A Grand Turkish Meal

Happy Fourth of July! Wishing you all a safe celebration.

I have a few days until I begin culinary school. I’m super excited to start this new journey. From next week, I’ll be highlighting my weekly posts on dishes I’ll be making in my classes. If time permits, I’ll post additional blogs about new restaurants I’ve dined at or exciting dishes I’ve made.

This week, I’d like to share about Turkish cuisine- one of my top five faves. I’m so happy to say that Istanbul Hawai’i has finally opened their restaurant! I remember ordering a lamb-beef doner from their food trucks at Night Market years ago. I would always get excited whenever I saw their food truck. This is a long time coming and I’m so ecstatic to have finally dined at their restaurant.

My friend and I were so excited. The restaurant was packed! We had a late reservation. There were reservations all through the evening. It was busy the entire time we were there. Even near closing, the place was filled. I was so happy to see how busy it was. It shows that the food is spectacular and that business is a success.

The menu was pretty overwhelming. A lot of dishes were very foreign to both my friend and I. I’ve been to Turkey twice; had authentic Turkish food there. I’ve also had Turkish food in Japan as well. My experiences eating Turkish food in its native country to Japan, and at home, have all been very different.

We used our helpful friend, Yelp, for suggestions on what to order. We honestly didn’t have a clue on where to start. We also took my friend’s friend’s suggestions and ordered what she thought was really delicious. Great recommendations! We shared the meze platter, which seemed like a popular dish. The meze platter (top right image) contained the following: fresh pita bread to accompany the three hearty dips: hummus, muhammara, and babaganush. I liked all three dips equally. They were fantastic! I’ve only had hummus before. The muhammara was made with roasted red peppers (not spicy). I’ve heard of babaganush before, but never had it. I didn’t know it was made with eggplant. It was delicious! The other dishes on the platter were: su borek, spanakopita, and peynir and karpuz. The su borek and spanakopita were pies, very similar to each other, but tasted completely different. The peynir and karpuz dish was very interesting. It was watermelon with feta cheese and Turkish olives, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Not my favorite on the platter because I’m not a huge fan of watermelon, but it was very fascinating to try. The balsamic vinegar made it easier to eat. We ordered the iskender doner dish (bottom right corner image), which was lamb/beef combo with rice pilaf, and a refreshing toss salad, with my fave, tzatziki sauce- whoo hoo! We had to order more pita bread at this point to eat with the tzatziki sauce. So, so good! We chowed down our delicious dishes with some very refreshing drinks: a caffeine-free organic hibiscus lychee iced tea (bottom left image) and a saffron lilikoi sorbet with prosecco. My friend ordered the latter and welcomed me to try it. I am getting that drink next time! Last, but not least, dessert. We saw a lot of images on Yelp of the hatay kunefe dish (top left image). From the looks of it, you wouldn’t think it’s a dessert. It looks like crispy noodles. It’s actually shredded phillo, which is a like a flaky pastry. Underneath the phillo, is glorious cheese, mixed with a honey syrup. Oh, goodness gracious! The shredded phillo is topped with crumbled Turkish pistachio and kaytay, which is a kind of thick whipped cream. Hatay kunefe is a small dish, but don’t let that fool you. It is super filling and rich!

What a meal! Everything was beyond fabulous! I can’t wait to dine there again to try more dishes. I love lamb! Istanbul Hawai’i is the perfect place to go, as there are a lot of lamb dishes on the menu, for both lunch and dinner.

To the land of the free… Happy Independence Day!

Stay safe!

FS x

Poi Cocktail Delight

Happy Last Sunday of June! Leon Day was on 06/25; “Noel” spelt backwards. Leon Day marks the halfway mark until Christmas Day. I can’t believe it’s almost that time of the year again.

I’ve got some exciting news to share! After much thought and research, I enrolled in culinary school at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts! According to multiple websites, this school is rated within the top 5-10 best culinary schools in the nation. Whoo hoo! This idea of culinary school came to mind last fall. It caught me by surprise, as the thought never crossed my mind before. But with time and prayer, I felt a calling to pursue this. I love how life is a never-ending odyssey of learning. It never gets boring and you’re never too old to learn new things.

For as long as I can remember, cooking and eating various ethnic foods has brought a lot of joy and excitement. Hence, why I started food blogging almost six years ago. I wanted a platform to share my dishes and the different ethnic foods I’ve tried with others, as well as generate inspiration not only with food, but with everyday life situations. Going forward, I’m very ecstatic to feature dishes I’ll be making in culinary school, and to share this wonderful journey I’m about to embark on. I want to shout out a thank you to all who visit, read, like, and support my blog and social media platforms. I am FOREVER APPRECIATIVE!

This week’s highlight is my practice assignment I need to submit for my orientation course. I wanted to showcase a creative dish from Hawai’i. I’ve decided to present a poi cocktail. As I mentioned in previous blog posts, poi is pounded taro or kalo, in Hawaiian. A poi cocktail is poi with vanilla ice cream. My favorite poi from Hoʻokuaʻāina is back! They had a taro shortage, thus they put a hold on selling poi and raw kalo. So happy they’re back. It felt like forever ago since I ate their poi. I missed it deeply. I’m excited to be creating a dessert dish with my favorite poi.

Until next time!

FS x

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Papa’s Day to all the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and father-figures! Hope you had a chillaxing day, doing absolutely NOTHING! We appreciate all that y’all do for us. Thank you, thank you!

My family and I are celebrating with my dad. My sister and I cooked steaks, seasoned with garlic pepper, and rack of lamb, marinated with teriyaki sauce. We’re using the Instant Pot air fryer combo we got my dad for Father’s Day last year. It has all kinds of cool features: air fry, bake, broil, and roast. We’re using ALL the features. So exciting!

I made a Greek yogurt sauce to complement the meats. Yum! That’s my favorite part about eating red meat, which I’m so excited to eat because I don’t have very often anymore. Red meat is a delightful treat. I was introduced to this delicious pairing when I went to Turkey in the summer of 2010 for a world conference.

The yogurt sauce is similar to the Greek tzatziki sauce. It’s very simple to make. I add my own simple touches to it to make it my own. I used plain Greek yogurt and seasoned it with garlic pepper, minced dried garlic, and dried dill. Voilà! All done! The sauce is so good, I can eat it by itself. Uh huh! You heard right!

Now, gotta have them veggies! We made green beans and brussel sprouts, cooked with garlic balsamic olive oil, onions,and garlic. Scrumptious! Now, that’s how you get people to eat their vegetables, haha!

We also had Portuguese sausage, the best sausage there is, in my opinion (I’m not a huge sausage fan) and shrimp tempura. The tempura was already pre-made, thanks to Costco. My dad cooked oysters in a buttery garlic sauce. Oh my! I was in heaven! I love oysters. We don’t eat it all the time. Whenever we do, I savor every bite! It’s a wonderful treat!

For dessert, my dad requested a haupia pie, which my sister bought. Haupia is a Hawaiian coconut dessert.

Time to grind all the delicious foods! Ciao!

Have a great week. Happy belated Juneteenth, now a federal holiday (yay!), and Happy Summer!

FS x

Hallo, Deutsches Eis!

Happy Last Day of January! We made it through the first month of the year. I do hope 2021 is off to a great start for all of you despite still being in a pandemic. I keep reminding myself that better days are ahead.

A few days ago, I received my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. I was anxious about the side effects, as I kept hearing that the adverse reactions were greater the second time around. Yet, I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so bad since I had a great deal of symptoms after my first dosage. Boy, was I wrong! Let’s just say I experienced majority of the side effects listed from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). I developed a sore/tired arm, chills, flushed face/body, sensitive skin, body aches, nausea, headache, fatigue, and excruciating joint and body pain, especially throughout my mid-to-lower back. Oh, it was horrible! Thankfully, those symptoms lasted a day. I was significantly better at the end of day two. I’ve laid low this weekend; taking it easy and resting. Today, I’m feeling almost 100% better. Still have some fatigue and now the injected area of my arm is starting to itch, as it did last time towards “my recovery.”

Having said this, I’m grateful to have received the vaccine. It gives me peace-of-mind knowing that I’ll be protected. However, just because I’m immunized, doesn’t mean I’m going to stop following the rules and regulations. No matter what, I’m still cautious and vigilant and will continue wearing my mask (I’ve been wearing two masks recently), physically distancing, and avoiding large crowds. We’re not out-of-the-woods yet.

This inoculation experience made me appreciate listening to my body and to my gut. It took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting to have so many adverse reactions to the medication. I’ve realized how sensitive my body is to chemicals. Yet, I reflect on how these symptoms could’ve been worse. Thanks to God that I was able to get through the side effects.

This week, I’m sharing about German ice cream (see featured image). In 2010, I went on my first riverboat cruise along the Rhine River, which is the longest river in Germany. We visited three towns in Germany on our tour: Heidelberg, Cologne, Koblenz, and Mainz. All the towns looked very similar, but were so beautiful and peaceful. I loved the small-town village feel and look. I felt like I was in a movie during the Medieval times.

I remember walking by an ice cream shop in Mainz and wanted to satisfy my sweet tooth. The dessert was really good, and the presentation of the dish was superb. I found a website that has a bunch of German homemade ice cream recipes: https://germanfoods.org/recipes/recipe-collections-homemade-ice-cream/. I’ve got my eye on several flavors I want to try making: lavender, Neapolitan, nutella, peppermint, and vanilla. I’ve seen pictures of spaghetti ice cream that is very popular in Germany. It literally looks like spaghetti. Of course, not made with spaghetti. That would be quite strange and a very interesting flavor. The spaghetti noodles are made with vanilla ice cream and the tomato sauce with strawberries and raspberries. Meatballs are made with chocolate ice cream. Sounds so yummy just describing it.

I was disappointed that I didn’t eat too many German dishes while I was there. For some reason, we kept returning to the ship to dine. I think our tours were cut short. We did go to a pub to have German beer and German coffee (see below). That just means I need to return back one day when it’s safe to travel again.

German coffee at a pub called Drosselgasse in Mainz, Germany.
Krombacher, German beer, at a pub called Drosselgasse in Mainz, Germany.

Happy new week and Happy February! Be safe and take care of one another.

FS x

Eighteen of 20 Things 2020 Has Taught and Reminded Me + Strawberry/Banana Non-Dairy Ice Cream Pie

Let the New Year festivities begin! We’re nearing the end of the top 20 lessons the year has bestowed upon me. It’s been wonderful sharing this each day with you all.

18. The importance of gratitude, and both positive and negative reflection.

Gratitude is everything to me. There’s so much to be grateful for, even for the things we often overlook and take for granted, like: access to food, shelter, transportation, clean water, education, and work. It’s a daily reminder and practice that I exercise thankfulness and gratitude in all areas of my life. It’s what keeps me going.

I want to extend my thanks to all of you supporters who like and read my posts here and on my social media platforms. I am forever grateful and am so appreciative. I want to continue providing inspiration, fun facts, and sharing my love for food.

It’s been ingrained in my brain to focus on the positive. Yet, our minds tend to dwell on the negative. It’s seems easier to think adversely about something. I’ve heard it said that people can quickly name pessimistic qualities about themselves compared to confident remarks. Nonetheless, I think negative reflection is just as important as pondering on the positive.

This year, I welcomed both the positive and negative views that came to mind. I allowed time to process the negative thinking and ponder about how to move forward with the thoughts. We’re all given choices in life. It’s what we do with them and how we act upon them that matters in the end. I try my best not to let pessimistic thoughts consume me. The mind can be very powerful. Thus, I try to focus on optimistic thinking. Hope, encouragement, happiness, and cheerfulness always triumphs.

I love making non-dairy ice cream no-bake pies. They’re simple and quick, and oh-so-good! Earlier this year, I made a strawberry/banana non-dairy ice cream pie. It was really refreshing! Strawberries and bananas are my ultimate favorite fruits.

Ingredients:

  • Baked pie crust of your choice- I used graham.
  • Non-dairy ice cream of your choice- I used strawberry/banana flavor, made with bananas. Yum!
  • Heavy whipping cream (to make my own whipped cream) or cool whip
  • (Optional) Fresh fruits of your choice- I used strawberries and bananas to match the ice cream flavor.

Happy evening!

FS x

Seven of 20 Things 2020 Has Taught and Reminded Me + Holly Cookies

Happy Aloha FriYAY! It’s one week before Christmas! Spending this weekend baking and finishing up my Christmas shopping and wrappings. It’s crunch time! There’s so much to do! I’m pumped! I’m determined! Let’s do this!

The seventh thing that the year has taught and reminded me is:

7. To be loving, understanding, patient, and kinder to ourselves.

We need to take good care of ourselves. After all, we’re living with ourselves for life. We do everything with me, myself, and I. It’s important to love ourselves. If we can cherish our family, friends, and acquaintances, why can’t we reciprocate treating ourselves that same way?

I had experienced many moments of frustration with myself and with the world this year. All that has occurred in the world had affected me in both positive and negative ways. I recall the first couple months of quarantining went well. I was pumped and motivated. I had created a to-do list of tasks to accomplish while we were abiding by our state-at-home order.

That “honeymoon” period came and went. By the third month of the pandemic, this “new” lifestyle became tiring and mentally exhausting. There were moments of anguish, anger, and irritation. I had wanted to return to my regular life. Then I asked myself, “what was ‘normal’ now?”

It’s been a constant reminder to be more loving, understanding, patient, and kinder to myself. Give myself more grace. Forgive myself for mistakes. Not being so hard on myself, especially when goals and tasks haven’t been met. To create a happier me, I’ve reminded myself countless times to set smaller and reasonable goals and to do what I can. And if there are days where I don’t feel like doing things, that’s ok. It’s ok to veg and be lazy. Literally, when I tell people I’m taking it day by day and one step at a time, I truly mean that. This is the new way of maneuvering through life. We had to undergo a lot of changes this year. It’s been an adjustment.

I love holly cookies (see featured image)! They’re so yummy and cute. And, they’re super easy to make. No baking required. Yay! Perfect to make during the holidays, or anytime, really.

Guide to making these wonderful cookies: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/9498/holly-christmas-cookies/

Ingredients needed:

  • Marshmallows
  • Green food coloring
  • Corn flakes
  • Red candies
  • Powered sugar
  • Butter (softened)
  • Vanilla extract

It’s the weekend, All! Have a great and safe one.

FS x

Three of 20 Things 2020 Has Taught and Reminded Me + Cookies

Happy Monday! It’s day three and I’ll be sharing the third thing that this year has taught and reminded me. Plus, we’ll be talking about some yummy holiday cookies.

3. To keep on persevering, even through the challenging times.

The word, perseverance, has been the central theme of my life these days. It’s not always easy to be tenacious, especially during tough times. We often feel like giving up; throwing in the towel, and just say “forget it.” I know I’ve felt that way many times. But at the end of the day, I keep reminding myself to persist and endure, no matter how hard the fight is. I’m a fighter and I don’t give up! I’m a conqueror!

The new Taylor Swift album, folklore, has been powerful. Her lyrics have a deeper meaning than ever before. One song in particular, “this is me trying,” immediately resonated with me as soon as I heard it. I thought about many people across the globe who are trying their best every single day. I think as long as we’re trying and doing the best we can in life, that shows courage, fortitude, and stamina as an individual.

Ok, let’s talk cookies. Over the last few holidays, I’ve been trying to perfect a butter cookie recipe that my late grand auntie used to make when I was growing up. She didn’t write the recipe down; only the ingredient list that was actually created by my grandfather. It took multiple tries to get the cookies down-packed. I felt like I was doing a science experiment project. Eventually, I was able to make the cookies my own, which was my ultimate goal. Baking is not like cooking. It’s very important that baking recipes are followed to the T. Too much of this or too little of that, will turn your baking dish upside down.

Until tomorrow… Keep persevering.

FS x

Vday at Merriman’s

I hope y’all had a lovely Valentine’s Day! Mine was wonderful!!!! I’m excited to share the delicious food we had on this Day of Love and Hearts!!!

It was an exciting Vday. I got to try Merriman’s at Ward Village with my gal pal. This is sister restaurants of Monkeypod Kitchen and Moku Kitchen. They also have a Merriman’s on every major island: O’ahu, Kaua’i, Maui, and Hawaii Island. How cool is that?!

We were stoked to try the food. We went all-out! Take a look…

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This Maui onion soup was unbelievable! So good! I can’t even tell you. I’m normally not a fan on onion soup, but this was excellent!

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Tako country bread- escargot style. Oh man! This was so good! It felt like I was eating real escargot, but it was tako- aka octopus. The bread that came with this dish was to-die-for!

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I’m a sucker for trying kimchi wherever I go. This was super tasty!

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I had to try the Keahole lobster pot pie. Excellent! It felt like I was eating a chowder. Sprinkling that lemon juice make it much more tangy!

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This is the Waialua chocolate purse. Wow! Doesn’t that “purse” look like paper? It’s edible! There’s a rich, rich, rich chocolate cake inside. Wow!

We enjoyed ourselves and would definitely return to try more food. I’m excited!

Merriman’s opens for both lunch and dinner. Be sure to also check out their sister restaurants. I’ve been to both and the food is awesome!

Merriman’s
Ward Village
1108 Auahi St.
Honolulu, 96814
https://www.merrimanshawaii.com/

 

New Year with the bestest of friends!

I was blessed to have spent the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 with my dear friends. We dined at Chef Chai’s, a Thai-fusion place with my family. My family and I always enjoy the food there. However, we were disappointed that they didn’t have the deep fried whole fish. They had sold-out of the dish before we dined there that evening. Nooo! It must be a very popular dish.

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Butternut squash lobster bisque soup. That was so yummy! I am determined to use butternut squash in my cooking and make a soup.

Ordered the jumbo prawns. Absolutely delicious!

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So glad they had brown rice! It was mixed with coconut milk and ginger. Interesting mix!

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We couldn’t resist dessert- deep fried banana cream cheese with gelato and berries. Oh boy! So good!

Chef Chai
1009 Kapiolani Blvd.
Honolulu, 96814
http://chefchai.com/

Afternoon tea with my girls!

My girlfriends and I had afternoon tea at Vintage Café at Ala Moana last weekend to celebrate the belated holidays. It was such a busy season last year, we couldn’t get together before Christmas or New Years. Ah! So glad we finally got together to have a much needed celebration.

It was a lovely and relaxing afternoon. I absolutely loved it there. I’m always a fan of afternoon tea and love trying different places that offer afternoon tea. I would definitely go back to Vintage Café again- and I will…next month, haha! I love the daintiness of having tea. The dishes are beautiful and the food is so quaint and cute. I also love those tea places where you can dress up with hats and shawls. Super fun!

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I ordered the Georgia peach nectar rooibos tea- non-caffeinated. That was amazingly delicious. I loved how it smelt so peachy.  Refreshing! It tasted better with honey.

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Yummy finger food!!!! I just love the tray.

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Mmm! Could I eat the entire tray? Aww, darn… Only could choose one…

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I ordered the Jidori club, which was a chicken sandwich with arugula and eggs. Yummy!

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The homemade scone was amazing. It came with sweet cream and mango/ginger jam. Interesting jam flavor, might I add. I did enjoy the sweet cream. The dessert of choice was a banana tart/pie.

Afternoon tea is every day from 12-3pm. They have two prices: $18 and $34- includes champagne.

Vintage Café
Ala Moana Center (next to Bloomingdale’s on the street level)
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, 96814