Hawaii – it's almost too ideal to be real. Just the name is enough to conjure images of crystal clear waters, bronzed surfers and huge smiling Islanders, toting ukeleles and floral necklaces. The best thing about it? It's closer than you think and very affordable for anyone looking to catch some island vibes. Ever since budget airliner Jetstar started flying out that way, a savvy traveller can pick up return tickets for well under a grand.
And with the holiday season just around the corner, it's something that you might be considering. We know we did. Because just like you, we here at Penthouse need to unwind from time-to-time too. And where better than on some white sands, on an island in the middle of the Pacific – far away from the day-to-day grind of normal life.
With that in mind, we decided to check out a little early and get ourselves to the fiftieth state of the US, just so we could give you the lowdown on all the best that Hawaii has to offer.
In 1991, 12 chefs began Hawaii’s first concerted culinary movement, augmenting native and immigrant flavours with European finesse. Supporting local farmers, ranchers and fishermen was integral to their vision and since then a new generation of chefs has infused fresh new ideas and influences into the movement.
One such chef is Chris Kajioka, who opened Senia with his co-executive chef Anthony Rush, formerly of Fera at Claridge’s. Named “xenia” (a play on the ancient Greek concept of hospitality from a time when it was believed gods walked among men), Hawaii’s hottest restaurant deftly presents dishes such as bubble and squeak croquettes with smoked egg mousse, a “poke” cracker with little droplets of soy mixed with agar, “pastrami” beef short rib and a herb dough-baked snapper with Manila clam “bouillabaisse.”
The restaurant takes great pride in sourcing locally whenever possible, hailing ingredients from regional farms like Maui Nui Venison, Ho Farms, Hamakua Mushrooms, and Hirabara Farms, where a Caraflex cabbage is grown exclusively for Senia’s spectacular charred cabbage dish.
The vision extends to its drinks menu, which incorporates Big Island Brewhaus’s Overboard IPA, Kona Coffee Purveyor’s Hualalai-estate-grown Kona Reserve coffee, mamaki tea and Big Island Tea’s A’a Black Tea, grown on a 400-year-old deposit of volcanic ash on Mauna Loa.
Hawaii’s lush landscape offers more than just fine culinary encounters; it presents the perfect environment for producing and distilling a selection of dessert wines and moonshine, among other spirits. Here are a few local tipples worth tasting.
Koloa Rum Co.
The single-batch, craft distilled and bottled rums are handcrafted using the finest sugarcane and Kauai’s purest water sources, which have undergone natural slow filtering through layers of volcanic rock before reaching underground aquifers. This results in an individual flavour and mouthfeel worth sipping, or maybe adding to morning coffee.
Hawaiian Shochu Company
Overtaking sake consumption in Japan, this clear spirit is known for its clean and smooth flavour. The shochu from the North Shore of Oahu incorporates locally grown sweet potatoes, which are ideal for their starchy and desiccated virtues. The end product has a clean taste and sweet finish with hints of lychee.
Ocean Organic Vodka
An incredible handcrafted vodka distilled from organic sugarcane and blended with deep sea mineral water. This Maui-grown liquor boasts an amazing purity and depth of flavour in addition to its gluten-free, non-GMO, non-herbicides and non-pesticides attributes. Besides, if it’s organic, it has to be healthy. Right?
To offset all of the amazing culinary Hawaiian treats and hard liquors you plan to sample while on island time, here are some Hawaiian superfoods to restore some balance.
Harvested in Kona on the Big Island, where there is abundant sunlight, deep sea water and fresh water from aquifers, spirulina is purported to support total health for long life. It's available in the form of tablets or powders, and a protein shake powder, in case you are seriously considering a healthier lifestyle after you return from your vacation.
What looks like a custard apple with a bad complexion, the Indian noni is a traditional food and medicine in Southeast Asia, India, and the Pacific Islands. Benefits include cancer prevention, liver maintenance, and cardiovascular support and it has antioxidant properties and offers an immune system boost. While it's not famous for its taste, noni can be juiced, which is ideal for blending to mask its unusual flavour.
Moringa oleifera is a phytonutrient-rich superfood that comes from the horseradish tree. Grown by Mountain View Farms on Oahu, the plant’s health benefits include aiding in cancer prevention and liver protection, as well as controlling diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It also helps to improve cardiovascular health, relieve stomach disorders and boost the immune system. This is a trending food that chefs such as Chris Kajioka of Senia and Wade Ueoka at MW Restaurant are using it in dishes and drinks.
Also known as awa in Hawaii, the root of this plant produces a sedating anaesthetic that has euphoriant and entheogenic properties. Basically, you get high while benefitting from a sense of relaxation. While technically it may not be a superfood, enjoying some kava in a café should be handled with caution, even though you technically cannot get a DUI when driving after consumption.