On Friday I got to attend the 18th Annual Mealani's Taste of the Hawaiian Range that was held at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
Many folks think that the "Taste" is all about eating food from 6-8 pm, however, before the taste even begins there is a lot of preparation done by many groups and folks to make this one of the most successful food events in the State of Hawaii.
The Festival provides a venue for sustainable agricultural education, encouragement and support of locally produced agriculture products. The premiere ag-tourism event is a partnership between CTAHR, Hawaii Cattlemen's Association, Hawaii Cattlemen's Council, Kulana Foods, UH-Hilo CAFNRM, County of Hawaii Dept. on Environmental Management and community volunteers.
Sponsorship also includes the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Hawaii County Research and Development, Hawaii Community College Food Service & Culinary Program and KTA SuperStores. The quality and growth of this event are rooted in small business participation, sponsorship and in-kind donations.
At 1:30 there was a nutrition seminar geared for culinary students and food industry professionals that was presented by Justin Yu, most recently chef/owner of The Whole Ox. The Kaka'ako restaurant creates its menu based on the availability of meat while using entire grass-feed beef and pig carcasses, one at a time.
Yu, a native of New York City where he did whole animal butchery, came to Hawai'i this spring, after working at well-known eateries like Hawker Fare in the San Francisco Bay Area.
At 3 there was a seminar on how to gook grass-fed beef which had a staged cooking demonstration that featured Hubert Des Marais, executive chef of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawai'i, who instructed students how to prepare two cuts of grass-fed beef: boneless brisket and tongue.
Chef Hubert brought more than 35 years of culinary experience in the hospitality industry spanning four continents. He has garnered numerous accolades, including being named one of "America's 10 Best Chefs" by Food and Wine Magazine and has appeared on the Food Network and cooked at the James Beard House on numerous occasions. A proponent of food sustainability, chef utilizes food prepared by local ranchers, farmers and aquaculturists while purchasing beef by whole animal carcass. At the end of the seminar, samplings of the meats were available for the students.
At 5 the pre-taste began where the media had a chance to talk to the farmers and the cooks about what they had prepared without the mad rush of having to deal with the general public that came in at 6.
I made it a point to eat as much as I could between 5 and about 5:40 hitting up about 15 booths of food that ranged from Beef Tri Tip served by Aloha Mondays to Kalua Pork served by Mahina Café.
This year, I told myself I would try something different and I was going to try and eat the recipe that contained the Rocky Mountain Oysters that were served by the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
I actually had about 10 folks willing to pitch in to the Hawaii Island Food Basket if I were to complete the task of eating a cow ball and being able to suck it down.
Chef Peter Pahk sliced up the oysters and then grilled them Korean style with organic lettuce, jasmine rice and Ko Choo Jung dipping sauce. I was expecting them to taste a little bit like Korean Chicken but boy was I in for a major surprise.
Thankfully they were cooked and sliced up and these were only for display
I don't know what happened and everyone says its mind over matter when eating things like this... but the second I took a big bite of the concoction and started to chew... the back of my tongue just closed up against my throat and I got this instant sick sensation and I felt the need to puke. I tried my best to swallow it down... I just couldn't do it.
Thankfully I didn't swallow it because I probably would have heaved it up. I did my best to discreetly cover my mouth with my hand and I spit it out into my hand and then dumped it into a recycled food bin that was set up for pig slop.
I quickly went to the drink station and drank about 4 cups of soda. I couldn't shake the taste from my mouth so I quickly went to the dessert station and had some sweets to try and take away the bitter taste that I had in mouth.
At 5:45 Kahu Danny Akaka offered a Pule Hoʻomaka (Opening Prayer) inside the ballroom and then at 6:00 he moved outside and blew the "Pu" (conch shell) and untied the Maile celebrating the beginning of the 18th Annual Taste of Hawaiian Range.
A little history about Friday's agriculture showcase is that it started in 1996 as the Mealani Forage Field Day and A Taste of the Hawaiian Range. During the day, Mealani hosted an on-site Forage Field Day with tours of the forage gardens, educational seminars for ranchers and food producers, plus presentations by top, ag-related speakers, such as Jo Robinson, best-selling author of "Pasture Perfect" and eatwild.com. In the evening, Taste sampling was enjoyed by the public in the Kahilu Town Hall. The event soon outgrew the location in Waimea and moved to it's current location at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.
I got a chance to talk to one of the organizers Fern Gavalek and she stated that she thought the crowd was a little larger then last year but they haven't got the official numbers in just yet. Last year there was over 2,000 people in attendance including folks that attended the event, student volunteers, student chefs and restaurant staff folks manning the booths.
To view more pictures from the "Taste" you can click on my site here: 18th Annual Taste of the Hawaiian Range