Variety Showcase Comes To Oahu

variety showcase

variety showcase

Farmers, chefs and food geeks flocked to this year’s Variety Showcase on Oahu. The annual event, which usually takes place in Portland, came to Hawaii for the first time this year on March 13, 2018.

The event gives attendees the opportunity to taste vegetable, legume and grain varieties, that are still being tested. It gives chefs the opportunity to cook with these ingredients and collaborate with plant breeders––which in turn gives the plant breeders an inside look at consumer preferences.

These plant breeders develop seeds that thrive under organic farming conditions, produce excellent flavor and can handle specific growing conditions.

Once the new varieties of crops are bred they are sent to the farmers to test along side other varieties that they are already growing.

I remarked when I first got to the event how I have noticed that the variety of ingredients being offered at the farmers markets has increased dramatically over the past few years. Kathy from Mohala Farms agreed, saying she believed that, “the new generation of farmers in Hawaii are the ones who are responsible for bringing all of these exciting new crops to the island.”

Jay Bost from GoFarm Hawaii and Lane Selman of the Culinary Breeding Network, an organization whose mission “is to build community among plant breeders, farmers and consumers to improve culinary and agricultural quality” hosted the event at Kapiolani Community College. KCC is well known for it’s outstanding culinary program and weekly farmers market, sponsored by the Hawaii Farm Bureau.

At the event, each ingredient was represented by either a farm, co-op or representative of the University of Hawaii that grew the ingredient along side a chef showcasing several varieties of each ingredient to try on their own, as well as in a prepared dish.

All of the dishes prepared were innovative, expertly crafted and delicious. To put it bluntly, I thought the chefs f*cking brought it!

Thanks to GoFarm, The Organic Seed Alliance and farms like Counter Culture who pushed to bring this event to Hawaii, we got to experience something truly unique, special and delicious. I would not be surprised if this event shows up again next year, three times as big. It was a huge success.

Here are some of the highlights (although truly, each table was just as good as the next):

One of the most promising and exciting crops being bred for tropical and organic growing conditions is the mild habanero pepper, since peppers are notorious for being hard to grow in Hawaii.

Bryan and Natalie, the owners of De La Mesa Urban Farm, highlighted the habaneros in two dishes: A pureed habanero salsa made with guijillo and arbol chiles (this would make a killer taco sauce) served with tortilla chips that were made with hand ground Waimanalo yellow corn and a ceviche made of fresh marlin, Kauai shrimp, pickled habaneros, jicama and pineapple.

Chef Ed Kenny offered us a side by side comparison between two different polentas. One made with Guisto’s, a respectable northern California brand and the other made with a polenta made with Nalo orange corn, bred in Waimanalo. The polenta made with Nalo orange corn was noticeably sweeter, had more character and a rounder flavor.

variety showcase

variety showcase

Chef Keake Lee from Pig and the Lady created a dish of pickled purple winged beans and cold “Poamoho dark long” eggplant marinated in a black vinegar dashi broth, garnished with fresh basil. Everything Pig and the Lady does in my option is bold, creative and crazy delicious.  This dish was no exception.

variety showcase

The crew from Counter Culture had a strong presence, with several tables. They presented a mind boggling selection of legumes, jicama, and bananas.

variety showcase

variety showcase

variety showcase

Chef David Gunawam from the Farmer’s Apprentice came all the way from Canada to participate in the event and cook. He prepared Hirayama kai choy, paired with a slice of raw skipjack, seasoned with a house-made vinaigrette made by simmering skipjack bones with seaweed and soy sauce.

In addition, he presented two types of beans grown by Counter Culture: black beans marinated with culantro and charred scallion, and chickpeas flavored with Hawaiian shallot and herbs from Green Rows Farm.

variety showcase

Chef Scott Nelson of Vida Farms also cooked for Counter Culture. He prepared a crepe made “sourdough style” with fermented jicama, and stuffed it with raw slices of sweet jicama and hibiscus jam. It was divine.

variety showcase

Lauren Tamamoto, instructor at KCC blew everyone’s mind with her cauliflower chocolate mousse made of cauliflower, cocoa powder, coconut milk, sugar and vanilla extract. It was velvety smooth and tasted like the chocolate pudding of your childhood (and I mean that in the best possible way).

Variety_showcase2018

Chef Jenn Hee from Juicy Brew grated cassava, soaked it in golden milk, turned them into hash browns and wrapped each piece in a piper sarmentosom leaf to showcase yellow cassava.

variety showcase

Chef Stacey Givens from the Side Yard Farm & Kitchen came out to represent Portland with her spiced carrot cookies stuffed with Side Yard Farms goat cheese, fig leaf dust and crispy fried carrot tops. Again, mind blown.

variety showcase

Chef Edward Domingo from Roy’s Beach House made a dish I could eat all day long. Moringa fried rice with lechon lomi lomi. Crack an egg on top and you’ve got the perfect breakfast, lunch or dinner in my opinion.

An award winning variety of cacao, called Easton was presented by Skip Bittenbender of University of Hawaii. Manoa chocolate made a decadent 70% chocolate bar for sampling.

variety showcase

Robynne Maii, chef/owner of Fete, showcased broccoli using my favorite preparation, roasted with chile flake, garlic and lemon. I love the crispness and the nuttiness of this dish. Robynne made it even more complex by adding capers, golden raisins and crispy parmesan on top. She also presented Tromboncino squash pickled and served with local mint, roasted kukui nut and feta cheese.

variety showcase

Nina, from Nina Cucina Health (who’s food I miss dearly at the farmers market), took us on a journey of turmeric. Several varieties were pickled and put out for sampling and to wash it all down she made a lovely soup made with turmeric and coconut milk.

variety showcase

variety showcase

variety showcase

Hannah Vernon, from Home Cooked With Love, presented  Manoa and Leopard lettuces with a vegan creamy Italian dressing made with local herbs, Dijon mustard and olive oil for dipping.

variety showcase

On my way out the door I luckily caught Gabe Sachter-Smith, banana expert and farmer for Counter Culture, showing off his several varieties of tropical bananas.  Chef Janna Rose, from the Mossback Restaurant in Washington was scooping up banana ice-cream and vegan banana-chocolate chip cookie right along side him.

I had just talked to Gabe the Saturday before the event at the farmers market. He was the one who got me the most excited about the event in the first place. So it was fitting that, I ended the evening on a sweet note, wrapping the night up with him.

variety showcase

I’ve never seen so many happy faces in one room. The passion for high quality ingredients was swirling that night. Everyone involved in the event was there for the same reason––to continue to push for a healthier, tastier and more sustainable food system in Hawaii. One with a lot of variety.

Did you have an amazing time at this year’s Variety Showcase too? What did you learn, what inspired you? What was your favorite dish and why? Tell us all about it in the comments section. And if you liked this article I invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavorefor more on how to eat local, live well, cook healthier and support each other. I am so grateful for this community, thank you so much for being a part of it!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on March 18, 2018 and has since been updated for accuracy. 

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Celebrating Hawaii’s Emerging Meat Industry: Forage Hawaii Farm To Table Dinner | November 2017

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

Last weekend I joined forces with Forage Hawaii in hosting our first farm to table dinner on Oahu.

I met Jessica Rohr, owner of Forage Hawaii, taking regular trips to the Kaka’ako farmers market where she distributes local meats every week. Jess and I hit it off right away, both of us being so passionate about cooking and supporting local. Eventually it dawned on us we should work together. The wheels started spinning and plans to host a dinner event celebrating local farmers and ranchers were made.

After going on a farm tour of Mari’s Gardens in Mililani one afternoon it was settled, we found our venue and this thing was going down.

Don’t rain on my parade

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

The rain dumped all day, and then stopped right before the guests showed up. Just in time for a tour of Mari’s Gardens––the biggest hydroponic and aquaponic farm in Hawaii. Guests got to learn all about their organic, sustainable farming practices and see their impressive variety of lettuces, microgreens, edible flowers, fruits, vegetables and fish farmed on property.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

Knocking it out

A behind the scenes look at the hours leading up to dinner…

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

Ingredient driven

An exceptional meal starts with exceptional ingredients. 50% of the produce used was from Mari’s Gardens including: ulu, Meyer lemons, limes, Negi onions, watermelon and Cheriette radishes, watercress, edible flowers and a variety of herbs and microgreens. The other 50% of the produce was sourced from other small farms on island. All of the meats used were locally sourced from: 2Lady farmers, Maui Nui Venison and Makaweli Meat Company.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

Showtime

After Jess and I kicked off dinner, and the food started to flow, we had the privilege to hear from some of the key players responsible for the pushing Hawaii’s local meat scene forward: Patsy Oshiro and Stacy Sugai from 2Lady Farmers and Kimo Tuyay from Maui Nui Venison.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

The pork course

Patsy and Stacy told us the story of how 2Lady farmers came to be, thanking the Shinatos from Shinato Farm for their mentorship and helping them get their small pig farm off the ground. They likened their farming style to “Mothers raising their children” demonstrating how they care for their animals like family. Their intentions are to take what they have learned from the Shinsatos and pay it forward, offering mentoring programs to future farmers here on Oahu.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

The venison course

Kimo taught us about wild venison. We learned how it is not only delicious but more sustainable to harvest and healthier to eat. He announced a couple of new projects on the horizon including a new line of Maui Nui Venison jerky hitting the market in January and the Kahikinui project, where they will be harvesting another local wild, population––wild cows.

“It was interesting to hear the same sentiments 2Lady farms had towards the pigs they raise, as we have with the wild deer we harvest––which is less stress equals better product,” Kimo said after the event.

I think everyone was able to take away something important from all of the speakers and reaffirm to themselves why it is so important to continue to support local, non-factory farms.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get many photos of our guests of honor but I think that their beautiful cuts of meat speak for themselves.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography
Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Photo by: Ketino Photography

The response to our first dinner was heartwarming. It showed that there are a number of people here on Oahu who truly support the farm-to-table movement and appreciate the people who are providing nutritious and sustainably grown food to the island. It just goes to show you, that by voting with your forks you can be a part of something that is ethical, healthy and helps to create change in your community and environment.

There’s no “I” in team

Our team did an amazing job and worked tirelessly all day to ensure the event was a true success. Huge thanks to Spencer, Lauren, Annie, Ardus, Ikaika, Jacey, our photographers Rob and Ketino and Brendon and Tanya from Mari’s Gardens. We could of never pulled this off without you.

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
The team. Photo by: Ketino Photography

Stay tuned for the next Forage Hawaii vs. Healthy Locavore farm to table dinner…

Forage Hawaii farm to table dinner
Boss ladies. Photo by: Ketino Photography

For updates on when the next Forage Hawaii farm-to-table dinner will be, and about all other Healthy Locavore events, subscribe to the Healthy Locavore newsletter here.

Mahalo nui loa to everyone who attended. See you next year!