Home Cooking with a Twist of Chic

Peace Cafe logo

Wandering around downtown earlier this evening I stumbled upon one of Honolulu’s best kept secrets: Peace Cafe. With a colorful well-appointed shop front, it was hard not to notice this chic little eatery amidst the grit of King Street.  A quick peek through their windows allowed my curiosity and empty stomach to get the best of me.  After contemplating the menu for far too long – everything sounds delicious! – I took a seat at a stunning, communal-style wooden table and sipped a glass of lemon-mint iced water.

Peace Cafe snaps

Peace Cafe prides itself in serving only vegan cuisine, which means that all of their food is free of processed ingredients and animal products (eggs, dairy, meat).  The menu boasts succulent dishes such as Morrocan stew, carrot and pumpkin miso soup, and cilantro hummus sandwich on freshly baked ciabatta bread.  Awakening the taste buds and defying the negative stereotypes about vegan food,  Peace Cafe’s offerings are rich in flavor – so much so that they attract a clientele which is diverse in age, character, and diet.

For those of you who are not up for a full meal, you can linger over an iced matcha latte or an exotic kinako latte – which tastes a lot like peanut butter even though it’s soy-based.  Or why not try a cup of Kusmi Tea from Paris?  Whatever you choose, be sure to try one of their many sweets.  Don’t worry, it won’t go to your waist – it’s vegan!

Even with such scrumptious food and a décor that oozes love and comfort, Peace Cafe offers yet another great touch: music themes for each day of the week such as Jazzense, Indie Express, BossaNova Playas, or Girl Power.  Today was Girl Power Friday, which meant Björk and Frou Frou were the soundtrack for my dinner.  Some other artists on Peace Cafe’s playlist are Wilco, Medeski Martin & Wood, Sergio Mendes, Manu Chao, the Beatles and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Although it took far too long for me to choose from their enticing menu, it took only a few seconds to realize that Peace Cafe is the perfect urban oasis.  Its icterine yellow walls, ambient music, careful selection of handcrafted furniture, half dozen potted plants and flawless lighting – Etsy, no less! – make it the coziest cafe on the island.  Regardless of whether you’re a vegan, Peace Cafe is not to be missed.

*Peace Cafe is open from 11am – 7pm on weekdays and 12-4pm on weekends.  Click for directions.   Photos are – although great, don’t do the place justice! – from Peace Cafe’s website.


Photo Diary: Seoul

Here are a handful of choice photographs from the year I spent living in Seoul.  Seoul may quite easily be one of the most fascinating and amusing cities in the world.  If you haven’t visited yet – go!

Free Hugs from the Police in Gangnam, Seoul

Western toilets may be gaining popularity, but squat pots are still everywhere

A public garden near my apartment in Gangnam

Butt pads: I asked one of my students about this and she mimed the shape of Jennifer Lopez's backside

Seoulites love color, especially the ajumas (older married women)

Bean Pole is a HUGE brand in Korea - not sure they know what it means

A gorgeous vegetarian meal - costs less than US$5

Uni-sex (no joke) sleepwear for adults

Autumn in Olympic Park

The famed Urban Hive building - superb café, Take Urban, on the ground floor

All of this headgear is not uncommon

View of Samseong from my tub at the Park Hyatt

Traveler Profile #1: Martin B.

Martin in India

Martin B is one of my dear friends whom I met years back when we both lived in London and spent our weekend afternoons sipping perfect soy lattes in Brick Lane coffee shops or laying about in his front garden, which happened to be the oh-so lovely Primrose Hill.  We both left London for different reasons, but our mutual love for the unknown, adventure, and new cultures took us to exotic places.  While I went off to Seoul, Martin went to Melbourne to fill his wallet before embarking upon a year-long odyssey of hiking, exploring, and working on organic farms across the globe, commencing in October of ’09.  Starting in SE Asia and making his way through most of Asia, India and Europe, Martin is finally resting his feet at his sister’s place in New York  and thus, was able to answer a few of my questions for this profile.   Martin will soon be departing to explore Argentina – the land of tango, breathtaking landscapes, outdoor fun, and yes, delicious malbec.

JCG: What is your approach/attitude towards traveling?

MB: I don’t plan my trips down to the last detail.  I usually have a game plan and a general direction in my head, but for the most part I have a “go where the wind blows” sort of attitude.  Wherever I go, I enjoy myself to the fullest, but I don’t want give the impression that it’s all fun and games on the road.  Yes, the experiences are fantastic and yes, it is fun, but sometimes headache and heartache find themselves buddying up with stomach ache and backache after a bad curry or a bumpy n-th hour at the back of a bus.  It’s a good idea to keep those things in perspective when I say I’ve been more or less living abroad and traveling since 2004.

Regardless of the challenges, this has been the best choice I could have made for my own life.  It’s pretty cool the things you get to see and do when you’re as feckless as I tend to be about career, future and the 401K hoo-ha.  When someone asks me, “How do you do it?  How can you afford to travel as much as you do?” I just wonder “How can I afford NOT to?”  We are only young once.  We are only promised today – the now.   And don’t worry, work can be found in all sorts of ways, be it the good old fashioned work for your meal sort of deal or the odd dash-o-cash under the table suits when you need it.  Hitching for rides and early bookings on flights keeps travel costs down.  Sell off the things in your life that you don’t need, buy a good backpack, a good pair of trekkers, and go!

JCG: What has been your favorite travel experience?

MB: That is the killer of all questions.  There have been so many beautiful people and wonderful experiences along the way, but I’ve got to say that the ultimate traveler’s destination for me thus far has been India.  It has it all: amazing food, intoxicating culture, and an other worldliness about it that us wayward wanderers are often seeking.  From the lush backwaters of Kerala, and hugging gurus to the Himalayas, there’s so much packed into the Indian subcontinent it’s difficult to not find something you’re interested in.

I have to admit, India had always been a destination I was a bit afraid of, largely because of other travelers’ stories about poor hygiene and overt class differentiation.  But when I arrived in the southernmost state of Kerala with no idea what I was getting into, I immediately fell into the rhythm of India.  That first evening, there was a procession – complete with elephants and a bandstand – for one of the many Hindu deities.   Wafts of incense filled the air and brilliantly colored celebrants filled the streets.  Having spent the previous few months in SE Asia helped to make this more of a feast for the senses rather than a shock.

The one thing that made India special for me was the people.  On my second day, I was at a market in the town of Thiruvananthapuram and a fella I barely spoke two words to invited me to his wedding.  Going against my inner-wiring to say “no,” I said “YES” and was allowed to witness one of the most special and important ceremonies in the life of an Indian.  India and her people are incredible.

JCG:  And with that, I can’t help but ask: what do you love most about traveling?

MB: I love the promise of the unknown.  I think I may be addicted to the sensation I get when I take off on an airplane, board a bus, a train, or a boat going somewhere for which I have no mental image.  I like it when my mind is clear of expectations and my senses paint a fresh canvas of a new destination.  It’s also fun to reminisce and flip through those countless mental canvases when I’m grounded for a while.  That way, I’m always traveling – even when I need to stay put to earn a little more money for my next epic journey.

JCG: You and me both, Martin.  You and me both.

On that note, I leave you all with a quote from the late, great Kurt Vonnegut:  Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God. Martin, may you keep on dancing…

Yours in travel,


The Return of the Meanderer

Hi All,

I am back.  Thanks for your patience.  Internet is working well again and life has sorted itself out.  Stay tuned – new post on the way!

From points west,


New posts to come!

Hi Friends,

Sorry for the delay in posts.   For reasons beyond my control, I’m going to have to put the staycation on hold for now.   It will return.   In the meantime, I have a couple posts coming up from my recent outings and plan to continue to post about other travel related topics once I get things sorted out with my internet at home.

Thanks for your patience.


A Lazy Day in Paradise

One of a half dozen public access paths to Lanikai Beach

After an intense yoga class yesterday morning, I wanted nothing more than to veg outdoors and in peace.  My first instinct was to avoid Waikiki because of the sheer number of people who splash themselves across the sand in the loudest and most unbecoming of ways.  Instead, I decided to go somewhere that falls off more than 80% of visitors’ radars: Lanikai Beach.

Constantly voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and used as a backdrop for countless ad campaigns, this 1/2 mile stretch of beach is the epitome of island beauty and solitude (during the weekdays, of course).  It’s the locals choice beach and makes for a blissful day of swimming, walking, and reading.

Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands

And that is precisely what I did all afternoon.  It was a rather mellow day at Lanikai – yay for Tuesdays – but I wouldn’t have minded witnessing one of those fantastic sand-filled weddings visitors from Japan like to have.  The men don tuxedos and they “ooh” and “ahh” as the sand creeps into their shoes, while the women haul an incomprehensible amount of lace across the sand in 4-inch platform heels.  Between the romance and the comedy, it makes for great movie material.

Custom drink: Apple, Mango, Orange & Ginger from Lanikai Juice

But after a few hours at the beach, I had polished off my snacks and water and thirst began to nag.  Only one thing would appease the demands of my stomach:  Lanikai Juice.   Lanikai Juice is owned by two of the nicest people I’ve met on this island.  They treat their employees well, give back to the community and believe in giving their customers the best quality juices and food.  They use mostly organic and locally grown produce, so you can feel good about what you’re putting in your body.  They offer an array of tropical concoctions, but I opted to create my own.

Unfortunately, I had to wrap up my staycation after Lanikai Juice as I had a bit of work to tend to.  Nevertheless, it was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.  If you’re a visitor or a local with a bit more free time than I had, I recommend adding in lunch at Maui Tacos (across the street from Lanikai Juice) before hitting the beach.  Their burritos, fish tacos, and freshly made salsa are the best on the island.  And for those who crave an afternoon tipple, you can subsitute juice for a knock-out Mai Tai at Buzz’s.

Until next time, my friends.  Aloha.

The Staycation Begins

Well friends, the staycation has begun and I’m glad I committed myself to this endeavor for an entire month.  Naturally, I tend to change things up quite a bit, but this month I hope to go above and beyond.  I have no plans as to what I’m going to do or when – I guess I don’t make a good tourist in that sense – but will simply respond to my own impulses.  Honestly, this is just my excuse to embark upon a love affair, to fall in love all over again with this enchanting place I call home.

The romance commenced ever so spontaneously around 4pm Friday afternoon when I had an itch to hike Diamond Head.  I Googled the opening hours (6am-6pm), threw on my shoes, filled a water bottle, packed my camera, and jumped in my Prius for the quick 15-minute drive to the crater.  But alas, rush hour traffic delayed me.  And by the time I rolled up, the park attendant informed me they stopped entry 8-minutes earlier (at 4:30).  With a bit of friendly negotiation – basically him figuring out I was a local – and my promising to sprint my way down if it started pushing 6 o’clock, he granted me admission.  Apparently, they lock in anyone who isn’t out at 6 and tow their cars.   Now wouldn’t that be a nice trip to paradise?

Diamond Head, known as Le’ahi in Hawaiian, is not a very long hike.  The trail is 1.3km (0.8 miles) one way and has you climb 560 feet from the crater floor to the top.  But with such a short ascent and nearly 300 stairs it can be a real butt buster.  And since I couldn’t didn’t remember how long it would take, I sort of speed-walked my way up so I could lounge at the top for as long as I liked.  I did, however, make time for photos along the way.

Aside from the phenomenal panoramic views, I enjoy hiking Diamond Head for the mélange of people that frequent its trail.  This time around I passed by a lot of – yes, you guessed it – Japanese tourists, but also a couple from Germany, a few Dutch folks, a handful of people from middle America, two people from Seattle, and three ambitious local guys who sprinted all the way up… and all the way down.  It was refreshing to hear such a wild array of accents and languages in such a small space of time.

But like all great love stories, my first date with O’ahu is best understood in images.  Sometimes words – no matter how great – can pale in comparison to seeing the light and color of a moment.  Nature’s overpowering beauty stopped me in awe more than once that afternoon and made me think of something the great Frenchman Jean Klein once said: real seeing stops you in the middle of whatever you’re doing…

The beaten path

Staircase #1

The long and nearly claustrophobic tunnel

Staircase #2: The worst of it

Looking up the last staircase

Koko Head in the distance

The Gold Coast: Kapi'olani Park and the Waikiki shoreline

Another perspective

Diamond Head Lighthouse and some of the island's best summer surf

Sunset from the Outrigger Canoe Club