Kauai Pickles & Planting

Hanai is finished with it's three-month weekend pop-up restaurant at Java Kai, but has plans to move inside Kojimas in Kapaa and start a whole new path. The menu will stay relatively the same, just the kitchen and space to work with is much bigger and permanent, meaning no pop-up stress, only plop-down and enjoy bliss.  My previous post boasts some of the best pics of the dishes that Hanai put out. Not sure what my role in Hanai will be when it reopens in May... I could be on the front line in the kitchen or in the fields picking garnishes and lettuce for them, maybe both. It's been great to actualize farm-to-table cuisine in a Hawaiian atmosphere; so few restaurants do it here, which I find odd. Most go to Costco to buy their ingredients since it's cheaper, but quality no so good and every restaurant that depends on imported food purveyors and warehouses is therefore limited on creative freedom. Just cause it's cheaper to buy food at Costco doesn't mean it's good for the environment or human health, doesn't mean that it's sustainable or feeds into the local economy, really, I think the state government should subsidize chefs that buy locally and organic since that's the best way to become part of the environment and community that surrounds the kitchen and dining area. Support the local farmers, connect with the land and water, either grow it or build it myself or find a neighbor that can and trade... but as for buying from mainland or overseas, especially ingredients, that seems so silly to me. Kauai has all that one needs to survive and be happy.

With Hanai no longer on my to-do list for the next little while I'm on a pickling binge. I haven't found any Kauai pickles in the shops by us, so I called up the Grandma and asked her how to do it. The week after I asked for her recipe a pickling book and tool kit arrived in the mail. I have a few pics of the pickles I've done so far.. my fav. is the fresh and local cinnamon, ginger and kumquat in Kilauea honey. The kumquat season is almost over and right now they are perfect and cheap, so I bought them all at the farmers market last week to preserve their goodness and share them during the down season for citrus. Most of the lime, lemon, grapefruit, orange, kumquat and winter mango trees have dropped all their fruits and are in flower for their next batch. Looks like Kauai is going to have a huge summer mango season since they have so many flowers. Pickled mango anyone? 

Rosa, Jess and I went to the 2015 Kauai Seed & Plant Exchange on the equinox/full moon/solar eclipse and traded a dozen of our coffee trees for vanilla, cassava, ginger, sweet potato, breadfruit, jack fruit, avocado, mac nut and coconut plants/trees and a couple packs of carrot and Hopi tobacco seeds. Tobacco grows well on Kauai as there are no known pests to date for that crop here. I spent a week with my sickle and cleared some land for the newbies gathered at the exchange. A blueberry bush arrived in the mail in healthy condition on Friday and a blackberry bush is somewhere out there in a box anxiously awaiting to arrive. Rosa picked out pumpkin (sugar pie), carrot (purple), corn (sweet yellow) and cucumber (pickling) seeds today. I've planted a zillion sugar snap peas (#9 and sugar daddy) since those are her favorite and also planted all the Billie's green beans that farmer Phil held onto from last year. Phil has given me some ox heart carrot, red lettuce and beet seeds and I take small cuttings from his big herb bushes, the benefits of working on a farm with a cool dude. Not entirely sure what I am doing, but there's only one way find out. Plant them and see what happens. If I leave this Earth I want to leave behind me a garden big enough to feed my family and the generations to come, and also enough trees to counter my carbon footprint from all the flying I've done in the past to Antarctica and elsewhere around the globe. Imagine if for every gallon of gas you used you had to plant one tree? The last pics of the post are of garden in progress. Three weeks ago it was all 6-foot high guinea grass and now there's peas and beans and mators, oh my! 


The Garden Island

Every fruit and vegetable that comes from the farmers market or friends is a free giveaway of seeds. If I'm happy with the taste I want to grow it. We need to plant more trees. I'm officially addicted to planting. Friends around me are pointing towards natural resources that enable to create a community garden; fruit forest compost in the backyard, old flats at Sheldonia farms for seeding, 6" sickle at the local hardware store (my first farm tool I've owned, and only cost $11), seeds from leftover Hanai produce and my grandmother, the list goes on. Each day brings a new element to the Garden of Rosa on the Garden Island. Rosa and Jess goes on a quick stroll around our property and comes back with hands full of flowers, sprouting chayote, lima beans, chili peppers and papayas. Our landlord brings us mint and parsley from her daycare garden.... and I have more mint, lettuce, radish, cucumber, ice cream bean tree, cacao, coffee in the earth outside our front door. Rosa helped clear 500 square feet of earth this week and cut down vines around the fence. She planted her first tree, at the age of almost 2. 

We're getting ready for something big in our lives... a chance to grow our long-term health in our backyard. We cannot have goats or horses on the property, but that's probably a good thing because if I could do homesteading all the way to the point where I wouldn't need a car or buy anything, I would. I'd rather have a horse and buggy than a Jeep, and wonder if I could convert to an Amish lad and get the DoT approval to ride a horse to Sheldonia Farms. When I look into the pantry and see no corn flour to make honey cornbread I say to myself... I need land to grow on, water, sun, corn seed (not genetically modified), a grain mill and patience. Is the need and desire to be off-grid and self sustainable too much to ask for in a culture that relies heavily on transportation of food and fuel, social networking and the processing of natural resources? I want to unplug and the more time I spend in the garden and dreaming up ways to harvest fresh water and what to pickle next, the less time I have to be busy running errands, that I don't really need to run. We don't have a heater, air conditioner, television, radio, stove, washer, dryer, Iphone... but, there's a beach down the road, a garden out back and lots of fun work to be done... 


The Sheldon: Table-to-Farmer

The only dish on the Hanai menu that has been there every night from the very first day is the Sheldonia greens salad. It's a masterpiece that I help raise in the fields under the wings of farmer Phil Sheldon. Last night at the dinner table he told us that he's experimented with 40 types of lettuce, and that most of the ones that are good quality and grow well in California, don't do so well here in Kauai. His 30 yr old trip has been to find a half dozen varieties of lettuce that are exceptionally beautiful and tasty, and will grow in the Omao micro-climate. Natural selection is key. Farmer Phil's decades of hard work has made it to our table and we want to share this gift to all. It's a moral responsibility of mine to provide adequate respect, material supplies and personal energy to caretakers of the land such that they may continue on in the righteous path of sustainable cuisine and farming. 

Lettuce is often bypassed for sincere good quality since a salad tends to be topped dressing and garnishes, which mask the flavor of the greens beneath, but trust me, one does know what lettuce truly tastes like until they try the Sheldonia greens. Like a house, a dish is only as good as it's foundation. If the greens that first plop down on a plate have a texture and taste like none other then everything else that goes on it is just icing on the cake.

 On the farm our techniques are old school and simply organic. In the kitchen with Hanai the techniques are traditional and simply simple and effective. Chef D with Hanai made a sweet corn soup last night that was cooked in a way that elevated the flavors of the natural sugars of the corn from a molecular means topped with a pinch of roasted kernel in the oven, and the main and only ingredient was... corn. So there it is, the lettuce is so good all you need is the lettuce, and the corn is so good all you need is corn, and the fish is so good we don't dare to cook and therefore fly it into a crudo plate and top it with basic raw veggies and fruits and borage flowers. Kauai is unique in that you can grow, fish, hunt and harvest a world of ingredients that have more punch in each bite, more bang for the buck, because the composition of this landscape is extremely rich with old volcanic soil intermixed with ocean spray, global biological diversity, fresh water and ample insolation year-round. The culture(s) that inhabits is a collage of all the Pacific Rim native peoples plus that of the Western civilizations. In the middle of all of this is me and I'm stoked that this is pretty darn close to a miracle to have my mentor farm dude eat his own salad and 7 other bangin' courses in a strictly Hawaiian-grown pop-up restaurant just a half mile from old church studio where my lovely wife and little Kauaian girl are dreaming under a monkey pod tree. 

Farmer Phil eating 'The Sheldon' salad. 

Roasted eggplant, brushed with local: banana vinegar, mango juice, pink peppercorn juice, kiawe spice and pink sea salt. Caramelized on a panini press. Laid on top roasted sweet potato and padron peppers, watermelon radish and sweet peas. Garnished with calamansi, dianthus and spring onion curls. 

Hapu brandade mixed with banana, underneath a 61.5 C juicy egg and mushrooms and sunflower sprout, garnished with pumpkin seed powder.

The ahi crudo with cucumber ribbons, lilikoi, heart of palm and avo puree.

Colossal shrimp for two on the fly.

Mary's Hanai to go order. Nearly everything of the menu in a box.

Family meal shrimp platter.

This photograph is the greatest gift I could ever receive from working with Hanai. Here is a group of cutting edge, but down to Earth, chefs and solo waitress (and barber) with the Sheldonia farmer (and barber), whom I've been working with since May of 2013 when my daughter was born. Farmer Phil led me to Chef Adam two months ago,  and Chef Adam led me to Collin and Hanai, and from there I've been helping put together the Hawaii farm-to-table and bringing the table to the Kauai farmer. 

Mahalo arigato.