I took pictures of most of the fruits we ate in Hawaii. Here is the first batch of them!

Papayas were everywhere, and very cheap (5 or 7 for $2). They also seemed to grow in everybody’s yard. I don’t think I’d ever had a papaya before, and these were very delicious.

You cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and eat it with a spoon!

There were lots of kinds of avocados available in Hawaii, too. This is a “butter avocado” from the Kailua farmers market, and it was huge and delicious.

The bananas that everyone has in Hawaii are different from those on the mainland: they’re called “apple bananas”, and while they have nothing to do with apples I can sort of see why they’re called that. At first you think that an apple banana tastes sort of like a usual mainland Cavendish banana, but then you get zapped by an intense, tart (apple-y?) aftertaste. Yum!

We visited a neat fruit stand in the coffee towns south of Kailua-Kona. There we purchased several exotic fruits we’d never seen before.

A passionfruit! This guy was delicious. So tart and sweet.

A soursop, or a guanábana. This specimen actually didn’t get ripe before we jetted back to the mainland, which was very sad as we weren’t allowed to bring any fruit with us. But we did try some pre-cut ripe soursop at the fruit stand, and wow! It was like nothing else. It was kind of stringy and weirdly textured, but had an incredibly complex and tasty sour flavor.

We also got these sapote fruits. They were very creamy on the inside, with three (or so) large seeds. They were neat.

At a tropical fruit garden also in the coffee towns, we purchased an “eggfruit”.

Eggfruit is the most descriptive and appropriate name imaginable. The inside had the color and texture of hard-boiled egg yolk, and the fruit was incredibly creamy and rich.

That’s all for now! Much more later!

Toby and I just went to the Big Island of Hawaii for an awesome, week-long trip. I wanted to make notes about all the restaurants we visited, for my own future reference. I’m posting them here!

Restaurants are ranked from 0 to 3, with 3 being awesome and 0 being the opposite. I would unhesitatingly re-visit any restaurant with a nonzero rating, except possibly Merriman’s, just because I didn’t enjoy its atmosphere.

You’ll see that we ate a lot of good food in Hawaii!

Level 3: Exactly right!

Hilo Bay Café, Hilo
Very nice, casual place. We shared three smallish dishes: ahi poke, mackerel with toast and sauces, and a mushroom pot pie. The pot pie was not exciting, but fine. The other two dishes were amazing. We also had a tropical fruit panna cotta for dessert, which turned out to be the dessert we’d been hoping for on our whole trip.

Sombat’s, Hilo
This is a fantastic Thai restaurant. Its menu seemed pretty standard, but they get lots of fresh tropical ingredients in Hawaii and they cook very well. We ordered a yellow curry and a stir-fried eggplant and fermented bean dish (both of which can be found at basically every Thai restaurant). They were really good and they did not skimp on the spiciness. We ordered both white and brown rice and the brown rice they use is great. They also gave us some complimentary herbal tea, which had lots of lemongrass (and also some kaffir lime, we thought). We had enough leftovers for a delicious breakfast the next morning.

Coffee Shack, Captain Cook
Outdoor (shaded) dining area with gorgeous views of a giant avocado tree and lots of flowers. The view was stunning. The food was solid and good. We ordered the two specials: ono salad and an ono sandwich. I got Kona coffee and Toby got a fruit smoothie. This place wasn’t fancy but it was just perfect for a casual lunch spot.

Level 2: Very good

Pahoa Fresh Fish, Pahoa
Very tasty fish and chips. They had a choice of ono, mahi mahi, or cod. Very inexpensive: $10.95 for fries plus five pieces of fish, which must have been nearly a pound. We got two pieces of ono and three pieces of mahi mahi. I liked the mahi mahi best; Toby preferred the ono.

Holuakoa Café and Gardens, Holualoa
A surprisingly fancy restaurant up the mountainside from Kailua. The dining area is outdoors and lovely, and the menu was appealing. I ordered a dish of potato gnocchi with breadfruit and other accompaniments, while Toby got a dish of kampachi fish with rice. We traded plates halfway through, and good thing, because my dish would have been way too cheesy for one person to eat the whole time. We also had a slice of pumpkin cheesecake to share for dessert.

Merriman’s, Waimea
Fancy restaurant in Waimea. The ambience was bizarre (it felt touristy and also stuffy — they made a big point of pulling out my chair and giving Toby the wine/cocktail menu, which grossed me out) and we had an overexcited waiter, but the food was very good. I ordered a scallops-and-corn dish, and Toby ordered a dish of ahi. We traded plates halfway through. It could have been better: my dish included steamed broccoli, which would have been nicer with a bit of browning on it. Toby’s dish had a weird pile of rice off to the side that could have been better incorporated into the dish. But it was very tasty. For dessert we had a “passion posset”, which was a British curdled-milk dessert flavored with passion fruit. It was also delicious.

What’s Shakin, north of Hilo
This is a roadside restaurant known for its smoothies. We ordered a papaya (and other assorted fruits) smoothie to share and it was great. I heard they use frozen bananas instead of ice in their drinks. This smoothie was better than the Coffee Shack’s (though that one was also good).

Hilo Homemade Ice Cream, Hilo
We stumbled upon this place by accident on our way to the beaches just out of Hilo. They have several flavors that were pretty exciting to me: I had to choose between macadamia nut and passion fruit. I chose passion fruit. Toby had Kona coffee ice cream. It was all very delicious.

Level 1: Good

Merriman’s Market Café, Kings Shops on Waikoloa Beach Road
This was a pleasant lunch spot with nice outdoor seating. We ordered a fish taco (mahi mahi) and a mozzarella-tomato salad with balsamic vinaigrette reduction. The taco was pretty good but the tomatoes were not, which was disappointing. I know we shouldn’t have ordered tomatoes in March; we just believed that anything was possible in Hawaii. The balsamic vinegar sauce was great, though. We had pleasant cones of pineapple ice cream and lemon gelato for dessert.

Ba-Le, Kailua-Kona
This is an inexpensive Vietnamese restaurant in a strip mall. We both got spicy lemongrass tofu sandwiches, which were good. We brought them back to our room and ate them outside with fruit and beer, which was the perfect way to enjoy them!

Hilo Lunch Spot, Hilo
It’s not really fair of me to rank this place, since we experienced it in kind of a weird way. I wasn’t sure whether to put it in Level 1 or 2, but ultimately I choose 1. Anyway, this is a takeout lunch place. We went there rather early (9:30-ish) and didn’t eat the food until dinner (6-ish), so it wasn’t at its best. We therefore got vegetabley things. The nori rolls filled with mustardy greens and pickled daikon were great, as was a pickled bean-sprout salad. Another salad was not as good (it also had weird fake crab in it, which we didn’t notice till later), and we got an overwhelmingly large portion of some kind of sweet pickle.

Village Burger, Waimea
Toby would probably give this place a 2 or 3, but I think I’m going to stick it in Level 1. I had the veggie burger, which was made of taro. I liked it, but I thought it could have had a lot more flavor. Also, they used plain iceberg lettuce, which I wish had been something else. (Toby claims that the iceberg lettuce worked well on the actual beef burger, which may well be true.) It wasn’t the throwaway vegetarian item that some places grudgingly offer, but it still seemed like an afterthought. I did like the fries a lot.

Level 0: Not good

Thai Rin, Kailua-Kona
We went here on our first night, on the advice of our guidebook. We were not impressed. The menu was standard for a Thai restaurant but the dishes were not interesting in any way, or particularly good. I wish we had gone to the Lava Java Café next door instead.

Café Pesto, Hilo
We needed some food after visiting Volcanoes National Park on Sunday, and lots of places were closed on Sunday (Hilo is a pretty sleepy town). So we turned to Café Pesto. It’s a dine-in restaurant but we just got a smallish pizza to go, because we planned to take it back to our B&B and eat it with fruit and some beers we’d bought at the grocery store. The fruit and beer was good, but the pizza was not, and NOT because it was takeout. Its main problems seemed to be cooking at far too low a temperature (no giant black bubbles in the crust; more of an allover brown), and using bad cheese.

*****

And, for my own further reference, here’s when I visited each of the establishments:

Tuesday, 3/13: Thai Rin

Wednesday, 3/14: Merriman’s Market Cafe, Ba-Le

Thursday, 3/15: Coffee Shack, Holuakoa Gardens and Café

Friday, 3/16: Merriman’s

Saturday, 3/17: What’s Shakin, Sombat’s

Sunday: 3/18: Cafe Pesto

Monday, 3/19: Hilo Homemade Ice Cream, Pahoa Fresh Fish, Hilo Bay Café

Tuesday, 3/20: Hilo Lunch Spot, Village Burger

The paperwhite has fully bloomed! It smells like spring. When I sit on the couch a few feet away I catch little whiffs of it.

Also, I thought the hyacinth was a goner, but I shouldn’t have doubted it. It just took a little more time to get going. It’s begun to slowly open its leaves, and I am eager to see what flowers will eventually result.

It felt like spring today! It was almost 60 degrees and very sunny. We walked around all afternoon taking pictures with the exciting, borrowed camera.

More later!

I got the fancy camera and my paperwhite bulb immediately began to bloom! I took way too many pictures of it over the last four days. Here, watch it open:

You can tell from the light in the pictures that the last two mornings have been very sunny and nice! (All the pictures were taken at about 9:00 AM.)

Also, the flowers smell even better than they look.

I get to borrow a really awesome digital SLR camera for the next week, and I am really excited. I started by photographing my small collection of earrings (above), since they are small and pretty and they look dramatic in the shallow focus.

Then I moved on to the grapefruit we ate after dinner:

I don’t know anything about photography, but I will have a good time with the manual focus. I guess this means I have to cook lots of attractive things this week. Prepare yourself!

For a magical day or two, Seattle was a wintry paradise.

Our little tarragon plant idiotically chose this moment to send up shoots. The little plants were very cute in the snow, though.

Ice-encrusted flowers and leaves in the neighborhood:

Magical sideways icicles:

…and how they came to be sideways (poor top-heavy plant!):

Then it rained for a couple days, and all the snow was washed away. You wouldn’t even know it was ever here, if you suddenly teleported into Seattle.