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Grown here, not flown here. That’s how Starwood Hawaii’s regional food and beverage director Brian Hunnings describes the company’s approach to providing guests with a deeply rooted Hawaiian culinary experience.
Underscoring that philosophy is Starwood’s new Table to Farm program, a series of events that is helping travel agents and their clients dig into Hawaii’s trending agritourism and food-travel markets.
Each event begins with a Friday dinner held at Sheraton Waikiki’s Edge of Waikiki restaurant that showcases ingredients from a local farm. The following day, guests join hotel chefs and featured growers on a farm tour. A cooking demonstration and gourmet picnic lunch are included.
“Most of our chefs are born and raised on the islands and are very proud of their home and Hawaii regional cuisine,” Hunnings said. “The only person as passionate as a chef is a farmer. When you get the two of them speaking together about the origins of their ingredients, it’s lightning in a bottle.”
With Sheraton Waikiki’s executive sous chef Colin Hazama at the helm, the most recent Table to Farm experience featured Nalo Farms, home of ultra-fresh produce, and Shinsato Farms, known for its pork and rabbit products. Next up is an event from April 10 to 11 touting Twin Bridge Farms, a produce specialist notable for its year-round asparagus.
“The farms we target for these tours are not traditional farms that travelers would normally get to visit,” Hunnings said. “We choose places that are often run by third- or fourth-generation farmers who we feel strongly about supporting.”
Rounding out the 2015 events is an Aug. 7 dinner that will incorporate harvests from farms featured throughout the series. The next day, guests will enjoy a tour and picnic at a popular farmers market close to Waikiki.
Guests can book a Sheraton Waikiki room at a special rate to coincide with each Table to Farm event. Similar events take place on Maui and Hawaii Island.
Starwood’s Table to Farm program brings a new level of sophistication to the already popular farm-to-table concept that many restaurants and resorts have adopted, Hunnings noted. As guests sample ingredients fresh off the vine, they can actually taste Hawaii’s unique sense of place.
“When we talk about having a local experience,” Hunnings said, “the ability to meet the chef and the farmer and taste some incredible dishes at the same time is as authentic as it gets.”
Oahu Farmers MarketsFor clients looking to sample a cross section of local ingredients in one location, Oahu’s farmers markets serve up a tasty solution.
For instant gratification, visitors can buy ready-made local dishes and turn the farmers market experience into a picnic. If they’re staying in accommodations with a kitchen, they can pick up fish, meat and produce for a feast later on.
On Oahu, farmers markets pop up on different days in different places. Following are some of our favorites.
Haleiwa Farmers Market, Thursdays, 3-7 p.m., Waimea Valleywww.farmloversmarkets.com
Honolulu Farmers Market, Wednesdays, 4-7 p.m., Neal Blaisdell Centerwww.hfbf.org/markets/markets/honolulu
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort Farmers Market, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4-8 p.m., hotel atriumwww.waikiki.hyatt.com
Kailua Town Center Farmers Market, Thursdays, 5-7:30 p.m.www.hfbf.org/markets/markets/kailua
Kakaako Farmers Market, Saturdays, 8 a.m.-12 p.m., Ward Warehouse www.farmloversmarkets.com
Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market, Saturdays, 7:30-11 a.m., and Tuesdays, 4-7 p.m.www.hfbf.org/markets/markets/kcc
Pearlridge Center Farmers Market, Saturdays, 8 a.m.-12 p.m. www.farmloversmarkets.com
Waianae Mall Farmers Market, Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. www.waianaefarmersmarket.org/waianae