It’s Only A Play

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Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the closed doors at a Broadway opening night after-party? When Terrence McNally’s satirical comedy It’s Only A Play came from Broadway to Bethel Street Hawaii was treated to a glimpse of what that just might be like. In fact, this production of the play is the first post-Broadway production of It’s Only A Play performed.

Originally penned by Terrence McNally, and premiered off Broadway in 1982, this current incarnation of the hit play has been modernized to the point where there are references to online chatrooms, and how everyone on the internet has an opinion, and even a selfie!

Directed by Logan Reed, and starring Hawaii’s own Joe Moore, and star of stage and screen Linda Purl, joined by Cathy Foy, Paul Mitri, Tom Holowach, Ryan Wuestewald, and Dezmond Gilla, the entire play takes place in the bedroom in the townhouse of the producer of the play which just opened that night. There are all of your Broadway archetypes making appearances in the play. The green Broadway hopeful who just arrived in the big city to make a name for himself, the veteran actor of stage and screen, the leading lady attempting a comeback after having fallen from grace, the pained artist director, the idealist playwrite, the wealthy producer, and the harsh critic who is always on the outside looking in.

But first let's take a selfie! The cast of It's Only A Play.

But first let’s take a selfie! The cast of It’s Only A Play.

We see seemingly superficial trivialities develop into deeper issues, and witness personal growth for the characters involved. Things are also kept lighthearted thanks to a heavy dose of comedy present throughout the play which satirizes the world of the theatre.

If you haven’t already gone to see it, you still have a few days left to check it out. It’s Only A Play runs to June 28, 2015 at the historic Hawaii Theatre. If you’ve already seen it, go see it again before it’s too late! Plus, you get to hear Joe Moore say words that you’ll never hear him say on his evening newscasts.

Purchase tickets at: http://www.hawaiitheatre.com/tickets/

Something New: Oodles of Noodles at Iyo Udon

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Amidst the flurry of new ramen, hot pot and tea shops opening up around town is something a little different. That something different is Iyo Udon in Ala Moana Center! Aside from the Downtown Marukame location that opened for business recently we haven’t seen much in the way of new udon places popping up. Could this be a sign of things to come?

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There are currently 36 Iyo Seimen (what it’s called in Japan) locations of this restaurant across Japan, a brand new location in Korean and this brand new location at Ala Moana Center, which is their first step into the US market.

The decor is chic and modern with a Japanese flair. I instantly thought of a trendy new restaurant space in a bustling Japanese city when I first set eyes on this place.

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If you’ve been to Marukame Udon in Waikiki, or Downtown, then the ordering process here will seem familiar. I’ve been told that Iyo is one of Marukane’s biggest competitors in Japan, and I can see why.

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The concept is similar in that it’s more of a casual cafeteria style setup where you walk the line and order your steaming hot (or chilled) bowl of noodles and broth, and proceed to picking out some extra sides. Those sides include fifteen different types of tempura and other fried delicacies, and seven different kinds of musubi.  After that you end up at the register to add on a drink, pay, then find a seat in their 65 seat dining room.

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The price point is very affordable. Starting at $3.75 for a regular bowl of udon, and add-on sides ranging from $1.25 to $1.75. With these very reasonable prices I can see this being a popular stop for tourists and locals alike.

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There was also one unusual little utensil that we noticed near the napkins and chopsticks. I was some sort of tong looking thing in a rigid plastic case labeled simply “Noodle Cutter”, so I’m sure we can all figure out what this is used for. Simple and straight forward. Unusual nonetheless.

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By now you must be wondering how the food tastes, and what I had. Well, I got to try the Ontama Niku Bukkake Udon, and a good sampling of various tempura, some chicken karaage and a couple of musubi.

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The noodles were thick with good body, and nice chew. Perfectly cooked, which was impressive considering the volume and pace the kitchen was dealing with. I should also mention here that the noodles are made fresh in house. The broth was clean and flavorful. The tempura were hot, and the batter was crispy. Believe it, or not, my personal favorite was actually the pumpkin tempura. The Chicken Karaage was also soft and moist on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside. And as you may be able tell, one of the items was the oh-so-Japanese octopus shaped hotdogs! The musubi were also on par to their competitors, but there was a greater variety with offerings such as Portuguese Sausage, and Tuna Mayo musubis.

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With their upcoming grand opening weekend special starting in just a few hours, Saturday, June 14, and Sunday, June 15, 2014 of $1 bowls of udon from 10:30 am to noon, expect there to be a huge line of curious diners, and if it’s anything like Marukame in Waikiki, don’t expect those long lines to really ever disappear for good.

Iyo Udon
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Blvd, space 2054
(Near Genki Sushi, between Rokkaku and Victoria’s Secret)
Honolulu, Hawaii 96814
10:30 am – 10:00 pm Daily

 

 

BEGIN Yafaiian Music Concert 2014

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Yafaiian is a combination word of yafayafa, Okinawan for “soft wind”, and Hawaiian meaning “soft wind that blows in Hawaii”.

This trio from Ishigaki island in Okinawa consists of Eisho Higa (Vocals/Guitar/Sanshin/Ichigo Ichie/Washboard), Masaru Shimabukuro (Guitar/Ichigo Ichie/Chorus) and Hitoshi Uechi (Piano/Accordion/Chorus) artfully melds traditional Okinawan shimauta (island music) with more contemporary j-pop qualities, and they also throw in a good amount of American jazz and even a dash of Hawaiian influence in many songs. Their popularity is wide ranging all over Okinawa, across Japan, and around the world, and especially among the Uchinanchu community here in Hawaii. In fact, the music from popular Keali‘i Reichel song Ka Nohona Pili Kai was borrowed from Begin’s Nada Sou Sou.

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Luckily for us here in Hawaii, the members of Begin understand, embrace, and promote the special bond that the Ryukyu and Hawaiian islands share. Not only because of the similar tropical climate and resort destination qualities of the two, but because of the human bond that is shared among the people of both places, the shared cultures and even the beautiful ocean. Because of this special relationship, and Begin’s love of the Hawaiian islands and people, they are often visiting Hawaii for concerts, other performances, and even to just visit. This year Hawaii was treated to a special concert by the musical group. Even though it was pouring rain at some points, it was still a fantastic experience.

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The band was also accompanied by Ryukukok Matsuri Daiko Hawaii for a few of their songs.

Some of the Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii performers

 

Iyasasa!

After the concert the members of Begin were gracious enough to have a meet & greet/autograph session for the fans who were patient enough to wait in line. Luckily by then the rain had stopped for a while, and we were slowly starting to dry off.

I think they were just as happy to meet their fans as their fans were to meet them

I truly can’t wait for the next time I get to see Begin live!

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Something New: Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

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Today is the day! There’s a new Hot Pot kid in town, and her name is Little Sheep.

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Hailing from Mongolia in Northern China comes this very welcome addition to the second floor of Honolulu’s Ward Centre. The mega restaurant chain has over 300 locations across China, Japan, the US mainland and Canada, and has finally arrived here in Honolulu. This Little Sheep location can easily be found in the space previously occupied by E&O Trading company. This spacious restaurant has very ample seating and table space as well as a fully stocked bar, outdoor lanai seating for those cool evenings when air conditioning just seems a little overkill, and even a semi-private dining room for large parties.

Semi-private dining room

The decor is a little fancier and more modern than what we’re used to in terms of hot pot restaurants here in Honolulu. To me it seemed like a hybrid of a high-end yakiniku crossed with an upscale ramen joint. Modern furniture, stainless steel counter tops, and wood paneling on the walls combine for an interesting effect.  It looks more like something you would find in LA more than Honolulu.

A peek past the sauce bar into the kitchen.

As you enter the restaurant you will walk past the front counter where the hosts and hostesses warmly greet you, and just behind them is a well stocked bar. There are several cocktail options, bottled beers, and beers on tap. The perfect cold drink to go with a hot pot.

A pint of Sapporo, and a pint of Kirin.

We also got to try their lilikoi iced tea. The tea on its own was flavorful and refreshing, the there was also a bonus add-on of flavor filled balls at the bottom of the cup. Think ikura, but filled with fruit juice instead of the sea.

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As with all other hot pot style eateries you start off with a boiling pot of broth. The broth here at Little Sheep comes in a simple two versions. A 36 spice House Original broth which was clean and herby, and a House Spicy broth, which is the same base as the original with additional spicy kick. Each of these are also available in vegetarian, and low sodium versions for those who prefer a walk on the healthier side. You can also get the Yin Yang pot which enables you to try both broths at once.

Yin Yang Pot. Spicy on the left, Original on the right. ($3.95 per person)

The extensive menu also offers up about 80 different options of meats, seafood, veggies, mushrooms, noodles, and other little goodies to add to your bubbling broth. There are also a couple dozen appetizers to choose from. I highly recommend the Mongolian Kimchi, and the Pickled Garlic. We had both, and absolutely loved them.

Pickled Garlic ($3.95)

 

Mongolian Kimchi ($3.95)

 

As with the other hot pot places, especially the Chinese and Taiwanese style establishments, the sauces that you dip your cooked meat and veggies in plays a very important role. The same goes for Little Sheep. The sauce bar is quite extensive with a plethora of sauces to choose from.

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We were treated to a variety of meats, veggies and other delectables.

Supreme Beef, 12 oz ($15.95)

Assorted veggies, and others.

 

If you want rice along with your hot pot, you’ll have to order a side of it, but honestly, though, the Sesame Pancake was absolutely outstanding. A loaf of sesame crusted bread which was dense yet soft on the inside, and crispy on the outside. To me, the texture was distantly related to an andagi, but not quite as dense, like a hybrid of andagi and malasada, but tasting very different.  I highly recommend dipping some of the bread in your soup. You won’t be disappointed!

Sesame Pancake ($5.95)

Even though we were completely stuffed even before the end of our meal, there was still dessert to try. There are two items on the dessert menu. One is a house made ice cream which comes in three flavor options. Vanilla, Black Sesame, Mango, and Plum. The flavors we got to try are below, and I would say that Plum was my favorite.

Ice Cream ($3.50) Mango, Vanilla and Plum flavors pictured.

The other dessert is a Yam Mochi with Red Bean Filling. This dish was reminiscent of something like a fried taro mochi filled with azuki beans. Very delicious.

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Yam Mochi w/ Red Bean Filling ($5.95)

The service on our visit was outstanding. The restaurant was well staffed, and the servers were very friendly, helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable. Most of the wait staff were recruited from local college and university campuses in town, and were put through a rigorous two week training program before opening day.

At an estimated price-point of about $25 per person, Little Sheep is definitely a worth option for the ever evolving Kaka‘ako-Ward area. With Little Sheep opening its doors, it helps to expand the variety of restaurants in the Ward Centers, and another welcome addition to the Honolulu hot pot scene.

I sincerely look forward to paying them another visit, and very soon.

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Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot – Ward Centre
1200 Ala Moana Blvd, Building 4, Second Floor, Bay 16
(808) 593-0055
11:30 am – 3:00 pm Monday – Thursday (Lunch)
5:30 pm – 10:30 pm Monday – Thursday (Dinner)
11:30 am – midnight Friday – Saturday

 

The Joy of Sake Aftertaste #1

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There are two series of events that happen throughout the year that I always make it a point to try my best to attend.  One is the Hawaii International Film Festival in the fall and their Spring Showcase in, well, the spring.  The other is The Joy of Sake, and it’s periodic Aftertaste events held throughout the year.  Monday night was one such Joy of Sake Aftertaste event.

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After the initial tasting, all the bottles are gathered, and put on ice for all to enjoy while eating

January 20, 2014 marked the kick-off to the 2014 Joy of Sake Aftertaste series at The Pig & The Lady in Honolulu’s Chinatown district.  The theme for the night was Kimoto and Sokujo.  Kimoto refers to the old traditional method of fermentation used for centuries, whereas Sokujo refers to a faster fermentation process developed in more modern times.  The two different methods give way to different characteristics to the sake they produce.  I could go on, and on about this topic, but it’s just easier if you go out and pick up a few bottles of each, and have your own

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Another tub of sake

As for the event itself, we started off with a welcome from the Joy of Sake gang, and a brief talk about Kimoto vs Sokujo from Chris Pearce, the Joy of Sake founder.  We were then treated to 45 different sake spread around the restaurant.  On each sake information card, it was noted if the sake was Kimoto, or Sokujo style.  This really helped to illustrate the difference between the two fermentation methods.

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One of the several tables of sake

Aside from all of the sake on hand, participants were treated to the delicious bites from The Pig & The Lady.  The creative, and well balanced dishes included Bo Bia, Fried Egg Salad, Vegetable Poke, Smoked Ahi, Mung Bean Tamale, Pork Belly and Turmeric and Shallot Jasmine Rice.  Here’s a few pictures of some items:

Vegetable Poke

Vegetable Poke

Bo Bia

Bo Bia

Smoked Ahi

Smoked Ahi

Is it 2014 already?!

Well, the new year is off to a start, and it’s already two weeks old!  Time sure flies when you’re getting old!  

Looking back on 2013, there were a lot of ups and downs.  New people coming in to my life, and others leaving.  Happy and sad.  Good and bad.  Yin and Yang.  I guess you can’t really have one without the other, huh?  Let’s hope that 2014 is filled with more pluses than minuses.

I feel like the year is already off to a decent start.  Got a free electric lawn mower from the neighbor down the street, made it out to a few events already, got to reconnect with a lot of friends and started to meet some new ones, ate at a couple new restaurants, and hey, I’ve even managed to lose a few pounds!  Now all I need is to go on a nice trip somewhere.  I’m thinking Japan?  Maybe Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, Europe?  Hell, anywhere is good as long as it’s a trip!

Here’s to a brand new 2014, full of promise!

Product Test: Dr. Scholl’s Active Series Insoles

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Have you heard of Influenster before?  It’s kinda like Klout.  Still not quite sure what I’m mumbling about?  Well, they are websites that track and determine your level of influence online based on your activities on social media outlets and such.  Based on your level and areas of high influence you may become eligible for some free perks from related participating companies, and all they ask is that you review their product.

This installment of Odds & Ends is one of those product reviews.  I was recently awarded an Influenster Voxbox (their term for their swag).  The product in this voxbox was a Dr. Scholl’s Active Series insole.  Let me start by saying that I haven’t been wearing traditional shoes very much recently.  Most of the time I’ve been wearing my Vibram Five-Fingers, but there are times where I will throw on a regular pair of shoes.  Hiking is one of these occasions.  My hiking shoes are a pair of New Balance trail running shoes.  Since I first bought them about two years ago I’ve used the stock insole, and then after last years marathon I switched my running shoe insoles into them.  I don’t recall the brand, but they were pretty pricey insoles specifically for long distance running.  After I received the Dr. Scholl’s I switched them again to try test them out.

Right off the bat, they made my two-year-old trail runners feel new.  This would probably happen with any new set of insoles, but it was definitely more comfortable than stock insoles, but didn’t provide quite as much support as my other running shoe insoles.  I’ve only been able to test them out so far walking and jogging relatively short distances, and I will be taking them on the trail this weekend to see how they hold up to some off-road action.

Would I recommend them?  Sure!  As long as you’re not intending to use them for an intense long distance run, like a marathon, and the training that goes along with it.  For more recreational purposes, and shorter workouts, they are a great balance of comfort, support, and affordability at just under $20.

Post-HIFF

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Well, the Hawaii International Film Festival came and went.  It was a glorious  week and a half away from work.  Over those fantastic eleven days I managed to squeeze in 40 screenings.  36 feature length films, and four short film collections totaling 34 different shorts.  This was by far the most films I’ve sat through at HIFF.  It’s going to be hard to top next year!

I always like to think of HIFF as a way to expand the way I think about and look at things.  It helps to show me other perspectives that I normally wouldn’t consider in daily life.  The collection of creative points of view, and foreign narratives helps to spark thought and contemplation, and chatting with fellow festival goers and film makers helps to really open up my mind.  It’s also like a way to travel, and see the world in ways that I just don’t currently have the time or money for.

Some of the highlights for me were:

The Wind Rises http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/wind_rises_the_2013

Ken and Mary: The Asian Truck Express http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/ken_and_mary_the_asian_truck_express_2013

Sake Bomb http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/sake_bomb_2013_2

Rurouni Kenshin http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/ruroni_kenshin_2013

Maruyama, The Middleschooler http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/maruyama_the_middle_schooler_2013

Tasting Menu http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/tasting_menu_2013

A Tale of Samurai Cooking http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/tale_of_samurai_cooking_2013

One Night Surprise http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/one_night_surprise_2013

A Leading Man http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/leading_man_a_2013

Mourning Recipe http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/mourning_recipe_2013

Yeh Jawaani Hai Dedwani http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/yeh_jawaani_hai_deewani_2013

Crying 100 Times http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/crying_100_times__every_raindrop_falls_2013

The Kiyosu Conference http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/kiyosu_conference_2013

Hentai Kamen http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/hentai_kamen_forbidden_superhero_2013

Oshin http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/oshin_2013

Dancing Karate Kid http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/dancing_karate_kid___battle_for_the_bri_2013

Scent of a Woman (short) http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/scent_of_a_woman_2013

Peace By Piece (short) http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/peace_by_piece_2013

No More Aloha (short) http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/no_more_aloha_2013

The First Hope (short) http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/the_first_hope_2013

Requiem for Romance (short) http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/requiem_for_romance_2013

I’m Going to Mum’s (short) http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/im_going_to_mums_2013

If you get the chance to see any of these, I highly recommend them.  Well, some are very specific to my geeky tastes, but it’s worth a shot.  You may end up loving some of them!

Can’t wait for the Spring Showcase!!

animated gif’s

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They’ve been around for years and years, but they’ve experienced somewhat of a revival recently.  I’m talking about the animated .gif.   Most people pronounce it like “gift” minus the “t” sound, but the actual pronunciation is “jif” kinda like the peanut butter.  Check out this CNN.com article for validation. http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/22/tech/web/pronounce-gif/index.html

Why, you ask, am I bringing this up?  Well, since I have this slight disorder where I sometimes keep my finger down pressing the shoot button on my DSLR to get a whole series of photos that end up looking like pages out of a flip book, I decided to have some fun with them.  Here’s a few from some nights out with the Yeeps (Yelp peeps).

Looks like you have to click on each pic to see the animation.  Boo…

 

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The awkward long hug.

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The other side of the panorama.

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Fun with sausage!

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Moar fun with sausage!

Third time’s the charm?

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Well, it’s been almost three months again, and still no update.  Maybe I should make this a “quarterly” blog?  Nah, I’ll just keep trying.  

HIFF 33 is starting up this Thursday, October 10, and runs through Sunday, October 20.  I’ve got a total of 40 films during the festival, and two other HIFF films screening outside of the official festival period.  One of which was The Face Reader, a Korean period piece, that screened last night at the 1,400 seat Hawaii Theater.  I’m impressed with the restoration and renovation efforts put forth by the Hawaii Theater Center.  The new sound system is superb, and the new projector and screen are super sharp.  If you have a chance to see a film at the Hawaii Theater, I highly recommend doing so.  As it turns out, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so since they are planning to hold movie screenings every Monday night at the Hawaii Theater.  Yet another thing to do in Honolulu.  My other extra-festival movie will be screened the day after the festival, and will also be at the Hawaii Theater.  This one is Spinning Plates, a documentary telling the stories of three very different restaurants in America, and the constant challenges their owners face.  

One down, fourty-one to go.