Thursday, March 25, 2010

Local Perspectives

As much as I love being a travel writer, I must confess that there are, in fact, a few (mostly minor) downsides: (1) Not being able to travel with your loved ones. (2) Having to travel with people you don’t necessarily love (or even like). (3) Not getting to experience the destination as a local would.

Number three is a tricky one because, quite frankly, it can be difficult to get an authentic meal in some parts of the world, let alone a uniquely local perspective from start to finish. And, when you’re on a press trip, you have to pretty much stick to the plan. The plan, while usually jam packed with activities, doesn’t always leave enough time to let you wander and explore, meet the residents or even taste the regional specialties. (Also, I especially love encounters with friendly "wildlife"--like Jasmine from the North Shore Cattle Co. on Oahu--an absolute sweetheart of a dog. That's her drool on my leggings.)

My encounter with Jasmine from the North Shore Cattle Co., a family-owned cattle ranch on Oahu. //(c) Deanna Ting 2010

Fortunately, though, I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from the expertise of passionate and knowledgeable residents in a number of places that I’ve visited. I was reminded of that most recently on a trip to Hawaii just last week. Were it not for Candice and her team at Starwood Hawaii, I would never have known that Oahu’s North Shore grows some of the best coffee I’ve ever had, nor would I have ever tasted the meaty deliciousness of kimchee sausage on a stick.

Candice introduces Margery to some fried green tomatoes at the KCC Farmers' Market. Note the kimchee sausage on a stick in her hand. //(c) Deanna Ting 2010

Hawaii, in particular, is a place where there are locals and there are tourists—there’s a big distinction. Although I’ve been to Hawaii at least four times now, I am in no way a local and I would never dare aspire to be. Thanks to friends (and especially my boyfriend and his relatives), however, I’ve been privy to some of the best local spots on Oahu—places you won’t likely see in your Lonely Planet guidebook. And while I’m all for doing touristy things, traveling from a local’s perspective is always much more memorable and—let’s be honest—it comes with much better-tasting food, too.

Here are some of my favorite low-key (and mostly local) spots on Oahu:

Aki no-No: A little-known izakaya (Japanese-style pub) located in the Manoa neighborhood, near the University of Hawaii. Try the roasted gingko nuts--they're like macadamia nuts but chewier.

Diamond Head Market & Grill: Although I’m a sucker for any baked good, I’m not the biggest fan of scones because most of them tend to be hard as a rock. The blueberry and cream cheese scone here, however, was a revelation—soft, moist, creamy and tart. Another bonus? You can even buy beef bourguignon to take home—how ingenious!

Kailua Beach Park: My favorite beach on Oahu, hands down. I can never get over how beautifully blue its water is, or how fine the white-sand beach is. Even President Obama—an Oahu native—agrees. (Photo (c)

KCC Farmers’ Market: KCC, short for Kapiolani Community College, is home to my favorite Saturday farmers’ market. Where else but in Hawaii can you find kimchee sausage, kalua pork sliders (right), barbecued abalone, taro poke, shave ice and strawberry mochi all in one place? (Photo (c) Deanna Ting 2010)

Like Like Drive Inn Restaurant: A classic local-style diner that’s light on ambience but heavy on the helpings of pipikaula (Hawaiian-style dried beef) and loco moco (white rice topped with a burger patty and an over-easy egg smothered with butter brown gravy).

Liliha Bakery: Two words—coco puffs (left). I dream about this old-time bakery’s decadent chocolate cream puffs topped off with a buttery, salty, sweet Chantilly frosting—they’re just that good. (Photo (c) Liliha Bakery) 

Waiola Shave Ice: Shave ice is a must on any trip to Hawaii and Waiola’s is one of the best I’ve had (I’m hoping to try Shimazu on my next visit). Don’t skimp on the good stuff—go for the ice cream, azuki (sweet red beans), condensed milk and mochi balls. Remember, calories don’t really count when you’re on vacation.

Zippy’s: Okay, so they’re everywhere on Oahu but I have to admit that this Hawaiian version of Denny’s is good—always satisfying and, even better, open 24 hours a day. While they’ve got great oxtail soup and saimin, they also make a mean chili, believe it or not.

Here’s to new additions from future visits...

1 comment:

  1. From the travel shows I've seen, it definitely seems that seeing a place through the eyes of a local is much more satisfying than having to follow a strict plan or being told what you can and cannot do according to a company by someone else. Kimchee sausage? Can't say I've ever even heard of it. Should I go to Hawaii someday, I will definitely be taking these suggestions along with me. :)