Hawaii residents have always looked to the sea for sustenance. The readily available fish and sea creatures became integral to our food and culture. Today, Hawaii is known the world over for its incredible seafood, and Waikiki is the center of the action.
Ravish in The MODERN Honolulu is “Pacific inspired, soul infused.” That shows in the elegant mix of flavors blended into exceptional dishes. To eat like the chef, go for the chef’s choice of sashimi. The chef will select the best cuts from a fresh catch to make a choice plate of delicious fish. There are also interesting new takes on sushi in the modish menu, with options like torched salmon and vodka sauce or prime strip steak with sea urchin.
Kai Market in the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel is a popular buffet with all of the foods you dream of in a Hawaiian getaway. Week-ends, in particular, are a seafood lovers dream. Friday through Sunday nights spe-cialize in the sea’s bounty, like salmon, Kauai shrimp, assorted sushi and of course, poke. To get a little bit of everything, Kai Market is the best place to sample the cor-nucopia of the Pacific.
Uncle Bo’s may be outside of the boundaries of Waikiki proper, but, if you’re looking for a local favorite, look no further. Located on Kapahulu Avenue, Bo’s is open for dinner and late-night dining. Its extensive menu can make it hard to pick one thing, but, for a fish dish, the S.O.S. is worthwhile. The pan-roasted soup/stew hybrid comes with lobster, crab, scallops and shrimp in a creamy base and is best served with rice. You won’t want to leave room for dessert.
With three locations, two in Waikiki and one in Kahala, Arancino is convenient for any traveler. Its Napoli-style menu has all of the mouthwatering classics your heart desires from an Italian restaurant. Being in Hawaii, though, some of the conventional fare has been given a Pacific flare. The restaurant’s most popular pasta is a wonderful example. The spaghetti ai ricci di mare pairs delicate uni, or sea urchin, in a garlic wine cream sauce for an inspired dish you’ll rave about for years to come.
BALI STEAK AND SEAFOOD
It’s rare for a restaurant to perfect both flavor and presentation, but Bali Steak and Seafood does just that. Take the tempura lobster. This jumbo crustacean is served whole with its meat impeccably fried. Be sure to get a picture for your Instagram before digging in. Better yet, snap a photo as the sun sets over Waikiki beach in the background as you dine.
My grandparents used to love visiting Hawaii. They’d fly from their Central California home and explore Oahu, occasionally dipping their toes in warm waters, even though my grandmother never learned to swim. After each trip they’d regale us with stories about the food they ate and fun they had. Among their favorite destinations was the famed International Marketplace, what was then a series of local vendors set up in stalls under a banyan tree in Waikiki.
The small vendors are now long gone, but the banyan tree is still alive and well in the newly reopened International Marketplace. The new structure houses many high-end retailers, but is anchored by its restaurants, such as the new concept from local celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, Eating House 1849.
Yamaguchi was inspired for his latest venture by the flavors of Hawaii’s plantation past, flavors he first sampled in his own grandfather’s kitchen.
“My grandfather left Japan in the early 1900s and ended up in Maui working on the plantations,” Yamaguchi says. As a child he helped in his grandfather’s market, and Yamaguchi says his “cooking has evolved from the flavors of my childhood.”
Those childhood flavors have served him well. Yamaguchi won the restigious James Beard award in 1993, and has been the visionary behind many of Hawaii’s favorite restaurants, including his namesake, Roy’s.
“Workers would share at lunch what they had,” explains Yamaguchi. “Eating House is paying tribute to those kind of cuisines.” The plantation influence is clear in Eating House 1849’s menu. The “1849” Plantation Pupu Platter consists of ribs, gyoza, lumpia and wings. This type of eclectic food could only come from bringing a diverse group of people together, something only really seen in Hawaii.
One of Yamaguchi’s favorite dishes from the menu is the plantation paella. Rather than a relatively dry rice dish, Yamaguchi’s paella draws from the thick beef stew he ate as a kid for a more brothy meal. “It’s a great dish,” he says.
In addition to the International Marketplace, there are two other Eating House 1849 locations, one in Koloa, Kauai, and another in Kapolei on Oahu.
The menus at each change based on what’s available and in season. “We plan our menus according to what we have available in Hawaii,” says Yamaguchi.
No matter the location, Eating House 1849 gives diners top-quality meals in a fun and inviting atmosphere. As with all of his restaurants, Yamaguchi says, “We keep it nice and fresh and exciting.”
No matter the location, Eating House 1849 gives diners top-quality meals in a fun and inviting atmosphere.
Nestled behind Diamond Head, with views of both Diamond Head and Koko Head craters, sits Kapi‘olani Community College (KCC), on the grounds of what was once Fort Ruger. The campus is part of the overall University of Hawaii system and keeps community at the heart of all its programs.
This community focus is found in all aspects of the school, especially the Culinary Arts Program. The program has many different initiatives that assist with everything from food sustainability to healthy school lunches. But the program itself is a service, as there are more jobs in restaurants in Hawaii from servers and line cooks to top chefs, than there are qualified individuals to fill the positions. That demand has led to a boom in an already popular program.
The Culinary Arts Program at KCC has existed for decades and has a history of turning out incredibly talented chefs, such as Alan Wong and Sam Choy. Who would have known that a humble community college in Honolulu would turn out internationally renowned chefs who have turned their locally inspired cuisine into multimillion dollar businesses? The program has long been robust, but the school is always growing and incorporating new facets into its curriculum.
“We’ve made, in the last 30 years, tremendous improvements to our program,” says department chair Ron Takahashi.
Takahashi is constantly trying to decipher where the food industry is heading and anticipating the needs of students. As a result, the school takes a holistic approach to learning not just the technical skills to excel as chefs, but also how management and serving positions function.
“Every class has particular learning outcomes,” says Takahashi. Students learn from a pool of professors with vast knowledge. “We highly value their experience over academic credentials,” says Takahashi about the faculty. “A lot of what we impart to students is lessons learned.”
It’s a dynamic learning center that emphasizes practicality and artistry as complementary, rather than opposing, forces. One of the many learning tools students have is the KCC campus restaurant, Ka ‘Ikena. Ka ‘Ikena is open for lunch and dinner, and reservations are required. Everyone working at the restaurant is a student focused on one learning objective. That could be food service, restaurant management, pastry making or any of the other regular tasks all kitchens require.
With such a robust program, it’s clear why so many of the top chefs in Waikiki and Hawaii at large hail from KCC. One of their more recent grads is chef Justin Inagaki, head chef at Hy’s Steak House in Waikiki.
While reflecting on the Culinary Arts Program, Inagaki said, “I wish I could go back to school now, the curriculum that these students are learning now is so broad and well versed.” Inagaki graduated seven years ago, and, even in that relatively short span, he’s noticed the ever-improving skill sets graduates retain.
As the head chef at one of the leading steak houses in Waikiki, Inagaki certainly doesn’t need to head back to school anytime soon, but it’s refreshing to hear his admiration for his alma mater.
“I would never be able to be where I am now without having such a great support network at KCC,” Inagaki continued. “It truly changed my perspective and made me motivated to be a chef.”
The newest motivational tool from KCC’s Culinary Arts Program is Le¯‘ahi Concept Kitchen, located in the Parc Hotel in Waikiki. It was serendipitous that the restaurant came to be. NOBU had previously occupied the space, but found a new spot when the Parc was slated to begin a renovation. The renovation hit a snag, causing a delay until next year, leaving an empty restaurant space perfect for a fresh approach to fine dining. The hotel worked with KCC to open a “pop up” restaurant until renovations could begin, and Le¯‘ahi Concept Kitchen was born.
Le¯‘ahi is a breath of fresh air in the heart of Waikiki. The prices are reasonable and surprisingly, especially in Waikiki, diners are asked not to provide gratuity. Staff members are instead paid a living wage. There is a separate 15 percent service fee on all bills, but this is a requirement imposed by the university system, and helps to keep the program running and costs low.
The menu has a mixture of small and large plates that can be eaten individually or shared. Head chef and KCC alum Eddie Mafnas brings flavors from his native Guam with items like Chamorro shrimp fritters.
Mafnas graduated from the culinary school 10 years ago and, like many of his fellow alumni, has kept incredibly busy in the local food industry ever since. He has helped open 21 restaurants in Waikiki, does private catering, owns Aloha Poke Shop, and still manages to find time to volunteer in his community by cooking for the homeless and judging keiki chef competitions. He brings that energy and passion into his creations at Le¯‘ahi.
All of the positions at the restaurant are paid, but are mostly staffed by current KCC students who want to get more hands-on experience.
“This is a step that has always been missing,” says Takahashi. He’s excited by the opportunity to let students learn completely outside the classroom.
Now open for dinner seven nights a week, with live music six of those nights, Le¯‘ahi Concept Kitchen provides a wonderful dining experience that anyone can feel good about. Diners can take advantage of four hours of free validated parking, and a low corkage fee at this BYOB establishment.
The restaurant will only be open until the Parc Hotel begins renovations in 2018, so go now while it’s open. It will also offer special menus from visiting chefs and occasional cooking lessons in the meantime.
Moving forward, Takahashi is looking for more opportunities for his students. The school is working to establish the Culinary Institute of the Pacific, and staying abreast of what’s next in the food industry.
“We try to train our people for the future,” says Takahashi. So far, they’ve done just that.
ED KENNEY IS A BUSY MAN. The successful restaurateur owns four popular restaurants, sits on several community boards and is to host the PBS culinary travel show, “Family Ingredients.” The chef has had many accolades, including being named as a finalist several times for Best Chef: West by the James Beard Foundation. Kenney’s first three restaurants, Town, Kaimuki Superette and Mud Hen Water, are all within a few blocks of each other in this vibrant community Kaimuki, and are known for fresh farm-to-table ingredients and traditional Hawaiian flavors. In April of 2016, Kenney made the leap to Waikiki when he opened Mahina & Sun’s in the Surfjack hotel. All of these restaurants go by Kenney’s mantra, “Local first, organic whenever possible, with aloha always.”
What caused you to make the leap to Waikiki from your base of restaurants in Kaimuki?
When doing some research for the Surfjack’s restaurant concept, the original owners found the style and taste of cuisine they were looking for when they dined at Town. Our Kaimuki restaurants’ ongoing mission to create community gathering places that reconnect people to the food they eat and those they eat with was aligned with their vision. Spending a lot of time in Waikiki during my childhood, it brought back a sense of nostalgia when we were asked to partner with the Surfjack. My parents were performers at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Halekulani back before the properties became sprawling resorts, so I spent a lot of time in town watching them perform. With Mahina & Sun’s concept, we’re treating both visitors and locals to an authentic taste of Hawaii with what is offered on the seasonal menu.
What sets Mahina & Sun’s apart from your other restaurants?
Mahina & Sun’s menu has been created from the same set of values as my other restaurants, utilizing local, organic produce and sustainable seafood. We wanted to turn the restaurant into a community gathering place in Waikiki, where visitors and locals feel comfortable and “come as you are” for spontaneous cocktails, a special occasion or even just a great cup of coffee.
The theme of our menu is elevated home-cooking with an emphasis on sustainable seafood. The dishes are new and stylish, like the Surfjack, but are influenced from childhood upbringings – growing up on Oahu and my mom’s cooking – from the Portuguese Bean Soup to the spicy ahipalaha (tuna) found in the Mahina’s Bowl, most of these recipes were from my childhood.
You’re known for partnering with Hawaii farms like MA‘O Organic
Farm to showcase local ingredients. Tell me a little about why that
is so important to you individually and to the dishes you serve.
Most restaurants are proud to note locally sourced products on a menu, but, for me, it’s more important to have the physical relationships with the farms and farmers. The farmers we collaborate with, like MA‘O, are now ohana. By purchasing and consuming locally sourced product, we are committed to our community, to our farmers and to our aina. In sourcing and eating local, we look at how we are able to give back to the planet that ultimately provides us with the food we eat.
You’ve been able to cook for former First Lady Michelle Obama.
What was that experience like?
It was an honor! And, actually, it was one of my dreams to cook for her. When she planted a garden at the White House, she sent a message about nutrition and connecting oneself to the land. We both have strong beliefs regarding food education and policy. Mrs. Obama visited us at MA‘O and we provided her with a firsthand look of the farm of which we source most of our ingredients. MA‘O not only gives back to the community, but also educates our state’s youth by providing them with an opportunity to attend college while learning about the land. The Obamas also dined with us at Mahina & Sun’s over the 2016 holiday upon the former President’s approval to expand Papahanaumokuakea, making it the largest protected place in the world. This impacts the fishing industry and forces us to help protect our supply of sustainable seafood. We’re very grateful to have had them experience our menu offerings.
Many of the people who read Waikiki Menus come from out of town. Do you have any recommendations on bringing Island inspired flavors into dishes back home?
On the menu, guests will not only be able to eat local products but most important, get to try indigenous plates based from Hawaiian canoe crops such as paiai (undiluted taro) and ulu (breadfruit). Most of our menu items are listed as their traditional Hawaiian names, such as akule (big eye scad), hee (octopus) and au ku (swordfish). These offerings are not normally found in Waikiki’s popular restaurants nor are they listed in Hawaiian. It may be some vacationer’s first experience hearing the Hawaiian name as well as tasting the Hawaiian dish!
I was very nearly an Independence Baby, set to make my debut on the Fourth of July. My patriotic parents were proud. Instead I came a few days early, on Canada Day of all days. Still, the summer sun runs in my veins and all year I yearn for backyard barbeques and that special night punctuated by bursts of fireworks in the sky. Luckily for me, now I live in Hawaii, where summer never quite leaves, and there are weekly fireworks in Waikiki.
Summer in Hawaii is a beautiful time of year for everyone, when the plumeria bloom and the beach beckons. While you enjoy your stay in our beautiful Islands, take some time to explore the special meals Waikiki chefs have to offer.
Ripe fruit is a hallmark of good summer food, from strawberries to watermelon, and beyond. Here in Waikiki’s perennial summer, papaya is always abundant and makes the perfect side, or it can be cut lengthwise to make a boat that other tasty edibles can be piled onto. Cinnamon’s at the ‘Ilikai does just that. The chef there uses half of a papaya and stuffs it with savory curry chicken. It’s all on a bed of fresh tossed greens and served with toasted Portuguese sweet bread.
Cinnamon’s is open for three meals a day, and it’s famous for fluffy pancakes in exotic flavors like guava chiffon. Breakfast is served all day, but lunch and dinner entr´ees are only available during specified hours. Your best bet is to come later in the day to try all of the tastes Cinnamon’s has to offer.
Fresco Italian Restaurant at the Hilton Hawaiian Village brings Old World flavors to the Pacific with a Hawaiian twist. Where else would a menu have bruschetta and poke on the appetizer menu? One of the restaurant’s best appetizer concoctions is a definite blend of Island and Italian flavors with the gamberri pancetta. Picture this: jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon and pan-fried, accompanied by smoked cheddar cheese and slaw, all doused in aged balsamic. While most appetizers are meant to be shared around the table, in the interest of preserving friendships, it might be best for all diners to get their own.
Seasonal specials are great any time of year, using what’s freshly available to complement the climate. Hatsuhana, located in the Rainbow Bazaar at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, has one of the best summer lunch specials around. The special brings together a simple side salad, a bowl of ramen soup and premium- grade sashimi on rice. It’s a little bit of everything you could want from a Japanese restaurant in paradise.
Hatsuhana isn’t just a lunch spot. It serves food all day long. Try a traditional Japanese breakfast, or come back for dinner and feast on sushi and tempura.
When I was a kid, summer always seemed to be the time of year when pizza was abundant. There were birthday parties and swim socials that all catered extra-large pizza pies that my peers and I ate before they were sufficiently cool. I couldn’t get enough.
Thankfully, Round Table Pizza has always been a steady favorite with perfectly chewy crust, flavorful sauce and premium toppings. Round out the meal with a healthy salad and tasty garlic parmesan twists. If one of the specialty pizzas isn’t exactly your fancy, choose from a variety of sauces and toppings for your own unique pie. Those staying in Waikiki can also enjoy free delivery.
RumFire at the Sheraton Waikiki is a hotspot year-round. It’s known for nightly live music followed by a DJ and dancing right by the famous swells of Waikiki beach. Visitors less inclined to nightlife can spend a relaxing afternoon there on the lanai with a spiked tea. But for something that truly screams of summer, try its modern take on a campfire classic with the “s’mores” coconut macaroon.
The s’mores start off with a grahamcracker crumble with in erspersed flakes of coconut. That’s topped with a rich, bittersweet chocolate and finished with a lacquered marshmallow. It’s hard to improve on a summer favorite that is loved in part for its sheer simplicity, but the s’mores coconut macaroon is certainly better than any dessert I ever made at a campfire.
Summer salads are a must when the day’s heat rises and only a cool meal will do. In Hawaii, the best salads also come with some kind of fish, preferably poke, the Hawaiian cubed raw fish. P.F. Chang’s fresh Hawaiian ahi poke salad is everything you could ask for in a summer salad. It uses fresh ahi tuna diced and spread over organic field greens, cabbage slaw, radish kaiware sprouts and green onions. The whole thing is drizzled with signature poke sauce and wonton strips, then dressed with sesame vinaigrette. For other great summer meals, try the Waikiki roll or shaka roll sushi.
Nothing is as hot as the fiery spices that accompany some of the Chinese fare at Wok-kiki. For those who prefer mild food, don’t worry, the restaurant has plenty of that, too. In fact, as a Chinese buffet just steps from the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Wok-kiki has a wide array of choices.
Open for all meals, Wok-kiki starts the day with an American-style breakfast with bacon and eggs among other favorites. At lunch, it starts the switch to Chinese cuisine with roast pork, kung pao chicken, char siu and more. Dinner diners are treated to seafood such as mussels and salt and pepper shrimp. All meals come with a drink, and there’s a full bar with alcoholic beverages for purchase.
Driving through Gunstock Ranch on Oahu’s North Shore requires four-wheel drive and steady hand. It’s clear that traversing the hilly terrain is actually easier on horseback, something the ranch is known for, than in modern car.
As we drive through the ranch, owner Greg Smith stops the pickup, slowly backs up a short slope and peers across me into the brush. He’s looking straight at a massive cow with long horns. A look of mild disconcertion crosses his face.
“This cow had a little calf with her the other day,” he says. “Now I don’t see it.”
The ranch has around 130 cows, and Smith knows every one of them. I can tell that, after he drops me off at my car, he’ll probably come back to investigate, or at least keep an eye out for the calf over the coming days.
Smith is a fourth-generation rancher, born in Kailua, on Oahu’s windward side. His late father, Max Smith, was a veterinarian in Arizona who saw a job opening in Hawaii and thought it might be fun to move to the Islands for a year. Instead, he stayed for the rest of his life, eventually becoming the Hawaii state veterinarian for 30 years. He opened Gunstock Ranch in 1973, and it’s been family run ever since.
Max Smith left a line of Western ranchers on the Mainland, but he joined an island chain with a rich history of ranching that largely predates that of the Wild West.
It started in 1793, when Capt. George Vancouver gifted King Kamehameha the Great with a few cattle on the Island of Hawaii, or the Big Island, as it’s known locally. At that point, Hawaii had no large land mammals. The following year, Vancouver returned with more cattle, enough to grow a herd.
Kamehameha the Great made killing these cows kapu, or forbidden, and the herd prospered, but at a price. They soon became a nuisance and, in 1830, Kamehameha III lifted the kapu, allowing people to hunt the cattle.
Within a few years, Kamehameha III sent a group of high chiefs to California to hire vaqueros, or Mexican horse and cattle handlers. These vaqueros helped teach people on Hawaii Island how to break horses and herd cattle.
Soon a Hawaiian breed of cowboys emerged: the paniolo.
It’s unclear exactly where the name paniolo came from, but most attribute it to a corruption or mistranslation of the word Española. Some argue that it comes from Hawaiian words meaning, “sit up straight,” (noho I pololei) for the way cowboys sit upright while riding. Either way, a quick survey of rodeos in the Islands shows that, whatever the origin, paniolo pride is strong in Hawaii.
Max Smith fit in with that tradition after his arrival on Oahu. He may have started as a cowboy, but, in 1999, he was inducted into the Paniolo Hall of Fame.
Today, Greg Smith, Max’s son, runs the ranch. Although Greg was born and raised in Hawaii, and comes from a long line of ranchers, he is somewhat reluctant to say too much about paniolo culture.
“There’s a lot more rich tradition on the Big Island,” Greg says.
That’s true. Most of the great paniolo ranches today are on the Big Island. That is where cattle were first introduced to Hawaii and it has the most acreage for ranch-land. Many restaurants around Waikiki that offer Hawaii-grown beef have selections from Hawaii Island.
But there are still some ranches on Oahu, aside from Gunstock Ranch, that herd cattle and offer tours, such as the famous Kualoa Ranch (not pictured), where multiple movies and TV shows have been filmed over the years.
Gunstock Ranch is smaller than Kualoa, both in size and operation. It’s a leased property and the land it sits on was once part of the massive infrastructure of sugar plantations that stretched across Hawaii. When sugar started to decline, it opened up tracts of land around the Islands for other things, such as ranching, though that pursuit has its drawbacks in paradise.
“Ranching is hard, because there’s not a lot of money in it,” says Greg. In fact, Greg works a regular 40-hour-a-week job at Fish and Wildlife on top of running Gunstock Ranch.
The low profit margin for ranching on Oahu is largely due to the staggering value of property. It’s hard to make money with any agricultural venture in the state, even though Hawaii’s climate and rich soil are known to produce quality fruits and vegetables, such as the famous Hawaiian pineapple or Kona coffee.
One of the things Gunstock Ranch does to turn a profit, and for the sheer pleasure of it, is offer horseback riding. The rides at Gunstock are unique on Oahu, because the typical tour group is small, with only about 12 people. There are also specialty rides, such as a guided picnic ride, after which the group can relax at the top of a cliff and enjoy both a stunning view and a good meal.
The ranch itself owns about 50 horses in addition to its 130 cattle. The ranch also boards about 50 horses, so that locals without the land or means to keep horses at home can still have their own equine friends.
Greg is glad to provide this and other services to Oahu. “That’s kind of how we feel we help preserve the paniolo lifestyle,” he says, “by letting people own horses.”
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.
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 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.
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.
“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
SOMETIMES IT CAN BE HARD NOT TO DEVOUR EVERY BITE OF AN ENTRÉE TO SAVE ROOM FOR A SWEET FINISH. BUT IF YOU CAN HOLD OFF AND KEEP A LITTLE SPACE FOR LATER, WAIKIKI’S TOP RESTAURANTS HAVE SOME OF THE BEST DESSERTS AROUND, USUALLY WITH TROPICAL FLAVORS AND ONLY THE FRESHEST INGREDIENTS.
Azure is known for its stellar oceanfront views and use of locally caught seafood. It should be no surprise that its dessert menu is also top-notch. The pineapple key lime pie is a prime example. It’s served with a pavlova, a pineapple chip and a scoop of vanilla gelato. Perfection.
Pineapple and coconut are two of the standard fruit conjured up when Hawaii comes to mind, but while pineapple chunks and even whole pineapples are commonly found in desserts around Waikiki, not much more than coconut flakes have made a similar showing. Japengo’s coconut brûlée is the exception. The delectable sweet is served in a coconut husk that adds both flavor and character.
FLOUR & BARLEY
Flour & Barley is already popular in Las Vegas and San Diego, where it serves up pizza pies and craft beers. Now the restaurant is saying aloha and bringing its tried and tested recipes to Waikiki. The cannoli at Flour & Barley is a classic Italian dessert. Pastry shells are filled with sweet ricottamascarpone and garnished with pistachios and chocolate. You’ll definitely take the cannoli after a meal here.
No meal at an Italian restaurant is complete without tiramisu. Tiramisu literally translates to “cheer me up,” and the version at Arancino certainly inspires joy. It delicately layers coffee-dipped ladyfingers with custard and is topped with powdered cocoa. This house-made tiramisu is a signature dessert for the restaurant, with good reason.