Rum Tasting Traditions

rum-header

When ancient Polynesians set out in canoes on voyages across the Pacific, space on board was precious. Everything they carried had its own particular use, both for survival at sea and for survival upon settling a new land. A handful of plants and animals rode with the Polynesian explorers to ensure they thrived in new homelands.

One of the plants they carried, known as canoe plants, was ko¯, which is Hawaiian for sugar cane. Before European contact, sugar cane was vital as a windbreak to hedge a lo‘i, or taro field. It could be used to sweeten haupia, a native coconut dessert, and was likely used in herbal remedies.

By the time sugar cane was introduced to the Caribbean, the Hawaiian Islands had been growing it for centuries. As Caribbean Islanders learned to distill rum from molasses, the byproduct of refining sugar, Hawaiians had their own practical uses for sugar, which didn’t involve refining.

Sugar refining didn’t start in Hawaii till the 1800s, and even then, rum wasn’t the focus. Foreign investors introduced a new varietal of sugar, and for decades sugar was one of the main exports from the Islands. By the end of 2016, the last major sugar plantation on Maui will close. To some, it seemed like Hawaii’s long history with sugar would die out, its history forgotten.

 

Rum being distilled at Ko¯Hana and a selection of rums available to taste there.
Rum being distilled at Ko¯Hana and a selection of rums available to taste there.

 

For at least two local companies, that is not an option. Ko¯loa Rum and Ko¯Hana Rum both grow sugar in Hawaii, and use it to distill world-class rums. As their names suggest, ko¯, sugar grown in Hawaiian soil, is central to each operation. Rum from both distilleries can be found behind the bars at many of the top restaurants in Waikiki.

Both distilleries provide tastings, and Ko¯Hana offers tours of its garden of specialty native Hawaiian sugar cane. There, guides regale visitors some of the uses ancient Hawaiians had for the sweet grass.

One important ritual was hana aloha, a form of love magic.
Hawaiians would use a dark-hued cane called papa‘a to make
a secure, long-lasting relationship. Another type of hana aloha
used manulele cane, for love across longer distances. The
garden at Ko¯Hana features both types, as well as 34 other
kinds of native cane. The distillery itself is Manulele Distillery,
named for the sugarcane that calls on love.

tasting-room
Ko¯Hana’s tasting room.

 

Ko¯Hana, located in central Oahu, produces agricole rum,
which is made from sugar cane juice, not from molasses. It
specializes in rum made with Hawaiian sugar cane, instead
of plants that were later imported for refining. Each batch
is unique, from one specific type of cane, all grown in one
patch. It makes for distinctive flavors, similar to different vintages
of wine.

Ko¯loa Rum is in Lihue on the Garden Isle of Kauai. It also uses
sugar grown in Hawaii, but it purchases from the last remaining
sugar plantation on Maui. It’s stockpiled sugar to last the
next two years of production, as that plantation will shut
down at the end of 2016. In the meantime, Ko¯loa has started
small-scale sugar cane farming on Kauai and has made rum
with that cane on a small, experimental basis. The cane it
uses was developed by Hawaii Sugar Planters Association in
1965. That cane became popular to grow for its high sucrose
content and adaptability to the Hawaiian climate.

sugar-cane

Sugar cane field where Ko¯loa purchases sugar.

 

Ko¯loa Rum offers free tastings seven days a week on the half
hour from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Ko¯Hana charges a fee for tasting
and tours, and is open Wednesday through Saturday from
10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Look for rum from both companies when
ordering a mai tai while watching the waves at Waikiki Beach.

As with all alcohol, be sure to drink responsibly and do not drink
and drive.

Pineapple Paradise

pineapple-paradise
Story and photos by Julie Yaste

THERE’S A WORD IN SANSKRIT THAT MEANS PURE BLISS:  ananda.  It seems like no coincidence that this word is one scant letter different from anana, the plant family that pineapples belong to. This blissful yellow fruit is synonymous with Hawaii, and the Island’s residents and chefs have spent decades experimenting and perfecting ways to use it.

Today, when you think about Hawaii, pineapples immediately come to mind. Even before the sands of Waikiki or the surf Native Hawaiians first rode, Hawaii evokes the sweet and tangy flavor of bliss. But like so many of the staple plants that are entwined with Hawaiian lore, pineapples are not native to the Islands.

Pineapples originated in what are now Brazil and Paraguay. They spread through South America and were even cultivated by the Mayas and Aztecs. By 1492, they had made their way to the Caribbean, where Christopher Columbus found them. He brought the spiny fruit back to Europe, where it was an immediate hit. Pineapples began to represent hospitality in Western culture, and their visage can be found in architecture in England and New England to show welcome to guests.

Nobody knows quite when or how pineapples first came to Hawaii. Popular legend is that the locally famous Don Francisco de Paula Marín first planted them in the early 1800s, around the same time he was attempting to cultivate grapes in Honolulu for wine. But it’s possible that Capt. James Cook introduced them on his fateful visit in 1778. He was known to have planted pineapples in other Pacific Islands in 1777, according to Sturtevant’s Notes on Edible Plants, although there’s no distinct evidence that he brought them to Hawaii. No matter who brought them, it is clear that pineapples have been here at least 200 years and have thrived.

pineapple-paradise-2

Modern pineapples and their cultivation techniques more or less grew up in Hawaii in the 20th century. The industry here started with a few small growers that turned into produce giants Dole and Del Monte. Del Monte no longer grows pineapples in Hawaii, but Dole maintains a pineapple plantation in Wahiawa, on the way to Oahu’s North Shore.

James Dole first came to Hawaii in 1899, after earning a degree in agriculture from the Bussey Institute at Harvard University. Pineapples were already established as a crop on Oahu by then, but Dole knew preserving techniques previously unknown to local growers.

“Jim Dole’s advantage was the latest technology in canning fruit and vegetables,” says Michael Conway, the manager of diversified agriculture at Dole.

pineapples-falling
Newly picked pineapples are placed on a conveyor belt for processing.

In the early 1900s, Dole began canning pineapples and selling them on the Mainland. Before this, it was hard to get edible pineapple nationally, because it only grows in tropical environments and there wasn’t a way to ship them quickly. Canning the fruit meant that it could be preserved and shipped, introducing the fruit to a new market of consumers.

At the same time, Dole was working with the Pineapple Research Institute (PRI) to perfect new and better varietals.

“They were doing breeding work here from the ’20s,” says Dr. Robert Paull, a researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Pineapples coming in from the field are washed thoroughly.
Pineapples coming in from the field are washed thoroughly.

 

For nearly 70 years, PRI worked with James Dole, and then his company and farmlands. They created hybrids with different levels of acidity, which altered the flavor. The pineapples in James Dole’s days weren’t like the fresh fruit we can buy in the store today. It was more acidic and less sweet. Their flavor varied based on the season. Now, thanks to hybrids generated by PRI, Hawaiian pineapples are sweet year round.

Today, Hawaiian pineapples have to be sweet, because they are no longer canned here. Before, cannery workers could add sugar to a tart batch of pineapples until the flavor was right. Now Dole and other Hawaii growers only sell the fresh pineapples that these Islands are so famous for.

ripe-pineapple
Conway showing what a ripe pineapple looks like in the field.

 

pineapple-canal
An irrigation canal at the Dole Plantation.

 

“Pineapple is synonymous with Hawaii,” says Conway. And it’s true. On any restaurant menu the term “Hawaiian-style” means adding pineapple.

It’s possible, though, that pineapple, like sugar before it, may not be economically viable in time. Sugar cane once blanketed the Hawaiian landscape. This year, Hawaii’s last sugar plantation will close down on Maui.

“People just assume it’s always going to be here,’ Conway says. “That just isn’t the case.” If at some point the cost of growing pineapples on Oahu eclipses what consumers will pay, they very well could phase out of Hawaii, like sugar before them.

Currently Dole is the largest pineapple grower in Hawaii. Maui is also home to Maui Gold, a smaller, separate plantation. At its height of production, the entire island of Lanai was used to grow pineapples. Now only Dole and Maui Gold do significant commercial growing. Thankfully, neither company has imminent plans to cease production.

Many believe now, and have believed for decades, that Hawaiian pineapples genuinely taste better than those grown elsewhere. The rich soil and streamlined cultivation have led to perfectly tender fruit that embody bliss.

If you are visiting Hawaii, you can purchase Dole or Maui Gold pineapples at the airport for your return trip. Featured pineapple photos are all from the Dole Plantation in Wahiawa.

Chef David Lukela

chef-david

CHEF DAVID LUKELA at the Moana Surfrider’s Beachhouse Restaurant is always moving, though his cadence and manner are those of a true Hawaii local: relaxed, easy going and welcoming. His movements are deliberate and smooth as he cuts, assesses and tastes ingredients while preparing a plate.

Chef David was born and raised in Mililani in central Oahu. He loves Hawaii and derives his creativeness in the kitchen from the Islands. “I’m inspired by just living in Hawaii,” he says. “It’s basically as simple as that.”

When I caught up with Chef David, he was putting together a custom cheese plate with aged parmesan, blue cheese, prosciutto, honey, homemade raspberry sauce and fig leather, candied walnuts, almonds and fresh strawberries for “the real boss” in his life, his girlfriend. He carefully prepared and arranged the food, and, although the end plate was certainly gourmet, Chef David was humble and relaxed, clearly happy to be making something special for the love of his life.

While this exact cheese plate isn’t a menu item, cheese courses will play a role in some of the upcoming wine dinners Chef David is preparing over the next few months. Each dinner will showcase a different vintner with special food and wine pairings, culminating in a special December dinner featuring wines from Caymus.

“We’re doing something fun with wine,” he says.

Aside from specialty dinners, Chef David likes putting local touches on traditional favorites on the regular menu. His Italian carbonara pasta uses Japanese ramen noodles. It’s certainly an interesting take, likely only to be seen in Waikiki.

The ingredients Chef David uses are often locally sourced and always of the highest quality.  Beachhouse is primarily a steak and seafood dinner restaurant, although its afternoon tea is also delightful.

After a little more than two years at Beachhouse, Chef David has made his mark. His passion for good food shows.“I love what I do,” he says. “I get to make cool stuff all day.”

Dessert First

dessert-first

INDULGE IN THE SWEET SIDE OF WAIKIKI. TRY ONE OF THESE GOURMET DELIGHTS AT SOME OF OUR FAVORITE EATERIES. YOU CAN FOREGO THE DILEMMA OF SAVING ROOM FOR DESSERT BY SKIPPING FORWARD AND HAVING THE BEST PART OF YOUR MEAL COME FIRST.

 

HOBO’s from Uncle Bo’s

hobos
The trip up Kapahulu Avenue is well worth the effort when the payoff is sweet taro beignets sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with vanilla ice cream. The beignets are served warm and literally melt in your mouth. Using taro as a base provides the purple color, and adds a local flavor you won’t find back home.

 

HOBO’s from Uncle Bo’s

ny-cheesecakeWhere better to get a New York-style cheesecake than a restaurant that has New York in its name? CJ’s provides a classic cheesecake and the slices are huge. It has a traditional graham-cracker crust and is garnished with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

 

“Piña Colada” from Heavenly

Of course, no dessert menu in Hawaii would be complete without at least one dish featuring Hawaii’s signature fruit: the pineapple. Though not native to the Aloha State, pineapples are now synonymous with the sun and surf of Hawaii. This non-alcoholic piña colada features Hawaiian Crown Pineapple on coconut ice cream. It’s a fresh treat that won’t leave any lingering guilt.

Beyond the Comfort Zone: Foods to Try in Waikiki

beyond-the-comfort-zone
Hawaii is undoubtedly a melting pot of different cultures, and this is most obvious when exploring local cuisine. Chinatown and Waikiki have many options for foods that might seem bizarre to Mainland visitors, but are staples in other cultures. Here are a few tamer options for foods you might not find back home, but aren’t too far afield, either.

 

Combination Seafood Platter
Bali Steak and Seafood

combination-seafood

Many visitors come to Oahu with one unique Island food in mind: poke. This traditional Hawaiian cuisine is cubed raw fish in a variety of sauces. It can be intimidating to try something new and totally raw. So try poke in the combination seafood platter at Bali, where guests can try poke alongside more familiar seafood, such as king crab legs, lobster, shrimp, Japanese-style sashimi and fresh oysters from the Pacific Northwest.

 

Bibimbap
Goofy Café and Dine

bibimbap

This Korean dish literally translates to “mixed rice.” At Goofy, a bed of brown rice is topped with fresh local vegetables, pork and a fried egg. The chili sauce is served on the side so that patrons can determine how spicy they want the dish. It also comes with a warm seaweed soup to perfectly accent the potentially spicy meal.

 

Washu Beef Tataki Roll
Kaiwa

washu

Tepid sushi eaters usually object to consuming raw fish. They may go for a cooked tempura roll in lieu of sashimi. Kaiwa has another option for meat lovers. The Washu Beef tataki roll uses ultra-rare seared beef on and in the roll. The marbled beef is flavorfully paired with sushi rice, cucumber, garlic and green onion.

 

Bangkok Red Curry
Noi Thai Cuisine

red-curry

Eating at Noi is as much about the experience as it is about the food. The chefs are all from Thailand, and use unique techniques in cooking and presentation. Elaborately carved vegetables made to look like flowers or birds often garnish plates. Their red curry is a chef favorite, served with a choice of meat that comes in a separate dish, still steaming on smoked kiawe wood.

 

Kahuku Shrimp
Kai Market

kahuku-shrimp

Most restaurants on the Mainland serve shrimp shelled with the tail off. Some restaurants are now trending toward leaving the tail on for presentation, but that’s usually about as adventurous as it gets with serving shrimp. In Hawaii, Kahuku shrimp is often served fully intact, with the head, legs and tail. Generally these shrimp are cooked in butter and the outer shell and tail are crispy, providing contrast to the soft meat inside. You can also remove the head and tail if eating the shell has no appeal.

Recipes

recipes-blog
AZURE LOBSTER “ROLL” WITH MEYER LEMON PRESERVE AND TOBIKO

lobster-roll2 lobster tails (4 ounces peeled)
4 Tablespoons aioli
1 teaspoon finely chopped truffle
1/2 teaspoon truffle oil
12 each Meyer lemon
6 ounces sugar
3 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 ounce browned butter
1 ounce red tobiko
1 loaf brioche
1 cup clarified butter
Tarragon to taste

PROCEDURE:
Skewer lobster tails and blanch in Court bouillon. Pull out right before it is fully cooked, letting heat carry over. Do not ice. Once chilled, slice into fourths. Add truffles and oil to aioli. Peel lemon leaving only zest with no pith. Blanch zest. Juice lemon and save. Put salt, sugar, juice, turmeric and zest together and bring to a simmer. Cook until soft. Blend until puree is smooth. Add water if needed. Freeze brioche. Cut brioche into 3-inch-long-by-1 1/4-inch-wide and 1/2-inch-tall slices. On slicer, cut bread on a 13-15 setting. Cut out 1-inch-diameter circles. Fry circles in the clarified butter until golden brown. Season as they come out. Toast rectangle of bread with seasoned whole butter. Brown butter and add tarragon and chervil. Strain.

ASSEMBLY:
Pull a large bead of aioli on top of the plate and a pool for the bread to sit on. Pull a large bead of lemon preserve on bottom right. Place bread on aioli, lobster on top of that with aioli in between slices. Single toasted brioche in lobster. With warm butter, add tobiko and drizzle over lobster. Garnish with chervil.

 

ROY’S HAMACHI APPETIZER

hamachi-appetixzer
INGREDIENTS:
4 ounces fresh sushi-grade hamachi
1/2 cup lemon-juice concentrate
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 medium chopped onion
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 Thai chilis
1/4 cup olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
Over medium heat, cook onion, garlic and Thai chilis, then add liquids. Let sauce cool. Carefully slice hamachi to roughly bite-size pieces. Gently mix with other prepared ingredients. Garnish with edible flowers and green

 

BILL’S PERFECT SCRAMBLED EGGS

bills-scrambledINGREDIENTS:
2 eggs
1 ounce heavy cream
1 Pinch sea salt
1 Tablespoon butter

DIRECTIONS:
Whip eggs and cream in a bowl. Heat butter in a nonstick pan. Once the butter is melted, add salt. When the salt starts to crackle in the pan, add the egg mixture. Let the egg mixture settle in the pan. As soon as it starts to harden, take a spatula and ring it around the edges of the pan until the eggs are fully cooked (approximately 5 minutes). The eggs will appear slightly runny in the pan.

 

ROYAL HAWAIIAN PINK HAUPIA CAKE

HAUPIA

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch baking pans.

CAKE
8 ounces cake flour
6 ounces granulated sugar
3/4 Tablespoons baking powder
Sift the cake flour, granulated sugar and baking powder together and set aside
4 ounces vegetable oil
4 ounces egg yolks
5 1/2 ounce water
8 ounces egg whites
4 ounces granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Whisk oil, egg yolks and water in a bowl and gradually add dry ingredients while whisking. Mix till a smooth batter is created. Whip egg whites until foamy and gradually sprinkle in the sugar. Whip until mixture forms stiff peaks. Gently fold cake batter into egg whites. Pour into pans and bake at 350 degrees 30–40 minutes. Cool on rack.

HAUPIA FILLING
1 (12-ounce) can coconut milk
4-6 Tablespoons sugar
6 Tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3/4 cup water
3-4 drops red or pink food coloring

DIRECTIONS:
Bring coconut milk and sugar to a boil. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and water, whisk into boiling mixture. Add a few drops of pink color and continue mixing on heat for 3-5 minutes, until thick. Pour into container and cool completely.

TOPPING
1 quart heavy whipping cream
6 ounces sugar
Pink food coloring
Sweetened coconut flakes

DIRECTIONS:
Whip cream with sugar till medium peaks, then add pink to create a pastel color. Set aside. Mix coconut flakes with pink until desired color is reached. Set aside.

ASSEMBLY
Cut the 8-inch rounds in two equal layers for a total of four layers. Put the set haupia in a stand mixer and mix until creamed. Alternate layers of cake and haupia. Ice the cake with the pink whipped cream and coat sides with pink coconut flakes.

Fermenting a Revolution

fermenting-a-revolutionAs a Sonoma County, California, native, I am no stranger to fermentation.  My dad used to make his own wine and beer in the garage of our home. Weekends often included jaunts to favorite wineries where my sister Sarah and I could play in the gardens. Only once did we mortify our parents by throwing rocks in a fishpond (I still contend Sarah started it).

Wine and the fermentation process were everywhere, driving our local economy. I assumed all 8-year-olds could cite the difference between a Zinfandel and Petite Syrah. It seemed totally normal.

While I was a child in Northern California, a place synonymous with wine production, George Killmer was half a world away in Japan and Korea, the latter locale having its own ubiquitous fermented fare: kimchi.

cutting-cabbage
Killmer cutting fresh Napa cabbage.

Kimchi is largely considered the national food of Korea. It takes many forms, but most commonly it’s a spicy fermented cabbage, traditionally served with white rice.

Killmer grew up with kimchi. He’s gone through phases when he didn’t eat it much, but now he devours it regularly. “If you don’t have kimchi,” Killmer says, “you’re having a bad day.”

Killmer is “hapa haole,” a colloquial term for someone who is part Caucasian and part another ethnicity. His mother is Korean, and his dad is a Caucasian former U.S. government contractor. Growing up, kimchi was everywhere. As a kid he even ate the spicy cabbage his mother made in oatmeal for breakfast. Her recipe for kimchi is the foundation for Jincha Kimchi, the small business he runs with his partner, Jamie-Lynn Gomes. Gomes did not have regular access to kimchi in her youth. She is part Hawaiian and graduated from Kamehameha Schools. She recalls how her mother’s Korean friend would gift a jar of kimchi once or twice a year. It was a treat, not a given. This aromatic side dish had yet to develop a place in larger restaurants or markets in the Islands.

Ready access, however, can have some drawbacks, which Killmer knew well. “When I was growing up, it was embarrassing,” he says. “It was always like, Don’t let people see the kimchi.” It was a source of shame to have something so different in his home. By this point, his family had moved stateside after time spent in Japan and Korea. Living in the Pacific Northwest as a teen, Killmer wanted to fit in. Kimchi was “stinky cabbage” that looked, tasted and smelled weird to his friends.

Then something interesting happened. Killmer became a chef who worked in the Mid-Atlantic region. He started seeing kimchi outside of Korean markets and restaurants. Suddenly it was gaining mainstream popularity with eateries for a simple reason: People liked it.

Killmer pours ground red chili peppers in a mixture of garlic, fish sauce and a secret ingredient to form a paste.
Killmer pours ground red chili peppers in a mixture of garlic, fish sauce and a secret ingredient to form a paste.

With this surge in popularity, Killmer returned to his childhood staple. It no longer held a stigma as a smelly cabbage. Killmer moved to Hawaii 10 years ago, where he met Gomes. They started Jincha Kimchi in June 2015.

Their process begins with only local, fresh produce, including Napa cabbage, ginger and garlic. “It’s the quality of our ingredients that makes our kimchi so good,” says Gomes.

Gomes carefully massages the chili paste into brined cabbage.
Gomes carefully massages the chili paste into brined cabbage.

It’s more than the ingredients, though. There is tremendous care in how they make each batch. It can take up to nine hours to make. Killmer says it’s something “deep in my soul,” that drives him to keep making and selling kimchi. The pair makes roughly 100 pounds of the fermented and pungent cabbage every two weeks from their 500-square-foot kitchen.

With ingredients in hand, Killmer and Gomes start making kimchi by carefully washing then cutting the cabbage. It then soaks in a saltwater brine for two to five hours, by far the most time intensive step of the process.

Fresh sprigs of herbs are added after the cabbage and chili paste are fully integrated.
Fresh sprigs of herbs are added after the cabbage and chili paste are fully integrated.

Killmer starts by cutting the cabbage to soak while Gomes preps a fish sauce. The sauce is made with kelp, green onions and dried anchovies that Killmer’s mother brings with her from Korea. It’s a fragrant mix.

With fresh fish sauce in hand, Gomes and Killmer begin prepping the kimchi paste with which they will slather the cabbage. Each ingredient is carefully cleaned and measured. The paste is made of garlic, ginger, herbs, fermented baby shrimp, fish sauce and, of course, dried spicy red chili peppers.

Today, most kimchi is spicy and colored bright red from chili peppers. This wasn’t always the case. Chili peppers aren’t native to Korea. It wasn’t until trade was established with the Americas in the 1500s that chili peppers became available to the world, eventually changing the nature of kimchi to its current spicy state. Traditionally, it was made seasonally based on whichever vegetables were available. It was not what modern eaters think of as kimchi.

Above, Gomes and illmer pose outside their Kalihi kitchen space.
Above, Gomes and illmer pose outside their Kalihi kitchen space.

Killmer and Gomes definitely make a modern kimchi, though they label the flavor as “local kine,” meaning it’s suited to the tastes of Hawaii residents. Kimchi in Korea tends to have a much stronger flavor, with more spice in the paste. The paste they make is spicy and savory, but not overwhelming.

Once they have the perfect paste, Killmer will check the cabbage to see if it has soaked long enough. The cabbage gets rinsed several times to remove excess salt, and then it’s massaged into the paste until evenly mixed.

At this point it’s edible, but it hasn’t had a chance to ferment yet. Fermentation takes at least two weeks, which is the minimum time they age each batch before sale. It’s left bottled in reusable mason jars in their fridge until ready.

It never tastes the same twice. Like wine, different vintages of kimchi are nuanced. They’ve taken as many controls as possible in refining the recipe, but fermentation can fluctuate, producing variations in each batch. It’s interesting to taste the changes, or even note the development in kimchi as it continues to ferment after purchase.

Kimchi in general is fermented via lactic acid bacteria, which kills off any other bacteria that would normally lead vegetables to rot. This process leaves kimchi with probiotic properties, meaning that kimchi is actually incredibly good for you. It’s also high in vitamins and may prevent certain cancers. Gomes mentions one frequent buyer who says the kimchi helps ease her rheumatoid arthritis.

This is just one process for one kind of kimchi. Jincha makes several varietals, but this is its staple, and what most people think of as kimchi. It’s a big world where kimchi is concerned, and anyone can make it.

As Killmer says, “there’s really no wrong or right way. It just comes down to if you like it or not.”

Jincha Kimchi is available at the Windward Mall farmers’ market. Visit its website for more information at www.jinchakimchi.com.

Forkless Fare

forkless

Giovanni Pastrami

MINI PASTRAMI SLIDERS:The pastrami reuben sandwich is definitely king at Giovanni Pastrami. In fact, the restaurant went through 10,000 pounds of premium pastrami last year specifically because of how popular this delectable, half-pound sandwich is. For some though, a half-pound of pastrami is a little daunting. Fear not! The great chefs behind the reuben have miniaturized it with four bite-size sliders that have all the flavor of the full sandwich.

Round Table Pizza

KING ARTHUR SUPREME AND GOURMET VEGGIE: There are few other foods that are as versatile and universally loved as pizza. There are options for any palate and Round Table Pizza in Waikiki treats pizza like royalty with the King Arthur supreme. This pie has just about everything, including classic red sauce, three cheeses, pepperoni, Italian sausage, salami, Portuguese sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, white onions and black olives. For non-meat lovers, try the gourmet veggie. The veggie pizza has all of the fresh vegetables you know you should eat but probably don’t unless their healthy attributes are cleverly disguised in a pizza.

Beachhouse at the Moana

AFTERNOON TEA ON THE VERANDA: Tea parties aren’t solely the purview of young girls in tiaras. Adults can certainly have tea parties too. Just head to the Moana Surfrider Hotel on any given afternoon for a full tea service at Beachhouse. The fi rst- lady tea service (pictured)  includes your choice of tea, sparkling rosé, fresh berries with crème fraiche and brown sugar, miniature sandwiches and stunning pastries.

Tommy Bahama

AHI TUNA TACOS: These tacos are Mexican fare with an Asian twist. Crisp wonton shells replace a traditional tortilla in Tommy Bahama’s tuna tacos. Tacos come with rare tuna, Island slaw and a wasabi-avocado pur´ee. They’re a perfect snack when you’re feeling peckish, or a delicious start to any meal.

Rum Fire

TATAS: Tater tots may make you think of elementary school lunch ladies in mesh caps, but they’ve certainly grown to a gourmet affair beyond a typical lunch lady’s abilities with Rumfi re’s tatas. These spuds are drizzled in truffl e oil then tossed with parmesan and sea salt. Eating just one isn’t an option. You’ll want to fi nish the whole basket.

Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Barum Fire

DRAGONFLY ROLL: Usually eaten with chopsticks, the dragonfly roll is a distinctly forkless bit of Japanese cuisine. This classic roll features spicy tuna and cucumber inside and Hawaiian ahi tuna, avocado, masago and sweet Thai chili aioli on top. Sansei features only top-quality ingredients in its award-winning sushi.

East Meets West

East-West

Errant scholars claim Marco Polo introduced noodles to Italy after a long sojourn in China. This is probably more myth than reality, but, in antiquity two geographically disparate lands were known to produce noodle dishes: Italy and China.

Today, noodle dishes are a worldwide affair, though they are typically categorized as either vaguely European or Asian in flavor. Hawaii has long been a melting pot of cultures, and Waikiki dining takes that to a new level. Restaurants here have all styles of noodles, from classically styled Italian cuisine and traditional Chinese dishes to Pacific Rim fusion.

Try some of these Island-inspired takes on one of the most popular forms of food in the world. Pro tip: Grab an entrée with fresh fish or other ocean dwellers for a noodle experience you could only find in Waikiki.

Linguine-all-aragosta-e-granchio
Linguine all’aragosta e granchio

Fresco Italian Restaurant
Linguine all’aragosta e granchio: The editor and photographer for this magazine are often invited to try dishes during photo shoots. Generally, they only take a slight sampling. This pasta they not only devoured, they fought for the last bite. The Maine lobster is perfectly done and the tomato cream
sauce may actually be divine. A soy tobiko garnish is an inspired Asian twist to this Italian linguine.

Lo mein and Singapore street noodles

P.F. Chang’s
Lo mein and Singapore street noodles: P.F. Chang’s is one of America’s favorite Chinese-inspired restaurants for a reason. The food is consistently tasty and the Waikiki location offers some local flair only found here. The lo mein is a tried and tested favorite. These slightly thicker noodles are tossed with soy sauce, egg, fresh veggies and your choice of beef, pork, chicken or shrimp. Singapore street noodles are a thinner rice noodle with curry sauce, chicken, shrimp and vegetables. Either dish will keep a noodle lover happy. Try one or order both to share family-style around the table.

Spaghetti and meatballs

Il Lupino
Spaghetti and meatballs: Nothing says Italian more than spaghetti and meatballs. While not a traditional menu item, Il Lupino will add its veal, pork and beef meatballs to any pasta. These massive meatballs are in no danger of rolling away from a casual sneeze, though they are all covered in cheese. Delicious parmesan to be exact. Il Lupino’s spaghetti with meatballs leaves nothing to be desired, except perhaps a longing for a larger  stomach.

Hot udon with shrimp tempura

Miyako
Hot udon with shrimp tempura:  tunning ocean views and a romantic air aren’t the only things Miyako has to offer. The traditional Japanese cuisine will make even sushi-shy individuals into sashimi (raw fish) fiends. Hot udon soup comes with thick noodles in a savory broth. It’s paired with deepfried shrimp tempura and dipping sauce. Scrumptious and satisfying, this soup-and-shrimp combo is a fully cooked option if raw fish isn’t for you.

Spaghetti alla pescatora

Arancino
Spaghetti alla checca: Sometimes, a simple spaghetti dish is all you need. Arancino’s Spaghetti alla checca is just that. Spaghetti noodles, fresh mozzarella, basil and a classic tomato sauce come together in this elegant and thoroughly delicious pasta. Spaghetti alla pescatora: Seafood lovers will rejoice in this spaghetti dish that features  shrimp, calamari, live clams, mussels and a garlicky white wine sauce. It’s clear why this pasta is consistently a guest favorite. Be sure to bring a camera, this dish is a feast for the eyes as well.

At the Heart of Kualoa Ranch

kualoa-ranch

You may know Kualoa Ranch as the site where countless movies and television shows have been filmed, including Jurassic Park, Lost and Fifty First Dates. But to many of the ranch employees, film shoots and guest tours are the public side of the ranch that exists to keep the working ranch alive and running.

“Everybody knows us for Jurassic Park,” says Taylor Kellerman,  director of diversified agriculture and land stewardship. “But there’s really no other place like this.”

It’s easy to see why. With stunning views of mountains and ocean, Kualoa Ranch is easily one of the most photogenic places on Earth. The ranch is nearly 4,000 acres of undeveloped land that encompass the Hakipuu, Kualoa and Kaaawa valleys.

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There are other families or trusts on Oahu that own larger parcels of land in Hawaii, but Kualoa is unique because it is still a functional ranch and nature reserve without urbanization in prime Oahu real  state.

Established in 1850, the property was initially used as a sugar plantation. Ruins still stand from Oahu’s first sugar mill located near the entrance. After several years of poor rainfall, sugar planting came to a halt and cattle ranching was introduced.

Today, the ranch has more than 600 head of cattle, and harvests roughly eight animals a month. As Kellerman says, the cattle are “grass fed and grass fi nished,” meaning they are raised freerange over the grassy slopes of the ranch all the way up through harvest. Almost all cows are grass fed at some point in their lives, but not all are allowed to graze their entire lives.

The cows are rotated every fi ve to seven days through different pastures to avoid over-grazing. Most pastures offer ocean vistas or panoramic Koolau mountain range views. Given the care, location and attention they receive, these must be some of the happiest cows in the world.

Interspersed throughout the pastures are groves of papaya, bananas, pineapple and other tropical plants. The goal is to utilize as much land as is possible with diversified crops. Produce is usually sold to local markets or restaurants.

Robust chickens are rotated through groves and their eggs are collected for consumption. Their grazing is an eco-friendly way to help manage weeds and pests while providing fertilizer. This type of nature-based solution to weed and pest management is  epresentative of how Kualoa Ranch solves problems. The ranch also makes its own mulch and manure in an attempt to employ the full ecosystem Kualoa Ranch has to offer.

baby-shrimp
Baby shrimp being prepared for transfer to a shrimp pond.

Part of that ecosystem is the Molii fi shpond. This is one of the few remaining ancient fi shponds on Oahu. It’s an estimated 800 years old and roughly 125 acres. In these historic waters, oyster farmers grow live oysters in floating cages that never rest on the bottom of the pond. Roughly 1,000 oysters are harvested weekly for local consumers and restaurant use. It is the only Department of Health certified oyster farm on Oahu.

Chickens grazing in a papaya grove
Chickens grazing in a papaya grove

Like the chickens, these oysters serve a dual purpose. “Each oyster can filter 50 gallons of water,” says Kellerman.

That helps to keep the fishpond waters clean for use by future generations. The fishpond is also home to one of Kualoa Ranch’s  ultural tours, where guests can enjoy the pond’s serenity while  earning about Hawaiian aquaculture.

Education about farming and Hawaiian history is vital to the ranch. In addition to its tours, local school groups can come to learn about nature and some of the farming work done on the ranch. While  here, local keiki (children) can visit a well-loved petting zoo where they can get a personal introduction to farm animals.

Past the petting zoo that’s used for educational purposes are several small ponds for raising Pacifi c white tiger shrimp and tilapia. One unique aspect of Kualoa shrimp is that, when restaurants or markets
call in an order, the shrimp are caught that morning and served the same day. These are some of the freshest shrimp available on Oahu.

A fresh oyster from the Molii pond on a taro leaf
A fresh oyster from the Molii pond on a taro leaf

When chefs call in an order for shrimp, oysters or tilapia, sometimes they’ll also ask for naturally occurring plants like coconut or breadfruit that grow on Kualoa Ranch but aren’t specifically farmed. “We’ll get whatever we can for you,” says Kellerman, even if that means doing some foraging to find high quality plants when requested.

Despite its size and commitment to the land, Kualoa Ranch doesn’t produce a large quantity of food.

Banana trees growing  near the edge of a mountain near a cow pasture.
Banana trees growing near the edge of a mountain near a cow pasture.

“We grow these killer quality products, but our volume isn’t huge,” says Kellerman.

That’s why Kualoa Ranch recently started food-tasting tours to give guests the opportunity to try the different foods the ranch yields. This allows visitors to see the working side of the ranch and taste the sweet and savory results of its sustainable farming.

If you’d like to try Kualoa products, prime steaks, oysters and shrimp can be ordered online and picked up at the ranch. The gift shop will sometimes carry fresh foods, and will almost always have frozen ground beef available for purchase. Burgers from the café are all from Kualoa ground beef.

Kualoa Ranch is more than a tourist attraction or Hollywood set. Chatting with employees makes it clear many feel they work the land in stewardship to maintain a part of Hawaiian history that is quickly disappearing. The owners employ four full-time staff whose sole purpose is to maintain and improve the property, often restoring streams or fields that are in disarray. These positions are completely privately funded and are one more way Kualoa Ranch attempts to keep the land timeless so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come.

On an island where space is in high demand and limited availability, Kualoa Ranch is firm in its adherence to non-urbanization and land stewardship. The ranch has evolved to be self-sustaining now that farming isn’t as economically viable as it once was.

As Kellerman says, “Every seat on a tour that’s sold keeps the land in perpetuity.”