# Day 3
Two of the best meals we had on the entire trip happened on this decadent day. Hitting up blogs, pinterest and Instagram to find culinary gems is how I roll and at some point in my research I kept seeing mentions of Koko Head Café.
Famous for their homemade dumplings and cornflake french toast, it’s lauded as Honolulu’s hottest brunch spot among locals and tourists alike. One look at its menu and you’ll see why.
Joe’s heart lies in horns, drum corps, me, Bella and…french toast, so he couldn’t really pass up their claim-to-fame, especially when it comes with billionaire’s bacon, creamy black pepper maple syrup, and frosted flake gelato.
I, lover of everything BUT french toast, went with their version of coffee and doughnuts: cinnamon-sesame cake doughnuts with Kona coffee creme anglaise.
Oh, and a scrambled egg…because….you know….balance.
The meal, not surprisingly, was out of this world. We were even planning on going back the next morning so we could try more things, but that didn’t end up happening. (You’ll see why in a minute.) For anyone hitting up Oahu, this place is a must. It’s small, so get there early (with quarters in hand for parking) and get ready for the brunch of your life.
With full stomachs we found heavy hearts at Pearl Harbor. Man, what a place.
Massive anchor raised from the sunken USS Arizona.
Sobering details about the ships whose names I call home, Oklahoma and Utah.
The museum is very well done, albeit packed with people constantly. These were some of my most-touching finds:
The night before the attack, there was a “Battle of Music” between each ship’s bands. The USS Arizona had previously won the November battle, but USS Pennsylvania won that night. The next day, every member of the USS Arizona band perished in the attack.
The first draft of FDR’s unforgettable speech following the attack, including his famous switch to the word “infamy.” (Crooked picture alert!)
A USS Arizona officer’s clock that stopped right at the moment of its bombing.
50 years after the bombing, this torpedo was recovered near where the USS Oklahoma was moored. It was almost fully intact, its warhead still armed. It was transported to sea for detonation and this section was recovered.
Spellcheck…it’s not just for your school papers.
When I was in Hawaii over 20 years ago, the waters were too choppy to see the USS Arizona memorial, so making the voyage to its final resting place was very moving. Especially since it was closed soon after our visit.
A little travel tip: Tickets to visit the USS Arizona are free on a first-come, first-served basis each morning starting at 7:00am. There are only 1,300 tickets each day and during peak season lines start to form around 5:00am. But! For a minimal price ($1.50 per ticket, I believe) you can book them online one day in advance (also starting at 7:00am) and choose a tour time that’s best for you. I highly recommend you go that route and save yourself some serious line time. Click here for more information.
Its wreckage is still leaking oil after all these years. I think this is one of my most favorite pictures from the trip. Hauntingly beautiful. I can’t stop staring at it. It might have to go on a wall.
The USS Arizona is a national cemetery and any of its crew members that survived that day can choose to have their remains returned to the ship via one of its gun turrets. If this doesn’t give you chills, please check your pulse.
So many people, hardly a word spoken.
Right as we got back to land it started to drizzle, so we ate lunch in the car and waited for it to quickly breeze over so we could check out the Pali Lookout.
It would have been great to see this in all of Hawaii’s sunshiny glory, but the clouds were mystical in their own way.
And recent rains make pretty flower shots.
Hawaii is teeming with wild chickens. They are everywhere and love to strut their stuff. Like this guy…
…who showed me some of his yoga skills.
On our way home we were lamenting that the next day would be our last on Oahu, so to stifle the sadness we fed it more malasadas from Leonard’s. Can’t stop, won’t stop.
More Li Hing! More Li Hing!
Just call us Sugar Lips and Sweet Lips.
That afternoon the sun finally came out and it was the perfect time to make use of our condo’s proximity to one of Hawaii’s most famed landmarks.
I give you…a very empty….Waikiki Beach. (Off-season for the win!)
Another one of my favorite pics from the trip…a non-posed, totally serendipitous capture of our pure joy….laughing over the fact he called me Baby Moses before pushing me out to sea. I needed this joy so bad. #hardspring
We had a great time in these crystal clear waters, but I won’t subject you to the hundreds of photos I took of us in them.
An epic swim deserves an epic meal, and that’s exactly what we got that night when we celebrated our anniversary with an exquisite dinner at JJ’s restaurant, Bali Steak and Seafood.
Okay, here’s where the apologies start rolling in like crazy. This meal was one of the absolute best of my lifetime, so I of course wanted to document it. But the restaurant is very dark and I didn’t want to be that girl sitting in the nice steakhouse taking pictures of food with the camera’s flash. So…this is the best I could do, which doesn’t even come close to doing the food or the atmosphere justice. Just…work with me here. I’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorry!
We started with specialty cocktails: Bali Mai Tai and Mango Ginger Beer Soda.
We ordered our entrees, but JJ wanted us to have a full experience of his menu, so he surprised us with a few dishes. This one, this bite, just about blew my mind.
It was a dollop of fresh burrata cheese, homegrown parsley and tomato, crisp and a sprinkling of the most decadent sea salt. Seriously I’ve never been more in love with salt than I was with this dish.
Next was his tomato and green papaya soup (vegan!) with macadamia nut relish. Amazingly robust for being vegan. His secret? Olive oil. He told me “if you’re making a sauce and something tastes off, you probably need to add olive oil.”
For dinner Joe ordered the 12 oz. filet mignon with smoked-salt gorgonzola butter…
…and I had seared tofu with sweet and spicy eggplant, big island honey, hamakua mushrooms, black beans, maui onions, and house pickled okra.
Guys…… Guys. If the staff at this place didn’t already know we were friends with the chef, I would have put my face down on this plate and unabashedly licked up every last bit. I was enamored with it. Best tofu dish. Ever.
JJ also bombarded us (in the best way possible) with a sampling (read: full plate) of these sides: yukon gold potato puree; grilled asparagus with béarnaise; brussels sprouts with macadamia nuts, raisins and apple cider vinaigrette; and, my absolute favorite thing, broiled local tomatoes with a 20-year balsamic vinegar and sea salt. Again, the salt. I wish I had better photos for you guys…
I have had a lot of good meals in my life, but this one….this one…was beyond incredible. JJ joined us off and on throughout the meal , where he told us about how he makes his signature salts and how he comes up with his dishes. I was in heaven.
To finish, Joe had a tropical fruit cobbler…
…and I had a coconut cheesecake with blueberry and local honey compote.
And now you know why we didn’t go to Koko Head Café the next morning. JJ, you’re amazing. You make me want to go to culinary school and move to Hawaii. And eat salt. I can think of no higher compliment. You gave us the most perfect anniversary celebration that we’ll never forget.
# Day 4
Our actual anniversary!
If there was ever a time to take it easy, it was today after yesterday’s food-fest. We spent the morning walking Waikiki Beach and enjoying the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s saucy parrots.
We also spent time packing up our stuff and saying goodbye to our condo, which had this incredible view bee-tee-dubs.
37th floor, huge windows that opened up to Waikiki Beach. Hubba, hubba. (Forego the often-overpriced resorts and find awesome places like this on VRBO.com or HomeAway.com.)
Then we were off to Maui. Once we got there, got our car and made it to our condo, we were nearing sunset time. Luckily our condo’s owners left us a binder of information including where to go for their favorite sunset views—just cross the street!
And it didn’t disappoint…
We were literally sitting on this cliff with front-row seats to the show. The sun was hiding behind some low clouds, but we were patient and then out it finally came.
On that note…parts 3-5, coming as soon as possible! (Click here for Part 1.)