Ghost Flower

 
 
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This past fall, we were lucky enough to be the first to smell the scent of a flower that has been extinct for over 100 years. Well, we plus the other few hundred people sitting in the theatre. It was a collective whiff organized by the Pop-Up Magazine.

The Pop-Up Magazine is billed as a live magazine that features numerous multimedia stories told by musicians, writers, podcast hosts, and various creatives all accompanied by animations and a live score. And if they ever have an event near you, go. It's unexpected, captivating, and extremely fun. Inside the packed Curran Theatre in SF, we sat through stories of a young woman's struggle to speak again after mysteriously losing her voice, a controversial Saudi Arabian terrorist rehabilitation center, the formula for a perfect cookie (which we got to taste!), and the Mountain Hibiscus that was once found on the slopes of Haleakala in Maui.

 
 

Rowan Jacobsen speaking at the Curran Theatre in SF. photo credit: Jon Snyder & Erin Brethauer

 
 

In addition to a sample of the perfect cookie, a piece of paper sealed in a small cellophane envelope was stapled to the evenings program. That paper contained the scent of an extinct scent. Maui's Mountain Hibiscus. A scent that is said to not have been smelled for over 100 years. Rowan Jacobsen, a food and nature writer, led us through the story of this extinct hibiscus and its rebirth as a scent. There was no way I could wait for him to finish the story before smelling this piece of paper. Ripping open that small envelope revealed a spicy and citrusy fragrance, with hints of juniper berry, and cloaked in an overall sweetness. It was amazing, complex, and somewhat familiar but at the same time, distant.

 
 
The scented card (front & back)

The scented card (front & back)

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Afterwards I was curious about this extinct hibiscus plant. Doing a little research led me to the 1911 publication of New and Noteworthy Hawaiian Plants by the Territory of Hawai'i’s Board of Agriculture and Forestry. It is the only mention of a hibiscus native to the slopes of Haleakala that I could find (image below left). Even in 1911, the report states that “only one tree was observed on the southern slope of Haleakala on the lava fields of Auahi at an elevation of 2600 feet.” With this bit of amateur sleuthing, the Latin name comes up as hibiscadelphus wilderianus, with an image plate of a clipping. Going to the Bishop Museum’s archives gave us a few more, albeit dried, visuals of the plant all from the same time period (image below right).

 
Plate from New and Noteworthy Hawaiian Plants (1911)
Hibiscadelphus Wilderianus  sample from the Bishop Museum (1913)
 

This whole experience led us down the path to think about the revival of lost scents and tastes through science.

With the genetic material of the Mountain Hibiscus being extracted by the company Ginkgo BioWorks, it is now in the process of being produced as a perfume. Is this our future? DNA from extinct plants and animals used to bring back to life the look, smell, and taste of a past world? With the loss of species estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate, and most ecologists of the opinion that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, I think it’s safe to say yes.

It was an unexpected story to hear that night. The Ghost Flower. And hopefully one day we’ll be able to smell the real thing growing on the slopes of Haleakala.

 
 
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EXCITING UPDATE!

Recently another type of hibiscadelphus, aka “Brother of Hibiscus”, was found in a remote valley in western Maui (photo left). The plant that was found is a species previously unknown and new to science. Amazingly, there were close to 100 of these hibiscadelphus trees found growing together. Visually speaking, this is not your typical hibiscus flower. Did the Mountain Hibiscus of Haleakala look similar? It’s hard to tell considering that we have no visuals of the actual flower.

 
 

A Few Treats of Hawai'i

 
 
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We have a “first day” ritual whenever we come back to Hawai’i. We get lei’d at the airport, head straight to Helena’s for hawaiian food, jump in the ocean at Waikiki, and pick up some local treats at the supermarket. We also find the time to pick up poke and eat it pre, and post, beach. It didn’t dawn on me until we shot some of our favorite Hawai’i treats that we’ve been staying true to this tradition since 2013. We are curious to hear what your favorite “first day” rituals are when revisiting the islands. Here’s some of ours…

 

LEI

 
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One of the first things we look forward to when arriving on the islands is wearing a lei. It is a great way to welcome yourself to the islands and refreshes your senses after a long journey to the island.

 

HAWAIIAN PAPAYA

 
HAWAIIAN PAPAYA
 

The Hawaiian papaya is a sweet treat in the mornings or on a hot day. It gets the right amount of sugar in your system and helps your digestion going too. Once it’s ripe, we love putting it in the fridge and eating it once it’s chilled. It’s such a refreshing treat.

 

APPLE BANANAS

 
APPLE BANANAS
 

Apple bananas are small in size and really do taste like apple flavored bananas. We eat this once they turn a ripe golden color. It’s abundant in Hawai’i since it grows year round in subtropical and tropical regions like Hawai’i.

 

The Way of Poke

 
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POKE! POKE! POKE! POKE!

It’s safe to say that we’re in the midst of a global poke craze these days. From NYC to Berlin, Buenos Aires to Sydney, you can find poke bowls, poke burritos, poke with kale, poké spelled wrong, and poke pizza. Ok, I made that last one up, although, that might actually exist by now (let us know if it does!). And while we are all for pushing the creative boundaries, we wanted to lay down a little foundation to what poke traditionally consists of. It may feel like a new phenomenon but this dish has been a prominent part of Hawaii's food culture for many generations.

Being from Hawai'i, I've had a lot of friends and colleagues ask me how the mainland version of poke differs from Hawai'i, so I wanted to share some of the unique ways I find poke is prepared, served, and enjoyed on the islands.

 
Shoyu Sweet Onion Ahi Poke from Alicia’s Market in Honolulu.

Shoyu Sweet Onion Ahi Poke from Alicia’s Market in Honolulu.

 
 

the foundation of poke

 
Freshly caught ahi at the Honolulu Fish Auction.

Freshly caught ahi at the Honolulu Fish Auction.

Sliced tail to see the quality and fat content of the meat.

Sliced tail to see the quality and fat content of the meat.

 

While you can find tako (octopus), crab, clam, and even pipikaula (dried beef) poke, the most common, and most versatile in its preparation, is ahi (yellowfin tuna) poke. And for the freshest ahi, the Honolulu Fish Auction is the place to be early in the morning. I highly recommend taking a tour by the way.

Aside from the fresh raw fish, there's usually only a handful of ingredients that make-up the most popular poke recipes. What started simply as cut fish mixed with seaweed, sea salt, and crushed kukui nuts, has evolved over time with most notably Japanese ingredients including shoyu (soy sauce), sesame oil, sweet Maui onion, and sesame seeds. That’s it. Simple and delicious. Prepared this way, the few choice ingredients really allow for the natural flavors of the fish to come through.

That being said, you can find everything from spicy mayo to oyster sauce to kimchi used to dress up poke. While it’s fun to try all the variations, we keep coming back to the Shoyu Sweet Onion Ahi Poke from Alicia’s (above photo).

 

HOW TO BUY

 
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Poke is usually served as a takeout item and sold by weight, often in increments of 1/4 pound, 1/2 pound, a pound or two! The majority of poke in Hawai’i is prepared in advance and you buy it as is. There are no options to add on edamame, avocado or pineapple. If you’re not sure about the ingredients, or which one to buy, don’t hesitate to ask to sample the goods.

When you do order, don't forget to read the signs. Local people are pretty relaxed but there's always a system when it comes to ordering food. Pay attention to the signs and don't forget to smile when they shaka!

 
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WHERE TO BUY

 
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Poke can be found across the Hawaiian Islands from celebrated restaurants to mom & pop convenience stores to liquor stores. And when that craving hits, you won't have to look far to experience poke in Hawai'i. Here's some of my go-to spots whenever I visit O'ahu.

Grocery Store: Foodland, Times Supermarket, Costco

Liquor Store: Tamura's Fine Wine and Liquors

Fish Market: Tamashiro Market, Youngs Fishmarket, Yama's Fishmarket

General Store: Alicia's Market, Fort Ruger Market, Kahuku Superette

Poke Spot: Ono Seafood, Ahi Assasins, Maguro Bros

 

HOW TO EAT

 
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Ever present in the daily life of locals, kitchen tables, parties, and BBQs feel incomplete without poke. When locals eat poke, they think of it as a pupu (appetizer) and not an entree. Poke bowls were never really a thing growing up in Hawai'i, it was just a small side-dish or snack before dinner that accompanied your cold beer. If you get invited to a local party or BBQ and are not sure what to bring, BRING POKE. It’s an instant winner as there can never be enough.

 
 
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Perhaps it’s the mix of the tropical landscape and fresh ocean air that make poke such a quintessential Hawaiian dish. And while there’s no wrong way to eat poke, for us, there’s nothing better than grabbing a musubi and 1/2lb of ahi poke before heading to the beach.

 

Vladimir Ossipoff

 
Photograph by Honolulu Advertiser.

Photograph by Honolulu Advertiser.

As a kid growing up on O'ahu, I took the lush flora, sandy beaches and city lights of Honolulu for granted.  It wasn't until I moved away, that I realized how special the landscape of this city had been all along.  Vladimir Ossipoff recognized the beauty of Hawai'i when he moved from California in the 1930s.  A Russian born, Japan raised, and California educated architect, Vladimir remained in Honolulu where he mastered Tropical Modernism on the islands, designing a series of homes and structures that were environmentally sensitive to its surroundings.  His signature touch managed to incorporate master craftsmanship and design elements deeply influenced by Japan and Hawai'i's cultures.

When we chose to feature the IBM building, a Vladimir Ossipoff design, for the cover of our Honolulu Travel Journal, I began to uncover more of his work across Honolulu and the influence he had in modernizing Hawai'i's architecture.

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One of Ossipoff's most iconic designs, the IBM building, was built in 1962 in Kaka'ako off Ala Moana boulevard.  Before the neighborhood began its recent gentrification phase, the area was dusty, full of warehouses or auto-body shops where the futuristic IBM building stood tall and to be honest, a bit out of place at the time.  Now I've learned to admire its unique brise-soleil concrete facade that was inspired by computer punched cards and designed to minimize direct sun rays from entering the building.  Today, Its iconic structure houses the Howard Hughes Hawai'i offices and is used as a location for many community events.

 

Photograph by Historic Hawai'i Foundation.

Photograph by Historic Hawai'i Foundation.

Vladimir's contribution to modernizing Hawai'i's architecture can also be seen at the University of Hawai'i Administration building.  Built in 1951, the open lanai (hawaiian patio) and concrete masonry blocks were used as screens to filter tradewinds that naturally ventilated the building.  This building serves as just one of his many examples on his advocacy towards designing environmentally sensitive designs.

 

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One of Ossipoff's most notable works on private homes is tucked away off Tantalus Drive.  Tantalus is a residential neighborhood, known for its steep and windy roads and optimal views of the city.  We recently went on a private tour of the Liljestrand house (built in 1952), where Liljestrand's son told us stories on how the dedicated architect and visionary home owners worked closely together to create one of the most publicized homes in America.  The Japanese craftsmanship that went into the details of their residence is inspiring while the Hawaiian treehouse vibes and captivating Diamond Head views from all angles is breathtaking.

 

Photograph by Sunset Magazine.

Photograph by Sunset Magazine.

We highly suggest taking a moment to view his work across Hawai'i but don't fret if you are too busy relaxing at the beach.  If you've ever visited O'ahu or are planning to in the future, you are guaranteed to experience an Ossipoff design without even booking a tour. The Honolulu International Airport, or what is renamed as the late and great senator Daniel Inouye, was designed by Mr. Ossipoff himself and provides a great introduction to his style of work using post-and-beam concrete and seamlessly bridging the gap between the inside and outside spaces.

Vladimir Ossipoff worked throughout his life in Hawai'i as an influential modern day architect until the age of 90.  Thankfully, his designs remain preserved across Hawai'i, representing the longevity and beauty of his contributions to Hawai'i's modernist movement. 

 


Here are some of Vladimir Ossipoff's work that's accessible to the public.

BLUE CROSS ANIMAL HOSPITAL - 1318 Kapi’olani Blvd, Honolulu

DAVIES MEMORIAL CHAPEL AT HAWAII PREPARATORY ACADEMY - 65-1692 Kohala Mountain Rd, Waimea

FIRST NATIONAL BANK, NOW KNOWN AS FIRST HAWAIIAN BANK - 2250 N King St, Honolulu

HAWAIIAN LIFE INSURANCE BUILDING - 1311 Kapi’olani Blvd, Honolulu

IBM BUILDING - 1240 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu

LILJESTRAND HOUSE (reservations only) - 3300 Tantalus Dr, Honolulu

THURSTON MEMORIAL CHAPEL - 1601 Punahou Street Honolulu

U.H. ADMINISTRATION OFFICE - 2444 Dole Street, Honolulu, HI 96822