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Day 1 - Honolulu, Hawaii

Well, here it is April 24th, 2006 and we're finally on a plane to Honolulu, Hawaii. We left St. Louis at 6am and Ziggy demanded a window seat. Why? I have no idea. As soon as we boarded the plane, she fell asleep and hasn't opened one eye except when she smelled bagels.

She had brought with her a backpack loaded with all kinds of stuff. Because of what happened in New York with the can of tuna, I decided to check her backpack to make sure there were no surprises. It had a whole bunch of hats in it. Hats? Yes, I said hats. She left her birthday hat at home thank God. I can't imagine what all the hats are for but we will see.

As we were flying over the Pacific Ocean is when I saw first sign of life from her. And when she let out a big yawn followed by the rubbing of her eyes, I knew she wanted some milk. I motioned for the stewardess and she brought over a small saucer of coconut milk. How nice.

As Ziggy sipped her milk, I read her some facts about Hawaii.

"Hawaii was the 50th state in the USA. It became a state on August 21, 1959. You weren't even born yet," I said to Ziggy. She looked at me with those big browns and meowed, "Can I go surfin with Ipo and Loke and eat peanut butter cookies with Rachel?"

"Unfortunately," I replied, "Rachel is probably dancing in her ballet class today and we won't be able to see them. Plus, we're not going to have a lot of time."

She weeped for a bit and then saw the the islands out the window and the airport just ahead and became excited. "What are we going to do first? she meowed.

"Well Ziggy, we're going to meet some locals and talk to them for a little bit and then we're going to have a great lunch."

We were greeted by some beautiful women in Hula Skirts as we left the plane. They put a lei around my neck and Ziggy reached into her backpack for a hat. It was a head lei and she wore it the whole time we were in Honolulu. Here she is.

We made our way through the airport and caught a cab. The drivers name was Anakakio and it was obvious that he was a native. I asked him if Anakakio was a name for like, "Moon over the city", or, "Rising sun in the day". He said no. He said Anakakio was Hawaiian for Anastasius.

He was also joined by a lady who played the Ukukele in the front seat. I asked her if this was the custom in Hawaii and she said no, that his radio was broke. Her name was Myrtle Hilo. Here they are.

I told them what we were doing in Hawaii and for the next 54 days and they wished us the best. I asked him if I could ask him a question and he said sure.

I asked, "What does it mean to be an American?"

He stopped the cab and replied, "My family comes from 100's of generations of the Hawaiian culture. They were many from the era of WW2 and when Honolulu got hit by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, we did lose family members. When we became a state in 1959, many were opposed, but more were in favor and I for one am glad to be an American. Being a part of a nation that practices equal oppourtunities and freedoms for everyone is the only way to live this life. Especially in Hawaii where it's beautiful 95% of the time."

I asked, "What about the other 5%?"

He replied that it was part weather and something else. I asked what it was. He said that sometimes customers didn't leave good tips.

I looked over at Ziggy and she was sawing zzzz's. When we got to the restaurant, I realized that the cabbie was a great person to talk to and woke Ziggy up. And I left him a good tip. After all, you're paying for it and told him so.We said our goodbyes to Myrtle and Anakakio.

They dropped us off at the Duke's Canoe Club. This beachfront restaurant offers fresh fish and steaks. Duke's Waikiki, named in honor of surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku, is a seafood restaurant where great tasting food and the aura of old Hawaii are the fashion. Located oceanfront at the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel, the restaurant and Barefoot Bar are popular spots for beachboys (and beachgirls), locals, cats, cool cats and visitors alike. Duke's Waikiki is located right on the site of the original Outrigger Canoe Club, overlooking the spot where Duke rode the biggest wave of his life.

I had to ask the waiter how he felt about being an American. He said, "Tourists come to Hawaii from all over the world. The majority are from the US mainland. Although my Ancestors were Hawaiian and am full blooded Hawaiian, I don't know what I would be, or what I'd be doing if I was anything else but American. I am proud to be an American. Especially when a customer from the mainland leaves me a good tip."

"So I've heard from the cab driver, " I responded.

Of course, Ziggy had asked the waiter for a (click here) Humuhumunukunuku. The waiter laughed, I laughed and Ziggy looked bewildered. I told her if she was listening to me on the flight instead of sleeping, she would have known that that was the state fish and it was protected by law. She looked at me and asked, "Well, may I at least talk to the bird?" After a moment filled with laughter, this is what we had and enjoyed. The Chef was gracious enough to give me the recipe.

 

This is a true trilogy of flavors. Ginger appears in the wine sauce and as a crisp garnish. Fennel slices braised in stock and wine serve as vegetables. And the fresh taste of watercress is concentrated in the quenelles. All three form an unusual accent to the mild taste of opakapaka, a delicate pink snapper. Here's the recipe.

Charbroiled Opakapaka with Ginger

Ginger Sauce
1/2 Maui or other sweet white onion, sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup olive oil

Braised Fennel
2 fennel bulbs
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water
1 ounce salt pork or fatty bacon, cut into 4 pieces

Watercress Purée
3/4 cup fresh watercress sprigs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Garnish
1 cup peanut oil
1/2 cup fresh ginger, cut in matchstick julienne or on a spiral slicer

Fish
Four 6-ounce opakapaka fillets, skin on (substitute red snapper, sea bass or monkfish)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt, freshly ground pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

To make the ginger sauce: In a saucepan, simmer the onion and white wine for 15 minutes over medium heat. Put in a blender or food processor, add the ginger and purée for 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and purée again until smooth.

To prepare the fennel: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut off any stalks and the hard outer layer of the fennel. Cut the bulbs in half. Put the fennel bulbs in a baking pan and cover with the wine and the water. Add the salt pork or bacon and bake for 15 minutes or until tender. Slice each piece of fennel into 3 crosswise slices and set aside.

To make the watercress purée: Purée the watercress in a blender or food processor with the olive oil and lemon juice until smooth. The purée will be thick.

To make the garnish: In a deep fryer or a small heavy pot over medium-high heat, heat 1 inch of the oil to 350 F or until rippling. Add the julienned ginger and cook for 10 seconds or until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.

To prepare the fish: Light a fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a broiler. With a sharp knife, score the skin in a crosshatch pattern. Brush the fish with the olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and cayenne and grill over medium-hot fire for 4 minutes on each side until opaque throughout.

To serve: Cut the fennel slices in half. Place 3 pieces of fennel evenly around each plate. Pool one-fourth of the sauce on each plate. With 2 teaspoons, scoop the watercress purée and form into 12 small rounded quenelles (football shapes), 3 per plate, and place quenelles between the fennel slices. Arrange the fish, skin-side up, on top of the sauce.

Garnish with fried ginger.

Mai `ai! Come and eat in Hawaiian!

_______________________________

After dinner, we went straight to the airport. And would you believe it? We got the same cabbie, Anakakio and his friend Myrtle. He said he was done for the day and wanted to make sure we got a good cab ride back to the airport. Along the way, he sang a hawaiian song. It was a song called, Âinahau and Ziggy said she knew it from watching Sesame Street many years ago. Mrytle accompanied him on her ukulele. And when he started singing, it was fun and nice until not only when she started singing with him, but he hit a wild boar running across the road. I recorded it.

Here's the recording. Now remember, this is the cab driver, Mrytle and Ziggy. We hit a wild boar but he wasn't hurt. The cab was though. Hopefully, your default music player will play it.

Ziggy and the Cab Driver

We had to thumb it to the airport after that disaster. But we made it OK. We got on the plane and headed for Anchorage, Alaska. On the plane, I asked Ziggy if she wouldn't sing anymore. The less she sings, the better chance we'll have not getting into any real trouble along the way.

See ya in Anchorage, Alaska tomorrow!

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