Farm to Table: 6 Dishes from Hawaii Restaurants
Here are six locally grown dishes you can order in Hawaii restaurants right now—and the farmers who made them possible.
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“I really like larger, older pigs. They’ve got more fat, more flavor,” says the chef. “So I said to Glenn, what can I do with this little one, besides roast it whole? He said he had a recipe he’d like to see me make.”
Thus was born Town’s porchetta, a traditional Italian pork roast. It’s often made with pork butt, but Kenney debones the entire side of the pig, from the tubular tenderloin to the rectangular pork belly. He stuffs it with seasoned pork sausage, rolls it up and roasts it slowly.
“Unbelievable,” he says. “Because of the pork belly, it’s self-basting, and it cures itself because of the sausage. On top of that, the outside gets all brown and crispy just like you’d want it to.”
Kenney serves slices of the porchetta, offsetting its richness with bitter greens from MAO organic farm, kale and Swiss chard sautéed with garlic, raisins and macadamia nuts.
It’s usually served with polenta. Now that ulu, bread fruit, is in season, Kenney’s preparing ulu the way French chef Joel Robuchon prepares his famous mashed potatoes (i.e., lots of sieving and lots of cream and butter).
“It’s not exactly a health-food plate,” says Kenney, “but oh, oh, it’s good.”
The Best Espresso in the United States, Kona Coffee and Tea Co. at Waiono Meadows
At the Barista Bar
How do you get named the best barista in the United States?
“You’ve got to make four espresso-based drinks in 15 minutes before a panel of seven judges,” says Pete Licata, who grabbed the title of U.S. Champion Barista in Houston last May.
You’ve got to pull a perfect espresso, and present a foamy cappuccino with a design in the foam. Licata, who’s director of coffee quality for Honolulu Coffee Co., could do all that. He’d entered the competition many times, and often placed.
This year, he kicked it up a notch.
He traveled to Waiono Meadows in Kona to pick his own coffee cherries off the tree, making sure to get perfectly ripe, red ones, with fully developed sugars.
“Picking is hard,” he says. “It takes me more than an hour to fill a basket.”
A coffee picker’s basket, tied around the waist, can hold 25 pounds of coffee cherries. That’s not a lot of coffee by the time the fruit and the parchment coating are removed, and the bean is dried and then roasted. Maybe about three pounds of coffee.
Once he had picked enough coffee, Licata went to a friend’s place in Holualoa and processed, sundried and roasted the beans himself, blending them with some coffee beans he had picked at Rusty’s Hawaiian Coffee in Kau. “Just for that extra kick of spice.”
The competition is essentially a performance, with music pulsing in the background, and, in Licata’s case, a digital slideshow of the whole process.
Licata even added a cup of tea to his array of drinks, made from the parchment he had removed from the beans. “I wanted the judges to taste the sugars, then taste the beans, understand what they were drinking.”
Other competitors used Hawaii coffees, but no one else took the journey from tree to cup. Says Licata, “I didn’t grow the coffee, but I told its whole story.”