The Fresh Loaf

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Farm to Fork- Maui Style

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Franko's picture
Franko

Farm to Fork- Maui Style

Earlier this month my wife Marie and I took a welcome break from winter for a week of sun and relaxation in Maui. Nothing like a good dose of sun, surf and fabulous beaches to help shake off some of the winter blahs. The weather during our stay was perfect,with average temps in the mid 70'F -21C range, clear blues skies and gentle trade-winds throughout most days, keeping even the mid afternoon heat tolerable. The only specific item we had planned during our time on Maui was a morning tour and lunch at an organic farm in the up-country area of Kula, about a 45 minute drive from where we were staying in Kaanapali in West Maui. 

O'o Organic Farm is located in the Waipoli (Misting Forest) district of Kula at an elevation of 3500 feet.  The 8.5 acre farm is owned and operated by a local restaurant group to provide organic vegetables, herbs and fruit for it's three dining establishments in Lahaina, I'O, Pacifico, and The Feast at Lele, as well as their speciality food shop Aina Gourmet Market in the Honua Kai Resort near Kaanapali. Have a look at the short video here for a more in depth description of the farm and how it provides the three restaurants the ability to offer a true "farm to fork" dining experience for their guests. 

If a visit to Maui is in your vacation plans, the tour of O'o Farms is an experience I'd recommend to anyone interested in organic farming methods and practice, or just food in general. Our guide Ansel, who is also the farm's Orchard Manager, made the entire 2 hours we spent in the orchards and fields with him and the other members of our group a wonderful learning experience. Ansel's engaging and friendly manner, along with his extensive knowledge of horticulture and sustainable farming practice kept us interested throughout our tour. As well as showing us what the farm was growing we also had the opportunity to taste some of the various produce as we toured the fields, one of which was coffee. Ever had a ripe coffee berry picked right off the bush? Well neither had I and was surprised to discover that they have a somewhat sweet outer fruit to them, not at all what I expected and quite pleasant tasting. The farm is in the early stages of growing coffee plants, with an eye towards eventually producing enough to make it a commercially viable crop. At the moment they are buying beans from a larger local grower and roasting them on site for sale at the farm and the groups Aina Gourmet Market.

 Before we'd started the tour Ansel informed us that James McDonald, Executive Chef and partner of the restaurant group was on site that day and would be preparing lunch for all of us at the end of the tour. O'o Farm has an outdoor kitchen with a commercial range/oven, wood fired grill, a rotisserie or tourne-broche, refrigeration, preparation and serving tables, all set under a canopy and shade trees.

Lunch consisted of salad with a variety of freshly picked greens and edible flowers, sourdough bread (from Boulange in San Francisco, fabulous bread!), and two choices for the main course, pan fried tofu with fresh herbs and sauteed/stir fried vegetables, or fresh local fish with roasted vegetables. Fresh fruit and hand made chocolates for dessert. My description of the preparation may not be entirely accurate and my apologies to Chef McDonald if that's the case. Simple menu perhaps, but skillfully prepared and cooked to showcase the bounty of O'o Farms, Chef McDonald is clearly a proponent of the 'less is more' approach to cooking, allowing the high quality of his fresh ingredients to speak for themselves. There were more than a few appreciative comments from around our table for how flavourful everything was and I think most of our group went back to the buffet for a second helping. At the end of the meal we were invited to sample some of the various Aina Gourmet coffees roasted on site and to purchase some to take home if we liked. Whenever I'm in Maui, bringing home a few bags of Kona Coffee is always a must for gifts and myself, but after tasting the Aina coffee that's all changed. As rich as a good Kona can be, I've never had one as well balanced or with such depth of flavour as a brew from these roasts. Four bags of Aina Gourmet Coffee somehow managed to find precious space in our luggage for the flight home.  

Later in the week Marie and I decided to stop in at Pacifico Restaurant in Lahaina for lunch and take the 'farm to fork' experience full circle. We enjoyed a lovely meal on their beach level terrace overlooking the channel between Maui and the Island of Lanai. The day was glorious, with sunny blue skies, surfers rolling in just up the beach from us, and two or three whales off in the distance spouting and breaching, and who seemed to be enjoying the day as much as the families playing in the surf just a few yards away from our table. To begin our lunch Marie ordered the Roasted Maui Onion and Goat Cheese salad and I opted for the Tropical Ceviche du jour, both of which were a beautifully presented and appetizing first course to our lunch. For our main courses, Marie had a “tower” of spicy grilled tofu with ocean-seaweed salad, tropical salsa, jasmine rice, ginger ponzu sauce and wasabi aioli.[pic] I had a flat bread brushed with Kabayaki glaze, then grilled and topped with fresh tuna carpaccio, grilled pineapple, and a variety of sprouts and fresh farm greens, with a drizzle of wasabi aioli garnishing the side of the plate.

The preparation and presentation of our meals was considerably more elaborate than what we'd had at the farm, but the same bright flavours of O'o farms produce were evident in every bite. The tuna carpaccio was so fresh I'm sure it had been caught within hours of landing on my plate, meltingly tender, and accented with a bit of heat from the wasabi aioli, it was a brilliant composition of flavours, texture and colours. Marie's Leaning Tower of Tofu was pronounced delicious from start to finish, high praise indeed from someone not as inclined to comment pro or con as I am when it comes to food.[ Insert pacifico food] Service was friendly, attentive, and well paced, something that can be an issue at times in Lahaina restaurants during lunch service. All in all it was an excellent meal, complimented with great service and the tropical ambiance of Pacifico's beachfront setting. Kudos to Chef James McDonald and his crew for a memorable experience, certainly one of the highlights of our time on Maui.

On the flight home I spent some time thinking about what I should make for the coming weeks bread needs. My bread of choice for the last 2 months has been the Pan de Campagne I posted on a few weeks back. Time to try something just a little different I thought, something with seeds and mixed grains perhaps? A little thought was also given to how I might use the Aina coffee in some sort of pastry or dessert as well, but more about both these ideas in a future post.

Aloha,

Franko

Comments

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Franko,

How timely your post is - right after txfarmer's journey to Antarctica....from freezing temps. to the tropics all on one page :-)

Thanks for sharing the highlights of your trip here along with the photos.  I always wonder what people think when they see people taking pictures of plates of food.....little do they know the audience that eagerly awaits these specialized photos!

And now to await the breads you are planning....

Glad to read that your trip was as wonderful as you hoped it would be and that you are now refreshed and ready to face what is left of this winter.

Take Care,

Janet

Franko's picture
Franko

Thanks Janet!

The trip was indeed wonderful, but another 2-3 weeks would have suited us just fine. Might have to stay a little longer next time we're there. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Best wishes,

Franko

isand66's picture
isand66

to visit is Hawaii so it was nice to read and see about your experiences.

Thanks for sharing with everyone.

Oh...did I tell you I hate you  :)

While we've been having a mild winter in New York it certainly doesn't compare to Hawaii weather!

Regards,

Ian

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Ian,

Gee, take a little vacation and get hate mail, what's a guy to do? :^)

We've had a mild one on Vancouver Island as well, but still wet and cold regardless. I been going to Hawaii for over 30 years and never get tired of it, so much to see and discover, I'm sure you'll have a great time.

All the best,

Franko

varda's picture
varda

but would prefer to read this post in a couple of months :-)   No really, very nice and great to see the fields and food as well as the beach.  -Varda

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Varda,

Sorry about the timing, it couldn't be helped. :^) I'm glad you enjoyed it, and it's a pleasure to have shared it with you.

Cheers,

Franko

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

What a lovely vacation!  I especially loved the delicious looking plates of island dishes.  Thanks for sharing the photos :) 

Sylvia 

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Sylvia,

I wish I was a better photographer and that I'd had something other than my phone cam for the pics, but I'm glad you liked the photos. When I was taking all these pics the idea of making a post hadn't even occurred to me yet. Perhaps if it had I'd have been more careful with the shots. I guess I'll just have to go back and try again.

Cheers,

Franko 

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hello Franko,
Thank you for sharing these lovely photos from your Maui holiday :^)
I can only imagine the joy it would be to garden/farm/grow things in such a beautiful setting - with those views!
What a variety of things they must be able to grow their for their restaurant and market (is that a Buddha's Hand citron pictured?!).
The plates and the salad are all very pretty, first a feast for the eyes and then for the tastebuds, I'm sure.
And the Aina coffee, every bit as delicious as you describe (I can't thank you enough for sending over a bag of those precious coffee beans!!!).
Hey, I was just thinking...you mentioned "outdoor kitchen with a commercial range/oven"...wouldn't it be great to bake bread up there at that farm...such a beautiful place!
:^) breadsong


Franko's picture
Franko

Thanks breadsong!

Chef McDonald has in O'o Farms what most chefs can only dream about, and he uses what it produces to it's best advantage. I really appreciate his style of cooking and his respect for the natural flavours of his ingredients. We're looking forward to going back to O'o and his restaurants on our next visit...hopefully next winter. 

In fact Louis, one of the partners and the fellow who does all the coffee roasting is looking into building a WFO, and yes it would be a fabulous spot to do some al fresco baking in. So pleased you enjoy the coffee! I'm almost out and wishing I'd brought back more, but it is available to order from the Aina Gourmet website. Maybe you and I could put in a bulk order and see if there's a discount of some kind. ;^)

All the best breadsong,

Franko 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Franko,

It looks like you both had a really great holiday; a great way to avoid winter awhile, as you note.

I think Breadsong is onto something here.   If there's a wood-fired grill, then it's a small step to build an oven next to it!!!

Both those plates of food look amazing; my kind of meal!

Very best wishes to you

Andy

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Andy,

Maui is a pretty special place alright, and we had a great time. Nothing like plunking yourself down in the sand and forgetting about work, commitments, or any of the other things that pull on us daily. Regarding a WFO at O'o Farms, see my reply to breadsong, but it looks like it's on the agenda for them. The menu at the restaurants has a great selection for vegetarians and carnivores alike I think. Marie didn't seem to have any problem finding something meatless at any rate. I think you eat fish/seafood..right? Lots of things from the sea on the menu and it's just about as fresh as it gets unless you catch yourself. You'd love it!

Good to hear from you as always Andy,

Franko

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Franko,

Sounds like a great holiday ... look at those big blue skies!

All the meals look beautiful with a great ethos behind them. Thanks for photos and the 'tour' of the farm.

Cheers,
Phil

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Phil, 

It was a lovely break from grey skies and damp weather to be sure. You definitely get the sense that the people who run the Farm and cultivate the fields are deeply committed to what they are doing. The largest piece of machinery I saw on the property, excluding the outdoor kitchen, was a wood chipper they use for building their compost, other than that it seems to be hand tools. The meals we had were gorgeous, but knowing the provenance of the ingredients used in dishes made them even more attractive. 

Cheers,

Franko

teketeke's picture
teketeke

Hi Franko,

I was wondering why you hadn't posted your new bread here for a while.

I am so glad to see your wonderful trip with your wife . The dish with yuzu ponzu, and kabayaki style looks wonderful.

I can't wait to see your new post! 

Mahalo,

Akiko

Franko's picture
Franko

Aloha Akiko,

 So nice to hear from you!

Most of the breads I've been making over the last few months are either ones I've made before and already posted on, or ones that I'm working on for posts to come...hopefully. My free time for participating on the site isn't as available as it was previously either, so that's mainly why I'm not posting or participating as often as I have in the past. 

The dishes we had at Pacifico not only looked wonderful, more importantly, the flavour and quality of everything used in them was excellent. 

All the best Akiko,

Franko

 

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Breathtaking scenery, Franko!

A haven for foodies.

 Makes us praise the creator, all mighty.

I hope you enjoyed your trip.

 

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Khalid,

We had a great time on Maui, very relaxing, lots of reading and walking, swimming, and of course good food! The island is truly a gem. With our latest weather report predicting some snow, I wish I was back there right now...oh well at least I have the photos to look back on. A pleasure as always to hear from you.

Best,

Franko

FlourChild's picture
FlourChild

Thanks for sharing your Maui photo journal, it looks like you had beautiful weather, wonderful food and lush scenery!  Hope you are feeling rejuvenated and enjoying memories of your trip. :)

Franko's picture
Franko

My pleasure FC, and glad you enjoyed the photos. We lucked out with the weather , as the day we left a storm was coming in. I know it was bad enough to have beached a few fishing boats over the next day or so. 

Mahalo!