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Clients visit Oahu for its weather, scenery and culture but, these days, another attraction is turning heads: its food, or more specifically, its innovative farm-to-table cuisine. As more growers take advantage of the destination’s year-round warmth and rich volcanic soil, chefs, restaurants and retailers are clamoring for its ultra-fresh products, resulting in a growing culinary movement that’s paving the way toward island-wide sustainability.
“Because of concerns for the environment and economy, more and more people are doing what they can to support local farmers and locally-owned restaurants,” said Oahu Visitors Bureau executive director Les Enderton. “On Oahu, visitors can dine at world-class restaurants committed to using local ingredients, and they can visit the same farms and markets as our island chefs. Volunteering at a vegetable farm, watching a live fish auction or shopping at a farmers’ market are some of the farm-to-table activities awaiting our visitors.”
George Mavrothalassitis utilizes local ingredients at his namesake restaurant, Chef Mavro. // (C) 2010 Chef Mavro
Catch of the DayThe farm-to-table concept reaches beyond land to anything grown in water. For clients who don’t mind getting up early, the pre-dawn Honolulu Fish Auction is a dazzling — albeit highly aromatic — display of Oahu’s seafood. Local fishermen sell their fresh catch — including ahi, aku, marlin, mahimahi, wahoo, swordfish, opah, monchong and opakapaka — to the highest bidders, primarily chefs and buyers who supply local restaurants and stores. Water works equal wonders at the North Shore’s Marine Agrifuture, which hydroponically produces Kahuku sea asparagus, a tender and crispy sea vegetable billed as a cancer-fighting “superfood.” Clients can find it at Oahu stores such as Don Quijote and Marukai, and restaurants like the Ola at Turtle Bay Resort. Sumida Farm, producer of 75 percent of all the watercress in Hawaii, enjoys an unparalleled site containing natural ground springs and an abundance of cool, clear water from the Pearl Harbor aquifer. Each year its 300 tons of watercress go to local markets and hotels, plus restaurants, including Chef Mavro and Hoku’s at the Kahala Resort.
From Cattle to CocoaThe 1,100-acre North Shore Cattle Company in the Koolau foothills is the largest commercial grass-fed cattle ranch on Oahu. It’s known for its antibiotic- and hormone-free Angus beef, which is dry-aged and featured at the likes of Paniolo Grill at Coral Creek, in southwest Oahu, and Dole Plantation’s burger stand.For clients with a sweet tooth, Waialua Estate began experimenting with cacao in 1996 as part of Dole Food Company Hawaii’s diversified agriculture program. The estate’s 18-acre North Shore orchard calls on a special blend of beans to create subtle flavors, aromas and textures of chocolate.The best places for clients to find Oahu’s local products is at the farmers’ markets around the island. Visitors can meet the growers and producers of Hawaii’s diversified agricultural scene and purchase a plethora of fruits, vegetables, flowers, beef, seafood, pastas, jams, jellies, snack foods, honey, baked goods and specialty seasonings. While more markets are cropping up around the island, two are especially convenient to visitors staying in Waikiki: the Honolulu farmers’ market, outside the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, and the Kapiolani Community College farmers’ market, Oahu’s largest. Several vendors and restaurants even serve breakfast food items at the markets, encouraging clients to start the day right — by eating locally.
For information about island-grown foods and Oahu’s farmers’ markets, contact the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation.www.hfbf.org
Click here to read about Starwood’s innovative restaurants in Hawaii.