Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hawaii Journal Day 3: Pork and Coffee

Day 3: Tuesday

Breakfast: Diamond Head Market and Grill

Diamond Head Market & Grill has been around for a while, but I never got around to it on previous visits. It came highly recommended and lived up to they hype.

The Market and Grill are two adjacent but distinct establishments. The Market sells pastries, sandwiches and other such items, while the Grill cooks up hot food.

Still on our California schedule, we arrived at 6:30am, when the Market had just opened but a half hour before the Grill was up and running, all the better to try a bit of everything.

We started at the Market with a fluffy buttermilk biscuit and a blueberry cream cheese scone. The biscuit was great, fluffy and flaky with a nice buttery/salty flavor, but the scone was TO-DIE-FOR. Crisp on the outside, smooth, creamy and slightly tangy on the inside (courtesy, no doubt, of the cream cheese), it was almost a muffin/scone hybrid: muffin moistness (though not muffin denseness) with scone flavor. Had I not been waiting for the Grill, I would have ordered five or six of these and called it a morning.

At the Grill, I ordered that venerable island specialty, loco moco. Loco moco is a breakfast grease-fat bomb if there ever was one: a large serving of rice (the Grill offers white or brown) topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg and oceans of the traditional, viscous brown sauce. The Grill's version, pictured above, was perfect. The home-ground hamburger had a nice char, the sauce was nicely salty and not too viscous and the whole thing came together perfectly.

The highlight of the Grill though was another dish: the pork hash patty. Made from slow roasted pork, the hash, mixed with potato, garlic and other spices, is formed into a patty and fried. It's served, a la loco moco, on rice with brown sauce. The combination of pork, salt, garlic and sauce put me into greasy breakfast heaven.

This place is definitely a keeper and will go on the permanent list.

Diamond Head Market and Grill
3158 Monsarrat Ave.
Honolulu, HI

Coffee Break: Honolulu Coffee Co.

Despite the fact that Hawaii is the only state in the US that actually grows coffee, for many years, the coffee culture of Hawaii consisted of little more than trying to fleece tourists into buying "Kona Coffee" for $30 per pound. Maybe it was Kona, maybe it wasn't, but even if it was, the Kona coffee reputation was always better than the actual coffee.

That changed in the '90s with the advent of the Honolulu Coffee Company, a real coffee bar for Hawaii. Yes, HCC will charge you $50 for a pound of their Kona Peaberry, but they will also brew up an exquisite espresso, dark and smoky, lacking acidity and thick with crema, just the way I like 'em.

They have various locations, including Ala Moana shopping center and a number of Waikiki hotels.

Lunch: Kua 'Aina Sandwich Shop

The Kua 'Aina Sandwich Shop is a North Shore institution which has been serving up burgers and fries to hungry big wave surfers for over 20 years. I've always been a fan of the North Shore branch, but it's near impossible to get in for lunch without a long wait, so I was thrilled when they opened a South Shore branch at the Ward Centre shopping district in the Kaka'ako neighborhood.

I've had good burgers at this branch, but today, my burger was lackluster, an overdone and limp patty. Perhaps it just paled in comparison to my breakfast patty at Diamond Head Grill, (Ah, Hawaii, a place where you can eat hamburger three meals a day), but I was disappointed. The skinny, crisp little fries, however, were as good as ever.

Kua 'Aina Sandwich Shop
Ward Village Shops
1116 Auahi Street
Honolulu, HI
(808) 591-9133

Dinner: Assorted Island Fruit

Okay, after two and one half days of gorging on pork and gravy, I'm feeling a bit bloated, so we're going to chill out this evening, warm up some left overs, and enjoy some of the Island's great produce.

I stopped by one of Honolulu's great farmers' markets and picked up mangoes, papayas, pineapple and Okinawan sweet potatoes, which have a beautiful and sweet dark blue flesh.

We also picked up some great fruit at the farmers' market-like stand, Island Fresh Produce, on 9th Street at Waialae (look for the sign for 9th Street Flowers). There we found amazing mangoes, apple-bananas (cute, little bananas with a bit more acid and flavor than the one's we are used to), papayas, pineapples and wide assortment of Asian vegetables.

Lastly, I picked up some Waimanalo grown Nalo Greens for a nice salad. Nalo Greens are available at many area natural and gourmet stores.

Tomorrow: Ono Hawaiian and Chinatown

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