My Point of Heu
A fairly new kid on the Kaimuki block, Restaurant XO now sits in the former spot of an old Waialae Avenue Chinese restaurant, with all new decor, a brand new dining room, art installations, fresh tables and chairs, along with a brand spanking new bar - this place is sure to be the next hot spot. I featured them in my summer edition of Hawaii.com's Best New Restaurants - for the summer months 2018, if you wanna take a look.
Now on to the review... I may dare to say this is my new favorite new restaurant. First and foremost, the menu is a blend of contemporary, ingenious and inventive as it blends a menagerie of diverse flavors, ingredients and local comfort foods. At first glance you'll spot items like Spam, Adobo, Lup Cheong and Crispy Rice, but look closer and you'll find Buratta, Black Truffle, Sous Vide Duck, Cured Egg Yolk and fine Caviar. How do these un-seemingly unrelated ingredients come together? Beautifully. In a nut shell they compose dishes that are exquisitely delicious, perfectly cooked and immensely familiar. Price points are $9-$26, so while you're eating what looks, tastes and feels like ultra fine dining you're still enjoying something that is relatively moderate in price. Add to that the extremely generous portion sizes, as these items are also prepared family-style so sharing is a must, and this is an experience all its own.
Since taking over the space in the summer of 2018 they jumped over hurdles and lept over speed bumps, now after a renovation and investing thousands of dollars into new equipment, decor and more the restaurant has a look, feel and vibe all its own and it is worth checking out for sure.
Here are some new items along with some delicious favorites.
I LOVED the Buratta with Proscuitto and Tomato Jam, Lemongrass Sausages, Loaded Potato Au Gratin, Tomato Risotto, Adobo Fried Chicken and Buttermilk Shiso Fried Chicken, Fried Bass, Sous Vide Duck, Seared Steak and XO Scallops. The Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Ala Mode is addicting!
On a recent trip to Japan I was walking down the street in Shinjuku when I stumbled upon a cafe. This is not an ordinary cafe as there are pets in the windows. I had visited an animal cafe before in Thailand that featured many exotic animals (foxes, raccoon, etc), dogs and cats but this one in Japan was exclusively for bunnies!
I have a thing for bunnies and rabbits because honestly, I love anything that is furry. I opted to pay $25 for an hour of time to be able to hold, cuddle and pet as many bunnies as my heart desired and here's what it was like...
First off you walk up the stairs to an exclusive bunny floor one other floor had cats. There you are greeted by a worker who asked you to take off your shoes and gives you a blanket to hold. Then she shows me the cubby-holes with a broad range of breeds, ages and genders to choose from. I of course went for the largest and fluffiest bunny first.
The cafe is quiet with light music, it is clean and while the bunnies are in moderate sized cages they have food, water and hay. The greeter also let some out to run around and let me hold the first bunny. Some of the bunnies were a bit hard to get to sit still while others just sat there. I am an animal lover so of course I wouldn't want to make an animal do something it didnt want to do, so if it wanted to roam freely and didn't want to be held then I would let it go.
There was another bunny that had small babies and the worker put them all in a basket and presented them to me. I got to hold 2 baby bunnies while the others attempted to run around on the floor. They were so cute and they barely knew how to walk, hop and scoot around with their soft legs and furry feet.
Overall the experience went by extremely fast and all of the bunnies were very kind and loving. One that I was interested in was known to bite so I opted not to hold him. I believe included in the fee is a drink, but I opted not to have one since all I wanted to do was hold, pet and play with the animals.
On a trip and you forget something... uh oh, don't worry you don't have to go to the store unnecessarily. I have found some super easy hacks to make your travels easier and cheaper. First and foremost - did you leave behind the hair gel or hair spray? No worries this is something you might already have in your bag or at least in your hotel bathroom. Then you have something stuck in your tooth and you wished you had a tooth pick or some dental floss, well this is a great contraption that does both. Also what do you do with your dirty underwear or your wet items and you don't have a plastic bag? Check out this common hotel room hack. Lastly my special hack that has saved me dozens of times if when my dress is wrinkled and I need to get it ironed, but I don't have one and a steamy shower won't do the trick, check this one out its great!
Got another simple and easy hack - comment below!
Over the course of my life I have witnessed a resounding theme -- some of the major careers and professions I have held included me being demoted, targeted and ostracized by other women in power. I can recall working at a long time job when a new manager came in and she immediately demoted me, at another high profile job a brand new female manager was at the helm and she would criticize, critique and try to constantly filter me, recently another woman of power (who doesn't know me personally at all) has gone to upper management to complain and accuse me of aloof and uncongenial behavior (which couldn't be further from the truth).
I am reminded of the time several years ago, when I was a featured speaker/panelist at a women's event - I said something profound and it resonated with the audience -- I mentioned that the one thing holding women back in the workforce was other women. This was so prolific that after the panel concluded other women were waiting in line to chat with me about the comment and many agreed, I was also not invited back to the event.
I am motivated to write this blog because I have seen a trend in many work environments that leads me to believe that strong women aren't all that strong, instead they are insecure, and thus use their power to intimidate other women around them. Looking back I would have appreciated a one-on-one talk about why a decision was made, and encouragement to help me achieve and accomplish my goals, also if someone is unavailable for you to be social with it can't be solely my fault since this is a two-way street.
Overall it is all about communication and support, why can't women focus on being uplifting, supportive and encouraging instead of always competing. If you want to address something - say something, if you don't like something then say how you can improve and if someone isn't engaging with you take the time to engage and get to know them - don't stab them in the back and complain to someone else then pretend you never said anything and sit in the corner. Be proactive and be a leader.
I first jumped on the social media bandwagon back in 2001, then I started blogging close to a decade ago... And as we have progressed to a life online, finding the perfect song to accompany your photos, videos and slideshows can be challenging. I would search the internet for royalty free music and have paid for permission to utilize tracks for some of my videos and posts...when a Hawaii resident approached me with the greatest idea... How about supporting local people, local musicians and local businesses with locally sourced music?!
Welcome VYNL an online resource providing local music for creators like myself! VYNL is a Hawaii-based music company created by artists and musicians to provide high quality music, accompaniment and content. Creator Brett Robinson is quite the talented guru when it comes to composition, scoring, creating and more. "VYNL is home to music from many local artists from different musical backgrounds and where businesses can easily license music for their marketing content," Robinson said.
"It's our mission to help support our extremely talented local artists and musicians, provide great service and connect Hawaii businesses of all shapes and sizes to music that meshes perfectly with their brands identity."
What's wrong with taking a song you love, downloading it from the internet and using it for your online posts, podcasts, YouTube, Facebook, IG and more? Well you may have noticed that these platforms may attempt to block you if you're using copy-written music, infact I can detect when you're using someone else's tracks and will remove your video if you don't have the licensing rights.
This can lead to a very sticky situation and I have found VYNL to be the best resource for me and I am also supporting local. "VYNL started from the need to connect two communities. Hawaii's businesses in need of music for their marketing content and its music makers.Local companies are effectively becoming their own marketing agencies through social media. And video is the go-to medium that has the most reach. But many don't know they must first obtain a sync license to attach music to their videos or they may find themselves in court for copyright infringement. I didn't want to see that happen. But where were they gonna get this music?
VYNL was the solution to two problems. Music licensing sites not having a good selection of local Hawaii music and Hawaii not having its own music licensing platform for its artists and music makers."
Having this resource is very exciting and I must say it's even better when Brett can create custom music for my custom videos. They are impeccable. Generally to purchase recorded tracks/music online will cost you anywhere from $50-$200 a song, VYNL starts at $40 and has great variety, excellent quality and the perfect tunes for our island life.
Looking for the right tune for your short clip? You can choose from your choice of style, vibe, mood, instrument or 60 seconds or less.
Additionally local artists are also featured:
Jim "Kimo" West
Jules Washington and many more to come by 2019.
"VYNL is home to music from many local artists from different musical backgrounds and where businesses can easily license music for their marketing content."
Visit www.VYNL.SHOP and check it out.
As a girl on the go, I often don't have time (or much room) for a lot of makeup. Overall I actually never wear makeup unless I absolutely have to. I discovered I only needed 7 items to create my full face and I could use these same 7 products for a day look and night look.
Here's a short tutorial on how to create a simple, pretty, fresh, beautiful face using products you probably already have in your makeup bag. *Note: I am not sponsored by any beauty products or makeup line so I am just showcasing the items I already have and use, this is not an endorsement - although I do need to go to the drug store and purchase some eye liner and new lashes since I realized I am running out now LOL
**Also the lighting in the bathroom is terrible, I should've just done the whole video in natural light, but I am showing you exactly how I get ready and just how simple and easy it is.
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.