By Martha Cheng
Special to The Advertiser
Eating local (as in farm-to-table dining) remains one of the big dining trends this decade. And fortunately, with all the compelling benefits — from supporting the local economy to personal health to preserving the planet — more local chefs have committed themselves to the cause, making it easy to eat out and eat local.
So if you've decided 2010 is the year to cultivate your inner locavore, let us guide you through some of the restaurants on Oahu (including some surprising choices) where you can fly your local flag and feast on great food.
We've also rounded up events happening across the island that promote sustainable eating, including the island's most popular farmers markets, where you can get out and sample locally produced foods with other like-minded folks.
The locavore set already know of Alan Wong's, Roy's and town/Downtown @ the HiSAM as forerunners of farm-to-table dining on Oahu. But local ingredients are no longer confined to these restaurants, nor to high-priced fine dining. They're found from even humble Zippy's to some of Honolulu's favorite bars.
V Lounge's pizza is probably the hottest thing to come out of 2009, literally. Its wood-burning oven uses Molokai kiawe to reach ultra-hot temperatures, giving the crust its characteristic char on the bottom, while blistering and caramelizing the top. Alejandro Briceno's dedication to recreating an authentic Naples-style pizza has him sourcing the best ingredients — this means importing flour from Italy, but buying locally grown produce and other ingredients for toppings.
Finds at the farmers market often wind up on special pizzas of the day. Ma'o arugula tops the prosciutto rucola pizza ($14), while the popular Prima pizza ($15) includes Hāmākua mushrooms, and herbs, sweet onions, eggs and even Hawaiian salt.
On Briceno's to-do list: making mozzarella from local milk.
V Lounge, 1344 Kona St., 955-2640
"We're all on this island together," says Jay Niebuhr, on why he buys local. "Anything I can get locally, I do." His pizza Margherita ($15), a simple tomato and cheese pie, includes Roma tomatoes from Kunia and basil often picked from his yard. Aside from the quality level of local ingredients, Niebuhr also enjoys buying local for the face-to-face interaction with vendors and farmers — appropriate for a bar that's become one of Chinatown's most popular social spots.
J.J. Dolan's, 1147 Bethel St., 537-4992
Even Zippy's has jumped on the local bandwagon, which makes sense, as a local institution itself. It's recently changed the salad mix — using a blend of lettuces created specifically for Zippy's by Nalo Farms — so that items like the chef salad ($7.60) and somen salad ($7) can fulfill your New Year's resolutions of eating healthy and local.
Zippy's also makes a point of sourcing all eggs locally, meaning that almost any breakfast item, from omelets ($5.70) to pancakes ($3.75), includes local ingredients.
Multiple locations, www.zippys.com
SOUL PATROL/PACIFIC SOUL
Sean Priester, who operates his Soul Patrol truck weekdays Downtown and sets up Pacific Soul at farmers markets around the island, uses local ingredients because "it's a good spiritual feeling to know that you're cooking something that was grown a few hundred miles up in the country."
He's especially proud of his smoky, Southern-style collard greens ($5), which he sources alternately from Mohala Farms in Waialua and Ma'o in Waianae.
Local tatsoi and cilantro also find their way into the buttermilk coleslaw that tops a Carolina pulled pork adobo sandwich ($6) and Kahuku Farms' corn stars in his cornbread ($3).
Locally grown ingredients pepper Kalapawai Café's entire menu — from Ho Farms cucumbers to Kula strawberries — simply because the chefs believe in the freshness of local products. Kalapawai also occasionally offers wild boar, and now on the menu is an 8-ounce Big Island flat-iron steak accompanied by a Kula romaine steakhouse salad, Waialua asparagus and Hauula tomatoes ($19).
Kalapawai Café, 750 Kailua Road, 262-3354
KANPAI BAR & GRILL
A former Alan Wong's chef, Neil Nakasone is no stranger to local ingredients. Because the supply of local is not always consistent, your best bet for locally grown is on Kanpai's daily special board. But regular items on the menu, like the Nalo greens house salad in a wasabi miso vinaigrette ($8) and Caesar salad with seared ahi ($13), utilizing Kula baby romaine and Island ahi, make for one of the richest, freshest salads you can find in a bar.
Kanpai Bar & Grill, 404 Ward Ave., 593-9202
"We're small people supporting the small people," says chef Elmer Guzman on looking in Poke Stop's backyard (the farms around Mililani and Waipahu) for ingredients. "It's nice to keep the money in the state," he says. Another plus: "If you buy local, it costs a few cents more but lasts a little bit longer."
His addictive, signature eggplant fries are cut from local, organic eggplant and accompany a Hawaiian Red Veal burger ($10.95). A surf-and-turf between a bun, the burger features a fried soft-shell crab atop sustainable veal from the Big Island. For another land-meets-sea pairing, opt for the seared island ahi poke bowl over Big Island smoke meat fried rice ($8.95).
Poke Stop, 94-050 Farrington Highway, 676-8100 (Waipahu) and 95-1840 Meheula Parkway, 626-3400
KONA BREWING CO.
All these eats what about drinks? Though no one grows hops for beer commercially in Hawaii, the bar at the Kona Brewing Co. is a good place to get in the mood for local, with 10 locally brewed beers on tap. On the menu, most greens are provided by Ma'o Farms, and a Paniolo Burger ($13) showcases a half-pound of Kulana ground beef from the Big Island, topped with Hāmākua tomatoes and Ewa onions.
Kona Brewing Co., Koko Marina Center, 7192 Kalanianaole Highway, 394-5662
SAM CHOY'S BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND CRAB, AND BIG ALOHA BREWERY
Another option in local suds, Big Aloha Brewery offers five beers brewed on the premises, including a Kiawe honey porter brewed with local Kiawe honey. Pair your beer with island fish and chips ($21.95), or if the thought of honey has your sweet tooth going, finish off with a Wahiawā pineapple cheesecake ($7).
Sam Choy's, 580 N. Nimitz Highway, 545-7979
If eating local inspires you to check out the source of your food, maybe in the form of visiting a farm or getting down and dirty and pulling a couple carrots, add some of these events to your calendar.
MAO G.I.V.E. DAYS
The best way to visit Ma'o and learn about the farm's efforts in the community is through its G.I.V.E Days (Get Involved Volunteer Environmentally) which run from 9 a.m. to noon on the last Saturday of every month.
NORTH SHORE FARM TOUR
Haleiwa Farmers' Market and E Noa tours have put together a tour that includes a visit to Poamoho Organic Produce, a 7-acre organic fruit farm, a stop at Waialua Sugar Mill to learn about chocolate and coffee processing, and a tour of the North Shore Cattle Co. It ends with a barbecue on the ranch, featuring NSCC grass-fed beef hamburgers, local veggies and fruit.
Tours began Jan. 6, and are held every Wednesday and Friday thereafter; $132; 593-7676
WAIANAE FARM TOUR
On the itinerary of this Kokua Market organized tour: a visit to Waianae Farmers' Market, Rocky's Farm (home of Rocky's Mangoes), lunch at Kahumana Farm, and Naked Cow Dairy, Oahu's only remaining dairy.
8 a.m.-4 p.m., Jan. 23; register at www.kokuamarket.ning.com
Mohala Farms, a nonprofit organic farm in Waialua, hosts regular community workdays on the first Saturday of each month, from 8:30 a.m. to noon. For more information, reach Mark Hamamoto at 478-8469.
Haleiwa Farmers' Market hosts the Hawaii Cacao Festival, which includes a tour of cacao orchards nearby, a chocolate recipe contest and chef demonstrations.
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 31 at the market site, Kamehameha Highway at Leong Bypass near Haleiwa Beach Park; www.haleiwafarmersmarket.com
SLOW FOOD O'AHU
Slow Food O'ahu, a chapter of a national organization that supports good, clean and fair food, hosts a number of events featuring locally grown foods. Upcoming events include a fermented foods workshop (think pickles and kim chee), a chocolate class, and tour and tasting of Big Aloha Brewery. Visit www.slowfoodoahu.org for updated announcements on event dates and cost.
GIVE IT FRESH TODAY
Throughout January, the Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market will accept donations of fresh, Hawaii-grown vegetables and fruits for the Institute for Human Services and Unity Church of Hawaii. The produce will be distributed to those in need through the Give it Fresh Today, or G.I.F.T., program. Volunteers will be on hand from 7:30 to 11 a.m. every Saturday this month.
AN EVENING OF SUSTAINABLE CUISINE
Some of Hawaii's leading chefs, including Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi, will take part in this benefit dinner and gala. Proceeds of the event will go to the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head.
6:30-9:30 tonight in the Halekulani Ballroom; $150/person; 931-5009
Farmers markets have sprung up in almost every corner of town, selling fresh, local foods both for taking home and eating on the spot. These markets have become regular outings for both tourists and residents interested in spending time outdoors and supporting local farmers, chefs and merchants.
Here are some of Oahu's most popular markets.
KAPIOLANI COMMUNITY COLLEGE
This, of course, is the biggest and most diverse farmers market on the island. It's worth braving the hordes for Blue Lotus Farm's duck eggs and North Shore Farms' heirloom shelling beans in a mosaic of colors and patterns. It's also a lively place for the whole family to sample locally made dishes for breakfast.
7:30-11 a.m. Saturdays
HONOLULU FARMERS' MARKET
Now with free parking at the Blaisdell, the Honolulu Farmers' Market offers veggies and fruits from various vendors. Try Taro Delight's creamy taro dips — taro whipped with seasonings like sun-dried tomato and green Thai curry.
4-7 p.m. Wednesdays
A privately run farmers market, with vendors selling produce from the North Shore. Pick up organic, dark, leafy greens from Mohala Farms, while cooling off with Island X's shave ice soaked in syrups made from locally grown fruits.
9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays
This intimate market offers popular vendors like North Shore Cattle Co., as well as unique vendors like ColdFyyre's made-from-scratch ice cream in flavors like Kona coffee, Kahuku apple banana and Big Island chocolate.
5-7:30 p.m. Thursdays
Visit the Hawaii Farm Bureau Web site at www.hfbf.org for more information. Another good resource is the City and County of Honolulu's People's Open Markets site at http://honolulu.gov/parks/programs/pom.
FARM-FRESH AT YOUR DOOR
Want to eat local, but can't seem to make it to a farmers market during operating hours? Here's the fix: Just Add Water, a local community-supported agriculture program, will deliver crates of fresh, seasonal, local produce right to your door.
Choose from fresh produce deliveries of fruit, veggies or a combination of both. Get the goods delivered weekly or biweekly for $20 to $30 a week, depending on the size of the order and the items included.
For more information, or to sign up for produce delivery, visit www.just-add-water.biz or call Kimberly Clark at 259-5635.