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Most folks think of Lihue as Kauai’s government and commercial center, but for Addison Bulosan, owner of Tasting Kauai, it’s the island’s culinary hub.
That’s why, in late 2018, he launched a new food tour — with Lihue as its muse.
“I personally feel like there are a lot of hidden gems in Lihue that people miss when visiting Kauai,” said Bulosan, who grew up in the town. “As we created the Lihue Farm Food Tour, we wanted to make sure we highlight the amazing farmers, vendors and restaurants that are making delicacies with local ingredients.”
Unlike Tasting Kauai’s eating and drinking itineraries on other parts of the island, the Lihue Farm Food Tour takes clients along for a ride along the entire food production line, from the farm to the market to the hands of a chef or a brewer.
If possible, Bulosan recommends that clients go on the tour at the beginning of their Kauai vacation so that they can immediately adopt the “live like a local” mantra.
“The tour is perfectly placed for newly arrived visitors,” Bulosan said. “It’s literally 10 minutes away from the airport and right in the heart of the island.”
Browsing the Farmers MarketThe tour begins at Kauai Community College, the site of Farm Bureau Farmers Market, which is arguably the island’s best farmers market. Shane, an enthusiastic guide, led us to five booths featuring innovative treats made with Kauai-sourced ingredients.
At Monkeypod Jam, for instance, we scooped up samples of preserves crafted by Aletha Thomas, who worked with crops from more than 25 island farmers. The results — white pineapple ginger jam and Tahitian lime curd, for example — were bursting with freshness.
Next, all-natural smoothies lured us to the Hawaiian Island Juice booth, where owner Alan Van Zee handed us glasses of mouthwatering elixirs such as Green Me Up, a heady blend of local kale, pineapple, apple, banana, lime and mint.
Then there’s Harmonious Roots, helmed by Kimya Sadaghiani, who showcased Kauai ingredients in her hummus, eggplant dip, Persian frittata and other tributes to her Iranian heritage.
Jason Ebesu also welcomed us to his stand, called Wabi-Sabi, where he turns the classic Vietnamese-style banh mi sandwich on its head by replacing the usual pork with meaty, succulent portobello mushrooms.
At OnoPops Kauai, the tropics shine through every bite of gourmet, homemade popsicles in flavors such as lilikoi cheesecake and mango honey cream. It’s a refreshing finale for the farmers market portion of the tour.
From Farm to Restaurant to PubSince we all needed a bit of time to digest the first round of food, Shane took us on a short stroll to a vast agricultural field flanking the community college. Here, Eric Hansen, site manager for GoFarm Hawaii, told us about his program — an exciting initiative for budding growers around Kauai. With its classes and hands-on learning, GoFarm Hawaii strives to connect the next generation to the soil, making it a meaningful stop on our tasting tour.
Everyone got in their cars and followed Shane to Verde, a Lihue-based Mexican eatery where chef Kristin Yanagawa specializes in healthful cuisine made with regional products. She served our group delicate sopapillas (puff pastry) stuffed with grass-fed Kauai beef, beans, potatoes, cheese and salsa.
The affable Jim Guerber greeted us at our final destination: Kauai Beer Co., a lively neighborhood microbrewery. After treating us to a behind-the-scenes look at his beer production area, Guerber offered us frosty ales paired with taro fries and a garlic aioli dipping sauce.
By the end of the three-hour gastronomical journey, I left not only with a full stomach, but also with a satisfying sense of Kauai’s true flavors — just what Bulosan wanted to hear.
“We hope our guests feel like their food palate is dancing with tastes,” Bulosan said. “And, we hope they know that their experience is helping Kauai and its community.”
Tasting Kauai’s Lihue Farm Food Tour costs $109 per person and is offered on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The DetailsTasting Kauaiwww.tastingkauai.com