Garden Isle Range And Food Fest

“Rodman wants lamb,” I say as I draw a little slip of paper from my husband’s upturned hat. There are 15 types of Kaua’i-grown protein in that hat, and tonight we are matching them to 15 of Kaua’i’s best chefs. Eighteen farmers are donating fresh fruit and vegetables and it will all come together, along with music and makahiki games, at the 2012 Garden Island Range & Food Festival, Nov. 18 from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. at Kilohana Luau.

Now in its fourth year, the locavore pa’ina brings together Kaua’i’s community with the ranchers, farmers and chefs who grow and make our food. It’s the ultimate in eating local, and the chefs don’t exactly know what the farmers will have – Mother Nature is finicky, and Kaua’i is experiencing a serious drought. The produce will be harvested just before it’s delivered three days prior to the festival.

The nonprofit event is Zero Waste, and keiki from the Kaua’i 4-H Livestock Club and Key Club will make sure rubbish is deposited into the correct recycle bins. Two $1,000 culinary arts scholarships will be awarded to Kaua’i Community College students.

The sultry summer nights are starting to cool down, and as the event committee huddles around an oversized picnic table at A’akukui Ranch in Puhi, a chilly breeze carries the sound of cows grazing in the distance. The setting sun turns the valley a deep green, and an exposed fluorescent bulb hanging from the roof of the outdoor kitchen flickers as I read my slip of paper. I laugh and say, “Rodman drew lamb.”

That would be Rodman Machado, chef at The Garden Cafe, a restaurant at Common Ground in Kilauea with an onsite, organic garden and staff farmer. Machado plans to use 25 pounds of longan that Jerry Ornellas is donating.

The grass-fed lamb comes from AkuaMakanalani Ranch in Kilauea. Right now, the small ranch only sells its lamb to The Garden Cafe. The Katahdin breed is known for its mild and delicate taste, and has been developed over decades to reduce wool and lanolin, which contribute a gamey flavor.

Committee members take turns drawing from the hat. Duane Shimogawa, ranch chairman and chief paniolo at A’akukui Ranch, will donate cuts of his grass-fed beef. He draws Kaua’i shrimp for chef Jason Sessions of Nanea at Westin Princeville. Ben Takahashi, chef chairman, executive chef at the Club at Kukui’ula and one of the event founders, draws a whole pig from Kaneshiro Farms for Hilda “Tiki” Morales of Tiki Tacos.

“Tiki Tacos is a specialty taco house where Tiki masters the art of taco,” says Tiki’s husband Bard Widmer. “But that’s not all Tiki does; her capacity is explosive. It’s going to be fun to see what she creates in an environment like this festival.”

Daniel Lane, event treasurer (and my husband), draws beef shank for Merriman’s executive chef, Mark Arriola. Entertainment chairwoman Edee Bandmann draws beef cross rib for chef Gavin Onishi of Contemporary Flavors Catering.

Eliah Youn, operations chairman and manager at Gaylord’s, draws beef tenders for Takahashi. Since the Club at Kukui’ula is for members (and their guests) only, I’m excited to try his food.

Gaylord’s chef Halley Archbold is paired with beef chuck; beef neck goes to executive chef Melanie Nowels of Roy’s Po’ipu; executive chef Roger Liang of Sheraton Kaua’i Resort gets beef heart, and chef Reno Rodriguez of the Grand Hyatt’s Yum Cha draws baron, or cow leg.

“We’re showcasing less-popular cuts of beef,” says Shimogawa. “They are very flavorful, and there’s only so much steak one cow can produce.”

As this year’s farm chairwoman, I am coordinating farmer donations, pickups and deliveries. Once the chefs know their protein, emails start filling my inbox.

“Any chance of getting 20 pounds of old poi for our dish?” writes John Ferguson of Kalaheo Cafe. Ferguson drew goat donated by Kauai Kunana Dairy. It’s the first year goat is being served.

“We are going to use sour poi to make poi stew,” says Ferguson of the local favorite. “We’ll cook the goat in it, which will help to tenderize it.”

“We at Living Foods Market are excited about our 700 pounds of beef tongue!” writes owner Jim Moffat. “We will be preparing classic street tacos: chili-braised tongue with cilantro, lime and onion slaw, homemade tortillas and, of course, pickled carrots.”

Executive chef Guy Higa of Kaua’i Marriott Resort will make Cantonese Braised Brisket with Chou Hou Sauce on Luk Fun Noodles. “We do this event to help promote the local ranchers and farmers,” says Higa.

Leanne Kamekona, executive chef of the St. Regis, will combine beef cheeks with taro from W.T. Haraguchi Farm, and Ron Miller from Hulikau Lanai is going to make a dish with skirt steak, “goat-gonzola” from Kaua’i Kunana Dairy and Pineapple Sage Marmalade from Monkeypod Jam.

Sandy Poehnelt of The Right Slice is planning to make pies with oranges, lemons and rosemary. Lappert’s Hawaii will serve up its gelato, and Kaua’i Coffee will be there with its super-premium blends.

“The festival is always fun to do,” says Ferguson, who’s participated twice before. “It’s a good, local farm-to-table event and it’s supporting a good cause.”

Garden Island Range & Food Festival

For ticket information, visit KauaiFoodFestival.com

Admission is $35 adults, $17.50 children

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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