Tag: Feature

The Farm Is On The Table At Blue Dragon Restuarant

Story by Leslie Harlib
Photos courtesy of Blue Dragon

Taking fresh to a whole new level

Order the Living Salad at the Big Island’s Blue Dragon restaurant, nightclub and spa in North Kohala, and you’ll get a dish so fresh you’ll think the farm was brought right to your table.

Created by Blue Dragon’s Executive Chef Noah Hester, this inventive concoction ($11 on the starter menu) is a little wooden planter box a’bloom with five to seven types of lettuces, edible marigolds and fennel fronds—it all depends on what’s seasonal at the time. Served with the salad is a small dish of the day’s fresh produce, which might include anything from minuscule whole cucamelons to snippets of magenta dragonfruit, and perhaps a fresh ginger and Kiawe honey vinaigrette.

The bouquet of assorted leaves, which flourish in a bed of vermiculite, perlite and special coconut shell potting soil, is designed to share and eat with your hands; you harvest the bounty with a dainty pair of scissors.

“We’re always looking to get things as fresh as we can,” says Hester, who debuted the dish in March 2014. “People are amazed when we tell them produce was harvested that morning from Blue Dragon’s farm. The Living Salad takes the concept of freshness down to the minute.”

Hester sells anywhere between 10 and 30 whimsical salads a night. His concoctions are devised in conjunction with farmer Paul Johnston of Kekela Farms in Kamuela and Hester’s father Ron of Hawi, who hand-makes the planter boxes from 500 year-old mango wood.

“It’s always fun to see how people interact with it,” Chef Hester says. “Just recently we had a family with kids who were playing with iPads suddenly on the edge of their seats, so excited, when Dad was snipping off lettuce leaves and handing them out. They started out not wanting salad, and then they couldn’t wait to eat it. Watching the experience gave me goosebumps. That’s totally what the salad is about.”

Blue Dragon salad at www.ediblehi.com

The Hunter, The Chef

Story by Shannon Wianecki

Photos by Sean Hower

Intimacy with what we consume contributes to our wholeness

The morning had a mythic quality. Mist bathed the southeast- ern slope of Haleakala and a rainbow hovered over the tree line, offering a sort of benediction. Dressed in camouflage, Brian Etheredge threaded through the tall grass followed by his friend and cooking partner at Capische restaurant, Chris Kulis.

Between them, the award-winning chefs had dressed scores of animals, many more than most hunters. Kulis had spent the past few years sharpening his charcuterie skills, buying whole pigs from Ma-lama Farms and using everything from tail to snout to make delectable salami, sausages, meatballs and more. But the chef had yet to dispatch an animal himself.  The gravity of taking a life was not lost on the new father, who left his baby and her mother at home to come along on this overnight excursion.

The hunting trip was a fundraiser. Robin Kean, a commercial property manager and avid hunter, came up with the idea four years ago. Wanting to blend his passion for both hunting and charity work, he figured that a guided hunt on scenic Kaupo Ranch could fetch top dollar as an auction item. To further entice bidders, he contacted Brian Etheredge—owner of one of Maui’s best restaurants and an experienced hunter himself and asked the chef to add a catered gourmet dinner to the package. Etheredge readily agreed. The team has since hosted five charity hunts and raised $16,000 for the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and Grow Some Good, a school garden initiative.

This year’s hunt couldn’t have gone better.The winning bidder, Jason Davis from Colorado, arrived with his family Thursday night. On Friday, he bagged a big buck, a goat, and a pig—the “Kaupo- Grand Slam.”

“We’re going to need a bigger cooler,” he joked to his wife, Elizabeth, as he and the other men skinned the animals. The hunting party included the Davises, Kean, a few assistant guides and the two chefs.There was more than enough enough for everyone at the Kaupo Ranch cabin, a gracious home built in 1929 and decorated with relics from past hunting adventures.This weekend’s hunters were after meat, not trophies, but when Davis took down a buck with a perfect set of antlers, his smile grew at least five watts brighter.

Axis deer are beautiful animals with tawny, white-spotted pelts. Sadly, they’re invasive pests on Maui. Wild herds grow faster than hunters can cull them and hungry deer ravage island farms, ranch- lands and wilderness areas. Davis was delighted to help thin the population while procuring food for his family. “Axis deer are hunted by tigers in India, so they’re smart,” he said.“It’s a fun, hard hunt. I’m lucky to have great guides.” But Kean, who grew rambling through the back forty at Kaupo Ranch, knew the animals’ habits. He led his party straight into their midst.

Dinner that night was a feast of heroic proportions. Etheredge lorded over the outdoor barbecue like Prometheus, grilling venison shot at the ranch the week before. Flames leapt high as the sunlight faded on the horizon. Inside, he and Kulis maneuvered in the cramped vintage kitchen with ease.

They brought out dish after mouthwatering dish, covering every inch of the massive dining room table. First came platters piled with cheeses and charcuterie: Hawaiian chili soppressata and prosciutto that Kulis had been waiting a year to debut. Then came kale salad with fat hearts of palm and guava vinaigrette, steamy black forbidden rice, red curry studded with Kona lobster, pork ribs slathered in mustard, and a salt-encrusted ‘o-pakapaka caught just offshore.

The Hunter, The Chef on www.Ediblehi.com
The chefs used local ingredients to handcraft everything from the pickled fennel agrodolce to the ono brandade, an Old World purée of salted ono, garlic, and potato emulsified with olive oil. It was an overwhelming offering—one fully appreciated by the famished huntsmen.They nearly fought over the venison meatballs. Heaped atop fennel linguine and sprinkled with Parmesan reggiano shavings, the savory little globes were so good that half the table groaned while eating them. Same with the scrumptious trotters, which were “as gluttonous as it gets,” according to Kulis, who made them out of Ma-lama Farms pigs’ feet, tongue and cheek. Elizabeth especially liked these, and requested recipes to take home along with her freezer full of fresh meat. But best of all was the grilled venison loin: as tender and noble as filet mignon, only more flavorful.

The chefs enjoyed the rare chance to pull up chairs and dine with old and new friends.The conversation ranged from exploits in the kitchen to near-misses in the field. Davis expressed gratitude for the wild-harvested food.“I know who touched this meat,” he said. “I know it didn’t sit in a bunch of chemicals for weeks before it got shipped.”

As they ate, they waxed philosophic: meat should always be pro- cured this way, with consciousness and care for the animal and the environment. We are what we eat, and an intimacy with what we consume—where it comes from and how it lived—contributes to our wholeness. Robin reflected on his first hunt, at age 26.“I thought I’d have more remorse than I did,” he said.“But when I was out there, I discovered senses I didn’t know I had. It made me realize that this is something humans are made for.”

The Hunter, The Chef on www.ediblehi.com
Kean and Etheredge both hunt with bows, having swapped bullets for arrows years ago. Davis marveled that his “Grand Slam” included his first bow kill—a goat he felled with an arrow. Bow hunting requires greater tracking and stalking skills. It’s not as violent; a good shot passes cleanly through the animal with less kinetic energy.“When a gun hunter sees an animal, the hunt is over,” said Etheredge.“When a bow hunter sees an animal, the hunt begins.”

For dessert, he and Kulis shared sweets from The Market in Wailea, their new gourmet deli. Though full, everyone dug spoons into the tiny Mason jars filled with liliko‘i curd, Valrhona chocolate, and dulce de leche. It was well after midnight by the time the bone-tired celebrants drifted off into their separate rooms.
Before dawn broke the next morning, the men set out to pursue their favorite game. Yesterday’s fine haul meant that today’s hunt was pressure-free, a bonus round. Kulis shadowed Etheredge, who stopped to perform a personal ritual before entering the hunting grounds. Removing his gloves, he touched his fingers to the earth. He asked for permission from the land, and those that came before him, to take an animal. He asked for a safe flight for his arrow.

The men followed the sporadic barks of deer through the brush, and soon found a large herd grazing in a meadow.The rut (mating season) was in full force; the bucks were crazed.  The largest males bellowed, stamped and rammed their racks against one another. Though 50 does sounded alarms as the hunters approached, the bucks focused on their fight.

The men stood on a small ridge, a light wind at their back. Kulis hung behind as Etheredge hunkered down into the grass and crawled to the shelter of a nearby tree. He stood and watched a healthy doe skirt the edge of the herd. He drew back his bow.The animal stepped into range.The hunter held his breath and released the arrow. Startled, the herd flew towards the coastline, leaving behind a large doe lying still in the grass.
A nearly invisible blood trail showed that the archer’s shot was true; she hadn’t run more than 15 feet before falling. Etheredge petted the doe’s soft fur and thanked her for feeding his family. Hefting her onto his shoulders, he carried her back to camp.

The Hunter, The Chef at www.ediblehi.com

Food Entrepreneurs

Growing Business
Three island food entrepreneurs share their recipes for success.

By Heidi Pool

Ono PopsJosh Lanthier-Welch can recite every ingredient in every flavor of popsicle he’s ever created. As chief operating officer and executive chef of OnoPops, headquartered in Hawai‘i Kai, Josh has progressed from pouring his fruity concoctions into molds and freezing them at home, to producing up to 2,700 frozen delights per day using sous vide machines, blast chillers, and a state-of-the-art Carpigiani batch freezer.

It began in the fall of 2009 with a call from Josh’s brother Joe, OnoPops’ chief financial officer and director of sales. “Joe called from a gourmet popsicle shop on the east coast,” Josh recalls. “He left me a rambling message about how he was eating a basil-blueberry popsicle and couldn’t believe how good it was. He said we had to do this in Honolulu.” Josh was working as a chef in San Francisco at the time. “My first response was, ‘There’s no way I’m moving back to Honolulu to open a popsicle company.’”
But Joe persisted, and when the restaurant Josh had been working in closed due to the recession, and their parents’ ‘ohana unit became available, “I had no more right of refusal,” laughs Josh. “It all added up just like that.”
In April of 2010, the two Punahou School graduates launched OnoPops with eight initial flavors, all made with local ingredients. Within six months, consumers could purchase OnoPops at Whole Foods and Foodland. In September of 2013, OnoPops was named Whole Foods’ Partner of the Year. “We were struggling to break even, and at a point where we were wondering whether or not we should keep going,” says Josh. “This recognition from Whole Foods gave us a new wave of optimism. They offered us an opportunity to participate in their small producer loan program, and with this kind of partnership we can keep going.”
This spring, OnoPops expanded to the U.S. Mainland in 35 Whole Foods stores, and the Welch brothers have dreams of franchising their brand. “The heart of OnoPops will always be our three core ingredients—Waialua Estate chocolate, Kona coffee, and Mauna Kea green tea—no matter where in the world OnoPops are made,” says Josh. But the rest of the ingredients will always be sourced locally.”
Josh opens up a chest freezer, the vapor dissipates to reveal OnoPops in every color of the rainbow. “We have a repertoire of 75 flavors, with 25 to 35 on hand at any one time,” he says. “I’m always thinking ahead about new flavors. Josh and I do an eight-popsicle tasting and the hands-down winner, at least in my book, is the Mexican Chocolate. It’s definitely not the Fudgsicle I grew up eating. Creamy, rich milk chocolate is infused with a touch of local cinnamon, vanilla, and mild organic ancho chile powder. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.”
Josh attributes the success of OnoPops to dogged hard work. “I spend about fifty hours a week making popsicles, and between five and fifteen selling them and doing product demos,” he says. “I’ve sacrificed being anyone other than the ‘popsicle guy.’ But I’m not complaining one bit.”


034 Sean M. Hower(c)2014
Dressed in sneakers, denim jeans, and a long-sleeved plaid shirt, Azeem Butt could pass for a Silicon Valley engineer. This is no coincidence. Prior to founding Life Foods, Inc., in January of 2013, Azeem was involved in several technology and telecommunications start-ups in the San Francisco Bay Area. “But food has always been my passion,” he says.
Headquartered in Wailuku, Maui, Life Foods manufactures a line of 12 products: patties, condiments, dressings, hot sauces, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and gomasio—all of which are superfoods-based, 100 percent organic, non-GMO, vegan, and soy and gluten free. “Our goal was to have a strong presence on Maui and Moloka‘i, which we accomplished last year,” Azeem says. “This year, we’ve expanded to O‘ahu, and we’ll add more products to our line.”
The first three months in business, Azeem didn’t sell a single product. Instead, he tested his goods at farmers’ markets. “We did more than 7,000 tastings, and handed out surveys to obtain feedback,” he says. “Our chefs continuously made refinements based on the comments we received. By the end of March, people were asking, ‘Where can I buy these patties?’ and, ‘I love this ketchup. Where do you sell it?’ When we placed our products at Alive and Well, Down to Earth, and Mana Foods, we already had customers waiting to purchase them.”
Azeem acquires as many ingredients locally as possible, to support what he calls Life Foods’ farm-to-shelf approach. “Our goal is what I call the ‘green circle,’ where we source within 300 miles, and produce from our facility to the shelf within three weeks,” he says. “We’re not quite there yet, because some of our dry goods, plus mung beans, come from the Mainland. There’s currently no local source for these ingredients.”
Life Foods grew from Azeem’s desire to provide healthy vegetarian food options for himself and others. “A lot of good product ideas come from a personal passion for something,” he says. “You can’t just pick what you think is a random need in the marketplace—it should be your own need. Otherwise, you won’t have a connection to it. I actually have people come up to me at farmers’ markets, shake my hand, and say, ‘Thank you so much for doing this.’ That never happened to me before, and I think it’s because Life Foods products fulfill my food needs, and theirs as well.”
Azeem’s mission was validated at last year’s Body and Soil Farm-Health Conference, held annually on Maui. “We were one of many vendors selling food,” he recalls. “Right next to us was a company barbecuing locally grown beef patties. The aroma was extremely enticing, and I was sure we’d have a lot of our food left over. Amazingly, six out of ten guests chose our patty over the ones made from beef. It was my most satisfying moment yet.”
Azeem has plans to take Life Foods to the national stage. “I want to establish kitchens that create farm-to-shelf products in all areas of the country,” he says. “The model we’ve created here on Maui can be replicated all around the United States.”


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In 2005, Garrett Marrero, along with wife Melanie, founded Maui Brewing Co.’s  Kahana brewpub, where they produced 300 barrels of handcrafted ales and lagers their first year in business. Two years later, they opened a production facility in Lahaina, where they currently brew more than 20,000 barrels per year. This year, they’ll open a larger production facility, brewpub, and tasting room in the Maui Research and Technology Park in Kihei, where they’ll be able to double production.
When I meet up with Garrett at his construction site in Kihei, he’s sporting steel-toed work boots, faded jeans, and a bright orange Maui Brewing Co. t-shirt. He tells me he’s always ready to fill in if needed to keep the $17 million construction project on schedule. “One day, my contractor didn’t have a welder to finish a critical job,” he recalls. “So I got in the ditch at nine o’clock that night and shone my truck’s headlights so I could see what I was doing. These guys had never before seen a company owner go out and buy boots and jeans, and pull tools out of his truck.”
Garrett believes his hands-on approach is one of the keys to his success. “In the beginning, Melanie and I did everything on a shoestring budget and wore a lot of hats,” he says. “But this made us very skilled at what we do, and we are intimately familiar with every aspect of our business. It strengthens our team when employees see that we’re willing to do whatever’s required to get the job done.”
Equally as strong as his work ethic is Garrett’s commitment to the Maui community. “Using the best local ingredients available to us is something we do as a matter of course,” he says. “We incorporate local guava, mango, papaya, and even breadfruit in our beers. Our breadfruit beer is still the most requested brew, even though we only made it once because it was such a challenge to produce. Sourcing 3,000 pounds of fruit in just the right stage of ripeness, plus ten pounds of toasted papaya seeds, made it a labor of love.”
Maui Brewing Co.’s symbiotic relationship with local farmers should be a model for all businesses. “We purchase produce from farmers who use our spent grain to feed their cows, then we serve their beef in our restaurants,” Garrett says. Breads and buns served in the brewpub are also made locally with spent grain. “If something can be produced for our restaurants on island, it is. We even make our own ketchup, salad dressings, and mustard.”
Garrett’s beers are distributed in 11 states and four foreign countries. “It’s gratifying to go to a restaurant somewhere in Virginia and see Maui Brewing Co. on the menu,” he says. “It conjures up a ‘we did that’ kind of pride.” Garrett says his best-selling brew in Hawai‘i is Bikini Blonde Lager. It’s easy to see why. With light carbonation and crisp, fruity notes, this filtered Munich Helles Lager brewed with floral hops and Pilsner and Munich malts is appealing to even a non-beer-drinker such as myself. Cheers!