Keeping local spirits high

Islands and rum go together like mai tais and puns (i.e., Mai Thai, Morimo-tai, Once Upon a Mai Thai). And yet, until recently, no company had taken advantage of Hawaii’s (albeit dwindling) sugar legacy to make the No. 1 staple of any tiki bar: rum.

Today, there are three rum distilleries on the Islands, and while none may replace Bacardi and Myers’s Rum at local bars, they’re worth a shot or being mixed into your next mai tai.

Local distillers also produce more unusual spirits, such as ‘okolehau and vodka distilled from pineapple. So if you’ve fallen off the eat-local bandwagon because you prefer to drink your meals, get ready to jump back on.

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Taste of the Hawaiian Range

“We did not want to make a foodie event or put on a party, that was never our intent,” says Milton Yamasaki, manager of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) Mealani Research Station in Waimea. “We put on a show…but the whole thing, I cannot emphasize enough, is about education.”

At its inception in 1995, Taste of the Hawaiian Range (TOHR) was part of an educational program to promote Hawaii-raised, grass-finished beef to ranchers, chefs and consumers. “Grass-finished” is a more precise term for beef that has been raised its whole life on grass; technically, all cattle, even those destined for feedlots, start out grass-fed.

Fifteen years later, TOHR now showcases Big Island agriculture and a variety of range-fed meats. Inevitably, the combination of food, ranchers, chefs and eaters make for quite a fete, a “foodie event” even.

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Johnny Mangoseed

In case you couldn’t tell already, mango season is upon us, as manifested from Chinatown streets to farmers’ markets to highway shoulders to–if you’re lucky–your backyard tree. For Mark Suiso of Makaha Mangoes, mango season means not only keeping up with demand at Whole Foods and Alan Wong’s, but preaching the gospel of a mango tree in every backyard. A financial planner by day, Suiso continues to give advice after hours–on how to start and maintain mango and fruit trees; during these sessions, the currency is fruit and the bank is your soul. Suiso spoke with the Weekly about why he’d rather you grow your own mangoes than buy his.

Backyard chickens

The folks at Asagi Hatchery see the growing trend in people raising chickens as a throwback to the old days, back when Asagi Hatchery first started, in the 30s and almost everybody had a chicken in their backyards. Stepping into the hatchery is a throwback in itself: from the clicking of typewriter keys to peeping fuzz balls packaged up in a cardboard box for a new chicken owner. Only that the recipient isn’t a country farmer, but a punk rock girl with tattoos up and down her arms. The times they are a-changin’. Continue reading

Edible Seaweed – Limu salad from the sea

The browns, greens and dark reds of seaweed lose out to their more colorful land counterparts. It’s easy to be enamored with the vibrant colors of tomatoes and the unique markings of heirloom beans, while leaving seaweed to wave quietly in the ocean, surfacing primarily in Japanese cooking in the dried forms of nori and kombu.

But fresh limu, the Hawaiian word for seaweed, is worth seeking out for its briny crunch that adds texture and flavor to poke and salads.  These days, seaweed’s health benefits garner more public attention, but the nutritional value of seaweed is something many Hawaiians have long known—the traditional Hawaiian diet was once a trifecta of limu, poi and fish.

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Green Travel

In today’s world of carbon footprint consciousness, maybe traveling isn’t the most eco-friendly thing to do. Nor is it always budget-friendly, for that matter. But for many, it’s worth it. Sometimes, it’s travel that makes us realize this is a world worth preserving; in a sense, we travel the world to save it. We don’t have to go far, though: As we’re acutely aware, with millions of annual visitors, our own Islands are some of the best eco-destinations around. Here’s our green vacation guide to the Neighbor Islands, with earth-friendly lodging and activities for when you’re ready to hit the road (via bike or hybrid vehicle, naturally).

Eat Local

Of 2009’s food trends, from bacon everything to upscale burgers, farm-to-table eating may be one of our favorites, and the one we’d put our money on for staying power (if we hadn’t given up gambling for the new year). Why? Because eating locally-grown has at least as many upsides as there are toppings at a burger bar. Of all the reasons to buy local—from supporting the local economy to personal health to environmental health—ultimately, more and more chefs are discovering local because it tastes good. For this reason, it’s becoming easier to eat locally as chefs around town are making an effort to source local products. So if you’ve decided 2010 is the year to cultivate your inner locavore, let us guide you through some of the restaurants on Oahu (including some surprising choices) where you can fly your local flag and feast on great food.

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