Friday, October 11, 2013

Taste of the Hawaiian Range Foodie Highlights

Feeding the crowd at Taste of the Hawaiian
You know it's going to be a good party when a line of chefs file into the ballroom a few hours before go-time, each toting a case of beer. This line happened to be led by Mark "Gooch" Noguchi, champion of food sustainability and, although he lives on Oahu, supports Big Island events whenever he's able.

Thirty five chefs cooked up dishes for the crowd to enjoy at Taste of the Hawaiian Range on October 4 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Each chef was assigned a different cut of meat, most worked with locally raised grass-fed beef, while some chefs tackled goat, sheep, lamb, and feral pig. Food was served from booth displays, both inside the ballroom and outside near the water.

Although rain poured on the long line of waiting, hungry guests right at the start of the event, they were not deterred. Big Island folks know how blessed and precious rain is in Waikoloa so they soaked up it right along with the thirsty plants.

Upon check-in at the event, guests are given a map showing where each chef would be serving food as well as which cut of meat they would be working with. I spent a good 15 minutes studying the map, circling my top choices as it was highly unlikely 35 samples were going to fit in this belly. Below, my favorite dishes, in no particular order.

Tripe gyros from Blue Dragon
Beef tripe gyros with ho'i'o salad from Blue Dragon restaurant. Located in Kawaihae, on the west side of the Big Island, Blue Dragon is known for solid food, a commitment to using local ingredients, and live music under the stars. Now, I'm not normally a fan of tripe, but these guys worked some magic, the gyros were crunchy and full of flavor.

Meatloaf by East Hawaii Community College
Both East and West Hawaii Community College culinary programs were represented, and I hate to say this because I really wanted to like the West side's dish better, but the charming bacon wrapped meat loaf made by students from the East side campus was a smart, creative dish and was my favorite among the two campuses.

Gnocchi with oxtail ragout by Four Seasons Hualalai
From the Four Seasons Hualalai Beach Tree restaurant came a homey gnocchi dish with oxtail ragout. I wanted to curl up in a corner with a blanket and a big bowl of this gnocchi.

Skirt steak from Chef Noguchi
Chef Noguchi, mentioned above, made us a beef skirt steak with beets, beet puree, and inamona served in a lettuce leaf. It was nice to have some veggies in the mix.

Lamb chorizo by Chef Kenney
Ed Kenney, of Town restaurant, also made it out from Oahu. Chef Kenney made lamb chorizo with pickled beets and muddled cucumber. As usual, amazing yet simple flavors.

Other highlights was the Squash and Awe booth by Anna Peach, a guerrilla farmer in Waimea growing heirloom squash varieties, and the hard working students of Kanu O ka Aina, Kamehameha Schools, and UH Hilo for making it a zero waste event. All paper products were recycled and food scraps composted.

Hope you can make it to the Big Island's best foodie event next year.

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