HUAKA‘I MEA‘AI – Sky Garden Restaurant

23 04 2009

There’s a really good restaurant, Sky Garden, at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo. We went on a Friday night and the restaurant was hopping, even though ‘Imiloa was long closed for the night.

Mu-shu Pork        

Mu Shu Pork

Pot Stickers

Pot Stickers

Cashew Chicken

Cashew Chicken


Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

Peanut Butter Desert

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Pie

There were seven of us; four adults and three kids. Everybody was happy.

J: “I’m impressed with this restaurant. The view! In daylight you can see the town and the bay. It’s an interesting place.”

M: “Mu Shu is one of my favorite things, and it didn’t disappoint.”

M, age 8 “I liked the food a lot.”

K, age 12: “I liked the Mu Shu Chicken.” She gave it a thumbs up. (It was actually pork.)

E, age 5, liked to spin the Lazy Susan a little more than was comfortable for her parents, and then try to grab at food as it went by. “I liked the meat and the peanuts,” she said about the Cashew Chicken.

L: “The eggplant in garlic sauce could not be more garlicky. It’s great! This restaurant is owned by the people who used to own Ting Hao, where we used to go all the time and I remember this dish. I am so glad to find it again.”

A: “I liked the garlic eggplant. The egg fried rice was kind of boring; bland. The restaurant is nice, elegant, and has a classy but casual vibe. It’s like the best of Hilo is here.”

K, age 12, liked the Hilo Homemade Ice Cream’s coffee ice cream, which had little pieces of ground-up coffee beans.

Everybody liked the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Pie, which has broken pieces of Reese’s peanut butter cups on top.

Everyone in our group said they would eat at this restaurant again.          PAU



MERRIE MONARCH WEEK 2009: A Slice of The Goings On

17 04 2009

So many things happen in Hilo during Merrie Monarch week, aside from the Merrie Monarch hula competition itself. 

I will add new photos here every day throughout the Merrie Monarch Festival.

Icon of Hula, Uncle George Na‘ope

Hula Icon, Uncle George Na‘ope, outside Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Hula at Imiloa Astronomy Center

Kalimakuhilani Suganuma, Miss Aloha Hula 2008, at ‘Imiloa

Big Island Native Hawaiian Art Exhibition: Prince Kuhio Plaza

Big Island Native Hawaiian Art Exhibition - Prince Kuhio Plaza

Unukupukupu with kumu Taupori Tangaro at Naniloa Hotel

Unukupukupu with Kumu Hula Taupori Tangaro at Naniloa Hotel

Dr. Kalena Silva after his lecture at Imiloa

Dr. Kalena Silva after his lecture at ‘Imiloa

Lecture Audience at ‘Imiloa

Lecture Audience at ‘Imiloa

Kana‘e Keawe with his Drum

Kana‘e Keawe with his Drum "Namaka"

Audience Inspecting Hula Instruments at ‘Imiloa

Audience Inspecting Hula Implements at ‘Imiloa

Kumu Pua Crumb at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Kumu Hula Pua Crumb at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Hula at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Hula at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Hawaiian Craft Fair at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium

Hawaiian Craft Fair at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium

Hawe, Manu O Ku, Hawai‘i

Hawe, Manu O Ku, Hawai‘i

Hawaiian Art at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium

Hawaiian Art at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium

John "Keoni" Aweau Turalde: Fisherman, Paddler, Carver

John "Keoni" Aweau Turalde: Fisherman, Paddler, Carver

Unukupukupu, kumu Taupori Tangaro at Afook-Chinen Auditorium

Unukupukupu, Kumu Hulu Taupori Tangaro at Afook-Chinen Auditorium

Kumu Taupori Tangaro

Kumu Hula Taupori Tangaro

Halau Leo Nahenahe O Pohai Kealoha at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Halau Leo Nahenahe O Pohai Kealoha at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Kumu Stan Kaina and Friends

Kumu Hula Stan Kaina and Friends

Dwight Tokumoto: Steel Guitar Player

Dwight Tokumoto: Steel Guitar Player

Haulani, Pi‘ilani of Leo Nahenahe O Pohai Kealoha

Haulani, Pi‘ilani of Leo Nahenahe O Pohai Kealoha

Halau Hula O Hilo Hanakahi, kumu Pua Crumb at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Halau Hula O Hilo Hanakahi, Kumu Hula Pua Crumb at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Glenn Okuma: Coconut Weaver at Afook-Chinen Auditorium

Glenn Okuma: Coconut Weaver at Afook-Chinen Auditorium

Kumu Hula Manu Boyd Workshop at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

Kumu Hula Manu Boyd Workshop at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

Kumu Hula Manu Boyd Workshop at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

Kumu Hula Manu Boyd Workshop at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

Big Island Native Hawaiian Art Exhibition-Prince Kuhio Plaza

Big Island Native Hawaiian Art Exhibition-Prince Kuhio Plaza

Ke Ola Pono: Kumu Hula Rayce Bento at the Naniloa Volcanoes Resort

Dancer with Ke Ola Pono: Kumu Hula Rayce Bento at the Naniloa

Big Island Native Hawaiian Art Exhibition-Prince Kuhio Plaza

Big Island Native Hawaiian Art Exhibition-Prince Kuhio Plaza

Kumu Hula Paul Neves at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Kumu Hula Paul Neves at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Halau Ha‘a Kea ‘O Akala, kumu Paul Neves at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Halau Ha‘a Kea ‘O Akala, Kumu Hula Paul Neves at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

Halau Ha‘a Kea ‘O Akala: Kumu Hula Paul Neves

Halau Ha‘a Kea ‘O Akala - Kumu Hula Paul Neves: Hilo, Hawai‘i

He Kane Holo Lio: Merrie Monarch Parade

He Kane Holo Lio: Merrie Monarch Parade

Na Wahine Holo Pa‘u: Merrie Monarch parade

Na Wahine Holo Pa‘u: Merrie Monarch parade

Halau Hula ‘O Kahikilaulani - Kumu Hula Rae K. Fonseca

Halau Hula ‘O Kahikilaulani - Kumu Hula Rae K. Fonseca: Hilo, Hawai‘i

Halau Na Mamo O Ka‘ala - Tiare Noelani Chang

Halau Na Mamo O Ka‘ala - Kumu Hula Tiare Noelani Chang: Wai‘anae, O‘ahu


All in all, it was a great week. We caught up with friends and relatives not seen for awhile, visited with our hula brothers and sisters and watched performances all over town. Seeing the culture alive and well in hula, music, art and parades is so satisfying. There’s nothing more to say.                            PAU

2400 FAHRENHEIT – The Art of Glass

14 04 2009

Nightscape Vase

“You know what’s amazing?” says Michael Mortara. “Everybody’s got a drinking cup, but maybe only one out of a thousand, or maybe it’s only one out of 10,000, has seen it being made. You’ve got glass blowing, woodworking and ceramics, the three fundamentals of functional craft, and it’s shocking how many people have never seen it done. We certainly all depend on these things.

“We decided because so few people have seen it done, it was a really easy thing to do to share it by opening up our studio.”

He built the glass blowing studio and gallery where he and his wife Misato Mortara, both artists and glass blowers, work in Volcano Village.

Nightscape Bowl

Nightscape Bowl

They chose beautiful Volcano, site of some other seriously molten glass materials, partly because Michael had spent a lot of time there as a child. “We would stay up at my uncle’s place on Wright Road,” he says, “and I really liked it.

“Also, my uncle had a fireplace, and I loved fires. Glass blowing; playing with fire. I was always fascinated with fire when I was a little kid.”

The Team: Misato, Micheal and Evan

The Team: Misato, Michael and Evan

He talks about the power of fire. “When you have fire, you’ve got heat, you can survive in the cold, you can cook your food. It gives you a certain amount of independence from nature. If you know how to make fire you’re halfway there. It’s a real primal kind of human thing.”


Rainforest Series


Nightscape Platter

Michael first got involved with glass blowing when he was a high school student at Punahou School in Honolulu, and Misato at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, where she too was learning about glass blowing and where the two met.

Misato, Micheal

Misato, Michael

Many years ago, when both Michael and Misato had jobs come to an end, they consciously made the decision to start blowing glass professionally. “We thought about, ‘What did we want to do next?’” he says. “It’s like your destiny. Who do you want to be in control of your destiny?”

Green Terarium

Habitat Series

Amber Terarium

Habitat Series

Artists have been blowing glass since Roman times.

“I think people are impressed because when they think about a craftsperson, or an artist,” says Michael, “they think about someone sitting by themselves in a studio creating their art. But at our studio they see a team of people working together and creating their work. You can have this extremely well-coordinated group of people that doesn’t say a lot to each other, but everyone knows their job and works together very well.”

“It’s the drama of taking a liquid and turning it into a solid,” he says. “The choreography of a team working together to produce a product.”

Micheal and Evan Working

Michael and Evan Working

Photo Courtesy 2400 Fahrenheit

Photo: Courtesy 2400 FAHRENHEIT

The Gallery at 2400 Fahrenheit

The Gallery at 2400 Fahrenheit

Rhapsody 3

Mirage Series

He and Misato each have exhibits coming up at Hilo’s Wailoa Center in May; his work as part of a show upstairs, and hers as part of one downstairs. “I’m working on some new pieces for it,” he says. “It’s not something you’d see at our studio. I’m building a house right now, and so I’m doing something for the show with nails and wood and glass.”

“The show will be a departure for both of us.”

Mortara 8

Supercooled Liquid

Micheal and Evan: The Spinning Stage

Michael and Evan: The Spinning Stage

He says their work continues to evolve and change. “Personally, I’m working in a much larger, more sculptural aspect now. It’s larger, more expensive, all solid, cut and polished; much more labor intensive and introspective.”

Image 2967

Hulu Series

Img 693

Michael Opening A Platter

Mortara 1

Arrangement From The Rainforest

Macario on the Mortaras:

Glass blowing is a pretty intense process, and it takes a long time to get good at it. The team at 2400 Fahrenheit is really good at what they do. There’s just a lot of talent there.

They have been doing this for a long, long time and their art is at a really high level. You can tell by picking up a piece. You can tell by the feel of it and the weight. The walls are thin, but it’s balanced. It’s pretty fabulous stuff, actually.

They work hard at it, and then they come back the next day and they work hard at it again. And they’ve done that since they started.

When people are there, there’s conversation and communication and you can just tell that they really love what they do. I noticed that Michael really loves showing kids how to make glass. While I was there photographing, they had just finished a piece and were taking a break. These people came in that had been in earlier and were trying to catch them blowing glass.

Michael said, “Oh, you came back. You know what I’ll do? I’ll make a bubble.” He got just enough glass so he could show those kids how to make a bubble.

Misato’s quiet, so you don’t always know how much she contributes, but when you see her pieces they’re quite complicated. Michael told me one time, “Misato’s always got to make stuff hard; challenging.” She’s the one that does all these swirly things with the glass.

They actually make a terrarium, and they make the trees in the terrariums and the spiders and the bugs. It’s just as precise as you can get. You know they’ve spent quite a bit of time figuring that stuff out.

Evan Jenkins is also part of the team. A glass blower in his own right, he’s been with the Mortaras since they started 2400 Fahrenheit. The three of them work together seamlessly.

Those guys are like worker bees. They don’t spout about art, they just DO art. They don’t talk too much about what they do. I mean, they’ll talk with people about the process, how to get this effect or that effect, but they don’t have to talk about their art. People see it.

I have a whole lot of respect for people that are dedicated to their art and what they do. Michael and Misato hold a really high standard. You can see it.


Michael Mortara: “We’re blowing glass in a way that’s been done for 500-600 years. We’ve got computers for the ovens, and electricity, but to tell you the truth, if you were a glass blower in the Renaissance time, you could come into our studio and do your thing. You would pick up a blowtorch, you’d know how to get glass out of the furnace, and you’d know the tools. It’s essentially unchanged.”            PAU

                                                      Photos by Macario
                                 Visit Fahrenheit 2400 at

HUAKA‘I MEA‘AI – Hilo Bay Cafe

2 04 2009

In Hawaiian, Huaka‘i Mea‘ai means “Food Journey.” Food is an important part of life here in Hawai‘i. You know the old joke: “Hawaiians don’t eat until they’re full; they eat until they’re tired.”

We don’t really do that, most of us. But we do take our food seriously.

We’re going to bring you the occasional glimpse of some of our meals on the Big Island. With comments.

E ‘ai kakou! (Let’s eat.)

For our first official Huaka‘i Mea‘ai, we went to the Hilo Bay Cafe for lunch. It’s in an unlikely spot — the Wal-Mart parking lot, in a small strip mall. But it’s a really nice restaurant.

Fish and Chips

Fish & Chips

Kulana Ribeye

Kulana Ribeye

M., on the Kulana Ribeye: “More than enough for lunch. Cooked perfectly. Great sauce. I’d order this again.”

L., on the Fish & Chips: “This was a desperation order. Everybody else was ready to order and I flailed at the last second and ended up with this. It was good; something about the batter made it better than your average f&c.  The tartar sauce was homemade and good. I liked it.”

E., on the Slow-Cooked Barbecue Pork Ribs (not pictured): “Kind of fatty, but still good. The salad and the dressing were good.”

e., (that’s “Little E.,” who’s 5): “Really good ice cream sundae.”                PAU




22 03 2009

Clemson and surf

Waimea Architect Clemson Lam once designed a house on a beach where there were a lot of coconut palm fronds. “When I had a preliminary plan,” he says, “I went down there and laid out the whole house in coconut palm fronds. I took the clients down there and showed them: Now you’re in your master bedroom….”

Puako Residence

Private Residence

Waimea House

Private Residence

More of Clem's Designs

More of Clem's Designs

When he starts a job, he says, he tries to absorb everything there is about a project – such as what the people are like and how they plan to use the house.

And then he takes it a huge step beyond: Before he does any design work, he goes and camps out on the site.

“I walk around the whole place; sit here, sit there,” he says. “I’m not so much trying to design something yet, I’m just trying to absorb. Like, ‘Wow, look at this spot, there’s a great view from here.’ What happens at night on the site? Where are streetlights? A lot of times the wind is a little different at night, especially here on the Big Island when the cold air from the top of the mountain starts coming down.”

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

Puako view

Puako view

A house doesn’t just sit on land, he says; it sits within the land. “I try to use the land by either modifying it to work with the architecture,” he says, “or siting the architecture in such a way that it makes the best use of the land.”

“One time I camped out at a site at Kohala Ranch and the wind was blowing so hard,” he says, “that the tent was literally down on my face, just flapping away. It actually turned me over in the tent. I was on a little bit of a slope to begin with and the wind must have been 40-50 mph. It just kind of rolled me over.”

Puako Lana‘i

Puako Lana‘i

Clem's Artwork: Ukulele, and a Watercolor

Clem's Artwork: Ukulele, and a Watercolor

Lam started his education at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa in Business Administration, he says, because there was no foreign language requirement.

“But after the start of the third year of that, I just said, ‘Whoa, this is not me, man.’ So I dropped out and went to work in construction. And after two or three years of that, I thought, ‘Whoa, I can’t be doing this for the rest of my life. I’d rather be designing these buildings.’”

And that’s how he got into architecture, graduating with a degree in that field in 1980. The day after graduation, he and wife, who’d just been hired as librarian at Waimea’s Samuel Parker Library, moved to the Big Island.

Reading Room

Reading Room

Traditional Kitchen

Traditional Kitchen

He says that people who plan their house by looking through magazine floor plans are missing half of it. “Floor plans out of a magazine have no relation to what the site has to offer,” he says. “Most people are focused on how the kitchen works with the dining room, but the other part of it is what the site has to offer. Or it’s unfortunate, but the front door opens right into the wind.”

Master Bath
Master Bath, Mignanelli Residence
Living Room View

Living Room View

 Design really makes a difference, he says. “You pour so much money, time and effort into building a house, that if you put things in the right place – if you take care and recognize what opportunities are there – you can make all those sticks and stones and dry wall and wiring and what not become much better. Just by good design.

”He says he feels very fortunate in his work. “I’m a one-person office,” he says, “so I don’t hand it off at a certain stage to a draftsman or something. I do it from the beginning of the job, to when I first meet the people, to camping out on the site, to the day they move in. So all through construction I’m involved.  

 “It really is a good way to satisfy my creative yearnings.”        

View Toward Kohala
Mignanelli Residence

Macario, on Clem:

I’ll tell you a story. Back in ‘97, I took the dogs and we went into Waimanu Valley with some friends. We were there for like nine days, and we did what we do – we looked around the valley to hunt and gather food, and we dove for fish and picked ‘opihi and all that stuff

I didn’t know Clem at the time, but he came into the valley with some of his friends at the same time.

So we’d gone hunting and we caught a pig and had all this meat, so I had gone around to all the different campsites and asked people if they wanted some meat. There was a big church group camping there with like 20, 25 people, and I just walked up and said, “Hey, who’s the cook?”

It was funny; I tried to give some meat to these two ladies and they freaked. They were vegetarians. Here I was holding this big bloody hunk of meat.

Anyway, Clem was going by and I said, “Hey, you want some meat?” He said, “Yeah, I’ll try to cook some.” You know when you’re out there, some guys are friendly and some aren’t. He was friendly.  He was more interested than some other people.

He doesn’t remember me, that’s for sure. I was in my hunting clothes. But I remember him. He was eager to take the meat and I remember his face.

When I started working with him, doing photography for him, I kept thinking, “You know, I met this guy somewhere before.” Even after I remembered where I’d seen him, even until today I haven’t told him. When I talk to him next time, I’m going to ask him if he remembers.

After I met him and started working with him, I knew he had these sensitivities. I knew he was an outdoors person. I knew he surfed, because he carries a surfboard in his truck sometimes when he comes to the job. And when I went to his office he had some of his own watercolors on the wall. His office is really together. Everything is in place and it’s clean.

Just from talking to him, I knew he was aware of all the elements. Like the weather, the earth and stuff like that. Like the way the house is situated when you walk onto his properties. And when you walk into the house, it’s comfortable and cool. I noticed that if there’s a stiff breeze, there’s usually a protective wall there so the breeze isn’t whacking you.

Plus he’s a nice guy. He’s involved in the community and in art, and it seems like he’s a pretty active person, and it’s been nice to work with him. His clients love his work. He gets along with people I’ve met that he builds for. They’re all really happy with what he’s done.

You spend all day shooting there at Clem’s houses, and you get to shoot all the different areas of the house, and it’s comfortable. You’ve still got the views, and the places where the air comes through. And the lines of the architecture flow very nicely. He blends the buildings into their surroundings. You can just see that from the photographs. He does a really nice job.

Clem’s different from other architects because he keeps it light. He has this really “up” attitude, a really positive attitude and he doesn’t really get serious, there’s no heaviness, but when you start noticing all those things I’ve mentioned, it’s kind of deep.

I just read this quote. Kumu Nalei Kahakalau said, “The teacher should be the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage.” Clem doesn’t come on like some architects I’ve met who think they’re gods. Like, “I’m the man.”

He keeps it light, but his work is really serious.


“I’m doing a house right now where the space below the floor is 12 feet high; the ground falls away that fast. So we took big columns that go from the ground all the way up to the roof – 18, 19 feet tall. Between them we have big beams that we use for x-bracing, so the structure is really expressed in that. I’ve heard fishermen say they use that as a landmark. It’s noticeable from way out there.

That is a way to use the land, and the way the land slopes; a way to make an architectural expression. The only way you can learn that is to spend some time on the site, and recognize what is available there.” – Clem Lam        


Architectural photos by Macario: all others courtesy Clem Lam
Email Clem Lam at