Mondo Tiki! – Tiki Farm’s 15th Anniversary Exhibition

Tiki Farm sign

Tiki Farm is the king of modern tiki mug manufacturing. For 15 years, founder Holden Westland and his team have collaborated with super-talented artists to create more than 2,000 designs. La Luz de Jesus gallery in Los Angeles is hosting an exhibition of mugs along with art from Tom Laura aka “BigToe,” Scott “Flounder” Scheidly, Doug Horne and Ken Ruzic. There’s also a retro-futuristic solo show, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” from Michelle Bickford.

Mug cases by Bamboo Ben

While the 10th anniversary exhibition rounded up examples of practically every mug Tiki Farm ever produced, this time around the display features 500 of the “most important and coveted selections.” Bamboo Ben customized the eight cases of shelves with bamboo and thatch A-frames.

Bahooka mug and others by The Pizz

Most of the mugs are arranged chronologically, but one of the sections groups together designs by The Pizz, Tiki Farm’s late art director. Seeing so many of my favorites here, like the Bahooka Ruffus mug, for instance, brings home how big a part he played at the company. (Holden penned a beautiful tribute to his friend in the latest issue of Tiki Magazine & More.)

Clifton's owl mug

I’m pretty content with my collection, but this exhibit is full of temptations. This stately mug (by The Pizz) for the recently re-opened Clifton’s Cafeteria caught my eye. It kind of reminds me of the Maltese Falcon … except it’s an owl. I actually ended up visiting that downtown LA landmark the same weekend, but unfortunately they’re out of stock of this style — I hope they get more soon!

Tiki Farm 15th anniversary mugs

Each of the featured artists also designed new mugs in honor of Tiki Farm’s 15th anniversary, including Ken Ruzic’s Poko Ono Pineapple Mug, BigToe’s Bobomb (the iconic Tiki Bob transformed into a hand grenade complete with a pin) and the Rub for Rum Easter Island Tiki Decanter ($75) by Michelle Bickford.

Doug Horne tiki mugs

In the middle is Doug Horne’s Tiki Farm Temple Mug (with holders on the back for Tiki Farm’s anniversary swizzle sticks) and on the right is Flounder’s Nari Rani Marquesan Mug. There were limited edition glazes ($50 each) released at the event — a few are still available on Soap Plant’s website — and Tiki Farm just made the other versions (priced around $20) available for order.

Close-up of "Too Much Information" painting by Ken Ruzic

The artists even incorporated their mug designs into the paintings, as you can see in this close-up look at Ken Ruzic’s “Too Much Information.” I love the whimsical style and incredible details, especially paired with this carved frame by Derek Weaver.

Mondo Tiki catalog

Tiki Farm also made a 40-page booklet ($5) listing all the designs created since 2000, plus some photos and little anecdotes about the process. We also get a sneak peek at some mugs that are in development. There’s some exciting stuff in the works, like a 60th anniversary mug for Oceanic Arts, two new designs for Tiki-Ti, a mug for Tiki Tolteca in New Orleans and a rum barrel/bulldog for Idle Hour in North Hollywood.

Art by Scott Scheidly

Mondo Tiki! is on view until November 29th at La Luz de Jesus. On Saturday, November 28th, Holden, BigToe and Ken will do a “docent tour” from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. to discuss the mugs and art and take questions. You can also see all the art (like Flounder’s gorgeous “Sea Goddess” pictured here) on the website for the gallery.

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Souvenir Tiki Mug at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop in Orlando

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If you’ve guzzled enough butter beer at Universal Studios Orlando and want to mix things up with a tiki drink, you should check out Emeril’s Tchop Chop (pronounced “chop chop”) at the posh Loews Royal Pacific Resort.

You probably know Emeril Lagasse from his many Food Network appearances (“Bam!”) but he’s also got a slew of respected restaurants in New Orleans plus Las Vegas, Orlando and beyond. Emeril’s Orlando at CityWalk offers his signature upscale Cajun/Creole food, while Emeril’s Tchoup Chop presents Asian/Polynesian fusion fare.

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Rockwell Group in New York designed the techno-tropical decor with a lily pond in the center of the restaurant, chandeliers composed of small glass flowers and a colorful mosaic of giant blooms above the counter facing the open kitchen. It reminds me of a restaurant you’d find in Vegas casino.

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On the left side of the restaurant there’s a bar with about a dozen bar stools. A few tables are also crammed in on that side of the room divider but we were told they were for those with reservations. The place was booked pretty solid on the night of our visit.

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Lurking underneath the bar are several Balinese-style tikis, each carved in a slightly different style. One holds a fish while another carries a water jug and so on. (Notice the “E” carved on each.)

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One of these was the model for the restaurant’s custom Tiki Farm mug, which has “Emeril’s Tchoup Chop” emblazoned on the back. There have been a few different glazes (green, blue, brown) over the years and the tiki mug even used to have metal rings hanging from its ears. The mug is sold for $15, with no discount for ordering a beverage in it.

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Happy hour is offered every day from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. at the bar inside and at the outdoor “Tiki Bar.” (The weather was cold and rainy when we were there in February so the thatched hut bar was all shut up.) The deals include $4.50-$6 beers, $5 well cocktails and $6 house wines and homemade sangria. There’s also a discount on one featured specialty cocktail, The Painkiller ($10, normally $15), a cousin of the piña colada. I tend to make those at home so I opted for the 1944 Mai Tai Roa Ae ($15), made about as true to Trader Vic’s recipe as one can get. Other choices from the “Tiki Classics” section are the Fogcutter, Hurricane, Dark & Stormy and La Floridita (Hemingway Daiquiri.) (They’ve even put in the extra effort to include a little background information on each drink with the description.) On top of that, there are several original “Signature” cocktails that have some tropical flair.

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You’re free to order off the full menu at the bar, but we made a meal out of the happy hour “small bites.” I’d skip the robata shishito peppers ($4) since there’s not much bang for your buck, but we did enjoy the spicy salmon cucumber roll ($6).

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Those kalua chicken egg rolls ($5) were so good that we ordered another helping, and I still wasn’t able to snap a decent picture before we started demolishing them. The regular menu gets kind of pricey, but definitely has some dishes that sound tempting, like the “Duck Duck Goose” (kiawe smoked duck breast with foie gras gyoza, gooseberry “poha” jam and citrus mustard vinaigrette). Their new chef de cuisine Ryan Vargas is a Hawaii native and an alum of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, so he’s pretty legit.

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The theming of Loews Royal Pacific Resort takes inspiration from the “Golden Age of Travel,” so the vibe is luxurious and exotic but not really “tiki.” (Although the hotel does host a weekly luau and I did spot a tiki mask in Jake’s American Bar, which is worth a look.) I’d highly recommend taking a stroll down to Universal’s neighboring Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which was all my mid-century modern dreams come true.

Emeril’s Tchoup Chop
Loews Royal Pacific Resort
6300 Hollywood Wy.
Orlando, FL 32819
407-503-3340

Related Posts:
Reviews of Tiki Bars in Orlando
Dole Whip with Rum at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Top 5 Creepy Tiki Mugs

I love Halloween and the fall season — what little we have of it in California — and I’ve taken a break from eating all the pumpkin-flavored foods I can find to bring you my list of the Top 5 Creepy Tiki Mugs of 2014, a follow-up to last year’s round-up of spooky tiki mugs.

Severed Bob by Bosko

I love a good tiki mashup and that’s what Bosko has presented with Severed Bob ($80), putting together the iconic Tiki Bob mug from the defunct San Francisco bar and the rare (and disturbing) Severed Head from the long-gone Ren Clark’s Polynesian Village in Fort Worth. Only 40 of these were made but it looks like there are still some left for sale on Bosko’s web site…for now.

Three Dots and a Dash Fiji Mermaid mug

The sea urchin shell mug that Tiki Farm produced for Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago is one of the most beautiful mugs I’ve seen, so I was a bit startled by their latest signature ceramic piece: The Fiji Mermaid ($20, only available at Three Dots and a Dash). (Of course, I still added it to my collection anyway.) The design is inspired by the Feejee Mermaid sideshow attraction made famous by P.T. Barnum in the 1840s. The “mermaid” was actually a gruesome manmade creation composed of the top half of a monkey and the bottom of a fish. (Munktiki has also produced likenesses of the Fiji Mermaid.)

Munktiki Shrunken Fugu

Munktiki’s got a bit of a dark side, embodied in recent releases like Dead Summer, Fu Zomb Chu and this Shrunken Fugu. There were only 100 limited editions ($75) produced in black/white and “Dead Skin Brown,” and they’re all sold out since their release back in May this year. I guess it’s funny that I find it kind of creepy and yet I don’t think twice about seeing pufferfish turned into lamps at tiki bars (and my own tiki room)…

Taboo Island Skull Tiki Mug

Truthfuly I find these Taboo Island Skull Tiki Mugs more cute than creepy — I think they remind me of the “Beetlejuice” cartoon I loved as a kid. Anyway, one hundred skull mugs were produced, plus 25 of these super limited artist proofs ($70). Each one features a unique color glaze and comes packaged in a little wood coffin filled with coconut fibers.

Munktiki Halloween Coconut Monkeys

Coconut monkeys are a Hawaiian souvenir cliché but Munktiki takes them to another level with the ceramic versions they’ve produced over the years. For Halloween this year, they had eBay auctions for 11 unique designs paying tribute to “Friday the 13th,”Scream,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and more.

Related Posts:
Top 5 Spooky Tiki Mugs
Tiki Halloween Craft: Shrunken Head Pumpkin
Tiki Sightings at Halloweentown