Ho’olaule’a


Pronounced exactly the way it’s spelled, just don’t get confused by the apostrophes (they’re meant to help). Ho-oh-la-oo-lay-ah is a Hawaiian festival that celebrates the culture, the dance, and its food. If you ever want to feel like a kama’aina (local native), go out to a ho’olaule’a and stuff yourself with da kine ono grindz. Luckily for me, there’s a pretty large festival near my area that’s been going strong for 39 years! Our family would participate in this festival awhile back, when my daughter used to dance the hula on stage at this event. She doesn’t anymore, but recently we decided to go to the park to check it out again. Perfect for a hot summer day!


Like most festivals, the longest lines are the ones at the food booths—and local food is “da bess kine”. Manapua (stuffed bread dumplings), teriyaki, shave ice, Kalua Pork (shredded roast pork), spam musubi, and more! And what kind of fair would it be without meat on a stick? At the Hawaiian kine fair, it’s Korean Kalbi (short ribs) on a stick. We sat on the grass and ate our plate lunches while we watched the dancers perform on stage.

This is a 2-day weekend festival that takes place in the city of Gardena, California; today being the second day, it wasn’t as busy as the first—but still a good crowd came out to watch the festivities. Many halaus (hula dance studios) come from all over to perform here, so it’s a pretty big deal for all us expatriates living on the mainland.

Everyone’s favorite is always the fast moving Tahitian dance, which gets the crowd going with its hyper drum beat and shaking grass skirts. But the beauty of the much slower Hawaiian hula is that the graceful movements of the dance transcends age, and can make anyone look like poetry in motion. Dancers visually tell stories with the movement of their hands as they sweep across the stage, set to the lyrical, falsetto vocals of the music. I mean, talk about stress relief—just watch hula for an hour and chill, man!

At the booths you can buy almost anything that has to do with island culture. Pictured here are (from upper left clockwise) Uli Uli, the feathered gourd rattles used in dancing, and Poi Balls, the string tethered balls also used by dancers as they skillfully whip them around like yo-yos. The giant Gourds are rapped and pounded in rhythm to Hawaiian chants, and you can also see Plumeria stalks—another popular item that people buy to start their own trees at home. Handcrafted jewelry is always in demand—the rings are a traditional Hawaiian design, while plumeria shaped earrings never seem to go out of style. Hawaiian print lunch bags are one of my favorites—I always get a new one every year because I bring my own bento to work and it’s way better than a brown paper bag.

Most of the decorative garlands, wreaths, necklaces, hair ornaments, and ankle & wrist bracelets that you see on the dancers are made by hand with natural materials like flowers and leaves, as was crafted by the ancient Hawaiians. Here’s an award-winning lei designer displaying her skill. Aren’t the flowers beautiful?

That’s my tour of a little bit of Hawaii on the mainland, for a day. If you get hungry for local food, try your hand at all the recipes available everywhere online—they’re really not that complicated. Zojirushi also has a few on their recipe page that are traditional favorites. Jump to their Loco Moco, Spam Musubi and Butter Mochi pages and let me know how you like them!

 

All photos by Bert Tanimoto
Recipe photos by Zojirushi

NYC My Way

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to New York on business. Actually I’ve been going there for the past several years on a regular basis, but this time I decided to pay attention to the details–to this amazing city that never sleeps. Anybody who has lived here probably says there’s no other city like it in the world, but I lived in Tokyo as a younger man, and I think there are as many similarities as there are differences–if that makes any sense. It’s the similarities that I see that allows me to imagine what it would be like to live in New York; maybe not quite as fast as Tokyo, but equally as intense and alive with millions of stories being told at the same time.

I’m not gonna lie–I go to New York to eat. I always go to visit my favorite restaurant, the Yakitori Totto on 55th near Broadway. Their kushiyaki (skewers) is better than anything I’ve ever had in L.A., and to me it gets close to Tokyo. Of course, in Tokyo even the street food stands are impressive. But this gets close, like I said, so Yakitori Totto gets my props.

Some highlights:
Asparagus Bacon (top left) is exactly what it says, tender asparagus wrapped in bacon–the combination is wonderful.
Tsukune (top right) is ground chicken basted with a teriyaki sauce, usually served in meatball shapes, but at Totto they do it in one piece.
Kalbi (bottom left) is Korean style short ribs, which I had with salt instead of the traditional marinade. Excellent choice with the way it brought out the real taste of the beef.
Shishito (center) is a Japanese green pepper, mildly sharp when delicately grilled. This one is served with a dab of miso paste, which gives it quite the flavor blast.
Negi-Pon (bottom right) is a creative concoction of pork pieces topped with scallions and flavored with ponzu sauce, a tangy soy sauce thinned with citrus juice.

By the way, if this gets you craving…I’ll bet you didn’t know Zojirushi has their own recipes for kushiyaki. You should check them out:
Tsukune
Miso Chicken
Stuffed Potato Mushroom

Takin’ it to the streets…
One thing you do in New York is walk a lot–it’s not really a lot, but coming from Los Angeles where you almost never walk, it seems like a lot. And on ground level, you notice a lot.

There are street vendors everywhere, sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians–selling produce, cellphone cases and baseball caps. Why not? It’s easier to pick up a bunch of bananas on the streets when you’re walking home, than it is to find a supermarket.

Here’s a typical traffic scene with a bunch of school buses getting ready to leave, right?

Wrong! These buses are not moving–they’re parked! This street is (I’m guessing) a temporary parking lot for these buses. I stood at this corner waiting to cross for a full minute, before I realized there weren’t any drivers inside the buses. Then it took me another 15 seconds to figure out why they were just stopped there. I guess you find parking where you can in mid-town Manhattan.

I love finding street signs that show the personality of the city. They’re usually worth a double-take.

That statistic about pedestrian deaths has got to be true. New Yorkers do not bother to wait for the “WALK” signal at the crosswalk. As soon as there’s a gap in the car traffic, even in the middle of a green light, New Yorkers start across the street. I’m sure the only ones that wait patiently for the light to change are tourists. I mean, we’re not as fearless as the natives.

Ever since 9/11, the FDNY are the most heroic fire fighters in America. You’ve gotta love their way with words though–they truly have their own language that only they understand. I’d never heard of a “Siamese Connection”, but now I know it’s a twin-fitting water source for the fire department. And being a professional writer, I’m pretty sure there’s no such word as “sprinklered”. But hey, it’s the FDNY–I’ll give them a break.

OK, back to food! Here’s another thing about walking the city–you don’t need Yelp to find good places to eat. You can stumble across them by serendipity and be pleasantly surprised. This place caught my attention from across the street because of the name, Meatball Obsession. How am I supposed to pass that up?

This is my kind of place–quite literally a “hole-in-the-wall”, where the kitchen was behind the order window, inside the building. It’s a meatball in a cup; 2 of them for $9 with pasta at the bottom, your choice of toppings and cheese, then filled to the brim with tangy tomatoey marinara sauce. Mine has  mozzarella pearls, grated parmesan, sauteed mushrooms and fresh basil. With a stick of focaccia dipping bread, this was a fantastic deal! After I ordered, I was asked, “take out or walking?” So I naturally chose to eat and walk, like any normal New Yorker would. It was delicious!

On my last night, I did what I always do when I’m in New York. I took a walk through the city a bit—It’s always more fun at nighttime, especially Times Square, which is kinda like a circus like Venice Beach is for Angelenos.

Saw Doc Brown and his DeLorean…


NYPD on horseback. So cool!


Evening pick-up ping pong match at Bryant Park. Nice!

But at the end of the day, it was still a relief to be back in L.A.

 

photo credits: All photos by Bert Tanimoto

 

What I Like About June


June 2nd is National Donut Day!
I’ve already admitted to a weakness for donuts. And I live in L.A., where there are at least 680 donut shops in L.A. County alone—200 more than New York City and three times more than Chicago’s biggest county. That’s a lot of temptation! But mind you, I don’t go for the national franchises like Winchell’s or Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme. Nor do I think it’s worth buying the “gourmet donuts” that overcharge for lemon poppyseed and maple bacon bits. I like to support the Mom&Pop places with the pink boxes. They’ve been outlasting their trendy competition for years with just plain glazed twists and old-fashioneds.

The pink boxes have their own story. It’s apparently regional and an L.A. thing, but you definitely know what’s inside when someone brings a box to work. Cambodian refugees started it all when they came to SoCal in the 70s and a few entrepreneurs got into the donut business. Originally, donut boxes were made of smooth coated white cardboard, but when the main box supplier passed away, a cheaper alternative became more popular among the Cambodian community. The pink boxes meant less cost, plus the color was better for their cultural beliefs anyway—white is associated with mourning, while red is the color of good fortune. Pink isn’t exactly red, but it’s a lot closer than white! You can’t argue with the longevity of the pink donut box, oil stains and all.

Here’s a couple of Zojirushi recipes to help celebrate National Donut Day:
Gluten Guilt Free Donuts
Donuts Baked Not Fried


June 10th is National Iced Tea Day!
I prefer iced tea over iced coffee, I think. I’d rather have my coffee hot. The problem with ordering iced tea at restaurants though, is that they never have simple syrup around to sweeten your tea. You have to dump granulated sugar in it and clink noisily as you try in vain to dissolve all of it in your glass. I’ve never understood this, since simple syrup is common everywhere in Japan. Of all the varieties of fruity teas, milk teas and lemony teas that you can get today, the version I like best is what I drank for the first time while I was living in Japan.

It’s called Brandy Tea and it’s so easy to make I do it at home sometimes when I’m craving it on a hot summer day. You simply brew some strong black tea (Lipton tea bags are fine) and sweeten it as you prefer. If you do this when it’s hot, it saves you a lot of clinking. I like mine pretty sweet because you have to compensate for the ice to be added later. Then pour it over a glass full of ice and stir to chill. The final amazing ingredient is just a small amount of cognac or brandy, maybe just a teaspoon for a tall glass of tea. Don’t worry, there’s not enough alcohol to make it a boozy drink—it just blends perfectly with the sugary, robust tea and adds a completely different dimension to an ordinary iced tea. The best way to drink iced tea, IMHO.

Here’s a couple of Zojirushi recipes to help celebrate National Iced Tea Day:
Iced Black Tea
Iced Green Tea (Sencha)

June 18th is Father’s Day! (yay!)
The day when us Dads finally get our due, even if it’s only one day a year. No, I’m not complaining. It’s great being a Dad and I love the attention, but I’m not the type to need things because I already have everything I could want. I’ll have to start dropping hints soon so my family can spend wisely on me.

Take me out to dinner? Nah—breakfast or lunch is fine at our local Hawaiian place. Corned Beef Hash & Eggs for breakfast or Loco Moco for lunch; I wouldn’t complain about either. To be honest, what I really like is my wife’s homemade Spam Musubi. We always have good quality rice in the house, a very good cooker (Zojirushi of course), and good quality nori sheets. She always slices the Spam in generous thicknesses and she uses a secret sauce to flavor it (I think it’s from a bottle, but she won’t tell me what kind). Keep fresh in plastic wrap and I’m good for Sunday and the day after for my lunch at work, LOL!

Gifts? Maybe they can get me a set of Legos so I can build the AT-AT Walker and recreate the Battle of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back. Did I ever reveal that I was a Star Wars and a Lego nerd at the same time? Here’s the carbonite freezing chamber from that movie. Enlarge to see the detail!
Princess Leia (to Han just before he gets dropped into the carbonite): “I love you.”
Han: “I know.”
That’s just classic!!

Here’s a couple of Zojirushi recipes to help celebrate Father’s Day:
Loco Moco
Spam Musubi

June 20th is National Ice Cream Soda Day!
To certain people that even care, there apparently is a difference between an “ice cream soda” and a “float”. I guess the old-fashioned ice cream sodas were made with seltzer water, ice cream and a flavored syrup of one kind or another. The classic ones were mixed with chocolate syrup. A float is the same thing except with pre-flavored soda like Coke, root beer or orange soda. Personally, my favorite kind of ice cream soda is the Japanese “Melon Cream Soda” that’s difficult to get here. This is the classic (in Japan) green drink that I would always ask for when I was a kid. It’s easier to make your own than trying to find one at a Japanese restaurant here—get some green Melon Soda at a Japanese market, drop in a scoop of vanilla and you’ll see why some of us never outgrow it!

June 21st is the Summer Solstice!
The first day of summer and the longest day of the year! Living in the hot, humid days of summer in Tokyo, I used to hate summer—twice a day showers, loss of appetite, having my glasses fog up everytime I stepped into an air-conditioned building, dreading that my next train wasn’t air-conditioned, etc. But SoCal summers are the best time of year for me now! I can’t help but appreciate the longer daylight, and we don’t get humidity! I don’t miss summers in Japan. Shown below is a farmer couple taking a break from the heat after working the sugar cane fields of Okinawa.

So if June 21st is the longest day of the year (for the Northern Hemisphere), when we get the most direct sunlight, why isn’t it necessarily the hottest day, too? Because earth’s oceans take longer to absorb and release heat than the air or even land. Even though we’re getting maximum sun in June, the oceans and the land are still relatively cool from recent spring temperatures. Gradually though, the effects of the sun catches up and all that heat starts to release into the atmosphere—which is why the hottest summer temperatures start to take effect in late July or August. So logical!

What do you like about June?

Photo credits: Melon Soda by Japan Centre; Ice Tea by Przemyslaw Idzkiewicz (creative commons); Farmers by Tech Sgt. Rey Ramon, U.S. Air Force; and Bert Tanimoto

Kodomo-no-hi (Children’s Day)


On the “mainland”, or what’s known as the Continental U.S. for those of us that live here, May 5th is an excuse to go eat tacos and drink horchata and pretend to be Mexican for a day, because, who doesn’t love Mexican food on Cinco de Mayo? But in Japan and Hawaii, you’d probably see some colorful carp flying from poles that signify Boy’s Day; also known as Children’s Day in modern and more politically correct Japan. I’ve been flying carp at my house ever since my son was born, and I still do it today even though he doesn’t live with us anymore. I have four fish on my pole, which represent Dad, Mom, big brother and little sister.

In 1948, Japan declared May 5th to be a national holiday, combining Girl’s Day on March 3rd with Boy’s Day to form Children’s Day, thus taking advantage of other national holidays during the same time and cluster them into a Golden Week. If you ever have a chance to visit Japan or live there—trust me, you do not want to test the crowds during this longest holiday period of the year. People can’t wait to get out of town quick enough, so the train stations and airports are jammed.

I always thought the Japanese-Americans in Hawaii tended to hold onto their traditions more tightly than the Japanese do, which to me, is both charming and wonderful. Japan is just too modern in some ways. During my first Boy’s Day as a child, my parents gave me a traditional doll of a samurai warrior, which was supposed to convey strength, character and bravery—the trademarks of Boy’s Day. I still have the doll today, and it is awesome! Check out the detail on this thing! The warrior’s name is Benkei, a monk who served under Minamoto no Yoshitsune during the 12th Century.

Benkei was a mountain of a man at 6’7” and legend has it that he died while defending his master’s castle while Yoshitsune was inside committing ritualistic harakiri. Knowing it was too dangerous to confront Benkei from up close, his enemies rained arrows on him from afar—only to see him still standing after doing considerable damage to his body. When the soldiers dared to get closer, they saw that Benkei was dead, but he had died standing up! Whoa—a super hero for sure! My Benkei has done a pretty good job of protecting our house up to now–I think I’ll pass him on to my son so he can protect his home, too.

Even if you don’t have a samurai warrior doll of your own, you can still celebrate Children’s Day by making a paper samurai helmet with your kids. This classic origami pattern is called a kabuto, and is fairly easy to fold. If you start with a large piece of paper like newspaper, they can actually wear it on their heads—just make sure you start with a perfectly square piece, like you would any origami. And by the way, if you are a Star Wars geek like I am, you know that George Lucas was heavily influenced by Japanese historic culture. The kabuto is no exception—where do you think Darth Vader’s famous helmet shape came from?

The traditional sweet treat on Children’s Day has always been kashiwa mochi, a kind of football shaped rice cake filled with sweet red bean paste. The dessert is then wrapped in an oak leaf, which symbolizes good luck for the new generations because old leaves don’t fall from the tree until the new ones sprout. Oh, that’s kind of deep if you think about it! This is one of my favorite Japanese mochi desserts because the oak leaf actually imparts a kind of earthy fragrance to the mochi that is subtle, but quite nice.

If you can’t get kashiwa mochi but still want to celebrate Kodomo-no-hi, just use some of the recipes that you can find online or on Zojirushi.com that are fun for kids. These are just a few suggestions to get you started:
Gomoku Sushi
Tenmusubi
Soboro-don

Happy Children’s Day!

 

image sources: Koinobori by Australia Japan Society, Golden Week by Japan Times, Kashiwa Mochi by Suguri_F (creative commons), Recipes by Zojirushi, other images by Bert Tanimoto

 

 

International Housewares Show 2017

Every year, the housewares industry flocks to Chicago to attend a huge conference called the International Home + Housewares Show. If you are in the kitchenware, home furnishings or cleaning products business, you’re probably either exhibiting your products or looking for what’s new at this show, walking the halls of the enormous, multi-level McCormick Place convention center. Since my day job is marketing and PR for a major kitchen gadget manufacturer, I’ve been going to Chicago for the past 7 years. Want a tour of what the Show looks like? Read on!

Oh, and at the end, find out how to win a Zojirushi FreshBrew Coffee Maker! THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED.

“My kind of town, Chicago is.”
As Frank Sinatra used to sing, Chicago is a cool town, and I love it. It’s a big city in every sense, and people move with a purpose and seem to work hard. Maybe it’s the weather; you can’t be soft and live here.
Scenes from Chicago: (left) Mr. Lincoln discusses the Gettysburg Address with a modern day man. (right) The Chicago River with a peek of Lake Michigan beyond.

Getting around Chicago at night—either catch a carriage or catch a cab.

It’s starting to get hectic.
Day One, and people are just starting to stream in.
McCormick Place is awesome.

A bank of coffee servers greets the guests.

The escalators get a lot of work.

Entrance to the great South Hall, where all the kitchenware manufacturers are exhibiting.

So many exhibitors!
With over 2000 exhibitors in 3 different halls, it’s nearly impossible to see what everyone has to offer in just 4 days. There are also panel discussions, seminars, cooking demonstrations and live events happening everywhere!A bird’s eye view of the floor.

Our favorite brand…
This is a smaller booth that Zojirushi has in this section of the Show, to show their line-up of travel mugs and lunch jars. So many manufacturers had some kind of hydration product this year, it was as if everyone finally got on the same train Zojirushi has been engineering for decades!The girls are making sure everything is perfect for when the doors open.

Rick Bayless and Ming Tsai
Rick Bayless is about to do a cooking demonstration at the KitchenAid Station. Ming Tsai, who also is scheduled to do one here, jokes around and is giving Rick a hard time. Chef Bayless is famous for his modern takes on traditional Mexican cuisine. Almost every renowned chef comes to this Show, either to promote their own restaurant or to show off their brand of kitchenware. All the chefs greet each other at the Show by their titles, which is always, “Chef”.Cooking demos are held everywhere at the Show, including at individual booths sponsored by the manufacturer, onstage and in banquet rooms for invited guests.

The North Hall
This hall is mainly for home furnishings and cleaning products. If you want to see the latest in vacuum cleaner technology or self-opening trash cans, this is where you want to do your research. One of my favorite companies, SimpleHuman, who design really nice high-tech furnishings for the kitchen and bath, had a booth this year completely enclosed in a shiny black cargo container. Awesome!A familiar icon: Mr. Clean!

Lunchtime!
Food at any convention center always leaves a lot to be desired. My vote for best bet at McCormick is Connie’s Pizza. They’re pretty good and it’s better than the McDonalds right across it.A quick slice of veggie pizza and a salad.

The Pantone Exhibit
Color trends are important in our industry. And who better than Pantone to set the trend, right?
The Pantone Color Watch exhibit


Announcing the Color of the Year at the Pantone presentation. Gasp! It’s going to be GREEN!

Zojirushi at IHA 2017
Zojirushi has their main booth in a section called the Lakeside Center, along with other small electrical appliance manufacturers like Kreurig, Cuisinart, KitchenAid, etc. I like the open airiness and stylish design of their booth, don’t you? The girls out front are busy the whole day cooking and passing out samples.
Inspirations from everyday life.

A line-up of rice cookers on display.


A shelf of NEW products being introduced to the world. Be sure to follow Zojirushi to learn more!

On My Way Home
On my last day in Chicago, I decided to try Chef Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill. This is his tortas stand inside O’hare airport. The food was excellent, by the way.For airport food, this is an impressive and extensive menu.

Taqueria salad, Corn & Poblano Chowder, Guacamole and Chips. Everything was really tasty; his guacamole is outstanding!

Reporting from the 2017 Housewares Show…
Hopefully you enjoyed the peek inside the workings of the housewares industry; it’s a huge conference and cannot be covered in a single article. This year’s show featured 2204 exhibitors from 47 countries, attended by over 62,000 housewares professionals in 4 days.

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED.

30 Days For 30 Years Giveaway!
Write a comment on my post for a chance to win this Fresh Brew Coffee Maker from Zojirushi! That’s all you have to do—so easy! Good Luck!
For official rules, go to this page: RULES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: Pantone Color of the Year courtesy IHA, FreshBrew by Zojirushi. All others by Bert Tanimoto