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New Zealand Visit Bohemein Fresh Chocolates for Amazing (Chocolate) Fish

chocolate fish from Bohemein Fresh Chocolates

Checkers Penguin posted a picture of himself with a chocolate fish on Instagram, and I thought, “Eh, chocolate and marshmallow? I don’t know.” Then I saw these chocolate fish on different YouTube videos about New Zealand snacks, and I was still unimpressed. Marshmallow just isn’t my thing. They’re all right; they’re good for s’mores. I just, generally, won’t choose to eat them as a part of another dessert. Then, we went to Bohemein Fresh Chocolates.

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New Zealand: A Short Survey of New Zealand Foods

new zealand

On “Gordon Ramsey: Uncharted,” Chef Ramsey visits Chef Monique Fiso in New Zealand to see how Maori cuisine gets combined with fine dining. He chops his way through the forest to get to “bush asparagus.” His mouth burns with the flavor of horopito, a bush pepper tree. He scales a Fuschia tree to get to the bright purple berries.

I don’t think we’ll have to go to those extremes if we get to New Zealand. The country is full of food delights and local cuisine.

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Eat at the Top of Waikiki

Carrot and Pickled Beet Couscous

Billed as Hawaii’s only revolving restaurant, the Top of Waikiki delivers breath-taking views with food to match. We were able to have our meal and enjoy the sunset from our table, which rotated with the floor to get us front and center for nature’s show in paradise.

We started our meal with goat cheese rangoons. These five pockets of bliss explode in your mouth, so heed well the warning. They are hot.Of course, if you’re like me, you won’t worry about the warning. They are great plain, and the five-spice dipping sauce adds another element to them.

The ginger pesto crusted monchong was the hit of the evening. Firm, well cooked and flavorful, the fish did not disappoint. It was beautifully presented atop a bed of vegetables, and we added wasabi mashed potatoes to the order. Believe me, those mashed potatoes were amazing.

The pickled beet and carrot couscous was beautiful to look at. However, it was served cold and the pearl-sized couscous was chewy. There were a lot of textures, and a few of the bites revealed a deft touch in playing with spices. The almonds made the dish better.

The baked Alaska delivered cold beneath a fluff of meringue. Strawberry sorbet with cake and cream made for a delicious ending. However, it was the coffee that delivered the final flavor for the evening and it was delicious.

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The Honolulu Cookie Company Experience

Penny Penguin, Jenya and I at Honolulu Cookie Company

The Honolulu Cookie Company is almost as ubiquitous as the ABC Stores. While not quite on every block, the stores are spaced out just far enough from each other to provide a nice place to duck inside and grab a sample of their delicious cookies. And they are delicious. The stores are clean and the employees are friendly.

The shortbread cookies with the distinctive pineapple shape come in a variety of flavors that change with the season. Inspired by the islands, pineapple macadamia, white chocolate dipped coconut, and dark chocolate dipped Kona coffee are just a few of the flavors available. At Christmas time, you’ll find white chocolate dipped ginger spice, and peppermint. My favorites were the Kona coffee, and the chocolate dipped triple chocolate macadamia.

So, put your walking shoes on, and head down Waikiki’s main street. Make a game out of collecting cookie samples on the way. Because if you’re looking for a taste of the islands, the Honolulu Cookie Company has you covered.

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Oahu’s Cheeseburger in Paradise

Penny Penguin at Cheeseburger in Paradise with a California Cheeseburger

If you’re not familiar with the Jimmy Buffet song, a Cheeseburger in Paradise can still be tempting. Not affiliated with the singer,the signature cheeseburger is billed as a juicy, messy burger that you’ll need five napkins to clean up after.

When it arrived in front of me, I was not a believer. A patty with cheese on one half and tomatoes, lettuce and onion on the other. The juice was nowhere to be found. There was no drippiness. It was a burger, and those thoughts were my mistake. I assembled the burger, squished it a little so it would fit in my mouth and bit down.

Hamburger juices went squirting out everywhere. They ended up on my plate, on the table and on my pants. I can’t say I wasn’t warned. I have no idea how they seared so much juiciness into the patty, but I definitely needed two napkins, two wet wipes and a sink to clean up afterwards. Worth every bit of sacrifice? Cheeseburger in Paradise indeed.

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ABC Stores: Go Local, Go Less Expensive

If you’re on a budget in Oahu, then the ABC Stores should be your best friend. Some say that “ABC” stands for “All Blocks Covered,” and like Starbuck’s in Seattle, ABC Stores are everywhere. Not only are they conveniently located, they are reasonably priced for Hawaiian tourists. Stores carry many of the same items though selection depends on the store’s size. From ready-to-eat hot meals to fresh cut fruit and from flip flops to ukuleles, ABC Stores are ready to help you with almost every need. “ABC” may stand for the store delivering everything in the alphabet.

The staff is friendly and happy to see you. They greet with “Aloha!” and end the interaction with “Mahalo.” The fruit in the refrigerator section is sweet and local (and better than what we got at Safeway on the island). You can eat relatively well for between $3 and $6 depending on your needs. Breakfast burritos, musubi, wraps, sushi… If you see the Mac-Nut Pesto Pasta, I recommend that as one of the best offerings. You don’t have to compromise on culture or taste because of your budget.

ABC Stores are locally owned. They promote from within and attempt to keep their employees through retirement with exceptional benefits according to an article in “This Week Oahu” (Nov. – Dec. 3, p. 28). Before choosing a national chain, shop local. Save your receipts and, if they total to $100 or more, you get a gift! Maybe “ABC” stands for “Aloha Brings Customers…”

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King’s Pizza Cafe: You’re Budget and Taste Buds’ll say “Thank You, Thank You Very Much!”

Interior of King's Pizza Cafe in Oahu

If you head down Kapahulu away from the beach, past President Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, and just a little farther beyond, you’ll find a tiny restaurant called King’s Pizza Cafe. Voted as the community’s best pizza, it serves them up by the slice and always freshly made. By Oahu’s food standards, it’s a bargain. In a place where two burgers, a side of fries and one drink is regularly $30, getting two large slices of pizza and two drinks for around $10 is a bargain. The slices we had were cut in half, so it was more like getting two slices of pizza rather than one giant slice.

The Queen’s Pizza was by far the best of the two varieties we tried. Stacked full of correctly crisped pepperoni, olives and other great pizza ingredients, it played the best in our mouths. The Chicken Ginger Pizza was a little less successful. It provided a clean ginger flavor, which is what it’s supposed to do, but I wasn’t as fond of it as I was my wife’s choice. Both pizzas featured a sauce that was the right amount of sweet and tangy, and the crust was edible on its own without reservation.

The atmosphere is eclectic 1950s through the 1980s. Tables are topped with 45s or LPs from the 1980s. DJ cats playing pizza on the turntable are on the throw pillowcases, and a variety of other pizza related items are available for sale.

King’s Pizza Café is a nice-priced oasis with great food in a desert of high-priced mediocrity. Come for the break from the hub bub and high prices along the beach and enjoy a slice of goodness. When you’re done,you can head up the street a little more and get to Leonard’s Bakery for dessert (and even getting six Malasadas, you’ll still be ahead of most dinner options that aren’t fast food in the area).

Interior shot of King's Pizza Cafe counter in Oahu
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Leonard’s Bakery serves up warm, doughy goodness

Penny Penguin and malasadas from Leonard's Bakery

Leonard’s Bakery is so famous for its malasadas that I’ve seen it on several travel shows, including one in Russian. Malasadas are a Portuguese fried dough coated in sugar, or sugar and cinnamon, or li hing. They are made fresh-to-order, so they are always soft and warm. At just over a dollar for the original malasadas and a little more than a $1.50 for the stuffed malasadas, it makes sense for two people to get one of every flavor in a six-pack at a slightly reduced price. Eat three now and have three for breakfast the next morning. Or get two each of the original flavors, either way, it’s cheap eats for the island.

Unfortunately, the stuffed malasadas were hard to distinguish one from the other. Custard was clear, as was chocolate. There was a vaguely coconut one and one that tasted like custard until we actually had the custard variety.

Still, they were warm, gooey goodness and tasted great the second day when we threw them in the microwave for 30 seconds. (Careful not to burn your mouth.) Oh, and don’t forget the coffee. After four days on Oahu, the iced mocha macadamia is still one of the top coffees I’ve had. It’s just the right amount of sweet to allow the bitter of the coffee to shine.

If you’re worried about the calories or healthiness of the malasadas, just call them “mas saladas.” They’ll sound healthier, and you can enjoy them without the guilt.

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Island Vintage Shave Ice Is Cold Comfort Food

Pink Island Shave Ice
Pink Island Shave Ice

Shave ice – that’s right, without the ‘d’ – is a flavor sensation, at least the way it is prepared at Island Vintage Shave Ice. The syrup used for flavoring tastes like real strawberries – none of that sickly-sweet syrup we get stateside on a sno-cone.

Pink Island Menu Board

“The Pink Island” had pieces of mochi in the corners; the syrup flowed down the sides and collected in the bowl. The lychee popping boba were liquid refreshment at mini-size. But it was the soft organic ice cream that stole the show. Underneath the layers of shave ice was a beautiful tasting vanilla ice cream that gained strength from the flavor and texture of the shave ice and its syrup.

Shave ice is like cold comfort food with flavors you never tasted at home. Our serving was big enough to share. If it isn’t big enough for you, I would suggest getting different flavors for each person in the group to try.