Exploring East Honolulu
We explore beyond the cul-de-sacs to find East Honolulu’s friendly personalities, hidden treasures and where your lost fins ended up.
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Vegan and Loving It
Jennifer and Christine Hee in the kitchen of Kale's Natural Foods.
PHOTO: ELYSE BUTLER
A vegan chocolate cupcake made with beets may just be the way Jennifer and Christina Hee convince the world that eating healthy doesn’t have to be painful. The sisters head up the deli at Kale’s Natural Foods in the Hawai‘i Kai Shopping Center, garnering a devout following for their scrumptious vegan and vegetarian dishes, many of them made with locally grown ingredients. Their offerings, from veggies steamed in a lemongrass-ginger broth with Thai basil over quinoa to a burger made with beets and black beans, have become so popular Kale’s is planning to expand the kitchen and open a second location in Kaka‘ako this year. “We’ve outgrown our home oven,” says Jennifer, laughing. Along with the new store, the sisters will expand their menu, too, and continue their mission to change the way people eat. “I love making food people enjoy that also happens to be vegan,” Jennifer says. “It excites me to slowly and subversively introduce a plant-based and compassionate paradigm of consumption into the public, using beet mochi as the gateway drug.”
Hawai‘i Kai’s Secret Hip-Hop Mecca
A strip mall is an unlikely place for a world-class recording studio that’s been used by such megastar artists as Beyoncé, Kanye West, Mariah Carey, John Legend, Eddie Vedder and Eminem. But, hidden behind a steel door with an electronic keypad next to Long’s Drugs in the Hawai‘i Kai Shopping Center, right on the marina, is Island Sounds Studio, a highly sophisticated facility boasting two studios outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment for everything from recording to mixing to overdubs. Celebs love the studio’s isolation and privacy. There are no screaming fans or swarms of paparazzi waiting outside L&L Drive-Inn. And its dizzying array of high-tech electronics, like SSL 9000J recording consoles, isolation booths, even instruments, doesn’t hurt, either.
Photos: Hawai‘i Kai Marina Community Association
The idea of a “parade float” takes on a whole new meaning during the annual Hawai‘i Kai Festival of Lights Christmas Boat Parade. The boats/floats are elaborately decorated and packed with musicians, dancers and other merrymakers. After motoring past the judges, the boats take a leisurely three-hour tour around the marina, enlivening Christmas parties at many waterfront homes. Although the marina is private, the parade is open to all entrants, just as long as their boats can fit beneath the 13-foot-high bridge separating the marina and sea (sorry sailboats). Since the festival began in 1996, the number of boats has been up and down. Once, 43 boats entered. Another time, there were so few participants that parade organizer Beverly Liddle decorated the marina’s patrol boats to fill out the field. “That led to problems because nobody could tell who was in charge,” she says.
Visit Your Veggies
FRESH VEGETABLES FROM OTSUJI FARM.
PHOTO: ELYSE BUTLER
In 1954 Kakuji and Fumie Otsuji used their life savings to start a farm in Hawai‘i Kai. The couple’s youngest son, Ed, now runs the four-acre Otsuji Farm near Kaiser High School. He cultivates a variety of veggies and herbs including kale, ānuenue lettuce, mizuna, bok choy and cherry tomatoes. The farm has supplied supermarkets for years and started selling directly to customers six years ago. Some customers buy the assorted veggie box for $11. Ed’s son Jonas diversified further by concocting sushi sliders with kale, eggplant and spicy ‘ahi to sell at farmers’ markets. Recently, the Otsujis added farm-to-table tours at 459 Pakala St. three days a week. Visitors walk through growing greens, then eat a meal prepared by the cooks at Harbor Village Cuisine in nearby Koko Marina Center using ingredients harvested that day from the farm. Lunch tours cost $39, dinner tours $59. Menu items have included spinach soup with tofu and mushrooms, lobster with ginger and Chinese broccoli, choi sum and chicken with cake noodles, and farm-raised tilapia with a shoyu-ginger-garlic sauce.