Farmers' Market Brunch: Royal Hawaiian Hotel

John Heckathorn
An amazing loco moco--poached egg, Hamakua mushroom gravy and Hawaiian red veal--from the Royal Hawaiian's outdoor brunch.

"I thought you were just taking me to brunch," said Biting Commentary’s spouse and companion. "This is a whole lot more fun."

Fun is eating outdoors on a Sunday morning, in a farmers’ market setting on spacious Coconut Grove lawn of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

The idea is simple. It’s just done well. 

There are farmers in booths dotted around the periphery, but in some of those booths, executive chef Hans Stierli and his crew have whipped up food from ingredients sourced within 220 miles of the hotel, about the distance from Waikiki to Hilo.

The food shows how far we’ve come since hotel restaurants did Mainland-style "Continental" cuisine and local food stayed in formica tabletop restaurants. The Royal was serving up local food in both senses, with both local ingredients and local inspirations.

We tasted

  • Hawaiian red veal loco moco with Hamakua mushroom gravy.
  • Kalua pig with egg and hollandaise. 
  • Pier 38 fish with Wow Farms vine-ripened tomato sauce. 
  • Kuahiwi Ranch sirloin with bok choy and crispy Maui onions.
  • Ahi sashimi with Big Island avocado and Nalo Farm microgreens
  • Kauai shrimp with yuzu aioli or mango mojo sauce.
  • Kabocha pumpkin with wild boar bacon.
  • Killer fried rice with shrimp and Portuguese sausage.

This wasn’t all, it was just as much as Biting Commentary could eat, even trying to limit the portions.

There was also an extensive dessert table, always a brunch necessity: malassadas, Alii Lavender scones, Waialua Chocolate dipping station with shortbread, Ho Farms apple banana tartlets, Gelateria ice cream.

This being the Royal Hawaiian, there was attentive service, cloth napkins, real silverware, water in actual glasses. 

At one point, the pleasant waitress brought me a Bloody Mary, which she said was made with Indiginal Vodka.  I presume she meant indigenous (it was Ocean Vodka), but Indiginal Vodka is such a great name, I’m surprised some enterprising distiller hasn’t snapped it up.

This being a farmers’ market, there was a chance to chat with farmers, like Phil Becker of Aikane Plantation Coffee. Phil’s wife, Merle, is a fifth-generation farmer in Kau, which has had a sudden resurgence as a quality coffee growing region. 

"When I started, I thought coffee came in cans and money grew on trees," said Phil. "Wrong on both counts."

Quality coffee is handpicked and sundried, a lot of work. The Beckers also raise Angus cattle. "That’s what we do with our time off," laughs Phil.

The next Royal Hawaiian’s Farmers’ Market brunch is scheduled for Aug. 21, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., $48 per adult and $32 per child (3-12 years).  For more information, call 921-4600 or email here.