Tiki Ohana – Authors

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So, as I review my blog series on the Tiki ohana from last year, and after I updated the Artists list with a Part Deux, I realize there’s a new category I need to acknowledge: Authors. I’ve touched on Tiki books in some of my past posts, e.g. Thor Heyerdahl’s landmark Kon-Tiki (Tiki 101and Sven Kirsten’s seminal work, The Book of Tiki (Tiki Ohana – Builders). I’ve also hinted at several other people who were working on new books. Well, over the past few years, we’ve seen some pretty amazing new books published by the Tiki ohana. Please consider the following books as must-haves to start or expand your collection of Tiki literature.

Jeff “Beachbum” Berry: Potions of the Caribbean. Beachbum Berry is the single most important figure in the revival of the Tiki cocktail (Tiki Ohana – Cocktails). His work in researching the origins of Tiki drinks led him to discover that most of them were actually recipes from bars throughout the Caribbean, borrowed and repackaged by Don The Beachcomber and Trader Vic in the 1930s-50s. Bum’s book traces the history of rum going back to 1492, and expertly intertwines world history with the rise and fall and rebirth of rum as the important spirit it is. Potions of the Caribbean also includes a boatload of recipes for rum drinks throughout history, many of which were resurrected by Beachbum Berry himself via interviews with the bartenders who would have otherwise taken these once-secret recipes to their graves. If you’re a fan of history and Tiki, you must read this book. I don’t say this often, but I couldn’t put it down. Mahalo, Bum, okole maluna!

Sven Kirsten: Tiki Pop. What else can I say about Sven Kirsten? He is the undisputed king of the Tiki revival. Sven has published multiple books to this point, but here is something new. Tiki Pop is the companion volume to an exhibition he curated in 2014 at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris: Tiki Pop, L’Amérique rêve son paradis polynésien. My first thought was that it would be tough to build upon The Book of Tiki. I was wrong. By tailoring his message to an international audience, Sven Kirsten was able to expand upon his original masterpiece with an entirely new perspective on what drove the rise of Tiki culture in America. It works. Merci, Sven.

Martin and Rebecca Cate: Smuggler’s Cove. I just finished reading this book, and all I can say is: wow! Martin Cate is the proprietor of a Tiki bar in the SF Bay Area by the same name (Tiki Ohana – Cocktails), but Smuggler’s Cove the book is more than just an homage to the bar. Martin and Rebecca Cate have given us a how-to instruction manual on immersing yourself in the world of Tiki. This book chronicles their journey, but it does so much more. Here we have a thorough history of rum, it’s production methods, and numerous recipes with tips on how to select the proper rums and mixers. Martin and Rebecca have also educated us on how to throw a Tiki party, what the most important Tiki drinks are and how to make them, where to find the best Tiki temples in America (including Smuggler’s Cove) and how they were created. This book has quickly become my indispensable reference for the Tiki lifestyle. Ho’omaika’i ‘ana and well done, Mr. and Mrs. Cate!

Tim “Swanky” Glazner: Mai-Kai – History & Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant. Here is the newest book to arrive in the Tiki Lounge, hot off the presses this Summer. Tim Glazner was the cofounder of The Hukilau and was instrumental in making The Mai-Kai the focal point of this annual celebration. His love of this greatest Tiki temple of them all is illustrated in his beautiful new book, which tells the early history of how two brothers from Chicago moved to Florida and brought their vast Tiki knowledge with them. Tim used his access to The Mai-Kai and its owners to paint a picture of an amazing place, including beautiful pictures, intriguing characters, and a reverence shared by the Tiki ohana around the world. If you’ve never been to The Mai-Kai, you must go. My first visit was a Tiki epiphany (Aloha Spirit: The Mai-Kai). If you can’t physically go, Tim Glazner’s book will take you there in spirit. Mahalo, Swanky!

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Tiki Ohana – Cocktails

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The Tiki craze of the 1950s was preceded by the Tiki cocktail movement started in the 1930s by Don The BeachcomberErnest Raymond Beaumont Gantt grew up in New Orleans, traveled the Caribbean where he collected rum-based drink recipes, settled in Los Angeles, dressed up his drinks with flowers and umbrellas and fancy tropical names, and changed his name to Don The Beachcomber (and eventually just Donn Beach). He opened his first restaurant and bar in Hollywood in 1933 and was a huge success, thanks in large part to his celebrity clientele.

The success of Don The Beachcomber led to a string of Tiki-themed restaurants. While Donn Beach opened new locations, imitators like Victor Bergeron with his Trader Vic’s and Stephen Crane with his Kon Tiki chain helped popularize the Tiki bar/restaurant across the country. This popularity peaked in the 1950s and 1960s, and like the rest of the Tiki movement, started to decline in the 1970s and 1980s. Most of these Tiki establishments are gone today, and their wonderful drink recipes might have been lost forever, were it not for the efforts of…

 

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Jeff Beachbum Berry. This guy, along with Sven Kirsten, is the most important figure in the current Tiki revival. Bum has been researching Tiki drink recipes for over 30 years, and his Potions of The Caribbean is the Bible for Tiki drink recipes and their history (get it here: beachbumberry.com/bum-books/). Like Donn Beach before him, Bum now calls New Orleans home, and he just opened his first Tiki bar there last fall, Latitude 29. It is a must-do Tiki temple! I was fortunate to visit Latitude 29 earlier this year, and Beachbum Berry himself welcomed me and even gave me an interview while I was there. You can hear it on my podcast: apandatikipod.podbean.com/e/pandas-tasty-jambalaya. Mahalo, Bum!

 

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Martin Cate. Few people, if anybody, have had a bigger influence on elevating the profile of rum than Martin Cate. He opened his Smuggler’s Cove bar in San Francisco in 2009 to much acclaim, both locally and nationally. Smuggler’s Cove is the physical embodiment of Beachbum Berry’s Potions of The Caribbean, focusing on “Traditional drinks of the Caribbean islands, classic libations of Prohibition-era Havana, and exotic cocktails from legendary Tiki bars.” All of this is served up in a bar with the most authentic Tiki decor you’ll find anywhere. You can find more about the story of Smuggler’s Cove here: smugglerscovesf.com/about/. Okole maluna, Martin!

 

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Suzanne Long. Across the bay in Oakland, Suzanne Long opened her new Tiki bar, Longitude, in 2014. Along with a mix of traditional and modern rum-based cocktails, Longitude features a stunning interior that evokes a spirit of adventure. Ms. Long didn’t limit herself to a strictly Polynesian theme, instead incorporating a whole world of tropical decor including artwork from east Africa. You can read a great review of Longitude here: insidescoopsf.sfgate.com. Full disclosure: I haven’t been to any of the Bay Area Tiki bars, but when I do visit, I’ll make sure to start with Smuggler’s Cove and Longitude. Aloha Suzanne, I hope to see you soon!

 

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Paul McGee. Another Tiki bar I have been fortunate enough to visit is Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, created by Paul McGee in 2013. I wrote about my first visit here in my blog post Aloha Spirit: Chicago (Jan 2014). Creating a Tiki mecca in the Midwest isn’t without precedent (think The Kahiki in Columbus OH), but Mr. McGee managed to create a Polynesian paradise in a speakeasy-like atmosphere, right in The Loop in downtown Chicago. Not to rest on his laurels, Paul left his baby earlier this year to open a new Tiki bar, Lost Lake, in the western Chicagoland neighborhood of Logan Square. You can read about how McGee partnered with Martin Cate on Lost Lake here: www.chicagotribune.com. Well done, Tiki titans!

Panda’s Tasty Jambalaya

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It’s that magical time of year, that month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when work seems to slow down and family life heats up, what with big gatherings involving food, fellowship and fun, culminating on December 25th with some jolly old elf in a red suit traveling the world delivering gifts, and the denouement on New Years Day with the traditional meal of pork and sauerkraut for good luck in the coming year. Naturally, at this time of year, I’m thinking about Jambalaya.

Wait, what? How did that happen? I’m sitting around the week of Thanksgiving, planning my trip to Wegmans to buy the food we need for our feast, when it hits me: I need to whip up a big pot of Jambalaya for Wednesday night. But why?

Maybe it was the thought of all of that turkey in my near future? Don’t get me wrong, I love me some turkey, but after a few days of eating nothing but turkey, a guy gets a little tired of it, you know? We even cook a back-up turkey on Wednesday, so we’ll have plenty of leftovers after we send people home with their fair share on Thanksgiving night. Since we were feeding 16 people at our house this year, the possibility of having no leftovers from our 22-lb. bird was real. Hence the 19-lb. back-up.

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Maybe it was the Cajun Sausage Cornbread stuffing I had to make the night before? I’ve made this stuffing for years, from a terrific recipe in one of chef Paul Prudhomme’s cookbooks, and I stuff the bird with it on Thanksgiving morning before it goes in the oven. The combination of Andouille sausage, cornbread, veggies, complex seasonings and Crystal hot sauce makes for a mean stuffing! Sadly, we never have enough of it, as everybody seems to like it.

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That’s where the Jambalaya comes in. It was a tasty diversion prior to the turkey onslaught, an inspiration for (and from) the Cajun stuffing, and a much-needed respite from the steady diet of leftover turkey. You see, a big pot of Jambalaya leaves a lot of leftovers too!

So, what does all this talk of Jambalaya have to do with Tiki? Well, on the surface…nothing. However, I did discuss the connection between my passions for Cajun and Tiki in my blog post, Aloha Spirit: New Orleans, which I published almost a year ago. As I re-read that post, it dawned on me that a couple of things I wrote about last year have (and soon might) come to pass.

First, my friend Jeff “Beachbum” Berry did finally open his first Tiki bar in New Orleans, Latitude 29. More than just a Tiki bar, Latitude 29 is a full-service restaurant and bar in the Bienville House hotel, right in the French Quarter. By all accounts, it’s doing really well, and I can’t wait to visit it and see for myself. In the meantime, I’m planning an interview with Bum for my next podcast, which will be very soon. Stay tuned!

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Second, I’m hoping to make it to Mardi Gras in NOLA this coming February, which is only a couple of months away. This is another item on my bucket list well within my reach. Visiting Latitude 29 is just the excuse I needed to make this happen sooner rather than later! I’ve already booked a room at the Bienville House; now I just need to convince my wife Jess to come with me. It’s been over ten years since we last visited N’awlins, so we’re due.

So there you have it. It seems I’m predisposed to thinking (and writing) about my love of all things Cajun at this time of year. I’ve always loved the idea of worlds colliding, and my converging passions for New Orleans and Tiki are neatly embodied by Beachbum Berry and his Latitude 29. Sprinkle in another bucket list conquest during Mardi Gras, and I’m set for the next few months. Mahalo ét tois!

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The Hukilau: Day 1

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Thursday 12Jun14

The day began early. Very early. 5am early. My iPhone alarm woke me up in my friend Stan’s guest bedroom. Stan lives 10 minutes away from the Philly airport, and he and his wife Diana were kind enough to give me shelter for the night, and a ride to the airport, so I wouldn’t have to sweat the 90-minute drive from Bethlehem. Stan dropped me off at 5:45, I checked my bag curbside with a skycap, made it through security in only 10 minutes, and had plenty of time to board my flight for a 6:45 takeoff. Southwest Airlines flight 1655 arrived in Fort Lauderdale without incident at 9:15.

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I met my buddy Bruce at the airport and we cabbed it to our Hukilau headquarters, the Bahia Mar hotel. Our room was ready early so we checked in, got settled, then headed over to our first event: the Jeff Beachbum Berry symposium at The Mai-Kai. After my first Mai-Tai and some tasty appetizers, Beachbum took the stage and gave a wonderful presentation on the dark days of tiki drinks, starting in the 1970s. He interspersed his talk with his own personal history of Tiki discovery, which made for a wonderful story. We also got a sample of a new drink he created in a collectible Beachbum Berry glass, along with a couple of other sample drinks. We were feeling pretty good about the start of The Hukilau, and I was happy to finally meet Mr. Berry in person!

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After returning to the Bahia Mar and a light dinner, we attended the opening event in the ballroom. What an eclectic mix of Tiki entertainment! King Kukulele as the emcee serenaded us with his brand of comedic Hawaiian music, followed by Kinky Waikiki’s steel guitar, burlesque performances by MeduSirena Marina’s Aquaticats and Angie Pontani, and some rocking surf music by The Intoxicators. All surrounded by a marketplace of Tiki vendors with stuff I’ve never dreamed of being able to buy. Good times!

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We ended the night with an after party back at The Mai-Kai, where I enjoyed one last Mai-Tai with my friends Beth Lennon (Mod Betty) and Cliff Hillis (Pop Star) and the sounds of Gold Dust Lounge on the main stage. A perfect ending to a great first day. Aloha from The Hukilau!

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Aloha Spirit: New Orleans

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As I mentioned before, I believe karma introduced me to Tiki, and it continues to swim in my bloodstream. I’ve seen many signs in my travels that have confirmed this for me. Here is an example of what I’m talking about.

New Orleans LA, September 2003. My second trip to The Big Easy, but the first time I spent any real time there, I was there for a couple of days on business, then my wife Jess flew out and met me for the weekend. She had a bad head cold when she arrived, but we still saw and did a lot that weekend in NOLA. It’s an amazing town!

But what made me think to write about New Orleans with respect to the Aloha Spirit? I guess the trigger was the new book I’m reading, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s Potions of the Caribbean, which claims that all Tiki drinks have their origin in the rum-based drinks of the West Indies. The Bum lives in New Orleans and plans to open his own Tiki bar there some day. His book is a wonderful read, but I think my personal connection of NOLA and Tiki is much deeper than this.

I fell in love with the culture of New Orleans many years ago. I loved all of it: the music, the food, the history, the atmosphere, the pageantry – I still have attending Mardi Gras in NOLA on my bucket list! I enjoy many albums in a wide range of music, from the Cajun French singing of Beausoleil to the jazz piano greats Dr. John and Professor Longhair and the big brass wailing of the Dirty Dozen and Rebirth Brass Bands. In fact, my second-ever CD compilation was a tribute to this wonderful music: Panda’s Tasty Jambalaya.

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Inside this CD case I have squirreled away my very own recipe for Jambalaya. It’s a recipe I’ve perfected over 20 years of making it, and I continue to tweak it as time goes on. Cajun and Creole food are some of my favorites! Jess and I had one of our best meals ever at K-Paul’s, chef Paul Prudhomme’s restaurant in the French Quarter. We were lucky enough to see the man himself the night we dined there, directing traffic in the kitchen behind glass in the center of the restaurant, working his culinary magic for all to see. The next morning we ventured out to the famous Café du Monde for beignets and café au lait, a NOLA tradition. After a Saturday night partying on Bourbon Street, we spent our final morning in town at one of the countless sidewalk cafés having brunch, soaking in every last ounce of New Orleans atmosphere we could taste.

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So finally, how do I bring this all back to my love of Tiki? I guess the easy answer might lie with the spirit of the Acadians who settled New Orleans. It reminds me a little of Jamaican Irie – NOLA people are pretty happy, love to party, and have a strong, spiritual connection with their roots, which are a jumbled mix of many cultures. It’s evident in the passion they put into all aspects of their life, from music to food and drink. And that’s when it hits me: my total immersion into the culture of New Orleans was the precursor for my current obsession with all things Tiki! I’m now so into Polynesian culture, but I forget that I’ve been down this road before. Karma? I think so! Mahalo, New Orleans. Laissez les bon temps roullez!

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