Saturday, July 10, 2010

Neal Family Winery winemaker dinner at The Banyan Tree, Ritz Carlton Kapalua

Mark Neal grew up on the farm with his dad, who founded Jack Neal and Sons, a vineyard management company in Napa that manages over 1000 acres of vineyards. 90% of the vineyards Neal farms are certified organic. As large as the Neal family's vineyard management company is, Neal Winery is Mark Neal's pet project, a small winery producing 6000 some cases a year. Only 100 to 200 cases are made of the single vineyard wines, such as the 2004 Neal Family Wykoff Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Here, the 2008 Neal Family Sauvignon Blanc accompanies the first course, an appetizer duo composed of abalone garnished with brussel sprouts and lamb bacon, alongside compressed watermelon with popcorn and spherified watermelon.

A decadent grilled ahi topped with foie gras and cherry sauce that brought out bright black fruit notes in the wine pairing.

Wine pairing: Neal Family Rutherford Dust Vineyard, Petite Syrah, 2005

Crispy moi on an English pea risotto

Wine pairing: Neal Family, Rutherford Dust Vineyard, Petite Syrah, 2005

Grilled lamb loin on a lentil dahl, garnished with fennel slaw.

Wine pairing: Neal Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006

Wagyu beef with red wine jus, tempura warabi.

Wine pairing: Neil Family, Wykoff Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004. A favorite of the table, with a sweet aroma and tasting of cherry and chocolate.

Chocolate tasting: dark fudge cake, peanut butter chocolate brownie, white chocolate sorbet; and in the background, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Makaha Mango Tasting

Whole Foods, which generally carries Hayden mangoes from Makaha Mangoes, recently had a few more varieties available: Mapulehu, Gouveia and Pope. I recently interviewed Mark Suiso, of Makaha Mangoes, who said, "Whenever we do these mango tasting and displays, we have a whole array of different types of varieties. There’s hundreds of varieties that are available here in Hawaii. Thousands if you look around the world…we can essentially rival the wine tasters out there, tasting all these exotic wines. We can do that with mangoes as well." So, I was eager to try my own mango tasting.

Mapulehu: the point at the base makes this mango visually distinctive. It was also the most distinctive tasting of all the mangoes, with a floral, slightly grassy hint. Texture was almost creamy.

Gouveia: perhaps this one was a little less ripe than the others--it was firmer and slightly tart, almost like an apple crossed with a mango.

Pope: very, very sweet and creamy.

All of them were low in fiber (no flossing afterwards!), with a very thin, flat seed so that I could almost cut the mango in half before hitting the seed. In the end, though, they all tasted distinctly, well, mango-y and I don't know that I would really choose one variety over the other in a store. They're all good, really good.
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

MA‘O CSA in colors

from top to bottom: pickled carrots (in orange, purple, and white), radishes with radish top pesto, beets, dino kale, Easter egg radishes, tangerines, collard greens

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Maui trip, Day 2: O'o Farms

Pictures from O‘o Farms on Maui, Pacific‘O's farm. Here, we saw things grown that we've never seen grown in Hawaii before. Like stone fruit (peaches and plums) and artichokes(!!!!) They're not exactly space efficient, so they're grown more for the novelty.

O‘o Farms is an 8.5 acre organic farm that also adheres to biodynamic principles, which basically treats each farm as a unique, living organism. Biodynamic agriculture acknowledges the impact of less concrete elements on the farm by following an astronomical sowing and planting calendar. Farm manager Richard Clark admits that the effect of these elements (e.g., the moon and planets) may be "beyond the realm of rationality" but maybe only to us living in a post-industrial world removed from nature's rhythms.

Produce at O‘o Farms that don't go to the restaurant are prepared as post-farm tour lunches in this rustic outdoor kitchen complete with a spit and long, communal table. A dream kitchen, indeed.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Maui: ostensibly a Maui Ag Fest trip

We were in Maui for three days, timing our visit to coincide with the Maui Ag Fest, with the promise of tasting the bounty of Maui and Molokai. And indeed, it was more a feast than tasting...plates included a vegetable salad prepared by Justin Pardo of Market Fresh Bistro, using produce from Kupa'a Farm, a frisee salad with poached egg and locally-made "bacon" from Maui Cattle Co beef by the Maui Culinary Academy, a melting Maui Cattle Co brisket by Roy's Restaurants, and above, a butternut squash quinoa salad prepared by Mark Ellman, one of the original HRC chefs. Twenty some years later, he's working alongside new chefs committed to promoting local ag.

Unfortunately, we had spoiled our appetite somewhat by stopping by Sam Sato's for breakfast beforehand. Saimin before a tasting event? Maybe it was the wrong decision, but none of us believed otherwise when presented with the bowl of chewy, thick noodles. We hoped to hop on the bike cane juice extractor at the ag fair to help work up an appetite, but weren't allowed. Which simply meant we had to keep on grazing...on basil pesto from Molokai's Kumu Farms and fruit from Ululani Farm on Molokai, as well. Ululani Farm also had a sample aquaponics system set up. Their ambitious goal is to feed their 50 acre farm through aquaponics.

We capped off the eating extravaganza that day with the famous stick donuts from Komodo Bakery. We freaked out a little bit knowing that Saturday was going to be Komodo's last day before closing for a month-long vacation. Worried that they were going to run out, we pre-ordered a dozen, forgetting how large they are--one stick donut is like eating four regular donuts. Also, we needn't have worried; perhaps anticipating the rush, the bakery had churned out so many donuts they covered every counter and surface in the shop. We had donuts on hand for the faintest of hunger rumblings throughout the weekend--not that there were any. By the end of the trip, the inside of the car rental resembled a glazed donut, sticky with all our crumbs. Now, we think back fondly on those donut orgy days. At the time, we may have been a little bit sick.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mavro at MA‘O: aka what happens when you put a Kiwi and a Frenchman on a farm?

Two passionate food people—Gary Maunakea-Forth and George Mavrothalassitis (Chef Mavro)— finally meet at MA‘O. Each arrived here 22 years ago from different corners of the globe and each have found their own path in influencing Hawai‘i cuisine, even if that wasn't exactly the goal from the outset. It's just another one of those examples of how food connects us. In a way, I found this field trip to MA‘O more significant than the one a few weeks prior...with celebrity chef Nobu and entourage...this one more "organic," so to speak.

Above, from left to right: sous chef Andrew Le, intern "Junior", chef de cuisine Kevin Chong, Chef Mavro and Gary tasting aggreti (succulent and reminiscent of sea asparagus), curly kale, romanesco (similar to broccoli but with Madonna cone-bra florets). In surveying MA‘O's fields, the chefs sought ingredients with the new menu's appetizer in mind: Meli-Melo of Spring Vegetables, a salad with varying textures and flavors. The plate will vary with what MA‘O veggies come in; a recent incarnation included MA‘O icicle radish, baby beet and baby turnips along with green and white asparagus, chick pea fritters, eggplant tahini, Sumida Farms watercress and black garlic.(Find Chef Mavro's Spring menu here.)

Below: pastry chef Perry Ho's got a lovely bunch of coconuts. If you ever meet Perry, you'd never guess he was a pastry chef; his personality seems completely incongruent with the exquisite desserts that come out of the restaurant. I'm sure Mavro's PR wouldn't want me to say anymore, but this is why I love professional kitchens...they're full of Anthony Bourdain types whose mouths can spout the most shocking things, but whose hands create such delicate plates...a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dichotomy that makes the kitchen utterly fascinating.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Waianae Farm Tour with Kokua Market

In an effort to connect Kokua Market shoppers with their producers as well as developing community, Kokua Market organized a Waianae farm tour visiting Rocky's Farm, Kahumana Farms and Ailani Gardens. Rocky kind of stole the show, though, with his newborn goats and loquacious geese (he uses them to ward off intruders: Whereas people have figured out how to get around dogs, they “don’t know what to do with geese,” Rocky says.)

Above, white and orange carrots going into Kahumana's CSA. Below, we break for lunch at the cafe, where fresh and vibrant entrees include salads, wraps and soups. Healthy eating options are few in Waianae; Kahumana's cafe provides a welcome menu to a day in the country.

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