Approximately 2 years ago, one of our advertisers, chef Jana McMahon shared one of her favorite @Instagram accounts with edible Hawaiian Islands. In a casual conversation over lunch we went back and forth sharing feeds that inspired us.
That lunch we discovered the @Instagram acccount of Sporting Club of the Pacific (@SportingClubofthePacific). We fell in love with their posts and started following and engaging.
Here, two years later we are proud to be able to not only feature them on our cover but also to share their incredible story within our pages. Our relationship and friendship has grown over the past two years and you never know where or when meeting someone through social media will change the course of your business and your life.
We found a good fit for Sporting Club’s story in our first drink inspired issue. We try and match the writer with the story through personally knowing our writers and what they are passionate about. Thank you Kristin Hetternmann of Grace Delivers for sharing your writing talents.
Then we needed a photographer to tell the story through compelling photographs. We felt it would be good to turn to @Instagram again and find someone who was talented with black and white photography. We found Franck Berthout (@FRANKIEBEES) on @Instagram. And as it turns out he was also a big fan of Sporting Club of the Pacific.
So, it all came together with the right story at the right time with the perfect writer and photographer.
If on Maui or when you come to visit, we encourage you to take time from your day and visit:
Sporting Club of the Pacific 43 Hana Highway Paia, Maui HI 96779
For the stock add the tomato, 1⁄2 C. celery, 1⁄2 C. carrots, onion, 1 Tbs. parsley, turmeric, pepper, thyme, Braggs, water, and olive oil into a Vita-Mix and blend until smooth. Reserve and refrigerate.
For the “noodles,” slice the green skin off the four sides of the zucchini, dice the skin into a fine dice, and reserve for garnish.
Slice the white of the zucchini in half so you have two 3 in. long rectangles. Slice each piece lengthwise into 1⁄4 in. slices then slice again into 1⁄4 in. long “noodles.” Place the noodles into a plastic or glass container and salt. Gently toss the noodles taking care to not break them. The salt will extract the water and wilt the zucchini into a noodle texture. Pour off excess water after 10-15 minutes; reserve and refrigerate.
For the vegetable garnish, dice 1 Tbs. carrot into 1⁄4 in. x 1⁄4 in. fine dice and add to the diced zucchini skin. Dice 1 Tbs. celery into 1⁄4 in. x 1⁄4 in. fine dice; add to the zucchini-carrot mix. Mince the remaining thyme and parsley.
To complete, place 8 oz. of stock in a bowl; place 1⁄4 of the zucchini noodles in the center of the stock. Sprinkle around the noodles with the finely diced vegetables and herbs and serve.
Written by Kelly McHugh Photographed by Mieko Horikoshi Photographed on location at Andaz Wailea Resort, Ka‘ana Kitchen Bar
Keli‘i Heen has a lot to say about the drinking scene in Hawai‘i. Born and raised in Kailua, Keli‘i’s local perspective encompasses his experience as a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, pupil of Kapiolani Community College, where he majored in the Culinary Arts program, Trustee of the Hawaii Food Basket, and member of the Hawaii Restaurant Association. As Vice President of Youngs Market Company, an age-old outfit that proudly aspires to be the best and most respected wholesale alcohol distributor in the country, he already has 20-plus years of experience working the gamut in the world of food and beverage. From private chef gigs for the likes of Pearl Jam, (“they were vacationing in Kahala and I thought it was going to be all rock stars, but really it was a bunch of grandparents”), to selling wine for onetime mentor Mapuana Schneider of Fine Wine Imports Inc., (“I got scoldings if I didn’t taste what I was about to present! She set the trajectory and I was hooked”), he has come to believe that what sets Hawai‘i apart from the rest are these keys ingredients: community, relatability and humility.
“Cocktail culture can go astray really quickly,” he explains to me in between hugs, handshakes and nods to everyone in the restaurant where we meet, from the busser to the bartender to the patrons here for pau hana, “I don’t think every mixologist needs to dress in prohibition era clothing,” (shoulders shrugged, hands raised, calibrating my level of agreement), “Yeah, it’s really not necessary to make a good cocktail. If you’re good at it you’re good at it, and if you’re getting into the business of making cocktails, the first thing you’re going to want to learn is how to make a good cocktail. On a daily basis I see this failed. It’s shocking how little people know about what they do for a living and how little they are willing to give to their chosen career. When you can make a good Negroni or Sazerac or you can pour a good pint, you’re going to bring up the level of barmanship.”
Keli‘i’s culinary community is his business; and his business is comprised of friends. “The group here in Hawai‘i is special; we’re big enough so that there is enough press, but small enough where we don’t do it for business, we do it for community. I do business with all of my friends, and my friends are my business. We sit around and talk about restaurants, where the food movement is going, how we can help out and what events we should be involved in. I respect what they do and am proud to be a part of their industry. I don’t see this flavor elsewhere; there is a low level of competitive nature amongst the people of this island, and that’s one thing that sets us apart on the world stage.”
It’s no secret that the food & beverage industry is highly competitive. Elsewhere in the U.S. you might notice that without the star chef, cutting-edge cuisine or detailed analysis of your geographic and tourism demographics, your competitors will adopt your market. “If you take a look at the resurgence of the cocktail culture in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and New Orleans, you’re working in an incredibly competitive environment where everyone is trying to outdo one another in approach, but they’re forgetting who their customer is,” says Heen, “There’s this very, ‘trust me, I’m the mixologist’ feeling when you step into a place like PDT (East Village, New York City) and have to say a secret password in a phone booth to get in. It’s pretentious. We can hold our own without all of that. Look at Justin Park who just won best mixologist in the country. He works at a bar in Chinatown. We’ve arrived.”
Keli‘i lends much of this acceptant approach to the common goal of sharing the real Hawai‘i with customers; to taking the Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine movement crafted by the generation before to a place where simply eating from local farms is eating Hawaiian. It’s his contention that our travelers and customers are not only more worldly than we give them credit for (step away from the mai tai), but theyalso care more now about what they’re putting into their bodies in an ever-growing “food politics” based culture, focused here on GMO’s, the state of food imports and the formidable support of eating local. “People are paying more attention to the farms where their food is coming from, the ingredients, the labels, etc. And if you can relate on that level with your customer, you’re building community while building your business. A good cocktail menu gets bodies in the door, gets them to stay longer, gets them to spend more money and improves the overall customer experience. Add in key players like Alicia Yamachika ( Livestock Tavern in Honolulu), Jason Vendrell (Monkeypod, Maui) and Dave Horsman (Merriman’s, Maui), Dave Power (the Feral Pig, Kaua’i), Kahili Ezzo (Umekes, Hawaii Island) and Summer Brooks (Hapuna Prince, Hawaii Island) with cocktail lists that offer a story and an identity to their establishment while they act as frontrunners— interacting with guests and making them feel good — and you’ve got a win-win situation for your customer, your community and your business.”
According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, figures reflect a shift to spirits — good news for Hawai‘i barmen. The market for superpremium spirits has grown 92 percent over the past five years, sales of superpremiumvodka were up 16 percent and sales of whiskey are up 30 percent. “We see this shift loud and clear,” says Keli‘i, “you used to watch a man sit at the bar and order a Jack & Coke and a woman reach for the cocktail menu to order a rum or vodka drink. Now the trend is moving towards more complex whiskey-based cocktails from the menus for everyone sitting at the bar; small batch (interesting stuff) and craft spirits with a story and a name. The whiskey market is through the roof right now. They can’t make whiskey fast enough – they wish they could!” As for what he prefers in the cocktail capacity, “I drink palomas, and everyone that comes over to my house drinks palomas.” Spanish for “dove,” the tequila-based cocktail is most commonly mixed with a grapefruit-flavored soda such as Fresca, Squirt, or Jarritos and served on the rocks with a lime wedge. When asked whether or not tequila is in vogue, Keli‘i responds excitedly, “Oh absolutely. We’re even seeing tourist friendly establishments demand more tequila and more whiskey – indicating a trend away from rum and vodka.”
As for other trends, his list includes:
Dry Rose- we are finally catching on to what the French have known forever, real men (and women) drink Rose.
Shrubs made from some of the amazing local produce we have here (a great non-alcoholic option). Example would be a Lilikoi shrub with Thai basil, ginger, agave syrup or honey syrup and a drop of salt solution (* Salt solutionlike in baking, most cocktails have a fuller palate with just a touch of salt to add depth).
Whiskey- its taken over the mixology world as the spirit of choice for bartenders both on and off the clock. The beauty is that you don’t have to be in a trendy cocktail bar to enjoy good whisky, a beer and shot of good whiskey will always treat you right.
Local breweries- we went from a state with two major local breweries to now having what seems like a dozen in the last 3 or 4 years (might want to fact check that). The selection of quality beer in Hawaii has never been better.
Hilariously, he complements this with a list of things that “should stop being trends,”:
IPA over kill- way too many IPA on beer lists when there are so many amazing styles of beer to choose from.
Bartenders that dress in prohibition era attire- some of my friends will probably take offense to this but I think it just looks a bit silly. It’s the equivalent of cooks wearing puffy chili pepper laden chef pants. I’ll leave the handle bar mustaches alone for now…
Kale salad, truffle fries, brussel sprouts and bacon wrapped everything (but I do love bacon). P.S. Japanese bacon wrapped foods get a pass because they are awesome!
And so it would seem that, despite the geographic isolation of Hawai‘i in relation to the cocktail cultural renaissance that is taking the scene by storm, that we’re not only on pulse with the trend but infusing it with our own essence of Aloha. “We’re doing what every other major metro cocktail city is doing; we’re not one step behind. What we are contributing is a base of ingredients that are unique to our environment and an a perspective that’s not necessarily about the me, but the collective,” Keli‘i illustrates, “I think our guys in Hawai‘i tend to be very humble and heartfelt and I think that’s just a part of our culture. By no means does that discountwhat others are doing, our version is just more palatable and less pompous,” he says with a wink and a smile.
And as we part ways from the restaurant where his buddy (the head chef) has just sent out more pu–pu– and cocktails than I can conceivably manage (but will dream of for days after), I leave feeling like I’ve just been invited to the party. Keli‘i stays behind as his lovely wife and sweet mother arrive, the waiter gives each a kiss or high five, the busser offers a nod and at least three other people are getting up from their seats to come say aloha. It’s a good moment, and I still have the cocktail buzz to prove it.
It’s 4:45p.m. on Tuesday, and the night is about to start at Mud Hen Water. Staff members crowd around a laminate turquoise table like a large family – laughing, listening, planning. A smoky coal aroma tickles the nose, and music bounces off concrete walls. Light bursts in as a giant garage-door wall is raised, opening the building to Honolulu air. Next door are big brother and big sister restaurants Town and Kaimuki Superette. All three are part of Ed Kenney’s culinary family, and together they champion a vision for local food that Kenney – simultaneously chef, restaurateur and local food leader – let loose over a decade ago.
Outside, Wai‘alae Avenue (wai‘alae, literally “the waters frequented by the mudhen,” and thus the restaurant’s name) hums the tune of rush hour. Five o’clock is here. Suddenly the turquoise table is cleared. The bar fills, families are seated, and the Mud Hen turns to greet its guests.
Mud Hen Water’s menu is thoughtful and complex. If not on their single-page, ever-rotating menu, then in the words of those preparing and serving it. General Manager Jordon Joern describes the preparation of their I‘a Lawalu with the detail of someone recalling the best wave they ever rode: local a‘u ku– is wrapped in a banana leaf, nestled next to veggies (local) and a green banana tamale (inspired by Puerto Rican cooking introduced during plantation days), then soaked in house-made coconut cream (they use the whole coconut in their kitchen, husk and all) and finally buried in coals of kiawe (a good use of an invasive plant) to slow cook on the hearth in traditional lawalu style. “These are all the flavors Ed remembers as a kid,” said Joern.
“These ideas have been running through his head for the past 15 years, and he’s finally been able to bring them to life with Dave – they’re brilliant together.” (David Caldiero is Kenney’s collaborating chef.) “It was a risky move, but they did it, and now all these local Hawaiians have said, ‘Yeah, this reminds me of my grandma’s kitchen, this is so familiar to me.’”
Each dish, mostly tapas-sized, builds on old Hawaiian ways of cooking and familiar island flavors, and then re-imagines them in a local, sustainable, radically minimal-waste kitchen. Veggies come straight from local farms that Kenney helped keep alive a decade ago, before “farm-to-table” was hyphenated. Fish on the menu are paired with a code that diners can scan with their smartphone, leading them to where their dish came from – and even who the fisherman was. Hummus is made from koena, the starchy part of the kalo (taro root) that is usually thrown away when making poi. And even the bar works to repurpose kitchen leftovers.
“The Kitchen Cocktail started with me thinking how we could use potential waste in a productive way,” said Kelly Jeffers, Bar Manager. “I use extras from the farm to create a new cocktail daily or weekly to pair with specials on the menu. A lot of people come in and ask for that as soon as they sit down – they love tasting what’s new.” Jeffers is also very proud of what’s behind the bar. “The team was really willing to go out on a limb with me in buying local and environmentally- conscious spirits and liquors. I love having these to work with. High quality ingredients aren’t quick or cheap, but using them comes down to passion. And as a team we’re definitely passionate, willing to put in the time, and see that vision to fruition. ”
The thoughtful vision of Mud Hen Water’s dining and bar menu is impressive, yet one gets the feeling that neighbors would still flock, even if food wasn’t being served. A sense of place, warmth and ideas is nearly palpable between the cinder block bar, reclaimed floor and smoking coals on the hearth.
Regulars here, as well as the farmers, and the entire Kenney staff, are referred to as “Townies” – and treated like family. “Every night at our family meeting we discuss the Townies coming in and how we’re going to make their night great,” said Joern. The familial spirit goes both ways. “People come in and give really good feedback, and Ed is really receptive to that. He’s happy to take feedback, experiment with it, and improve the menu.”
One thing is clear. “This isn’t just a job to us,” said Joern, with enunciated emphasis. “This a choice of a lifestyle, and our collaboration just happens naturally – if you care about something, you’re going make sure it flourishes.” Jeffers readily agreed. “Everybody – host to sous chef – shares that same passion. Ed and Dave exude this love for what they do, and it’s just contagious.”
On the southeast, open-air side of the restaurant, a massive mural presides over repurposed picnic tables. Painted by Swedish artist Case following the Charlie Hebdo tradegy, three brightly-colored hands interweave into a peace sign – a representation of how a community supports freedoms, freedoms support values, and values support community. Below the hands, Mud Hen staff whisk by with hot plates. A laugh is shared with their Townies. And Kenney’s vision is realized, in big ways and small, one night at a time.
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edible Hawaiian Islands P.O. Box 849 Wailuku, HI 96793