Thursday, February 8, 2018

Market Review: Dukes Lane Market & Eatery

A Must Stop When in Waikiki: Dukes Lane Market & Eatery

One Stop Shop, Dine and Drink

When my hubby and I heard that a “super” ABC Store will open soon in Waikiki, we were ecstatic.  Learning that it would be open upon our return, we knew what our first mission would be: get there as soon as our bags are unpacked.  And, we did.  What we found was exactly what was needed—a full market, a grab-and-go market, wine and spirit shop, a bakery with beverages, a full restaurant, with full bar, and simpler fare, such as pizza and sandwiches.  
Note: All these stores and restaurants are within steps of one another.  In fact, Chill, Island Gourmet Coffee and the Bakery share the same counters—built in an “L” shape.  Thus, one can grab a pastry from the Bakery, order a cup of Kona coffee from Island Gourmet Coffee and choose a cup of gelato from Chill all at once.

Great little ABC Store: Market
This ABC appears a bit higher end than the typical ABC with its perfectly arranged produce and fine gourmet foods.  Their cheese selection was impressive. 
Daily 6:00 AM to 11:30 PM

Find the best wines and spirits in The Vault
They even have the excellent Far Niente and Clos Du Val Cabernet for a reasonable price.
Daily 6:00 AM to 11:30 PM
Be in and out fast with Dash—fast and fresh
Just need a fast ready-made gourmet sandwich, sophisticated salad or bottle of water?  How about cut fruit in a glass or pastry wrapped and ready to go?  Find it here at the Dash.
Daily 6:00 AM to 11:30 PM

Chill out at Chill
Find unique Teapresso Boba beverages, various iced teas, lemonade and gelato at Chill.  The gelato is the best I tasted in Honolulu.  (Find out what Boba tea is here.”
Daily 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Need some Joe or soothing tea, try Island Gourmet Coffee
Island serves only the finest Kona Coffee and tea grown locally
Daily 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Yummy treats await those who visit the Bakery
It’s difficult to choose a treat when faced with freshly baked Malasada (especially those filled with coconut cream), donuts, breads, scones and cookies.  All are delicious.  On our first visit, I had to try a Malasada since I had seen them on the Hawaii Five-O television show.  Lucky for us, two were misshapen, so the young man at the counter gave us three for the price of one.  Yum!  In earnest, they are so dense and filling, I could only eat part of one.
Check out the doughnut schedule per their website.

Only the best at Ono’s Burger Bar 
So much better than the typical fast-food fare, these are made from free-range beef that result in juicy burgers served on brioche buns.  We had ours with their garlic fries—pure heaven.
They also have chicken, fish, and veggie burgers.
Mon - Sun... 10:30 AM - 10:30 PM

Our favorite is Spitfire Rotisserie and Flatbread
We tended to order the flatbread, which was always delicious.  Perfectly baked with fresh flavors.  Our favorite was the “Yes No Meat!” $ 9 with grilled eggplant, squash, wild mushroom, kale, and tomato sauce.

They also have:
Plates, served with your choice of two sides for $12-$18.  
Fresh Poke bowls for $11 - $15
Salad for $9 
Note: You’ll notice many walking the streets with Spitfire’s boxes in their hands.  It’s that good!
Mon - Sun 10:30 AM - 10:30 PM
Fine Dining at Basalt 
When I first peaked into Basalt—around their lovely full bar—I was sure it was an over-priced upscale venue.  That’s simply not the case.  Sure, the food is top notch.  But, the prices are mindboggling for Hawaii.  The highest priced item on the lunch menu is $22 and that’s for steak and fries!  We would pay that in Davis, CA.  This place is a gem.  Their happy hour is even more impressive.  
Happy hour: Every day 3-6 PM. 
Cocktails, beer and wine.
Lower priced appetizers and various menu choices.  For example, burgers are $5!
Note: Inside and outside dining with over 150 seats. 
Restaurant: Mon - Sun 7:00 AM - 10:30 PM
Bar: Mon - Sun 7:00AM - 10:30PM
Dukes Lane Market & Eatery
2255 Kuhio Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

Please share your experiences!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Activity Review— Honolulu Parades and Rallies

What to Expect of Parades and Rallies in Oahu

Lots of Love and Unity Shared in Honolulu

Honolulu Star Advertiser
After witnessing the Pearl Harbor 75th Commemoration Parade last year in Honolulu, my expectations about the MLK parade were limited.  I figured the parade would arrive late and disorganized, but still memorable.  Was I surprised?  Oh yeah.  And, how about the People’s Rally/Women’s March?  Well, that was worth the price of admission.

MLK Parade Honors a Remarkable Man with a Remarkable Parade

Marching bands...check.  Unknown persons riding in cars...check.  Typical, right?  Some aspects of this parade simulated most.  Nevertheless, most of the multiple marching bands were animated, each member displaying emotion not typically found in the “typical” parade.  After all, we’re in Hawaii.  I never flashed so many “Shaka” signs in my life.
Enough of my opinion.  Check out the video above.

The People’s Rally Honors all People—Hawaiian Style
Not to get political here, as each of us has our own opinions and beliefs on what our government should be.  For this rally, much of it is left leaning.  However, the message was of love.  Or should I say, “Aloha.”
Please share your experiences.

Activity Review: Waikīkī Aquarium

What to Expect When Visiting the Waikīkī Aquarium

Memorable.  Learning Opportunities.  Simply Amazing!

I must admit; my hubby and I are two lucky people.  We stumble across a docent who is an expert of amphibians and reptiles at the Honolulu Zoo.  And, then the very next day, we stumble across a retired Professor at the Waikīkī Aquarium.  How lucky is that?!    Having someone at our side explaining habitats and the ocean life we were witnessing enabled us to enjoy our visit more.  We came to see, and we found knowledge.  

To fully appreciate this gem, please watch my video.

2777 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Open daily, 7 days a week
Adult $12
age 13 to 64 
Junior $5
ages 4 to 12 (Must be accompanied by an adult)

Children Free
age 3 and under 

Kama‘aina $8
age 13 to 64 with current I.D.
Senior $5
age 65+, Persons with disabilities
Active Duty Military $8
with current I.D.

Please share your experiences.

Activity Review: Honolulu Zoo

Why Visit the Honolulu Zoo?

Lions, Tigers, No Bears...But They Do Have Gharials

With so many activities to choose from while visiting Honolulu, deciding on a trip to the zoo might not make a lot of sense.  After all, most home cities have zoos, so why waste precious vacation time on visiting one in Honolulu?  Because it’s this one.

What makes it so darn special?
This may not be the largest zoo in the U.S. with its 42 acres, but it is home to 995 different animals from the tropics.  Making this zoo quite cool.  Also cool, is that this is our only royal zoo.  Okay, not quite royal, but the land once was.  King David Kalakaua, Monarch of Hawaii granted the people these lands in 1876.  Point of fact, he actually granted an entire 300 acres that became the zoo and Kapiolani Regional Park.  For those of you who have visited Oahu, more specifically the Honolulu area, you are, most likely, familiar with this massive park breathtakingly overshadowed by Diamond Head.
The grounds are lovely and separated into three tropical ecological zones: African Savanna, Asian and Pacific Islands/American Tropical Forests.  So, as you stroll through the zoo, the landscape foreshadows the types of animals you’ll see.  
In fact, this is the Honolulu Zoo Mission Statement directly from their brochure/handout.  
“The mission of the Honolulu Zoo is to inspire stewardship of our living world by providing meaningful experiences to our guests. The Zoo emphasizes Pacific tropical island ecosystems and our traditional values of malama (caring) and ho`okipa (hospitality).”

What type of animals live here?
One can find the typical zoo animal here, like elephants, giraffes, lions and primates.  But, there is also a variety of reptiles and amphibians that might be new to many of us.  The tiny Poison Dart Frogs that eats poisonous ants to help keep them poisonous to their enemies.  Their lipophilic alkaloid toxins is so poisonous it can kill many men, which is why some used the poison for their darts.  Interesting, huh.   
Of course, there are many other “pretty” and less dangerous animals here as well, such as sloths, ring tailed lemur and American flamingo.  All are amazing, though, and not to be missed.

To get an idea of what you might see there, check out their website before your trip to Oahu.  The zoo website hosts amazing pictures and descriptions of each animal living in their care.  Luckily for us, we happened upon experts who spent an extended period of time educating us on Amphibians and various Reptiles.  One such expert was Conner.  Just a teen in high school, he educated us in the three different types of poisons/venoms found in amphibians and reptiles.  Extremely interesting!  I probably learned more in an hour than in most university classes. 
Not just a zoo, but a classroom as well.
Besides teaching material for teachers, the Honolulu Zoo provides Zoo Camps, Twilight Tours, Field Trips and Zoo to You. 
Please read more about these wonderful programs:
Must Know Information
General Admission
$19.00 – Adult 13+
$11.00 – Children 3-12
Free – Children 2 and under
Kama‘aina/U.S. military
$8.00 – Adult 13+
$4.00 – Children 3-12 yrs.
Open Daily
9 am-4:30 pm

151 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96815

Please share your experiences

Friday, February 2, 2018

Venue Review: Update, Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel

Relaxing and Exploring is Easy at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel

Stay, Go, Eat, Swim, Workout...Do it all

Ah, Waikiki with its white beaches, iconic hotels, high-end shops and the aloha spirit.  I simply cannot get enough.  So, even though we recently visited via a cruise, I found we didn’t have enough land time, necessitating a Waikiki stay in one of our favorite hotels: Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel.  
As full disclosure is everyone’s friend, I must admit my rabid fandom for Hilton Honors and their various properties.   It’s for good reason though, as this post and many others will affirm.  Membership is free; most room upgrades—based on availability—is free; Free Internet access, and for many properties, a hot breakfast is included.  For this property, as Gold Honors Members, we were offered a free hot breakfast and an excellent evening appetizer buffet, which was more of a meal.  Coffee, tea, juice and soft drinks were available all day.
Please read my Hotel Room Review 

Food in the Executive Lounge
Excellent Service Creates Happy Guests 
Even though our flight was delayed, we still arrived at this Hilton hours early.  As is common with Hilton properties, but not many others, the front-end staff always does everything possible to find an available room that will be an upgrade.  Love that!  Jamie, the staff member who assisted us, searched and found one, but didn’t consider it the best room.  She offered us this choice, which was available at the time, or the best choice near the top of the hotel with an ocean view.  Uh...let me think about that for a second.  Obviously, we chose to wait.  She gave us a temporary card, allowing entry to the “executive lounge” so we could wait in comfort—great coffee and tea.    Additionally, she texted us when the room we ready.  Jamie is a gem.

Free Food in the Executive Lounge

As I mentioned above, this Hilton has an Executive Lounge which offers Hilton Honors Gold--and above--Members free soft drinks, coffee and tea 24/7.  Additionally, it provides a hot breakfast and evening appetizers, which is more of a light meal.  Most evenings, it was our dinner.  
How close are we to the ocean?
Although not directly on the beach, it is an easy two-block walk to the warm, white sands.
Is there easy-to-use public transportation?
Renting a car to explore the island is an easy task but finding parking isn’t always easy and isn’t cheap.  So, public transportation is key.  Staying in this Hilton property is much like being in a transport hub, but in a good way.  Numerous bus lines and various trolleys stop just steps from the front doors.  These traverse much of the island making this a great place to begin each day.  
What are the hotel activities and amenities?
Because this is primarily viewed as a business hotel, there aren’t the typical Hawaiian hotel activities, like lei making or hula lessons.  Nevertheless, there is a gym, executive lounge, pool, gift shop, gardens, multiple bars and a well-reviewed restaurant.  Get to know, Karin in the LBLE bar.  She is a sweetie with a wonderful sense of humor.  
Besides all these amenities, there are no daily resort fees, making the stay a great value.

When they say, “Anything. Anytime” they mean “Anything.  Anytime.” 
M.A.C. 24/7 is a casual restaurant/bar inside the hotel.  It is accessible from the street by a separate entrance as well.  This restaurant is well-known in Hawaii and well-reviewed--known for reasonably priced, enormous meals.  
I learned a very interesting fact about M.A.C. this visit.  Because they tout “Anything. Anytime.” on their menu, one can order something from one menu choice and something from another.  Or one can order something from the menu and alter it.  For example, what follows is a choice from their menu.

Kalbi Steak Salad

marinated boneless short ribs, local island greens, thai basil, mint, hamakua tomato, locally-grown papaya, avocado, crushed peanuts, fried shallots, cucumber, cilantro, sesame seed, thai lime vinaigrette
Now, say I only wanted the short ribs and side-winder fries—yep, I’m that weird.  It would be possible.  The price just may be less than the entire dish profiled above as well.  Cool, huh.  
Please read my post of my full review of M.A.C. 24/7 
Please read my hubby’s “Honolulu” reviews on TripAdvisor

2500 Kuhio Ave., Honolulu, Hawaii, 96815

Please share your experiences.

Hotel Room Review: Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel

Beautiful Ocean View in Comfortable Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel, Room 3112  

I thought I knew the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel inside out, up, down and front to back, but I learned a few new facts on our second visit.  (Please read my first review) The things I adore are still the same.  One of those “things” was our room, which was upgraded due to our Hilton Honors membership.  The room was spacious, beds comfortable and the view is to drool over.  However, there is much, much more though.
Please read my recent “venue review” post on this hotel.

Comfy Room Details
I found the room squeaky clean, décor bright and welcoming, and the furniture comfortable.  In fact, the bed was so comfortable, I slept with our slider open all night, even with city racket, which included a good deal of construction noise.  (This area tends to be a constant state of heavy-duty construction.)
The same as last visit, we had a large flat-screen television, refrigerator, coffee maker and lanai.  What was new, is that each room now has an electric tea kettle.  Woo-hoo!  I love these, as I drink tea all day.  
This is News to Me!
Now this was a surprise.  I was disappointed by the absence of a microwave.  After all, this room is supposed to be an “executive room.”  In my mind, “executive” translates to “there should be a microwave in the room.”  I know, silly.  But, that’s me.  So, if you feel the same and want one, simply ask.  One will be delivered.  Cool, huh?
New as well, is something I learned about M.A.C. 24/7, but you’ll have to read my review on this post to find out more. 
Please read my full restaurant review.  
Please read my hubby’s “Honolulu” reviews on TripAdvisor

2500 Kuhio Ave., Honolulu, Hawaii, 96815

Please share your experiences.

Restaurant Review: M.A.C. 24/7, Waikiki

My Meals At M.A.C 24/7 in Waikiki, Hawaii

Three Different Meals, Three Different Experiences

During our stay at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel (review), we decided to try the food at M.A.C. 24/7, as it typically receives excellent reviews. It is a casual restaurant with a full bar, accessible by venturing inside the hotel.  It is well-known in Hawaii as one where you can find a stack of pancakes about the size of a hubcap and their competitions to eat multiple stacks.  Not sure I could eat more than one myself, though.  
They are also known for reasonably priced, enormous meals.  Although not typically appealing to me, as I’m a light eater, I do enjoy sharing a good meal with hubby. M.A.C. we went.  The meals were, well, inconsistent.  
The Good 
Our first meal was pretty good.  We shared a mushroom burger and fries.  The burger was cooked perfectly, and not dry like so many others.  The bun was a toasted brioche—yum.  The fries were crisp “side-winder fries”, not at all oily, and salted perfectly.  I couldn’t get enough.  The only downside were the mushrooms. There were three measly pieces.  In my opinion, a mushroom burger should include an overabundance of these fungi.  What follows is the description directly from the menu:
Mushroom Swiss Burger
8 oz. wagyu beef patty, grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms, vermont swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, island baked brioche bun. $18.00
The Uh... What?
So, one night we decided to forgo our free appetizers (learn about the free food in this post) to enjoy a full meal.  Knowing how large these meals could be, I suggested sharing again.  Nevertheless, hubby wanted the full meal.  Full describes the results exactly.
I chose a simple salad.  However, Hubby wanted to make sure I had enough to eat and added grilled chicken.  Fine. I thought at the time.  

Simply Mixed Greens

local spring mix, hamakua tomato wedges, cucumber, red onion, carrots, mushrooms

$10+chicken breast $6.00
The salad wasn’t too bad, but the dressing had little flavor, tomatoes were flavorless, and the added chicken was dry and cold.  I felt it was a waste of calories.
We both thought the “Pacific Rim Style Braised Beef” might be interesting, especially after discussing it with the waiter.  He stated the seasoning is a specialty of the chef, hence the “Pacific Rim” in the title.  I was excited to try it.  

Pacific Rim Style Braised Beef
fork-tender, demi-yaki sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed island vegetables. $24.00
Imagine my surprise when this humongous chunk of beef—four inches square x two inches thick—covered with generic brown gravy arrived on the plate surrounded by mashed potatoes and over-cooked veggies.  Darn.  Where was the “demi-yaki sauce”?  The meat was cooked to perfection, but the flavor wasn’t any better than a budding-home chef’s attempt at cooking pot roast.  Double darn.

Beverages were pretty darn good.
For our lunch, we both chose iced tea.  It was especially good—nice and dark with deep flavor.  We chose wine for dinner, which was a great choice.  The wine list was pedestrian, but good for an average diner.  My Edna Valley Chardonnay, $9 a glass, was the best white wine in the entire hotel, which is unfortunate.  M.A.C. was the only place to get it. My hubby chose Bridlewood Cabernet Sauvignon, $11 a glass. It was amazing.  Bridlewood is a favorite that never disappoints.
Will we return?
Even though our experiences were mixed, we will return.  M.A.C. has many dishes that work well.   However, as is true with many restaurant, there are good days and bad days.  We experienced both.  Next time will be better and there is a good reason for that viewpoint.  Check out this post to find out why.

2500 Kuhio Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Please share your experiences.