By Nadine Kam
One of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Farmers Market vendors is Lincoln Vo, “the sugar cane guy,” who runs stalks of cane through a specialized cold-press juicer for a full cup ($4.50) of pure sugar cane juice, with a touch of calamansi. We've been taught to fear products associated with sugar, but according to the Livestrong organization, sugar cane juice keeps glucose levels constant. It’s also an alkalizing drink that decreases acid and is full of essential minerals. — Nadine Kam photos
As soon as Sven Ullrich took on executive chef duties at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki in fall 2011, he embraced all things local, and then some. He scoured markets for all Hawaii had to offer, from fresh seafood to artisan cheeses to tropical fruit including cheesy mabolos, puddinglike sapotes, mangosteens, jackfruit and dragonfruit, items not common on local tables.
A native of Hamburg, Germany, he sampled everything in order to fairly represent Hawaii on his menus. “It was very interesting for me. I had to try everything, Rainbow Drive-In, all the L&Ls. It’s been very fun and very educational.”
That early experience has led to a new farmers market, introduced last fall, that takes place 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays at the Hyatt. The chef selects purveyors whose locally made products he loves and who aren’t widely known, understanding that these artisan food companies could use a boost to make their efforts sustainable. One of the newest products is a delicious Kona coffee butter spread made in Waimanalo by Eric “Fats” Gaspar and his wife, Kahea, infused with Kona coffee from Kuni Goto. It’s delicious spread on toast, bagels, pancakes, waffles or steak, at $10 a jar.
What's more, the Hyatt is also starting a boutique project of its own, introducing an apiary housing 20,000 honeybees, which by summer may result in enough honey to serve in its restaurants and to make available at the farmers market.
“We’re working on the bottles and labeling now,” Ullrich said. “It’ll be 100 percent sustainable for the hotel.”
A whirl around the market:
Kalihi Corner's Tiffany Bracero, left, offers her local specialties ($8 per plate), including hamburger steak, beef stew, stuffed pork chops, and shoyu pork with turnips and black mushroom, ewith a touch of star anise.
Spun Paradise's yummy cotton candy is made from 100 percent organic cane sugar and contains no additives or dyes. Among flavors are lychee, pineapple, mango, coconut, sea salt caramel, macadamia nut and lilikoi. A 2-ounce container goes for $4. Don’t feel bad about eating it all — it has only 75 calories per container.
More than a dozen of Primo Popcorn's local-inspired flavored popcorn are available. Some standouts: buffalo wing-flavored “Wild Wings,” “Sweeeet Bacon,” “Thai Curry,” award-winning “Raging Crab” and “Dah Haawaiian” combination of Hawaiian chili pepper and sea salt. Savory flavors are $3.75; candied, $5.75; chocolate combos, $8; and “Co-Furi-Shew” combo of furikake, mochi crunch and cashews is $11.50.