Wine, Crepes and A Plant Sale

Simply Grape, Crepes No Ka 'Oi and the Lyon Arboretum

Wine, Crepes and A Plant Sale

Two small business owners are making the best of the temporarily slowed economy on O'ahu. Simply Grape wine shop in downtown Honolulu and No Ka Oi Crepes (in Kailua) each offer quality product at reasonable costs; the creature comforts of both should ease your corporate woes. If you're beyond all consolation, then head over to Lyon Arboretum's huge plant sale and pick up some happy new greenery for your house.

Simply Grape, who we've reported on before, is the brain child of husband and wife duo, Nick and Lael Keeler.  A refresher: The pair took their winnings  (as first runner up) from the first season of "Biggest Loser", quit their corporate gigs, and opened a boutique wine shop smack dab in downtown Honolulu. Now, instead of power lunching they sell fine vintages to the lawyers and advertising salesmen looking for the perfect Bordeaux.

After sharing that 2008 had him scurrying to fill the shelves with higher-priced bottles and one-off scotches, Nick Keeler is determined to get back to his roots.

"We're back to our original business plan—the entire reason we got in to selling wine in the first place," said Keeler. "Everything in the store is under $30, and you won't find it anywhere else in Hawaii. It's a good plan and we're sticking to it!"

New to the store will be a selection of craft beers from Oregon and Washington, as well as an array of ports, saké and harder-to-find liquors. Many of these Keeler will offer samples of during their weekly tastings, held every Wednesday afternoon.

"One thing we've been able to do during this climate is open up the store after-hours for private parties and corporate functions," shared Keeler. For a group as big as 30 people, he can set up a tasting table, as well as offer some unique accoutrement.

"I have a guy who does these flatbread pizza's on-site. We bring him in and he puts out some really great eats for private functions," added Keeler.

Simply Grape is located at 841 Bishop Street, Honolulu. Go to www.SimplyGrape.net for more information.

Crepes No Ka 'Oi

Rosario and Chris Tarvyd met and fell in love as any couple might: Man grows up summering in Papeete, Tahiti; woman raised in Visayas, Philippines. A chance encounter led the pair to a crepe booth at Aloha Stadium, where they sold delicate desserts to rowdy UH football fanatics. A long-shot bid on a prime retail location in quiet Kailua led to Windward's hottest breakfast spot. It's happened to all of us, no?

Certainly it hasn't. But that's just one of the things that makes a breakfast (or twilight) jaunt to Crepes No Ka 'Oi so unique. Sure there may be a line for one of the coveted tables that sits in the cerulean blue, single room shop. But perchance to dream of a homemade crepe churned out before your very eyes... There are sweet and savory varietals, ranging from the standard Nutella and bananas, to eggs, cheese and turkey crepes. There's a stab at the "healthy" crepe (yogurt, granola, honey and strawberries), one for the Italian ex-pats (mozzarella, tomato, basil, olive oil and vinegar) and the all-American cinnamon, apples, brown sugar and whipped cream crepe.

As you may have guessed, the Tarvyd's get more than their fair share of requests to do private parties, which they're happy to consider. But most of the time you'll find at least one of the duo pouring mix on to a round skillet, crafting the perfect crepe.

"It's seriously theraputic, I swear," says Rosario.

Crepes No Ka 'Oi doesn't skimp on ingredients; nor do they offer less-than-par choices to accompany their masterful creations. They import fine organic teas (African red rooibos, anyone?), as well as illy Café espresso and coffee drinks.

The shop is located at 131 Hekili St.; hours are Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesdays), 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. except Fridays and Saturdays, when they stay open past 9:00 p.m. Sundays they close at 2:00 p.m. You can also visit them at www.crepesnokaoi.com

Lyon Arboretum

It is not uncommon for us to forget about the hidden gems located within our own city limits. The Lyon Arboretum in Manoa is no exception. It's a stunning 194-acre swath of pristine gardens, greenhouses, terraced lo'i, towering trees and flora otherwise not found throughout Hawaii. The small but dedicated staff at Lyon spend mornings leading school tours throughout the grounds, and the afternoons tending to the thousands of plants that need attention. Their passion and devotion to creating a tranquil respite for O'ahuans is unparalleled. After we learned that decades of clear-cutting allowed Harold Lyons to see all the way to Waikiki when he first stepped in to depths of Manoa Valley, the current lushness of the area became all the more impressive.

Did you know that the Lyons Arboretum has the largest collection of palm trees in the world? Neither did we; cross off one more Trivial Pursuit question you'll never miss. How about the thought of visiting Manoa's only "Talipot" palm, a huge, 60-foot specimen that flowers once in it's lifetime, then dies (there's a Shakespeare epic in there somewhere). Or a bodhi tree cut from the original (in India) that Siddhartha Gautama (a.k.a. "Buddha") was said to have meditated under before reaching ultimate enlightenment. Head over to Lyons on a quiet weekday and perhaps you can achieve the same (it won't hurt to try).

This coming Saturday, April 11, the Arboretum heads out of the valley to the Blaisdell Center for it's annual plant sale. Let us be the first to tell you: We saw a preview of the plants to be sold at the event. If there was ever a good (and green) cause to spend your hard-earned green, this is it. The horticulture staffers at Lyons have spent the better part of this year preparing for this sale, clipping plants, flowers and trees to share with the masses this weekend. In fact, one of the main goals of the Arboretum is to share and propagate the plants  which are most beneficial to the Hawaiian landscape.

In May, staffers at Lyon have initiated a photography contest, open to all ages, to celebrate "Endangered Species Day 2009". In order to raise awareness of Hawaii's most fragile flora, students as young as second grade and adults as old as can be are invited to submit their favorite snapshot of a native Hawaiian plant specie. Interested parties should contact James Krolikowski at the Lyon Arboretum.

Arboretum guides lead tours Monday through Saturday at 10:00 a.m., call ahead for reservations, 988-0461.
Learn more at www.Hawaii.edu/lyonarboretum

Lyons Arboretum has the largest collection of palm trees in the world, as well as a tree harvested from the original Bodhi tree in India.