Looking for something to do this weekend? Wanna stay away from the crowds, goblins, zombies and ghouls taking up the streets and crowding your sidewalks? Head to the windward side, where you will enjoy a delightful retreat from the hustle and bustle of town and feel like you're on a stay cation getaway for the hallowed holiday.
Dia de los Muertos, aka the “Day of the Dead,” is traditionally a Mexican holiday that coincides with Halloween. Technically, it begins on Nov. 1 and runs through Nov. 2, but it’s often celebrated from Halloween night through the first days of November. Although some may perceive this holiday to be the opportunity for the deceased to revisit the living, often others rejoice, remember and celebrate the dead with parades, festivities and of course, food.
We were invited to preview and taste some of the special Day of the Dead-inspired dishes at Cactus, a Kailua restaurant
Cactus restaurant, located at 767 Kailua Road, is known for it's latin cuisine while using fresh locally sourced produce, protein from Hawaii farmers and transporting Central and South American flavors to the windward side of Oahu with a Hawaiian flare. After 2 1/2 years since opening the casual yet festive location is getting ready for it's second annual Dia de los Muertos celebrations with a specially made menu.
We were invited to get a sneak peek, and taste, of some of the specially crafted, Day of the Dead-inspired dishes that are often associated with this holiday and some are staples in the latin community cooking when honoring loved ones and memories from year's past.
The overall theme of Cactus' the special menu (only available from October 31 - November 2) is freshness. The dishes include fresh, handmade Sopes, non-GMO produce, Big Island beef, free range chicken, fresh picked greens and fruits. Combined together these dishes, ranging in price from $12-34 offer a flavorful, refreshing, unique and fulfilling essence of latin cuisine with hints of Hawaii.
We sampled the Sopes, Tamale Tasting and Bistecca, were also treated to a very special frozen banana and chocolate dessert that is only available for a limited time, so ask if they have it. Of the 9 menu items getting ready to launch next week Friday (10/31) these were ready to taste and review. Sadly, the special desserts Calabaza en Tracha and freshly made Churros ($10-12) were not available yet. We may have to go back to munch on those delicacies.
Once the weekend hits they will also feature live music, Karma tequila and other hand-crafted cocktails. The special menu additions will be available for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with some other surprises, tricks and treats!
Check out our sneak peek into Cactus' Dia de los Muertos, Comida:
767 Kailua Road
Kailua, HI 96734
*Reservations are suggested
Breakfast Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Happy Hour 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Dinner 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Over the past couple of months the food scene in Chinatown has exploded with amazing eateries, pop-ups and new restaurants. One place I want to highlight is a restaurant that took me way too long to experience since it opened just over one year ago.
Kan Zaman is located on Nuuanu Avenue closer to King Street and is an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Honolulu. When you first walk into the quaint little restaurant you are greeted with smiles and friendly greetings from the staff. The tables are small and the air conditioning is nice. The decor isn't anything special, but what you may not know is they offer seating outside in the back behind the kitchen. The outside seating is a beautiful courtyard with gorgeous exotic lanterns and delicately placed middle eastern highlights.
It is funny to note that I grew up on Kauai and literally ate Chinese food for every special occasion and the most ethnic thing I remember eating once in a while was Thai food. Now that special Thai restaurant is a Mexican restaurant in Kapaa, but what I am trying to get at is that it wasn't until I moved to Honolulu that I got to experience food from Greece, the Middle East and other flavors that tantalize the taste buds. I was excited when I went to Niagara Falls with my husband for our honeymoon and got to try a shwarma for the first time. And since then I have been craving good, authentic mediterranean food.
Kan Zaman serves up some delicious dishes. There is nothing so far that I didn't like, well I take that back the Katayef banana pancake dessert with orange blossom cream was like eating a flower, but everything else is so good and the portions are very generous.
Thus far I have had the Mezza Sampler- a sampling of hummus, babaganoush (the best I have ever had, and my husband agrees too), taktouka (tomato and green pepper salad), warak inab (stuffed grape leaves). I am salivating as I am writing this. This comes with a side of fresh, thin, light naan bread. The portions are nice, a heaping scoop of the hummus and babaganoush and there are 2 mini grape leaves which is perfect for 2 people to share. The hummus is a little different form the pre made stuff you find in the stores as it has a nice smokey paprika flavor and hints of citrus. The babaganoush from other places can be mush and have a weird texture, this one is creamy and very similar to hummus but with a lighter flavor that is really pleasant. The tomato and bell pepper salad is refreshing and contains some nice thinly sliced cloves or garlic for kick. My husband said the grape leaves were the best he's ever had, the leaves were tender and the stuffing light and seasoned well. Twice I have had this appetizer sampling now and I would order it every time, especially if you are hungry ($16.95).
The thing I love about mediterranean food is the meat. It's always seasoned well, tender and melts in your mouth. The lamb at Kan Zaman is delicious. There is no gamey taste and the seasoning is spot on. I have had the lamb kebab sandwich and the lamb tajine and both are amazing. The portions are so large and generous its refreshing to see nowadays. I usually take home the leftover or if I am really hungry I eat it all and feel bad about overeating afterwards.
The kofta sandwich is grilled seasoned beef, cheese, smoked paprika oil pressed on a baguette. It's almost like an amazing hamburger in a panini sandwich. Crisp on the outside and gooey from the cheese on the inside this sandwich is comforting and hearty ($11.95).
The lamb kebab sandwich is grilled shaved lamb chunks on a pita bread with a little tahini hummus spread, feta crumbles and black olives. They are pretty generous with the olives, of which I think I picked half of them out. The pita sandwich is so big you need to eat the filling before you can pick it up and eat it with your hands. So good though! The lamb is like little sausages and seasoned so well ($11.95).
Both plates came with a mixed green salad, that came in a heaping mound of greens, onions and tomato. The dressing is a slightly sweet vinaigrette. I found myself oooooing and awing as I ate it. Nice, refreshing and makes you feel good about eating such flavorful food when you have a huge salad next to it.
There's so much more I need to try and so many reasons to go back. I have only been there twice now so stay tuned to my Twitter for more eating adventures to come. And honestly, compared to other restaurants in town serving something similar the prices are better, the portions are way bigger and the quality is incredible. I love this place!
Kan Zaman 1028 Nuuanu Avenue serves lunch from 11am-5pm everyday except Sundays. Open until 9:30pm Monday - Thursday and open until 10:30pm Fridays and Saturdays.
I was recently invited to have 'Low Tea' with Michele Henry Sorenson, who is literally the Queen Tea of Honolulu. This great idea came about after we had been chatting online recently and I had never been to her tea room before... so she graciously invited me to tea at her latest installment at Stage Restaurant located in the Honolulu Design Center. Sorenson has decades of experience as an entrepreneur, elite athlete and owner of Tea at 1024 in Chinatown.
What I love about her is she is a local girl, who has a passion for the community and an eagerness to see others grow, succeed and help others. We sat down at 2:30pm in the afternoon and got to know each other for a few hours while sipping on specialty teas, munching on handmade sandwiches, scones, pastries, mini-cakes, brûlée and more.
Overall the experience was just delightful. I loved the company most and really enjoyed getting to know Michele and her past, present and future. She has been in the Chinatown community for many years and has so many stories to tell. It truly is fascinating to hear.
I ordered the strawberry tea which was a bit on the lighter side. It was fragrant and not too strong. My favorite samplings of the dishes was the truffle egg salad sandwich, honey lavender creme brûlée and, I was too full to eat the whole thing, the chocolate decadence cake was phenomenal.
You might be asking yourself, why are they calling it 'low tea' when everyone else calls it 'high tea'? Well everyone else has been getting this afternoon tradition wrong when it comes to the proper wording of the event, according to history. 'High Tea' historically comes from the Victorian era when families ate dinner at a high dining table, it was served family style and consisted of meats, cheeses, bread and tea.
Contrary to that, 'Low Tea' was served during the afternoon on a low lying table and it was seen as an afternoon snack and not necessarily a meal. Little and small bites like finger foods, sandwiches and etc are served at 'Low Tea'. Get it? LOL
Stage Restaurant started offering this 'Low Tea' service on Wednesdays only a few months ago, but starting this Saturday 10/11 they will begin serving tea in the Lime Lounge beginning at 11:30am, in addition to the Wednesday afternoon service from 2:30pm.
Here's a look at some of the edible highlights: