What the Heck?
PHOTO BY JOHN HECKATHORN
Big Island resident Phillipa Christian says she never misses the Waimea Farmers Market. Last weekend, she picked up an orchid with her 6-year-old daughter Isabella.
Waimea comes alive on First Saturdays
First Friday may belong to the hip streets of Honolulu's Chinatown, but First Saturday belongs to the little ranching town of Waimea on the Big Island.
There's a Farmers Market in Waimea every Saturday. But the first Saturday of the month is the biggest, the one that draws the most farmers and gets customers to drive up the coast from Kailua-Kona, 40 miles away. People get there early, wearing jackets against the morning chill, to get first pick of the organic produce and flowers.
Remind you of the Farmers Market at KCC? The prime mover behind the KCC market, Joan Namkoong, moved to Waimea two years ago. Last weekend, I found her having saimin for breakfast at Joung Nakamoto's catering tent, where every breakfast comes with all the homemade kim chee you can eat. "It's good kim chee," said Namkoong.
You always run into someone you know at a Farmers Market. Spotted writer George Fuller who was quite the young-man-about-Honolulu in the '80s. He's now a California-based golf columnist for CBS Sports, back for a quick visit. "Hawaii just gets better and better," he said. "This little market is a blast."
Also ran into Stephen Boyle, who retired to the Big Island after 15 years as the high-profile manager of the New Otani Beach Hotel. It was Boyle who popularized hiking Diamond Head. "All the travel guides now say the hike is a 'must-do' on Oahu," he says, shaking his head. "I used to have to beg people to come along with me."
On a Mission for Poi
The busiest booth at the Waimea Farmers Market was hardly even a booth. It was more of a tailgate where Alberta Mock-Chew sold poi. By 9:30 a.m., she'd sold out. Prospective buyers would run up, holding money, and then, crestfallen, promise to come earlier the next time.
Mock-Chew's husband, Jason, grows taro in Waipio Valley. From his crop and that of other farmers, the Mock-Chews, two generations of them, make poi, which they sell only at Farmers Markets around the Big Island.
It's a mission as much as a business. "I feel we were chosen to do this," she says. "Poi isn't a product you get rich on, but every night I go to bed feeling good about myself."
The Power of Prayer
The Farmers Markets on Oahu have nothing like Waimea's Maile Napoleon. In an open-air tent, Napoleon practices lomilomi, which she learned from her hanai grandmother. She doesn't take appointments. "I don't want you coming back at a certain time and being all upset I'm not ready," she says.
If you show up when she's ready, she will charge you for $1 per minute -- generous Hawaiian minutes -- to make all your aches and troubles disappear.
Napoleon is also a minister. Her lomilomi includes two prayers, one before, one after. I said it was nice of her to pray for her clients. "It's not for you," she said. "It's for us. You've been out somewhere doing who knows what. The prayer is armor for the person doing the massage."
PHOTO BY JOHN HECKATHORN
Joshua Silverstein sells his art at the Waipio Lookout.
Art Amid the Taro
The Big Island's Waipio Valley -- with its winding river and green taro loi, its steep cliffs and dark sand beach -- has such strong mana, you can almost feel it from the Waipio Lookout a mile above the valley floor.
"It's one mile down, but since it's a 25 percent grade in places, it feels like 10 miles up," says Joshua Silverstein, who should know. He's walked up to the lookout today to proffer his woodblock prints of the valley, $20 each, to tourists.
Silverstein, who's from Long Island, N.Y., has lived in the valley for a couple of months now, volunteering on an organic farm. How long does he intend to stay?
"It depends on how the prints sell," he says. "Sure you don't want one?"
The storm passing through last week wreaked havoc with airports -- none more so than Kailua-Kona. Last Wednesday morning, more than 100 stranded travelers filled the largely open-air airport, huddled against the fierce wind and rain. There'd been no flights out all morning.
Finally, just after noon, Aloha Airlines brought in not one, but two planes. Through driving needles of rain, passengers had sprinted across the tarmac, up the boarding ramps. They arrived in the cabin, literally dripping water. There a flight attendant named Jenna handed them ... cocktail napkins. "I'm sorry," she said. "This is all I've got."
Passengers were all laughing, communicating past all the language barriers with looks and funny faces. It was, ironically, the happiest interisland flight I've ever been on.
Nishida Throws Bourdain a Party
In Honolulu taping his TV show was the Discovery Channel's macho foodie Anthony Bourdain ("No Reservations").
Side Street's Colin Nishida was asked to throw a dinner for Bourdain, full of local food, with a few prominent local chefs. Instead, Nishida invited all his friends.
It wasn't a good idea to eat anywhere else last Thursday night. Most of the town's top toques were hanging at Colin's, eating Parker Ranch rib-eye and Chinese-style moi, sucking up everything from vodka shots to high-end cabernet.
Tucked into booths with Bourdain were Russell Siu, Fred D'Angelo, Wayne Hirabayashi, Ronnie Nasuti, Elmer Guzman, Alan Wong. Hanging at the bar were Nico Chaize, Don Murphy and Hiroshi Fukui.
At a back table June Jones huddled with a covey of business heavyweights. "Man, everybody who is anybody is here tonight," said Chuck Furuya, who proceeded to bend Bourdain's ear for an hour on the nature of Hawaii food.
As Bourdain poured himself into an SUV at the end of the evening, I asked if everywhere he went they threw him a party. "Not like this one, brother," he said. "Not like this one."
John Heckathorn is editor of Hawaii Magazine and director of integrated media for the aio Group.