Girls’ night out in the battle against breast cancer

One of my best friends, Christa Wittmier, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in May 2015.

One of my best friends, Christa Wittmier, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in May 2015.

Cancer. I have heard this six-letter word a lot lately. One of my dearest friends was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer that has spread to her lymph nodes and lungs. One of Hawaii’s most sought-after DJs, she is known as Super CW, but I think of her as my sister. Another close friend and fellow Kauai native, Daniel Gray, is also battling cancer for the second time. Coincidentally, Christa met Daniel through me and they were roommates a few years ago.

Daniel Gray was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013 and again in 2015

Daniel Gray was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013 and again in 2015

Both under 40, Daniel and Christa are undergoing treatment and doing well. I feel very fortunate to be able make my own schedule and can help take my friends to doctor’s appointments or just be there if they need anything. Support and unconditional love are priceless at a time like this.

We can be proactively aware about cancer. Because breast cancer seems to run in my family, I am diligent about paying attention to my body, eating healthier and reducing the chemicals I am exposed to. And I’m excited about an event coming up that will kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October): a special Girls’ Night Out.

October Pali Momi Girls' Night Out event theme is "Your Fight is Our Fight."

October Pali Momi Girls’ Night Out event theme is “Your Fight is Our Fight.”

Why am I telling you this now? Because you need to RSVP and this popular and free event fills up very quickly. Girls’ Night Out will be at Pali Momi Medical Center and will feature breast cancer survivors, provide mammogram screenings, include a special Q&A with a doctor regarding how to deal with headaches and migraines and have fun stuff like:

  • Massages
  • Manicures
  • Hairstyling
  • Makeup and Skincare Services
  • Meditation and Breathing Techniques
  • Healing Touch Massage
  • Selfie Station

Check-in for Girls’ Night Out begins at 4 p.m. on Oct. 1.

There will be light refreshments and free valet parking at the Pali Momi Medical Pavilion.


If you are not able to make it, please remember that health care professionals say self-exams should be done every month and early detection with mammogram screenings are your best defense against breast cancer.

I asked Christa what she had to say about breast cancer awareness. “With the increasing rates of women younger than 40 years old developing breast cancer with no family history, the insurance companies need to support and promote regular mammogram testing at 30 years old. There is an assumption that only people with genetic history are at risk but that is not the case. We need to start catching this earlier and saving lives.”

Girls’ Night Out!
Thursday, October 1, 2015
5 to 7:30 p.m.
Registration starts at 4 p.m.

Click to register:  Girls Night Out – Your Fight is our Fight

Hidden gem: Da Hub

Da Hub crew

Da Hub crew

If you’re in the mood for some onolocious local-style grinds with outside-the-box flavors, generous servings and supah dupah fresh fish, look no further than Da Hub in Kalihi. This new eatery opened its doors a few months ago and has emerged as a hot hidden spot for smoked fish, fresh poke, plate lunches and mind-blowingly delicious desserts, all crafted with unique flavor combinations. Think PB&J poke (yes, peanut butter & jelly — believe me, it’s delicious), turkey tails that have been guava-smoked and deep-fried, Dragon Rolls of bacon wrapped around sausage, asparagus and scallops, and li hing dried ahi.

They take flavors and mix, toss, fry or sprinkle them together. It may sound a bit out of this world, but that’s what Da Hub is all about.

Tsunami: bacon wrapped mix includes imitation crab, shrimp and cream cheese; Snaps Roll of bacon-wrapped sausage and asparagus

Tsunami Rolls of bacon wrapped around imitation crab, shrimp and cream cheese; Snaps Roll of bacon-wrapped sausage and asparagus

Always cheery, Stevens Kealoha Fernandez is one of the owners of this family-owned and -operated business. After 20 years in the industry, he started his own wholesale company, Kealoha Seafoods, a year and a half ago. Da Hub was supposed to be an outlet for people to purchase fresh fish items, but it evolved into a takeout joint. “This is all new to us,” Fernandez says. “We are learning. We follow what the customer wants.”

Seared Ahi with kale

Seared ahi with kale

They’ve got simpler stuff, too: seared ahi, garlic shrimp, fried chicken, pork chops, ribeye steak. But what they are known for is fresh fish direct from the auction. Poke can be customized, with five seafood choices, 19 toppings and 13 sauces. “We cater to customers making their own poke,” Fernandez explains, “so it’s more fun when the customer asks for it the way they want it.”

Customizable poke combinations made to order and "tossed" in a zip lock bag.

Customizable poke combinations made to order and tossed in a zip bag

Plates lunches run $7.95 to $10.95 and come with rice and a choice of tossed kale or Da Kine salad, a potato-mac salad with egg and imitation crab. There’s a choice of sauces to drizzled or dip on da side: spicy mayo, sweet chili mayo, sweet ginger, miso fusion, Da Hub’s Secret Sauce (which I am told is like ranch dressing with Sriracha) or wasabi mayo.

Fresh, homemade desserts

Fresh, homemade desserts

Make sure you save room for dessert! Up to four people make the desserts you’ll see on any given day. Not Just Cakes makes killer Poi Crunch, little squares of mac nut-crusted poi filling topped with haupia whipped cream. These were mildly sweet with a hint of salt, crunch and poi. Seriously, oh my gosh I was so full but I couldn’t control myself, I could not stop eating this poi crunch.

A relative who runs Nancy’s Treats makes macarons, cheesecake loaves and parfaits. And last but not least, Kea’s housemade mochi donuts are mochi that’s flavored with mango, lilikoi, peanut butter or chocolate. These are deep-fried and rolled in sugar — little balls of sweet, fruity heaven! My eyes lit up when I popped one in my mouth.

If you’re in the area check out this new place, you’ll be glad you did. Happy eating!

Da Hub
1328 Middle St. (Ewa side just before Fern Elementary)
Honolulu, HI 96819

Monday-Thursday 10am-8pm
Friday 10am-10pm
Saturday 9am-10pm
Sunday 10am-7pm

Our Top 5: Ultimate poke bowls

imageThink poke bowls are for wimps? Think again. There’s a whole big genre out there that goes way beyond fish and limu over rice. If you’re looking for over-the-top bowls, that’s what we’ve got: Our top 5 ultimate poke bowls.

What were our criteria? The bowl had to have lots of other stuff in addition to the poke. It didn’t matter if the rice was plain white, sushi rice or a mix of different rices. The fresh, well-cut, well-seasoned fish and other toppings determined whether a bowl made the list.

From Kapolei to Kaneohe, these five will change the way you think about poke bowls.

Sushi Bay - Mixed Don Poke Bowl

Sushi Bay – Mixed Don Poke Bowl

No. 5: Sushi Bay, Mixed Don, $9.50

This hidden gem in Kapolei Shopping Center is known for generously portioned sushi and fresh fish options that draw lines at lunch and dinner. The Mixed Don comes with a scoop of spicy ahi and simple, perfectly seasoned ahi poke, along with large slices of fresh ahi and salmon. Sprinkled with green and white onions and served atop a heaping bowl of sushi rice, it’s a perfect grab and go.

Sushi Bay • 590 Farrington Hwy, Kapolei • 808-693-9922

Local Boy Sushi - Big Braddah Poke Bowl

Local Boy Sushi – Big Braddah Poke Bowl

No. 4: Local Boy Sushi, Big Braddah Bowl, $15

In Kaneohe, just before Windward Mall, Local Boy Sushi took over the space once occupied by Lee’s Drive Inn. The Big Braddah Bowl lets you choose five toppings from seven options: spicy ahi, smoked salmon, ahi poke, kalbi, kalua pig, smoked meat and unagi. Scoops of your choices are placed over brown rice along with a shrimp tempura. I loved the ahi poke, and the smoked salmon would make a nice dip with crackers. The $15 pricetag also includes a drink, but heads up: The photo makes the bowl look a bit larger than it actually is.

Local Boy Sushi • 46-026 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe • 808-398-9366

Poke On Da Run - Poke Bowl 3 Choice

Poke On Da Run – Poke Bowl 3 Choice

No. 3: Poke On Da Run, Poke Bowl, $12

I found the big bambucha of poke bowls in Pearl City. Another hidden location, Poke On Da Run is known for poke bowls that are so big they come in a rectangular clamshell. Each “bowl” comes with a choice of shoyu ahi, tako and/or spicy ahi poke. For the same price you can choose one, two or all three.

The poke is extremely fresh and sometimes even made to order. It is scooped atop a bed of white rice sprinkled with furikake and then drizzled with kabayaki sauce, the contents overflowing the container. The spicy ahi poke is perfectly cut, well-seasoned, not too spicy and nice and creamy.

Poke On Da Run • 909 Lehua Ave., Pearl City • 808-478-1454

Alicia's Market - Da Poke Bowl

Alicia’s Market – Ultimate Poke Bowl

No. 2: Alicia’s Market, Ultimate Poke Bowl, $9.95

Just the thought of Alicia’s Market makes me salivate. The Kam family store in Kalihi makai is famous for its poke, roast pork and old-time homemade snacks. It also makes a mean poke-plus bowl. You go in wanting one of the multitude of poke choices, but the sight and scent of the char siu, roast duck, top sirloin and suckling pig will change your mind. No problem, because Alicia’s lets you pretty much customize your poke bowl with anything you want.

Ask for the ultimate poke bowl and you will get spicy ahi with roast pork. The ahi is firm with a slight hint of spiciness, and the roast pork is crispy, salty, crunchy and moist all at the same time. At only $9.95 you’ll want to buy two.

Alicia’s Market • 267 Mokauea St., Kalihi • 808-841-1921

Fresh Ahi Off The Boat - Local Poke Bowl

Fresh Ahi Off The Boat – Local Poke Bowl

No. 1: Fresh Ahi off the Boat, Local Poke Bowl, $9.50

You’ve probably never heard of Fresh Ahi off the Boat. It’s tucked off Keeaumoku Street across from HMSA, an oasis in the midst of Korean bars and bustling traffic. The fish is literally fresh off the boat and perfect, with no sign of chewy muscle fibers or tendons. In addition to an impressive assortment of ultimate poke bowls with an array of toppings, there’s a choice of sushi rice, brown rice or black rice (the black rice mixture has great texture and flavor and is healthier for you).

The Local Poke Bowl (pictured) comes with spicy ahi or shoyu poke, homemade lomi salmon and fresh kalua pig, plus a side salad or a bowl of miso soup. You can taste the freshness of the ahi, and the lomi salmon is a nice complement to the salty, moist kalua pig. I also can’t stop thinking about their Tsunami Bowl, which has shoyu poke, teriyaki and spicy mayo glaze, purple onions, jalapeño, radish and cucumber for $9.75. At Fresh Ahi off the Boat, a poke bowl is so much more!

Fresh Ahi off the Boat • 815 Keeaumoku St. #J101, Ala Moana • 808-352-4755

We’re watching: Up-and-coming musician Tim Rose

Photo Courtesy: Tim Rose Have you ever felt unsure of the life path you were on? For singer and songwriter Tim Rose, uncertainty coalesced in a clear decision: Let Kickstarter decide. “I wanted to test the universe and I was feeling a lot of doubt and a lot of fear,” says Rose. “I love music so much. But could I do this as my career?”

The Kickstarter campaign he launched late last year had two goals: to raise enough money for his first album, and to see if he was on the right path. The fundraiser brought in close to $16,000 in 60 days. Rose was on his way.

But if the Kickstarter had proven fairly easy, not much else in his life had. Rose, who grew up in Tacoma, Washington, didn’t pick up a musical instrument until he was 16. And when he did, it was because “I used to have a pretty big substance abuse problem when I was a kid. Music was the big reason why I got sober,” he says. It became his therapy and his way out of addiction. “Music is the only reason I know how to do anything adult.”

Rose turned out to be something of a prodigy. After only one year, the self-taught musician auditioned for and was accepted into UH Manoa’s classical music program and offered a scholarship. At 17 he packed his bags and moved to Hawaii. That was 10 years ago. “I love music more than anything,” he says. “It’s allowed me to do things I wouldn’t normally do.”

Like modeling. Earning the title of “Hawaii’s Most Beautiful Man 2010.” Playing regular gigs at venues like Rumfire and Jimmy Buffett’s. And writing 11 original songs for his debut album. Each song has a story behind it; each makes a statement: “Who I am as a person, the story about getting sober, about how to be authentic, having integrity, falling in love, the human experience, social protest,” Rose says. “The first album is about making those statements about what is important to me.”

Here is a look at Rose’s debut single, which features close friends and supporters:

Rose’s CD release party takes place on Thursday, Aug. 13. Here’s Rose highlighting what you can expect:

Tim Rose CD Release Party
Crossroads @ Hawaiian Brian’s
Thursday, August 13 at 8pm
Tim’s Website along with blog, schedule and more.

Flotation therapy: Does it work?

One of my favorite things... Floating! Photo credit: Melissa Chang

Floating in the ocean is my favorite! Photo credit: Melissa Chang

Ever wonder what it feels like to be weightless? Like astronauts in outer space, what would it be like to glide and drift like a feather in the dark, with just your breath to guide you? This is what I experienced my first time in a float tank (also known as an isolation tank or sensory deprivation chamber). When I heard that this is popular with some UFC fighters, martial artists and NASA, I was a bit intimidated and a little scared.

Geoff Sato, left, was given his first float as a gift from his girlfriend. He loved it so much that back in Hawaii, he opened Dream Float with partner Shawn Champion

Geoff Sato, left, was given his first float as a gift from his girlfriend. He loved it so much that back in Hawaii, he opened Dream Float with partner Shawn Champion

Founded in Aina Haina, Dream Float Hawaii is one of several island businesses offering floats. Dream Float has logged more than 250 floats since they opened in May. Who floats, you might ask? All types: pilots, businesspeople, pregnant women and your average Joe. When they invited me to stop by for a float, being the water baby that I am, I was only too happy to accept.

So how does this work? For years researchers have been using sensory deprivation to treat certain types of psychosis. The pitch-black, sound-proof sensory deprivation that occurs in the tank is meant to put you in a meditative state. Floating relieves pressure on your body, joints and muscles, and the feeling of complete weightlessness is aimed at prompting pure relaxation from the inside out (it’s one of the only times pregnant women can lie on their back).

Ocean water has 3.5% salinity; the water in the flotation tank has 10 times as much salt

Ocean water has 3.5% salinity; the water in the flotation tank has 10 times as much salt

The tank is a rectangular pod that measures 9×4.5′ and looks like an enclosed bathtub. It’s filled about 10 inches deep with salt water made by combining fresh water and Epsom salt. Heated to skin temperature, the Epsom salt water is “high in magnesium sulfate, which is good for your skin, works out toxins and lactic acid and improves circulation and blood pressure, amongst other things,” says Dream Float co-owner Geoff Sato. The filtration system runs the water through a UV light and water filter three times after each float to keep the water clean. “Whatever you need the most is probably what you’ll get from the float. Relaxation, weight loss, tackling depression, PTSD, stress, pain relief, addiction, insomnia…” Sato says.

Locally owned Dream Float hopes to expand with more locations around the island.

Locally owned Dream Float hopes to expand with more locations around the island.

Here’s what to expect

The tank is in a large room that looks like a mini yoga studio. Geoff or his partner Shawn Champion will guide you through the process, answer your questions, then give you privacy to get ready. It feels safe here, like a spa. There’s soft music playing. You put in some ear plugs (wax or foam), then shower. It’s best to get into the tank nude. You close the lid and lie back. Geoff offers to play music for the first five minutes, which is nice. It helps me acclimate.

If you plan to float for an hour, budget another hour for orientation and thorough showers before and after.

If you plan to float for an hour, budget another hour for orientation and thorough showers before and after.

The water is warm and extremely buoyant. Literally anyone can float, even if you don’t know how. You have to use some muscle to force your foot down, it’s that buoyant. In the pitch-black tank I feel like I am in outer space, drifting into oblivion. I can visualize myself amongst the stars, planets and Milky Way. The water is very silky, almost buttery on my skin. It makes my head feel heavy, so I open the lid and grab a flotation noodle to put under my neck.

First impressions

This isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s really nice.

I like the weightlessness and the feeling of peace and calm throughout my body. I tend to have a hard time not thinking, even when I get massages. My mind is constantly racing about what I have to do, what is on my list, what’s coming up. I try to focus on my breathing. It is pleasant when the music stops and there is silence. Before I know it my time is up.

Wow, one whole hour went by pretty fast. I didn’t get claustrophobic or freak out. I didn’t solve the world’s problems or even my own, but I had a sense of clarity, a strong sense of oneness with myself and my surroundings.

Would I do it again? Yes! The price of $75 for a 90-minute float is a little less than an average massage, and they have float packages and a float club membership. I can see this being beneficial in working out problems or stress.

Here’s a short video of my experience with more info:

Dream Float Hawaii