Rainbow Tower, Take 2

Hilton Hawaiian Village's Rainbow Tower during rehabilitation

Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Rainbow Tower during rehabilitation

While we were in Hawaii, Beedoo shared a picture of the Rainbow Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village that she took on her last trip. When she took the original picture, signs of age were definitely showing on the tower even then.

As mentioned, the tower is undergoing renovations, and this is what the tower looked like while we were there. Here’s hoping that it will look awesome again ๐Ÿ™‚

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Spammity SPAM

No, I’m not talking about spam of the “I’m a Nigerian financier who has this fund stuck in a bank somewhere” variety, but ratherย the Hormel precooked meat product better known as SPAM (and yes, even Hormel capitalizes it), which is very popular in Hawaii thanks to all of the GIs eating it while stationed there during the War.

Nowadays, there are more varieties of SPAM than you can shake a stick at, and if you’re in Hawaii, you can get all of them. Here on the mainland, I’ve only seen SPAM, SPAM Lite and low sodium. The good news is that you can order all of the varieties online here for $3 each (plus shipping)

SPAM, Garlic SPAM, SPAM with Bacon, Teriyaki SPAM, Jalapeรฑo SPAM, SPAM Lite, Baked Beans (are off), Black Pepper SPAM, Hot & Spicy SPAM, Low Sodium SPAM (sold out!) and SPAM

SPAM, Garlic SPAM, SPAM with Bacon, Teriyaki SPAM, Jalapeรฑo SPAM, SPAM Lite, Baked Beans (are off), Black Pepper SPAM, Hot & Spicy SPAM, Low Sodium SPAM (sold out!) and SPAM

These were the variations available at Foodland inside Ala Moana. Also seen is the Libby’s Vienna Sausage, which is another item that I assume is popular in Hawaii ๐Ÿ˜‰

Finally, any discussion of SPAM would not be complete without this –

– the classic Monty Python Sketch ๐Ÿ˜‰

Olloclip

Picture it: you have an iPhone 5 (or 5S or 4/4S), and you see something you’d like to photograph. It takes pretty decent pictures on its own, especially when you deploy the HDR function, like this one that was taken at the Pali lookout.
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If you want to zoom, you certainly can, as the iPhone’s camera does have a digital zoom function built into it. But what happens if you’re too close to get everything into the frame?

One option that you have is to take a panoramic photo (available on the 4S and later) which is something that makes awesome photos, such as this one at Makapu’u Lookout.

20131208-104049.jpgBut a panorama is only useful in certain situations, such as the view from a lookout, or if what you’re looking at is a longer area, like the scene when the panorama was introduced – a long line of kids.

Another option is to take a bunch of photos and stitch them together, but as I can attest to, having done it in the past, this is a pain in the neck, and you just cannot get the photos to all line up correctly.

The good news is that there is a third option – one that will require a small investment (about $60), but one that will go a long way to giving you many different options to take photos with your phone. That option is to use the Olloclip.

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Beedoo turned me onto the Olloclip via a blog post that she found – The Husband Gifts me With Photographs – which introduced the item via a set of photos that were taken with the writer’s husband’s iPhone. My response was as follows –

That. Is. Awesome.

So, about a month later, I found myself at Best Buy and walked out of there with the Olloclip in hand – and no money out of pocket, thanks to gift cards that I had accumulated and Best Buy gift certificates that I got from buying my new iPhone from them ๐Ÿ™‚

When I had bought the Olloclip, they only had the 3-in-1 option available. Now, there are a variety of options, including a telephoto lens, which allows you to zoom optically instead of digitally, allowing you to retain the overall quality of the photo.

In my case, the lens that I use the most is the fisheye lens (the large one on the left above). It creates a different perspective on everything, as you can see here, when you catch a glimpse of the wall of gems visible at Sedona in Ward Centre –

ollofisheye

Oh, and that’s just one wall of gemstones. There’s a whole display that was behind me, which held a whole lot more gems and stones, including one that I did wind up buying, but that will be a story for a different time ๐Ÿ˜‰

On the other side of the housing is the dual wide-angle (which I don’t seem to have used at all during my trip) and macro lenses. In order to use the macro, you have to unscrew the wide-angle off of the housing. The macro lens that I have on my Olloclip is great when you can get within 1cm of what you are photographing, which can give you this result, as I also took in Sedona –

ollomacro

This is simply a photo that you can not take with the original lens that is included with your iPhone. The only caution that you need to be aware of is to be sure that the flash is turned off. While you can see the flash firing, the Olloclip covers most of it, causing uneven lighting on your photos. Also, if you use a cover for your phone (as I do), you do need to remove it each time that you use the Olloclip, as it is designed to fit right over the phone unencumbered by covers.

If you have an iPhone, the Olloclip is a great investment to make if you’re into photography. Prices start at $69.99, and you canย order online here, where you can also purchase covers for your phone that allow a quick access for the Olloclip without having to remove the cover altogether.

If you’re travelling, you can also buy the Olloclip at most Best Buy stores, and even more conveniently, at Best Buy Express kiosks located in most major airports including Honolulu, where there are 4! There are also kiosks in the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Sheraton Waikiki. What’s more awesome about the kiosks is that the price you pay there? It’s the same price you pay at the store, with no “airport markup” that causes you to pay $7 for a 6-inch sub ๐Ÿ˜‰

Arizona Memorial

Exterior of the Arizona Memorial

Exterior of the Arizona Memorial

To the memory of the gallant men here entombed and their shipmates who gave their lives in action on December 7, 1941 on the U.S.S. Arizona.

To the memory of the gallant men here entombed and their shipmates who gave their lives in action on December 7, 1941 on the U.S.S. Arizona.

Fittingly, as this is the 7th of December, we take time to pause and reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. In the second photo, of special note are the smaller displays. Listed on these markers are the names of men who survived the initial attack while on the Arizona who later were interred within the ship many years later.

1982

Hula Grill Tasting Menu

Before coming out to Hawaii, there were many things that I had not experienced. Among them was the concept that you can find Monday to Friday at the Hula Grill – the chef’s tasting menu. What’s so awesome about this meal is that, for a set (and very reasonable) price, you choose your meal from a set list, one starter, one entree, one dessert, building to a fantastic three-course meal.

To start, as with most of the other food posts here, the pictures are split between my Canon PowerShot and Beedoo’s Panasonic Lumix. However, we do have to start with one taken with my iPhone, as it is of the actual menu. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s not the best photo, but it gives you an idea of the choices we faced for our courses. You can also view the tasting menu online here.

menu

Two things I will like to note about the tasting menu –

  1. A portion of the proceeds from the purchase of the menu goes to local organizations whose goals are to further awareness and protect the natural resources on the islands.
  2. The portions that you are presented with are actually half of the size of the normal serve that you would get if you purchase the regular item off of the menu

Before the main meal began, we got our drinks. Both Beedoo and I had the Lava Flow, which is just an awesome drink to enjoy, and one that is something that is a great refreshment to enjoy and, in my experience, doesn’t have much of an effect on me. For me, the best part is just to be able to take my time and enjoy all of the flavors that are in the drink – coconut, strawberry, pineapple and banana.

lavaflow

Beedoo’s other half had the Blue Hawaiian, which he reported as being strong.

bluehawaiian

Shortly after the drinks were served, the waiter brought us a bread basket, which was at the perfect temperature. What was even better was that the bread was served alongside two containers of oil – one with plain olive oil, and the other containing a chili oil. What we did was mix the two oils and it was a perfectly spicy. For me, I did put a little more chili oil than olive oil on my plate as I do like my foods a bit spicier ๐Ÿ™‚

bread

Due to the fact that we had set ourselves a 5:30 reservation (as the tasting menu is only available from 4:45-5:45 PM), it was just the perfect time for us to catch a sunset over Waikiki. Since you’re on the second floor of the Outrigger Waikiki, you have an unobstructed view of the sunset over the ocean (well, other than a few palm trees that you have in front of you, but that’s hardly an obstruction :))

hulasunset

However, that’s enough of the beauty, as it was time for us to begin the main portion of the meal, which were the starters. Both Beedoo and I had the Potsticker Duo, which was a surf and turf combo – Kalua pig with Ponzu plus Lobster & scallop with guava-plum sauce.

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Both potstickers were delightfully crunchy on the outside, the fillings were awesome, but the best part was the sauce, as you do not really expect to have a sweet sauce along with the savoury fillings that you’re presented with on the plate. What made this even better to me was that there was a small collection of greens next to each potsticker, which helped to collect the sauce on the plate.

Beedoo’s other half opted for the tomato soup, which was presented with a finger sandwich of Big Island goat’s cheese and garnished with basil oil. Note: In the current version of the tasting menu, the soup option has been changed to be a chef’s choice.

soup

One thing to know about him is that he can be a bit of a picky eater at times. One of the things that I’ve been told that can be a bit of an issue is tomatoes. Being tomato soup, it might be surprising that he did finish the whole bowl and enjoyed it thoroughly! ๐Ÿ™‚

Soon after that, our waiter presented us with our entrees, of which we all had something different. I chose the Shrimp Chow Fun which featured locally-made rice noodles and truffle kabayaki. Note from Beedoo – this appears to not be on the menu anymore! It has been replaced by Shrimp Scampi with garlic butter, tomatoes and capers.

shrimps1

The shrimp that they put in the dish were certainly not shrimps, they wereย jumbo shrimp (or prawns if you would prefer :)). Now, I have no idea what a kabayaki is, but the dish had an excellent Asian flavor to it, and the noodles were perfectly cooked, making this a fabulous dish! ๐Ÿ™‚

Beedoo chose the fresh-caught fish, which was crusted in macadamia nuts and served with rice, pineapple coleslaw, along with a chilli beurre blanc tying it all together.

freshfish

I do not remember what the fish was, but it appears to be a whitefish, so possibly opah. The particulars of the flavours are not coming to me as a surprise, but I do remember it being quite decent from the taste that I had of it.

Her other half had the lemon ginger roasted chicken, which came with asparagus, mashed potatoes and a Maui Onion and roasted red pepper (capsicum) sauce.

chicken

As far as the entrees go, I felt that the shrimp was the best of the lot, but really, all three of the dishes were spectacular.

Ah, but this is a three course dinner, so we had desserts left over, and with the portion sizes being perfect, we all had room for dessert!

For the starters and mains, there were more selections than people. For dessert, the ratio was perfect, so we each had one of the choices. I opted for the Island bread pudding, featuring fruits of the island up to the discretion of the chef.

breadpuddingIt was sided with some fresh vanilla ice cream. If you make the picture full-size, you’ll see the vanilla bean specks in the ice cream, and that was definitely a great addition to the dessert. The bread pudding itself was alright, but not the best of the three desserts ๐Ÿ˜‰

Beedoo opted to have the Tropical Dreams Sorbet (which does have a sub choice of mango lychee or raspberry guava). I think you can tell which one she took by the photo ๐Ÿ™‚

sorbet

The raspberry guava sorbet would be the correct guess :). It was served on a fried wonton wrapper and tasted fairly decent, but again wasn’t the best…

The definite winner of the dessert round was her other half who got the ice cream sandwich (labeled on the menu as petite, but I would disagree!).
chocolate

Just looking at this ice cream sandwich now is making me crave one just like it – filled with awesome ice cream and surrounded on three sides by chocolate or chocolate syrup, with a raspberry coulis as a garnish, this was by far the best of the three desserts that we were presented with, and the one that, if you do take this meal, you should be having every single time ๐Ÿ˜‰

Overall, the tasting menu gave us all full stomachs without being overstuffed. It was amazing to think that all of these three courses were just half of the size of the regular portions if you ordered these items a la carte.

On a normal night, had we ordered a la carte, I know that I would not have had dessert, as the potstickers and shrimp would have been more than enough to fill me right up to the brim.

Note from Beedoo –

Out of all the places I most wanted to eat, this one was really high on the list of must-dos for me.

I would rank this 3rd of the top 5 meals we had on Oahu. The whole meal was seriously amazing – we each tried a bite of all the options you see above.

Starters – The soup was amazingly flavourful, the Kalua Pork potsticker was packed so full of pork and it tasted incredible, I could eat those all day long. The lobster and scallop version was great too.

Entrees – All 3 options we tried were wonderful but there is no doubt the winner serving size wise was the Other Half with the chicken, this seemed like it must be a full size serve unless you get a half chicken for the regular serving!

Dessert – again the winner was the Other Half who chose the ice-cream sandwich – if you are not going to have the tasting menu I strongly recommend you drop by the Hula Grill for one of these at some point during your stay.

The service was fantastic, we had a wonderful time here, great atmosphere, and the food was amazing. Would return for both this menu and some of the other options there. Possibly even breakfast.

Let me add this – if you can’t get into Dukes downstairs, go upstairs and see if you can get a table at the Hula Grill, you won’t regret it for a second. Both Dukes and Hula Grill are part of the same chain called TS Restaurants. You may even find some of the menu items you wanted to order at Dukes are also available at the Hula Grill.

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