A fruitful day at Frankie’s Nursery

Touring Frankie's NurseryI love that the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival brings in celebrity chefs from around the world, because it opens opportunities for me to explore different things. Food writer Sean Morris, who knows everyone in town, had taken Marcel Vigneron to Frankie’s Nursery in Waimanalo last year; the chef was so jazzed by the unusual flavors of the 400 varieties of fruits that he wanted to go again, and take his buddy Spike Mendelsohn.

Since I had never been to Frankie’s, Sean made sure I came along, too. I had seen them at the farmer’s markets, with their tables of seasonal exotic fruits, but had no idea what they were about. As it turns out, the 30-something year-old farm is the place that developed the exquisite Honey Cream Pineapple, a sweet, low-acid pineapple that tastes like cake. They’re also the ones who grow the Miracle Berry (in season), which turns off the sour sensors in your tongue when you eat it and makes everything taste sweet.

Marcel is here for the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival and Spike is here for the North Shore Food Summit, so they combined their vacations to do a little of each. “This ties into what we talk about at the summit,” Spike said after the tour. “Just knowing that there are so many other fruits out there reminds me that we as consumers shouldn’t just settle for the common, massed-produced items out on the market, but should be eating some of these other fruits, growing other fruits, expanding the selection and even the nutrition that comes from it.”

Here’s a quick look at some of the things we did, ate and saw on our tour. I’m definitely going back to see the place when other things are in season (maybe January). I’m a little bummed out that I didn’t get to meet Frank Sekiya himself, but maybe next time.

Touring Frankie's Nursery

Our little group: Me, Lynn Tsuruda (Frankie's wife), Spike, Jenny Bickel, Marcel, and Leah. Missing: Sean, who had to leave early.

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To arrange for a tour, call 808-259-8737. Tours are not conducted on weekends due to their staff being at the farmer’s markets.

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

Frankie’s Nursery
41-999 Mahiku Pl.
Open Sunday through Tuesday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed on the last Saturday of the month); closed Wednesday.

Hawaii: In Real Life ~ Chefs Action Network

ChefActionThe second annual North Shore Food Summit happens today and tomorrow at Waimea Valley, and although chefs and other food industry citizens will make up most of the attendance, all interested individuals are invited to participate. You can learn about Hawaii’s food system and issues through keynote presentations, discussion panels, and working groups as well as a full day of field trips (Sept. 11) and a Youth Food Summit track (Sept. 12).

Chefs who attend these summits and “boot camps” get to strengthen their own professional networks, of course, but the result is also a better understanding of policies and issues that affect the food industry and — quite simply — how to make it better for themselves and consumers: nutritionally, economically, sustainably and with better safety.

Town’s Ed Kenney was inspired to create the Hawaii Chef Action Network (HI-CAN) after attending the first James Beard Foundation’s Chefs Boot Camp for Policy & Change in 2012. He then became involved in the Chef Action Network (a project of the James Beard Foundation and Osprey Foundation), hosted a policy salon in Honolulu in 2013, and attended a second Chefs Boot Camp in 2014. He even donated all proceeds from his Kaimuki Superette’s opening day to the Hawaii Center for Food Safety to launch HI-CAN.

It sounds like a heavy issue, but summits like the one happening this weekend break it down to digestible levels so everyone can understand and be a part of the movement to grow Hawaii’s food advocacy, from providing better school lunches to adopting government policies that strengthens the community as a whole. Kenny, along with chef Spike Mendelsohn and the Center for Food Safety’s Ashley Lukens, talk about the program, their journey, and why it’s important to Hawaii:


The North Shore Food Summit happens today and tomorrow at Waimea Valley and is open to the public, with online as well as walk-in registration. You can register for the whole two days or individual sessions.

Check out this blog tomorrow to see our tour of Frankie’s Nursery with chefs Mendelsohn and Marcel Vigneron!

Chinee like me: Moon Festival 2014

About two dozen varieties of fresh moon cakes at Sing Cheong Yuan.

About two dozen varieties of fresh moon cakes at Sing Cheong Yuan.

I did it again. Like last year, I was running around for a week before the official mid-autumn festival, which was yesterday (Sept. 8) and forgot to get my traditional moon cakes in time to blog about it for your benefit.

The funny thing is, I wasn’t alone. Last-minute Chinese shoppers stormed Sing Cheong Yuan on Maunakea Street on Sunday, and were still buying moon cakes up til 6:30 p.m. yesterday — an hour after the Chinese bakery was supposed to close. They finally shooed everyone out, but then you have pushy Chinee broads like me knocking on the door at 7:30 p.m. to see if I could get in.

“Don’t worry about not having your moon cakes on the designated day,” Liana Fang assured me. “Like Chinese New Year, you can keep celebrating for two weeks and it’s still legit. We’ll have moon cakes all month long so people can keep up the festivities.”

Mei Fang perfected five-nut moon cakes.

Mei Fang perfected five-nut moon cakes.

You already read my blog about moon cakes last year, right? Of course you did. I’m not going to repeat the same clever stories about moon cakes when you can just click over to that post to enjoy them yourself. But I am blogging this year to tell you about Mei Fang’s (Liana’s mom) five-nut moon cakes. If you’re like me, you probably thought the moon cakes at Sing Cheong Yuan were all or mostly mass-produced in a factory with child labor. Well, they’re not … they’re homemade.

Traditional five-nut moon cakes take walnuts, pine nuts, macadamias, peanuts and sesame and grind them into a paste/powder for the filling. Mei decided that this year’s batch would be full of roughly chopped nuts, so you can see the chunks. She added kumquats, which Liana chopped by hand, coconut, and candied winter melon that they made themselves. The middle is still a duck egg yolk. The result is a moist, mildly sweet cake full of surprising flavors and textures in each bite. I’m not one to eat the baked moon cakes, but these were excellent.

Five nut with ham.

Five nut with ham.

I also got to try Mei’s five-nut moon cake with ham, which is the same as above but with pieces of a special ham that she cured for three months leading up to this autumn festival. They were just about sold out of that special moon cake last night, so if you are at your desk reading this, it’s probably too late.

You can still get the regular five-nut one, or any of the 20 other varieties of freshly baked moon cakes, while they last through September (and some, year-round). For those who like the contemporary versions, you can get mochi moon cakes filled with mango, honeydew, taro, strawberry, and Honolulu magazine’s Martha Cheng’s favorite, durian.

To read more about moon cakes and the mid-autumn festival, check last year’s blog. Happy Moon Festival!

Sing Cheong Yuan
1027 Maunakea St.

Did this: Kaanapali Fresh 2014

The highlight of Kaanapali Fresh is their Saturday, a day filled with food, drink, and fresh products to bring home so you can create yourself.

The day started early with their special farmer’s market at Whaler’s Village. This was open to the public and parking is always free during the event. Farmers from around Maui brought their fresh or locally-produced items to sell; I went a little crazy with the exotic fruits.

Kaanapali Fresh 2014

The ladies of Lilikoi Bliss had a lot of products, but see the one on the right? She had shots ... of fruit and vegetable wheat grass juice!

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There was a short break, then we headed to the Sheraton Maui for the KFresh mixology class, featuring Chandra Lucariello of Southern Wine & Spirits and Freddie Sconfienza of the Westin Maui. My favorite cocktail of the day was Sconfienza’s Hokulani, and you can find his recipe here. I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot of booze at this lunch event, and the crowd gets louder as lunch progresses. There’s an ample lunch buffet, too, so for $44 this is a very good deal.

Kaanapali Fresh 2014: MIxology

Party in a glass! Chandra Lucariello's spicy chili peppa water martini garnished with pipikaula, tomato, cucumber and sea asparagus.

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The final event was their signature dine-around, where chefs were paired up with farmers to create fresh, exciting dishes using local ingredients. Wineries from all over the country also brought bottles to sample, and master sommelier Roberto Viernes was on hand to explain some of them. Maui grown Ocean Vodka, of course, had a station turning out exotic summer cocktails.  In the interest of time — this blog entry is very full — I’m not going to describe every dish in the captions. If you are interested in one, however, please let me know in the comments and I can answer you. My overall favorites were both by Kaanapali Beach Resort’s Tom Muramoto: Won bok bisque with fried okra and white truffle oil, and his lamb.

Note that the chefs were also given the ability to use whatever disposable dishes they wanted to make their dishes even more beautiful. You’ll see some very dramatic presentations in the following photos, and it’s amazing to know that the plates and bowls were all plastic.

Kaanapali Fresh 2014

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If you’re not on Maui but interested in attending Kaanapali Fresh next year, I recommend you book as early as possible since it leads up to Labor Day weekend. If you do live on Maui … well, lucky you! It’s a great event that showcases the products and creativity from the Valley Isle.

Disclosure: travel was provided by the Kaanapali Beach Resort Association.

Something new at The Bar Honolulu

Moumen el Hajj and Holly Hadsell

Moumen el Hajj and Holly Hadsell

The Bar at the Honolulu Club is actually not new, but the menu is, and so are the people behind it. If you remember Oahu’s Hajji Baba and Beau Soleil restaurants from the 1990s, you’ll remember the fresh, unique balance of flavors of a continent half a world away, but with enough universal appeal for Hawaii’s palates (we took my mom there for her birthday one year). Moumen el Hajji and his wife, Holly Hadsell, ran those restaurants until 9/11 changed everything for businesses, and they eventually closed.

They had strong contacts in show business, however, so they bounced right back and became familiar faces providing food on the sets of “LOST,” “Hawaii Five-0,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Godzilla” and more — not to mention they have private gigs for celebrities and royalty. Every so often, regular people get to enjoy their food, like when they popped up at Taste in Kakaako last year. I follow them on social media and I see their food … their talent has not gone unappreciated.

They ended up catering the opening of the new Honolulu Club (same place, different owners) and the new owners were so impressed that they asked them to take over the restaurant. It’s not like they’re hidden away, either; non-members can enjoy the venue. Just pop out of the elevator and turn left — you don’t even have to check in at the reception desk.

The Bar HonoluluHere’s a look at some of the food offered, which is constantly changing as Hajji and Hadsell tweak the menu to what the members want (within reason). The food is fresh, light, and — best of all — pretty reasonable, since the Honolulu Club member dues subsidize part of the cost.

The cocktail menu is constantly changing, too, as bartender Jeramy Tronson experiments with new concoctions. He’s gotta keep up with the cocktails, too, since the menu features creations from Honolulu mixologists like Chandra Lucariello of Southern Wine and Spirits, Dave Newman of Pint + Jigger, Kyle Reutner of The Pig and the Lady, and Nobu’s JJ Anchetta.

The Bar Honolulu

When you get to the Honolulu Club, just turn left and head into the restaurant if you're not a member. Note that they have live local music, too!

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Be watching for their weekend brunch offerings (or just “breakfast,” since Hadsell hates the word “brunch”). For more photos, click here.

The Bar Honolulu
Honolulu Club – 932 Ward Ave., 7th Floor