Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A week of living slowly

Most of the time, I like living in San Francisco. I do get tired of the crap summers, and sometimes I think it would be nice to live somewhere flat. And sure, the idea of renting until I drop dead because we can't afford to buy a place seems like a bit of a bummer. But most of the time, I like it here. And after 13 years, I feel like a native. I know how to get everywhere, and how the neighborhoods are different, and where to get the best shrimp and leek dumplings (San Tung), tea leaf salad (Burma Superstar), and roast chicken (Zuni, natch). When I go other places, I feel proud to say I'm from San Francisco.

Except for when I go to Kauai. When I go to Kauai, I feel embarrassed by how expensive and materialistic life is here in the Bay Area, and I think how great it would be to live somewhere warm and mellow, where instead of row upon row of buildings, you see hills and ocean and wild chickens. Somewhere where the maximum speed limit is 50 and McDonalds makes a McTeri burger. Yes, as in teriyaki.

My husband always says that much of why I love it there is because everyone sort of looks like me--part Asian and part white, just variations of brown and tan. It's true. I guess it's a bit narcissistic. But everyone's entitled to a little of that, right?

Anyhow, suffice it to say we had a great trip, with loads of swimming and snorkeling and lounging on the sand. We went to bed early and woke up before 7, and spent every day at the beach. The husband bought a little ukelele and plucked out pretty, aimless tunes while we hung out on our lanai and looked out at that blue-green water. We browsed the local stores full of furniture made of koa wood and brightly-colored jewelry. We went to a Matt Costa show. And, of course, we ate.

We went down to Poipu one day, where in addition to having a monk seal swim right by us, its smooth, steely gray body rising and falling with the waves, we checked out the newly famous Puka Dog.

At Puka Dog, you pick your dog (Polish or veggie), how hot you want your garlicky sauce (I chose mild), and which tropical relish you prefer, ranging from mango to pineapple to star fruit. I went with mango, which was surprisingly sweet but a nice counter to the peppery garlic sauce. Next time I'll try star fruit.

Twice we hit Tropical Taco in Hanalei, where I am determined to move someday, with or without the husband. I will sell t-shirts in a hut on the side of the road if I have to. It's happening. Anyway, we both love it there and spent many of our days at the beaches on the north shore, then stopping in Hanalei for lunch.

Tropical Taco used to operate out of a green van but a few years back got some of the precious little retail space in Hanalei. We had fish tacos twice, once with mahi mahi, and once with striped marlin, both delicious.

And of course we got shave ice. I got mine rainbow style, with three flavors (but can't we just admit they're more colors than flavors?)--raspberry, mango, and passionfruit, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream at the bottom. You can also get it with azuki beans, but I'm anti-bean when it comes to dessert. Sorry, Chinese relatives.

We also had lots of poke, sushi, and mixed plate lunches with shoyu chicken and pork adobo, snuggled up to two scoops of rice and mac salad. We even ate ridiculously good teri-burgers out of a gas station in Princeville that I've been fantasizing about ever since. And by some people's standards, we consumed a great deal of alcohol.

Kauai is the only place I've been to that I like better than where I live. Getting on the plane to come home, we both felt sad, knowing it would be awhile before we returned. Luckily, living in California makes getting to Hawaii pretty easy. There are many, many trips in our future, and one, I'm pretty sure, with a one-way ticket.


  1. Sounds like a great trip. My girlfriend wants to go to Hawaii wicked bad, I'm less excited. I'm not really into beaches, swimming and such. But hey, I'll go for the food. :D

  2. Welcome back!! Love all the info on places to eat, would dearly love to go to Hawaii one day, we almost went last year but have decided to wait till the kids are older so we can do more "adventurey" stuff. Hope the little doggie is well too:)

  3. That's it. Now *I'm* logging into Orbitz to plan my Hawaiian dream vacation - it's been 4 years since my first trip to Kauai. A second is in order. And please give a Frannie update!

  4. Bob: hawaii is definitely worth checking out, although it's best for folks who like water, beach, and sun. But depending on what island you go to, there's other stuff to do as well. Plus some interesting food...

    shaz: Thank you! Your family would enjoy it there. I love Kauai in particular but I also enjoyed Maui & Oahu.

    Ash: Yes, you need to return! As for Frannie, she continues to seem happy and hungry. If we didn't know she was sick, we wouldn't know she was sick. Hope you get to see her soon, when are you coming to SF next?

  5. Kauai is so beautiful, your vacation sounds wonderful. Jealous!!! Next week I'm going in the opposite direction for a cruise in Alaska... probably beautiful but not the same as kauai. I love lazy beach days and eating like that!

  6. I have been dying to try a PukaDog since Bourdain went there on his "No Reservations'' show. I love the fact that it offers so many different condiments, as I am a condiment fanatic. Hey, don't blame a gal for loving mustard, ketchup and all that good stuff. ;)

  7. Wow, it's been years since I've been to Kauai and it looks like the culinary scene has gotten pretty creative. I want a PukaDog now with mango! Then star fruit! :) BTW, please tell me you got some good saimin at that famous place! (So famous I don't even have to say the name, well, mostly because I have the worst memory.) Ha!

  8. foodhoe: yes beach vacations are my favorite. but Alaska would be amazing too. I hope you are having a wonderful time--can't wait to read your posts when you return!

    Food Gal: I really wish there were a Puka Dog in the Bay Area. I would go at least once a week!

    Single Guy Ben: The food has gotten better in the years I've been going to Kauai, although it's not on par with SF or what Ithink Honolulu must have. It kills me to say that this is the one trip we did not make it to Hamura Saimin. Usually we go right when we get off the plane but this time we got in so late it was closed. I'm still kicking myself!