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.
Known as “the gathering place,” Oahu is the center for Hawaii politics and business–and also the center for the culinary arts (if only because with more mouths to feed, there are more chances for chefs to make a name for themselves). Many of the same chefs who made a name for Hawaii Regional Cuisine also helped pioneer the farm-to-table model on the island through partnerships with local farmers–and have inspired newer chefs to do the same. Here are a few restaurants providing a true farm-to-table experience on Oahu.
One of the founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, Alan Wong’s eponymous restaurant is located in an office building and has no view of the ocean (so you know the food is good). Every few months, Wong hosts a Honolulu Farmers Series dinner, where diners can sit and chat with the farmers and ranchers who’ve helped provide their meal. He also has a new book out called “The Blue Tomato: The Inspirations Behind the Cuisine of Alan Wong.” Farms featured at the restaurant include Mao Organic Farms, Nalo Farms, North Shore Farms and Waialua Estate.
Chai’s Island Bistro
Born and raised in Thailand, Chef Chai Chaowasaree’s Chai’s Island Bistro is located at the Aloha Tower Marketplace and brings that Thai influence together with Hawaiian flavors to produce dishes such as fresh ahi katsu with yellow curry sauce and fresh mango-tomato salsa. Chef Chai works closely with local Aloun Farms, known for its Asian vegetables and melons, and features local entertainment nightly. The seemingly indefatigable Chef Chai is also featured regularly on local television and was recently named executive chef for Hawaiian Airlines.
No, that’s not a location, Downtown is the name of Chef Ed Kenney’s second restaurant (the first being, simply, “Town”), located on the first floor of the Hawaii State Art Museum in downtown Honolulu – steps from the state capitol and Iolani Palace. With a motto of “local first, organic whenever possible, and with Aloha always” you know he’s got his priorities in place. Open for breakfast and lunch, the menu at Downtown changes depending on what’s fresh and in-season, and often includes breadfruit soup, for those wanting a taste of the fruit the National Tropical Botanical Garden (based in Hawaii) is hoping will help alleviate hunger in tropical regions. Local farms featured at Downtown include Mao Organic Farms and Marine Agrifuture (for sea asparagus!).
Photo credits: Top 2 photos provided by Chai's Island Bistro; basket in field courtesy of Oahu Visitors Bureau