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Kauai festival celebrates isle food

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Farmer Bryna Storch, right, checks the rosemary growing in 22*North's garden with the restaurant's manager, Todd Oldham (in green shirt), and chef de cuisine Aaron Leikam.

For once, Olivia Wu was at a loss for words. In 2005 the staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle’s Food and Wine section was on deadline for a story about eating locally grown food. Needing a catchy word to describe supporters of the movement, she sought ideas from Jessica Prentice, a respected professional chef, cooking teacher and author in the Bay Area who had been her primary interview for the piece.

Prentice coined the term "locavore," based on the Latin words "locus," meaning "place," and "vorare," "to devour." Foodies embraced the term, and in 2007 the New Oxford English Dictionary chose it as its Word of the Year.

In a blog post for the Oxford University Press in November of that year, Prentice explained, "This movement is about eating not only from your place, but with (the) sense of place … that you get from eating a particular food or drinking a particular wine. I like the literal meaning of ‘locavore’: ‘one who swallows or devours the place!’"

The definition of locavore has since been refined to mean someone who seeks to eat food that is prepared and served within a 100-mile radius of where it has been grown or caught. Kilohana Plantation’s restaurant, 22°North, is leading the movement on Kauai.


» Place: Kilohana Pavilion, Kilohana Plantation, 3-2087 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue, Kauai

» Date: Next Sunday

» Time: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

» Cost: $35 per person; $17.50 for children ages 6 through 12; free for kids age 5 and under. Tickets are available online and at 22°North, Larry’s Music Center in Kapaa, the Ukulele Shop in Koloa, Wrangler’s Steakhouse in Waimea, Scotty’s Music in Kalaheo, Hanalei Music’s Strings & Things in Hanalei, and Kawamura Farm and Deli & Bread Connection in Lihue.

» Phone: 338-0111

» E-mail: barbara@kauaikai.org

» Website: www.kauaifoodfestival.com


"We like to call our food ‘Kauai meats and produce accented by flavors and condiments from around the world,’" said general manager Todd Oldham. "Obviously, there are items we can’t get on Kauai, such as wine, olive oil and flour, but the majority of our ingredients are grown on the island. We believe food should come from a field, not a freezer. Nothing is processed. Our menus reflect the cycle of the seasons, so you can enjoy a meal that is at its peak of freshness and flavor."

By January nearly all of 22°North’s herbs, fruits and vegetables will come from Kilohana Plantation. The restaurant maintains a 2-acre garden at the historic visitor attraction, which, built in 1936, is the former estate of sugar magnate Gaylord Wilcox. It also purchases produce from the 30-acre orchard and two small family gardens on site.

Oldham and chef de cuisine Aaron Leikam are outdoors just about every day, picking beans, squash, eggplant, papayas, mangoes, avocados, basil, thyme and dozens of other ingredients that will appear on guests’ plates a few hours later. Leikam and his staff smoke their own fish, make their own bacon and sausage, bake all their breads and prepare their jams from scratch.

Because of their commitment to the locavore concept, it was natural for Oldham to assume the role of co-chairman and Leikam to take on duties as chef co-chairman for next Sunday’s Garden Island Range & Food Festival, which was launched last year to promote Kauai’s ranching and agriculture industries. A few days before the event, 15 chefs from hotels, restaurants and Kauai Community College’s culinary arts program will be paired randomly with a locally grown meat, fruit or vegetable. They’ll create a dish for the festival featuring that ingredient.

In the process, the chefs will discover new products and dream up new preparations for familiar ones, farmers and ranchers will establish valuable business contacts, attendees will graze on fabulous food and a promising culinary student will receive a KCC scholarship funded by the proceeds. Everybody wins.


1. Visit a farmers market.

2. Lobby your supermarket to stock locally grown food.

3. Choose five foods in your house that you can buy locally.

4. Find a local community-supported agriculture program like the Kauai Agricultural Initiative (www.kauaikai. org) and sign up.

5. Preserve a local food for the winter.

6. Find out which restaurants in your area support local farmers.

7. Host a local Thanksgiving.

8. Buy from local vendors.

9. Ask about origins. Not locally grown? Then where is it from?

10. Visit a farm.

Source: www.kauaifoodfestival.com


Waimea resident Barbara Bennett is the festival’s chairwoman and the founder of the Kauai Agricultural Initiative, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to encourage growth in the production of produce and forage meats; nurture strong relationships between producers and chefs; educate producers, "culinarians" and consumers about quality, locally grown food; raise awareness of the industry among government officials, residents, businesses and visitors; and promote careers in agriculture.

"I founded KAI in January 2009 because of my passion to see agriculture on Kauai grow," Bennett said. "The Garden Island Range & Food Festival is one way to bring more attention to agriculture, farming and the concept of growing home gardens. Like many kamaaina, I wonder why we import more than 90 percent of our food. Most of our keiki have little knowledge about growing food as a step toward self-sufficiency."

The festival is based on the Big Island’s popular Taste of the Hawaiian Range, which drew 1,400 people to its 15th annual celebration in September. Bennett would love to see Kauai’s festival experience the same growth.

For now she’s looking forward to welcoming 500 people to this year’s event. In addition to ono food, they’ll enjoy games; hula performances; live musical entertainment; drawings for great prizes, including tours, massages and rounds of golf; chatting with farmers and ranchers; and viewing displays of nutritious, delicious Kauai-grown products.

"It’s an educational experience as well as a tasting experience," Bennett said. "Kamaaina will enjoy learning about what their neighbors are doing to develop an ethos of compatibility, tranquility and sustainability on this beautiful island that we inhabit. Visitors will appreciate seeing and sampling our local lifestyle and the wonderful variety of products being grown here. The Garden Island Range & Food Festival is a true taste of Kauai."

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Advertiser have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.


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