16th Annual Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agriculture Festival Coming Up!

Hailing from Honolulu to Hilo and beyond to LA, nine new restaurants and their chefs are participating at the 16th Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agriculture Festival on Friday, Sept. 30 at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.

Mealani's Taste of the Hawaiian Range

They join a total of 35 culinary stations offering local, forage-fed meats prepared with fresh fruit and vegetables. Meats on the menu include a variety of dry-aged, grass-fed beef cuts—everything from tongue to tail—plus lamb, mutton, goat, pork and wild boar.

Four of Taste’s culinary newbies are also fresh to the Big Isle’s dining scene: Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai of Keauhou-Kona, Eddie Aikau Restaurant & Museum in Waikoloa, Kohala Burger & Taco in Kawaihae and Red Water Café in Waimea.

Chef David Abrahams of Red Water Café and Hawaii Gourmet Society will be making savory roast beef from grass-fed beef bottom round. Each culinary station gets 100 pounds of meat to concoct into a delicious culinary creation.

Grass Fed Beef Tasting Station

Grass Fed Beef Tasting Station

“What’s fun about Taste is our meat assignment is a surprise so we’re challenged to come up with a dish,” says Abrahams, who participated before at Taste while with Merriman’s. “I’ve been assigned everything from tongue to tripe and getting bottom round, a flavorful cut, is a plus. I’ll be doing a special preparation, I’ve been mulling around a few ideas.”

Taste’s format of assigning chefs a variety of meat cuts fulfills its goal of educating both chefs and attendees that all the cuts of grass-finished beef can be enjoyed. In addition, with more of the animal being used, there is less waste and the value of the product goes up—a plus for the local livestock industry.

Mealani's Taste Of The Hawaiian Range and Agriculture Festival

Mealani's Taste Of The Hawaiian Range and Agriculture Festival

While Hilo native and Waiakea High School alum Chef Ken Takahashi also isn’t new to Taste, his year-old restaurant is. The owner of Honolulu Burger Company on O’ahu is assigned grass-fed ground beef and he’ll be making Hamburger Lollipops to wow Taste attendees.

“We’ll be using shitake mushrooms from Hamakua, feta cheese from Naked Cow Dairy and Maui onions to craft the ground beef into the meatball treats,” details Takahashi, who prides himself in using as much Hawai‘i product as possible. “Then we’ll tempura fry the meat on the stick. It’s going to be fun and I look forward to coming home.”

Eddie Aikau Restaurant & Museum

Grass-Fed Beef Burger with Local Greens & Sweet Potato Fries from Eddie Aikau Restaurant & Museum.

Also returning to Taste, but with a new restaurant, is Chef Kapolanialaimaka “Kapo” Kealoha of 4Kings Kitchen in Honolulu. Other O’ahu eating establishments making their debut include the Pagoda Restaurant in Honolulu and ‘Umeke Market in Kahala.

Earning his Taste culinary chops all the way from California is chef and author Robert Wemischner. The Los Angeles-based professional pastry chef and culinary educator has authored four books: The Vivid Flavors Cookbook, Gourmet to Go, Cooking with Tea and The Dessert Architect. He comes to Taste on the heels of preparing a host of tea-infused delectables at the LA International Tea Festival.

“I’m looking forward to being the only mainland chef to participate, tying together Hawaiian-grown beef and tea in a tea-braised brisket with wasabi cream,” details Wemischner. He will use a combination of oolong and black teas and says his dish will showcase “the best of localvore eating.”

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 chocolate, honey, vegetable chips, red veal, sugar cane juice, grass-fed sausage and more. Also on display will be ag-related educational exhibits. It’s all part of the culinary adventure at the annual event that showcases the isle’s grass-fed beef industry while bringing together local ranchers, farmers, restaurateurs and eager eaters to celebrate a bounty of locally produced food.

Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range is 6-8 p.m. and sprawls from the Hilton’s Grand Ballroom to the Lagoon Lanai. 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 2011 installment of Grass-Fed Beef Cooking 101. This year’s guest presenter is KTA’s Derek Kurisu of TV’s “Living in Paradise.”

Tickets prices for the evening Taste and Cooking 101 demo are conveniently sold online at www.tasteofthehawaiianrange.com.Taste tickets remain priced at $40 presale and $60 at the door, while the fee for the cooking demo is $10. The above link also lists ticket sale locations.

The Hilton Waikoloa Village offers Taste of the Hawaiian Range Kama‘aina Room and Ticket Packages (code TST) starting at $229 plus tax for one night stay on Sept. 30 and two event tickets. Pre- or post-night accommodations are available starting from $149 per night (code MTH). Visit www.h-wv.com/taste or phone 808-886-1234 and ask for the “Taste of the Hawaiian Room Deal” specials.

Anyone who requires an auxiliary aid or service for effective communication or a modification of policies and procedures to participate in this event should contact Leomi Bergknut at 808-987-3432, as soon as possible and no later than September 23, 2011.

Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agriculture Festival provides a venue for sustainable agricultural education, encouragement and support of locally produced ag products. The premiere ag-tourism event is a partnership between CTAHR, Hawaii Cattlemen’s Association, Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, Kulana Foods and community volunteers. Sponsorship also includes the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Hawaii County Research and Development, Big Island Resource Conservation & Development, Hawaii Community College Food Service & Culinary Program, Kamehameha Schools, KTA Super Stores and Hawaii Beef Industry Council. The quality and growth of this event are rooted in small business participation, sponsorship and in-kind donations. For more information, visit www.tasteofthehawaiianrange.com.

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