Hawai'i

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 flower. 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.

 
 

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.

 

Honolulu Lines

Honolulu is a city of lines. Towering palm trees, the jagged edges of the Ko'olau Mountains, modernist architecture, waves marching towards the Waikīkī shore, the sturdy shape of an outrigger canoe. Lines everywhere.

Being the half of Highlights that is from the Mainland, this was my initial take of Honolulu. And each time I visited thereafter, the more these lines stood out.

 
 
photos clockwise from top left: Waikiki palm trees, Ko'olau Mountains, IBM building, public restroom.

photos clockwise from top left: Waikiki palm trees, Ko'olau Mountains, IBM building, public restroom.

 
 

Whenever I returned to Honolulu, I would photograph and sketch as much as I could. When traveling to a new location, and you're not sure if you'll have a chance to return, you catalogue as much as possible. Especially when it's a place that delivers unlimited inspiration.

The funny thing about inspiration is that it can sit in the dark, whether that's on a shelf or in the back of your mind, until it manifests. It wasn't until years later that some of those sketches started to take on more weight as a potential project. Figuring out what that project would be came next.

 
 
drawings from sketchbook

drawings from sketchbook

 
 

Creating sculptures for product was always enticing. Sculptures that can live with our products. Sculptures that can create a dialogue with our products. Clean, graphic, linear, and utilitarian. This is the start of HLTS Sculpture Series. The more products to come, the more sculptures. Below are the first three.

(shot by Will Anderson)

 
 

Waikiki Walls

 

A place where locals and travelers intersect in Waikiki.

Waikiki Walls

Waikiki Walls

Located in the tourist-centric area of Honolulu sits one of the most recognized beaches in all of Hawai'i, if not the world...Waikiki Beach. There is an undeniable buzz you get from the shores of Waikiki that attracts millions of travelers and locals alike. Conveniently steps away from city life, Waikiki actually consists of 8 connecting beaches, each offering up a unique topography of surf, sand, and beach goers. Today, we are highlighting a place that offers up a good glimpse of it all called Kapahulu Groin, or what locals simply refer to as Walls.

Google map: location of Walls

Google map: location of Walls

Walls is located where Kalakaua and Kapahulu Avenues intersect, a place where locals and travelers cross paths in Waikiki. What was once a stream that ran from the valley into the Pacific Ocean has evolved into an elevated concrete walkway that protects the sandy beaches while draining excess rain water back into the ocean.

It is here where you'll experience a mix of beach goers -  young to old and locals to travelers, all congregating on the wall while taking in all that Waikiki's urban shoreline has to offer.

Locals and travelers hanging out at Walls

Locals and travelers hanging out at Walls

There are three distinct sides of Walls that reveal a different perspective and attraction to Waikiki. The west side (Ewa) of the wall is recognizable for its connecting sea wall that lies parallel to the shore, shielding incoming waves from reaching the beach. Known as the 'pond' for its calm waters and pool-like atmosphere, it is a safe place for floaters and families with kids to swim. Views from this side of the wall capture the infamous pink hotel along with the towering high-rises in the backdrop. And at night, the city lights of Honolulu glow off the waters of Waikiki.

West-side of Walls

West-side of Walls

The east side (Diamond Head) is barrier-free and allows surfers and boogie boarders to ride out waves back to shore. Highlights on this side of Walls involve views of Diamond Head and kids on boogie boards zooming past you.

Keiki (kid) riding his boogie board along the Diamond Head side of Walls.

The end of Walls is a great vantage point to watch surfers catching waves and thrill seekers jumping off the wall and into the ocean. You'll find a nice rush of activity here as the waves crash below you. Be prepared to get a little wet here.

North-side of Walls

North-side of Walls

If you time it right, you can catch Waikiki's dazzling show along the water at sunset! Tropical hues of orange, pink and purple light up the sky and reflect off the Pacific Ocean as animated shadows from beach goers get their last minute fix of warmth from the sun. It's truly an all-access pass to an arena of beach goers and activities on the South Shore of O'ahu.

Hana Hou!