Local Beef Short Ribs. Big Island Beef Cheek Terrine. Oyster-Marinated Tri Tip with Crispy Oysters.
These new menu items at Pahu i‘a—just selected by Zagat as the number one restaurant on the Big Isle—are sourced from local, grass-fed beef. In fact, they are the result of the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai’s new sustainable grass-fed beef program that utilizes the entire animal—basically from head-to-tail.
This approach, of cooking the whole animal, has more value to our local ranchers. In fact, one of the goals of Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range has been to educate chefs and attendees about the benefits of using all the different cuts of meat, including the unfamiliar ones–like the rich beefiness of flap.
Executive Chef Jim Babian, who was recognized in 2010 for his use of local products by the statewide Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers, says using the whole animal fits into the resort’s theme of sustainability. “We want to support our local beef industry while adhering to our culinary direction of regional and artisanal.”
Babian says it also makes financial sense as the award-winning Four Seasons Hualalai uses a lot of meat for its on-site restaurants and staff cafeteria.
“Using the whole animal requires more work, more labor, but gives us an opportunity to do more in the kitchen,” details Babian, who lights up when sharing how he’s in the process of concocting Big Island hot dogs. “We’ll definitely benefit from getting all the bones as well.”
The Four Seasons Hualalai is purchasing 21-day aged, whole beef carcasses from Kulana Foods in Hilo. According to Kulana’s Tom Asano, it’s the first time a resort has committed to a beef carcass purchase program in the company’s 72-year history.
“This is very exciting,” says Asano. “Chef Babian’s standards are very high and we are happy to meet his expectations with our island grass-fed beef.”
At a recent Pahu i‘a menu tasting for resort staff, Chef Babian detailed the new grass-fed menu items, as well as a host of others featuring fresh foods sourced from around the island.
They include savory Kona Abalone with coconut and kaffir lime or Roasted Beet Salad with Hamakua goat cheese, kukui nut brittle and Ka’u orange vinaigrette. Wild Boar Two Ways is on the menu—a grilled loin chop and a guava-braised shoulder, served with three types of Waimea beans—a sort-of “pork and beans.” Chef says he’s cooking nose-to-tail with the pork too.
“Of the 41 items on the menu, only a handful of ingredients are imported in from elsewhere,” details Babian, who relies on over 160 local farmers and fishermen to provide the resort’s food.
Chef is especially proud of one of Pahu i’a’s specialties, the Tri Tip with Crispy Oysters. “This is my favorite item; all the main ingredients are from the Big Island,” chef proclaims. That includes the meat, seafood, choi sum and kabocha pumpkin.
“Tri tip can be chewy, but it’s good and we are one of the first restaurants preparing it,” he notes. To make it fork tender, the cut is marinated 24 hours and then cooked in a sous vide at 137 degrees to break down the connective tissue. “Then we grill it to order,” he says. (A sous vide cooks food sealed in a plastic bag in a controlled water bath.)
At the resort’s Beach Tree restaurant, diners can also find grass-fed menu items. “We grind the shoulder and brisket to make our burgers,” says Chef Jim. Beach Tree’s Chef de Cuisine Nick Mastrascusa uses braised oxtail for ragout to go with his homemade gnocchi. The scrumptious dumplings are his grandmother’s recipe.
“We salute Chef Babian and the Four Seasons Hualalai for stepping up to support our hard-working ranchers by buying the entire animal carcass,” says Marla Fergerstrom, interim farm manager and herdsman of the Mealani Research Station. “Using the whole animal is a key component to ensure the sustainability of our ranching industry.”
Fergerstrom adds, “It is extremely nice to see the efforts of Taste are being demonstrated through Chef Babian. He could definitely be starting a trend for our local, grass-fed meats.”
Information on dining at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, phone 325-8000 or visit the website.
Food shots by Fern Gavelek