Lunch on a Farm in Upcountry Maui

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

I was food editor of the Honolulu Advertiser before Hawaii Regional Cuisine came into fruition. In those days, the best restaurants in the Islands boasted European chefs cooking with imported ingredients.

Never mind that every backyard was burgeoning with papayas, mangoes, passion fruit, avocados, lychee and other tropical treasures. Never mind that Hawaii was a melting pot of culinary influences—in addition to native Hawaiian: Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Filipino, Korean, Puerto Rican and many other immigrants called Hawaii home.

All of these assets were ignored in the old days of Hawaii’s haute cuisine.

Fortunately, today, Hawaii is a culinary destination, drawing inspiration from the land, the sea and from chefs of a multitude of cultures expressing their culinary roots. From fine dining to the plate lunch, there is good food to be had in this tropical oasis.

As in many sophisticated culinary cities, farm to table is the mantra of top chefs in Hawaii, who work with farmers to source the highest-quality ingredients to ratchet up their game.

On Maui, one enterprise has taken the table to the farm. In the upcountry farming community of Kula, on the slopes of Haleakala, is the 8 ½-acre O’o Farm, sustainably maintained and biodynamically cultivated.

And in the midst of the farm, is an outdoor kitchen and “dining room.”

Guests can come for a tour and lunch Monday through Thursday ($58 per person; bring your own wine). We arrived at O’o Farm on Friday (an extra tour day was added because of demand that week), after an hour’s drive past cane fields and panoramic views. O’o Farm’s produce is allocated exclusively to its own restaurant operations: Pacific ‘o and I’o restaurants in Lahaina.

We began with a tour of the farm with Ansel Clancy, orchard manager, an impressively knowledgeable guide who showcased the coffee trees, gave us a taste of the coffee skin (surprisingly sweet) and walked us through their entire coffee production, from harvesting, through roasting in their micro coffee roaster—an intricate process controlled from beginning to end, at the farm. We toured the fruit orchards and the vegetable garden, planted with baby kale, frisée, a variety of lettuces and other healthy, leafy greens.

After our group harvested our salad ingredients, we returned for lunch, prepared by Paul Goodwin, Executive Chef of Pacific ‘o, who was filling in for the on-vacation farm chef. Goodwin, a native of Salem, Oregon, has lived and cooked in Hawaii for 14 years, having been recruited to the Islands by Peter Merriman, one of the original 12 chef founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine.

Lunch, served in a beautiful outdoor space, included fresh Ono on a bed of aromatic vegetables, rosemary focaccia, pan-fried tofu, and chicken cooked in the outdoor oven over wattle, as well as our fresh-picked salad, served with a wonderful, citrusy dressing, a recipe Chef Goodwin shared with me.

The initial foodservice recipe makes 2 ½ quarts so I’ve cut it down for home use. Since measurements don’t scale down precisely, you may have to adjust the quantities a bit, upon tasting. I don’t have a kitchen in Maui to test the revised proportions.

O’o Farm Salad Dressing

2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 ¼ cups canola oil
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Put all ingredients in a blender except oil and cilantro. Blend smooth. With blender cover on but central cap removed, slowly dribble in oil, a little at time, until all the oil is incorporated and dressing is emulsified. Add cilantro and blend just until mixed.

Makes 2 cups dressing.

Recipe (adapted) courtesy Paul Goodwin, Executive Chef of Pacific ‘o Restaurant, Lahaina.

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Posted: Oct 4th by Sandy_Hu