Posted by: Waheeda Harris | April 23, 2014

The styles of Fiesta

I’m learning about Fiesta, the annual celebration in San Antonio – and I’ve noticed a few things – first there are the medals:

San Antonio - Fiesta style b

These two (on  the left the CEO of San Antonio Fiesta John Melleky and on the right, a lovely woman from the Culinary Institute of America campus) both are displayed the traditional Fiesta spirit – with medals.

The medals are created by companies, non-profit groups and individuals and given and traded during the festival – and as you can, proudly worn too.

I also saw plenty of colour, like these three at last night’s Niosa party at La Villita near the Riverwalk:

San Antonio - fiesta style

Colourful floral crowns and ribbons worn by lots of women and crazy hats worn by a few. Their friend had a small pinata on his sombrero – and definitely was clearing a path in the party crowd – and making everyone smile.

But my fave, was a combination of Fiesta and sports fan – since this is Spurs territory and the NBA playoffs are on:

San Antonio - Spurs fan

If you’re going to party at Niosa apparently – its a go big or go home mentality – Viva Fiesta!

San Antonio - Fiesta roadrunners

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | April 22, 2014

Wandering the streets of King William Historic District

Arriving in San Antonio, I knew I had a few things on my agenda – and the first: check out the King William Historic District.

San Antonio - KW house

This house said it all to me – an old wooden structure, not perfect, but perfectly loved and with a colourful adornment for the annual Fiesta hanging out front.

As I walked through this neighbourhood of large gardens and big trees, colourful wood homes with charm and and style and a retail strip that was filled with independent businesses and a bit of sass.

San Antonio - King William 1

The sweet scent of jasmine permeated the air since its Spring and my stomach was very happy after a tasty Tex-Mex lunch at Tito’s on South Alamo.

San Antonio - King William 2

But it was the bright colours and slightly odd spirit that won me over – nothing was too serious in this neighbourhood, especially not the gold porch chair I spotted in front of this stately home.

As I headed back downtown, I missed the unique combination of residential and distinct, but knew I would return to wander these streets before I left.

San Antonio - Riverwalk city view

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | April 21, 2014

Learning my Texan – Viva Fiesta!

Dallas - cowboyToday I’m off to the Lonestar State – Texas!

I’m headed to the city of San Antonio, to experience their once a year festival – Fiesta. Ole!

I’ve been several times to Texas, many times to Austin, and once to Dallas last Fall. I went to San Antonio once, about 10 years ago.

So I’m happy to renew my acquaintance with this southern city and to increase my knowledge of all that is Texas – including the local lingo of the festival – held to celebrate the heroes of the Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto.

Now I doubt I’ll run into many people that will say howdy – but I suspect cowboy hats may be spotted in the crowd – and probably lots of baseball caps.

I’m hoping for bright colours, lively music and some unique people willing to share their memories of Fiesta San Antonio and why its become such a memorable annual event.

I may have seen only one cowboy hat in Dallas, but I suspect I’ll even see sombreros in San Antonio. Viva Fiesta!


Posted by: Waheeda Harris | April 19, 2014

Travel soundbite – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The world must be all fucked up,” he said then, “when men travel first class and literature goes as freight.”
~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Posted by: Waheeda Harris | April 18, 2014

Learning my Hawaiian – ono

Did you know Maui’s food scene has skyrocketed in the past few years? The laid-back isle may have been a bit slow to take on the local and sustainable food movement, but now its firmly entrenched – and representing the unique influences of Hawaiian, Filipino, Chinese, Portuguese and other groups that make this island unique.

Ono, the world for delicious in Hawaiian (and ono ono for absolutely delicious) was easily said at every meal, as I enjoyed many local tastes like:

Maui - Leoda's

the coconut crusted french toast with fresh strawberries at Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop…or the amazing fish tacos from food truck Big Beach BBQ at Makena Beach:

Maui - Makena taco afternoon


Or perhaps it was Chef Tylun Pang’s creation at Ko Restaurant at the Fairmont Kea Lani that was so tasty, like the grilled shrimp or the ahi tuna on the rock, or the local greens served with sweet avocado. But my newfound fave? Malasada – a Portuguese doughnut:

Maui - Ko Restaurant collage


And it just kept getting better – like visiting Tante’s Island Cuisine – with its focus on Filipino tastes and discovering my love for pancit (stir fried noodles w/veg, chicken and shrimp) banana lumpia (sweet spring rolls), and of course the best shared pu pu platter (deep fried tasty snacks):

Maui - Tante's cuisine trio


Ono ono indeed. Mahalo Maui!

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | April 17, 2014

Learning my Hawaiian – lei

A traditional welcome for visitors to the islands is the lei – a garland of flowers that is given with a kiss. A welcome that has been popular for decades, its one of the hallmarks of Hawaiian hospitality.

Maui - Fairmont welcome lei

Arriving at the Fairmont Kea Lani, I was greeted with a floral lei – while men are greeted with leis made of black kukui nuts, its also common to see people wearing sea shell leis, although those are more decorative and not generally given as a welcome.

In the past, leis were constructed of all kinds of natural materials – leaves, flowers, bone, shell and feathers – are were not only a way of welcome, but a decorative item and an item used to signify a peace agreement.

This custom has always made Hawaii distinct to me – and as I also learned, once given a lei, one should never remove it in the presence of someone who gave it to you nor should you just discard the lei in the trash.

On the island of Oahu, visitors who used to travel by boat would toss their leis in the sea as they left the island, hoping to insure they would return to the island one day.

For me, I left my lei hanging in my hotel room window to dry – hoping it would provide joy to another and express my thanks. Mahalo!


Posted by: Waheeda Harris | April 16, 2014

Learning my Hawaiian – kai

It’s no surprise to me that these islands, located far from any major land mass in the middle of Pacific Ocean, came up with a way to play in the big waves on their shores he’e nalu (to ride the waves) or what we now call surfing.

Maui - caught the wave at Makena

Surfing is fun and serious business in Hawaii – its something that everyone can learn, but its also a way to connect with kai (salt water) in the most intimate way.

Although the stereotype of surfers are those who seem slightly stupid or just to fixated on the movement of ocean water, in reality their knowledge is deep – they understand wind and waves, tides and storms. They spend so much time in the salt water, they can feel its changes – whether its temperature or what can be found in the water.

surfer heading back in, Waikiki Beach, Oahu Hawaii

Life on a surfboard is very different – it means getting up early to greet the rising sun and the changing tides to catch a wave. It means to be aware of others around you, to insure that everyone has their spaces and yet also their chance to get up and ride the wave.

Maui - Makena beach collage

And when things go wrong, like when the waves broke this surfer’s board, it shows the power that kai (salt water) has over all of us. Like Mother Nature, the natural forces are bigger than we think.

Seeing surfers is a part of any Hawaiian experience, but understanding the power of kai, is the first step in understanding life on these islands.

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | April 15, 2014

Learning my Hawaiian – poke

No, its not a dance. Or a rude comment. In Hawaii, poke is a daily snack, had after work, shared with friends and definitely a must have while visiting any of the islands.

Maui - Tamura's poke

Poke (poh-kay)  is the Hawaiian word for cut or slice – and is now associated with cut raw fish salad or for those who prefer the less squeamish and more well-known words – carpaccio, ceviche or tartare.

Originally a delicacy enjoyed by fisherman – more akin to sashimi – the current version of poke became popular in the 1970s with locals who wanted a snack that was easily purchased and shared among family and friends. There’s definitely the influence of Japanese cuisine in the ingredients now found in traditional poke.

The basic salad is usually tuna, onion, soy sauce, chili, sesame oil and seaweed and often served with wasabi, Japanese horseradish sauce. There are many variations and interpretations, but everyone here is agreed, its a worthy snack.

On the island of Maui in Kahului, look for Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors – walk to the back past the racks of bottles and a refrigerated area with numerous kinds of poke is on offer every day.

Maui - tamura poke options


Posted by: Waheeda Harris | April 14, 2014

Learning my Hawaiian – ‘aina

As I’ve written before, learning the rhythm of a place is the key to understanding it – and on the Hawaiian islands, despite being the 50th state of the United States of America, its the ancient culture that defines the place.

‘Aina is the Hawaiian word for earth or land – and returning to the isle of Maui, it was the land that captured my attention.

Maui - taro farm

Farmland isn’t the first thing you think about when it comes to Maui, but its the key to the culture, since its part of the next wave of the culture.

Maui - farm 2

On this island, the Hawaiian culture is being explored by its local chefs – and thanks to the increasing support and development of the local producers – farmers and growers who are committed to growing canoe crops – aka traditional crops of the Hawaiians.

Maui - taro plants

At the heart of the island is kalo – also known as taro. This plant was one of the key items in the Hawaiian diet, an easily grown carbohydrate that could be used in many ways. But its now a rare plant, expensive and not commonly grown, purchased or even eaten by the locals.

But with the new wave of commitment to farming, comes the ability to increase the access to kalo – and to make it once again a regular part of the Hawaiian diet.

Maui - taro examples

At one time, the black taro was only eaten by the Hawaiian royal family – but hopefully, now the many varieties will be as common as garden weeds for the locals. Kalo led me to learn another Hawaiian word – ohana, which means family and is intrinsic to kalo – the mature plant is related to the beginnings of the human race according to Hawaiian beliefs.

How many of us can say what we eat is intrinsic to our past? From ‘aina to kalo to ohana, the first part of my learning was the connection we all understand – the land to the people.


Posted by: Waheeda Harris | April 12, 2014

Travel soundbite – Roberto Bolano


Every few hundred feet, the world changes.

~ Roberto Bolano

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