Category Archives: Articles

Hawaii’s Best Beef

hawaiis-best-beef

NOTHING BEATS HAWAII’S LOCALLY GROWN BEEF

bills-hawaiis-best-beef

Burgers are an American favorite for good reason. Nothing can compare to quality ground beef grilled to perfection and served up on a bun. Bill’s does one better with a patty made from Big Island grass fed beef. Grass fed beef tends to taste slightly different from traditional mass-produced corn-fed beef, because the cattle are allowed to roam, developing muscles and feeding in pastures. The result in this burger is an almost buttery flavor, deliciously paired with pickled chillies, rocket and herb mayo, and crispy French fries.


heavenly-hawaiis-best-beef

The truth is in the name at Heavenly in the Shoreline Hotel. The eatery specializes in locally sourced, healthy options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of the dinner favorites is the Big Island Kulana Ranch rib eye steak. It is served steaming on a skillet with grilled vegetables. If that’s not enough, it’s served with Naked Cow truffle sauce to make an already mouth-watering meal positively tantalizing. Try it with a signature cocktail from the bar
for a well-rounded meal.


azure-hawaiis-best-beef

Azure is one of Waikiki’s premierefine dining locations, with Chef Shaymus Alwin, who last year was invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard House. It’s no surprise that the restaurant takes steak seriously. Its Hawaii rancher’s rib eye steak is a prime cut of local beef, cooked to the diner’s preference (although a nice rare is always delightful), then served on a bed of creamed kale and Hamakua mushrooms, with creamy Yukon potatoes. The steak is topped with crispy shallots and a divine red wine sauce. Be sure to wear loose clothing, because you’ll want to eat every morsel.

PRESERVING AGRICULTURE IN HAWAII

Article by Julie Yaste

agriculture

The Hawaii Agriculture Research Center is working to keep agriculture alive in the Islands

For centuries, Hawaiians were self-sufficient, able to live off the bounty of the ocean and the fertile land, harvesting the plants and livestock they had brought with them across the Pacific, such as taro and chickens. When Captain James Cook first landed on Hawaii in 1778, he found a place rich in culture and not lacking in natural resources.

But with the introduction of Western culture, Hawaii started to change. Soon Kamehameha the Great united the Islands into a single kingdom, and then began trading with colonial powers.

Within 100 years of Cook’s landing, Hawaii’s landscape and culture had changed dramatically. Foreign investors planted large sugar plantations across the Islands to take advantage of the tropical climate, and immigrants from around the world were employed to work the land.

The different sugar plantations were always searching for the best strain of sugar to grow and harvest. So they came together in 1895 to fund a research center to find the best varietals for Hawaii.

Sugar production declined over the past 50 years, and, in 2016, the last sugar plantation closed on Maui. But the research center that the industry initially funded has morphed into the Hawaii Agricultural Research Center (HARC), located in Kunia and Maunawili on Oahu. The now nonprofit organization works to research agricultural techniques to promote viable farming in modern Hawaii.

Left: A cacao plant growing in Maunawili. Right: Ripe coffee ready for picking at the Maunawili farm.
Left: A cacao plant growing in Maunawili. Right: Ripe coffee ready for picking at the Maunawili farm.

 

“As the plantations closed, they asked, what could they do to replace it,” says Tyler Jones, Maunawili station manager. “While sugar declined, that opened up space to work on other crops.”

The question of what to do in post-plantation agriculture is at the heart of HARC’s research. Along with a small staff, Jones works on developing new agricultural techniques that will benefit local farmers in the wake of Hawaii’s plantation past.

One of the projects Jones and HARC has focused on is finding ways to commercially grow and cultivate koa wood. Koa, meaning “warrior,” is a strong native hardwood in Hawaii. It’s incredibly valuable as a building material for canoes and furniture, but it’s also the traditional material to make ukulele and has been adopted to make guitars and other instruments.

It’s illegal in Hawaii to cut koa trees on government-owned lands. Because of this, koa is hard to come across, and very expensive. But, Jones explains, “On private land, people can grow and harvest koa.”

The problem is that it’s not the easiest tree to grow commercially. It’s susceptible to fungus, so HARC has been working with generations of koa trees to try to determine which koa family lines are more naturally resistant to fungal growth.

HARC has also worked to see if it could be beneficial to intersperse koa trees with other crops, such as cacao and coffee. The result is a small batch of chocolate, and a larger crop of coffee that is being sold as Maunawili Farms Coffee.

“This is our first commercial crop this year,” says Jones. Previously, the coffee was just to show proof of concept. Additionally, the farm at Maunawili holds trainings and workshops to show local farmers its process.

HARC also aims to assist local agriculture through affordable housing. “One of our focuses has been preserving agricultural housing in Kunia. It’s the last remaining plantation village in Hawaii,” according to Jones.

The housing project is a way both to preserve some of Hawaii’s plantation history, and to help with current housing shortages.

Even though HARC is currently selling coffee and a small amount of honey when available, as a nonprofit, making money through coffee or honey production isn’t the goal. The goal is to do research and development that will perpetuate agriculture in Hawaii’s future, even as land costs and the cost of living increases.

“Ultimately the purpose of this is not to grow and sell coffee,” says Jones. “We use it as a demonstration space for farmers.”

For more information about HARC and where to purchase Maunawili Farms Coffee, visit www.harc-hspa.com

MY DOG HAS FLEAS: UKELELE IN HAWAII, PAST AND PRESENT

ARTICLE by Julie Yaste

ukulele

The ukulele is simple: four strings, a dozen or so frets and a gently curved wooden frame.

Within an afternoon, a novice player can pick up a song or two. There’s something beautiful in its minimalism. Songs can be as simple or complex as the player desires. No matter the song or technique, whenever a tune is strummed on a ukulele, Hawaii comes to mind.

For over a century, the ukulele has been the emblem of Hawaiian mele, or songs. Few places are so closely associated with a single instrument as Hawaii is with the ukulele. And like so many of the icons of Hawaiiana, the ukulele didn’t originate on these sandy shores. Instead it was transplanted during the plantation boom.

Sugar plantations that were tended by close-knit communities of immigrants fueled Hawaii’s economy for decades. The plantations started bringing over laborers in the mid-1800s from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and eventually from Portugal and Puerto Rico. Each influx of people brought their own cultural traditions, from food to language and especially music.

In 1879 a boat laden with workers from the Portuguese island of Madeira pulled into Honolulu Harbor, and some of these newcomers brought small four-stringed guitars called machetes. These instruments evolved in Hawaii, taking on four standard sizes and tuning, eventually settling into a modern ukulele. By the turn of the 20th century they had solidified as one of the most popular instruments in Hawaii.

There is no consensus on how it went from machete to ukulele or what precisely “ukulele” translates to. The most common translation is “jumping flea,” because of how musicians’ fingers seemed to jump around while playing. That’s probably why the song people sing to tune is “My Dog Has Fleas” for each note: G-C-E-A.

Ukuleles made their way to the international stage during the 1920’s, when jazz musicians made heavy use of them. Their popularity waned somewhat for the next few decades, but hits like Tiny Tim’s 1968 “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” kept ukuleles in the popular consciousness throughout the years.

Now ukuleles are popular all over the world, thanks in part to the hit success of Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and virtuosos like Jake Shimabukuro. There are many small craftsmen who build stunning instruments throughout the Islands, but four companies have risen to the height of the industry in Hawaii: Kamaka, Kanile‘a, KoAloha and Ko‘olau. They’re affectionately known as the four K’s. Instruments by these master builders are guaranteed to have a stellar sound, and many professional local musicians prefer instruments from one of these companies.

Kanile‘a employee at his workstation
Kanile‘a employee at his workstation

 

So while you enjoy a perfect dinner in Waikiki with resident musicians serenading you on the ukulele, take a look at the instruments. Chances are, that “uke” came from one of these four companies.

KAMAKA UKULELE

Kamaka is the oldest ukulele manufacturer in Hawaii. It’s been family owned and operated since 1916. The company started when Sam Kamaka Sr. started making koa wood ukuleles out of the basement in his Kaimuki home, and it grew from there. By the 1930s he enlisted his two young sons, Sam Jr. and Fred, to help in the shop, even though they were both still in elementary school. Now, at 92, Fred Kamaka still helps with factory tours four days a week, where he regales visitors with stories from his youth and how the company came to be.

Fred tells how his father gained a reputation for creating quality handcrafted instruments. During the ukulele craze of the 1920s Sam Sr. experimented with body shape, and engineered the first “pineapple” ukulele. That original pineapple ukulele—painted to look like a pineapple—is on display inside the shop.

Pineapple ukulele under construction at Kamaka
Pineapple ukulele under construction at Kamaka

 

After Sam Kamaka Sr. died in 1953, Sam Jr. and Fred took over the business and honed the skills they had started to learn as children, making ukuleles by hand. Now their sons run the business.

With the new generation have come new innovations. While much of the assembly is still done by hand, some of it is now automated. The necks and front and back panels are all cut by machine then put together. Chris Kamaka, Sam Sr.’s grandson, checks each instrument before it is shipped out.

2017 marks the 101st year in business for Kamaka Ukulele and it’s going strong. “What happens the second hundred years?” Fred will ask visitors. “I don’t know. I won’t be around.” But it’s clear that he’s not worried. The business is in good hands.

Tours are offered Tuesday through Friday at 10:30 a.m.

KANILE’A UKULELE

Kanile‘a Ukulele was founded by Hawaii-born couple Kristen and Joe Souza in 1998 in the hope of producing heirloom quality instruments.

The majority of the ukes that come out of Kanile‘a are made from koa wood that was largely harvested on the Big Island.  In addition to koa instruments, Kanile‘a uses walnut and a few other wood types, often by request in custom orders.

Ukulele sides in different molds at Ko‘olau
Ukulele sides in different molds at Ko‘olau

 

Kanile‘a blends traditional by-hand construction methods with some newer mechanized steps. The necks are cut by machine and a special laser cutter generates the pearl inlays. Everything else is done by hand. The resulting instrument is quality checked before being sold. Any instrument that doesn’t pass muster is sent back to the factory and not made available for sale.

In addition to handcrafted instruments, Kanile‘a also has a more affordable line of instruments called Islander Ukuleles. These ukes are shipped in from overseas and while less individualized, they are still good instruments that are great for a new player.

Owners Joe and Kristen also have a vested interest in conservation, and run a nonprofit geared towards protecting and enhancing koa wood forests. Their nonprofit is called Reforest Hawaii.

Tours are available daily at 10:30 a.m.

KOALOHA

Unlike Kamaka and Kanile‘a, all aspects of forming the body of the ukulele at KoAloha are done without machinery. “Everything is cut and glued by hand,” says employee and tour guide Daniel Nakashima. It’s clear that Nakashima, as well as all employees, takes great pride in the work.

The instruments here utilize an interesting internal bracing system. Instead of traditional bracing along the interior of the ukulele and by the sound hole, KoAloha has a unibrace that gives it increased stability. They are so stable that, during a factory tour, Nakashima will place the body of a ukulele on the floor and stand on it. It’s a cringe-worthy sight, as most instruments would buckle under the weight of an adult male, but the KoAloha uke holds.

Nakashima shows two unfinished ukuleles at KoAloha
Nakashima shows two unfinished ukuleles at KoAloha

 

The company uses a wide variety of wood including koa, monkeypod, rosewood and mahogany. The different types of wood all produce their own sound. The only items not made in-house is the instrument’s necks, which is laser cut overseas then glued onto the body.

Tours are available Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

KO’OLAU GUITAR & UKULELE

Ko‘olau Guitar & Ukulele is a custom shop, with no standard models. Patrons will pick and choose the shape, size, type of wood and design based on personal preference to produce something customized to the player.

This is another family-run business with a father and son, Jon and Noa Kitakis. Noa crafts the instruments. Because it is a custom shop, Noa has the freedom to tailor every detail for optimum sound. That careful attention comes at a price. Ukuleles from Ko‘olau routinely sell for $2,000 or more.

Part of that cost is the intricate inlays Ko‘olau is known for. Just about any design you can imagine can be made into an inlay including tropical flowers, green sea turtles and taro leaves.

The other three ukulele shops make custom orders upon request, but that isn’t the primary business.

You might think that with a tight market for high-end ukuleles these companies might have a strong rivalry, but that isn’t the case.

“We’re all friends,” Noa says.

Recipes

recipes-blog
AZURE LOBSTER “ROLL” WITH MEYER LEMON PRESERVE AND TOBIKO

lobster-roll2 lobster tails (4 ounces peeled)
4 Tablespoons aioli
1 teaspoon finely chopped truffle
1/2 teaspoon truffle oil
12 each Meyer lemon
6 ounces sugar
3 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 ounce browned butter
1 ounce red tobiko
1 loaf brioche
1 cup clarified butter
Tarragon to taste

PROCEDURE:
Skewer lobster tails and blanch in Court bouillon. Pull out right before it is fully cooked, letting heat carry over. Do not ice. Once chilled, slice into fourths. Add truffles and oil to aioli. Peel lemon leaving only zest with no pith. Blanch zest. Juice lemon and save. Put salt, sugar, juice, turmeric and zest together and bring to a simmer. Cook until soft. Blend until puree is smooth. Add water if needed. Freeze brioche. Cut brioche into 3-inch-long-by-1 1/4-inch-wide and 1/2-inch-tall slices. On slicer, cut bread on a 13-15 setting. Cut out 1-inch-diameter circles. Fry circles in the clarified butter until golden brown. Season as they come out. Toast rectangle of bread with seasoned whole butter. Brown butter and add tarragon and chervil. Strain.

ASSEMBLY:
Pull a large bead of aioli on top of the plate and a pool for the bread to sit on. Pull a large bead of lemon preserve on bottom right. Place bread on aioli, lobster on top of that with aioli in between slices. Single toasted brioche in lobster. With warm butter, add tobiko and drizzle over lobster. Garnish with chervil.

 

ROY’S HAMACHI APPETIZER

hamachi-appetixzer
INGREDIENTS:
4 ounces fresh sushi-grade hamachi
1/2 cup lemon-juice concentrate
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 medium chopped onion
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 Thai chilis
1/4 cup olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
Over medium heat, cook onion, garlic and Thai chilis, then add liquids. Let sauce cool. Carefully slice hamachi to roughly bite-size pieces. Gently mix with other prepared ingredients. Garnish with edible flowers and green

 

BILL’S PERFECT SCRAMBLED EGGS

bills-scrambledINGREDIENTS:
2 eggs
1 ounce heavy cream
1 Pinch sea salt
1 Tablespoon butter

DIRECTIONS:
Whip eggs and cream in a bowl. Heat butter in a nonstick pan. Once the butter is melted, add salt. When the salt starts to crackle in the pan, add the egg mixture. Let the egg mixture settle in the pan. As soon as it starts to harden, take a spatula and ring it around the edges of the pan until the eggs are fully cooked (approximately 5 minutes). The eggs will appear slightly runny in the pan.

 

ROYAL HAWAIIAN PINK HAUPIA CAKE

HAUPIA

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch baking pans.

CAKE
8 ounces cake flour
6 ounces granulated sugar
3/4 Tablespoons baking powder
Sift the cake flour, granulated sugar and baking powder together and set aside
4 ounces vegetable oil
4 ounces egg yolks
5 1/2 ounce water
8 ounces egg whites
4 ounces granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Whisk oil, egg yolks and water in a bowl and gradually add dry ingredients while whisking. Mix till a smooth batter is created. Whip egg whites until foamy and gradually sprinkle in the sugar. Whip until mixture forms stiff peaks. Gently fold cake batter into egg whites. Pour into pans and bake at 350 degrees 30–40 minutes. Cool on rack.

HAUPIA FILLING
1 (12-ounce) can coconut milk
4-6 Tablespoons sugar
6 Tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3/4 cup water
3-4 drops red or pink food coloring

DIRECTIONS:
Bring coconut milk and sugar to a boil. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and water, whisk into boiling mixture. Add a few drops of pink color and continue mixing on heat for 3-5 minutes, until thick. Pour into container and cool completely.

TOPPING
1 quart heavy whipping cream
6 ounces sugar
Pink food coloring
Sweetened coconut flakes

DIRECTIONS:
Whip cream with sugar till medium peaks, then add pink to create a pastel color. Set aside. Mix coconut flakes with pink until desired color is reached. Set aside.

ASSEMBLY
Cut the 8-inch rounds in two equal layers for a total of four layers. Put the set haupia in a stand mixer and mix until creamed. Alternate layers of cake and haupia. Ice the cake with the pink whipped cream and coat sides with pink coconut flakes.

Fermenting a Revolution

fermenting-a-revolutionAs a Sonoma County, California, native, I am no stranger to fermentation.  My dad used to make his own wine and beer in the garage of our home. Weekends often included jaunts to favorite wineries where my sister Sarah and I could play in the gardens. Only once did we mortify our parents by throwing rocks in a fishpond (I still contend Sarah started it).

Wine and the fermentation process were everywhere, driving our local economy. I assumed all 8-year-olds could cite the difference between a Zinfandel and Petite Syrah. It seemed totally normal.

While I was a child in Northern California, a place synonymous with wine production, George Killmer was half a world away in Japan and Korea, the latter locale having its own ubiquitous fermented fare: kimchi.

cutting-cabbage
Killmer cutting fresh Napa cabbage.

Kimchi is largely considered the national food of Korea. It takes many forms, but most commonly it’s a spicy fermented cabbage, traditionally served with white rice.

Killmer grew up with kimchi. He’s gone through phases when he didn’t eat it much, but now he devours it regularly. “If you don’t have kimchi,” Killmer says, “you’re having a bad day.”

Killmer is “hapa haole,” a colloquial term for someone who is part Caucasian and part another ethnicity. His mother is Korean, and his dad is a Caucasian former U.S. government contractor. Growing up, kimchi was everywhere. As a kid he even ate the spicy cabbage his mother made in oatmeal for breakfast. Her recipe for kimchi is the foundation for Jincha Kimchi, the small business he runs with his partner, Jamie-Lynn Gomes. Gomes did not have regular access to kimchi in her youth. She is part Hawaiian and graduated from Kamehameha Schools. She recalls how her mother’s Korean friend would gift a jar of kimchi once or twice a year. It was a treat, not a given. This aromatic side dish had yet to develop a place in larger restaurants or markets in the Islands.

Ready access, however, can have some drawbacks, which Killmer knew well. “When I was growing up, it was embarrassing,” he says. “It was always like, Don’t let people see the kimchi.” It was a source of shame to have something so different in his home. By this point, his family had moved stateside after time spent in Japan and Korea. Living in the Pacific Northwest as a teen, Killmer wanted to fit in. Kimchi was “stinky cabbage” that looked, tasted and smelled weird to his friends.

Then something interesting happened. Killmer became a chef who worked in the Mid-Atlantic region. He started seeing kimchi outside of Korean markets and restaurants. Suddenly it was gaining mainstream popularity with eateries for a simple reason: People liked it.

Killmer pours ground red chili peppers in a mixture of garlic, fish sauce and a secret ingredient to form a paste.
Killmer pours ground red chili peppers in a mixture of garlic, fish sauce and a secret ingredient to form a paste.

With this surge in popularity, Killmer returned to his childhood staple. It no longer held a stigma as a smelly cabbage. Killmer moved to Hawaii 10 years ago, where he met Gomes. They started Jincha Kimchi in June 2015.

Their process begins with only local, fresh produce, including Napa cabbage, ginger and garlic. “It’s the quality of our ingredients that makes our kimchi so good,” says Gomes.

Gomes carefully massages the chili paste into brined cabbage.
Gomes carefully massages the chili paste into brined cabbage.

It’s more than the ingredients, though. There is tremendous care in how they make each batch. It can take up to nine hours to make. Killmer says it’s something “deep in my soul,” that drives him to keep making and selling kimchi. The pair makes roughly 100 pounds of the fermented and pungent cabbage every two weeks from their 500-square-foot kitchen.

With ingredients in hand, Killmer and Gomes start making kimchi by carefully washing then cutting the cabbage. It then soaks in a saltwater brine for two to five hours, by far the most time intensive step of the process.

Fresh sprigs of herbs are added after the cabbage and chili paste are fully integrated.
Fresh sprigs of herbs are added after the cabbage and chili paste are fully integrated.

Killmer starts by cutting the cabbage to soak while Gomes preps a fish sauce. The sauce is made with kelp, green onions and dried anchovies that Killmer’s mother brings with her from Korea. It’s a fragrant mix.

With fresh fish sauce in hand, Gomes and Killmer begin prepping the kimchi paste with which they will slather the cabbage. Each ingredient is carefully cleaned and measured. The paste is made of garlic, ginger, herbs, fermented baby shrimp, fish sauce and, of course, dried spicy red chili peppers.

Today, most kimchi is spicy and colored bright red from chili peppers. This wasn’t always the case. Chili peppers aren’t native to Korea. It wasn’t until trade was established with the Americas in the 1500s that chili peppers became available to the world, eventually changing the nature of kimchi to its current spicy state. Traditionally, it was made seasonally based on whichever vegetables were available. It was not what modern eaters think of as kimchi.

Above, Gomes and illmer pose outside their Kalihi kitchen space.
Above, Gomes and illmer pose outside their Kalihi kitchen space.

Killmer and Gomes definitely make a modern kimchi, though they label the flavor as “local kine,” meaning it’s suited to the tastes of Hawaii residents. Kimchi in Korea tends to have a much stronger flavor, with more spice in the paste. The paste they make is spicy and savory, but not overwhelming.

Once they have the perfect paste, Killmer will check the cabbage to see if it has soaked long enough. The cabbage gets rinsed several times to remove excess salt, and then it’s massaged into the paste until evenly mixed.

At this point it’s edible, but it hasn’t had a chance to ferment yet. Fermentation takes at least two weeks, which is the minimum time they age each batch before sale. It’s left bottled in reusable mason jars in their fridge until ready.

It never tastes the same twice. Like wine, different vintages of kimchi are nuanced. They’ve taken as many controls as possible in refining the recipe, but fermentation can fluctuate, producing variations in each batch. It’s interesting to taste the changes, or even note the development in kimchi as it continues to ferment after purchase.

Kimchi in general is fermented via lactic acid bacteria, which kills off any other bacteria that would normally lead vegetables to rot. This process leaves kimchi with probiotic properties, meaning that kimchi is actually incredibly good for you. It’s also high in vitamins and may prevent certain cancers. Gomes mentions one frequent buyer who says the kimchi helps ease her rheumatoid arthritis.

This is just one process for one kind of kimchi. Jincha makes several varietals, but this is its staple, and what most people think of as kimchi. It’s a big world where kimchi is concerned, and anyone can make it.

As Killmer says, “there’s really no wrong or right way. It just comes down to if you like it or not.”

Jincha Kimchi is available at the Windward Mall farmers’ market. Visit its website for more information at www.jinchakimchi.com.

Forkless Fare

forkless

Giovanni Pastrami

MINI PASTRAMI SLIDERS:The pastrami reuben sandwich is definitely king at Giovanni Pastrami. In fact, the restaurant went through 10,000 pounds of premium pastrami last year specifically because of how popular this delectable, half-pound sandwich is. For some though, a half-pound of pastrami is a little daunting. Fear not! The great chefs behind the reuben have miniaturized it with four bite-size sliders that have all the flavor of the full sandwich.

Round Table Pizza

KING ARTHUR SUPREME AND GOURMET VEGGIE: There are few other foods that are as versatile and universally loved as pizza. There are options for any palate and Round Table Pizza in Waikiki treats pizza like royalty with the King Arthur supreme. This pie has just about everything, including classic red sauce, three cheeses, pepperoni, Italian sausage, salami, Portuguese sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, white onions and black olives. For non-meat lovers, try the gourmet veggie. The veggie pizza has all of the fresh vegetables you know you should eat but probably don’t unless their healthy attributes are cleverly disguised in a pizza.

Beachhouse at the Moana

AFTERNOON TEA ON THE VERANDA: Tea parties aren’t solely the purview of young girls in tiaras. Adults can certainly have tea parties too. Just head to the Moana Surfrider Hotel on any given afternoon for a full tea service at Beachhouse. The fi rst- lady tea service (pictured)  includes your choice of tea, sparkling rosé, fresh berries with crème fraiche and brown sugar, miniature sandwiches and stunning pastries.

Tommy Bahama

AHI TUNA TACOS: These tacos are Mexican fare with an Asian twist. Crisp wonton shells replace a traditional tortilla in Tommy Bahama’s tuna tacos. Tacos come with rare tuna, Island slaw and a wasabi-avocado pur´ee. They’re a perfect snack when you’re feeling peckish, or a delicious start to any meal.

Rum Fire

TATAS: Tater tots may make you think of elementary school lunch ladies in mesh caps, but they’ve certainly grown to a gourmet affair beyond a typical lunch lady’s abilities with Rumfi re’s tatas. These spuds are drizzled in truffl e oil then tossed with parmesan and sea salt. Eating just one isn’t an option. You’ll want to fi nish the whole basket.

Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Barum Fire

DRAGONFLY ROLL: Usually eaten with chopsticks, the dragonfly roll is a distinctly forkless bit of Japanese cuisine. This classic roll features spicy tuna and cucumber inside and Hawaiian ahi tuna, avocado, masago and sweet Thai chili aioli on top. Sansei features only top-quality ingredients in its award-winning sushi.

East Meets West

East-West

Errant scholars claim Marco Polo introduced noodles to Italy after a long sojourn in China. This is probably more myth than reality, but, in antiquity two geographically disparate lands were known to produce noodle dishes: Italy and China.

Today, noodle dishes are a worldwide affair, though they are typically categorized as either vaguely European or Asian in flavor. Hawaii has long been a melting pot of cultures, and Waikiki dining takes that to a new level. Restaurants here have all styles of noodles, from classically styled Italian cuisine and traditional Chinese dishes to Pacific Rim fusion.

Try some of these Island-inspired takes on one of the most popular forms of food in the world. Pro tip: Grab an entrée with fresh fish or other ocean dwellers for a noodle experience you could only find in Waikiki.

Linguine-all-aragosta-e-granchio
Linguine all’aragosta e granchio

Fresco Italian Restaurant
Linguine all’aragosta e granchio: The editor and photographer for this magazine are often invited to try dishes during photo shoots. Generally, they only take a slight sampling. This pasta they not only devoured, they fought for the last bite. The Maine lobster is perfectly done and the tomato cream
sauce may actually be divine. A soy tobiko garnish is an inspired Asian twist to this Italian linguine.

Lo mein and Singapore street noodles

P.F. Chang’s
Lo mein and Singapore street noodles: P.F. Chang’s is one of America’s favorite Chinese-inspired restaurants for a reason. The food is consistently tasty and the Waikiki location offers some local flair only found here. The lo mein is a tried and tested favorite. These slightly thicker noodles are tossed with soy sauce, egg, fresh veggies and your choice of beef, pork, chicken or shrimp. Singapore street noodles are a thinner rice noodle with curry sauce, chicken, shrimp and vegetables. Either dish will keep a noodle lover happy. Try one or order both to share family-style around the table.

Spaghetti and meatballs

Il Lupino
Spaghetti and meatballs: Nothing says Italian more than spaghetti and meatballs. While not a traditional menu item, Il Lupino will add its veal, pork and beef meatballs to any pasta. These massive meatballs are in no danger of rolling away from a casual sneeze, though they are all covered in cheese. Delicious parmesan to be exact. Il Lupino’s spaghetti with meatballs leaves nothing to be desired, except perhaps a longing for a larger  stomach.

Hot udon with shrimp tempura

Miyako
Hot udon with shrimp tempura:  tunning ocean views and a romantic air aren’t the only things Miyako has to offer. The traditional Japanese cuisine will make even sushi-shy individuals into sashimi (raw fish) fiends. Hot udon soup comes with thick noodles in a savory broth. It’s paired with deepfried shrimp tempura and dipping sauce. Scrumptious and satisfying, this soup-and-shrimp combo is a fully cooked option if raw fish isn’t for you.

Spaghetti alla pescatora

Arancino
Spaghetti alla checca: Sometimes, a simple spaghetti dish is all you need. Arancino’s Spaghetti alla checca is just that. Spaghetti noodles, fresh mozzarella, basil and a classic tomato sauce come together in this elegant and thoroughly delicious pasta. Spaghetti alla pescatora: Seafood lovers will rejoice in this spaghetti dish that features  shrimp, calamari, live clams, mussels and a garlicky white wine sauce. It’s clear why this pasta is consistently a guest favorite. Be sure to bring a camera, this dish is a feast for the eyes as well.

At the Heart of Kualoa Ranch

kualoa-ranch

You may know Kualoa Ranch as the site where countless movies and television shows have been filmed, including Jurassic Park, Lost and Fifty First Dates. But to many of the ranch employees, film shoots and guest tours are the public side of the ranch that exists to keep the working ranch alive and running.

“Everybody knows us for Jurassic Park,” says Taylor Kellerman,  director of diversified agriculture and land stewardship. “But there’s really no other place like this.”

It’s easy to see why. With stunning views of mountains and ocean, Kualoa Ranch is easily one of the most photogenic places on Earth. The ranch is nearly 4,000 acres of undeveloped land that encompass the Hakipuu, Kualoa and Kaaawa valleys.

kualoa-ranch3

There are other families or trusts on Oahu that own larger parcels of land in Hawaii, but Kualoa is unique because it is still a functional ranch and nature reserve without urbanization in prime Oahu real  state.

Established in 1850, the property was initially used as a sugar plantation. Ruins still stand from Oahu’s first sugar mill located near the entrance. After several years of poor rainfall, sugar planting came to a halt and cattle ranching was introduced.

Today, the ranch has more than 600 head of cattle, and harvests roughly eight animals a month. As Kellerman says, the cattle are “grass fed and grass fi nished,” meaning they are raised freerange over the grassy slopes of the ranch all the way up through harvest. Almost all cows are grass fed at some point in their lives, but not all are allowed to graze their entire lives.

The cows are rotated every fi ve to seven days through different pastures to avoid over-grazing. Most pastures offer ocean vistas or panoramic Koolau mountain range views. Given the care, location and attention they receive, these must be some of the happiest cows in the world.

Interspersed throughout the pastures are groves of papaya, bananas, pineapple and other tropical plants. The goal is to utilize as much land as is possible with diversified crops. Produce is usually sold to local markets or restaurants.

Robust chickens are rotated through groves and their eggs are collected for consumption. Their grazing is an eco-friendly way to help manage weeds and pests while providing fertilizer. This type of nature-based solution to weed and pest management is  epresentative of how Kualoa Ranch solves problems. The ranch also makes its own mulch and manure in an attempt to employ the full ecosystem Kualoa Ranch has to offer.

baby-shrimp
Baby shrimp being prepared for transfer to a shrimp pond.

Part of that ecosystem is the Molii fi shpond. This is one of the few remaining ancient fi shponds on Oahu. It’s an estimated 800 years old and roughly 125 acres. In these historic waters, oyster farmers grow live oysters in floating cages that never rest on the bottom of the pond. Roughly 1,000 oysters are harvested weekly for local consumers and restaurant use. It is the only Department of Health certified oyster farm on Oahu.

Chickens grazing in a papaya grove
Chickens grazing in a papaya grove

Like the chickens, these oysters serve a dual purpose. “Each oyster can filter 50 gallons of water,” says Kellerman.

That helps to keep the fishpond waters clean for use by future generations. The fishpond is also home to one of Kualoa Ranch’s  ultural tours, where guests can enjoy the pond’s serenity while  earning about Hawaiian aquaculture.

Education about farming and Hawaiian history is vital to the ranch. In addition to its tours, local school groups can come to learn about nature and some of the farming work done on the ranch. While  here, local keiki (children) can visit a well-loved petting zoo where they can get a personal introduction to farm animals.

Past the petting zoo that’s used for educational purposes are several small ponds for raising Pacifi c white tiger shrimp and tilapia. One unique aspect of Kualoa shrimp is that, when restaurants or markets
call in an order, the shrimp are caught that morning and served the same day. These are some of the freshest shrimp available on Oahu.

A fresh oyster from the Molii pond on a taro leaf
A fresh oyster from the Molii pond on a taro leaf

When chefs call in an order for shrimp, oysters or tilapia, sometimes they’ll also ask for naturally occurring plants like coconut or breadfruit that grow on Kualoa Ranch but aren’t specifically farmed. “We’ll get whatever we can for you,” says Kellerman, even if that means doing some foraging to find high quality plants when requested.

Despite its size and commitment to the land, Kualoa Ranch doesn’t produce a large quantity of food.

Banana trees growing  near the edge of a mountain near a cow pasture.
Banana trees growing near the edge of a mountain near a cow pasture.

“We grow these killer quality products, but our volume isn’t huge,” says Kellerman.

That’s why Kualoa Ranch recently started food-tasting tours to give guests the opportunity to try the different foods the ranch yields. This allows visitors to see the working side of the ranch and taste the sweet and savory results of its sustainable farming.

If you’d like to try Kualoa products, prime steaks, oysters and shrimp can be ordered online and picked up at the ranch. The gift shop will sometimes carry fresh foods, and will almost always have frozen ground beef available for purchase. Burgers from the café are all from Kualoa ground beef.

Kualoa Ranch is more than a tourist attraction or Hollywood set. Chatting with employees makes it clear many feel they work the land in stewardship to maintain a part of Hawaiian history that is quickly disappearing. The owners employ four full-time staff whose sole purpose is to maintain and improve the property, often restoring streams or fields that are in disarray. These positions are completely privately funded and are one more way Kualoa Ranch attempts to keep the land timeless so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come.

On an island where space is in high demand and limited availability, Kualoa Ranch is firm in its adherence to non-urbanization and land stewardship. The ranch has evolved to be self-sustaining now that farming isn’t as economically viable as it once was.

As Kellerman says, “Every seat on a tour that’s sold keeps the land in perpetuity.”

Beyond Brunch at Cinnamon’s

beyond-brunch-at-cinnamons

For over 30 years, Cinnamon’s has been a staple of Windward Oahu’s breakfast and lunch scene. Always popular with locals, the restaurant has become increasingly popular with tourists in the past five years, sometimes causing diners to wait up to two hours for a table on busy mornings.

Owners Puna and Cricket Nam found themselves in a happy predicament. With such large crowds, “it was no longer a personal feeling,” he recounts. He wanted to maintain steady business, but also reduce congestion so that everyone could get a table in a reasonable amount of time.

The solution: a second location. In November of 2014, Cinnamon’s in Waikiki opened at the Ilikai hotel. This second location carries over the original restaurant’s breakfast delights, including multiple award-winning pancakes and benedicts.

Guava-Chiffon-Pancakes
Guava Chiffon Pancakes

The delectable guava chiffon pancakes recently placed No. 8 in Time Out Magazine’s national best pancake ranking. You simply have to try them. Sweet and tangy guava sauce cascades over fluffy pancakes all topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Or if chocolate is more your flavor, try Puna’s favorite, the red velvet pancake, that took six months to perfect.

In addition to breakfast and lunch, the Waikiki Cinnamon’s also offers dinner, a first for the restaurant. Kalbi short ribs have quickly become a house favorite for dinner, and the restaurant includes a lighter side menu for the health conscious among us. For the non-health conscious, know that pancakes are served all day.

With gorgeous harbor views, Cinnamon’s is growing in popularity in Waikiki not only for its comfort food, but also for ambiance. Friday evenings tend to be busy as diners can view fireworks from the Hilton Hawaiian Village. It also hosts live music with background artists playing Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. Additionally, the Ilikai has live music every Friday and Saturday that can be enjoyed at Cinnamon’s from 6 to 9 p.m.

Try out Cinnamon’s for ono local grinds (delicious local foods) any day of the week. Friendly staff, good food and a beautiful setting combine for a perfect dining experience.

Boneless Kal-bi Short Ribs
Boneless Kal-bi Short Ribs

Local Grinds

local-grinds

In Hawaii, look out for ono grinds or “tasty food.” Eat like a local on your stay and try some of the different and unique cuisines the Islands have to offer. Here are a few dishes that you might see on menus and think: “what’s that?”

HAUPIA:
In its truest form, haupia is a coconut milk based traditional Hawaiian dessert with a texture similar to flan. The white gelatinous squares are a sweet luau staple. As with most traditional fare, it’s been given a modern kick in many restaurants that serve haupia pie with added flavors like chocolate or sweet potato. Pictured is a version of haupia pie with purple sweet potato mash and a macadamia crust.

BLUE HAWAII:
No drink conjures images of crystal clear waves like a Blue Hawaii. Legendary bartender Harry Yee poured the first Blue Hawaii at what is now the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Visitors often asked for local style cocktails, but in the 1950s there was no such thing as Hawaiian cocktails, leaving Yee to often create them on the spot. He made the Blue Hawaii through experimenting with Blue Curaçao, vodka and rum to concoct one of the world’s most famous exotic drinks.

HULI HULI CHICKEN:
It’s hard to go wrong with a well basted grilled chicken. Huli-Huli chicken ™ is just that. It starts with a perfect sauce. Recipes vary, but usually include shoyu (soy sauce), brown sugar, ginger, garlic, ketchup and sherry. The chicken is marinated in this salty-sweet sauce then constantly basted with it while grilled. The chicken is turned regularly on the grill hence the name “huli-huli,” which means: “to turn.”

SAIMIN:
Similar to Japanese ramen, saimin is a broth-based soup with egg noodles and various meats, often including fish cake. As with most local grinds, saimin is influenced by many cultures. It borrows from ramen, Chinese mein and Filipino pancit. It’s developed into a beloved comfort food in Hawaii.

POI:
In ancient Hawaii, if a bowl of poi was present and uncovered for eating, any arguments had to stop in respect of this revered staple. Poi is still a prominent part of Hawaiian culture and cuisine. It’s made by cooking and then pounding the root of the taro plant while adding water until it reaches the desired viscous consistency. When fresh, poi has a relatively neutral flavor. Over time, it becomes increasingly sour, which some prefer. Try it with a hint of sugar or as a side to lomilomi salmon.

TARO CHIPS:
Taro chips are a modern twist on a traditional Hawaiian staple. The root or corm of the taro plant is peeled, thinly sliced, then either fried or baked to crisp perfection. You’ll taste salt and sweet as you bite into purple-streaked goodness. These tasty snacks are found at most local grocery stores or as a side at a variety of Waikiki restaurants.

GARLIC SHRIMP:
Hawaii is one of the lead suppliers of shrimp in the U.S., so it should be no surprise that a delectable dish, such as the garlic shrimp, has come to satisfy locals and visitors alike. The shrimp, best when harvested from local farms, is pan fried with fresh garlic and laid on steaming white rice, often paired with mixed greens or macaroni salad. These fragrant crustaceans combine a blend of sea taste with rich garlic butter.

SHAVE ICE:
Nothing satisfies a day in the sun and sweet cravings like shave ice. Unlike Mainland snow cones, shave ice has a finer consistency and usually has your choice of ice cream or azuki beans (sweet red beans), or both as its base, and shaved ice is piled high on top. Then comes the fun part. Customers can top their shave ice with any of their favorite flavors. The popular “rainbow” is a combination of strawberry, pineapple or lemon, and vanilla. Add a “snow-cap” — a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk on top — to finish off this cold confection.

LAULAU:
Laulau translates to “leaf, leaf,” named after the taro leaves used to wrap the meat. Preparation starts with putting Hawaiian salt on either pork or chicken and butterfish, known locally as walu. The meat and fish are wrapped first in taro leaves, then ti leaves to help heat the meat while it’s being steamed. Traditionally laulau was steamed in an imu, a pit dug underground with heated lava rocks, on a layer of banana leaves. The bitterness of the taro leaves paired with the saltiness of the meat and butterfish make for a unique taste dating back to ancient Hawaii. These mouth-watering bundles can be found on most Hawaiian food menus or at a luau.

LOCO MOCO:
There are many foods in Hawaii that are considered ono, but nothing does delicious super-sized like the loco moco. The palate pleaser originated in Hilo where local diners desired a taste of something different. The savory dish didn’t disappoint, and can now be found across the Islands. It starts with a bed of rice, topped with a hamburger patty, crowned with your choice of eggs, and smothered in gravy. A loco moco is commonly considered a breakfast item, but can be ordered any time of day. It’s perfect for a famished visitor.

poke-postPOKE:
Poke, (pronounced poh kay) is ubiquitous in any local gathering. No party would be complete without a tray of the savory fresh fish. Poke means “to cut or slice,” and the dish certainly features precision blade work to create perfectly cubed chunks of raw fish that is tossed with soy sauce, onion and other spices. If raw fish isn’t your favorite, there are other types of poke, including tofu poke or shrimp poke. There are also different flavors from spicy to slightly sweet using various types of fish, although ahi is most common. With all of the types of poke available, there’s certain to be one to suit your desires.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 1.08.27 AMMALASADAS:
Originally from Portugal, malasadas made their way to the islands with Portuguese plantation workers in the late 1800’s. These donut-like confections are made from fried dough sprinkled with granulated sugar. Other variations have fillings such as chocolate or custard.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 1.11.03 AMSPAM MUSUBI:
Spam isn’t native to Hawaii, but it certainly has found a home here. The salty canned-meat has become a local favorite, even inspiring an annual Spam Jam Festival in April. Spam musubi is the quintessential spam treat, consisting of sticky rice topped with fried spam and wrapped with nori (seaweed).

LOMILOMI SALMON:
This popular Hawaiian side-dish is often paired with poi. Lomilomi salmon is a mixture of raw, salted salmon with diced tomatoes and sweet Maui onions. Sometimes it also includes pepper flakes for a little spice. This dish is usually spotted at a luau or in the poke section at grocery stores.

PLATE LUNCH:
Plate lunch is as simple as it is delicious. It usually consists of white rice, macaroni salad, and a choice of meat. Popular meats are steak, garlic shrimp, chicken katsu or kalua pork to name a few. Some of the best plate lunches are found on food trucks around the island, including Oahu’s North Shore. If you don’t want to take the drive to the North Shore, check out Pau Hana Market on Waikiki’s Beachwalk Dr. to try food trucks in a permanent installation.