Lei Chic | Sugar Crush: Lei Chic taste tests Hawaii-grown chocolate – A birthday. A great first date. Fitting back into your sk… | Chocolate, Dark, Milk, Malie, Cacao

A birthday. A great first date. Fitting back into your skinny jeans. When you take the cake you celebrate with the ultimate gooey brownie.

Another birthday. Being stood up. Getting so stuck in your skinny jeans that you have to call your least-catty friend to cut you free. When life serves you unjust desserts you drown those dark moments in cocoa and oreos.

And recently, it seems, life’s ups and downs have you constantly refilling your secret stash of chocolate. But your usual sweet imported standbys are getting a little stale.

As the only state that grows cacao, Hawaii is turning out local chocolates with unique finishes that could become your next favorite comfort food. We took on the difficult task of tasting some made from 100% Hawaiian-grown cacao to find the ones that really set the bar.

Mainland firms buy 9.9% stake in A&B

Two mainland investment firms have combined to purchase a 9.9 percent stake in Honolulu-based Alexander & Baldwin Co., according to a regulatory filing today.

New York-based Pershing Square Capital Management LP, led by activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, bought an 8.6 percent stake and San Francisco-based Marcato Capital Management LLC, led by Richard McGuire, acquired a 1.3 percent stake.

Mainland firms buy 9.9% stake in A&B – Hawaii News – Staradvertiser.com

Italian firm assumes operations of Kauai Coffee Co.

An affiliate of an Italian beverage company has completed its acquisition of Kauai Coffee Co. operations from Alexander & Baldwin Inc.

The deal, announced in December, involves a subsidiary of Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group buying the Kauai Coffee brand, retaining all employees, leasing the 3,000-acre plantation and distributing the coffee through its global sales channels.

Financial terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed.

Massimo Zanetti expects to expand recognition of the brand, which will be added to its collection of green coffee operations in Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras, Vietnam and Indonesia.

“We are excited to welcome Kauai Coffee into our portfolio of prestigious brands,” John Boyle, chief operating officer of Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, said in a statement. “It’s a wonderful new entry point for us into the growing super-premium coffee segment.

Italian firm assumes operations of Kauai Coffee Co. – Hawaii News – Staradvertiser.com

Herbicide Field Day on Goosegrass Control

To: Golf Course & Landscape Industries
From: Norman M. Nagata, Extension Agent

A test was conducted at Waiehu Municipal Golf Course to evaluate the efficacy of several herbicide combinations with Roundup, Revolver, MSMA, and Sencor to control herbicide resistant goosegrass using 2 spray applications at 2 weeks apart. You are invited to a field day to observe the results of this test.

Herbicide Field Day on Goosegrass Control

Date: April 7, 2011 (Thursday)
Time: 11:30 am to 12:30 pm
Place: Meet at Waiehu Golf Course “Service Entrance” (6th tee) next to Waiehu Beach Park & Baseball Field located at the end of “Lower Waiehu Beach Road” (MAP) at 11:15 am am. We will then car-pool to the test site at the 17th tee.

Heirloom Seeds Or Flinty Hybrids?

AS gardeners stock up on heirloom seeds for spring, Rob Johnston, the chairman of Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, Me., would like to suggest an accessory. Why not buckle up in a 1936 Oldsmobile coupe?

O.K., so it doesn’t have seat belts. But the swoop of the fenders resembles Joan Crawford’s eyebrows. Better yet, the rest of the Oldsmobile’s curves are all Lana Turner.

And the technology! Where else can today’s driver find such innovations as knee-action wheels and a solid steel “turret top”?

But even with all that a ’36 Olds has going for it, Mr. Johnston, 60, said, “I’m not sure how big of a market there would be” for 75-year-old cars. “It would just be a sentimental business.”

So to return to Mr. Johnston’s own business, vegetable seeds, why is the backyard gardener buying so many 1936-era heirlooms?

Mr. Johnston, it should be noted, is a fan of heirlooms, which, in the broadest sense, are old varieties of “open pollinated” seeds that will grow the same plant again.

But he argues that his typical customers — small market farmers and avid home gardeners — have better choices. Modern seeds, which are generally hybrid crosses, produce a “more vigorous plant, better resistance to diseases,” he said.

And here’s the heirloom heresy: they often taste better, too.

Maui residents oppose wind farm access road plans

Some South Maui residents are upset about a developer’s plan to use a resort road through Wai­lea and Makena for construction truck access as it builds a wind farm on 120 acres of Ulu­pala­kua Ranch land.

“It’s going to affect us economically,” said Bud Pikrone, general manager of the Wai­lea Community Association.

Pikrone said developer Auwahi Wind Energy LLC’s activities will create noise in a hotel and residential resort area and cause wear and tear on the roads.

Pikrone said in the last seven years, Wai­lea Ala­nui Road has had three sinkholes, including one that closed off an area for 18 months.

He said various large landowners plan to hold a meeting with Auwahi Wind next month to discuss rerouting the truck traffic farther mauka and closer to Pii­lani Highway.

“We’re hoping we can come up with some resolution,” Pikrone said.

The Maui County Planning Commission held a public hearing Tuesday to review Auwahi Wind’s draft environmental impact statement.

Auwahi Wind needs the commission to accept its environmental impact statement before moving to seek land-use permits.

The price of wind

With the launch of Oahu’s first commercially viable wind farm behind them, proponents of wind power will now try to replicate the feat on Lanai and Molokai, where larger-scale wind projects face far greater community opposition.

The first trickle of wind-generated electricity began flowing to the Hawaiian Electric Co. grid last week from 12 wind turbines at a 30-megawatt facility in Kahuku developed by Boston-based First Wind LLC. Gov. Neil Abercrombie, the First Wind CEO, the head of the Public Utilities Commission, Kahuku community leaders and even musician Jack Johnson gathered under a tent in the wind-swept foothills of the Koolau Mountains to celebrate the occasion.

Although the wind farm will provide just a small fraction of Oahu’s peak electricity demand, Abercrombie and others heralded the Kahuku project as an important step in Hawaii’s pursuit of energy independence.

To make wind a much bigger part of the electric grid in Hawaii, state officials and HECO are leading an effort to develop larger wind farms on Lanai and Molokai that would send electricity to Oahu via undersea cables. The proposal for 400 megawatts of generating capacity split between Lanai and Molokai, combined with wind and solar energy generated on Oahu could provide 25 percent of the island’s power needs

Former real-estate developer thinks his Va. farm is fertile ground for business

It is easy for Dominique Kostelac to forget the troubles of his former life as he meanders down the old wagon trail on his 33-acre farm outside Charlottesville. There are the plastic tubes he uses to tap the maple trees for syrup. Here is the island in a forgotten river where he found the remnants of a dugout canoe, which he imagines could be as old as the Indians. This is where the persimmon trees grow so heavy that a shake of the branches releases their bounty.

He moved to Holly Tree Farm five years ago with his wife and three kids when he was still a high-flying real estate developer cashing in on the housing boom. What followed has become an all-too-common story: The bursting of the bubble — and perhaps his own overexuberance — left him millions of dollars in debt and facing foreclosure. Or, as Kostelac puts it, “we did a big face-plant . . . and we were stranded here.”

As it happened, that face-plant was right into some of the most fertile soil in Virginia. A longtime foodie and serial entrepreneur, Kostelac is convinced that his old neighbors in yuppie Washington will pay premium prices for produce and meat from the small farmers who are his new neighbors. Now, in this refuge from his failures in the city, he sees opportunity

Isle tsunami damage said to be $30M

Hawaii Grower Products has treatment for salt damage caused by the Tusnami
By MARK NIESSE The Associated Press
HONOLULU – Hawaii disaster-response officials estimated Thursday that the state suffered damage exceeding $30 million during this month’s tsunami, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie said he’s requesting federal disaster aid.

Hawaii State Civil Defense reported that damage to private property amounted to $22 million, and government property damage reached $8.5 million, including $2.7 million in Maui County.

Abercrombie said he formally asked for help Thursday from the U.S. Small Business Administration, which could issue an administrative disaster declaration for low-interest loans to homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofits.

He’ll also seek a presidential disaster declaration from President Barack Obama, which would trigger federal assistance for repairs to public structures damaged by tsunami waves, including piers, moorings, planks, electrical wiring and roads.

“These are the follow-up steps to help those affected by the tsunami,” Abercrombie said in a statement. “We are looking at every option that may be available to provide financial assistance to those who need it.”

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Small Business Administration and state Civil Defense traveled to the Big Island, Maui and Oahu to assess damage this week. They completed their evaluation Thursday.

FEMA help would pay for 75 percent of government property repair costs, with state and county governments having to match the remaining 25 percent,