Category Archives: Articles

Locally Grown KAUA’I SHRIMP

KAUA‘I SHRIMP Global demand for Hawai‘i-grown crustaceans on the rise

Thousands of recently harvested shrimp make their way down a conveyer belt at Kaua‘i Shrimp’s processing facility. The journey eventually lands the crustaceans into the hands of some of the busiest people in Hanapepe, “Kaua‘i’s biggest little town.” The employees sort the robust sea creatures, which are raised at a farm in Kekaha where 20 tons of shrimp reside within 44 1-acre ponds, bound for destinations around the globe, including many restaurants in Waikiki.

“These are our babies,” says processing manager Andy Althouse, as he provides a tour of the refrigerated area of the processing facility where shrimp are plentiful and there is a noticeable method to the hustling and bustling madness.

The shrimp farm in Kekaha. Photo courtesy Kauai Shrimp
The shrimp farm in Kekaha. Photo courtesy Kauai Shrimp

 

There’s been a sharp up-tick in local shellfish sales of late, which keeps the staff at Kaua‘i Shrimp busy meeting the demand.

The business, which is conducted entirely on Kaua‘i, shrimp that are as natural as if you plucked them right out of the ocean. The so called “fruits of the sea” aren’t adulterated with sulfites (what makes people allergic to shrimp), chemicals or processing aids.

Harvest is at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays, after which the shrimp are put through a “chill kill” procedure before being sent to the processing plant a few hours later. There they are graded by size and cuticle hardness, and destined for distribution.

Kaua‘i Shrimp harvests and processes thousands of shrimp each day of operation.
Kaua‘i Shrimp harvests and processes thousands of shrimp each day of operation.

 

The plant can process more than 5,000 shrimp before noon, and by 2 p.m. have them frozen and bound for their eventual destination on someone’s dinner plate. Each week, roughly 16,000 to 17,000 pounds are delivered throughout the state and the Mainland, as well as other countries like Japan. Last month, however, the enterprise reached a new record by distributing more than 20,000 pounds of shrimp in one week.

“Things are really progressing well,” says Althouse. “Everything we make is already sold. As long as we get shrimp into people’s hands, once they try our product, all they want is more.”

According to Althouse, the magic starts at the nearby farming facility, which reopened its doors about a decade ago. Here, the shrimp are raised in salt water sourced from a well that has percolated through the volcanic substrata of Kaua‘i for eons. Kaua‘i Shrimp also cultivates its own algae to make a hospitable environment to sustain life for the shrimp. This domain, coupled with special anchovy-based food products, lends each Kaua‘i Shrimp crustacean its unique, snappy texture.

Restaurants throughout Waikiki serve dishes that feature Kaua‘i Shrimp, including Buho Cantina.
Restaurants throughout Waikiki serve dishes that feature Kaua‘i Shrimp, including Buho Cantina.

 

“Almost like lobster or a rock shrimp,” says Althouse.

The former executive chef prides himself for having used whole animals “tail to snout” when he professionally prepared food. That’s one reason he enjoys working for Kaua‘i Shrimp: the shrimp are sold with heads, shells and tails still intact. This business strategy contributes to sustainable farming and foregoing waste, allowing chefs to use as much of the product as possible.

Leaving the heads on the shrimp also gives buyers a way to determine freshness and whether the shrimp have been mishandled or if the “cold chain” — being frozen and then re-frozen — has been disrupted. Because if any of these things happen, the head turns red. And just like you wouldn’t want to purchase a fish at the market with cloudy eyes and slimy gills, you wouldn’t want to buy shrimp in this condition.

Providing this kind of superior product is another reason why Althouse continues to remain in charge at the processing facility — that, and the business’ focus on aspects like selective breeding and sustainability.

“It was a perfect match for me,” he says.

The employees at Kaua‘i Shrimp’s processing facility in Hanapepe, including Andy Althouse pictured in the middle
The employees at Kaua‘i Shrimp’s processing facility in Hanapepe, including Andy Althouse pictured in the middle

 

Now he gets to work on new projects that include raising and distributing clams and oysters, as well as implementing new traceability and inventory systems. He’s also instrumental in helping the business become one of the top broodstock suppliers on the planet, which means sending “mamas” and “papas” to countries like India, China and Vietnam.

“Aquaculture is going to become more and more important in feeding people on this planet,” says Althouse.

A movement, he adds, that wouldn’t be possible without a team effort.

Visit kauaishrimp.com for more information.

Kunoa Cattle Company: Leading the Local Food Industry Moo’vement

kunoa-cattle

A cowboy hat shades Bobby Farias’ eyes and his square-toed boots make imprints as he walks across the dirt at a Kunoa Cattle Co. ranch on Kaua‘i. He jumps in his truck and drives toward a herd of cattle grazing in what could arguably be the most beautiful location in Lihu‘e surrounded by jade mountains and endless fields. Cattle peer at him with innate curiosity, albeit a touch of caution, as he climbs out of the vehicle and calls to them. They steadily make their way closer, their big, brown eyes peering at him with interest.

Farias is a third-generation paniolo (cowboy), champion team roper and co-founder of the Kunoa Cattle Co., which includes more than 4,000 acres of land on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu with some 2,000 head of cattle. While he hung up his cowboy hat for about two decades to follow a different career path as a property manager, he got roped back into his family’s ranching legacy during the early 2000s after acquiring land in Kapa‘a.

Now, the operation he co-founded with CEO Jack Beuttell, which has since been named Kunoa Cattle Co., is reaching phenomenal local foodindustry heights. One reason is because Farias understood that the process of raising cattle required feedback from customers. He realized that information wasn’t trickling back to him or other ranchers from buyers and he was determined to close that gap. He recognized that the “producer” or rancher went through three years of work raising cattle to a “finished market animal” but never knew what the final pay-back would be.

 

kunoa-cattle1
Jack Beuttell (left) and Bobby Farias are the co-founders of Kunoa Cattle Co.

“He or she takes all the risks, and they have no idea what the outcome’s going to be,” Farias says. “We decided that if we’re going to stay in ranching, we’ve got to be part of the end product so that we can be part of the decision-making. We are the sellers, we have to go find the buyers.”

So, Farias began pounding the pavement becoming his own broker. A decade later and Kunoa Cattle Co. is now distributing its meat to several O‘ahu restaurants, including d.k. Steak House and Mahina & Sun’s in Waikiki.

He helps make this possible by aggregating large quantities of calves from other ranchers, who may not be able to take them all the way to finish due to a number of factors like drought. He hosts them so they can be finished in Hawai‘i or until they are ready to continue to the Mainland. Kunoa Cattle Co. currently purchases cattle from about three dozen ranchers statewide.

 

kunoa-cattle2
The processing facility in Kapolei on O‘ahu.

“Kunoa is an evolution of the ranching business, in that Kunoa brings the aggregator part to the table,” says Beuttell. “A lot of Hawai‘i ranchers can just concentrate on ranching and call Kunoa to continue them through the business chain so there is a positive economic impact for them.”

Another way Kunoa Cattle Co. has carried on Farias’ mission to help ranchers stay afloat is by providing processing services at the only USDA-inspected livestock harvest facility on O‘ahu, which the business purchased in 2016. The facility, located in Kapolei, processes more than 100 animals per month, but is capable of handling about 12,000 cattle and 48,000 hogs annually. Achieving this would help create an all-around more sustainable food industry, as Hawai‘i falls severely short in meat-processing infrastructure.

“We need five more Kunoas,” says Farias.

Kunoa Cattle Co. is working with lawmakers and ranchers statewide to develop a supply chain for local meats so that fewer animals need to be sent to the Mainland for processing. Currently, tens of thousands of calves are shipped to California or Texas each year, where they mature and are harvested and sent back— even though there’s no way of knowing for certain if the meat that’s returned is from the same animals. But even if all of Hawai‘i’s cattle stayed in the state until maturity and were processed locally, it would only account for a small percentage of the total meat consumption in the Islands. With more than a million fallow acres in the state, Farias says there’s plenty of room for alternative possibilities, and Kunoa Cattle Co. wants to pick up those reins.

 

kunoa-cattle3
Kunoa Cattle Co. distributes its products to several restaurants on O‘ahu.

“If all the ranchers could grow by just 5 percent each year, then we maybe could really take a big bite out of that red protein food security in Hawai‘i,” says Farias.

Moreover, cattle that get to live stress-free days grazing on grass in mild weather conditions in Hawai‘i provide a healthier final product. And a grass-fed diet also allows for a robust beef flavor profile that is higher in omega-three fats, has higher beta carotene as well as vitamins B and E.

“… it’s like the experience of terroir (meaning soil/earth) in wine, with pasture-raised beef, the minerality of the volcanic soil and the traits of the grasses carry through to the beef,” says Beuttell. “These cattle spend their entire lives in Hawai‘i, with no added hormones or antibiotics.”

It’s easy to tell that Farias and Beuttell are passionate about keeping food on the Islands. And if they continue on their current path, their dreams of keeping beef in Hawai‘i throughout the entire process might just come true.

“This is all about building more food sustainability,” says Farias.

Visit kunoacattle.com for more information.

*PHOTOS BY PATRICK WILK

Tasty Meets Trendy at MAHINA & SUN’S

tasty-trendy

CONTEMPORARY COLORS mix with subtle geometric patterns to adorn what could arguably be one of Waikiki’s most on-trend dining establishments. Tucked inside the Millennial-inspired Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club on Lewers Street, visitors and kama‘aina alike have been flocking to the fashionable Mahina & Sun’s since it opened in 2016. It’s hard to beat the restaurant’s relaxing beachy, poolside atmosphere with walls decorated by a number of modern local artists. Not to mention nightly activities and live music from some of Hawai‘i’s most cherished musicians, including Na Hoku Hanohano award-winners. But what’s really got people raving are the restaurant’s unbeatable flavors in every one of the dishes and cocktails.

 

Mahina’s Family Feast features a whole deep-sea snapper that comes with a variety of other sumptuous dishes to share.
Mahina’s Family Feast features a whole deep-sea snapper that comes with a variety of other sumptuous dishes to share.

 

The food, which is described as “elevated home cooking,” is based on the Hawaiian cultural “sense of place.” In other words, the menu is filled with ingredients centered around Hawai‘i’s seasonal bounty that journey straight from farms across the Islands onto every plate. Moreover, the culinary team at Mahina & Sun’s represents ethnicities from around the world and each cultural background has an influence in the recipes. This meld of culinary talent is in alignment with a mom-and-pop sense of nostalgia the owner, celebrated chef and restaurateur Ed Kenney, wanted to evoke in guests.

 

tasty-trendy2

 

It helps that Executive Chef Erik Leong is at the kitchen’s helm. Born and raised on O‘ahu, he knows just what it takes to create comfort food with memorable mixes of cultural seasonings that once flourished in small businesses on the Islands. Prior to joining Mahina & Sun’s, he worked at Kenney’s Town Restaurant for almost a decade and moved up the ranks from a night cook to sous chef. His passion for food struck at an early age. After graduating from Kapi‘olani Community College with a degree in culinary arts, Leong worked for Sodexo, a sustainable dining program for students at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

Try a poke bowl (raw fish salad) or any number of other freshly made and locally sourced dishes at Mahina & Sun’s.
Try a poke bowl (raw fish salad) or any number of other freshly made and locally sourced dishes at Mahina & Sun’s.

 

Now he has formed the ultimate dream team with Kenney at Mahina & Sun’s to create breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings, as well as a special brunch menu on Sundays. Locally sourced ingredients are a prerequisite for every dish, including one of the most popular, called Mahina’s Family Feast. The meal is made for several people to enjoy, and features an “ocean-friendly” mochiko fried or steamed whole deep-sea snapper that comes with exquisite homemade dipping sauces, such as green chutney.

The restaurant goes above and beyond with this dish, not only by providing unparalleled, robust flavors in the main fish course, but in each of the sides that accompany it. From buttered ‘ulu (breadfruit) with chili-pepper-water aioli to Kualoa Ranch oysters, there’s something everyone can savor in this meal. Moreover, the feast’s grand finale is the Salted Mac Nut Pavlova (Australian for meringue-a sensationally sweet dessert that comes with local, seasonal fruit such as papaya and pineapple, a lemon-‘olena (Hawaiian turmeric) curd and vanilla cream.

 

The atmosphere at this trendy Waikiki restaurant is casual yet sophisticated. The poolside restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers menu items made with the finest ingredients, such as the Surfjack Breakfast.
The atmosphere at this trendy Waikiki restaurant is casual yet sophisticated. The poolside restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers menu items made with the finest ingredients, such as the Surfjack Breakfast.

 

Cocktails are equally as satisfying as the edibles at Mahina & Sun’s, including simple libations decorated with fresh herbs served during happy hour, as well as drinks with more gusto presented during Sunday brunch, such as the Bella Matina made with Prairie vodka, espresso, lemon and vanilla gelato.

Only the finest ingredients, many of which are gathered from local farmers and ranchers, are used at Mahina & Sun’s, where the atmosphere is avant-garde and the food evokes the flavors and feel of yesteryear.

“My ultimate goal is and has been to cook great food, and from my past that feeds my present that makes me hungry for the future,” says Leong.

Visit mahinaandsuns.com for more information.

Not Ordering Beef is a Missed Steak

not-ordering-beef

If you’re craving a juicy, hearty piece of meat to sink your canines into then look no further than Waikiki. Some of the freshest and most flavorful beef dishes are created in this pristine South Shore location. Order a slab of prime rib, a sizzling fillet, or any of another number of beef-centric dishes and you’ll have the bonus of fantastic beachside settings to indulge every single one of your senses.

 


 

FRESCO ITALIAN RESTAURANT
FILETTO DI MANZO

Made with 8 ounces of seared Island beef tenderloin, this dish is topped with gorgonzola fondue that packs a mighty powerful palate-pleasing punch. Vibrant sautéed veggies accompany this hearty meal, as well as fine, feathery mashed potatoes garnished with kukui nuts that will fill your belly and your soul. Finally, a marsala wine sauce adds a subtle essence to this Italian and Hawaiian fusion restaurant’s signature dish.


d.k STEAK HOUSE
KAUA‘I RED DIRT-RUBBED LOCAL GRASS-FED BEEF

Straight from the ranch to your plate, you can’t get a fresher slice of meat. Besides being as sustainable as it gets, generated directly from Hawai‘i ranchers, its tenderness and taste exceed expectations. The Kaua‘i red dirt salt-rubbed steak sits perfectly on a bed of fluffy, roasted garlic-chive fondue and a red wine demi-glace. Flawlessly crisp Brussel’s sprouts and tasty cremini mushroom ragout add zest to this dish and a dollop of tarragon herb butter with a handful of Hamakua ali‘i mushrooms provide a combination of ingredients that are simply divine.


 

CINNAMON’S AT THE ILIKAI
cinnamons-steak
BONELESS KALBI SHORT RIBS

Known for presenting phenomenal local classics, this famed O‘ahu eatery gives you a chance to try beef crafted with cultural flair. This Korean specialty, for example, is created from a traditional family recipe and allows diners the opportunity to try the kind of food kama‘aina (Hawai‘i residents) grow up with. The rich, luscious meat
is served with a subtly sweet sauce and two sides of your choice, such as local favorites white rice and macaroni salad. Rather than a typical grab-and-go plate lunch, this is its elegant sister, with the added perks of friendly service and salty ocean air.


BALI STEAK AND SEAFOOD
bali-steakUSDA PRIME ALLEN BROTHERS STEAK

Besides being blown away by the generous serving of meat this dish has to offer, ordering this Tomahawk ribeye makes for a pleasurable dining experience. Created with artistic mastery, this grain-fed, pasture-raised “superior”-bred dry-aged ribeye has unparalleled tenderness. Furthermore, it’s adorned with garlic herb butter to make the meat even more succulent and paired with a delecta-ble dipping sauce, as well as garlic crostini and vegetables, such as cauliflower and sweet potatoes. The dish is for two and there’s more than enough to leave everyone satisfied.


MIYAKO
miyako-steakWAGYU BEEF SUKIYAKI

Made at your table with a hot pot, the sensuous smell of this dish alone will cause your mouth to water with anticipation. Plenty of extras are thrown in with the 4-ounce serving of wagyu or Japanese beef cattle, including tofu, bamboo, Chinese cabbage and rice noodles. What’s more, you’ll have an epic view of Waikiki Beach while you savor the flavors of this comforting soup that not only can cure ailments but will lift your taste buds’ spirits.

 

 

 

Hot Food

hot-food

Set your mouth ablaze and order something with a spicy kick during your next Waikiki restaurant outing. From subtle to strong, nothing is out of the realm of possibilities when it comes to creating a tempestuously tasty inferno on your tongue.

 


 

 

TROPICS BAR & GRILL

seared-hamachiu
SEARED HAMACHI

The lovely seaside setting and ocean breezes at this dining establishment will help cool you down after sampling something spicy like the Seared Hamachi. Served with succulent fresh Pacific yellowtail seared in truffle kabayaki sauce, the pupu (appetizer) is garnished with sizzling shichimi or Japanese spice and garnished with sweet onions, Fresno chilis and cilantro. You’ll want to make sure your water glass is full to help smolder the heat of this fiery dinner item.

 

KAIWA

SPICY DOUBLE TUNA ROLL
SPICY DOUBLE TUNA ROLL

Tucked along Waikiki Beach Walk on Lewers Street, this trendy restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, specializes in authentic Japanese cuisine mixed with contemporary Hawai‘i flavors, some that pack a powerfully spicy punch. The Spicy Double Tuna Roll, made with cucumbers and fresh tuna, is topped with several scorchers, such as habanero tobikko (flying fish roe), green onion, jalapeno and shichimi pepper. Additionally, this delicacy, exploding with peppery properties, is gracefully accompanied by a spicy miso and eel sauce.

 

TAORMINA

BALOGNESE SICILIANA
BALOGNESE SICILIANA

Known for expertly crafted Sicilian meals, this quaint European style restaurant has a pasta dish with the kind of spice you need in your life. The Bolognese Siciliana is a spaghetti dish made with homemade beef ragu sauce that tastes like it was lovingly made in a countryside kitchen by your grandmother. Blended with spinach and garlic, the meal is lightly and flawlessly spiced with red chili pepper. The seasoning is integrated in such a way that it won’t overwhelm your senses: rather than numb your taste buds, it accentuates the sauce’s flavors. If you find that you desire more heat, you can always ask your server to add the chef’s house-made chili oil to the mix.

 

WOLFGANG’S STEAKHOUSE

CAJUN RIBEYE
CAJUN RIBEYE

This restaurant is known for offering hearty pieces of juicy, mouthwatering steak, and its Cajun Ribeye is no exception. Tender and buttery, the hefty slab of meat is coated with a combo of jazzy spices, including cayenne pepper, that elevate the dish to the next level of any meat lover’s paradise. Make sure you bring your appetite, not only for the main course, but for this international restaurant’s sensational sides, such as Lobster Mac and Cheese, which are just as worthy of sampling and will help simmer down the heat.

 

SANSEI SEAFOOD RESTUARANT

GRILLED HAWAIIAN ‘AHI AND SANSEI’S AWARD WINNING SHRIMP CAKES
GRILLED HAWAIIAN ‘AHI AND SANSEI’S AWARD WINNING SHRIMP CAKES

Located within the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, this elegant Japanese restaurant doesn’t hold back when it comes to presenting dishes with unique spices and flavorings. The Grilled Hawaiian ‘Ahi and Sansei’s Award-Winning Shrimp Cakes is a perfect example of how an unusual spicy ginger chili lime butter sauce is ingeniously crafted with ginger, shallots, lime juice, butter, white wine and sweet Thai chili. Layered atop this superb dressing, that includes a dash of cilantro pesto, are slices of a 6-ounce serving of grilled ‘ahi, as well as an Asian rock shrimp cake mixed with a hint of peppy Dijon mustard, sautéed local vegetables and a generous side of grilled furikake rice onigiri. Savor each item separately, or combine them for a burst of unreal flavors for which your taste buds will thank you.

 

ARANCINO RISTORANTE ITALIANO

PENNE ALL’ARRABBIATA CON GAMBERETTI
PENNE ALL’ARRABBIATA CON GAMBERETTI

Look no further than this intimate Italian restaurant in the heart of Waikiki to satisfy your cravings for lively flavors with an emphasis on Napoli style. Its dishes incorporate ingredients straight from Italy, including cheeses, meats and pastas, and many infuse locally caught seafood, as well as produce grown in Hawai‘i. But if you’re looking for something with some extra zest, try the Penne all’Arrabbiata con Gameretti that is accompanied by a distinctively peppy house-made tomato sauce created with garlic and chili pepper flakes. What sets this primo dish apart from others is that you get an extra zap of salty seafood flavor in the form of several snappy shrimp.

Cultural Cuisine

cultural-cuisine

EDIBLE PLANTS made their way to the Hawaiian Islands courtesy of adventurous Polynesian voyagers.  These “canoe plants” provided the nourishment natives needed in order to survive on previously uninhabited land. Today, they are celebrated by contemporary Waikiki chefs who use them in their dishes.


 

EATING HOUSE 1849

eating-house

Specializing in cultural cuisine that melds all of Hawai‘i’s ethnicities together, this rustic chic restaurant also incorporates native flavors into its menu items. The House Cured Pipikaula is served with poi, which is the pounded and baked or steamed root of kalo, or taro. Poi is one of Hawai‘i’s most celebrated edibles. In this case, it hails from Hanalei on Kaua‘i and is paired perfectly with the pipikaula—akin to beef jerky and marinated in shoyu with garlic, onions, pineapple juice, curing salt and liquid smoke to give it an extra zip. Served with a side of pickled ong choy, or water spinach, that’ll make your lips pleasantly pucker, this dish personifies local cuisine.

 

HEAVENLY

heavenly

Aptly named, this restaurant serves breakfast items that taste like they were made in the Promised Land. No matter when you reach the restaurant’s Pearly Gates, breakfast items are available, such as Big Island Honey French Toast or a Sunny smoothie. The latter is made with the anti-inflammatory canoe plant, ‘olena (turmeric), and packed with a host of other good-for-you ingredients like organic carrots, ginger, oranges and mai‘a (bananas). For a more indulgent meal, try the French toast, created with locally made sweet bread and topped with vanilla beans and whipped cream, as well as chopped mai‘a. Papayas and pineapples—neither of which are actually canoe plants, add even more flare to this tropical treat.

 

THE REEF BAR & MARKET GRILL

reef-malasadas
Ulu Malasada ingeniously incorporates three of Hawai‘i’s well known ‘canoe plants.’

Market Grill Your mouth will rejoice with the delicious dessert ‘Ulu Malasada. Expertly crafted Portuguese-style donuts (malasadas), just the right size for popping in your mouth, are fried with Hawaiian’s beloved ‘ulu (breadfruit) rather than traditional dough. A hearty handful of these impeccably crisp on the outside and soft on the inside confections are served with two canoe plant dipping sauces: one a banana custard that creates a flawlessly sweet combo, and the other, one of the most popular desserts in Hawai‘i, called haupia, made with niu, or coconut. Blend all three of these confections together for a sensationally saccharine palate party.

 

M.A.C. 24/7

mac247

Raw fish salad, or poke, is a prized meal in Hawai‘i. When it’s served with house-made kalo chips, it’s all the more exquisite. Open 24 hours every day, this dining establishment at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Resort gives patrons an opportunity to try chips made with Hawai‘i’s most famous canoe plant, while, at the same time, sample a celebrated local dish. The ‘Ahi Poke Stack is crafted with fresh, melt in your- mouth ‘ahi, or tuna, and blended with ogo (seaweed), green onion, avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro and sesame oil. The chips easily scoop up this divine blend of flavors and add a crispy element to the luscious flavor-filled poke.

 

 

HOMESTYLE HAWAII

homestyle-hawaii

Hawaii has long been a melting pot of different people, largely as a result of immigrants coming to work at sugar and pineapple plantations that once enveloped the Islands. This influx of cultures has had a major impact on the eclectic food pairings that come out of some of Waikiki’s top kitchens. Restaurants may use ramen noodles in Italian pasta, or throw kimchi into a house salad. It makes for distinctive flavor pairings, but can also be a bit intimidating for first-time visitors. What if you just want a burger? Fear not. There are plenty of local restaurants that specialize in comforting classics made with premium ingredients.

 


Untitled-9
Untitled-8

New Englanders can rejoice! Hawaii also has lobster mac and cheese made with Maine lobsters at M.A.C. 24/7 in the Hilton Waikiki Beach. M.A.C. 24/7 is a beloved Waikiki restaurant for its around-the-clock dining and over-the-top pancake challenge that pits mere humans against five pounds of pancakes with toppings.

Aside from all-day breakfast specials, M.A.C. 24/7 specializes in comfort food such as chicken and waffles or, notably, the fried Main lobster mac and cheese bites. This starter uses a seven cheese blend, truffle cheese sauce and chipotle aioli. Each plate comes with four fried morsels that can shared around the table, or hoarded for a small dish.


 

 

 

surf-lanai-title

 

surf-lanai

 

Eat like a king with the roayal ali’i(chief) burger at the Royal Hawaiian’s beachfront restaurant, Surf Lanai. The hotel is affectionately call the Pink Lady of the Pacific, a name that proves true in the building’s pink facade, umbrellas, seat cushions and napkins. It may sound like a lot of pink, but the azure ocean waters mere steps away flawlessly offset it.

The ali’i burger uses local Hawaii Rancher’s ground beef for a jicy patty around which the rest of the burger is built.it’s capped with pepper jack cheese, avocado, onion rings and sauteed ali’i mushrooms. The burger is normally served with impeccably seasoned tavern fries, which can, and frankly should, be subbed out with parmesan truffle fries for an additional fee.


 

giovanni-pastrami-title

giovanni-pastrami

Football season is finally here again, and sports enthusiasts will love dining ina a field of flat-screen 4k TVs set throughout Giovanni Pastrami, a New York-style deli, pizzeria, and sports bar. The restaurant is conveniently located in the Waikiki Beach Walk where its friendly atmosphere and extensive menu attract sports lovers and detractor alike.

The most popular menu should come as no surprise: the Pastrami Reuben. The traditional deli favorite contains a full half-pound of pastrami all carved to order. It’s served on rye bread with sauerkraut and Russian dressing. The sandwich has a tantalizing aroma that trails after it as it comes out hot from the kitchen, which is likely part of why it’s so popular. All sandwiches at Giovanni are served with a choice of sides, but its hard to go wrong with fries.


 

tony-romas-title

tony-romas

Ribs may be legendary at Tony Roma’s, but its menu has much more to offer than this barbeque staple. Diners would be remiss not to start with a crispy onion loaf or a martini glass brimming with spicy kickin’ shrimp. True connoisseurs may opt for one of the signature steaks like the 14-ounce ribeye or 12-ounce New York strip.

Can’t decide on a single steak? Then have three filet medallions together for a veriety of tastes across a few mini steaks. The medallions come with loaded mashed potatoes and either coleslaw or broccoli on the side. Each medallion is treated to its own gourmet topping, such as teriyaki glaze, wild mushrooms, cabernet demi glace, Dijon Mustard Sauce or balsamic reduction. It’s the perfect way to whet your palate with an array of flavors.


 

round-table-pizza-title

round-table-pizza

Round Table Pizza is a family favorite on the Mainland, renowned for consistently high quality pizza and wings. The Round Table Pizza at the Hilton Hawaiian Village is actually one of the most popular locations in the country, thanks to daily fresh-rolled pizza dough, superior ingredients, and free delivery in Waikiki.

Favorites like the King Arthur Supreme or Guinevere’s Garden are hits in Hawaii just like they are back home, but for something a tad adventurous, go for the Maui Zaui. “Hawaiian” pizza may hail from Canada, but the Maui Zaui has bit more Island flair. It start with a base of sweet and spicy Polynesian sauce that isn’t quite like any other pizza sauce, which works well with the sweet pineapple mixed with savory bacon, ham, tomato and onions. It’s a beautiful pizza to see, and it tastes even better than it looks.


 

goofy-cafe-dine-title

goofy-cafe-dine

Eat in an airy atmosphere with a surf shack vibe at Goofy Cafe & Dine, located on Ala Moana Boulevard, just outside of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Goofy specializes in healthy cuisine made with primarily local, organic ingredients. The result is incredibly fresh tasting fare that combines Mainland and Hawaiian favorites.

One delightful dish that marries Hawaiian and Mainland classics is the kalua pig eggs benedict. It uses local pork (when available) to make kalua pork, the tender Hawaiian pulled pulled pork usually found at a luau or in a plate lunch. Instead of a regular English muffin, diners can choose a taro or wheat roll, and the whole ensemble is topped with poached eggs and homemade hollandaise that has a hint of lilikoi (passion fruit) butter. It’s not quite what might adorn a Mainland menu, but it’s a treat nonetheless.

LIVING HIGH ON THE HOG WITH 2 LADY FARMERS

living-high-on-the-hog-with-2-lady-farmersLocal news and radio personalities in Hawaii have an aura of celebrity beyond that of typical regional anchors. Here they’re often beloved characters who have been educating and entertaining for years. So when a local radio personality turned morning news host like Billy V knows who you are, it can be both surreal and a cause for celebration.

In July 2017, pig farmers Stacy Sugai and Patsy Oshiro were tickled to see Billy V hosting a cooking segment with local chef Johan Svensson, using their pork. Billy V nodded in recognition when the chef mentioned 2 Lady Farmers by name as he crafted the “Crackling 2 Ladies Pork Shank,” the signature dish for his restaurant, BLT Market in the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach.

Local news segments and feature dishes at the Ritz were far beyond anything Stacy and Patsy ever anticipated when they teamed up to create 2 Lady Farmers.

living-high-on-the-hog-with-2-lady-farmers-1
Sugai and Oshiro feed their pigs macadamia treats.

“Our whole emphasis was trying to get in the stores,” Sugai said.

“We didn’t even think restaurants,” Oshiro chimed in.

The two shared modest goals in part because of their modest start. Despite being high school classmates, the two women were strangers when they met five years ago as Sugai moved into the home at the former Derego pig farm.

living-high-on-the-hog-with-2-lady-farmers-2
Oshiro shows off a piglet.

The Deregos had been well known as one of many families farming in Waianae on Oahu’s west side. While much of Oahu has developed with large housing and hotel complexes, Waianae has remained a rural outpost where there are many small locally owned farms, including several pig farms. It’s common in Waianae for pig farmers to feed their animals slop and to sell pigs to locals who drive up to the gate, rather than producing commercially viable pork.

Sugai didn’t know much about pig farming when she and her family bought the old Derego farm, but she did know that she wanted to do things a little differently. Her initial vision had been to become totally self-sufficient, but the demands of a pig farm quickly proved too great to pursue self-sufficiency. She needed to learn how to run her farm first.

Luckily for Sugai, she had great neighbors. The day she moved in, Patsy Oshiro came by with her husband to pick up a forklift. Oshiro could tell Sugai would need help.

manoa lettuce
Manoa lettuce wraps from Goofy Cafe & Dine made with 2 Lady Farmers pork (when available).

“I felt sorry for her,” Oshiro said as she recalled how run down the farm had become, coupled with how unprepared Sugai was to run it.

Unlike Sugai, Oshiro was well versed in running a farm. She is a third-generation farmer, whose family was once the largest producer of Manoa lettuce in Hawaii. She married into pig farming and, although she acknowledges it’s hard work, she enjoys it.

Kiawe-smoked pork chop from d.k Steak House, also made with 2 Lady Farmers pork.
Kiawe-smoked pork chop from d.k Steak House, also made with 2 Lady Farmers pork.

The two women became fast friends, and Oshiro taught Sugai everything she needed to know about raising pigs. Soon Oshiro was at Sugai’s farm six days a week for several hours each day after having already worked a full day on her own farm.

Eventually Sugai got a handle on the farm, and the two friends decided to become business partners. Their goal was to get pork sold in local grocery stores.

“My thing was really wanting to get into Foodland because they’re locally owned and operated,” Sugai said.

They were able to get Foodland and Sack N Save to sell their pork under the name PS Pork (Short for Patsy and Stacy), which was a major accomplishment. Most of the pork labeled “local” in Hawaiian markets is actually raised on the Mainland then shipped in via large container ships to slaughter. 2 Lady Farmers is one of the only operations on island that breeds, raises and sells 100 percent local pork for retail.

A family dog relaxes with a piglet at the former Shinsato Farm.
A family dog relaxes with a piglet at the former Shinsato Farm.

The “locally born and raised” slogan on the PS Pork labels eventually caught the eyes of Amy and Glen Shinsato. At the time, the Shinsatos were running their own pig farm in Windward Oahu. Shinsato Farm had been family owned and operated since the 1940s. It was well known on Oahu as the only local farm to provide pork to high-end restaurants like Ed Kenney’s Town, or Kailua’s beloved Kalapawai Café. Their name was a staple of the popular farm-to-table movement in Oahu.

“The Shinsatos really worked hard at getting local pork out there,” said Sugai.

Their hard work paid off. By 2015, chances are that if you ate a local pork chop at an Oahu restaurant, it would have come from Shinsato Farm. That dominance in the restaurant market was one of the reasons Sugai and Oshiro didn’t set their sights on distribution to restaurants. The Shinsatos had it covered.

Unbeknownst to the 2 Lady Farmers though, the Shinsato family planned to sell the farm. According to the Shinsato Farm website, “Late in 2015 it had become evident, due to an illness in the family, that Shinsato Farm would have to be sold.” It was clearly a decision that weighed heavily on Amy and Glen, who had worked so hard building up restaurant clientele.

While the Shinsatos were selling their land and worrying about the future of locally raised pork on Oahu, Amy Shinsato came across PS Pork in Foodland. She contacted Sugai and Oshiro in short order to find out how they operated. Amy Shinsato realized that the 2 Lady Farmers would be a perfect match to fill the void in the market after her own farm closed.

“We specifically asked 2 Lady Farmers [to promote local pork] because they have the same philosophy and farm ethics as we have and we like how they raise their pigs. Well-raised pigs produce good pork,” according to the Shinsato Farm website.

The Shinsatos started introducing Sugai and Oshiro to their clients and teaching them the business side of commercial pig farming. When the time came to finally sell the farm, the Shinsatos gifted 40 breeding pigs to 2 Lady Farmers to ensure their line of quality stock continued.

Today, Sugai and Oshiro continue to sell pork under PS Pork to Foodland, but a large part of their business is selling to top-tier restaurants, thanks to the help from Amy and Glen Shinsato. The Shinsatos, meanwhile, are enjoying their retirement. They can still be found at the Blaisdell Center Farmers’ Market on Wednesday afternoons and the Mililani High School Farmers’ Market Sunday mornings selling raw pork and prepared pork dishes from 2 Lady Farmers.

Unlike most of the pigs raised in Waianae, Sugai and Oshiro’s pigs are grain fed with no antibiotics in their feed. Unless an animal has an infection, the only medications pigs receive at the farm are an iron supplement and two vaccines: one to avoid worms and the other to prevent lung infections. The lady farmers’ main concern is raising happy, healthy pigs. Each animal gets special attention and care, including macadamia treats and back scratches.

The love and care 2 Lady Farmers puts into each pig comes through with great tasting pork that is ethically raised here in paradise.

As a consummate animal lover, Sugai explains, “We love them as much as we can when they’re here, until they go to their purpose.”

INTERESTED IN TRYING 2 LADY FARMERS’ PORK? HERE ARE A FEW WAIKIKI RESTAURANTS THAT CARRY THEIR PRODUCTS:

restuarants

Grilling Up Good Times at THE REEF BAR & MARKET GRILL

grilling-up-good-times

LONGEVITY IN RESTAURANTS is hard to accomplish in any market, but especially in the bustle and ever-changing landscape of Waikiki. It seems like every day one new trendy restaurant opens, and another closes its doors. Few eateries accomplish establishment status, and, until earlier this year, Shore Bird Beachfront Bar was one of them.

Originally founded in 1979 by friends, Shore Bird at the Outrigger Reef Hotel drew locals and visitors, including a fair amount of celebrities. The beachfront location, casual atmosphere and world famous grill made for an iconic and playful dining experience. Where else could guests claim a spot on a giant communal grill and perfect their own meals with Diamond Head in the distance?

After 38 years on the beach though, the owner was ready to retire, and the Outrigger Reef Hotel was ready to take charge of in-house dining. Shore Bird closed its doors on Sept. 30, 2017, and on Nov. 1 the new Reef Bar and Market Grill opened under the hotel’s ownership.

chef“It’s a sad day and an exciting one at the same time,” said general manager Kelly Hoen about the turnover.

There are plenty of innovative ideas and improvements to the new restaurant, but, thankfully, not everything will change. “We are going to embrace the grill,” said John Shelton, the Reef’s executive chef. Diners will still take on the task of grilling premium cuts of meat on the same grill pioneered by the Shore Bird.

drinksChef Shelton came to Hawaii from San Diego where he worked with several high-end hotel restaurants, specifically to help reimagine the space and redesign the menu. One of the enhancements he’s engineered is the addition of a full-time butcher who will also act as the spice blender for a new spice market.

For every order, the butcher will hand select prime cuts of meat that diners can pick up on their way to the grill. Those prime cuts are paired with a specially made rub from the spice market. Rubs are designed to complement each cut of meat.

“It’s not just a steak, it’s a whole experience,” said Shelton of the revised concept.

Additionally, the Reef has partnered with Kunoa Cattle Company to provide locally sourced beef and other meat products. While not all of the meat or food products can come from Hawaii, Shelton is making an effort to include Hawaiian foods, including spices and salts.

“We’re going to work on creating an amazing environment,” said Shelton. His vision for the restaurant moving forward is an appealing picture: “Ocean, grill, steaks and your chosen beverage.” Who could ask for more?

PASSIONATE DINING

passionate-dining

My friend Amber and I have a game we play every time we’re in Waikiki. While shopping or dining at any of the myriad locations available along the white sand shores, we keep a quiet tally, adding up how many brides we see.

Waikiki is implicitly romantic. As the former playground for Hawaiian royalty, it still holds an aura of beauty and grandeur that attracts couples from around the world. Every year thousands of lovebirds flock to Waikiki for elopements or honeymoons and it’s always a pleasure to see beautiful brides in elaborate gowns parading through the area with their grooms.

If you’ve come to Waikiki with your beloved for a wedding, honeymoon, anniversary, or just because, here are a few of the restaurants you may want to try for the best in food and romance.

 

miyako2
Miyako sits on the second story of the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. It looks out over Kaimana Beach, a local favorite for its calm water and rel­ative lack of crowds. As the sun sets, diners at Miyako are treated to a spec­tacular view as they enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine.

The food at Miyako has impeccable presentation to accompany the ocean views. The five types of sashimi, pic­tured here, are among the restaurant’s “locally grown” specials, featuring exclusively fresh caught Hawaiian seafood. The sampler includes Kana abalone, Kahuku shrimp, yellowfin ahi, kampachi (yellowtail) and uku (blue green snapper).

miyako-dish


dk2

Niihau, or the Forbidden Island, has its own mystique after being privately owned for over a century. It acts almost like a time capsule, where a handful of Native Niihauans live largely as pre-European contact Hawaiians did. Although not native to Hawaii, the island has a large sheep population that is cultivated by Niihau Ranch.

d.k Steak House in Waikiki is one of the few fine dining restaurants that serves Niihau Ranch Lamb. Its lamb shank is served with creamy roasted garlic mashed potatoes, baby spinach and mushrooms. This unique delicacy is not only robust in flavor, it’s also only found in Hawaii.

dk-dish


kaiwa

Good things come in a martini glass.  At Kaiwa, a teppan and sushi restaurant in Waikiki Beach Walk, martini glasses come filled with savory appetizers, such as ahi poke with garlic and ogo seaweed. The restaurant serves wine and spirits to accompany its appetizer cocktails, but the bar is best known for its extensive sake list.

The sushi and teppan are divine, but veering into the entree section of the menu can also be a delight.  The Black Angus filet mignon comes grilled to order and has a fine-grain texture.  For an optimum dining experience, request a sunken table in the back room, where twinkle lights provide a light glow.


wg

As a California native, I grew up with a certain fast food chain that has a notorious secret menu.  Newcomers would often discover the undocumented menu after months in the area then gleefully ask with a wink and a nudge if I knew about it.  I’d always known through cultural osmosis about that particular secret menu, but it never occured to me that other establishments might do the same.

I was pleasantly surprised to find recently that Wolfgang’s Steakhouse at the Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki also has at least one hidden menu item: the surf ‘n turf.  This dish pairs an 8-10-ounce prime filet tenderloin and a whole pound of cold-water lobster.  It’s just the right amount of food for a loving couple to share during a memorable night out.


taormina

Taormina in Waikiki Beach Walk specializes in Sicilian fare and has the right ambiance for a romantic dinner. Seating options include a dining room, an outdoor terrace, and second-story tables overlooking the Beach Walk. Reservations are recommended at Taormina, but specific table requests cannot be guaranteed.

A typical dinner at Taormina may take hours between relishing different courses and sipping an appropriately paired Italian wine. The menu at Taormina is extensive, which can make for a difficult decision. One dining option is to pick from different sections and share. T he bolognese “classica” and the pesce del giorno are two disparate dishes that display the range of entrees available.

taormina-dish


 

beachhouse-dish

The Moana Surfrider, the first hotel to grace Waikiki Beach, is affectionately known as the First Lady of Waikiki.  Its open verandas, wooden rocking chairs, and luxurious design, are the perfect blend of modern comfort and historic stateliness.  it’s long been a favorite wedding venue as couples are practically guaranteed gorgeous photos.

Beachhouse, the hotel’s signature restaurant, has an airy lanai that sits right on the beach.  it’s a pristine location for afternoon tea, something the restaurant specializes in.  For an evening meal, the dining room can host large parties or intimate tables for a tete-a-tete.  Try the ahi au poivre, a new menu item with local ahi, parmesan potatoes, grilled ratatouille and sauce au poivre.


 

sansei

Seafood in Hawaii is world-renowned.  Fish and other sea creatures have fed the islands’ population for centuries and today locals and visitors alike enjoy seafood medleys in Waikiki’s top restaurants.  Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, located in the Waikiki Beach Marriott is another Japanese-style restaurant that serves only fresh, high-quality fish.

The quality of Sansei’s seafood is evident in the number of award-winning dishes it serves. Three of those dishes, pictured here, highlight the array of options available at Sansei, such as the crab ramen with Asian truffle broth, the Asian shrimp cake, and the popular panko-crusted fresh ahi sashimi.