mai Tai. Such a classic — and perfectly crafted.

But once the sun dropped behind the Pacific Ocean, we headed to Orchid’s, the hotel’s signature restaurant. Best known for its Sunday brunch, Orchid’s has a stellar dinner menu, too, that’s definitely worth checking out.

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We started with the lobster bisque, a decadent soup starter that’s a must-not-miss.

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Next, we sampled the grilled Romaine salad, the greens slightly charred and warm. It was nicely paired with feta cheese, cucumbers, onions and a lemon-oregano dressing. But it was the tomato chutney that was out-of-this-world. I could eat that with just bread and be happy.

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The server recommended this tuna and foie gras croquette, with a tomatillo salsa and green apple-frisée salad.

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A standout appetizer is the seared scallops with cauliflower mousseline — like a Hollandaise sauce — with caviar and gribiche cream. The scallops were buttery delicious.

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Another popular dish — and rightly so — is the olive oil-poached salmon paired with Big Island goat cheese and pistachios and roasted beetroot. This was so unexplainable delicious — must have been the olive oil poaching prep — that two of my girlfriends who don’t care much for salmon absolutely loved this. That says a lot!

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Easily the most popular dish here — actually, it could be its signature — is the steamed onaga (long-tailed red snapper), done Chinese-style. It comes with shiitake mushrooms and green onions, sizzled with sesame oil and shoyu. Melt-in-your-mouth perfect.

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Here’s the ravioli using Kahuku shrimp and asparagus from Waialua and topped with a lemon verbena butter.

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My girlfriend and I split the beef ribeye and tenderloin (shown), which came with root veggies and mustard cream. The tenderloin, as expected, was lean and a bit dryer than the fatty ribeye, which exceeded expectations. I will think about that ribeye for awhile.

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For dessert, we tried the organic chocolate plate with a rich chocolate cream paired with roasted apple bananas and organic white honey. Interesting, for sure.

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I ordered the ice cream sampler, all made in-house. You can pick from vanilla, nougat, Kona coffee, coconut and chocolate.

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But the star of the dinner is Halekulani’s signature coconut cake, a slice of heaven, really. This chiffon cake features coconut-amaretto cream, whipped cream and shredded coconut. And if you don’t like coconut, don’t worry. Most of us weren’t coconut fans — but we gobbled this up in no time. There’s a reason why this cake is legendary. It’s THAT good.

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#Revisited: Afternoon tea at the Moana

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I’m not much of a tea drinker.

But when Lorraine Elliot (@notquitenigella), blogger extraordinaire and food enthusiast from Sydney, informed Melissa Chang (@melissa808) and me that she was coming to town and wanted to meet at the historic Moana Surfrider in Waikīkī for some afternoon tea, well, I suddenly craved some iced tea and scones.

It’s had been awhile since I sat down on the famed veranda at this iconic hotel. The tea service here is steeped — pardon the pun — in history, it’s practically legendary!

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We went a little later than normal to beat the lunchtime crowd — we got there at around 2:45 p.m. — and only had to share the veranda with a few people. There was live music at the bar fronting the banyan tree and we had front row seats to the Pacific Ocean. You couldn’t beat it.

There are three tea options: $34 for the Veranda Tea Service, $40 for the Moana Classic Tea Service, and $48 for the First Lady Tea Service. All three come with your choice of tea, three assorted finger sandwiches, traditional scones and a sampling of pastries and petit fours on a three-tiered tray. The difference between the three? The Moana has an extra finger sandwich, a ginger biscotti and a mini pot de creme; the First Lady has all that plus a plate of fresh berries and a glass of sparkling dry rose. (We got the Moana Classic Tea Service.)

And it all starts with the tea.

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The service — in this case, Carlo who likes grasshoppers — brought out six different teas (above), including one herbal tea, for us to smell and pick.

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I chose the Moana Royale, a fruity blend that’s one of the service’s most popular. Melissa picked the hotel’s signature Moana Sunset with mango notes and Lorraine opted for the Veranda Breeze with caramel. The others were jasmine phoenix pearls, mango melee, and darjeeling and lemon rooibos.

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The tea, which you can get hot or iced, arrived first. You have to let the tea steep for a few minutes before pouring. It was nice — and strategic — that we had ordered three different teas so we could sample more than just our own.

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Next came the grub.

We were served this impressive display of scones and pastries, so perfectly crafted and pretty it was hard to eat. (OK, it wasn’t THAT hard to eat them.)

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The top tray featured a roll sponge cake filled with a creamy haupia (coconut) filling, mango macarons and a macadamia nut cookie.

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The second tier had traditional scones — a bit hard but tasty – paired with Devonshire clotted cream (my favorite) and lemon curd.

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The last tier boasted mini cakes — guava and coffee — that I figured got Lorraine excited! (She’s a bit of a cake aficionado. Read her blog.

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But the service doesn’t just offer sweets. We were also served this small plate of finger sandwiches: salmon over toast, a mini roast beef bite, and a tasty little bánh mì with pork and shredded radishes that gave it a nice crunch.

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Since we ordered the Moana Classic Tea Service, we also got this plate filled with a mini pot de creme in dark chocolate, which was divine, and a difficult-to-eat crab sandwich that used cucumber slices instead of bread.

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The meal finished with a dollop of lemongrass green tea sorbet.

My take: This may not be the most posh tea services around — and granted, I’m not a connoisseur at all — but I like the vibe and atmosphere. I want to go to an afternoon tea service that’s slow and relaxed, not stuffy or full of pretense, and this is it. You don’t feel rushed, you don’t feel stressed, and you’re definitely not thinking about all the work you have to do when you leave the hotel. You’re just enjoying the company, the view, and the food. As it should be.

Afternoon tea at the Moana Surfrider, 2365 Kalākaua Ave. in Waikīkī. Hours: Noon to 3 p.m. daily. Cost: $34, $40 and $48. Phone: 808-921-4600.

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FUUD: Hiking Hawaii Cafe in Waikiki

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There are a few food-and-activity pairings I love.

Surfing and Spam musubis.

Watching sunsets and drinking moscato d’asti.

Hiking and Slurpees.

But it turns out that last one about hiking may now be adjusted slight.

It might prefer acai bowls to Splurpees — especially after having breakfast at the Hiking Hawaii Cafe in Waikiki.

I’ll be honest — at first I was skeptical. This is a cafe that’s paired with a hiking outfitter. You meet here for hikes to Makapuu or Kuliouou Ridge — and grab a chai latte or breakfast pizza while you wait.

It’s really a great concept, started by partners Crystal Evans and Fabio Vilela about a year ago.

And the best part — the cafe isn’t just for hiking clients. Anyone — like my friend and I who just finished stand-up paddleboarding in Waikiki (which ended tragically with an iPhone 5S on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean) — can stop by for an all-fruit smoothie or yogurt topped with housemade granola.

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I’m always on the lookout for the Next Great Acai Bowl. (My favorite is still the one from Jewel or Juice in Kaimuki.) So when I saw this on the menu, of course I ordered it.

Hiking Hawaii Cafe’s acai bowl comes with a blend of acai berry and mango — different! — with guarana topped with blueberries, strawberries, bananas, honey and coconut (which I opted out of). This big bowl (above) was $8.25.

I couldn’t taste the mango much, except that the acai blend had a fuller taste and a little more tang. (Credit the mango?) But the consistency was great — I like mine a little thicker — and the toppings were better than at most other shops.

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My unfortunate — and now iPhone-less — SUP partner got the pitaya bowl (above). Same concept as an acai bowl but with the trendy dragonfruit — called pitaya. Despite its vibrant exterior and color, the fruit is surprisingly mellow in taste.

It’s become the new superfriut — acai was called this once — because it’s low in calories, a source of beneficial dietary fiber, and rich in vitamin C, B and antioxidants. It’s even has vegetarian-brand omega 3 fatty acids.

But the cafe also serves hearty plates like pizzas, panini sandwiches and salads.

It’s a little hard to find and parking is lacking. But if you’re in the area and you’re craving a nice big bowl of goodness — and you don’t want to wait in line at Bogart’s Cafe on Monsaratt — this is the place to go.

And maybe book a hike while you’re at it.

Hiking Hawaii Cafe, 1910 Ala Moana Blvd. underneath Todai Restaurant in Waikiki. Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Phone: (855) 808-4453.

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