5 Things We Love: Merrie Monarch

By Nina Wu / nwu@staradvertiser.com on April 1, 2013

5 Things We Love is a shortlist of newly discovered stuff you have got to see, hear, wear, use or eat. What are you loving this week? Send a brief description of your latest favorite thing, where to find it and how much it costs, along with your name and contact info to features@staradvertiser.com.

1. Wear headgear Auntie Dottie style

As a nod to Dottie Thompson, the late co-founder of the Merrie Monarch Festival, put on an “Auntie Dottie”-style hat by Syl Kop, who fashioned this unique, short-crowned papale with a braided lau hala band and flower. She added a handmade lei poo (head lei) of fresh flowers to nestle around the turned-up brim, which Auntie Dottie was fond of wearing. Custom-designed
hats (and lei) are available from Hula Hawaii by Syl at Na Mea Hawaii at Ward Warehouse, 1050 Ala Moana Blvd. Prices range from $20 to $300. You can also find Kop at the festival’s arts and crafts fair Wednesday through Saturday at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium. Call Kop at 941-5379.

Nina Wu

2. Mochi comes in colors at Two Ladies

Your search for ono omi­yage in Hilo ends at a small, nondescript store near the waterfront where mochi magic happens four days a week. Two Ladies Kitchen offers at least 15 variations of the traditional Japa­nese confection in pretty pastel colors; shapes such as peaches, butterflies and plum flowers; and fillings ranging from brownies and white chocolate to peanut butter and fresh lilikoi. The best-selling strawberry mochi features a whole fresh strawberry cloaked in homemade tsubushi-an (mashed red azuki beans).

Two new items have already won an ardent following: grape mochi (filled with a whole red flame grape and koshi-an, red azuki bean paste) and taiyaki mochi (stuffed with cream cheese and homemade strawberry jam).

Prices for individual mochi run from 85 cents to $2.75. Create your own assortments or choose from a selection of prepackaged boxes. Ask about seasonal specialties. Two Ladies Kitchen, 274 Kilauea Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Call 961-4766.

—Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi

3. Feather comb adornment adds class

Dressing up for the Saturday night auana competition at the Merrie Monarch Festival is as easy as pinning up your hair with a $10 feather comb adornment Auntie Paulette Kahalepuna, who learned traditional Hawaiian feather craft from her mother, Auntie Mary Lou Kekuewa. Kahalepuna brings her longtime Kapahulu feather shop, Na Lima Mili Hulu Noeau, to Booth 17 of the festival’s craft fair Wednesday through Saturday at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.

Just steps from the fresh flower lei tables and lau hala hat booth, Auntie Paulette can demonstrate how to use the combs, embellished with glass seed beads, to swoop up curls for a regal look. To get it safely home, simply tuck the comb flat into the pages of your Merrie Monarch program; the feathers will pop right back.

Add a handmade feather lei, ranging from $100 to $800, to your ensemble, or sign up for one of Auntie Paulette’s classes back at her shop at 762 Kapahulu Ave., 732-0865.

—Lynn Cook

4. Kawamoto Store has good okazuya

When I’m on Hawaii island for Merrie Monarch, I love rising very early to look out over the calm of Hilo Bay, sipping a cup of coffee, then jumping into the car to go select my daily bento from the battered old wood-and-glass cases at what I consider the best okazuya in the islands, Kawa­moto Store, 784 Kilauea Ave., 935-8209. They’re open at dawn, and the good stuff is gone by lunchtime.

—Wanda A. Adams

5. This year’s festival T-shirt is bold

One of my favorite keepsakes from the Merrie Monarch Festival is the official T-shirt, with a different flower lei used in the design each year. The 2013 edition by Creative Arts Hawaii of Hilo is bolder, abandoning the lei motif in favor of a Polynesian tattoo design and a large portrait of the Merrie Monarch himself, King David Kalakaua, on the front at the bottom right. In celebration of the festival’s 50th year, there’s a bit of “sparkle” with glitter in the crown design, and on the back are the king’s oft-cited words: ”Hula is the language of the heart, therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people.”

For those who can’t be in Hilo to pick one up, the T-shirts — $10 for youth sizes and $15 adult — will be available online starting Wednesday at merriemonarch.com/merrie-monarch-2012-tee-shirt.

—Gary Chun