Deep-fried whole snapper, and salads of root vegetables and pohole ferns are part of the Family Feast at Mahina & Sun's.
Following a zombie apocalypse and cut off from the rest of the world, what would we eat?
If you envision such a future, sustainability makes perfect sense. I'm not saying Ed Kenney and Dave Caldiero are thinking in those bleak terms, but with their latest restaurant, Mahina & Sun's, I think they have the opposite in mind—a bright sunny future in which people awaken to caring for the planet and nurturing their bodies in a single move, by choosing foods both healthful and sustainable.
The two have been preaching this concept for about a decade, but takes it even further with Mahina & Sun's, making sustainable seem more palatable than ever.
A "snack" of Sweet Land Farms goat cheese beignets with beet ketchup and arugula.
It all starts with teaching us to love such basics as 'ulu and ugly root vegetables, hairy roots, green tops and all. There was a time I would have lopped off these unsightly ends, but here, they're a joy to pop whole into the mouth, and I was surprised to see my meat-loving friends reaching continuously for the bowls of vegetables and 'ulu.
Kenney would be the first to tell you he could do more, noting that it is still difficult to go without imported oils, beans, grains, Japanese products, pastas and spices, as well as most bar content.
Satisfying kahala (amberjack) crudo with preserved lemon, toasted inamona, purslane and brown butter vinaigrette.
But moreso than most outlets, I see a commitment, not only to the locally grown, but foods basic to the earliest Hawaii settlers. Most chefs, and diners, would find that limiting, but Mahina & Sun's is doing its best to win over a 21st century audience accustomed to getting any foodstuff they want, sourced from all parts of the planet.
It won't be an easy feat bringing diners back to the homestead, but they're committed to trying.
The setting, poolside at the equally new Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club.
Mahina & Sun's is in the new Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club at 412 Lewers St. Call 924-5810.
Mild, clean-tasting Kualoa Ranch oysters are simply graced with chili pepper water, succulents and slices of kalamansi.
It doesn't get much more local than pa'i 'ai topped with akule. Not for those who don't like fishy fish.
Usually, I would love the Shinsato pork paté, but having so many other good things to eat made it seem less interesting than the alternatives.
The grilled he'e is my favorite dish.
Rigatoni with local wild boar ragu. I don't know how they are able to secure a steady supply of local boar for making this dish.
A pour of smoky bacon broth over swordfish and savoy cabbage. The restaurant is committed to using sustainable seafood based on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, but swordfish has a tendency to be dry and is still not one of my favorites. A dish of monchong, however, was perfection.
A pan-roasted half chicken is tasty, but has been inconsistent, moist one day, dry the next. But I love the coriander chutney on top.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage is in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.
Giant prawns are among the fresh catch offered up at the Mina Fish Market at Mina Zayed Port in Abu Dhabi, where you can also get your seafood cooked up at adjoining kitchens on the spot.
ABU DHABI, U.A.E. — There comes a time on every trip when one must part from the gang, and a 90-mile day trip to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, was that occasion.
Some wanted to go to Yas Mall and some wanted to head to Ferrari World to ride the world's fastest roller coaster, the Formula Rossa, which attains a speed of 152 miles in 5 seconds, approximating the speed of an F1 racer.
I wanted no part of that, so Melissa Chang and I headed instead for the various markets, starting with the Mina Fish Market at the Mina Zayed Port. It would be like getting dropped off a couple of piers away from Honolulu's Pier 39 and having to walk to Nico's. In the hot, isolated area, I asked the cab driver how we were going to get back to civilization. He said to wait for a taxi. I was like, "Really?" And shrugged, if you say so, taking his word at faith as I got out of the car.
It was a really hot day as we made our way across asphalt on foot after being dropped off by taxi to reach the Mina Fish Market and a nearby fruit and vegetable market. People had a hard time directing us from place to place because given the desert climate, apparently, nobody walks in Abu Dhabi.
Luckily, with all the seafood on ice, the fish market was the coolest place to be as we got a look at area favorites such as hammour, a grouper, and sheri, a spangled emperor or reef snapper.
If I were hungry and thinking straight, I would have bought something to have cooked up on the spot. I'm sure it would have been delicious.
The waters of the Persian Gulf are home to many species of crab. These crabs look like Maryland blue crabs.
Posters remind shoppers to make sustainable choices. Sound familiar? I like the names of their fish, like Sultan Ibrahim (thread fin bream) and Disco (another grouper).
Next, we walked over to a fruit market, but it was something of a bust because all the fruit they sold is imported. It is what they prize in the desert where an apple or orange is something of a miracle, but isn't what we wanted to see at all.
I was really thirsty that day, but they aren't so commercialized that they have cafe spaces or vendors selling fresh juices or smoothies. (I smell business opportunity!) So, the only thing I could drink was coconut water from an imported Thai coconut, which I have to say is not as good as our own.
In between the fish and produce souks, there were garden shops where people could pull up, park and pick up all manner of plants. But some of the lawn ornaments had us baffled.
They could use a better artist for their lawn deer.
At a vegetable souk, this gentleman from Kerala, India, was happy to be photographed with his produce.
I had a little bit of a gross-out moment when I wanted to eat the coconut and had the vendor hack it open, which he did with a machete on his open palm! That was crazy. But then, he proceeded to scoop out the meat with said machete, which I don't how was used before or how long was left sitting attracting flies.
Even though I was sick and my immune system was weak, I didn't want it to go to waste so I ate it. Of course I couldn't eat the whole thing on the spot, so I asked for a bag. Then, he proceeded to pick up a piece of the cut meat with his fingers and drop it into the bag! I was like, "No, whole shell." That later turned out to be my lunch, but I threw out the meat that was touched.
Across the way, there was a row of date vendors, all inviting us to taste. I didn't have much of an appetite and could see how these sugar-, fiber-, vitamin-, calorie- and carb-rich fruits could sustain desert tribes over long periods. If I were healthier I would have compared the dozens of varieties offered to find the best.
Just as one of the vendors handed a date to me with his fingers, I remembered the news that 30 percent of American men don't wash their hands after using the restroom, and thought that figure must be much lower in this part of the world. Again, I was grossed out but ate it anyway to avoid appearing rude.
Overall, these markets are more for locals than tourists because access is difficult. When we reached the end of the line and actually had to get back, another westerner in a cab pulled up and I said, "Thank you for coming!" I was so grateful.
So far, I've been lucky. In all my recent international travels to Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, China and Japan, I haven't been sickened by the food, not even street food in a dusty environment. (In Shanghai I was slightly sickened by the water from brushing my teeth because I forgot there's a reason every hotel offers bottled water.) My body actually has a harder time adjusting to coming back to hormone-pumped meats and other processed aspects of the American diet.
A building behind the fresh produce market featured about a dozen date vendors.
Accepting a date from a stranger. Shoppers are welcome to taste before they buy.
Dozens of varieties of dates.
If I were feeling better, I could have told you the difference between these dates, but I couldn't eat much.
————— Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage is in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.
The Medi Bowl, a Mediterranean combo comprising kalo falafel, roasted baba ganoush, beet hummus, millet tabouleh and greens with an herb tahini sauce, is one of my favorite dishes on the menu at 'Ai Love Nalo. The colors are a feast for the eyes.
Because my foodie diet is so rich in protein and fat, I'm happy for those occasions when I can escape to such basics as fresh veggies and hummus, staples in every food writer's/blogger's kitchen for those detoxing down times when we're not at a restaurant.
I once suggested we feed hummus to the hungry instead of stocking up on salt-, sugar- and preservative-laden canned goods during food drives, only to be told the hungry wouldn't eat it. Critics of my plan had a point. As much as I love hummus and a good salad, I don't crave them the way I crave fried chicken, pork ribs, or lately, Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches.
Yet, immediately after visiting 'Ai Love Nalo, I found myself craving the casual vegan restaurant's tofu poke bowl, with limu providing all the ocean essence I needed, and avocado providing body and richness, so I didn't miss the fattiness and texture of fish at all.
I also crave the Medi Bowl ($11), a Mediterranean-inspired combo of kalo falafel served over greens with an herb tahini sauce, millet tabouleh, and small portions of local eggplant baba ganoush and beet hummus with all the flavor of chickpea hummus with a tinge of beet.
It's no wonder the restaurant tends to be packed on the weekends, when people are most likely to have the time to make the drive to Waimanalo. It's well worth the trip.
Dishes here are fresh and delicious, and there will be many a dessert lover who will rejoice over its non-dairy, all-natural dessert of Outta This Swirled soft-serve sundae. Replacing the ice cream is a mixture of coconut milk and bananas, coated with a no-added sugar "Cacao Magic" shell.
A meal here is a treat for the body, soul and senses from beginning to end.
'Ai Love Nalo is at 41-1025 Kalanianaole Highway. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays. Online at ailovenalo.com. There's no phone.
You can opt to sit indoors, or, if you don't like being confined by four walls, bring a mat to sit outside in the "Garden of Eatin'," pictured below.
The tofu poke is delicious, available in a generous poke bowl that starts with a choice of brown rice, millet or a half/half combination, with limu, onion, avocado, green onion, furikake and greens. Recently, $11.
The Kaukau Lu'au plate is 'Ai Love Nalo's healthier remake of the Hawaiian plate lunch. Local Okinawan potato and an assortment of local veggies are baked in creamy coconut lu’au, and served with your choice of poi, brown rice or millet, with a sampling of tofu poke and a side salad. Recently $11.
Roasted veggies and avocado are piled onto a veggie sandwich, but the whole-wheat vegan bun didn't hold up well to the ingredients and became mushy quickly.
Dessert lovers will rejoice over 'Ai Love Nalo's vegan, guilt-free soft serve, made with bananas and coconut milk, with cocoa powder shell that mimics chocolate. It's presented here with sliced bananas, papaya and housemade granola.
There are several smoothies on the menu. This is the Lime in Da Coconut, made with coconut milk, key limes, avocado, honey and bananas, and topped with coconut flakes.
Before leaving, head next door to visit the Waimanalo Market Co-op. There, you'll find fresh produce, 'Nalo-related merchandise including jewelry, clothing and tote bags, and a couple of food purveyors.
The co-op is at 41-1029 Kalanianaole Highway, open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays to Saturdays, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Call 690-7607.
Produce at the Waimanalo Market Co-op is sourced from the area ahupua'a.
If you think you've found the island's best poke, better remake your list if you haven't tried poke from Hale I‘a Hawaii. Lance and Lucie Kaanoi's poke is exceptionally fresh and delicious, making both their Korean-style, and ogo and ahi poke must-trys on your next visit to Waimanalo. They also serve poke hoagies.
The 5:30 p.m. line outside of State Bird Provisions, sister restaurant to The Progress, which is next door at 1525 Fillmore St. in San Francisco. Just like State Bird, there is no signage outside the door and looking at the space, you'd never know there is a restaurant there.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. – Before getting on a 15-1/2 hour flight to Dubai, I took a break in San Francisco and for the last meal of the day April 19 headed out to check out The Progress, sister restaurant and next door neighbor to State Bird Provisions.
It's named after The Progress Theatre that opened in the space in 1911, and today the name stands for sustainability progress as the restaurant serves as a vehicle for 100 percent local production.
Inside The Progress. I noticed the lighting along this wall was perfect for food bloggers a Instagrammers.
For their efforts, chef proprietors Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski—who opened The Progress in 2014—were honored as 2015 Best Chef West winner in the James Beard Awards.
The prix fixe menu changes almost daily and starts with a few wholesome "snacks," that serve as salads and appetizers, then your option to choose four out of about 13 light to heavy dishes of the day to share family style, at $58 per person. There are also about four daily add-on items.
It's a little like State Bird in the offering of a roster of delectable menu items, with add-ons tempting you as they are offered on carts that arrive at your table. There is always a line to get into State Bird because the James Beard 2013 Best New Restaurant winner has such a fun vibe and food to match. The Progess is its more sedate and sophisticated sister.
Here's a look at what was on the table:
Marinated parsnips with fig saba.
Yellow snow peas with lemon oil and sea salt.
Beet tartare on seven-pepper cracker.
From options that included Hog Island Sweetwater oysters ($3.50 each), grilled spot prawns ($16 for two), and broiled sardines cured in local sake lees ($6 each), we opted for CA sturgeon caviar topped with a potato cloud ($10 each), below.
THE MAIN COURSES
Artichoke cavatelli with English peas, bone marrow and bottarga was very lemony. Because of the bone marrow aspect, I was expecting this dish to be a little more savory than it was. It was a treasure hunt for bits of marrow.
Double duck broth featured strips of duck in the broth and diced duck tucked into pillowy dumplings, sharing the bowl with mushrooms and turnips.
Grilled Llano Seco pork shoulder was topped with sunflower seed sambal, pickled carrots and ginger and lettuce for wrapping.
Grilled Spanish octopus with fava hummus, shaved fennel, toasted black rice and preserved lemon was the most assertive dishes we ordered, and my favorite of the evening.
Rosemary panna cotta with kumquat marmalade and chocolate bark dessert at Hana Ranch Provisions in Paia.
On Oahu, it's easy to develop a myopic view of the Hawaii dining scene, putting Honolulu at the center of the universe in terms of progressive ideas.
But on Maui, where resort restaurants have received the most attention in mainstream media, the food scene is being transformed by a new generation of chefs and collaborators.
Earlier, I popped into a Wailuku popup presented by Rua Catering.
A followup visit found "Top Chef Seattle" fan favorite Sheldon Simeon putting the finishing touches on his new Tin Roof restaurant in Kahului, which opened Monday.
When I was on Maui a few weeks ago, Sheldon Simeon was putting the finishing touches on his new Tin Roof eatery in Kahului.
In the spot that was formerly home to Ko Ko Ichiban Ya, Simeon said he hated to see another mom-and-pop close, "so this is the next generation mom-and-pop," he said. "I hope it'll be a hang-out spot for everyone."
Much more casual than what he had been offering at Migrant, a sample menu included rice bowls, poke bowls, ramen and "kau kau tins" of such local favorites as mochiko chicken, garlic shrimp and chop steak.
Customers will be able to dine in at communal tables or pick up food to go. He also plans to create Chef's Table events that will seat 12.
The setting at Mill House Restaurant on the grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu.
Next up, a peek at the new Mill House restaurant on the grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu, on the day of its grand opening celebration, March 17.
Housed in the plantation's former banquet hall, the restaurant and surrounding grounds and farm are envisioned as the hub of an ambitious development plan that will include several residences.
On the lunch menu there were small plates of root vegetables sourced from the plantation's own farmland, gnocchi ragu, and a range of burgers and sandwiches.
But what I loved most were desserts of "Milk and Honey" olive oil cake and chili-spiced doughnuts with thick chocolate cremeaux.
A coffee-roasted beet salad at Mill House Restaurant.
But the main attraction on that day was a drive to Paia to visit Hana Ranch Provisions, a sustainable restaurant started by Hana Ranch as an experimental key to survival in the 21st century as the ranch moves beyond the commodity business into value-added pursuits.
You can read all about it in our new Crave food section that launches today. Here are the links:
Forget all that you imagine a sustainable restaurant is. The vibe is more sophisticated than rustic, but it's nevertheless a place that embraces a philosophy of honoring the work of farmers and food producers, respecting nature, and eating food that is certified organic, sustainable and nurturing for body and soul. If successful, the venture could serve as a template for other farmers across the globe.
Hana Ranch Provisions is at 71 Baldwin Ave., Paia, Maui. Daily hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, and 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Its to-go shop offers coffee and pastries from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily. Call (808) 868-3688.
Here's a look:
Pickled vegetables are among the value-added products produced by Hana Ranch.
Great bread is hard to find in Hawaii, and here it's well worth the $5.50 for a bowl of crusty, tender-crumbed house-baked bread served with fresh-churned cultured butter sprinkled with Hawaiian sea salt.
A curry kabocha squash soup ($11.50/$12) warms the heart with its creamy texture and a balance of natural sweetness and touch of spice. It's topped with an ulu chip, pipitas and a drizzle of cilantro oil.
The menu changes with the seasons and availability of ingredients. This wonderful beet carpaccio ($14 day/$14.50 evenings) featured yellow striped Chioggia beets sliced as thin as sashimi and was just as satisfying in their silkiness. Topped with mustard greens and dill, then accented with the sweetness of sliced kumquats. A great introduction to farm freshness.
More salads are available, but you're likely to get your day's ration of vegetables no matter what you order, even with Vietnamese beef meatballs ($15) seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass and chili peppers, served over a Thai-style salad of green papaya slaw, graced with chopped peanuts, cilantro and basil leaves.
Both lunch and dinner menus feature the restaurant's signature Hana burger ($16/$16.50) made with Hana Ranch grass-fed beef, and served on ulu brioche that is comparable to a pretzel bun. The juicy burger is finished with caramelized onions, lettuce, cheddar and horseradish aioli, with more greens on the side.
Kauai shrimp tagliatelle ($32) is a simple, satisfying dish, with the shellfish beautifully arranged, heads on but otherwise shelled—the best of both worlds—over the housemade pasta, all tossed with a Hawaiian chile-spiced tomato sauce.
My favorite dish during a dinner visit was the seared ahi ($35). Again, not a typical favorite because many restaurants also overdo the searing so the ahi often ends up cooked through. Here, the ahi is in block form so stays rare inside. The blocks are arranged with stalks of Kula cauliflower around a bed of braised chicories topped with a soft-poached egg. Every bite felt like magic.