Food – leeward – food

Yesterday, E started a four-day holiday weekend, so we decided to go on an excursion to avoid the crowds that are sure to be huge over the holiday.

We started with breakfast at Town, one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants. E had polenta, greens, and egg and I had baked French toast.

Fortified, we set out on the H1 for the leeward (west) side of O’ahu. I had never been to that side but E and L had a short honeymoon getaway there and sometimes go there to visit the beaches. As I have mentioned, driving in Hawai’i is an adventure for me, but we made it through the day safely, despite some slowdowns. The weirdest thing on the road was passing my former rental car. Earlier this week, some warning lights came on in the Honda Fit, so it got swapped for a Toyota Corolla. E spotted the license plate of the Fit as I passed it on the highway. I’d say small world, but small island is more applicable in this case.

As we got away from Honolulu and its suburbs, we drove through terrain that reminded me of part of the Big Island – red soils, exposed rock, sparse and dry vegetation. In Hawai’i, the leeward sides of the islands tend to be dry. It’s common to see cactus and other plants that don’t need much water. The higher elevations as you go inland tend to be wet, some with annual rainfall of 400 inches (1,000 cm) or more. The highest peaks in the younger islands even get snowfall during the winter.

We parked close to the series of lagoons and beaches that the hotels that populate the leeward coast in Ko Olina had built.  We walked along the path behind the lagoons, enjoying the breeze and the views. Then, we went to get a smoothie and an acai bowl for lunch to cool off.

We headed back to E’s apartment before the traffic got too bad and to make sure we were here for our dinner reservation. The executive chef/owner of Town has recently opened a new restaurant kitty corner across the intersection from Town. It is named Mud Hen Water, which is the literal translation of Waialae, the avenue on which it is located.

Mud Hen Water specializes in small plates that fuse local ingredients and cuisine with more modern food trends. E and I shared:
*  pa’i’ai, which is taro pounded and fried, in a seaweed wrap so you can pick it up to eat
*  a beet salad, which was prepared similarly to poke. E was happy because she wanted me to experience poke style, but I don’t eat raw fish, so doing it with beets, which I love, was a great alternative.
*  A mutligrain risotto with peanuts and greens
*  lawalu, which was opah (a fish) wrapped in green banana leaves and cooked buried in coals, served with various grilled vegetables
*  a upside-down pineapple polenta cake, served warm with vanilla gelato
*  butterscotch-miso rice pudding with lacy ginger wafers
Everything was super delicious! We will have to go again the next time we visit. I’m sure we’ll go to Town also. We love to support the local businesses of Kaimuki!

Byodo-In Temple

Yesterday, Beth took us to the Byodo-In Temple in Kahaluu, north of Honolulu. It was finished in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawai’i. Located in a multi-denominational memorial park, it was modeled on the 900+ year old temple in Uji, Japan. You can read more about it here.

Before entering, Beth and Trinity together rang the large bon-sho (sacred bell) to create the proper mood for meditation. Next, we went to the meditation pavilion, which is set among little waterfalls and beautiful plantings. The temple grounds are non-denominational and it was nice to have a quiet space for the many prayer requests that are on my mind among family and friends. To enter the temple proper, we removed our shoes in order to visit the golden Amida Bhudda.

Then, we progressed to the other side of the grounds, which had ponds filled with carp. We also saw resident turtles and black swans.  On shore, a large peacock was strutting about. There were sign warning that peacocks are not tame and should not be approached. Brent spotted the peahen off near some bamboo plantings at the edge of a clearing. With her were three young peachicks, who were so well camouflaged that we could not spot them unless they were moving.

I have never been to Japan, so I’m grateful that a piece of Japanese heritage is so beautifully re-created on O’ahu.