Innaugural Hawai’i Island Ranchers Dinner at Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai

Inspired by storied lands, Hawaii’s leaders in education, agriculture and culinary arts have cooked up a deliciously innovative collaboration in the 2014 Hawai‘i Island Ranchers Dinner at Sam Choy’s Kai Lānai, Friday, February 28, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. Presented by Choy and prepared by Executive Chef Scott Hiraishi, the Ranchers Dinner not only highlights local-grown foods and sustainable grass fed beef, but offers the chance for diners to meet and eat with the farmers, ranchers and chefs who bring “farm-to-fork” full circle.

Executive Chef

Executive Chef Scott Hiraishi.  Photo by Britten Traughber

The Ranchers Dinner is the first in a series of collaborative culinary-agriculture projects of Kamehameha School-Land Asset Division (KSLAD) in partnership with the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture. KSLAD manages 365,000 acres of Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate land, bequeathed for the education and betterment of her people by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop in 1884. Of those, 160,935 acres are agricultural property on Hawai‘i Island alone.

“Two out of three Kona Coffee farms are on KS land,” said Land Asset Manager Les Apoliona, explaining that part of their mission is to support agricultural education, business planning, and farmer certification programs. Working to connect Hawai‘i Island food producers with skilled chefs also connects agriculture to hospitality and tourism. “It’s about relationships,” said Apoliona. “We are actively exploring various options, and looking at partnering for a sustainable Hawai‘i.”

Hiraishi is doing his best to further the concept. Hawai‘i born and raised, Hiraishi has worked alongside Choy for much of the last two decades, starting as young culinary student. When the iconic Sam Choy’s Kaloko location closed, Hiraishi expanded his career into resort service at the AAA 5-Diamond Four Seasons Resort Hualālai and the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay. Hiraishi has cooked for the International Food and Wine Travel Writers Welcome Reception and the James Beard Celebrity Chefs Tour Reception at Mauna Lani Resort, and was a featured chef at Taste of the Hawaiian Range.

In 2010 Hiraishi once again teamed up with Choy for his new Keauhou location, which is located on KS land. The connection became clear. Bringing the best food from the region to the tables of one of the region’s best restaurants completes the circle—supporting the vision of sustainable local agriculture that nurtures business and vice versa.

“I’ve learned so much from the entire experience,” said Hiraishi. “One of the most important things—to get the freshest ingredients you can—is to talk to the farmers and work with them. When you can’t find something specific they will go out and find it for you, or grow it for you.”

For the Ranchers Dinner, Hiraishi created a five-course plated feast with wine pairings that stars select cuts of versatile Hawai‘i Lowline Cattle Company beef, including “cook your own” Tenderloin with ishi yaki (Japanese hot stones) where guests may interact with Choy and Hiraishi. Also in the spotlight are creative preparations of Local-Style Oxtail Soup, Beef Tongue, Flank Steak, Rib-Eye, Short Ribs and more, served with Hāmākua Mushrooms, fresh vegetables from Living Aquaponics farm and other products sourced from local farmers markets. Dinner concludes with a smile, and Chef Scott’s Chocolate Macaroon “Cow Pie.”

Cost of the Ranchers Dinner is $75 per person which includes select wine pairings and a custom logo “Ag Bag” with sampling of ingredients used in the menu. Only 75 seats are available for the exclusive dining event and reservations are required. For more information, visit www.SamChoy.com, follow Ranchers Dinner at Sam Choy’s Kai Lānai on Facebook, or call 808-333-3434.

Today – Sam Choy’s Keauhou Poke Contest

Let’s bring on the competition! Challenges celebrity Chef Sam Choy. The first annual Sam Choy’s Keauhou Poke Contest is this weekend on Sunday, March 18 at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa’s Convention Center.

Open to both amateurs and professional chefs, competition is in four poke categories: traditional, spicy, cooked and with soy sauce.

Doors open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. March 18 for culinary activities, Hawaiian entertainment, a Hawai‘i Island Marketplace and a presentation on sustainable aquaculture.

Poke critiquing begins 10 a.m. by a panel of judges including Carla Tracy, dining editor of the Maui News, and Fanny Au Hoy, retired Hulihe‘e Palace curator. Contest awards, followed by public tasting, are at 12:30 p.m. Event emcees are radio personalities Kimo Kahoano of Honolulu and Ke’ea Alapa‘i of KAPA.

Headlining the entertainment lineup is The ROOKI’s:  Don Kauli‘a on slack key, Russell Paio on guitar, Keola Grace on electric bass and Pomaika‘i Brown on a “frypan” steel guitar. The Hawaiian group’s name is an acronym for the Royal Order of Kamehameha I.

More culinary fun includes a Celebrity Poke Cook-off with surprise guests at 11:30 p.m. Don’t miss when celebrity chef Sam Choy shows “how it’s done” during the 1:30 p.m. demonstration, “How to Make Poke by Sam Choy.” A TV host, cookbook author and founder of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine, Choy put poke on the culinary map with his delicious recipes using cubed fish. Pronounced poh-KAY, poke is typically raw or cooked fish seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt, spices and sesame oil, and then accented with seaweed, nuts and other ingredients.

Event attendees can also browse for locally produced foods at the all-day Island Marketplace, which will feature produce and value-added products by local food purveyors and farmers. Guy Toyama, of Friends of the Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority, presents “NELHA: a Catalyst for Sustainable Seafood Production” at 10:30 a.m.

Public admission to all contest activities is $3 at the door (keiki 12-and-under are free) and proceeds benefit the future culinary facilities at Hawai‘i Community College-Palamanui. Free shuttle will operate from Keauhou Shopping Center (pickup near Longs Drugs) to the contest from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Sam Choy’s Keauhou Poke Contest is part of Keauhou Resort’s annual Kamehameha III celebration March 16-18 that commemorates the Keauhou-born king, Lani Kauikeaouli.

The contest is sponsored by Kamehameha Investment Corporation, Kamehameha Schools, the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort Spa, Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai, Aloha Shoyu and Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company.