Archive for the ‘Farm-to-table’ Category

Saturday brunch at Mud Hen

By
August 9th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

A cava bar is at the heart of new Saturday morning brunch at Mud Hen Water in Kaimuki. It starts with sparkling wine for build-your-own mimosas and sangrias with ingredients like mango and lilikoi purées, champagne grapes, sliced strawberries, and simple syrups.

Many of us use weekends for catching up on all the errands we can't get to over the busy week. But, it should be a time to restore a little balance and relaxation to our lives. For me, there are few things more relaxing than a weekend brunch, and Mud Hen Water separates itself from the pack with the offering of a cava bar and dishes that are strictly local in inspiration.

Start with a $12 carafe of sparkling wine for build-your-own mimosas and sangrias with ingredients like mango and lilikoi purées, champagne grapes, sliced strawberries, and simple syrups.

With drink in hand, you can start perusing a menu that follows through on Ed Kenney's philosophy for the restaurant, of delivering a "Hawaiian sense of plate," setting it apart from just about every restaurant in town. Don't expect your basic bacon and eggs here. Instead, your locally inspired breakfast will more likely feature biscuit and mapo tofu gravy, waffle-fried chicken wings with spicy guava sauce, and corned beef hash with kim chee. Here's a look:

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It's always nice to share, and Mud Hen allows you to do that with its popular Sea Board, on this visit comprising smoked a'u ku, preserved akule, walu brandade fritter, cheese, soda crackers, bread, starfruit mostarda and pickles, for $22. I loved the varied flavor profiles of the fish, and liked the walu fritter so much I ordered seconds.

Polenta can be one-dimensional in large quantity and tiresome after a while, but the GoFarm Polenta here is topped with Sweetland Farm goat cheese, stewed fruit and honey to make it more interesting. This dish is $11.

One of my favorite dishes was the waffle-fried chicken wings. The batter was feather light and crisp. It's served with spicy guava sauce and slaw ($12). I'm not that big a fan of sweet sauces. I would love to see this redone with prawn paste, as done in Singapore. Now that would be spectacular!

The Eggs Benedict reimagined as biscuit and mapo gravy, with two eggs and bok choy ($13).

Somewhere under that egg is corned beef hash accompanied by avocado and kim chee ($15). Eat separately or mix it all up bi bim bap style.

Fresh fish and lu'au is served with two poached eggs, roasted roots and inamona dukkah ($18). This was another of my favorite dishes. They have a way with roots.

Fresh fruit offered at the cava bar.


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Mud Hen Water is at 3452 Waialae Ave. Saturday brunch runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 737-6000.

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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.

'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.

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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.

Going off menu at Forty Carrots

By
May 11th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Maui Nui Venison tartare with quail egg, pickled wasabi and chicharron was one of the off-menu dishes presented by chef Jon Matsubara at Bloomingdale's Forty Carrots May 5.

Foodies are always on the prowl for what's new, but to think every diner is thrilled by change is a mistake. There are many more people who seek the tried and true, people I don't understand, who can eat teriyaki beef (or whatever their favorite food is) every day.

Trying to satisfy both kinds of diners is a balancing act for chefs, creatives who for the most part must commit to a menu—whether for three months to decades—but who otherwise get to play and wow us through daily specials and special occasion menus.

Over at Bloomingdale's third-floor Forty Carrots restaurant, chef Jon Matsubara bridges the gap between the two kinds of diners by introducing specials that riff on classic, familiar local fare. He can also go off-menu to create unique dinner menus for organizations or individuals who want to book the space for evening events or special occasions. The space seats 38.

One such recent menu was highlighted by a local, literal and luxurious take on the French beef stew, pot-au-feu, or "pot on fire."

In it, the chopped watercress, salt meat and chili pepper water of a Hawaiian diner was upgraded. The greens and beef were layered with a generous helping of foie gras, followed by a pour of chili pepper bouillon. Served with rice.

And we all had second helpings of crispy chicharrons that accompanied the opening dish of Maui Nui Venison tartare.

For special menu inquiries, email jon.matsubara@bloomingdales.com.

A juicy Hokkaido scallop was paired with Kona abalone in Italian black truffle sauce. Hidden on the other side of the dish was an elegant slice of pork "shumai" freed of its wrapper.

A generous piece of foie gras was layered over three slices of salt beef and presented with chopped watercress for a local-style pot-au-feu. Below, the pour of chili pepper bouillon.

40 soup

Dessert of vanilla bean sticky rice topped with toasted almonds and spearmint, served with ruby grapefruit and lemon-ginger syrup.

Exciting things cooking on Maui

By
April 6th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

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:

Review: staradvertiser.com/food/simple-local-fare-stars-at-hana-restaurant/
Some background: staradvertiser.com/food/hana-ranch-enlists-help-to-pursue-sustainability/

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:

Your destination.

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.

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