Hawaii: In Real Life ~ The Headquarters


There’s a new studio in town, and it’s run by some well-known names in Hawaii dance circles. Jee Kalua and Liam Soares (formerly of Hype 5-0, America’s Best Dance Crew season 5) recently opened The Headquarters in Aiea, giving people a new alternative for dance lessons.

They have something for (almost) everyone, with classes for kids and adults, ranging from hip-hop to popping and jazz to zumba. If you want to see clips of their classes and dancers, you can follow them on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. And one nice thing about being outside the urban core: They have ample free parking.


We caught up with Liam and Jee between classes and got to talk story about their new place, plus got a high-energy performance by some of their dancers:


As you saw in the video, they mentioned some dance moves that I hadn’t heard of before. Have you? Find out more with more demos at The Headquarters on HawaiiIRL.com!

The Headquarters
98-019 Kamehameha Hwy. (above Goodwill)

Did this: Ocean Vodka’s Ultimate Cocktail Showdown


Last year, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa had their first Ocean Vodka cocktail recipe contest and had an intimate, sit-down dinner with their finalists and a handful of people. I’m sure it was nice, but in keeping with the fabulous events the Sheraton usually puts on, this year was an all-out bash with six chefs, six mixologists, and 1,500 people. Since our very own Will Chen was one of those celebrity chefs, there was no question that Olena Heu and I had to tag along to cover it.

The chefs were paired with a finalist mixologist and were challenged to figure out a dish that would pair with the winning cocktail. Then somehow Olena and I rose to the challenge of maneuvering through 1,500 people to get you photos of those dishes and drinks:


Amie Fujiwara made a cocktail called Wai’ona: Ocean Vodka, Hawaiian Ginger simple syrup, Fresh lime, Local Mango, 6 Mint leaves 3 Basil leaves & Coconut Crème


Migrant Maui chef Sheldon Simeon paired it with Ay Kudeshi garlic noodles and Tocino sweet pork.


James Shoemaker made a Pineapple Express: Ocean Organic Vodka, Fresh lemon juice, Upcountry Honey, Maui Farm fresh Thai basil, Maui Gold pineapple & Gossling’s Ginger beer. Click here to see a short video of him making it.


Hank Adaniya, who has a Hank’s Haute Dogs concession at the Sheraton Maui now, brought his lobster sausage dog to match it.



One of our favorite cocktails was Ocean Vodka’s National Contestant, Daniel Vincent, who flew in from Texas to present the cucumber cooler: Ocean Vodka, cucumber diced, pineapple diced, pineapple juice, Agave, Pinch of Chinese five spice, Pinch of Cinnamon, 6 leaves of Cilantro, Seltzer, Squeeze of lime wedge and Ice. This was very refreshing. Lee Anne Wong expertly paired it with a spicy lamb larb. Hands down, a perfect pairing.


Allison Bellows created Pele’s Pineapple: Ocean Vodka, Combier L’orange, 2 Lime wedges, Coconut Water, Pineapple Juice, Serrano Pepper, Handful of Cilantro & 2-3 Cubes of fresh Pineapple.


Will paired it with braised pork belly with pineapple salsa and a fried risotto ball, one of our favorite dishes of the night.


This fancy drink is a Napili Tini by Victor Mendoza: Ocean Vodka, Muddled Watermelon, Napili Flo Liliko’i, Coconut Water & a Splash of Soda Water.


Shawn Gavin of the St. Regis Princeville made poke bites with tiny watermelon cubes to match. Cute!


Maui’s Jen Russo, who was a judge that night, is holding our favorite drink of the night, Ross Steidel’s Salty Poi Dog: Ocean Vodka, Thai Basil & Black Peppercorn Syrup, Yuzu Citrus, Fresh Squeezed Pomelo or Grapefruit Juice, Kosher Salt and Black Pepper Rim — it tasted like POG. (When Olena wasn’t looking, drank half her drink, too!)


Brandon Lee from Pig & The Lady made a local tomato salad with sorrel burnt strawberry vinaigrette, fried bread, and grated white chocolate. Chocolate? Yes. And yum. Click here to see him making it.


The winners were:

  • Best Pairing - Lee Anne Wong and Daniel Vincent
  • Best Dish - Hank’s Haute Dogs
  • Best Cocktail – Ross Steidel’s Salty Poi Dog

Each of the winning teams were paired with a charity, and each charity benefitted from the prize money won for them.

These were just the highlights. To see more photos, click here.

Mahalo to the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa for hosting our stay this weekend!

Lānaʻi: The VIEWS at Manele Bay

I am not into sports, but I do know that golf is one of the more popular activities for people visiting Lānaʻi. And although the hotels are undergoing renovations, the golf course and its restaurant are still open.

Taking in the Manele golf course with views of the bay.

Director of Golf Scott Ashworth telling us, “We are open!”

On our recent visit to Lānaʻi, we didn’t get to play a round, but we did get to eat lunch at VIEWS at Manele Bay, the course’s restaurant. So whether you’re golfing or not, be sure to stop in for a meal.


Not all of the furniture is so funky, but if you sit in a booth, this is what it looks like. Driftwood has been selected and designed to create interesting shapes in the dining room.


They have iced teas and lemonades in addition to other beverages, but on this day the mango lemonade was the big hit.


Summer rolls with shrimp, avocados, basil, mint, cucumber, macadamia nut and mangoes.


One of my favorites of the day: kalbi rib lettuce wraps with peanuts, rainbow carrots and radishes wrapped in butter lettuce. Melt in yo mouth!


I had the Hulopo‘e Bay prawn BLT since it seemed to make everyone swoon when they talked about it.  It’s also stuffed with butter lettuce, caramelized onions and a creole aioli. You can’t see it here, but it also comes with fries. I was surprised at how hearty this was, but not so heavy that it weighed me down. And it was delicious, with layers of shrimp and bacon in every bite.


Another popular dish is the Makai salad, comprised of lobster, scallops and shrimp over Big Island-grown greens, mango, papaya, avocado and tomatoes, topped with lilikoi dressing. The salad itself sounds good, right? But that dressing really pulls it together and takes it to another level. I’ll probably order this next time.


Catherine Toth had the VIEWS Burger with aged cheddar cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes and bacon, with a side of thick fries. This is a serious burger. Even after she had eaten some of it, I picked it up and felt how heavy it was. It’s really hefty. It was delicious, too, but wow. Just wow.


The Baja fish tacos use whatever fish the chef has in the kitchen that day, served with salsa fresco and lime cream dressing.


If you’re going to have a steak salad, make it a Wagyu skirt steak salad!


Our lunch ended with their signature ice cream sandwiches. Yes, they are delicious, but they are thoughtfully cut in half and individually wrapped for easier eating! I loved that the cookie is a little soft, so the ice cream doesn’t squirt out from the sides when you bite it.

And that was it for our little overnighter to Lānaʻi! I can’t wait to go back with my gal pals to see the completed renovations. Mahalo to Island Air for taking us on this trip, and to the Four Seasons for having us stay with them.

These were just the highlights. To see all photos, click here.


Hawaii: In Real Life ~ Candy Bar Hawaii

DSC01572Sweet tooths rejoice! A new candy store — the first of its kind in Waikiki — has opened at Waikiki Beach Walk on Lewers Street.

The biggest feature of the store is its vast international collection of bulk candies, from pearly Sixlets to Australian violet crumble to gummy shapes and chocolates. And within that, you’ll find quite a few super retro candies like Squirrel Nut Zippers (and you thought it was a band!), Boston “baked beans,” and Chik-o-Stik. All the bulk candies are refilled daily to ensure fresh product, and using bags helps cut down on waste caused by individual wrappers.


We talked story with the Candy Bar owner, Dirck Noordhof, and got a mini-tour of the store. In just the short time we were there, a lot of customers came through, marveling at the selection and creating mixed bags of sweets. I think they’ll do well.


We went through the rest of the store to see the unique gift boxes, shirts, quirky candy bars, local lollipops and more. Visit HawaiiIRL.com for more!

DSC01570The Candy Bar Hawaii
Waikiki Beach Walk
227 Lewers St.

Something new: Ginza Sushi


If you went to Ward Centre recently, you probably didn’t notice that Ninja Sushi — facing Auahi Street next to Z Pizza — has a new name. About three weeks ago, the take-out sushi joint turned into a sit-down restaurant called Ginza Sushi. The owners, Russell and Chong Won, are the same; they parted amicably with the Ninja franchise to be able to present more creative sushi rolls.

Chong and Russell Won of Ginza Sushi. Side note: Russell is a McKinley grad!

Chong and Russell Won of Ginza Sushi. Side note: Russell is a McKinley grad!

The Wons have been in restaurants for the last 30 years, so they may look familiar. They were the original owners of Liliha Inn, a little business with reasonable and tasty take out Korean food. After burning out and finding themselves, they ended up with Ninja Sushi, which started downtown and eventually moved to Ward.

Ginza special, $12.95.

Ginza special, $12.95.

We got to try some of their offerings last night, and found them to be perfect for the local palate … and budget. Shown here is the Ginza Special, Won’s signature roll. It’s shrimp tempura maki topped with firecracker poke, a nice combination of spicy and crunchy.

Ginza Sushi's aloha roll, $12.95.

Ginza Sushi’s aloha roll, $10.95.

The aloha roll was a nice surprise. Seared salmon, asparagus, tobiko and tempura flakes are rolled up with rice, then topped with spicy sauce and tereel sauce. What? The Wons make their own sauces, so “tereel” is their proprietary teriyaki-unagi sauce. We all liked this one, as well, with so many flavors and textures.

Five pieces of assorted sashimi. $16.95.

Nine pieces of assorted sashimi. $13.95.


You can’t go wrong with a simple sushi plate. The fish is fresh, the slices are generous, and … well, that’s it. That’s all you want from raw fish!


Salad at Ginza Sushi varies by order. This was about $11.

Salad at Ginza Sushi varies by order. This was about $11.

The salad is a pretty good deal. It’s a basic spring mix for $5.95, but you can add things on to make it more palatable or fun. This one had poke ($4) and avocado ($1.75). Now, the salad is nice, but the miso sesame dressing is amazing! We asked for seconds and told them they should bottle it. The dressing is light and full of umami.

Ginza triple combo bento A, $19.95

Ginza triple combo bento A, $19.95

They have some teishoku sets, which is nice for families. This one also comes with rice, salad, and miso soup, which was good, but not like the rolls. This was the only thing we felt was overpriced, and the flavors reminded us of teishoku sets our parents used to order. Now, it’s not necessarily bad, just basic, especially after having some innovative sushi rolls.

Salmon teishoku, $14..95.

Salmon teishoku, $14..95.

If the triple combo is too big, you can order a single entree teishoku that comes with rice, salad and miso soup. This salmon was moist and tasty, especially with that tereel sauce.

Omakase nigiri sushi set, $16.95.

Omakase nigiri sushi set, $16.95.

You can’t go to a sushi place without ordering nigiri! This is the omakase, which of course changes from time to time, depending on what’s available. You get nine pieces of nigiri with spicy ahi-avocado maki. This was pretty filling — I’ll probably get this for dinner next time, if I don’t try the garlic crunch or Captain Crunch sushi rolls.

Bubbie's mochi ice cream.

Bubbie’s mochi ice cream.

For now you can order mochi ice cream for dessert, pending availability of flavors. This is a nice, small sweet treat to end the meal.

Overall, we felt this place was a good value and the dishes are delish. We can’t wait to try others there!

Ginza Sushi
1200 Ala Moana Blvd. (Auahi Street)