…because some thoughts are worth remembering
When my husband and I visited Honolulu, our home of over 20 years after 2.5 years of being away, we made a big list of people we wanted to spend time with, favorite eateries to visit, and experiences we wanted to have.
When you live in paradise that is Hawaii, it’s easy to take it for granted until you are robbed of all the things that you got accustomed to. The sun was your enemy: you suit up with your SPF 30+ and complain that you forgot your hat at home. You think about how expensive the groceries are, rather than the variety of poke available at the dinkiest of markets.
Flash forward to 2 years in Denmark where you realize that you can’t tell what time of the day is by looking at the position of the sun in the sky because there’s no sun to be found. Despite being surrounded by the ocean, usually only 4 types of fish is sold in supermarkets (salmon, plaice (a flounder like fish), cod, and pickled herring), and chirashi sushi with cubes of raw carrots in them, so desperate for anything resembling authentically Asian that you start dreaming of Kozo Sushi.
In addition to serendipitous encounters (like spur of the moment decision to accompany a friend on his patrol to protect the Hawaiian monk seals, resulting in 4 sightings of the wondrous creatures basking in the sun), what I treasured most is the realizations of why I liked or loved things, about Hawaii and about experiences I used to have. Most precious was being surrounded by old friends, whose history with you grounds you.
I didn’t realize that even places that I enjoyed had a “why” until I gained some objectivity provided by the passage of time and perspectives in geography. When we ate at our go-to casual restaurant, Menchanko Tei, the flavors and the terrific value were how I remembered, but I felt like something was missing. The wait staff who took our order had a Chinese accent and did not speak Japanese. I realized that being able to order in Japanese had greatly contributed to my experience there.
Both my husband and I being in between jobs, we really had no business dining at Chef Mavro, one of our favorite special occasion restaurants. It’s the kind of place you study their quarterly updated menu online first. Just reading the white truffle special had me feeling guilty that perhaps we should have skipped this experience. But after a few bites of the first course, and the delight that bounced around exciting my palate, I realized it wasn’t just the flavors and the artistry of the chef that I appreciated about Chef Mavro: the spices combined with the careful selection of fresh ingredients and the techniques have you traveling back in time to evoke warm memories or to exotic lands yet to be explored. When the subtle fragrant of orange blossom (commonly used in Marseilles where the chef is from) burst in my mouth after a bite of the financier, I felt everything was right in this world.
Photo: Lunch at our new favorite Japanese restaurant in Honolulu, Rinka (affordable but luxurious teishoku from $12 and up).
P.S. People asked me which places from the list we actually ended up experiencing. Here’s the result: Eat the Street, Ethel’s, Ono Seafood, Teddy’s Bigger Burger, Liliha Bakery, Kamehameha Bakery, Menchanko Tei, Big Kahuna, Chodang, Wailana Coffee House, Pig & the Lady, Chef Mavro, Livestock Tavern, Grondin, and Doraku (15 out of 35 places originally listed!)