An Earth Dinner At Hukilau Lanai

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, Hukilau Lanai in Kapa’a is known as much for delicious food and idyllic views as for its support of local farmers and its green business practices. The birthday celebration includes its third annual Earth Dinner April 23.

For $50, diners will feast on a five-course, locally sourced meal. That includes tax and tip, by the way. It’s an opportunity for owners Ron and Krissi Miller to showcase products from Hawaii and give back to Kaua’i’s farmers while donating to a nonprofit.

Each year, Organic Valley, a farmer-owned corporative that produces dairy products, partners with Chefs Collaborative, a nonprofit network of chefs that fosters a sustainable food supply, to host Earth Dinners across the United States. These dinners celebrate local, organic and seasonal foods while raising awareness of the importance of a sustainable food system.

Proceeds are donated to Chefs Collaborative, which Organic Valley will match, up to $10,000. As of this writing, Hukilau Lanai is the only restaurant in Hawai’i to offer this dinner, where farmers receive a 50 percent discount.

“Ron decided to trade product for a ticket, and offer the ticket at half price,” Krissi says of their incentive to encourage farmers to leave their farms and join

the celebration. “That way they don’t have to pay for it, they just trade veggies or whatever they have.”

I got a sneak peek at the menu exclusively for readers of MidWeek Kaua’i, and if the sustainable food cause doesn’t inspire you, the food itself will.

At 5:45 p.m., everyone will tour the herb garden with restaurant manager Angela Hoover and sip a drink made of Spiced Koloa Rum, homemade lemongrass kaffir lime tea, fresh lime juice and McPhee’s Bees honey. Manda McPhee is a restaurant manager at Hukilau Lanai, and provides Kaua’i with fresh raw honey and honeycomb from a variety of wild tropical flowers.

Inside, Grammy-nominated Paul Togioka will play slack key guitar while diners start with Hawaiian Taro Dip. It’s rich, smooth and tangy with a hint of garlic, and served with house-made focaccia that has a crisp topping of Parmesan cheese and oven-roasted tomatoes.

The first course is served family-style. Each table shares a plate of delectable Kaneshiro Pork and Pistachio Pate, and house-smoked summer sausage made of Wailua Country Store beef, Kaneshiro pork and whole mustard seeds that lend a pleasant pop. House-pickled Kaua’i Fresh Farms cucumbers and Maui onions, and a side of Dijon mustard offer a zippy accompaniment to the flavorful charcuterie.

Made with Kunana Dairy goat cheese and Kaua’i Fresh Farms broccoli, the Twice Baked Soufflé is delicious and deeply satisfying. It sits on a bed of Kailani Farms arugula, Moloa’a Organica’a radicchio, and a vinaigrette made with basil from the restaurant’s garden. Ron is using eggs from Hawai’i, and looking for some from Kaua’i farmers.

I could eat the croquette all day long. Chunks of Kaua’i Shrimp and house-smoked Kaneshiro pork belly are suspended in a creamy sauce spiced with jalapeno peppers. This is tucked inside a crispy ball that rests on a bed of Kaua’i Fresh Farms stewed tomato sauce. The seeds are left in and it lends a homey, Italian grandmother feel. (I like it this way, but Ron is on the fence.) A drizzle of pesto aioli guilds the lily.

Simplicity is the theme for the fourth course. A filet of grilled fresh fish (who knows what will be fresh that day!) is surrounded with warabi (fiddlehead fern), roasted carrots, beets and turnips, and looks like a naturally bejeweled necklace that a forest fairy might wear. The fish sits on a bed of tender raw kale salad and is garnished with preserved lemon vinaigrette.

Dessert is a scrumptious affair and an indulgent way to end the day. Silky McPhee’s Bees honey gelato with Kaua’i vanilla beans is topped with icy Nani Moon Mead granita and served in a teacup. Pillowy deep-fried coconut fritters are rolled in sugar and placed on a saucer. And just to make sure your sweet tooth is satiated, lilikoi sugar cookies also will be served.

When you work with Mother Nature, you are at her whim, so the menu may change a bit. It’s impossible for Ron to say with certainty which vegetable farmer will provide what, but most produce will be sourced from Kaua’i. To find out, visit Hukilau Lanai’s website and click on the interactive menu. Thanks to the 2011 Sustainable Food Summit put on by Chefs Collaborative, the Millers learned about a crowd-sourced online food guide that promotes food transparency.

“Real Time Farms connects the consumer with their food source,” says Krissi. “They focus on getting restaurants on board so customers can see where their food is coming from. It’s great because farmers and food artisans list for free.”

If you think you can’t join the party because you have diet restrictions, just let them know when you make a reservation. Hukilau Lanai will make sure that you, too, can enjoy an elegant dinner of simple pleasures that celebrate the bounty of the earth.

Hukilau Lanai
Kaua’i Coast Resort
520 Aleka Loop, Kapa’a