By Ann Shepphird of GardenstoTables.com
Fresh Picks and Catches is a regular column by Ann Shepphird. Ann keeps our readers posted on restaurants around the world that are at the forefront of bringing the best local, seasonal and environmentally sustainable agriculture, meat and seafood to the table.
Maui is known for its agricultural abundance--tours of Alii Kula Lavendar, Surfing Goat Dairy and Tedeschi Winery have long been popular Upcountry stops--but that abundance hasn’t always ended up on plates in the restaurants. Often it’s because of the difficulty in distribution: While sourcing from local farms and fishermen is possible, it requires a little more effort.
But with more demand from the public, more and more Maui restaurants and hotels are making that effort. Here are a few restaurants (along with a gelato shop) that have been at the forefront of bringing the best of the Hawaiian island’s agriculture and seafood to the table.
Much of the produce for the popular I’o and Pacifico restaurants on Front Street in Lahaina comes from chef/owner James McDonald’s own O’o Farm in the Upcountry town of Kula. Those who want to see the farm and learn about the biodynamic methods he uses can join in on the tours, which run 10:30 am-1 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and culminate with a picnic lunch on the property.
Paris Nabavi, the chef/owner of Lahaina’s Cilantro Mexican Grill and Honokowai’s Pizza Paradiso Mediterranean Grill, has long been a proponent of farm-to-table practices and sources as much as he can from Da Kine Farms and Kula Produce, who in turn source from smaller farms on Maui and Oahu. He has also been working on getting more produce from nearby Kapalua Farms.
A gathering spot for the members of Slow Food Maui, the Flatbread Company in Paia makes great salads and flatbread pizzas. Credit to the local organic farmers that helped make the meal possible is given each day on a chalkboard at the entrance. They also use nitrate-free and free-range meat.
And then there’s Mama’s Fish House, just down the road and a Maui institution for more than 50 years. Located on its own cove and filled with Polynesian décor (tikis, an old fishing boat, outrigger canoes, etc.), Mama’s is one of those places almost everyone recommends. If you’re like me, your first impression may be that it’s a little over-the-top and pricey. But the view of the ocean framed by palm trees and the menu -- which lists each fisherman’s name and the exact place and time the fish was caught -- always seduces. The fish changes daily but whether it’s ono or monchong or mahi mahi, it’s always impeccably prepared using locally sourced produce such as Maui onions and Haiku tomatoes.
When it’s time to finish off the farm-to-table experience, the Ono Gelato Company has three locations on Maui -- Paia, Kihei and Lahaina. Their motto of "eat local taste aloha,” means that, yes, that lovely fruit you’re tasting in the gelato was grown on the island.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Anthony Martinez/ O'o Farm