Three-dozen Hawai‘i restaurants and their chefs are serving up a culinary adventure at the 17th Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agriculture Festival on Friday, Sept. 21 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
Attendees will enjoy innovative cuisine using healthy, forage-fed meats and a cornucopia of locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, honeys and beverages. Meats on the menu include 22 cuts of dry-aged, grass-fed beef—everything from tongue to tail—plus lamb, mutton, goat, pork and wild and domestic boar. Each culinary station receives a whopping 100 pounds of meat to create the dish of their choice.
Seven of the culinary participants are first timers, including The Fairmont Orchid, Hawai‘i and new Executive Chef Hubert Des Marias, who recently came to the Kohala Coast from Kenya. Using grass-fed beef is nothing new for the award-winning chef as The Fairmont Orchid serves grass-fed beef throughout the resort.
“I like grass-fed beef for its flavor profile and healthful benefits,” says Des Marias, who was named one of “America’s Ten Best New Chefs” by Food and Wine Magazine. He prefers “simple preparation” to let grass-fed beef “speak for itself.” For Taste, chef will prepare a tasty “Tongue and Cheek” dish: tamarind-glazed beef cheek and sweet potato laulau with pickled lomilomi beef tongue and mustard greens salad served with Waimea tomatoes and a golden pineapple turmeric salsa.
Another 2012 Taste newbie is the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa and Executive Chef Sven Ullrich. Assigned beef flap—a bottom sirloin cut also called beef loin tip—Chef Ullrich is serving extra virgin olive oil-poached beef with jackfruit slaw and micro chives.
Commenting on grass-fed beef, the Hyatt chef shares, “Grass-fed beef has a distinctive flavor profile that is hard to find in today’s meat markets. It’s a natural product and the cattle are raised the old fashioned way, which makes it special for me and I just love working with it.”
Kelsi Ikeda of Sandy’s Drive In debuts at Taste to make kalbi-braised clod (cross-rib) quesadillas with a pineapple kim chee relish and kochujung sour cream. After jobs at Alan Wong’s, Nobu Waikiki and Trump’s Waikiki Beachwalk, Chef Ikeda is back on the Big Island working alongside her Grandma (Sandy) and dad (Aaron) as part of three generations at the Kainaliu restaurant. The mauka landmark specializes in “island favorites,” including loco mocos, which employ grass-fed beef.
Fresh from competition on cable TV’s “Food Network Star,” Chef Philip “Ippy” Aiona of Solimene’s Restaurant in Waimea makes his first Taste appearance using a favorite butcher’s cut known for its great flavor—hanger steak. As he is still securing his other ingredients, Chef Ippy says his culinary offering “will be a surprise.”
Other restaurants and their chefs debuting at Taste include the newly opened Lava Lava Beach Club in Waikoloa with Chef Colin Stevens preparing beef top round, Blue Dragon Restaurant in Kawaihae with Chef Noah Hester cooking beef bottom round and Sodexo/UH-Hilo Dining Services with Chef Timothy Choo using beef chuckroll.
Taste’s format of assigning chefs a variety of meat cuts fulfills its goal of educating both chefs and attendees that all the cuts of grass-finished beef can be enjoyed. In addition, with more of the animal being used, there is less waste and the value of the product goes up—a plus for the local livestock industry.
In addition to “grazing” at a host of culinary stations, festival goers can enjoy samples from a variety of Hawai‘i’s local food producers offering tastes of a bevy of products: savory red veal, tempting chocolate, vine-ripened tomatoes and more. Also on display will be ag-related educational exhibits. It’s all part of the focus on food sustainability at the annual event that showcases the isle’s grass-fed beef industry while bringing together local ranchers, farmers, restaurateurs and eager eaters to celebrate a bounty of locally produced food.
Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range is 6-8 p.m. and sprawls from the Hilton’s Grand Ballroom to the Lagoon Lanai. Pre-Taste activities include a culinary demo, with sampling, on how to use and prepare 100 percent pasture-raised beef. Time is 3 p.m. for the 2012 installment of Grass-Fed Beef Cooking 101. This year’s guest presenter is Four Seasons Resort Hualalai Executive Chef James Babian who will be preparing Grilled Tri-Tip with Kiawe-Smoked Kabocha Pumpkin and Braciole de Manzo or Italian beef roll.
Tickets for the evening Taste and Cooking 101 demo are conveniently sold online at http://www.TasteOfTheHawaiianRange.com. Taste tickets remain priced at $40 presale and $60 at the door, while the fee for the cooking demo is $10. Watch for ticket giveaways and event updates on Facebook at Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Twitter #TasteHI. For general event information, phone (808) 969-8228.
Written by Fern Gavelek, 2006 Small Business Admin. Journalist of the Year Hawaii County and 2009 Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year