Farm-to-Chopstix: A Dinner Series Pops Up at Farms on the North Shore
These events showcase farm-fresh Asian fusion food paired with top beers and wines.
Photo: John Hook
For most of us, visiting the farmers market—or even just the supermarket—is as close as we get to seeing where our food comes from. Chef Lan Thai, who prepares these dinners under the guise of Drunken Master Chef, wants to change that: This year, she began organizing monthly sit-down pop-up dinners at local farms, featuring her Asian-inflected cooking and produce from the hosting farms. And word is getting out—the last few events have sold out well in advance.
Thai, a San Diego native, runs Happy’s Hawai‘i, an organic Asian fusion catering company she founded on the North Shore three years ago. “I grew up with a Vietnamese background, and I noticed there’s not a lot of organic Asian food,” she says about how she found her niche. While selling take-away meals at the Hale‘iwa Farmers Market, she made connections with many of the area farms and began to incorporate local vegetables and meat into her cooking. From these friendships with farmers spun the idea to do pop-up dinners on the farms themselves.
Photos: Michael McDermott
At the most recent dinner, held on July 19 at Kolea Farm in Pūpūkea, the menu started out with two appetizers: shaved sunchokes from the farm accented with fresh lychee “ceviché” and a daikon cake on sautéed chaya spinach. After the sun set, the main course, a D.I.Y summer-roll set-up complete with whole steamed akule, was brought out to the single, long communal table. The on-table assemblage, during which we soaked our own rice-paper wrappers, filled them with rice noodles, fresh herbs, cucumber, pineapple and fish, was a little messy, but fun—and had the surprise benefit of being a good ice-breaker for meeting our table-mates, as we passed condiments and ingredients to each other.
Beer and wine pairings, arranged with help from Tim Golden, of local beer blog beerinhawaii.com, are a casual affair. Suggested pairings are listed on the menu, but you can go at your own pace, mixing and matching different beers or wines to dishes, or finding one you like and sticking with it. Stand-out offerings at the July dinner included the Lanikai 808 Imperial IPA, Green Flash Hop Head Red and Maui Brewing Kīhei Kölsch, all of which offered refreshing counterpoints to the food.
The next event will be held at the North Shore’s Tin Roof Ranch on Aug. 23. Thai says many dishes on the menu will incorporate Tin Roof’s locally raised grass-fed lamb, which she notes doesn’t appear in traditional Vietnamese cooking, but she’s looking forward to making up new dishes fused from different cuisines. “I’m going to be making some dumplings, some lamb-bone broth, steamed bao with lamb,” she says. “It’s going to be really exciting—the lamb is so good.”
Tickets start at $50 for the Kolea Farm-to-Chopstix event on Oct. 17. You can purchase tickets here.
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