#CatTravels: Weekend jaunt to Moloka‘i

By September 14, 2015 #CatTravels, Food

Kepuhi Beach

A while back, my husband told me a story about how, as a kid, he hiked through a swamp on the top of a mountain on Moloka‘i and lost his slipper.

I don’t know why that story stuck with me — maybe I empathized, having lost a fair number of slippers in similar ways — but it did.

So when his birthday came around, I thought it might be fun to go back to that bog — called Pēpēʻōpae — and bring hiking shoes instead.


The informative signs at the airport.

Called the Friendly Isle, Moloka‘i is just 38 miles long and 10 miles across at its widest point. It’s home to the highest sea cliffs in the world — at 3,900 feet — along its northwest coast. And off its southern coast runs the state’s longest continuous fringing reef at 28 miles.

It’s really the perfect island for my husband, a true adventurer, who loves anything to do with the outdoors. And Moloka‘i has a lot of that.

But before we got to any adventuring, we needed to eat. So we headed to Kanemitsu Bakery in Kaunakakai for breakfast.


First stop: Kanemitsu Bakery in Kaunakakai

This bakery and coffee shop has been in business for more than 80 years and it’s a must-stop for anyone visiting Moloka‘i.

It’s best known for serving piping-hot, freshly baked bread in the middle of the night. I remember walking down the dark corridor in the late evening with my family 30 years ago, knocking on the kitchen door and ordering loaves of hot bread filled with butter and strawberry jam. That hasn’t changed — except now you can start ordering bread at 7:30 p.m.

But we were here for breakfast.


The French toast made with Moloka‘i bread


I just wanted scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon. And Kanemitsu delivered.


The hubby went all in with a loco moco — two beef patties — and fried rice.

On our agenda: hiking the two preserves managed by The Nature Conservancy. So we stopped by the nonprofit’s Moloka‘i office to pick up brochures and talk to the staff about the trails through Mo‘omomi and Kamakou preserves.


The helpful brochures at the TNC office.

For both preserves, you’ll need a four-wheel drive to access the trails. While the nonprofit offers monthly educational tours of both preserves, you can walk through them on your own.


The long walk to the Mo‘omomi Preserve


The pristine coastline within the Mo‘omomi Preserve

Mo‘omomi Preserve spans 921 acres on the northwestern coastline of the island. It’s the last stronghold of this kind of Hawaiian coastal ecosystem, with wind-shaped dunes and more rare coastal plant species that in any other single place in the main Hawaiian Islands. (Another blog about this preserve coming soon!)


We jumped in the cool waters and saw a thriving marine life here.

After spending a couple of hours at Mo‘omomi, we stopped at Friendly Market, a family-run grocery store in Kaunakakai, for snacks and cold drinks, then picked up a pizza from Moloka‘i Pizza Cafe. (To be honest, we ordered two slices of pepperoni pizza to eat while we wanted for a medium Big Island pizza, which came loaded with meat, veggies and cheese.)


Inside Friendly Market


Grabbing a pizza at Moloka‘i Pizza Cafe

We ended the night near our condo, watching the sun set at Kepuhi Beach with a glass of prosecco. It was the perfect end to a perfect first full day on Moloka‘i.


Kepuhi Beach

On Saturday morning, we woke up early and hit the road by 5 a.m., on our way to Kamakou Preserve, a lush, 2,774-acre area located high in the mountains of East Moloka‘i. The drive to the preserve, alone, would take us almost two hours, so we wanted to get an early start.


Waikolu Overlook


On the road to the Pēpēʻōpae Bog

We parked our rental Jeep at the Waikolu (“three waters”) Overlook and made the 2.2-mile trek to the start of the Pēpēʻōpae Bog and boardwalk trail. (Another blog on this coming soon, too!)


The start of the boardwalk trail.


Me walking through the bog


This preserve is home to dozens of native plants and birds.

The jewel of the Kamakou Preserve is the Pēpēʻōpae Bog, with organic deposits dating back 10,000 years. You can walk along a man-made boardwalk — to protect this native rainforest — through native plants like the ‘alani (related to common citrus fruits), the hapu‘u (Hawaiian tree fern) and ʻōhiʻa lehua (one of Hawaiʻi’s signature forest trees).


Papohaku Beach

After that half-day adventure through the Kamakou Preserve — and no, we didn’t find his lost slipper — we cooled off at Papohaku Beach, which, at three miles long, is one of the biggest beaches in Hawai‘i.

And it was empty. On a Saturday. Amazing.


Kanemitsu Bakery at night


My loaf of freshly baked bread filled with butter and cinnamon

We couldn’t leave Moloka‘i without the aforementioned hot bread from Kanemitsu Bakery.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to make the journey to Kaunakakai in the middle of the night for a loaf, either.

We got there just as the bakery was offering hot bread — at 7:30 p.m. — and ordered two loaves, one filled with butter and cinnamon. Loaves are $7 with two fillings, $1 more for each additional filling. Or you can get everything — called The Works — for $9. It was the perfect post-hike, post-swim snack.


Sunset at Kepuhi Beach

We spent the evening relaxing at Kepuhi Beach, just steps away from the condo we booked for the weekend. We frolicked in the ocean for a bit, my husband fished a little, and I lounged on an empty beach feeling very appreciative for the experiences we’ve had.

I’ve always believed in the phrase, “Lucky We Live Hawai‘i,” but I think that was really meant to describe Moloka‘i.


Stay tuned for more blogs on my hikes through the Mo‘omomi and Kamakou preserves. And for more photos, follow me on Instagram @catherinetoth.

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#CatChat: #40trails My hiking essentials

By September 9, 2015 #40trails, Videos


I get asked all the time about what I pack on hikes.

Honestly, it all depends.

If I’m hiking with my dogs on a short, well-paved trail, I just bring enough water and snacks for them. But if I’m doing an overnight hike somewhere, you bet I’m packing way more than that!

So here’s my first #CatChat in almost a year — yes, a year! — just in time for our hiking trip to Moloka‘i this weekend.

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PREVIEW: New menu at Hoku’s in Kāhala

By September 2, 2015 Food


There are some foodies who sneer at hotel restaurants, never including them in roundups for best eateries or creative menus.

Not me.

Some of the best chefs I know have either cut their teeth at hotels — or still work there.

And some of my favorite go-to spots are in hotels — like Hoku’s at The Kahala Hotel & Resort.

Parking is easy. Location is unbeatable. And the food has always been consistently good, thanks to longtime executive chef Wayne Hirabayashi.

And starting this month, the award-winning restaurant is offering a new dinner menu, designed by the recently hired chef de cuisine Hiroshi Inoue, who has worked at such notable spots at the Grand XIV Karuizawa, Nagano; the fine-dining French-Italian fusion restaurant Shinkirou in China; and L’Osier, a three-star Michelin French restaurant in Tokyo.

Among the new additions to dinner are the Kurobuto pork and mushroom risotto, a grilled guinea hen breast and a grilled A5 Miyazaki Wagyu strip loin.

Don’t worry — some of Hoku’s classic dishes remain on the menu, including the uber-popular Hoku’s ‘Ahi Musubi and Seafood Tower.

A bunch of us media types got a chance to preview some of the new dishes last night, thanks to the awesome public relations manager Huy Vo. Here’s a peek:

Here was our tasting menu. We were given smaller portions of the actual dish, just so we could sample everything and not be too ridiculously full by the end of it. (Even though I was anyway!)

First things first: drinks! Here’s my favorite of the night — a Maui Mule with Ocean Vodka, basil, strawberry from Kula and ginger beer. Super refreshing!

Here’s the A5 Miyazaki Wagyu beef. (Wagyu literally means, “Japanese cattle,” and refers to the entirety of the nation’s breeds.) This grade of marbled beef stands up to the revered Kobe, for sure.

Here’s the Miyazaki beef prepared. While we didn’t get to sample it, I’ve had this beef before — and it’s worth every dollar. This dish, at $142, comes with a 5-ounce slab of strip loin, grilled and served with wasabi, Hawaiian sea salt and a ginger-shallot XO dip.

Here’s the wild boar risotto ($20 for the appetizer) — the boar is from Denver, not Hawai‘i — with morel or trumpet mushrooms, Italian rice and Parmesan cheese. One of my favorites, for sure.

Here’s the ragout of wild boar shank ($45), which comes osso bucco style.

This is the Fisherman’s Soup ($22), with scallops, shrimp, mussels, Hawaiian fish, ogo, chives and croutons.

The second soup offering was the butternut squash potage ($14), with tortilla and topped with truffle cream. (Potage is a kind of thick soup or stew.)

Another new item on the menu is this black sesame- and pepper-crusted rare ‘ahi steak (market price), which comes with a tiny arugula salad, tomato fondue and an aromatic balsamic glaze.

One of the best dishes of the night was this chilled hamachi shot ($22), with avocado, crispy sushi ginger, microgreens and a ponzu vinaigrette with a hint of truffle oil.

Here’s the poached Maine lobster ($52) with braised endive (or asparagus, in this case), port wine and an autumn nut vinaigrette.

I really enjoyed this ginger cheesecake sprayed with kaffir lime to give it a pretty velvety finish with a sablè Breton, paired with macerated tropical fruits and exotic coulis.

And of course, you have to have chocolate! This the Valrhona Chocolate with salted caramel in the center of that chocolate bavarian, with a praline crunch, Nutella powder (on the side), a Kona coffee cremeux and a dollop of Amarena cherry ice cream.

The 134-seat Hoku’s is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 5:30 to 10 p.m. for dinner and every Sunday for brunch — that’s my next visit! — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In addition to just ordering everything a la carte, the restaurant offers a prix fixe menu for $70 per person, a tasting menu for $100 per person, and a degustation menu for $130 per person. Call (808) 739-8760 or email restaurants@kahalaresort.com for reservations.

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Why I went back to the Gridiron Show

By August 31, 2015 Musings, The Daily Dish


Back in July, I ran into Roslyn Catracchia, director of worship and performing arts at a local church who happens to be Portuguese and Hungarian, just like me. (That combo is a rarity, trust me.)

She also happens to be the musical director for the biennial Gridiron Show, a full-on production at Diamond Head Theatre put on by the Hawai‘i press corp to raise money for internships for journalism students.

I hadn’t been in the cast of this show since 2008 — and I was just in a video skit, not even on stage. I tried to return the year after but got sidelined because of an ankle fracture sustained while training for the marathon. (That’ll teach me to run in one of those!)

I had often debated about returning, but the time commitment and stress was just too much, and, for the past few years, I actually never considered doing it again.

The same day I ran into Roslyn, I get a Facebook message from her.

“Cat! Gridiron!! I miss you!! Whatchu tink??? Maybe maybe??!! Come on, so much fun!!”

And she wasn’t the only one, either.

Robbie Dingeman, editor of HONOLULU Magazine and longtime artistic director of the show, had encouraged me to attend a couple of ratings sessions. A few other friends, not in media anymore but still in the show, prodded me to return. And my husband, who had never even heard of the Gridiron, insisted I go back, if not just so he could get tickets to see the show.

So I did.

But it wasn’t an easy decision.

I had just started an intensive 18-month leadership program and took on the role of editing the new Hawai‘i Farm Bureau magazine. I had a lot on my plate. Taking on a show — which meant several rehearsals a week and all-day sessions on the weekends — seemed like a lot more than I could handle.

So I decided to start small. I wasn’t cast in too many numbers and I didn’t want to overcommit myself.

Turns out, though, I only missed a few rehearsals due to my other commitments and managed, somehow, to get all of my work done, keep the house fairly clean, and walk the dogs every single day.

It can work!

Practicing at one of the rehearsals at St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

Practicing at one of the rehearsals at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

Mahealani Richardson and others rehearsing the popular Tulsi Gabbard number.

Mahealani Richardson and others rehearsing the popular Tulsi Gabbard number.

A bit about Gridiron: this incarnation of the show, which was revived in 1998, raises money for the Society of Professional Journalists’ Hawai‘i Chapter to fund student internships. “Gridiron” refers to the griddle used to roast; it has nothing to do with football — unless we’re mocking the UH football team.

The show, which closed on Saturday, features songs and skits ripped from the headlines, full of political satire and huge Broadway-style chorus numbers that mock everything from Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi’s P-card spending at a local hostess bar to Native Hawaiians protesting the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea. (Nothing is sacred with the Gridiron.)

In 1998, a dozen cast members appeared in the first performance at the Waikiki Terrace Hotel, raising money to partially fund seven $2,700 internships at Honolulu media outlets. The following year, the show moved to the slightly bigger venue — the Tropics Showroom — at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. And in 2000, Gridiron relocated to the 475-seat Diamond Head Theatre with a cast of 15, adding wigs, costumes, choreography and props, turning this into a bonafide production. By 2007, the show would sell out in a matter of weeks. In 2013, tickets were gone in hours.

To say this show is a hot ticket isn’t an overstatement. This year’s four-day run was sold out in less than three hours.

Bill Sage led a group of angry Hawaiians in the protest song "Kapu Aloha (You Frickah #2)," set to Ka'au Crater Boys' "Kawika":

Bill Sage led a group of angry Hawaiians in the protest song “Kapu Aloha (You Frickah #2),” set to Ka‘au Crater Boys’ “Kawika”:

Getting made up before the show by our talented makeup artists.

Getting made up before the show by our talented makeup artists.

I had forgotten what I had loved about Gridiron. It’s not the chance to get on stage and make an ass of myself — though I thoroughly enjoy that. And it has nothing to do with fulfilling some lifelong dream of singing and dancing in front of a crowd of people who actually bought tickets to be there.

I just love the people.

The dozens of cast and crew members — ranging from TV anchors to prop designers to microphone technicians to makeup artists — are all pros at what they do, even if it’s not always what they do for a living. They’re efficient, hard-working, reliable and, most importantly, fun to be around. I’ve never laughed so much — or had my hair stroked so much — than when I’m around these people.

And it’s all for a good cause, too.

As a former journalism instructor at a local community college, I’ve had students earn these internships and gain invaluable experience — plus a paycheck! — at various news outlets. And some of my closet friends and former coworkers were past SPJ interns. The value of this program is immeasurable. And imagine — I support it by dressing up as a construction worker or UH Rainbow Dancer! That’s pretty cool.

Inside the "Cave," one of the dressing rooms at Diamond Head Theatre.

Inside the “Cave,” one of the dressing rooms at Diamond Head Theatre.

2015 AUGUST 28 SPT  - HSA photo by Craig T. Kojima UH football practice.  University of Hawaii Ching practice field.  August 26, 2015.  Jake Cookus.Special Teams Coordinator / Tight Ends

Group shot at Diamond Head Theatre by Craig T. Kojima

And there’s something special about being part of a production like this.

For starters, it’s nice to be around other media types — we all geek out on current events! — especially when you’re a lonely freelance writer holed up at home all day. And it’s a completely different environment, the theater, than anything else. You’re playing dress up and pretend all night. (Unless you’re an angry commuter. That hit close to home.)

And then there’s the fun stuff the audience never gets to see. Like how veteran performer Cathy Foy photobombs practically every shot you take. (We’ve hashtagged her the #foybomb.) Or how Hydroflasks aren’t always filled with water. Or how much dancing goes on in the wings of the stage. Or how awesome the food was, particularly the home-cooked Mediterranean spread by Lynette Lo Tom. Or how you can have a conversation about eyelash glue and getting pregnant all in one dressing room.

I can’t explain it.

Big shout-out to the cast and crew, who made my return to the Gridion so memorable and fun, I’m already thinking about the 2017 show. And a special nod to my cave mates — Ashley, Malika, Olena, Vicki, Robbie, Esme, Terri, Jen, Moani, Shannon and Colette — for keeping the laughs going in-between numbers. Fun times, indeed!

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The truth about working from home

By August 25, 2015 Musings, The Daily Dish


A lot of people assume all I do is hike, surf and eat.

Because that’s what I post on my Instagram.

If I posted what I really do all day, well, I’d have substantially fewer followers.

Like one-third of Americans, I work from home. This can be a difficult thing to explain to my retired neighbors, fellow dog-walkers and the FedEx delivery guy, who all seem to think I’m unemployed. (Read about how I started working from home here.)

Turns out, more and more Americans — about 3 million at last count — don’t set foot in a conventional office at all anymore — and more than half say they’re happier that way.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, the typical telecommuter is a 49-year-old college graduate — male or female — who earns about $58,000 a year. But there are others who are self-employed entrepreneurs running small businesses or freelancer and consultants who work with various companies, not just one.

There are definite perks to working from home.

You don’t have to adhere to a set schedule. (I did that for years as a journalism instructor.) You don’t have to commute. You never have to wear dress pants or heels unless you want to (or if you’re meeting a client). You aren’t distracted by co-workers or ringing phones or irate customers.

But working from home isn’t for everyone.

For every perk, there’s a downside.

Like the lack of human interaction. (Talking to three dogs all day just doesn’t cut it.) Or the plethora of distractions, from dirty laundry to stacks of unread magazines to marathons of “The Real Housewives of New York City”.

You’re always tempted by impromptu lunch dates and perfect surf and a warm bed on a chilly morning.

And while a lack of schedule sounds great, it often means you work around the clock, never taking breaks, working after dinner and on weekends. You’re constantly checking your email and text messages. And you realize that saying no to a job means saying no to a paycheck, and you’re more likely to take on more work than you would normally do at a regular 9-to-5 job.

You also stop doing productive things that don’t garner paychecks. For example, if I were working at a salaried desk job, I could probably browse though a magazine that was relevant to my work. I would be getting paid. But now, working for myself, I can’t seem to carve out that kind of time. I just can’t justify it.

And unless you’re telecommuting for a company, you’re responsible for everything. The Internet goes down? There’s no tech support to help. If you need copier paper — or just a copier! — or staples or printer ink, you have to drive down to Office Depot and buy it all yourself. There’s no cabinet magically restocked with office supplies or an entire department devoted to helping you with your IT needs. It’s just you.

And then there’s the complete degradation of my fashion and social skills. I literally wear four outfits in rotation — and they’re not exactly appropriate for even grocery shopping (though, I confess, I’ve been in public dressed like this).

So what’s the verdict?

If you’re focused and organized, working from home is awesome. I love that I can make dentist appointments and get pedicures during the day, if I can swing it. And I don’t have to put in vacation requests and worry if I’m going to get my first choice of dates. I can wash a load of laundry while waiting for a phone call and eat leftovers for lunch.

I just need to hide the remote control every once in a while.

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