New Chefs, Product Booths Debut at 2013 Taste

There’s something for everyone at the 18th annual Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agriculture Festival 6-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village:

  • Enjoy fresh food using local ingredients—starring forage-fed meats—by 35 chefs
  • Taste local ag and value-added products and meet the folks who produce them
  • Browse among ag-related educational displays

Culinary Newbies

Chef Ronnie Nasuti

Chef Ronnie Nasuti

Five of the 35 participating restaurants are Taste first timers. Like the rest of the Taste chefs, they are assigned to prepare 100 pounds of a certain cut of grass-fed beef—or lamb, mutton, goat or commercial and feral pork.

Pork is on the menu for two new participants. The Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa is partnering to use commercial pork with Kamehameha Schools. Chef Cory Nazara of Mahina Café in Captain Cook is serving her version of kalua pork.

Debuting from O’ahu is Chef Ronnie Nasuti of Tiki’s Grill & Bar in Waikiki, who is preparing mutton; and Chef Mark Noguchi of Pili Hawai’i and TASTE Table in Honolulu, who is assigned to prepare beef skirt.

Newly opened Pueo’s Osteria in Waikoloa Village is also making a first appearance at this year’s event and preparing lamb. Chef Jim Babian, a staunch supporter of local ranchers and farmers, owns the new Waikoloa Village Restaurant. Chef Babian, who recently served as executive chef at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, is no stranger to Taste and last year presented Grass-Fed Beef Cooking 101 to a sell-out crowd.

Booths and Displays

Hawaiian Granola Company

Hawaiian Granola Company debuts at Taste 2013

In addition to “grazing” at a host of culinary stations, festival goers can enjoy samples from a variety of Hawai‘i’s local food producers offering tastes of their products. Also on display are ag-related educational exhibits.

Barbara Andersen of Hawaiian Granola Company debuts tastes of her original recipe breakfast treat at this year’s Taste. The Hilo resident started making granola for guests at her Shipman House Bed and Breakfast in 1997, focusing on using local macadamia nuts, plus mac nut honey and oil.

Hawaiian Granola Company also concocts recipes using island-sourced ginger, coconut and coffee. Andersen says the granola is “pure, with few other ingredients,” including brown cane sugar, vanilla and oats. “I use nice, chewy oats that have a heft to them, which gives granola a nice body.”

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel serves Hawaiian Granola at its Sunday brunch and it’s sold at isle retailers.

Got Pork?

Pork Industry booth at the Hawaii State Farm Fair.

Pork Industry booth at the Hawaii State Farm Fair.

On the heels of a recent, new event that promotes heritage breed pigs, Cochon Island, the Hawaii Pork Industry Assoc. (HPIA) returns to Taste with an educational booth that offers tastes of char sui and smoked commercial pork.

Dr. Halina Zaleski, extension specialist with UH Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, says the booth provides info on pork’s nutritional value and how to best prepare it.

“People tend to overcook pork; there’s no need to make it into shoe leather,” she says. “It should be cooked to 145 degrees and can still have some pink to it; it should be juicy.”

The booth will also be staffed by Big Isle residents Ron and Daphne McKeehan of Ahualoa Hog Farm and Ryan Okimoto, livestock technician at UH-Hilo’s Panaewa Farm.

With a goal to educate and support all 200 of Hawai’i’s pork producers, the HIPA also promotes the use of pork.

Get Your Tickets!

Chef Hubert Des Marais

Chef Hubert Des Marais

Pre-Taste activities include a culinary demo, with sampling, on how to use and prepare 100 percent pasture-raised beef. Time is 3 p.m. for the 2013 installment of Grass-Fed Beef Cooking 101 and the fee is $10. This year’s guest presenter is Executive Chef Hubert Des Marais of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, who will be preparing boneless brisket and tongue.

For details on purchasing tickets online or islandwide for the evening Taste and Cooking 101 demo, visit Taste of the Hawaiian Range. Taste tickets remain priced at $40 presale and $60 at the door. Watch for ticket giveaways and event updates on Facebook at Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Twitter #TasteHI. For general event information, phone (808) 969-8228.

Hawai’i residents can take advantage of Hilton Waikoloa Village’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range Package with rates starting at $229 per room on Oct. 4 that includes two tickets for Taste. For details, and to book a stay under an exclusive Taste of the Hawaiian Range room package (code TSH), visit http://bit.ly/14wUunL or call 1-800-HILTONS.

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Look Who’s Cookin’ at Taste of the Hawaiian Range: Ronnie Nasuti of Tiki’s Grill & Bar

Chef Ronnie Nasuti

Chef Ronnie Nasuti

A favorite chef at this year’s Hawaii Chocolate Festival on O’ahu, Chef Ronnie Nasuti of Tiki’s Grill & Bar wowed attendees with his chocolate pasta dessert, which was showcased on Honolulu morning news shows. Chef makes his culinary event debut on the Big Island at this year’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and shares a recipe for Pulehu Grass-Fed Filet Mignon.

Working in Kitchens Since 14

Chef Nasuti grew up in Massachusetts. His first restaurant gig was as a dishwasher. At 17, he became a kitchen manager at a classical Northern Italian restaurant where he assisted the chef/owner on a daily basis while honing his culinary chops. Nasuti finished four years of culinary arts in high school and further developed his trade through an apprenticeship at Boston’s Copley Plaza Hotel; the apprenticeship was sponsored by Les Dames d’Escoffier. Nasuti says Julia Child was a member of the Les Dames chapter there and he got to meet her.

In Hawai‘i he worked at Horatio’s (now Kincaid’s Restaurant) and then joined Chef Roy Yamaguchi and crew working at various Roy’s Restaurants in Hawai‘i Kai, Waikiki and Poipu, Kaua’i. Nasuti also served as executive chef at the award-winning Chez Michel, the location formerly at Eaton Square in Honolulu.

After a proven record of successful culinary stints, Chef chose to “hang his hat” at Tiki’s and has been steering the Waikiki establishment to a higher level of dining and elegance. He believes in being an effective and motivational trainer, from both the front and back of the house.

Q: How would you describe your cooking style and please give some examples.

A: A fusion of Hawaiian/Pacific Island Cuisine with American Cuisine. I believe in the locally grown food movement and have visited farms and built strong bonds with our food producers. I rely on island-fresh produce, proteins and breads to create signature items and dinner specials like Nalo Shiso-Seared Tofu Salad using Mrs. Cheng’s island-made tofu, Waimanalo greens, local tomatoes, Kula onion and a soy vinaigrette. Another is Bacon and Lemongrass-Crusted Ono served with Molokai potatoes and lilikoi chili butter sauce.

Q: Why do you use grass-fed beef (GFB)?

A: To support local farmers and to provide our clientele with something that’s healthier and tastes better.

Q: What are your favorite GFB cuts and why?

A: I like the primal cuts like filet mignon, ribeye, striploin, etc., as grass-fed beef has more “bite” than the grain-finished stuff. (Primals are the sections of the carcass—like rib, loin and round—used to create specific beef cuts.) To keep it in our price point at Tiki’s, I use primarily ground beef. We sell lots of great burgers as we are a “Grill & Bar.” I use about 210 pounds a week.

Q: Do you let patrons know on your menu they are eating GFB?

A: Our guests definitely know they are ordering Big Island ground beef in their hamburgers! It states it on our menu

Q: What other local food products are your favorite and why?

A: I love all local products. The idea of getting product that wasn’t shipped thousands of miles—in an economy we’re the bulk of—is key to our success and collective effort towards sustainability. Anything that we can get locally and is within our price point is on our menu! In addition to grass-fed beef, baby greens, herbs, lettuce, local tofu, tomatoes, potatoes, various vegetables, melons, fish and abalone are some of the local products we use. To call one a favorite, I’d say maybe opihi; though it’s not too easy to get, but defiantly a delicacy, I love octopus also.

Q: What are your favorite “fun” things to do here in Hawai‘i? 

A: I love to get in the water. I try to find more ways to do it. I got a jet ski and some paddle boards recently to give me more excuses to get in the ocean. I love to motorcycle ride also. Anything that gets me outside! I love to cook, but most of that happens indoors.

Tiki’s Grill and Bar is located at 2570 Kalakaua Ave in the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, 808-923-TIKI (8454). www.tikisgrill.com

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