Story by Sara Smith
Photos by Mieko Hoffman
No sign, no registration barricade—just an open room centering around a large, welcoming island. Bar stools entice: sit, stay awhile. It is what’s on the countertop that intrigues one to do so, neat rows of apothecary jars full of colors and textures. What is this stuff? Where am I?
Hyatt’s boutique Andaz brand opened its twelfth location worldwide on Maui last September.
The contemporary 297-room resort was built from the ground up on 15 oceanfront acres in the luxury Wailea Resort. Conscientious of guest experience, environmental accountability, and innovation, volumes of consideration went into planning and constructing the LEED-certified resort, the first of its kind in Hawai‘i.
As a brand, Andaz acts as a sponge soaking up the cultures, textures, tastes and personality of its surroundings. They turn to their staff, whom they view and empower as hired professionals, to interpret these traits and accentuate their core values. For the signature ‘Awili spa on Maui, this meant transforming a loose “apothecary lounge” concept into a full-blown spa kitchen. And the menu changes daily.
“It started with oil infusions and catapulted from there,” begins Katie Foster. She and Teresa Blackwell were hired months before opening to develop the concept at ‘Awili, which is a Hawaiian word meaning ‘to mix, blend, entwine.’ The two form the spa’s apothecary consultant team and are directly responsible for the contents of all those enticing jars on the counter.
Taking a tip from the resort chefs, the spa team immediately got out to meet their local farmers. Fresh-picked herbs were harvested in Kula and sent through the spa’s trusty dehydrator. When pulverized with mortar and pestle, these dried herbs released scents so vibrant, the women were compelled to experiment with a wider range of ingredients—all culinary grade, all locally sourced from the islands.
“It’s a little science, a little culinary, a little spa, a lot of fun,” summarizes Teresa. On one visit the team was giddy over a new collection of tinctures they’d created using tea concentrates suspended in local honey (a humectant and natural stabilizer, they tell me.) While traditional tinctures have an alcohol base, these are moisturizing—not to mention delicious.
Their excitement is infectious. Spa director Jackie Yulo, who has opened six spas for the company, is astounded with the growth and development at ‘Awili. She says the concept is being adopted by two new Andaz properties in Costa Rica and Tokyo.
Yulo keeps providing more room for the women to experiment. Although plumeria proved confounding, the team is eager to begin working with different limu (seaweed) once a trusted source can be found.
A collaboration with the resort’s kitchen catapulted their vision for a food-based apothecary. From the Bar Lab, a room hidden deep in the kitchen where all cocktail mixes, juices and syrups are hand concocted, the women picked up fresh cucumber juice and more fodder for their dehydrator: citrus peels, jalapeño lees and fresh ginger fibers. The pungency of the spa team’s house-made ground ginger powder inspired the chef, now the kitchen is drying and grinding many of their own herbs and spices. They’re all vying for time in the commercial-grade, large capacity food dehydrator.
The culinary team reciprocates trade secrets, introducing them, for instance, to xanthan gum. With this plant-derived emulsifier and thickener the spa can spontaneously whip up amazing treatment gels, which they now offer.
During my interview, a pool attendant came to Katie for help, concerned for a guest with a severe sunburn. I watched as a beautiful relief gel was whisked together of fresh cucumber juice, peppermint oil, chamomile, glycerin and a touch of xanthan gum. The custom blend was provided gratis to the guest, a level of service indicative of Andaz.
Spa treatments as nourishment, healing, relaxation and rejuvenation are rituals perfected over the ages. What ‘Awili does so well is draw upon the purity and simplicity of ancient wisdom. Vitamin C provides a natural sunscreen boost, so powdered citrus peels make for a smart addition to body treatments here in Hawai‘i. If a client comes in jet-lagged or hungover, a touch of jalapeño or cayenne powder may be recommended for the capsaicin, which is vaso-constricting and stimulates the lymphatic system. And the moisturizing properties of fresh, locally grown foods like kukui and macadamia nuts, coconut and avocado will beat any manufactured lotion, they’d bet. Katie nails it: “The treatments are actually feeding your skin.”
By sourcing the healing properties of whole foods, they’re able to nourish skin naturally without any pesky preservatives, parabens or other chemical additives. And, as drastic allergies become more prevalent, a program like this offers welcome transparency to the product used and the purity of its ingredients.
Not to mention, they can customize beyond expectation.
Back to all those glass jars on the counter. They are, as I discovered, a veritable mise en place for ‘Awili’s signature omakase spa experience, a Japanese concept meaning “faith in you.” The personalized experience begins with a consultation to discuss desired results, allergy concerns or specific ailments, a client’s intuition helps guide what their body needs and wants most. Teresa describes it as a time to touch and play. Out come tools like cutting boards, whisks, scoopers and more. Working together, custom treatment blends are created at the table—whole foods, purees, powders, oils and more adjusted until deemed perfect. It’s a long-proven fact that every party ends up in the kitchen, which could account for a large part of the fun at ‘Awili.
The type of massage dictates the viscosity of the blend they’ll make: a loose and slippery blend works best with the sweeping strokes of a lomilomi massage, while something that provides a little more grip is in order for deep-tissue work. Scrub textures can be soft (coconut flakes), medium (turbinado sugar), or coarse (sea salt). Scents and flavors (it’s all edible!) are chosen for desired effect or simply personal preference. Careful notes are taken for each client and for each recipe, so guests can request a repeat of a favorite treatment.
My omakase resulted in a scrub of both kosher and sea salt—used together for different textures—sage, basil and lavender powders, avocado oil and fresh avocado used as a binding agent. A dropper of essential oil was added, a blend of bergamot, basil, lemon, grapefruit and lavender. A special spot treatment was made for a small patch of eczema on my hand, a blend with calendula, chamomile mixed with one of the honey tinctures. I was sent home with extra to reapply later.
My massage blend consisted of ingredients I mostly had in my own kitchen: coconut milk, coconut oil and kukui and macadamia nut oils. To my delight, Teresa grabbed a nubby pink awapuhi flower (Hawaiian shampoo ginger) from the vase and squeezed its fresh, fragrant nectar into the blend. Instant bliss.
While each guest’s treatment may be deliciously different and each formulation unique, it’s clear that after experiencing the ‘Awili Spa, there is only one possible conclusion: Heaven.
Story by Jon Letman
Next to life itself, food is the greatest gift. To share food is to extend another’s life, to celebrate bounty and to perpetuate culture. One could argue that the Japanese, as much as anyone, exhibit their culture and values though food. The presentation of a dish—its color, form, flavor, texture, geometric shape, temperature and the number of and order in which it is served—imparts Japanese core values: simplicity, harmony and balance.
Never is this more true than for Japanese New Year’s cuisine: osechi ryori (literally ‘honorable season’). Abbreviated here as “osechi,” this highly structured and meticulously prepared culinary heritage, rich in symbolism, is the ultimate expression of Japanese culinary arts.
Making osechi is no simple task. Typically made by the women of the house, osechi can easily surpass two dozen elaborate dishes that must be prepared in addition to the tasks of cleaning house, year-end gift giving, writing and sending many dozens (even hundreds) of New Years greeting cards and buying year-end provisions like sake, flowers and kadomatsu decorations.
Beginning New Year’s Day, osechi is served to family, friends and guests and meant to be the sole source of food during the three-day Oshougatsu (Japanese New Year) period. Because Japanese winters are cold and even today many homes are only heated on a room-by-room basis, it’s easy to find a part of the house cold enough to keep the prepared dishes chilled without ‘over-chilling’ them in a refrigerator.
Living off osechi during Oshougatsu relieves the family’s chief meal preparer of cooking duties for three days, but today many Japanese families enjoy a scaled back version of osechi and, by the second day, may be eating take-out Chinese, sushi or even fast food.
Osechi’s roots go back at least 1,200 years and possibly much further. As the first food eaten in the new year, osechi symbolizes life’s greatest aspirations: health, fertility, prosperity, success and diligence. Three of the most commonly used ingredients—kazunoko (brined herring roe), kuromame (black beans) and tazukuri (baby sardines),—symbolize many children, health and success, respectively.
Other ingredients, whether eel, crab and red snapper rolled as sushi, lily root folded in the shape of a white plum blossom, konbu seaweed ‘ribbons’ or pink and white kamaboko (fish cake) cut to resemble flower petals, all have auspicious associations.
Typically osechi is served in three-tiered decorative boxes called jubako. These lacqueraware boxes are usually black, gold or vermilion and emblazoned with images of bamboo, pine branches or plum blossoms.
For many people today, making osechi is just too much work. In Hawai‘i, instead of spending days preparing several dozen dishes, it’s far more common to begin New Year’s day with ozoni soup, mochi, a sip of sake and simpler preparations of nishime stew and giant prawns.
Like osechi, these dishes require ingredients that may be available only in December. To meet year-end demand, local Hawai‘i farmers and produce wholesalers plan months in advance to grow, ship and distribute vegetables like mizuna, a Japanese mustard green (Brassica juncea var. japonica), gobo (burdock root) and araimo—locally called dasheen—a miniature form of taro.
Earl Kashiwagi, general manager for Esaki’s Produce on Kaua‘i sources mizuna and gobou from multiple islands because “you never know which island is going to have a weather problem.” He has to commit to buy the vegetables in June to ensure delivery in time for the five or six-day sale window at the end of the year.
And even though Esaki’s is a wholesale distributor, every year Kashiwagi sees individual customers come to him directly, desperate for an ingredient their local grocer doesn’t have.
“They walk in, even on New Years Eve and say, ‘Uncle, you got any mizuna inside your ice box?”
December also sees higher demand for daikon radishes, renkon (lotus root) and carrots. Kashiwagi can still get these vegetables locally, but says others are growing scarce with each passing year.
“It’s becoming a challenge every year to get all of these things because there are not too many Japanese farmers left who follow the traditions,” Kashiwagi says.
One Honolulu-based chef who still prepares osechi annually is Shuji Abe, owner of Takumi Catering & Planning on Kapiolani Boulevard. He begins planning his coming New Year’s menu 12 months out.
In addition to fish and seafood associated with celebrations (red snapper, spiny lobster, herring and salmon roe), osechi relies heavily on root vegetables. Unlike the locally grown daikon, renkon and gobou, Abe must import kuwai (arrowhead root) and kintoki ninjin, a sweet red carrot. As much as 60 percent of the ingredients he needs aren’t available in Hawai‘i.
As families become more diffuse and long-held traditions fall victim to changing habits, the old custom of multi-generations dedicating two or more full days to making osechi has declined. For Abe too, societal changes have led him to produce simpler menus. In the last decade, however, he has observed a renewed interest in the more elaborately prepared osechi dishes.
Abe, who has lived in Hawai‘i since 1981, says the basic techniques employed in osechi— the cutting, boiling, peeling, sculpting— are used in other dishes throughout the year. Thus, he contends, a Japanese chef is preparing for osechi all year long, whether they actually make it or not.
With dishes as time-consuming as they are, Abe doesn’t make osechi for the masses. Working alone, he plans his menu one year in advance and by the end of December is singularly focused on the year’s culminating preparation with some of the more complex dishes requiring over a week to fully complete.
When his work is finished, Abe wraps the three-tiered jubako in a furoshiki (ornamental kerchief) and delivers it to his most prized clients with whom he has a special relationship. In most years, he’ll prepare osechi for not more than four or five parties meaning all this work is for the pleasure of no more than 20 people.
To successfully plan and execute a three-day meal in which each dish is ready for presentation and delivery within a few hours of all the others on the final day of the year requires remarkable commitment and coordination.
Ultimately, Abe says his months of planning and days of cooking for the pleasure of just a few are his way of keeping Japanese culture alive, even far from home. Abe says he does it for himself too, and to share his love of Japanese food in a way that expresses his heartfelt thanks and appreciation.
Story by Sara I. Smith
How does an after school program host Thanksgiving for 800 guests? With a whole lot of heart.
As this magazine goes to print, the juniors and seniors in Honoka‘a High School’s Student Leadership Training Program are hard at work planning their 8th annual Thanksgiving Dinner, a festive and completely free meal offered to anyone in the community of need. Whether it’s a need of food, friendship or that warm feeling resulting from a community coming together, no one is turned away. After all, it is Thanksgiving and the students are determined to provide their neighbors an evening to feel grateful for.
The sweetness of the scene, the care with which the cafeteria is trimmed and the bright young smiles in the buffet line, somewhat belie the fact that this dinner really does make a difference to many in the town. Since Honoka‘a’s sugar plantation closed in 1994, making ends meet is still hard for many. Over 70 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-cost lunch, a definite indicator of financial hardship, and the bedroom community’s rising number of senior citizens are increasingly affected by the area’s economic stalemate.
No one is more aware of this than Angella Brandt, lifelong Honoka‘a resident and faculty coordinator for the high school leadership program. When presented with the opportunity to take the event over from the local chapter of the Salvation Army back in 2004, she jumped on it. Under her care it has grown nearly five-fold.
In talking about the dinner and the leadership program she runs at the school, she refers to a quote by Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Brandt says earnestly, “I want to make that real for the kids.”
At its essence, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to share the spirit of gratitude through generosity and compassion. The young leaders at Honoka‘a High achieve this in spades. Last year the community dinner tipped the scales at 806 guests. They even deliver to the home-bound with volunteer help from local police and Lion’s Club members—an additional 106 meals.What an amazing feat considering their entire budget is $2,500 (about $2.75 per person.).
The student group toils over details for the dinner, from reservations and logistics, to budgeting, cooking and decorating. For the kids who assist with the meal drop-offs, often to neighborhoods they’d not normally frequent, the experience is especially eye-opening. “It makes them realize just how needy some are,” says Brandt.
The reward for their work is getting to greet and serve the guests that night. They become sitting ducks, albeit willingly, for spontaneous hugs from many a Tutu overcome with gratitude.
Honoka‘a alumna Jana Carpio recalls people coming to the dinner looking relaxed and happy. “You feel really warm knowing you did a good thing,” she says. Now a UH-Manoa student, Carpio helped plan three events in her time at the high school.
It takes nothing less than the broad shoulders of a willing community to pull this dinner off and Brandt is quick to give thanks for the support the project has attracted. Major financial backing comes from Hamakua Energy Partners and a generous repeat donor who prefers to remain anonymous. Different classes, even down to the elementary school level, take on fundraising projects for the dinner throughout the year. Additionally, much support comes in the form of small donations handed over by fellow faculty, friends and neighbors.
“Without the community we wouldn’t be able to have the dinner,” Carpio states adamantly.
The turkeys are sold at a deep discount from Malama Market, a subsidiary of Foodland. Waimea town’s Paniolo Country Inn provides gravy and stuffing; the staff at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel come in early to roast all 25 turkeys, and Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center pays for the pies. When yields allow, neighbor farms donate produce fresh from their fields, salad greens or ‘uala (sweet potato). Always a hit is Jim Cain’s King Lau Lau poi, which he donates every year.
If there’s a little money left over in the budget they splurge on luxuries most of us wouldn’t think twice about tossing in our shopping cart: whipped cream for the pies and fresh strawberries. Funds also go toward non-perishable goods for edible door prizes—almost everyone gets one, they proudly report—things like granola bars, cans of SPAM, and boxes of cereal. Last year they started making special goodie bags just for the little kids.
Even with full bellies and warm hearts, their dinner guests do not leave empty-handed. Leftovers are bagged and handed out, centerpieces, balloons and the rest of the decorations are taken down and sent back out to bring cheer into people’s homes. With all the volunteers’ work now undone, it becomes an exercise in impermanence and a lesson in the true spirit of Thanksgiving.
“We really have to teach the kids how to volunteer,” Brandt says. “We provide them opportunities to be of service, then they get the bug.”
Former-student Carpio hopes the event continues to grow to feed even more people. To help make that happen, cash and food donations are gladly accepted. This year the students will be at it again on Wednesday, November 27 as the Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Honoka‘a High begins at 5 p.m. To make a reservation, arrange a home delivery, or donate, call the Student Leadership Program at (808) 775-8800 ext. 264.
Photos and story by Ed Morita
For working parents, making dinner can be the bane of the day. Conversely, it can be just the occasion needed to bring the family together to share some precious time. That’s how local TV personalities Guy Hagi and Kim Gennaula view it.
Though their schedules are hectic, they’ve got a good system down. “Monday through Friday I do the cooking,” explains Guy, who has a dinner breakin between anchoring the weather on Hawaii News Now KGMB9. Kim, now busy as philanthropy director for Kapiolani Health Foundation, helps prep then tends to the duty of getting the kids to their many after-school activities.
They experimented with theme nights: Meatloaf Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Whatever Wednesdays, Thursday Leftovers, and Friday Free-choice. “We just try to make it fun, something the kids can look forward to and have some input on.”
Taco night became a tradition, a meal where the kids can interact from start to finish. “They get to choose the ingredients when we’re at the market: chicken or beef, the vegetables; they get to feel for a good tomato, a ripe tomato.” Alia, 9, likes to make the guacamole and prep the fixings, while Luke, 11, likes to cook the meat.
“At this age, they just want to get involved in any way. Whatever duties we can assign to them, they’re more than willing to do: wash this, chop that, they have that curiosity. It’s not a chore, they want to help,” says Guy.
The kids’ involvement in food is evident: Alia jokes that caviar is her favorite food, while Luke’s vote is filet mignon. Both agree on Spam musubi as a close second.
“The challenge for me as a parent is to stop being so…Type-A,” he chuckles. “Slow down and let them get involved, even though it’ll be messier. It’s okay.”
Sometimes there’s a mishap. Then, it’s pizza night.
by Ken Love
Lemons are just beginning to get the respect they deserve and in Hawai`i we’re fortunate enough to have a large number of varieties to grow, market and use for a massive number of culinary creations. There are almost 14 million tons grown worldwide, with India and Mexico the largest producers. In Hawai`i we grow and sell less than 100,000 pounds and still import almost 4 million pounds. Pretty shameful considering how lemons go to waste in the state.
Most who study horticulture think the lemon originated in northern India as a naturally occurring hybrid between sour orange and a citron. Lemon made its way to Italy in 200 AD then Iraq and Egypt by 700 AD. By the end of the 12th century it had spread all around the Mediterranean. In 1493, Columbus brought it to Hispaniola and from there it went with the Spanish to California in 1751. Don Francisco de Paula Marin first brought lemon to Hawai`i in 1813 with other varieties coming in 1823 with traders.
Early territorial reports from 1904 to 1906, including a USDA Citrus in Hawai`i publication, listed Eureka and Lisbon varieties. These and other publications mention Villa Franca and Sicily, which I’ve yet to be able to identify in Hawai`i. The rough Jambiri came as a rootstock in the 1920s and started to produce prolifically by 1934 when the grafts died off. Ponderosa and its seedling American Wonder and a sweet lemon were all mentioned by 1934.
Often called “local lemon,” Rangpur and Kona are actually orange-colored limes.
The Rangpur lime came to Hawai`i as a rootstock but those grafts also died off. Over the next 175 years the trees evolved so that Rangpur has a puffy orange skin and very thorny branches. Its offshoot that is now called Kona lime has a tight skin and very few thorns.
There is also a primitive subgenus of citrus called Papedas, some of which also came to Hawai`i as rootstocks and now produce here. Ichang papeda is often mistakenly called or sold as Japanese Yuzu. Yuzu, however, also fits into this subgenus as does Suidachi, Yuko, Kabosu, Khasi, Melanesian, Kalpi and the popular Kaffir lime.
Kalpi (Citrus webberii)
Kalpi is arguably one of the most common lemons in Hawai`i. A natural hybrid found in the Philippines, one could only presume that it came here with the immigrants. The name comes from the Bicol region of southern Luzon. These trees are found all over the state and very prolific. They are often confused with small Italian lemons that are very recent imports and the larger rough-skinned Jambiri lemon. Kalpi is sometimes called Malayan lemon.
Meyer (Citrus x meyeri)
The lemon was first found on a fruit-hunting trip by Frank N. Meyer, who was sent to China by the USDA’s David Fairchild. Of the more than 2,500 species Meyer introduced to the United States, this is the only one that bears his name. The Meyer lemon has dramatically increased in popularity over the past 20 years in part due to Alice Waters and Martha Stewart featuring them. They do very well in warmer climates like Hawai`i where other lemons may struggle with the heat.
The improved Meyer lemon is a selection found in the 1950s that is resistant to tristeza virus. It was released in 1975 as an improved version. Ever-increasing in popularity, it is sometimes referred to as the Sweetheart citrus.
Sweet Lemon (C. limetta Risso)
Called sweet lemons and, to a lesser extent, limes, this fruit found in some areas of Hawai`i. “Sweet” is somewhat of a misnomer as the fruit is generally insipid with only a very slight taste. A number of varieties were introduced from India and later Brazil and Mexico but they have never achieved any commercial value. The fruit is not without fans and there are a few named cultivars.
Jambiri (Citrus Jambhiri)
This rough-skinned lemon, originally from northeast India, was commonly used as a rootstock for citrus coming to Hawaii. Those grafts died off and the tree became a popular backyard tree. Recent studies, using molecular markers, show that it is a cross between mandarin and citron. The tree is somewhat resistant to a host of pathogens and extremely resistant to leaf spot although sensitive to Phytopthora and waterlogged roots. It is tolerant of both cold and Hawaii’s hotter than average, for citrus, climate. Its unclear if the fruit arrived in Hawaii with Marin in the early 1800s or later with the first Portuguese immigrants. The Spaniards are credited with bringing the fruit to Florida and the new World. There are a number of named cultivars; Estes, Milam, McKillop, Nelspruit 15 and Lockyer although it’s not known if these are in Hawaii. About 98% of the seeds planted are true to form and the tree is fast growing and early maturing. Some texts list the Volkamer or volckameriana lemon as being a type of Jambiri. Rangpur and Kona lime is also given the Jambiri name at times.
Ponderosa (Citrus limon)
Ponderosa and its protégé American Wonder are among the most popular lemons grown in Hawai`i. Elsewhere it’s considered an ornamental because of thick foliage and very large “showy” fruit. It came from a seedling grown in 1887 by George Bowman in Hagerstown, Maryland. It appeared in many nursery catalogs in the early 1900s. Sometimes classed as a citron hybrid, ponderosa fruit is extremely large. It has been confused with pummelo at some of Hawai`i’s farmers’ markets, although one taste makes it is obvious that it’s a lemon. There are some commercial plantings and the tree is often used as a rootstock for other lemons.
Eureka (Citrus limon)
The first Eureka originated from seed in 1858 in Los Angeles and was propagated in 1877 by Thomas Garey, who called it Garey’s Eureka. Its popularity rapidly increased, in part due to the tree being virtually thornless. The University of California lists 14 types of Eureka lemons. Depending on the source, Hawai`i seems to have a few of these: Old Line, Frost Nucellar, Allen-Newman and the Variegated Pink-Fleshed Eureka. The pink came from a shoot from a regular Eureka prior to 1931 when budwood was distributed. Pink Lemonade Eureka has become very popular in Hawai`i over the past 20 years.
Lisbon (Citrus limon)
Perhaps the most popular commercial lemon next to Eureka, its relationship to Hawai`i has always been marginal as it produces much better in cooler areas. The trees are more cold tolerant. The tree is most productive in California. Thick foliage better protects fruit from the sun. The thorns are considerable. The yield is about 25% greater than Eureka.
There is some disagreement as to the origin of Lisbon. What is known was that seeds were sent Portugal to Australia in 1924. The name Lisbon is not used for the lemon in Portugal. It was listed in nursery catalogs as early as 1843. It was introduced to California in 1849 and again from Australia in 1874 and 1875. Although continuously imported to Hawai`i, Eureka seems to be more popular. The University of California lists 12 types of Lisbons.
There are hundreds of other lemons around the world, which have not made their way to Hawai`i. With citrus greening disease (HLB) in many locations around the world, it’s doubtful many of these will ever come to Hawai`i. Lemons and lemon hybrids like Sicily, Femminello, Genova, Monachello, Perrine, Marrakech, Pear, Galgal, Karna, Sanbokan and Snow should be found in HLB-free areas or tissue cultured and given a chance to thrive in Hawai`i’s microclimates. Each of these unusual varieties represents a potential for niche marketing as fresh fruit or in value-added products for Hawai`i’s agriculture entrepreneurs.