All The Guts and Glory

Vomit Gnome

Here’s something I thought I would never ever write about: gut health. But considering my job requires me to keep my tummy in tip top shape, I always have my gut in mind.

I hate to even utter the words ‘food poisoning’ because I haven’t suffered a case in about 3 years. In addition, have a proud anti-puking record. Minus the extreme case of vertigo a few weeks ago that caused me to regurgitate my burger lunch, my puke has been on the down low. (Side note: I’ve just discovered I really enjoy typing out puke.)

But there are things that set me off – Cajun food, I’m looking at you – and I’ve recognized the onset of symptoms that have sometimes prompted me to delay restaurant visits until my stomach is at 100%. Since I’ve been doing the professional food thing for almost four years (even longer if you consider my blogging career is now at the 12 year mark), I’ve realized that a consistent diet consisting of fiber and water keep me running smoothly.


It all starts with a breakfast of Wasa crackers. I got hooked onto these dry crackers last year training for the 10K. There’s no sugar and two crackers rack in 80 calories! Depending on how I feel, I top the crackers with peanut butter, cheese or if I’m really hungry, scrambled eggs. Think of it more like a concrete lining for my stomach. Since the crackers are so dry I try drink a lot of water to keep myself hydrated.


My morning crackers are followed by probiotics. I’ve tried a variety of probiotics with mixed results. They either tended to be too expensive or were in yogurt form. The ones that seem to agree with me are created by Culturelle. Last year before my trip to Asia, Paul and I prepped our guts by taking one in the morning and evening. Now when my stomach begins to feel a bit off later in the day I take a second one as insurance. It’s a steal at Costco and available in packs of 80 capsules for $29.99.

Brown Rice and Veggies

After my breakfast of crackers, anything can happen. Sometimes it’s followed by a lunch visit to a restaurant, but more often it’s badly chosen snacks like potato chips. The few times I’m able to cook at home, I stick with brown rice and steamed veggies. (I really enjoy green beans with light douse of Trader Joe’s Green Goddess dressing.) Boring I know but it jump starts my appetite when I’m feeling palate fatigue and keeps my system running.

One Final Visit to Cleveland: Indian Food, Ice Cream and Doughnuts

Cleveland View

In an effort to catch up with posts, I thought I’d write about my visit to Cleveland last year. My brother was moving from Ohio to Kentucky later in the year so I made it a point to make one last visit before he and my sister-in-law packed up and left the state.

The visit was bittersweet. I hadn’t seen him in a while even after my mom died. Also too, I realized it would be my very last visit – that’s unless I’m sent to the city for an assignment. In the ten years since my brother has lived there, I’ve visited at least five times and the last time was with our mom. Who would’ve guessed that I would be so connected to Cleveland??

I made the solo trip in in August and  when I arrived I noticed that all throughout the city  the preparations for the Republican convention in 2016.

Choolah shirts

Traveling East is hard! You basically lose several hours and to get in while its still day light requires you to leave on the earliest possible flight. I didn’t eat all day and one of the first stops was Choolaah Indian BBQ on Chagrin Boulevard in Beachwood, OH. It’s a fast casual restaurant featuring four tandoor clay ovens behind glass wall that you can view from the dining room. The signage was very sleek (think McDonald’s but with an Indian twist) – they even sell their t-shirts. Choolaah has only one location and it’s a restaurant I can foresee it going national.

Choolah Chicken Tikka

As per any visit with my family, we ordered almost the whole menu so I can try a little bit of every thing. My order was the chicken tikka masala that came with freshly made naan and mint yogurt sauce. An interesting fact: any dish incorporating cheese is sourced from local Amish farmers.

MItchells Menu

We followed that up with Mitchell’s, one of my favorite ice cream places that I’ve visited on previous trips and I always order the bing cherry chocolate chunk. The ice cream at Mitchell’s is sourced locally encompassing chunk elements in the mix. It’s reminiscent of Ben & Jerry’s before the brand went national while Jeni’s Spendid Ice Cream caters to trendy tourists types, Mitchell’s is a local place as evidenced by the lines outside the door.


Since I flew late in on Thursday, I tagged along with my brother to his place of work at the Cleveland Clinic the following day. For lunch, he took me to another place he thought I should check out: Sokolowski’s University Inn on University Road.

University Inn

Open since 1923, the cafeteria-style restaurant has been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s show for its Polish ethnic food. Grab a tray and fill it up with whatever looks good from the hot food bins.

Sokolowskis_decr Sokolowski's Salads

Sokolowski's chicken paprikash

That day, Sokolowski‘s featured their usual variety of salads and cakes. From the hot food bin was chicken paprikash, potato pancakes, mac ‘n’ cheese and fried fish just to name a few. It’s the kind of food that sticks with you all day.

Sokolowski's Potato Pancake fish mac nd cheese green beans

Here’s my fish (an ode to Paul since he couldn’t be with me during this trip) along with one potato pancake, a roll and side of green beans.

Sokolowski's sausage and dumplings

My brother went all out ordering Polish sausage with dumplings (pictured) and I tried a bit of his chicken paprikash.

Sokolowski's Dining room

Sokolowski's counter

Aside from the food, the decor looked like it was plucked out of time with photos of notable celebrities and regulars on the walls. If you’re in Cleveland, this is a definite must-visit.

One of the things I really wanted to do on this trip was check out the Harvey Pekar banners. They were installed a month earlier at Coventry Park where the late comic creator liked to hang out. After some exploring around in the area in the blistering Cleveland humidity, we found the banners attached to the lampposts at the intersection of Coventry Road and Euclid Heights.

Pekar plaque

Pekar Banners Pekar Banner 3

Pekar Banner 2

Much of the rest of the weekend was exploring outside of Cleveland. I somehow got in my head that I wanted to find Amish doughnuts. My brother had no idea where to find some so we settled on Lerch’s Donuts parked outside of a small shopping strip in Smithville, OH. They’re known for selling sweets during summer fairs.

Lerchs Donuts Truck

Lerchs Donuts

To Paul’s chagrin, I also sought out his beloved Faygo and found them in several grocery stores where they were selling plastic bottles of it at a staggeringly $1 each!


Despite my brother’s misgiving about Jeni’s Spendid Ice Cream, he took me to the scoop shop in Chagrin Falls. Chagrin Falls is one of my favorite places outside of Cleveland. There town is host to gorgeous water falls leading into a stream and also popular because it’s the home Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes.

Jenis Menu Jenis ice cream scoops

We were unsure if Jeni’s was open (throughout the county, production had stopped several times because of a listeria outbreak) but we were in luck.

Upon suggestion of the counter, I ordered Ndali Estate Vanilla bean with a scoop of milkiest chocolate while my sister-in-law went with a scoop of Wildberry lavender. The ice cream was fine but I have to go with the locals and agree that Mitchell’s Ice Cream is far superior.

I’ll miss Cleveland but I’m looking forward to exploring his new place in Lexington, Kentucky.

For my ancient posts on Cleveland, click here, here, here, here and here.

Taste the Rainbow – in a Bagel!


If you thought rainbow bagels were only available in NYC – apparently the epicenter of all cool, trendy food – you can also find them here in good old San Diego. And I’ll tell you where you can find them.

Are you listening closely? D.Z. Akins!

My recent work travels had my go to La Mesa for a garden photo shoot. I had some time to spare and decided to hit up D.Z. Akins especially after my awesome experience at Downtown’s Carnivore Sandwich. (The owner stressed to me that his shop was not a delicatessen.) I hadn’t been to D.Z. Akins for a while and spotted these multicolored beauties sitting behind the deli counter alongside some green-tinted ones for St. Patrick’s Day.


These are not as colorful as the ones available at the The Bagel Store in Brooklyn. The exterior is more of a murky mix of colors but one slice inside reveals a brighter hue.


Taste-wise? Eh, I’m really unsure. I’m chalking it up to mind-over-matter believing I’m eating baked Playdoh instead of food. (Stephen Colbert’s reaction is spot on.) After Paul’s incident last year with Burger King’s HA1loween Whopper, I’m hoping that I won’t be in for a shock the next morning.

If you want to grab some of D.Z. Akins’ rainbow bagels, you can buy them for 90¢ a piece.

D.Z. Akins
6930 Alvarado Rd.
San Diego, CA 92120

Can’t Beat the Sweet Cravings: Orange-Yogurt Cake

Orange Yogurt Cake done

So wow. I haven’t been baking in a while. In an effort to cut down in sweets, I also cut down in baking. But in a conjunction with a story I did on cookies, I was left with an aching sweet tooth a week later.

Orange Yogurt Cake Slice

Here’s the wonderful thing about Google. If you’re hankering to cook something, do a search for the ingredients you have in hand and the search engine will spit out a recipe. I always keep eggs on hand and happened to also have a few oranges and cup of Greek yogurt. A Google based on those ingredients led me to this Marta Stewart recipe. I sat on it for two days until my sweet cravings were unsurmountable. It whipped up so fast and I was able to get a warm slice of cake in my belly within an hour. the hardest thing in the recipe was segmenting the  oranges while the cake was baking.

This recipe requires two segmented oranges but I only had the patience to do one. Here’s my adaption for lazy cooks – oh and remember to butter the pan really well or you’ll get an unslightly broken off piece on the cake.

Orange Yogurt Cake

Orange-Yogurt Cake

Adapted from Martha Stewart

  • Butter to grease pan
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Orange zest from two oranges, divided use
  • Segments from 1 orange
  • 1 Tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar, optional
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter an 8-inch round cake pan.

Stir flour, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder, baking soda, salt, yogurt, oil, orange zest from one orange and juice, egg, and vanilla in a bowl. Pour into pan.

Transfer to over and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack.

Place remaining zest in a small bowl. Stir in segments and remaining tablespoon sugar.

Garnish cake with some segments.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

How-To: Super Chunky Vanilla Almond Granola


It’s been kind of quiet over here, I know. The easy answer is that I’ve been busy but in reality I’ve been really busy with life, documenting food stuffs and whatnot has played second fiddle to being in the moment. I have friends to see and places to eat!

Last December, I made promise to keep this up more as an exercise. But honestly, I wrote this in 2015 and only now am I taking out of the draft stage and publishing it. Also in December, I went back to cooking more and wanted to conquer granola.

See, I love yogurt but texture-wise it can be very boring. So I mix it up with chunks of granola. But not just any granola, I like the super chunky stuff that sits at the top of the container waiting to be eaten right away. (I save the crumbled stuff to fold into my yogurt.) So in true Darlene fashion, I set out to conquer this project and make it myself.


When you break it down, how hard can granola be to make?

Doing research on the process, I discovered it’s really not so difficult. The most basic kind takes steel cut oats, a sweetener and oil. For the kind with the really big chunks, only a few adjustments are needed but you can’t rush the process. There’s a lot of mixing and then waiting for the big chunking effect to happen. But don’t worry, that waiting happens after the oven has been turned off, transforming the oats into golden, lightly toasted chunks.


As for flavoring, I prefer to use vanilla with a little bit of almond extract. The addition of silvered almonds add texture. And if I have it, I also add a some sweetened coconut to play off the coconut oil. You may prefer to add raisins instead of coconut. In that case, please do not send me your granola thankyouverymuch.

Vanilla Almond Granola

  • 2 and 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white, whipped until frothy
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes, sweetened or unsweetened (optional)

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Toss the oats, almonds, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the maple syrup, coconut oil, almond and vanilla extracts together until combined.

Pour over the oats and toss to coat. Fold egg white into the oats. Make sure all of the oats are moistened. Mix in coconut flakes if desired.

Spread onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Turn off oven and leave granola in oven for 4 hours or overnight.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks or freeze up to three months.


Got Milk? Isabel’s Mexican Chocolate Bread Pudding


Last week for Zagat, I wrote about the Mexican chocolate bread pudding at Isabel’s Cantina in Pacific Beach. It’s a decadent chocolate infused dessert that pairs well with milk. The dessert was created in conjunction with the Got Milk? campaign where restaurants were contacted to create a food that pairs well with milk. Select restaurants including Isabel’s Cantina created specials and it wasn’t just sweet offerings. Savory items like Korean fried chicken in San Francisco were also included. But if you’re anything like me, sweet is the way to go and I loved this dessert because of the subtle spicy kick from the chipotle chocolate ganache on the side.

Since the restaurant will only be serving it for a limited time, here’s a copy of the recipe to make at home. When it was served at the restaurant, a glass of whole milk was served alongside. Since moving to adulthood and ever conscious of the calories I put into my body, the whole milk was like drinking an unsweetened milkshake. It was thick but helped douse ease the spice from the ganache. I recommend if you make this cake to go ahead and also pair it with a glass of whole milk.


Mexican Chocolate Bread Pudding

Created by chef Isabel Cruz

Bread pudding
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons brown sugar
6 croissants enough to fit a 9-inch pie plate, split lengthwise
1 cup almond slivers

Mexican Chocolate
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar

Chipotle Chocolate Ganache
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup half and half
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

For Mexican chocolate:
Combine the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until semi-fine ground. Set a side.

For Chipotle chocolate ganache:
In a medium saucepan, add the chocolate chips, half and half and adobo sauce.

Cook over low heat until chocolate chips being to melt. Stir with a fork until sauce forms. Remove from heat and set aside.

For bread pudding:
Preheat the oven to 350º degrees F. Butter a 9-inch pie plate and set aside.

Combine the eggs, half-and-half and brown sugar in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Press the croissants into the egg mixture to soak, turning over twice.

Fit the bottom half of each croissant into the butter pie plate, sliced side down. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the Mexican chocolate over the croissants followed by 1/2 of the almonds.

Layer the remaining croissants sliced down side on top and sprinkle with remaining chocolate and almonds.

Bake the bread pudding until puffy and dry on the top but still moist inside.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly before cutting and serving. Can be served at room temperature or chilled. Top with a spoonful of ganache before serving with glass of milk.

Guess Who’s Running Again? Hint: It’s a Fit Foodie Ambassador


I get a ton of emails. A ton. Restaurant openings. Invitations. Long-lost relatives from Namibia who want to send me money. Funny recipes. And people calling me a retard. You name it. Last month, I received an invite to become the Fit Foodie Ambassador for Cooking Light & Health’s 5K Race weekend and I applied not thinking they wouldn’t pick me. But big surprise— they did and now I’m training for it.

A little history: I was a big runner about 15+ years ago. Living in Bankers Hill, I would drive from my 2nd Avenue studio apartment and run at Balboa Park by myself racking up miles. But I gave up out of boredom. So getting back on the wagon is important for me and I’m giving myself month to prep for the race.

Given my job, working out is a requirement. I’m not as fit as I would like to be but I’m in the realm. I walk Doctor 4+ times a week for almost three miles, hit the gym to use the elliptical when I have time and do pilates. It’s a balance that works with the theme of this year’s race “Calories Burned. Calories Earned.” And man, do I have a lot of calories to burn every time I eat for work. The Fit Foodie 5K Race is taking place on November 7 and here’s my goal: I don’t want to suck.

5K is the equivalent of 3.1 miles and frankly not a big stretch. In a month I’m looking to increase my lung capacity and endurance, and ramp up from walking to running nonstop. The first time I hit the treadmill, it was hard and took just as long to do a run/walk as I do on most days. I’m still sore but I appreciate the deadline. IMG_6067

Will I accomplish my goal? We’ll see. If you’re looking to join me, you can sign up at Use the code BURNINGKITCHEN and you get 50% off registration fees. Deadline to register is November 4.

The Jury’s Out: Spam Snacks

Spam Jerky

Since returning from Spam Jam in Hawaii this spring, I’ve had in my hands a hot little product from Hormel: Spam Snacks! And I wasn’t able to write about it until now.

During the opening events, simply labeled packets were handed out while I was tasting the various Spam dishes. As other attendees were ripping open the packets to chow down with the food (overkill if you ask me), I reserved mine until I was in San Diego and shared it with Paul.

There are no surprises here: it tastes like Spam but we both agreed that eating it alone without plain white rice didn’t put the product in the best light. The whole joy of eating Spam for me is usually comes with a big pile of carbs and eggs.

Spam Jerky closeup

Unless you like eating Spam as-is and much drier, I don’t think it will appeal to a lot of people. A lot of people at the event were calling it “Spam jerky” because it has a lot of similarities to beef jerky with a bit of chew. I can foresee keeping it on hand if you’re on a meat-centric diet or if you’re looking to keep it in your emergency food stash, but isn’t that what a regular can of Spam is supposed to do?

Huffington Post calls it “weird.” While I won’t go as far as calling it that, I think sticking to different flavored cans Spam is the best course of action for Hormel.

Three flavors will be available on shelves soon: bacon, teriyaki and classic.


While I was in Hawaii, I also managed to pick up several cans of garlic Spam as well as a disappointing can of teriyaki-flavored Spam which you can find on the mainland.

Fear the Walking Hungry: Where to Eat Downtown for Comic-Con

Here we go again! San Diego Comic-Con arrives this week and while free snacks and drinks connected to various promotions might be flowing downtown, it doesn’t match the wealth of great dining options in the area. Keeping in line with my post last year, here’s a list of places to go for budget lunches, cocktails and everything in between — and without a comic book-themed cocktail in sight!


Grocery Stores


Here’s your place for go-to provisions and a mainstay in my previous comic-con guides. If you’re not picky, lunches like pre-made sandwiches and even a salad bar can be found here. Prep in advance and grab yourself a free Ralphs card for even more savings. Added bonus: this store is open 24/7 if you’re in need of something in the wee hours. 101 G St.; 619-595-1581


Jimbo’s… Naturally

Bypass the Ralphs and make a trek over to Horton Plaza for this health-oriented grocery store. Like Ralphs they have several hot food bars and slew of grocery items that’s ideal to snack on throughout the day. But unlike their mainstream competitor, they close at 9 PM so get in early. 92 Horton Plaza; 619-308-7755

Cheap Eats

Food Shop

One of the brightest restaurants downtown by Iron Chef Vietnam is also budget-friendly. Head here for supreme Vietnamese classics like banh mi sandwiches, stir-fried garlic noodles and pho all around $10. The shop is small with limited space so my advice is to call ahead and place and order. While you’re also at it, grab their very potent Vietnamese coffee to go for afternoon fuel. 455 5th Ave.; 619-359-8894



Mexican food can be hit or miss in San Diego but for a cheap, worthwhile option, check out this place on Park Blvd. This local favorite serves tacos and burritos galore with the most expensive thing on the menu topping off at $8.25 for a fully loaded chimichanga plate. And if you’re new to the area, don’t leave without trying a San Diego exclusive: California burrito ($6). All the good things in a carne asada burrito plus french fries. 202 Park Blvd.; 619-269-6055


The Kebab Shop

It’s a bit more of a walk from the convention center but the promise of spiced lamb- and chicken-filled shawarmas or döners (flat bread) meet you at the end for $7.99 each. For a low-carb option, order their döner box that omits the bread completely and is filled with your choice of lamb, chicken or falafel with assorted greens. There is no additional charge to add rice or fries to the box. Also look for their wide selection of fresh salads at the front for those looking for healthy sides. 630 9th Ave.; 619-525-0055

Pizza Studio
Pizza Studio

For a hot custom-made pizza with unlimited toppings, Pizza Studio is worth a visit. It’s one of many customized pizza concept places hitting San Diego but this is the closest to the convention center. A 11-inch thin pizza is $7.99 but bargain hunters looking for something cheaper can’t go wrong with a margherita or pepperoni creation for only $5.99. For added savings (and if you think you’ll be hitting the pizza train often), sign up for their rewards program that awards free pizza. Gluten-free crusts are available for an additional $2. 119 Broadway; 619-501-2076

For Something Sweet
Le Parfait Paris
Le Parfait Paris

Looking for a little sugar high and that free candy just won’t do? Consider Le Parfait Paris, a newish French bakery that opens early and closes late. But consider going in early before they run out of sweets. Under the glass display, you’ll find colorful French macarons, eclairs and croissants alongside savory options like quiche and sandwiches. Gluten-free options are also available. 555 G St.; 619-245-4457

A Place to Get Away From it All (But Not Too Far)
Stella Public House
Halcyon Coffee/Stella Public House

This up-and-coming part of San Diego is a short jaunt and boasts terrific views of the harbor with lots of outdoor patio space. Halcyon, the coffee part of the space serves a terrific cup of coffee in a cool, loungey atmosphere. By evening, head into Stella Public House for beer cocktails, pizza and other awesome apps. The shop opens early and closes by midnight. Bring your computer to take advantage of the free WiFi if you have to work. Note: The walk to the area can be a bit sketchy so keep your belongings close. 1429 Island Ave.; 619-234-0808

Bottega Americano

Bottega Americano

Accessible by trolley or foot, this gleaming destination filled with marble-topped tables is worth the trek. Head here for Italian-inspired lunches or dinners and they also have some amazing cocktails. Added bonus, they also have a cute marketplace by the entrance to fill up on treats or ready-to-eat foods. Added bonus: the restaurant is open until 11 PM every night of the con with happy hour 11 AM until they close! 1195 Island Ave.; 619-255-7800

For Cocktails
Nobel Experiment

Noble Experiment

If a cool, hidden bar within a bar is your thing, this cozy place that’s no bigger than a double-wide trailer will suit your needs. Head into The Neighborhood, push on the kegs near the back and you’ll find a secret bar with some of the strongest drinks in town. But take note: reservations are absolutely required. 777 G St.; 619-888-4713



Take a trolley to Little Italy— San Diego’s hottest dining neighborhood. While there are many choices for cocktails including Richard Blais’ very hot Juniper & Ivy, go to this Italian restaurant for their housemade vermouth. Hint: grab a seat at the bar area between 4-7 PM and with every drink, they’ll bring a selection of appetizers for free! I promise, you’ll want to stay for dinner as well. 750 W Fir St.; 619-501-0030



This quirky, eccentric place with a science-theme serves lots of fun cocktails and has an awesome happy hour to match. (Lobster corn dogs anyone?) Test tube cocktails served in a beaker will catch your eye as notable scientists painted on the wall watch you silently. If you’re daring, order up the cotton candy cosmo for two. 750 5th Ave.; 619-546-9321

Related: Destroy All Hunger: Where to Eat At Comic-Con (2014)
San Diego Comic-Con 2014: I Crashed A Party and Saw and Made Friends
The League of Extraordinary Appetites: Where To Eat At Comic-Con (2013)
Comic-Con 2013: A Mish Mash of Things
Agent of L.U.N.C.H.: Where to Eat Downtown During Comic-Con (2012)
San Diego Comic-Con 2012 Wrap-Up: All Things Related to Food
Crisis on Infinite Plates: Where to Eat Downtown For Comic-Con (2011)
Culinary Culture in Comics: Comic-Con 2011 Wrap-Up

Hawaii Sights and Spam Jam

Honolulu Airport

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Since my post way back in April, I’ve been busy pumping out posts on Zagat and also did a bit of traveling. Namely to Hawaii.

View from plane

I visited back in May to cover Spam Jam. I was by myself and a short trip with less than 72 hours on the big island. Flying in was easy. Five hours and you’re in Hawaii. From my window seat I can peer into the island before landing.

The last time I was in Hawaii was when we made the move from the Philippines to San Diego. I have a photo somewhere of me wearing flower pants and yellow bows in my hair at the Buddhist garden found within the airport. There are no walls separating the outside from the airport and the concourse. Like me, a lot of people disembarking from the flights took a moment to take a photo.

View From Hotel

Between scheduled events I had to attend, I had plenty of time to wander Waikiki. Outrigger Resorts, a sponsor for Spam Jam, put me up on the main strip. It’s a busy center located right by the beach. Looking out from my patio I could see the main drag that was busy until well after midnight. To the right was the beach.


A short distance from the hotel was a statue of Hawaiian surfing legend Duke Kahanamoke festooned with leis. I heard about ABC shops being everywhere and my walk revealed one on almost every corner selling the likes of bathing suits, sunscreen, souvenirs and even selfie sticks.

Spam musibi

Food at the convenience store was my main draw, especially since I was eating by myself most of the time. I started taking photos every time I saw a Spam musubi but gave up after the fifth time.

Hawaii Bagels

Mochi Ice cream

Some food items that drew my attention were the tropical-flavored bagels (taro, pineapple and strawberry-guava) and mochi ice cream.

When I wasn’t wandering by myself, I took an outing with a few other guests to KCC Farmers Market at Kapiolani Community College. Locals and tourists alike filled the parking lot of the campus. Visiting the farmers market afforded me an opportunity to see the local produce — some which I’ve never seen in San Diego.

Hawaii Farmers Market

Hawaii Farmers Market taro

Hawaii Farmers Market lunch plate

Spam Jam Taste of Everything

As much as I wanted to eat everything at the market, I saved room for Spam Jam. You can read all about it here.

Before heading back to San Diego, I met up with friends and Nemu*Nemu comic creators Audra Ann Furuichi and Scott Yoshinaga who took me away from the strip for breakfast. We also made a stop a Leonard’s Bakery, known for their malasadas.

Leonard Bakery exterior

Leonard's Bakery

Lines formed outside for their fresh-from-fryer pastries. They were a whopping dollar each and served hot. Bringing them to share with Paul was a wee bit unsuccessful since the flavors of each one mingled in my carry-on bag but I really enjoyed the custard-filled one on my hotel deck.

Leonards outside