My Point of Heu
As a world traveler, many people ask for my travel highlights. I've been to many places -- from Paris to New Zealand to across Asia and Mexico -- I have had my fair share of wonderful travels, great adventures and numerous memories. So, I decided to list a few places that I believe are the top 3 on my must-see, must-visit list.
The first thing you will notice about Japan is how well developed, organized and courteous the people are. The city is buzzing with excitement meanwhile, the country is beautiful, vibrant and majestic. The work ethic is unlike anything I have ever seen before and while the community is very polite, the cities are very clean and the food is also affordable.
I began traveling to Japan when I was Miss Hawaii, I recall going there around 8 times... which is funny because I don't speak Japanese nor do I dance the hula. One time I kind of faked me way through a hula routine at a mall and I swear there were people watching and cringing. Anyway, as you know the Japanese love Hawaii and as a kama'aina born and raised I also love the Japanese. You can get the most amazing bowl of ramen for $9, spend all your days shopping and exploring --- and still have time to make friends, sing karaoke and dance the night away.
The people truly make Japan a wonderful place, they are so selfless, accommodating and sincere. Make it a point to go to Japan - perhaps in the spring (Cherry Blossoms) or fall.
To be honest, I didn't know too much about Singapore when I made my way there. I heard they had harsh punishments for breaking the law and something about gum being banned and etc. But I found Singapore to be delightful, extremely colorful and diverse along with a great sense of community and culture.
Formerly governed by the British, they are essentially asians who speak with the most charming accents. The country was created to host a broad range of ethnicities, the infrastructure is brilliantly sound and the focus on environmental impact is inspiring. You'll find people from all walks of life here and the innovation in technology and education is pronounced.
Singapore is extremely clean, like I mean you could probably eat a meal off the seats in the public transportation clean. You also fee quite safe here, as you also feel in Japan. And lastly the food was also amazing here. i felt like there was great influence from France, Asia and Malay so you get a good mix of classic dishes and the ethnic enhancements from surrounding influence.
I've always loved Australia! For one the people speak English, number two the value of our dollar can be better (depends on the exchange rate), and their weather is similar to Hawaii just opposite -- their winter is our summer and vice versa. The people are also extremely friendly and there's a lot to see, do and experience.
Australia is huge - I've only been to Sydney and Bisbane but I loved the beaches, the activities and of course the food and adventures. Do go and see the animals at the zoo, do experience the various museums and amusement parks and do adventure to the botanical gardens and the typical list of sights to see.
Overall, Australia would be the place I would move to if I couldn't live in Hawaii. I enjoy the culture, the history and the climate. You feel a great sense of community, serenity and hospitality there. One of the times I was in Sydney it rained for most of the time I was there but we still enjoyed each day and saw the sights in the rain and even caught a train so we could hold koalas. The community there is very trendy, stylish and progressive which is refreshing as well.
Hi everyone... It's been a little while since I actually spent some time blogging. Most of us had a lot of free time this weekend due to the storm and while some were cleaning, watching TV, chilling out... I was still working, in crisis mode and quite busy. But now I have a moment and I wanted to share some thoughts as we expect to see some sunshine after this storm literally, and figuratively, passes us by...
This is not the first time we have braced for a major hurricane and it is not the last. Earlier this year Kauai was hit by some of the hardest conditions ever recorded in the islands, our friends on Maui and Hawaii Island have been routinely going through the devastating recovery motions. With that said when disaster strikes it can be a very challenging time. It is both physically and emotionally exhausting. I have been on Kauai for several months now and sometimes things there frustrate me -- the devastatingly slow internet/wifi, the lack of urgency, the laissez faire lifestyle, the fact that businesses tend to close at 3:30pm (including the dump at 3:15pm) and convenience stores are dark by 8pm. But all those things aside, I think it's people who can bring you up or bring you down.
You would think that often times your support group, and your close friends and family, will be there for you...but during times like these don't be surprised to find no calls back, no texts back, an offer to help which was insincere and not really an authentic offer to provide assistance, people trying to take advantage of you and some who just have no clue whatsoever... I found it to be very overwhelming. Each morning I would try to do my normal routine of work, which was not easily done because I didn't have my normal resources, then juggling recovery efforts, along with paperwork, client calls, events, posting, writing, maintaining a positive attitude and making an effort to be an onsite laborer.
I know when everything is said and done, I will look back and feel a great sense of accomplishment and relief... but I am also enduring nightmares and a sense of sadness because maybe people didn't come through the way I had hoped, dreamed or wished. In the end, I believe people come into our lives for a reason... one of my friends told me that friends flow. I believe this is true. I would also like to think that I am a great, true, sincere and kind person. I will go above and beyond for you -- but will you truly go above and beyond for me? I guess I will just have to see...
Over the next couple of days we will see reprieve from the storm and the systems it has brought... I look forward to seeing the sun shine again. I also look forward to having normalcy again...perhaps that may happen in the coming months and we can celebrate and say together Here Comes The Sun!
I can honestly say this year so far has been the most challenging. We all go through ups and downs. Thankfully after passing one obstacle, you can look back and say "Wow, look what I've done, I made it through and have accomplished so much -- then continue to move forward." I always strive to keep looking up and forward. Once one thing is complete then it's on to the next.
A few months ago I set out to (in addition to my personal life, my business and career) create a new platform. I spent the time getting Da Best Hawaii (registered, website, social media, DCCA) ready and started working on this new video series that would highlight everything we love about Hawaii. It has come easily. My friends and supporters loved the idea and as it has grown (launched on June 1st) I realized people started to believe in the idea as much as I did.
I didn't set out to feature only food, in fact one of the themes I wanted to showcase was the great outdoors and retail. But the food features came naturally and all my chef friends were willing and able to be on camera, so we did it. Now I am booked through the next 3 months with content for the show.
I am also truly ecstatic to share that the series will also be available (beginning July 1st) via Video On Demand on Hawaiian TelCom. Even more so I have to produce these weekly webisodes and continue to create new content. You could only imagine my excitement that this little idea I had was flourishing.
I've reached out to some of my favorite businesses and wanted to do more than just cuisine, but I guess in time it will come. For now the schedule is pretty food heavy, but I am really enjoying sharing the stories behind the dishes and getting to learn more about the people behind the business. Ultimately, I want to support local people, local businesses and do great story telling that is meaning, impactful and positive for the entire community.
You would never know Chef Lee Anne Wong started out in fashion design, Chef Russell Siu was a math major and wanted to work in accounting, Ai Love Nalo isn't really a restaurant but more of a community center for Waimanalo Residents to learn how to eat healthier and the couple from Ubae Hawaii quit their real jobs and set-out to start their own family-run business and spend more time with their children. These stories and these inspirational messages have compelled me to keep going and continue to do what I do because I know it's the right thing!
Know a business that should be featured on Da Best Hawaii? Feel free to email me. To be featured is entirely no charge and I provide the business with all the videos, photos and cross promotion online as well. firstname.lastname@example.org Or visit www.dabesthawaii.com
The Street by Michael Mina prepares to celebrate its one year anniversary... And in doing so the multi-award winning chef is launching a few new offerings at the popular food hall/social house. I featured this new age food court on the Hawaii.com Best New Restaurants in Honolulu Summer 2017 edition, and it's been highly gratifying and also very exciting to see the hawkers evolve, shift and expand.
It's also delightful to find a new installment, launching tomorrow (May 21, 2018) that features heart-healthy options including smoothies, fresh salads, veggie burgers, wraps and tasty bowls. Welcome Indie Girl - a wellness bar focused on good health and..."Guests can also enjoy a fresh cold press juice, cleansing kombucha on tap, a beneficial bowl or a seriously health-provoking smoothie featuring a curation of super foods."
Also added to the mix, is The Street Test Kitchen -- wherein the chefs and contributors to The Street will curate a continually evolving and changing kitchen of new dishes, recipes and concepts. "The first of these is a Poke concept – bringing the uniquely Hawaiian offering of poke in your choice of a bowl or roll."
I truly enjoyed all the offerings from Indie Girl which presented a healthy sampling of their Avocado Toast, Tomato Toast, Salad, Notrorious VIB veggie Burger and delicious beet hummus. The poke bowls and poke rolls (massive burritos) from the Test Kitchen were tasty and had unique robust flavors along with generous portions, but the Indie Girl concept is more my flow at the moment, especially since Waikiki seems to lack the fast, friendly, health-concious options I've been craving lately.
Some of the most profound passions in my life have included sharing great stories, helping others and capturing memorable moments. From the young age of 6 years-old I began to photograph people, places and things. In elementary school I was a nationally recognized writer and photographer, in high school I anchored the morning announcements and in the 6th grade I emceed our May Day program. Then I started a life-long effort to give back to the community by volunteering. These values have remained strong and an utmost priority in my life.
Here's where I segue into my next passion project: Da Best Hawaii™
People want the best in life. If that means exploring the best places, eating the best food, finding the best products and sharing the best experiences there is a constant theme -- its all Da Best. My idea to showcase Da Best Hawaii comes from my many years of involvement, dining, traveling, meeting new people and learning about history, inspiration and motivation. My abilities as a journalist, writer, researcher, blogger, television personality, social media influencer and community member... have helped me to hone my skills and thus share compelling, award-winning, creative stories.
Taking together my passions for photography, videography, storytelling and helping the community/local businesses -- I am launching a brand new medium to showcase the very best of Hawaii digitally and on a social sphere entirely produced, photographed, edited, curated and hosted by yours truly!
Da Best Hawaii will showcase 4 simple things:
B - Beginning and how it all Began
E - Entrepreneur or Expert (chat with an official who will give us a behind the scenes and all the inside scoop.)
S- Story everyone has a story and here we tell it and share it.
T - Get a Taste (showcase the must Taste or Try).
So do me a favor and get ready for my new project that is entirely about giving back and sharing the love. Lookout for segments and bite-sized webisodes that will give you a behind-the-scenes look at Da Best Hawaii. Produced by me, shot by me, photographed by me, edited by me, coordinated by me and hosted by you know who.
There's no limit to what we can do as long as we put our minds to it and have Da Best intentions at heart.
Follow the journey online
Also, if you have a suggestion of something that you think is Da Best feel free to connect with me via this contact link:
Da Best Hawaii Media™
I've never seen the Lord of the Rings movies... I know I know they are amazing and wonderful. I just haven't gotten around to sitting down and watching the movies in their entirety.
It may surprise you to hear that on a trip to New Zealand I stopped by the actual Hobbiton movie set. Even though I hadn't seen the films I was familiar with the cast, storyline and tidbits about the movies. It was a great journey to Matamata to see and experience.
Before making our way to the tour facility and then jumping on a short bus ride to the set, we stopped at a local pub for drinks and a bite. Then we made our way to the guided tour and got to experience the background, behind the scenes, and hear the stories behind the film and the remaining set.
Discovered in 1998 the 1,250 acre sheep farm was scouted by movie location officials and deemed the perfect location for Hobbiton. Because of a towering pine tree and beautiful lake nestled within the rolling green hills producers believed this was exactly what they' were looking for and matched the J.R.R. Tolkien shire described in the book.
In March 1999 crews began construction on the temporary movie set and with the help of the New Zealand Army the 39 temporary hobbit hole community was built, then torn down after filming wrapped.
Ten years later the trilogy continued and it was decided to rebuild the set again but with permanent materials and thereby perpetuating the splendor and wonder that is now Hobbiton forever. 44 hobbit holes and the Green Dragon Inn bar and lounge remain as a focal point for visitors and guests from around the globe.
Once you arrive on-property you are escorted in with your friendly tour guide. This is a photographer's dream as the set is extremely photogenic and each hobbit hole boasts something unique and visually appealing. The traditional Hobbiton movie set tour includes background information on the location (Alexander Family sheep farm). The guide will highlight specialty areas on property and engage with guests to answer any and all questions.
What amazed me was the landscaping and upkeep of this site. The fresh produce and vibrant gardens are all real. The apples, pumpkins, gerber daisies and an abundance of flora and fauna, are all well kept and meticulously maintained. They have about half a dozen on-site gardeners to maintain the property along with worker volunteers who spend their spare time maintaining the gardens as well.
Each hobbit hole is unique and comes in a variety of colors and decor. You can wander, find your favorites and take photos of the exterior. It may sadden you to find out that there is nothing inside and the interior is just a dug out hole in a hill with wood in it. But for the most part you are not allowed inside the holes and can mainly take photos and videos from the outer gate, at the door or at times when there is something to pose with.
It's highly suggested you book your tours in advance as these sell out.
Tours are held daily and offer a variety of pick-up spots.
Price starts at $84 adult and $42 children 9-16 years-old.
The duration of the tour/time spent on-site is about 2.5-3 hours.
Here's a brief video of the site, experience, tour and etc. Please like and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more adventures!
I must have been about 7 years-old the one time I visited New Zealand, there is a small chance that I was younger than that, but I will just stick with 7. All I recall are green rolling hills and white sheep everywhere. This time around I had the chance to visit New Zealand during the sunny fall season and it was a glorious experience that literally left me wanting more.
Upon arrival our flight got in after 10pm, by the time we got our rental car, checked into the hotel and settled it it was past 1:30am. We went to bed and woke up the next morning ready to explore. We knew we wanted to check out Waiheke Island and drove from the airport hotel to central city terminal in Auckland and hopped on a ferry. The warm sun, soft wind and clean water was inviting. After just 35 minutes on the boat we arrived at Matiatia Bay. What a splendid bay it is with small sail boats and kayaks. The air was crisp and the docks clean. There we purchased $10 all-day city bus passes and ventured to the wineries. You can also book a tour, rent a car/bike or even catch a taxi.
Waiheke Island is a haven for artists, ocean-lovers, nature enthusiasts and wine drinkers. One 20 minute bus ride and you'll arrive at a stop that features 3 vineyards all right next to each other and poised with differing activities and wines to sample and delight. Our first stop was at Wild on Waiheke, a brewery, winery and multi activity experience, we enjoyed a wine tasting and light lunch. The cool thing about this place is the outdoor activities and games you can enjoy on-site. There's clay shooting, archery, massive chess, a large trampoline and laser tag. Nestled in the midst of the vineyards is a beautiful garden and large flat green grass area to frolic. The food was great, nicely done and the wine tasting pours are smaller than what we are used to in America but enough to give you just a taste. The sampling included 6 wines for $13 - Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Rose, Wildling and Syrah. It's a beautiful and fun setting with many options.
Next door is the impeccable Stonyridge Winery, this vineyard is about a 10 minute walk from the main road and up the mountain. Once you arrive you are greeted by hundreds of olive trees. Stonyridge is positioned as a more luxurious wine with notable awards, cafe, VIP club and more. They also offer tastings, an indoor and outdoor patio and really cool mountain sloped seating overlooking the vineyard. This location had pristine views with a more lively setting. This vineyard is divinely elegant with veranda cafe, yoga, helipad and full range menu items from cheeses, to mains, desserts and more. A tasting of 3 wines is $10, served outside and poured one-at-a-time, in a group setting where people can ask questions and engage with their host and each other.
The tasting is nestled under one of their many olive trees and it is there that you can sample 3 of their wines grown and created on-site from the 25 acre sustainable facility. We were still full from the 2 starters we had at the other winery that we only relaxed under the trees and enjoyed the tasting and didn't eat.
Here's their story: "Stonyridge Vineyard is the ongoing dream of owner Stephen White. In 1981 Stephen returned to New Zealand after sailing a Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, skippering yachts in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, and working at wineries in France, California and Italy. It was during this 3-year adventure that Stephen came to love the culture and lifestyle of the Mediterranean and the great red wines of France, Tuscany and California."
Surprisingly, another person from Hawaii spotted us and invited us to join their group. There we met with some of the locals including one of the owners of Stonyridge. We sat enjoyed more wine and talked for a while, until we had to catch our bus for an early dinner, then hop back on the ferry just as the sun was setting and make our way out of Auckland and toward Cambridge, which is just under 2 hours away.
Stay tuned for more on our amazing journey to New Zealand. Also watch this short video detailing our experience on Waiheke Island.
For close to half a century Elena's Home of Finest Filipino Foods has been feeding the Hawaii community delicious, homestyle filipino cuisine. Lucky for everyone the Waipahu restaurant expanded their location in September (now doubled in size) and launched a new buffet. The all you can eat buffet is served everyday from 8:30am-8pm and is only $11.50 for adults, $7.99 for keiki 7-3 years-old, $2.99 for keiki 2-under.
You'll find favorites including the trademarked Pork Adobo Fried Rice Omelette, Chicken Papaya, Corned Beef Cabbage, Sari Sari, Pancit, Dinuguan, Adobo and more. It's not a huge spread of glutenous food, but it definitely makes sense. If you were going to come in and order the fried rice omelette, might as well pay just over $2 more and get the entire buffet.
Here's a look below.
Elena's Home of Finest Filipino Foods
94-866 Moloalo Street
Waipahu, HI 96797
Spring is about to get sprung... and one of my favorite people of all time is at the helm in the kitchen at the Top of Waikiki. Literally positioned above the region and towering over the bustling streets filled with shoppers, visitors and diners, Chef Lance Kosaka has unveiled 11 farm-fresh new menu items from the kitchen at the revolving restaurant with panoramic views.
From Happy Hour bites to vegetarian options and tasty spins on local classics these new dishes are delicious and bursting with flavor.
Must-try dishes include:
Pan-Seared Ahi Steak
Vegetarian Cous Cous
The Top of Waikiki
2270 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
Open nightly 5-9:30pm
Happy Hour at the bar all night 5-9:30pm
While on my first trip to South Korea I stumbled upon a street vendor selling these crisp, brown, steamy, hot treats to children. I had no idea what was in it but had to order some. To my surprise it was a delightfully delicious chewy subtly sweet pancake of amazingness. Filled with cinnamon, peanuts and brown sugar -- I had to go back for more.
Nothing compares to the very first taste back in Fall of 2016, but thankfully I found another vendor in Seoul to appease my craving of the hotteok pancake yummy goodness! This my friends is ono eats!