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Dining: Parking-Lot Food

The Farmers’ Markets are cookin’, literally.

(page 2 of 3)

What’s in it? Macadamia nuts and sea asparagus. My day was complete.

Sea asparagus isn’t asparagus, though it is a vegetable. It doesn’t grow in the sea, though it thrives close to shore. Its bright green color, its crunchiness and its ability to concentrate marine salts have made sea asparagus a high-end restaurant staple, on everything from salads to sashimi.

The crunch disappears in ice cream, but the tang of sea salt results in a pleasant savory dance on the tongue. Good, though it’s likely to be a tough sell.

Sea asparagus ice cream seems less random when you consider that Nakashima’s booth is next to that of Wenhao Sun, who raises sea asparagus in Kahuku. Sun and I had a pleasant chat, but I was done eating.

After you’ve had sea asparagus ice cream, everything else is just anticlimactic.

 

The KCC Farmers' Market
Kapiolani Community College Parking Lot  // 4303 Diamond Head Road  // Saturdays, 7:30 to 11 a.m. // www.hfbf.org/FarmersMarketKCC.html

The KCC Farmers’ Market is big time, bigger even than the Hilo Farmers’ Market, with more than 70 vendors and elbow-to-elbow with shoppers, like an urban street fair.

But 7:30 Saturday morning? When I inched into the parking lot at 7:35, having left Art After Dark indecently early the night before, a stream of people with ecologically correct bring-your-own shopping bags were already leaving. Have these people never heard of Friday night?

Not only do people get to KCC early, but you have to look presentable. You inevitably encounter people you haven’t seen for ages, people who I’m afraid will go home to their spouses and say, “You’ll never guess who I ran into. He looks awful.”

Recently Reviewed

Here are some things John Heckathorn had to say in past months. Visit our Dining page to read more reviews!


• Cafe Laufer

3565 Waialae Ave., 735-7717
“Café Laufer is on to the trick of eating light and then having dessert,” says John Heckathorn. “Its whole menu … is designed to leave you gazing longingly at the bakery display case.” After eating a cup of hot soup and a salad, finish your meal off with the Coupe Romanoff. This sundae is $11.25 worth of vanilla ice cream, loads of whipped cream and fresh strawberries in a delicious mix of brown sugar and Grand Marnier. Reviewed in our October 2008 issue.
 
 


Photo: Olivier Koning
 

• Ola at Turtle Bay Resort

57-091 Kamehameha Highway,
Kahuku, 293-0801
Heckathorn recommends starting things off at Ola with chef Fred DeAngelo’s rib eye poke, “seasoned with alae salt, togarishi spice mix and a touch of raw cane sugar, then seared rare,” he says. For an entrée, the chicken long rice, with half a chicken roasted with citrus and sage—deboned except for the drummette—sitting atop a soup bowl full of noodles, broth, mushrooms and veggies. If you still have room, try the crème brûlée for dessert. Reviewed in our June 2008 issue.

Sure enough, as I was standing in a long line of mainly Japanese tourists at Pacifi-Kool for a ginger cooler, in the stand next door was my old friend, foodie Marianne Schultz, brandishing a bulb of fennel, its feathery leaves almost in my face.

“I’ll stand in line with you,” said Schultz, relinquishing fennel-buying responsibilities to husband Scott. “Scott won’t stand in line. The whole market has gotten crazy, people aren’t grocery shopping, they’re standing in long lines for something to eat.”

Exactly, I said. It was my intention to eat as much in two-and-a-half hours as I could.

“What have you eaten so far?” asked Schultz. I gave her a quick rundown. Salmon fried rice, which I'd bought from Ohana Seafood for $5, because I thought it was cool that a grandfather and grandson were manning side-by-side woks. The fried rice had green onion and big flakes of skin-on salmon, plus some sort of secret sauce—which perhaps should stay confidential, because it turned out to be overly sweetened teri. Didn’t finish it.

Things got better. “Where else in Hawaii can you get an omelet made with free-range duck eggs?” asked Greg Yee, of a Hauula farm named Blue Lotus. Yee whipped me up a $9 three-egg omelet, the yolks the bright yellow you find with free-range eggs. Duck eggs have more protein than chicken, so they set up a little more firmly than chicken eggs. This was serious eating: melted Fontina, bright, fresh green herbs, mellow grilled onions.

Plus it came with housemade mac-potato salad, brown rice and homemade cucumber kim chee (which was actually much more like namasu). Blue Lotus has a table, with little stools on which to perch. I sat next to a family with three kids eating shave ice. “Mommy, I don’t like this melon flavor.” “Give it to your brother.”

But the most fun, I told Marianne, was Mr. Dango. Mr. Dango himself, Mitsunobu Ohashi, was calling out in Japanese while turning little mochi balls on skewers over a diminutive grill. What’s that? I asked. Mitarashi dango. He handed me a stick for $1.25. Soft fresh mochi, nicely browned, even charred, with a subtle, rich teriyaki glaze. Wonderful.

Marianne did not seem suitably impressed. “That’s nice,” she said when we got our ginger coolers with muddled basil and lemon ($3.25). “What are you going to eat next?”

A kim chee sausage on a bun from Kukui Sausage ($3.50), sort of an incendiary hot dog, real parking lot food because you can keep moving while eating. Then something I never knew you could find on the run: a grilled baby abalone from Big Island Abalone ($7), with garlic butter (the kind out of the Land O’ Lakes tub). Cut into pieces and still on the shell, baby abalone turns out to be great parking-lot food. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t mobbed.
 

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,June

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