It started with an email I received a few days ago from Ahualoa Farms in Honoka’a, Hawai’i, and ended with a pretty close to perfect Mai Tai last night.
I love connecting the dots. But, before I do, l want to pay a little tribute to Kaulana Pakele the lead singer of Mana’o Company, who tragically lost his life while swimming off Makaha Beach Park on Memorial Day. “Moloka’i Slide” has a special place in my heart because it was the genesis of this wonderful business that has dominated my life for the last 14 years. . . . .another story for another time. I come back to this tune time and again and have always considered it a celebration of a life well lived and one to look forward to. R.I.P Kaulana and thank you.If you want to play and sing along with your uke, here’s the song sheet for “Moloka’i Slide“ that we use in our songbooks at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat.
Kaulana Pakele and Mana’o Company with my favorite rendition of “Moloka’i Slide,” the song where it all began:
The people. The music. The traditions. The natural beauty of the islands and cultural heritage. I love it all and want to share it with you….including some of our favorite foods. One of the first stops I make on our way to Hawi for the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat is the Waimea Town Market at the Parker School, held every Saturday from 7:30 am to noon. This is where we first became acquainted with the good folks at Ahualoa Farms in Honoka’a, on Hawai’i Island’s north shore.
If you’ve never had a fresh, and I mean really fresh, macadamia nut grown in Hawai’i, with nothing but a light dusting of sea salt, you are missing one of life’s true guilty pleasures. And while you can get mac nuts with all kinds of spices and seasonings, other than possibly simply coating them with thick, dark chocolate, why would you want to mask that pure, subtle, and wholesome taste of a simply roasted nut?
Granted, macadamia nuts are notably high in fat, 21 grams per ounce! But, oh, what that fat can do! You can read a summary of the many health benefits to be had from eating an ounce of macadamia nuts each day (and a couple of precautions) in Medical News Today. The hardest part may be limiting yourself to just one ounce.
Suffice it to say that my perfect trail mix, with just the right amount of carbohydrate, fat, and caffeine to keep me powered up for a steep climb ahead is a little 2oz container filled with 1 oz. of Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans and 1 oz. of Sea Salt Macadamia Nuts.
And dang! I just spread a little of the Macnella Chocolate Macademia Nut Spread on a slice of fresh French Bread and there’s no going back……….
Lucky for us, Ahuloa Farms is having a 20% off sale now through the fourth of July….so this would be the perfect time for you to visit their website and explore. (Plus, if you hit $80, shipping is free!) Now that I know how good they are for me, I’ll be adding a couple of bags of their Large Pieces to my order to use in my home-made granola…..Let me know if you’d like the recipe.
So, how did we get from there to the near-perfect Mai Tai?
When my last order from Ahualoa Farms arrived here in California a few days ago, I got to pining (again) for Hawai’i, most specifically that moment—shortly after we arrive in Hilo, after we have picked up our rental car and have gotten out of the airport—when we’re sitting at our favorite table overlooking the lovely koi pond at Ponds in Hilo.
Then, I know we have arrived. The weight of the journey (which probably started at 4 am) leaves us and the joy of being back in Hawai’i wraps all around us.
Jordan orders a beer, I order a Mai Tai. And we share an order of the Furikake Seared Ahi, one of our favorite meals.
If you want to take a moment to get in the mood right now, it really doesn’t get much better than Amy Hanaiali’i singing “In Hilo Town.” But if that’s a little too slow for you, and you want to play along, skip ahead and join John Cruz singing “Island Style.” (Click here to download the song sheet.)
Amy Hanaiali’i sings “In Hilo Town:”
John Cruz sings and plays “Island Style.” Grab your song sheet and play along. You’ll learn to sing it like it was meant to be:
Even with the music, though, it is difficult to recreate that moment at home in California. Believe me. I have tried numerous times. And I have given up any attempt at duplicating the furikake seared ahi. But, after a bit of trial and error, I have come up with a darn good Mai Tai that uses fresh lillikoi syrup that we used to get at the Farmer’s Market in Hawi, just across the street from the Kohala Village Hub, home of the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat. For me there is no other single flavor on the planet that invokes the gentle sea breezes of Hawai’i more than the tropical scent and taste of fresh lillikoi. (I’m such a sucker. I just planted two passion fruit plants in my front yard hoping I’ll get some fruit.) In the meantime I’ll substitute Aunty Lillikoi’s “award winning” Passion Fruit Syrup in the following—experimented with, and argued over—recipe for a very close-to-“real” Mai Tai.
You will note that this recipe lacks the pineapple and orange juice people often associate with Mai Tai’s and that it does require fresh lime juice. But, the original Mai Tai, concocted at Trader Vic’s in Oakland, in 1944, was a sipping drink, meant to showcase the rum. Replacing the Orgeat in the original (which is difficult to find) and simple syrup with lillikoi syrup is our own take on it. I also add more fresh lime juice because. . . . .well. . . .Vitamin C. Gotta stay healthy!
In the meantime, here’s a little IZ and “White Sandy Beach of Hawai’i” to take us out. Assuming you might like to learn this song, I’ve also included a couple of excellent tutorials. The first one, by Jody Kamisato, is an easy karaoke-style play and strum along. You can down-load the song sheet for “White Sandy Beach” here. (Hint: If that Bbm is a little tricky for you, just play a Bbm6 instead, by simply barring the first fret.)
The second truly exceptional instructional video, by Aldrine Guerrero (Ukulele Underground) teaches a finger-picking pattern for this tune so you can play a little more like IZ did. (The finger-picking pattern starts about 2 minutes into the video.)
Have fun! Stay safe. And please wear a mask and wash your hands often, so we can all sing and play together again soon.
R.I.P. Courtney Gonzales. This one is for you.
Karaoke-style tutorial for White Sandy Beach, by Jody Kamisato:
If you like this lesson with Aldrine Guerrero, you can find many more at Ukulele Underground.