The PRSA Hawaii Koa Anvil Awards 2014

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) held its annual Koa Anvil Awards event last night, honoring the best industry programs and campaigns of the year. Individuals were also honored for their professional achievements, including: David Wilson, Hall of Honor; Ralph Kam, APR, Fellow PRSA, Hall of Honor; Joan Bennet, President’s Leadership Award; Kira Chong Tim, Hokupa’a Young Public Relations Professional of the Year; and Luly Unemori, Gregg W. Perry Public Relations Professional of the Year. Students Cody Fagaran and Demiliza Saromosing received the PRSA Hawaii Roy Leffingwell Scholarship.

PRSA Hawaii Koa Anvil Awards

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My little auto adventure

Vince Leong handing me the keys to the Volkswagen GTI

Vince Leong handing me the keys to the Volkswagen GTI

I guess it’s official: I’m looking for a new car.

I’m taking my time this time, though. Eight years ago, I was forced to part with my faithful, 16-year old Corolla when a kid suddenly pulled out of his lane as I was driving down Nimitz and just about totaled my car. Suddenly, I had to buy a new car, and fast.

In the end, it was a good opportunity to get a car that I’d always wanted. I had always had adventurous visions of me driving a Mini Cooper, sort of like all those good-looking people in “The Italian Job.” I bought my little red Mini not just to bring that vision to life, but probably to jazz up my self-image, too. The odd thing was, my Mini and I never really bonded the way I did with my Corolla. It was like desperately wanting to keep dating that good-looking bad boy, hoping that one day everything would click. It never did for us.

Recently, Vince Leong of Honolulu VW had me test drive the 2015 GTI, which had just come off the dock. That kind of accelerated my quest for a new car, so I’ll be blogging about my test drive experiences and welcome your input on what I might get.

My parameters: I’d love to stay in a budget of around $20,000, although I know that may not be realistic. I need air conditioning and a radio. I want it to be reliable, with not too many (or expensive) problems. And I’d like it to be reasonably attractive, not one of those things that look like an alien space ship. I had wanted to go back to my reliable Corolla line, but Toyotas are all egg-shaped now. I understand that makes them aerodynamically better, but I can’t see a thing while sitting in that egg.

I need a boxy shape like this for best visibility.

I need a boxy shape like this for best visibility.

Car lovers know the Volkswagon GTI as a good-quality, “great driving” car. The exterior is a little too young-looking for me, and I’d probably have to explain myself driving it, but the interior felt comfortable and kind of luxurious (at least, compared to the cars I drive), not to mention the ride was smooth. It’s easy to drive, too — I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt like I didn’t have to think the whole time I was driving. Unlike my Mini, the GTI is extremely comfortable for many passengers, and the back seat has several little features (carseat hook, extra armrest, and more) that my riders seemed to enjoy.

The GTI also is known for having a lot of power. To really test this, I drove it to the top of Alewa Heights. The road goes gradually upward, but as you get near the top, the street suddenly angles up sharply. I usually have to get a running start if I want to make it up that last part of the hill; with the GTI, I didn’t need to do anything … just drive.

Compared to my Mini, the GTI is a bit longer (just about everything is) and it has ample trunk space, so it’s like driving a station wagon. The gas mileage on these newer cars is listed at 25 city, 34 highway, but I drove 160 miles that weekend and didn’t need to fill up gas — not even half, I think. Usually a couple of trips out to Pearlridge will require a fill up at the end with my Mini.

For those of you that know me, I can get lost walking, but the new GTI has a touch-screen GPS that guides you by voice as well as an interactive map, so I tested that going to Kailua (which I can never navigate). There was no problem and I didn’t get lost.

Other features I didn’t get to test: the speakerphone Bluetooth is a great feature, but I rarely make or take calls so it was (surprisingly) hard for me to find someone to use it with. All my guy friends told me to try the cruise control, but I couldn’t figure out if I was hitting the right button or not.

The car was fully loaded and the MSRP is about $32,000. Despite it being out of my budget range, I was ready to buy the car at the end of the test drive weekend. No kidding! But the car nuts in my life — like Fred Paine at Pearlridge — reminded me not to jump at the first one to come along and to try some others before making a final decision on my next long-term relationship. I’m not going to lie: It was extremely hard to jump back into my old Mini after that.

What do you think? If not a Volkswagen, what would you recommend? And what should I test drive next?


GTI best

To get a test drive to see if my assessment was correct, hit up Vince Leong at Honolulu VW!

Brunch at Sugarcane Maui


Philippe Chin – courtesy of Sugarcane Maui

If you’re a longtime Food Network viewer, you’ll remember a chef named Philippe Chin had his own show, featuring truly Asian-fusion creations. As a classically trained chef from France with a Chinese father and a French mother, he brought hapa cuisine to a much different level than I’d ever seen in any of our own chefs. I mean, you see a lot of Japanese-French and Japanese-Italian here, but you never see Chinese-French. He’d take a bok choy dish that his popo had made, for example, then use French ingredients and present it like something from a high-class Chinese banquet. Or he would transform familiar dishes that I knew, into a new French dish. The things he created always looked familiar, but with a distinctive European twist.

As you know, I’m not the usual chef fangirl type, but here’s a little secret: I’ve always been intrigued by Chin. When I heard that he had opened a restaurant on Maui, I was so excited to try it that I forgot to check if he’d even be there.

I only had time to have brunch before I had to get on a plane and head back home, but at least I got to try it. Here’s what I had with Julie Yoneyama and Jen Russo:

Brunch at Sugarcane Maui

The restaurant is on the second floor, so don't be looking for a large, ground floor space. We met up with Jen Russo and her daughter, Betty.

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Next time, I hope I also go with a larger group so we can try more things.

To see the rest of my photos from this trip, click here.

Sugarcane Maui
736 Front St.
Lahaina, HI 96761

Exploring the new Montage Kapalua

Montage KapaluaIf you’re on Instagram and follow people on Maui, you’ve probably seen a lot of posts from them of the new Montage at Kapalua Bay. The resort brand is well-known on the mainland, one that offers hotel stays as well as residential ownership opportunities — the rooms are all equipped with the comforts of home, with kitchens (some very deluxe), washer/dryers, and lanais of varying sizes.

Locals consider the Montage to be a luxury resort — which it is — but mistakenly think it’s too unaffordable. We were actually (pleasantly) surprised to find out that they are having a kamaaina special for now, with suites starting at $395 per night (valid Hawaii I.D. required). As you can see from the photos and video, a suite can fit four to six people, which then brings the cost of the stay down exponentially. You have the ability to cook your own meals, which leaves you to enjoy the pool, beach, and other resort activities with your group.

Montage Kapalua

Upon arrival, you are greeted with a cold towel, fresh-cut pineapple, and water. Aaaaah.

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Here’s a video of our suite to give you a better idea of the size and layout:


We also dined at the Montage Kapalua’s signature restaurant, Cane & Canoe, which features longtime Maui talent executive chef Riko Bartolome. It was probably one of the best meals that Julie Yoneyama and I had enjoyed in a while.

Cane & Canoe at the Montage Kapalua

To start: Your bread basket is 'ulu (breadfruit) bead with 'ulu hummus. Brilliant.

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These are just the highlights. To see the rest of my photos from this trip, click here.

Montage at Kapalua Bay
One Bay Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761

Did this: Roast & Roots 2014

About a thousand people turned out for the inaugural “Roast & Roots” on the Big Island this weekend, an event showcasing local farmers, local products and local chefs. The Hawaii Coffee Association, Kamehameha Schools and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture collaborated on this with event planners The Feeding Leaf to help stimulate the “Buy Local” movement.

And there was a lot of movement on Saturday at the Sheraton Keahou Convention Center. So much, that I couldn’t get a shot of Les Apoliona and Roger Kaiwi, the men who actually brainstormed the concept and brought it to life. I did, however, get to judge in the cooking competition, where students from the West Hawaii culinary program were paired up with well-known chefs to create amazing dishes. This wasn’t a regular competition; it was educational, too.

The students started with play money, earned through a series of quizzes. At the end, they could use the money to bid on the ingredients for this competition, as well as “sabotages” that they could throw at the team of their choice to make the contest even harder. According to Tracey Apoliona of The Feeding Leaf, this helped to spur strategic thinking for the students and make them plan ahead. They then partnered with the chefs and revealed the ingredients, and worked together to learn how to bring out the best in the ingredients at hand — which, by the way, were obtained from within a 50 mile radius.

Here’s how the competition culminated:

Roast and Roots 2014

You know it's going to be a good day when this face greets you!

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After the judging, the students served up samples to the hordes of hungry attendees.

In addition to the competition, there was a “Buy Local” marketplace, a people’s choice coffee cupping contest featuring Kona and Ka’u coffees, a “mystery box” demo by legendary local chef Sam Choy, and live entertainment by local entertainers including Na Hoku Hanohano award winners Mark Yamanaka and Raiatea Helm. The cost for admission? Five dollars.

That’s right, with free parking, the entry fee got you a whole day of food samples, coffee samples, live entertainment and a lot of socializing. At the end, they told the audience they could take home the food items on display at the stage as well as the two full-grown banana trees used for decoration in the room. (Only in Hawaii!)

By the way, Rusty’s Hawaiian, a family farm in Ka’u, captured the People’s Choice award in the coffee cupping competition. I know Rusty’s is a favorite among the big coffee geeks out there, so that’s no surprise.

Roast and Roots 2014

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Based on the overwhelming success of this first event, it looks like there will be another one next year. We can’t wait!

These are just the highlights. To see all my photos from Roast & Roots 2014, click here.

Disclosure: Airfare and the $5 admission fee was provided by Kamehameha Schools.