UH event teams local food producers with celebrity chefs to offer
A Taste of the Hawaiian Range
Charlene Nakagawa was about to throw away the figs from her garden when she thought of donating them to Mealani’s 2004 A Taste of the Hawaiian Range, the Big Island food festival that promotes local produce and grass-fed meats. "I tried selling them at markets, " says Nakagawa, "but ripe figs are so perishable and there’s not much of a market for them. "
Enter festival participant Chef George Mavrothalassitis, who took one look at Nakagawa’s figs and ordered all she could supply, on an ongoing basis, for his Honolulu restaurant, Chef Mavro.
That’s just one of many success stories arising from the spirit of cooperation that defines this annual culinary extravaganza sponsored by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
"We wanted to provide a way for Island farmers, ranchers, chefs and all those in the food business to support each other and educate consumers about the Big Island’s high-quality produce, products and forage-based meats, " says Glen Fukumoto, a county extension agent for CTAHR’s outreach educational arm, the Cooperative Extension Service. Fukumoto spearheaded the first "Range" in 1996 along with CTAHR’s Mealani Research Station Manager Milton Yamasaki.
That first festival in Waimea started with a dozen restaurants, six food vendors and approximately 350 guests. These days the numbers are considerably higher. More than 1,900 eager food lovers descended on the Hilton Waikoloa Village’s Grand Ballroom and Lagoon Lānaʻi on Sept. 24, 2004 for the festival’s ninth incarnation, and they weren’t disappointed.
Beef hearts skewered with mushrooms and cocktail onions, concocted by the Life Care Center of Hilo, vied for attention with a mouthwatering kālua goat, goat cheese and oven dried tomato pizza from Four Seasons Resort Chef Graham Quayle. Students from Hawaiʻi Community College’s UH Center in West Hawaiʻi offered up potless lamb potpie with parsnip potato puree, sugar snap peas and baby carrots (I went back for seconds).
And everyone was anxious to find out what Chef Daniel Thiebaut, from the Waimea restaurant of the same name, would do with his assigned meat—Kohala mountain oysters, more accurately but perhaps less appetizingly known as bull testicles.
At the heart of the festival is a culinary challenge that allows participating chefs one week to come up with inspired recipes using various parts of available livestock. Buffalo sausages were on the menu, as were tripe stew, beef-tongue soup and even beef cheek. It wasn’t all oddball cuts of meat, however. Chefs served sirloin tip, top round, flank and brisket in elegant and tasty style along with free-range chicken, pork, mutton and the aforementioned buffalo.
To compliment the grass-fed meats, Big Island vendors arrived with an assortment of wines, vegetables and salads (Kamuela Grown’s Chinese cabbage salad and won ton chips came with a take-home recipe for the ono dressing). Desserts included Makalapa lime pie, malasadas, and, of course, plenty of chocolate. During most of the evening, the line for ice cream stretched from one side of the ballroom to the other.
What about those mountain oysters? Seared and served with roasted garlic and sweet-pepper coulis, they earned the nickname "zesty testes." Personally, I’d have to say it’s an acquired taste. But A Taste of the Hawaiian Range...that’s a treat everyone can enjoy.
Save the date: the 10th Taste of the Range is scheduled Sept. 16, 2005, at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
Oʻahu Culinary Tours Offered
Sample farm-to-restaurant fare on Oʻahu with the Culinary Institute of the Pacific’s tasty tour. Includes a dim sum brunch, narrated walking tour of Chinatown markets, visit to Nalo Farm’s micro-greeneries and a hands-on cooking class in the professional kitchen at Kapiʻolani Community College using ingredients from the tour.
"This is the most complete culinary experience, " says Ron Takahashi, chair of Kapiʻolani’s Culinary Arts Department.
Cost of $119 per person ($79 for kamaʻāina) includes transportation and a souvenir chef’s toque. Reservations are first-come first-served; call 808 734-9483 or book through authorized Waikīkī travel agents.
Seasonings Support Culinary Programs
Try menu-enhancing gourmet seasonings and sauces developed by Kapiʻolani chef-instructors to raise money for the culinary program. Carrying the Kapiʻolani Culinary Arts label are Honey-Cardamom Vinaigrette Dressing and Asian Seasoned Salt by Grant Sato, Pineapple Chutney from Kusuma Cooray, Sweet and Spicy Rub from Edward Fernandez and Hawaiian Passion Hot Sauce by Henry Holthaus. Available at the farmers market held each Saturday in Kapiʻolani’s Diamond Head parking lot or on-campus restaurants.