Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NYC Activities in the Summer

Here are some websites to visit for upcoming summer 2008 activities:

Midsummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center

Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

Central Park Summer Stage

Shakespeare in the Park

Rubin Museum of Art (Free Fridays 7-10 pm)

Roof Garden CafĂ© at the Metropolitan Museum Art (drinks on a roof on a beautiful day…)

South Street Seaport Events

Bronx Zoo (Wednesdays are Pay what you wish!)

Brooklyn Botanical Garden ($4 with a student ID, $11 combo ticket for the garden & Brooklyn museum which is across the way)

Brooklyn Museum (First Saturdays of the month are free from 5-11 pm)

National Museum of the American Indian (Free Admission)

Free Lower East Side Art Walks

Brooklyn Brewery (Happy Hour Fridays $4 Beers, Free Tours Saturdays 12-6 pm)

My Open Bar (Website that lists open bar deals for every night of the week)

Free NYC (lists free events every day, sign up for a weekly email)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

This is truly 'A Garden in a Valley on the Ocean.' It was one of my favorite places in Big Island. The garden is truly breathtaking and a must-see stop for all visitors. There were so many beautiful and unique flowers and the scenic view is out of this world!! The entire garden consists of 4 mile trails and we saw all the things on the map in about a hour. I could've spent my entire day staring at the flowers, plants, ocean, cliffs and waterfalls. There was a bird cage with a few parrots inside - not very exciting but it made for some nice background noise. There is a decent size lake in the middle of the garden with lots of goldfish! If I were to design a paradise garden, this would be it!

The only negative part of the visit was the mosquito bites that I got on my leg! I must've been bitten about 10 times just on my leg. Sigh. I got two bites on my right hand so it looked really swollen!! And it itched like crazy for a few days. I was actually swatting mosquities away from my leg - that's how bad it got. Jander also suffered lots of mosquito bites - but since he has such hairy legs, I think his bites were smaller than mine. =) We passed by a park employee who was just sitting on a chair and knitting away a mosquito net.

Tip for future vistors: Bring lots of water, especially on a warm day! And don't purchase it from the gift shop - it's cheaper in the vending machine that is right outside the shop. The place also offers golf cart rides to people who are hard of walking. The first 500 steps is fairly steep but well-maintained - nothing compared to the Diamond Head Crater hike! The golf carts ran on gasoline and polluted the clean and natural air of the garden. =( Boo!! Why create such a beautiful natural preservation and ruin it with gasolined air??

Monday, May 26, 2008

Irifune Restaurant

563 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

It was our first night in town and we were excited to try some delicious local food! This restaurant came highly recommended to me by a friend who recently moved to Hawaii. Little did he know that I was going there to eat with a large group! The small size of the restaurant made it a little difficult to accomodate everyone in one table, so we had to settle for 3 tables.

For the most part, restaurants outside of Waikiki close really early! The kitchens close around 9pm. Irifune closed at 9:30pm but since we were seated at about 9:15pm, they still served us delicious food. Online reviews rave the garlic ahi and crab. So that's what we had to go eat! The snow crabs were abundant and delicious for the price. And the seared ahi was fantastic! Pictures below. There was also a tofu appetizer (you can see a small piece of it on the snowcrab picture) that was also to-die-for.

The atmosphere of the restaurant was very cozy and home town feeling. The waitresses know the regulars and the food is served quick and delicious. Since we were one of the last customers in the restaurant that evening, we were able to witness one of the restaurant's nightly rituals. They turn off all the lights in the restaurant, and ask us to stare at the ceiling which was twinkling with glow in the dark stars. We were asked to say thanks to the nature around us and the bountiful food that it provides. And of course we were all told to OOOOH and AHHHH at the beautiful tapestries around the restaurant's walls. Definitely a restaurant that I will eat at again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dine Around Downtown

The 10th Annual "Dine Around Downtown" took place today at the Chase Manhattan Plaza. It's a downtown tradition showcasing the finest restaurants in Lower Manhattan. We had an opportunity to sample signature menu items from $2 - $6, this was a great deal considering the cost of the appetizer and entree prices for these restaurants! We arrived about a hour after it started, and it was prime lunchtime! There were lots of people just looking around and eating. We were initially overwhelmed by the amount of choices and the number of restaurants (50!) that were represented at the food fair. The delicious smells and smoke from the grills were enticing us to stop and sample their food. Here are a few things that we tasted (and loved!)

Here is the lump crabcrake with roasted corn and cherry tomato relish from Fraunces Tavern Restaurant (54 Pearl Street).

The Grill Room (2 World Financial Center, 225 Liberty Street) offered the Seafood Ceviche and Thai Chicken Salad. Both were excellent options. I had several people come up to me and ask me what my dish was! The seafood cerviche was piled with shrimp, squid and mussels on top of a crunchy circular nacho. It was sprinked with onions, green onions and lemon juice. Ooo lah lah!

I also tasted the mango sorbet from Ciao Bella Gelato (2 World Financial Center, 225 Liberty Street). Also quite delicious. My friend Yani sampled several dishes which she described as "great" and "yummy" - Sweet Corn and Shrimp Chowder from Delmonico's Restaurant (56 Beaver Street), Shepard's Pie from Jim Brady's (75 Maiden Lane) and the Aqua Fresca drink and Custom-Made Sundae at the Chase Plaza Cafe (1 Chase Manhattan Plaza). My other friend Laura tried the kobe ravioli but it looked kinda nasty with the brown mushroom sauce. (Name of restaurant will be withheld). However she said it tasted better than it looked. Hmmm. The third girl in our group, Kendra, tasted the Austrian Cheese Cake from Bouley Bakery & Market (130 West Broadway). I'm not sure what was Austrian about it unless they were referring to the small size...

Finally the best find I had was discovering that there is a Roy's restaurant in New York! It is a wonderful (but expensive) Hawaiian/Asian fusion restaurant in Lower Manhattan. We first tried it on our visit to Honolulu and we thought it was awesome!! According to their website, they combine the freshest local ingredients with European sauces and bold Asian spices. Their cuisine is mainly seafood so prepare yourself for a yummy seafood feast! Their menu is very similar to the one in Hawaii and they offer a prix-fixe menu option in NY as well. (I'm going to write a separate posting on our foodie experience at Roy's in Honolulu!)

Lastly, on a celebrity note.....(sadly, no picture this time), we passed by a booth in which Katie Lee Joel was signing her book. I recognized her as the first host of Top Chef on Bravo channel. She's also a food writer, cookbook author and television personality (all according to the Downtown Alliance brochure). There, my celebrity sighting of the week. (I only say celebrity since she is married to Billy Joel, the musician who is certainly a celebrity).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium
2777 Kalakaua Ave.
Honolulu, HI. 96815

The Waikiki Aquarium is the third oldest public aquarium in the United States. A part of the University of Hawaii since 1919, the Aquarium is located next to a living reef on the Waikiki shoreline. Armed with this information, I was waiting to be impressed with the magnificence of the water creatures housed in the building. Sadly, I was disappointed. Upon walking from our Waikiki beach hotel to the Aquarium, we mistakened the Waikiki Zoo as our final destination. But as we continued our short trek, I was a little disappointed with the size of the building. Is that it? I'm paying $9 admission fee to see....?

The only reason why people should visit this place is to get out of the sun during the mid-day (and use their $1 off coupon) or take their kids to see cute fishies. But why take them to an aquarium when they can go to Hanauma Bay and experience it directly? Otherwise here are the highlights of the Aquarium. A self-guided audio tour will give you a thorough explanation of the exhibits, however if you are like'll get bored after the first dozen listenings and be more interested in taking pictures of the fishes. A thorough viewing of the 60 exhibits including the sole monk seal in the outside tank took about 90 minutes. I thought the seal was a little lonely but it gave us quite a show during the time we were there. It would not hold still for us to get inside the picture! Here are some that we took using the 'aquarium' setting on our camera - It was the first time that I used it and it made for really nice shots.

And to take advantage of my camera's video feature, here is a short clip of some cool lagoon jelly moving about the tank. Ignore the little boy's voice in the background, hehehe.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Spicy AHI

AHI & Vegetables
1126 Fort St. Mall
Honolulu, HI

Aloha! The best part about traveling is certainly trying the local food. Naturally in Hawaii the freshest food in abundance is fish. Raw fish. Lots of it. And most of you that know me, know that I hate raw fish. I frequent Japanese restaurants but avoid the sashimi. But as they say, when in Rome....So when we came upon this place that has the word "Ahi" in the name, is there anything else to order but ahi??? It was a no-brainer. And after checking out what the customers ordered, I wondered "what is the mysterious red lump on everyone's plates?" Well my friends, it is the SPICY AHI.

This is absolutely the BEST dish I have ever tasted. It does not even taste like raw fish. The slow burn of the spice didn't hit my throat until a few seconds afterwards but once it did, I relished the soothing taste of the sweet rice and seaweed. Yum!! The meal is also very reasonably priced, only $6.72 for a taste of heaven!! Seriously, I could eat this meal every single day of my life. Here's a picture of my food - I had to take a few bites of the spicy ahi before I realized that I have to take a picture of it.

Jander ordered the sashimi plate - raw salmon and tuna. Beautiful cuts of fresh fish. And can you believe this came from a small shop in a mall?? Please skip the Filipino and Korean food stands that are nearby. There really is no competition when it comes to delicious satisfying food. The tables may be packed with people and the lines may be long.....but the wait is worth it. The natto (fermented Japanese soybean) and ahi is also another popular plate but I didn't get a chance to taste it.

Also try the fruit smoothie stand across the street - but if someone can tell me why they offer RAW egg with every smoothie, please explain.


Monday, May 5, 2008

The Time I Met A Celebrity

One of my favorite chick flicks of all-time is "Sweet Home Alabama" starring Reese Witherspoon. She's so cute in that movie and what girl does not love having the entire Tiffany's store open to her?! C'mon!! Anyway, what else makes the movie so adorable is the two leading men, Patrick McDemsy (aka McDreamy, although he's actually too clean-cut in this movie for me) and Josh Lucas. Who is this Josh Lucas fella? After reading his bio on the Internet, I realized he was in all sorts of movies that I've seen before...Hulk, American Psycho, Beautiful Mind. But what does one say to a Josh Lucas in person? I didn't need to ponder too much because it all happened to me today.

Here was my conversation with my (officially) second favorite scruffiest guy on Earth (first, being Jander of course).

Josh: Hi, I'm Josh.
Me: Hi, I loved you in Sweet Home Alabama
Josh: Thank you very much.
Me: Can I take a picture with you?
Josh: Yes of course. (smile) (click click)
Me: Thank you (silly grin)

In case you wanted to know *how* I came about to meet the adorable blue eyed Josh Lucas, I will bore you with the details here. My coworkers and I decided to volunteer in our office for "Only Make Believe", a nonprofit organization that provides theatrical workshops to children living with chronic illnesses and disabilities. We spent our lunch hour gluing and bedazzling masks, caps, and necklaces for the children to wear while they put on the productions. It's a worthwhile cause and it was a lot of fun. Who knew that some glue, sparkles and feathers could be so fun? Halfway through making two necklaces from old CDs and a mask, I hear a shriek in the room. I turn to see HIM who just arrived and standing next to the door. I ask my friend Laura, who is he? He looked awfully familiar and honestly, I could not identify him right away. But then I remembered the same scruffy look in the movie "Sweet Home Alabama"! That's him!!!!! He was casually introduced to the crowd along with the second celebrity, Haley Mills. Now she was an older woman who I definitely did not recognize. But then I realized I know her as........(ahem, I'm dating myself here)....Ms. Bliss from Saved By The Bell!!! OMIGOD. MS BLISSSSSS.

Okay so I didn't take a picture with her and she's actually much shorter in person than I realized. She still has the long blonde hair that I remember. But back to Josh. I was still sitting in my chair waiting to decide if I should take a picture with him. I started removing the glue from my fingers (because I was not about to shake his hand with glue still stuck on me!). I turned to my other friend Yani, and said "let's go take a picture!" We walked past Ms. Bliss and vowed to take a picture with her as well (sadly, it did not happen). We waited in line and it seemed like a flock of other girls stood behind as as well. After he finished taking his picture with another woman, he turned to me and smiled. Sigh. Read conversation above. Oh why didn't I say my name when I introduced myself?

And then I took pictures of him with Yani and Laura, which they will happily post on their facebook profiles. Although they say it will be the only interesting item on their profile, I'm sure it will make their friends (and fiance) jealous. whoo hoo. Josh and Haley (yes, I can refer to them as friends now haha) did not stay very long probably because they had to stop at our other offices to say hello to the other volunteers. But that's it, my brush with a movie actor. (Although the very first one, is Keri Russell whom I still adore). If this was the only thing that happened to me this week, it would have made my *week*, nay *month*.

Federer versus Sampras

Here are some pictures that my friend Garnet took at the NetJets Showdown: Roger Federer versus Pete Sampras on March 10, 2008 at Madison Square Garden. It was an exhibition match against two of the greatest tennis players of all-time. Garnet and I sat at opposite end of the stadium, but her view was much better than mine! From my side, I could see the television networks interviews - specifically John McEnroe. He's much skinnier in person than I imagined him to be, but he's quite tall and lanky. It was interesting to see him commenting the game but I was more interested in watching the live action.

Overall it was a great game. I was rooting for Pete the entire time and I was hoping that he could pull an upset. (Yes, sadly it would be an upset even though die-hard Sampras fans would disagree with me). The crowd was very supportive of his efforts but alas, he made too many errors in the third match. Roger was too good and easily turned on his charm and made ace after ace... Oh and it was very interesting when Roger first entered the court. Since he wore all black, I guess the musicians thought it would be funny to play the Darth Vader Star Wars theme while he entered the court. Hahaha. Dum dum da dum.

Black versus white. Good versus evil. Swiss versus American. The current great star versus the old great tennis player. There are so many ways to dramatize the entire event. But the scoreboard at the end says it all.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

I Am Iron Man!

Marvel Comics has translated a number of comic books to the big screen. There have been a handful of success stories (Spiderman 1/2/3), a number of box office duds (Daredevil and Elektra), and a smattering of movies that have fallen somewhere in between (Fantastic Four 1/2, The Incredible Hulk, and Ghostrider). Marvel's latest movie adaptation is Iron Man.

Robert Downey Jr stars as Tony Stark aka Iron Man. While I had my doubts prior to seeing the movie, I feel that he was cast perfectly in this role. At the very least, he looks like Tony Stark!

Gwyneth Paltrow fills the roll of Tony Stark's endearing assistant, Pepper Potts. Did Pepper Potts actually exist in the comic books? I can't remember.

Jeff Bridges plays the part of Tony Stark's one-time mentor and corporate partner, Obidiah Stane. I wouldn't have recognized him if I didn't know in advance that it was him. He doesn't look like a nice guy...

Check out the trailer and try to tell me that you don't want to watch the movie:

I don't want to ruin anything for those who plan to watch the movie, but at mark 1:52in the trailer it looks like Tony and Pepper share a moment. I hazard the guess that Gwyneth and Robert did not perform a convincing kiss on-camera as the scene was cut from the movie.

Here's a headshot of what some of the various incarnations of Iron Man look like throughout the movie.

It's a little unrealistic that it only takes 5 or 6 hours for the Mark3 suit to be manufactured. I'm still not too clear where it's actually assembled - but I guess if Tony can create the Mark1 suit in a cave with a hammer and blowtorch, it has to be mind boggling what he can invent in a high tech facility like his basement.

Since I don't want to ruin anything, all I'll say is that Iron Man is a movie well worth watching. Iron Man looks great, the acting is decent-to-good, and the special effects were well-done.

One last thing - sit through the credits as there is a special scene at the end that you won't want to miss.