Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ Category

Vote HFWF in USA Today poll

By
August 12th, 2016



PHOTO COURTESY HAWAI'I FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL

Among local chefs involved in the. Hawai'i Food & Wine Festival are co-founders Alan Wong, left, and Roy Yamaguchi, right, and between them, Mark Noguchi, Lee Anne Wong and George Mavrothalassitis. Now they're asking you to vote for the festival as best in the nation in a USA Today poll.


Sunshine. Beaches. Food and wine selections from an international roster of top chefs and sommeliers. What's not to love about the Hawai'i Food & Wine Festival?

We've always known Hawaii is epicenter of world-class culinary events and word is getting out about the festival that, since 2011, has raised $1.3 million for local culinary and agricultural programs. HFWF is in the running for a USA Today poll looking for the Best Wine Festival in the USA Today 10 Best Poll.

HFWF has a good head start, currently in 2nd place out of 20 candidates and is hoping fans will push the festival into the top spot over the next two days.

Voting is open through 5:59 a.m. Aug. 15, Hawaii time. Here's the link to vote: 10best.com/awards/travel/best-wine-festival/hawaii-food-wine-festival-honolulu.

No need to enter email or personal information. Just click on "Vote."

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Stage popup at Mari's Gardens

By
August 2nd, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Following a tour of Mari's Gardens, guests at Stage restaurant's Fresh Pop-up Dinner got to try freshly harvested vegetables from the farm grounds, such as roasted beets.

When I think of Mililani, I think "suburbia." The last thing I would expect to find there is a sprawling farm. Mari's Gardens is such a hidden gem that neighbors don't even know they exist, as I learned after getting lost en route. For townies, it might as well be another world, and during a Fresh Pop-up Dinner hosted by Stage restaurant at Mari's Gardens, I did feel like I was in another world, more Napa than Hawaii.

Before dinner, we were welcome to stroll the grounds, where baby lettuces were farming and beets were ready for harvest. Because I got there a bit late, I missed the aquaponic tanks where tilapia and Chinese catfish are raised as much for food as for their contributions to the nutrient-rich water that feed the farm's organic produce.

Dinner under a canopy that kept us dry during a sudden downpour.

The dinner showcased produce from Mari's Garden beautifully, as a demonstration of what farm-to-table dining could look like at Stage restaurant, whose owner Thomas Sorensen, is considering a rooftop aquaponic system to someday fill some of the restaurant's produce needs. Sorensen, owner of the Hawaii Design Center, where Stage is housed, has already been a longtime supporter of green, sustainable initiatives, and his building utilizes many energy efficient systems to serve as examples of what customers might want to do at home to reduce their carbon footprint.

That said, he's also a businessman, and knows the "ideal" is not always practical. Calculating the number of days it takes to grow a head of Manoa lettuce, and the volume that his rooftop can contain, he estimates that every 52 days, he will have enough to last through a single lunch service. But, where there's a will there's a way, and an herb garden might be one way to make such a system work from a green, and a business, perspective.

It's something I have had to think about while trying to raise greens at home. For the amount of water I used on tomatoes—only to see birds attack them at the first sign of ripening—it was barely worth the effort. When they did survive the odds, I had enough to make salads for a couple of days, hardly life sustaining.

Baby lettuce protected from hungry insects.

Baby lettuce protected from hungry insects.

It is amazing work that Fred Lau and his family and staff do, and Stage executive chef Ron De Guzman, pastry chef Cainan Sabey and their staff also did an excellent job. I also appreciated all their effort at delivering 40 meals when it started raining heavily and they had to make multiple trips under cover of umbrella!

I also learned a little bit more about the difficulties of farming during the downpour, because I never realized how fragile a farm ecosystem can be. All I know is, you stick a seed in the ground, it grows, and weeks later, you have food. So when I suggested that the rain will be good for the plants, I was wrong. Here, soil and water pH is constantly monitored for optimal conditions. Rain can introduce too much heavy metal in the atmosphere or make water too alkaline, impeding plants' uptake of nutrients.

Fish are also susceptible to the same conditions, and as much as we often believe that nature takes care of itself, the fish are fragile creatures that require a certain balance in their environmental conditions. Think about that, because so do we. Events like this are a first step toward opening eyes toward the balance between man and nature, and how much work we have to do to prevent excess waste and pollution.

The dinner also turned out to be a post-birthday celebration for Thomas Sorensen, owner of Hawaii Design Center and its in-store restaurant, Stage. He celebrated the occasion with his wife Michele Conan Sorensen.

"Act 1" was Mari's Garden Salad, comprising the farm's Manoa lettuce and roasted baby beets, with garlic croutons and wasabi-lilikoi dressing. The salad also included smoked goat cheese from nearby Sweetland Farms. Wine pairing: Galerie Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Calif., 2014.

Act II comprised beef carpaccio topped with Pecorino Romano, black pepper crème fraîche, crispy garlic, baby arugula, slices of sweet onion and watercress. Wine pairing: Barrymore Pinot Grigio, Monterey County, Calif., 2013.

Act III was seared ahi, accompanied by Mari's Garden eggplant puree, caramelized Mari's Garden negi onions and chimichurri. Wine pairing: Nielson Pinot Noir, Santa Maria, Calif., 2013.

Act IV was a duck duo of roasted breast and confit leg, accompanied by Mari's Garden carrots, Brussels sprout leaves, smoked maple gel and whole grain mustard jus. Wine pairing: Hartford Court Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Calif., 2013.

Embracing the garden theme, the finale was a "Flower Pot" dessert of crunchy chocolate "soil" covering mango ice cream and lychee sorbet, garnished with edible nasturtium, shiso and lavender, and slivers of dried mango. Pairing: Warre's Otima 10-year Tawny Port, Portugal.

Wine pairings were by Jackson Family Wines.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

First course: Mahina & Sun's

By
May 18th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

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.


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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.

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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 nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Eating Dubai 3: To the markets, a trek to Abu Dhabi's food souks

By
May 17th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

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.

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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 nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

'Ai Love Nalo feeds body & soul

By
May 11th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

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.

Humans have a natural affinity for fats, sweets and carbs. You can read up on some of the science here: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53528/

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.
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'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.

ai garden

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.

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