Several weeks ago June and I went to O‘ahu to see the new Foodland Farms store in Aina Haina.
Tony the Tiger was in the house. Kids ran up to get hugs.
It's a beautiful store. We were so impressed that they put the local produce front and center! And that they had photos of local farmers all around.
A couple of months earlier, June and I had lunch with Jenai Walls, President of Foodland; Abel Porter, Foodland's CEO, and Simon Cutts, who is the produce buyer. Jenai asked us if we had tried the Hamakua Tomato Salsa and we had to admit that we didn't know there was such a thing. Foodland produces it in their corporate kitchens and distributes it through its stores statewide.
Containers of Hamakua Tomato salsa in the foreground. In the background, photo of me and Chef Alan Wong.
We had to try it. It is really good! Way better than any tomato salsa I have ever had; I think because it is fresh, and made from vine-ripened tomatoes.
June with our friend, Jon Kawamura from Armstrong Produce. We enjoyed hiscompany
We decided to demo the Hamakua Tomato Salsa with Tostido Scoops to demonstrate our tomatoes, and it went over really well. Many people bought the Hamakua Salsa as well as the fresh Hamakua Springs tomatoes.
The display was full of our beef tomatoes as well as our award winning cocktail tomatoes
A group of seven firefighters came by and tried the salsa. We all know that firefighters are all gourmet cooks, and we were happy to see one of the firefighters pick up a container.
For us, that was the ultimate validation of Hamakua Tomato Salsa.
Now that it's summer - well, I guess it isn't officially summer yet, but it's definitely summer weather - I'm starting to switch gears from those satisfying, cool weather meals I like to make (like hearty chicken and dumplings) to cool, light dishes that are refreshing on a warm day.
Do you know that NPR program? It's really wonderful. It airs in Honolulu on KIPO-FM 89.3, on Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. Or on your own computer - go here to listen to the program online.
Here's the line-up for the podcast that's up right now:
This week it's a look at the noodle foursome that's the heart of
Japan's beloved noodle cuisine: udon, somen, soba and ramen. Our guide
is Chef Takashi Yagihashi, author of Takashi's Noodles. He talks noodle cooking, noodle etiquette, and the Japanese way with noodles that may even outflank Italy.
Jane and Michael Stern are forking into some of the most sublime
banana cream pie anywhere at Betty's Pies on Minnesota's North Shore.
Indian food expert Raghavan Iyer has the fastest, lustiest breads
you'll ever make. Forget the oven; for this quick bread you need to
fire up your grill. Raghavan's latest book is 660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking.
American Public Media commentator and dad John Moe tells of a little
experiment in dinner table politics. Parents of picky little eaters
will want to tune in!
Brendan Newnam takes an off-center approach to the dinner party and
it all starts with a joke. Then poet Nikki Giovanni reads her poem "So
Enchanted with You" from her book Bicycles: Love Poems.
After Chef Alan Wong and his crew did the cookout at Hamakua Springs last month, they went down to Ka‘u to meet some of the farmers there. Alan tasted the coffee that Thomas “Bull” and Jamie Kailiawa grow and harvest, and he immediately said, “Hey, send me some.” He ordered ten pounds on the spot. We all know that Chef Alan has a special talent in terms of tasting.
Last week his taste buds were validated – Bull and Jamie Kailiawa’s Ka‘u coffee placed in the Top Ten in an international cupping competition held by the Specialty Coffee Association of America in Atlanta.
Their coffee was the only coffee from Hawai‘i to place, and it was up against the finest coffees of the world – coffees from Colombia, Panama, Ethiopia and other renowned growing regions. Their Kailiawa Coffee ranked seventh best in the world.
Imagine – a coffee growing in the hills of Pahala ranking as one of the world’s finest coffees.
Bull was born and raised at Mill Camp in Pahala, graduated from Ka‘u High School in 1981 and worked at the sugar plantation as a harvester and later a crane operator.
Jamie and Bull Kailiawa, with nephew Lyndon "Baba" Kailiawa-George in center
When the sugar plantation was poised to shut down, Bull moved to Hilo where he worked as a crane operator, operated his own landscaping business, and worked his way up the ropes to head security at Hilo Pier where cruise ships come in. He and his wife also ran a catering business, and he worked nights at restaurants, doing cooking, cleaning and security – but all he wanted was to go back home to Pahala.
When his aunties needed help with their coffee farm at Moa‘ula, they went, and ultimately the aunties turned the farm over to him. It’s a beautiful farm, with views of the ocean and steep hillsides, and an imu and waterfalls and rushing water.
“One thing good with my field,” he says, “is that my trees always get something to drink. Before noon there is mist and in the afternoons, it rains most every day.” Where they are, he says, the season is long, and while most farmers are pruning their coffee trees, his coffee is flowering again.
He says he learned about growing coffee by asking questions of other coffee farmers and putting it all together. This season, they netted almost 5000 pounds of parchment.
Bull acknowledges his nephew, Lyndon “Baba” Kailiawa-George, a ninth-grader who Bull says “has been my partner in work from the very beginning.”
The Kailiawas also do ranch work, raise chickens, and trade coffee for beef and pretty much any other food they need.
“It’s terrific that the highest ranking coffee in the state, the coffee recognized as having the highest quality, is grown by this Hawaiian guy,” says Richard. “And he’s just a regular guy. A former sugar cane worker who hunts and fishes and that kind of thing. Not a gentleman farmer.”
Here's a peek at the beginning of her post and the first four foods on the list:
Nutritionist and author Jonny Bowden has created several lists of healthful foods people should be eating but aren’t. But some of his favorites, like purslane, guava and goji berries, aren’t always available at regular grocery stores. I asked Dr. Bowden, author of “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth,” to update his list with some favorite foods that are easy to find but don’t always find their way into our shopping carts. Here’s his advice.
Beets: Think of beets as red spinach, Dr. Bowden said, because they are a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters. How to eat: Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad. Heating decreases the antioxidant power.
Cabbage: Loaded with nutrients like sulforaphane, a chemical said to boost cancer-fighting enzymes. How to eat: Asian-style slaw or as a crunchy topping on burgers and sandwiches.
Swiss chard: A leafy green vegetable packed with carotenoids that protect aging eyes. How to eat it: Chop and saute in olive oil. Cinnamon: May help control blood sugar and cholesterol. How to eat it: Sprinkle on coffee or oatmeal.
Did you catch the "bonus" healthful food there in her second sentence? Guava.
I like articles like this for the reminders about other delicious foods, not in my regular rotation, that are good for my health. And apparently many others did, too, because by Thursday night there were 764 comments, some with interesting preparation ideas.
After reading through the whole list, I counted that I have seven of these foods in my house right now. A couple more (beets, swiss chard) intrigued me and went on my shopping list. Or even better, maybe we can grow them.
Since June is away in Texas for a few weeks, I’ve decided to visit lunch places outside my normal routine. Aloha Luigi, the small restaurant on Keawe Street in downtown Hilo, qualified.
The back entrance, from the very convenient back parking lot.
The main dining area.
I’ve actually tried several different places. But Aloha Luigi is one I can already write about now, without even trying anything else off its menu.
I ordered the spicy ono served on linguini with lots of garlic and capers, to take out.
This is where you place orders. You walk straight through to the back parking lot.
While waiting for my order, I wandered out back to look around. An old bathtub with a decorative purple crawling taro growing in it caught my attention. I noticed some guppies swimming around – for mosquito control, I thought to myself.
A friendly guy with a slight New York accent asked me if I was admiring the fish. I told him I liked the potential of the place and he said he was Luigi, the owner.
Nearly 30 years ago he built the restaurant in Hilo that eventually became Pescatore. He moved back to New York, and then back to Waimea where he opened the original Aloha Luigi. He said he returned to Hilo four years ago, because Waimea was getting too built up.
This is a multi-function mail box. Local artists' works hang on all the walls.
Four months ago, Luigi purchased the land where the present Aloha Luigi now stands, just down the street from Garden Exchange on Keawe Street. And now he is building the place up. He told me he’s going to open up second floor dining as well as an outside, open air dining area.
Two tables and the view from under the outside canopy. Looking toward Keawe Street, where there will be more outside seating.
Look carefully and you can see the outline of his vision. He has a gem of a location. The back parking lot is so unbelievably convenient.
Outdoor dining in Hilo. Who would have thought? But if you look closely, you can see that too. Upstairs and downstairs dining? I love that.
The spicy ono linguini was so good that I went back later to order a Sicilian slice of pizza. It’s square. As toppings I had jalapeno, spinach and garlic. I’ll be back often!
Chef Alan, who is based on O‘ahu, regularly buys produce for his restaurants from Hamakua Springs as well as a few other farms here on the Hamakua Coast. And every year he flies his staff here – chefs and other staff from his different restaurants – for a couple days.
The purpose of his annual visit? To visit the farms, and the farmers, who produce the fresh, delicious ingredients they work with every day. Chef Alan has a personal connection with the sources of his food, and he wants his chefs and other employees to know where the food comes from too, and who grows it, and how, so they can take that knowledge back with them. So they visit each farm, see how the food grows and get to know the farmers a little.
Then the culmination of their visit is that all his restaurant people and all the farmers gather at Hamakua Springs for an absolutely world-class Alan Wong cookout using ingredients from those local farms. It's Chef Alan’s unbelievably gracious and generous (and delicious) thank you to the farmers.
This year for the first time there was also an imu. On Monday afternoon Kimo and his good friend Al Jardine prepared the imu, filling it with pig, turkey, beef, taro, sweet potato and more.
Chef Alan put some nontraditional ingredients in the imu, too. Lesley Hill and Michael Crowell, of nearby Wailea Ag Group,
brought big long “trunks” of heart of palm to put into the imu as an
experiment (they were delicious). Here they are being wrapped up with taro.
Here's how it looked after they opened the imu the next day and were taking the meat and other foods out. That's Mrs. Ha there, Richard's mom. She's great.
Here they are, chopping up the cooked meat. That's Al in the blue shirt and Kimo in the red.
We all gathered at the farm’s recently reclaimed green shack. We’ll tell you more about that historical building on the edge of Hamakua Springs later – it has a story, too. For now we’ll just say that it was the HQ for food preparation. See all the beautiful old photos of former plantation days? They tell some of the story of what plantation life used to look like.
So everybody gathered the food from the imu and took it inside, where tables were set up and Chef Alan and staff cooked and set up the long serving table. There were some amazing dishes made with Hawai'i Island Goat Dairy goat cheese and local Hamakua Mushrooms, and Ka'u coffee and Big Island Candies and more.
It is absolutely amazing what Chef Alan can do on a portable gas burner.
This was a shrimp, olive and tomato concoction. Is your mouth watering?
The serving line. There was even more food around on the other side, too, that doesn't show here.
Richard thanked everyone for being there and talked about why Alan had brought us together, and then Richard's grandson Kapono said a blessing in Hawaiian and English. And then we ate. And ate.
There was also a PBS crew present, taping the whole thing. They were following Chef Alan around taping a Chefs Afield program, which will air next year. There was a lot going on.
It was really a terrific evening. From the reason we were all there – because Chef Alan has such respect for, and such connections with, his farmer friends, and thanks them with such an incredible feast – to the new connections as restaurant folk and farmers got to know and appreciate each other, talk story and eat and laugh together. It was a fun, delicious, boisterous event where everybody seemed to be enjoy the food, the setting outside under the big tent, talking, the company.
A huge mahalo to Chef Alan and all his employees, who prepared such a tremendous feast and also created such a wonderful, memorable gathering.
Melissa Clark has a delicious article in today's New York Times about cooking with tomatoes. After I read it, I actually had to go in the kitchen and prepare a snack.
"After purchasing bags of summer tomatoes from the farmer's market, I spent the next week in decadent tomato revelry. Here's a chronicle of my grand tomato tour."
Ummm. Pan con tomate (trust me; it sounds great); baked stuffed tomatoes with goat cheese fondue; multicolored tomato tartlets; instant tomato-ricotta "soup" with capers; red and yellow cherry tomato confit; gazpacho with watermelon and avocado; and green tomato and lemon marmalade.
Tomorrow I am going to make gazpacho with watermelon and avocado. Or maybe I'll roast some tomatoes, which "condenses and caramelizes the juices, turning a juicy, salad-worthy fruit into syrupy tomato candy."