Marta Lane’s laugh is infectious. That’s one of many reasons sharing a meal with her is good fun — that, and soaking in her well-rounded knowledge about local food.
“We have such great produce here,” she says during an interview with Kauai Midweek at Kealia Farm, a place that’s near and dear to her heart. “Anybody who buys citrus from the grocery stores here is crazy.”
Sure, local oranges might have a brown “rust” on them, she says, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts — all you have to do is open up one, or better yet, taste one, to realize the difference. This is something Lane, who owns Tasting Kauai, a food touring business, with a book by the same name, wants people to know. She yearns for kamaaina and visitors to understand just how lucky they are to be on Kauai, where fresh, top-of-the-line ingredients are readily available to them. She inspires people to support local farmers, as well as patronize restaurants that work with them. That’s why she created a business designed to show people just how much the island has to offer, as far as food is concerned.
“A lot of people think there’s not very good food on Kauai, and that’s not true,” she says.
“There are a lot of people here who care about food and where it comes from; they care about its integrity and how it gets to your plate, as well as the health benefits.”
She finds it exciting to discover those people and share their stories — and their grinds — with the world through food tasting tours that encompass different areas of the island.
“I want to connect; I want people to make that connection,” she says.
The self-prescribed foodie always has had a passion for ono grinds. Her mother, Magda Armstrong, made sure her family was well fed, cooking homemade meals every day.
Lane, who is originally from Colorado and was a video editor with Starz entertainment company prior to moving to Kauai, recalls summer trips to Spain (where her mother is from), and sitting down at large tables with her extended family, enjoying every part of their two-hour-long meals. “They really care about their food in Europe,” she says.
She even remembers helping collect ingredients for some of those meals, like foraging for mushrooms and plucking mussels from seaside cliffs. Interestingly enough, Lane didn’t learn to cook until later in life. “I just learned how to eat well,” she jokes.
It wasn’t until she married her husband, Kauai Midweek photographer Dan Lane, that she really dove into making exquisite meals from scratch.
“I learned how to be a good wife from my mom; that was her full-time job,” she explains. “Part of that was feeding your family well.”
Lane, who admittedly gets “geeked” out on edibles, didn’t make a career out of her passion until moving to Kauai in 2010. At first, she found work as a personal chef, but soon she gravitated toward writing, which eventually led her to penning weekly food columns and articles about restaurants, chefs, cookbooks and farmers for publications including Kauai Midweek and The Garden Island.
Now, she’s focusing on her business, which started in 2012, as it continues expanding to include new tours designed for “adventurous” eaters and anyone who just wants to have fun.
“You don’t know what you’re going to eat,” she says, adding that they do accommodate dietary restrictions. “It’s our job to find what’s good now and share that with people.”
Though Lane has her favorite restaurants and chefs she likes to include on the tours, including Jean-Marie Josselin of JO2, the people and places change from time to time.
“You don’t know what you’re going to have,” she says. “You just know that this person knows how to cook and you have faith in that.”
“I’ve always just really loved working with her and her husband,” says Sorey about the Lanes, whom she’s known for several years.
Sorey is grateful for Tasting Kauai, as she not only likes to meet and bond with guests, but it also helps her business grow. And that’s exactly Lane’s goal: to create relationships among farmers, chefs, visitors and kamaaina, while at the same time, helping the island’s local food and agricultural industry prosper.