Dining: Parking-Lot Food
The Farmers’ Markets are cookin’, literally.
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Because mobbed indeed were the Big Wave Tomato booth and the Two Hot Tomatoes fried green tomato booth. Marianne had wandered off in search of her husband, but I ran into David Booth of Events International, who opined that the pizza slices from Big Wave Tomato were the best thing to eat in the entire state.
Alas, the line was too long, and besides, I was filling up. I went in search of dessert, but the throughly outgoing Kaiulani Cowell of Kaiulani Spices had gathered a crowd as she whipped up a batch of curried cranberry fried rice, with lots of fresh green onion and cilantro. For $5, I couldn’t resist.
Finally, I bought a bar of Waialua dark chocolate from Malie Kai ($5). I took a bite and let it fill my mouth with wine-y, smoky cacao flavors as I walked to my car. Portable food indeed.
Haleiwa Farmers' Market
Highway 83 and Joseph P. Leong Highway // Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. // www.haleiwafarmersmarket.com
Both the Kailua and KCC markets are creations of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation. The Haleiwa Farmers’ Market is different. It bills itself as Oahu’s first completely green farmers’ market. The sign at the entrance says the market is an alcohol-, tobacco- and pet-free zone, although all those things, last I looked, were natural enough.
Still, it’s the only market with a Trash Nazi. A smiling, but firm young woman presided over four bins. The blue one was for the usual recyclables. The one marked “Trash” had an ominous picture of an overflowing landfill. When I went to throw away a plate and what I thought was a plastic fork, she counseled me that at this market those things were made from potato and corn starch and went not in the trash, but in a bin marked “Bio Compostables”—after I first scraped off the food into the bin marked “Pig and Worm Food.” After awhile, I got the hang of it.
The tendency to environmental piety aside, the market has a cool North Shore vibe, certainly more relaxed that the urban bustle of KCC, if only because it doesn’t kick off until 9 a.m.
At that time, there were no crowds, so I could walk right up to the Big Wave Tomato stand and order a $5 slice of pizza. This isn’t exactly pizza, since its crust is so crisped and cracker-y, but the wide slice is dotted with ripe red and yellow tomato slices and a double dose of basil—both in a pesto sauce and with a sprinkling of the fresh herb cut on top, not to mention the melted mozzarella.
Although at KCC the pizza and the fried green tomatoes are in separate booths, here you can get both at the same place—not only a green tomato slice in its warm crunchy panko topping, but also a long, thick slice of zucchini, hot out of the fryer, sprinked with Parmesan ($4).
Since I’d been stuffing myself considerably, this time I thought to bring my wife along. Her mission was to help eat. I cautioned her to save stomach room. “I’m eating all of this pizza, and the tomato,” she said. “David Booth was right; it may be the best food in the state.”
No matter what market you go to, there are many of the same vendors. I let North Shore Cattle Co. make up for their chop steak at Kailua by cooking us up an $8 loco moco, the hamburger patty so thick we had to go back for a corn-starch knife to cut it. North Shore makes remarkable hamburger, full of beef flavor, and tops it with a better than usual gravy. If only they’d left the fried egg yolk a little runny, it would have been perfect.
Time for something lighter. This being the North Shore, there was macrobiotic food, served up by a personable blonde chef named Leslie Ashburn, including a pilaf made of quinoa, “the mother of all grains,” with cranberries and veggies, everything organic, of course ($5).
Then back to it. A $7 quesadilla with chicken, goat cheese and fresh greens, which unfortunately also contained a large quanity of unmelted, shredded, supermarket-style cheese, a surprise since I’d waited 15 minutes for it to emerge.
In fact, I’d gotten so bored waiting, I’d simultaneously ordered a Romeo and Juliet crepe from an equally slow stand called Le Crepe Café—a pleasant enough $7 dessert crepe, with fresh banana and strawberry slices, although the chocolate was Nutella, a commercial spread that extends chocolate with hazelnuts and skim milk and has never really worked for me.
So another dessert was in order: an acai bowl from an outfit called Universal Juice ($5). Then we’d done all the eating we could. “Shoots,” said my wife. “We missed the turkey-tail laulau plate.”
The whole Farmers’ Market thing finally got to us, and we bought bulging bags of fresh stuff. That night, when I tasted my kabocha-eggplant-cherry tomato-long bean-asparagus-etc. stir-fry, I thought, wow, there’s nothing like fresh local produce, cooked right. Maybe I ought to set up a booth and sell this stuff.
John Heckathorn has been writing award-winning restaurant reviews for HONOLULU Magazine since 1984.
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