Brioche from Breadshop.
Brioche from Breadshop.

Ryan Tatsumoto
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

No, this column isn’t about trekking deep into the rainforest to pick pohole, those succulent fiddlehead fern shoots on a Saturday. Nor does it involve hiking the Jackass Ginger trail in Nu‘uanu for fresh pepeau (wood ear mushrooms) and takenoko (bamboo) shoots. It does, however, involve that dreaded drive over the Ko‘olau mountains from K-Town (you know, Käne‘ohe) to that concrete jungle: Honolulu — to procure protein, produce and liquids not found in my neighborhood Foodland, Safeway or Times Supermarkets.

Like other casualties of time, I’m turning into my parents. Some 50 years ago, Mom and Dad Tatsumoto made their monthly, or sometimes even weekly, trek from Käne‘ohe all the way into town, treating it as if the family was about to visit a neighbor island. Back in the day, Longs Drugs, Gem and Times Supermarket were nowhere to be found on the windward side of the island. Now, I, too, treat that westward drive like a big Broadway production and try to limit those “downtown” excursions as much as possible. Actually, I make that round-trip to work five days a week, so I try to limit a sixth-day trek over the mountain as much as possible.

Kokua Market

On this Saturday, a visit to Kokua Market in Mö‘ili‘ili was a must. I’d heard that Chef Bob McGee was selling his Pono Pork products at retail through Kokua Market. I also knew that Kokua Market carries locally raised beef in its freezer section and that a lot of the store’s produce is locally grown.

What is Kokua Market? It’s a natural foods co-op. Patrons have the option of purchasing a share in the market ($160 one-time fee) to become a part-owner. Ownership benefits include discount prices and a say (through a vote) in how Kokua Market is operated. Of course, you can shop there, regardless of whether or not you are a part-owner.

The market is slightly bigger than a hole-in-the-wall and located a block east of the University Avenue and South King Street intersection. Parking is located behind the market — you get to it though the two-way street (actually the size of a lane), which, in reality, fits one and a half small vehicles, or maybe a small car and a moped. So, if there’s a car waiting at the light, you have to find street parking nearby, like I did.

When I finally got into the market . . . auwë! No Pono Pork to be found anywhere! However, I did purchase a nice slab of Kunoa Cattle Company flank steak for a delicious ropa vieja (Cuban shredded beef dish) that shredded nicely after an hour in the pressure cooker. I also bought some lean, grass-fed Kulana Foods ground beef that crumbled nicely for a Moroccan-inspired Bolognese sauce. I also found yellow and watermelon beets that were perfect for a goat cheese crostata.

Empress 1908 Gin from Fujioka‘s. (Photos by Ryan Tatsumoto)
Empress 1908 Gin from Fujioka‘s. (Photos by Ryan Tatsumoto)

Fujioka’s Wine Times

Next stop: Fujioka’s.

Fujioka’s started in a small corner of Fuijoka Super Market in Hale‘iwa. Lyle Fujioka took over the space and then branched off as Fujioka’s Wine Merchant, at first in the basement of the old Beau Soleil restaurant, midway up Wai‘alae Avenue, and, later, in its current location at the Market City Shopping Center, bordering Kaimukï and Kapahulu.

Back in the day, Lyle was “The Man” in the 50th’s wine world. Although Chuck Furuya had become Hawai‘i’s first master sommelier, Lyle was a wine retailer, so the wine distributors paid close attention to what Lyle said since he could increase their wine sales. Chuck could educate the distributors about a certain wine being excellent with a great price point, but the distributors knew they could only stock a certain wine if it sold, which Lyle was in the position to make happen.

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Ryan Tatsumoto is a clinical pharmacist by day. In his off-hours, however, he and his wife enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet.”

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