Friday, April 20, 2007

Hilo Memories and Volcano's Farmers' Market

There was a small kid time when going to Hilo meant staying with our beloved cousins, the Vances. In my mind's eye, I can still see their family of 6 lined up in front of the chain link fence at the old Hilo airport. There might even be a dog or two that came along for the ride. My cousins would be standing there with thick white and yellow plumeria lei and big smiles on their faces. They would have picked and sewn the lei just for us that very morning. No lei were ever more appreciated than those. Going to Hilo was the most anticipated event of our young lives. We'd count down the days until school was over for the summer.

My cousins no longer live in Hilo. I've developed a whole hanai'd Hilo 'ohana of my own that I also cherish. I stay at Paul Tallett and Evonne Bjornen's vacation rental at the Bjornen MacNut Farm just 5 minutes (2 miles) outside of downtown Hilo. It's a great feeling to come here and to be welcomed as family. There's no checking in or out, no porters, no hassle, just a well-appointed, very comfortable private room where one can come and go as one pleases. I wake to the sound of birds chirping in the macnut trees just yards from the house. The two adorable dogs, Mai and Greta, and the cat, Tor, are available for some instant animal loving.

I don't know of any other accommodation where the host, Paul, who is part-Hawaiian, would be able to tell you from their lanai whether Madame Pele is doing her thing, simply by observing the clouds above Pu'u O'o vent at Volcano. Or, where the host, Evonne, might obligingly cut out the weekly events of interest from the Hilo Tribune Herald and leave them on your bed.

Then there's my good friend, Ku'ulei, who lives in Volcano and with whom I enjoyed two wonderful Sunday morning brunches at the wildly popular Volcano Farmers' Market. Their website lists 8 am as the opening time but that's for wimps. Vendors set up at 6 or 6:30 am and some Volcano people are there at 5:30! The best of everything will be gone by 8:30. It may be misty and the temperature hovers around the high 50's. So you are forewarned! Last Sunday, I dragged myself out of bed in Hilo to hele over to Volcano after staying late at the stadium to watch the awards presented at Merrie Monarch. I got only 4 hours of sleep but it was well worth it.

This is a country market since there are dog flea collars and white elephant finds mixed in with the outstanding produce. But it's also quite sophisticated in the vendors' selling of the freshly made cream puffs with the most decadent custardy filling, the andagi, the steaming Thai long rice soup with sambal topping, Joyce's handmade pastries which are all pau by 8, locally grown coffee to drink or beans to take home, homemade tropical jams, jellies, and pies, mango lip balms, beaded jewelry, freshly blended wheatgrass, colorful knitted mohair caps, even intricately etched naturally colored eggs.

I went to two other farmers' markets on the Big Island and I haven't even begun on the Merrie Monarch Festival itself or the legendary craft fairs. More to come.
-wahine foodie

You can contact the Bjornen MacNut Farm at for availability. They have one room for vacation rental. It accommodates 2. The rental has a private entrance, its own bathroom with shower, a kitchenette and views of the macnut farm surrounding the house. There is a pool, hot tub and ocean view from the lanai. Very peaceful. It's $100. per night or $600. for a week plus taxes. More info at (Don't ask, it's mine for Merrie Monarch week!)

Volcano Farmers' Market's info on


Anonymous said...

Even I'd get up early to go to that farmer's lucky you are to be able to go to that one...and your pictures give a whole new meaning to "breakfast"!! Another great entry...makes me want to jump on a plane to Hilo!!


foodiewahine said...

Trust TSB to be the first one to read my latest post. Thank you for being so faithful and supportive!
I've been emailing a sweet lady, Nopu, friend of Evonne's, who does a Japanese language website for visitors, hence the link from my site. She's done an awesome job with her website and I love that she features ordinary drive ins and places the locals would go to.

-wahine foodie

Anonymous said...

After having spent many wonderful holiday's and eating numerous delicious meals at the Bjornen's Mac Nut Farm, I can testify to the truth of how heavenly a retreat one can find so close to Downtown Hilo. Lucky the visitor who ventures forth to see how the locals really live.
The truth is Mum and Dad will take care of you. It's a home away from home:)
The ambiance is to be experienced for words can not match it's description.
I am truly fortunate to have Paul and Evonne as my Hanai Ohana.
So I'd like to invite everyone to visit the Bjornen's, and experience it first hand, and know you will be creating a lasting memory! Life will never be the same.
Me Ke Aloha,

foodiewahine said...

Oh, so sweet, Val. I'm glad I got a chance to get to know you better at the Easter dinner. Yes, Evonne and Paul are truly one-of-a-kind. Few know of their behind the scenes political activism and ongoing volunteer services for the greater good of Hilo.