The Free Range Gourmet Free range thoughts on the finest ingredients, cuisine, and fine dining in Hawaii.

Range Gourmet

  Local Hawaii ingredients used with an international flair

        ^BNanette^K^H (Gone but not forgotten) 1946-2020


Tuesday, January 30, 2007


We pick the Best Hawaii Food Blog Post of the year 2006

In so many ways, this article is a winner. For one thing, I can't stop drooling into my keyboard. The photos, the descriptions, the detail, the wish that I could have been there:

It's mā`ona's review of a celebratory meal at Chef Mavro's, posted on December 27, 2006.

Read it here.


New York Times editorial on: Tomatoes

It's a small thing perhaps, but I found two slices of a tasty orange tomato on my plate at Town restaurant in Kaimuki lunchtime today, and they were a little bit of joy.

We haven't purchased a supermarket tomato in years, and are always disappointed to find them in sandwiches and salads when we eat out. No restaurant will get stars from The Free Range Gourmet if they serve those tasteless excuses for actual food. There is so much better if they would only take the trouble to go get them.

I know that Americans are conditioned to accept the supermarket variety and so no one else cares. But if you've been buying the tasty varieties available at any farmers market, it's hard to accept the inferior product.

From an unexpected source, a New York Times editorial notebook, comes some information about why supermarket tomatoes are so bad, and the role that our federal government has played in reinforcing the no-taste veg as a standard.

Read the article here. Learn that:
a tomato must be at least 2 9/32 inches and no more than 2 25/32 inches in diameter.

.  .  .

For a backyard grower, taste is everything. But in commercial production, taste is an abstraction. It is what’s left after all the other criteria for a good commercial tomato have been met: disease resistance, regular shape, consistent ripening, the ability to withstand picking and packing and shipping, a long shelf life. Taste is too subjective, according to the Florida Tomato Committee, to judge tomatoes by.
The article ends by blasting the Bush administration for making an exemption so that methyl bromide, banned by terms of the Montreal Protocol, can still be used to ship a variety of winter tomato (the Ugly Ripe) from Florida.

I suppose he's doing a favor for his brother Jeb, but I don't feel like letting him poison me, another good reason to buy local when you can and skip buying the supermarket stuff when you can't.

Try doing all of your shopping at the farmers market. You'll hardly ever have to set foot in the Safeway. You'll get tastier, crisper, more nutrious food, help to keep Hawaii's ag industry going, minimize the use of foreign oil for transport, enjoy life more and feel better about yourself.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Listen to podcasts from Slow Food's University of Gastronomic Sciences in Colorno, Italy

Don Genova, a pioneer of podcasting and a Canadian journalist and broadcaster specializing in food and travel, has signed up for a year at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. He's blogging and podcasting from there.

Check out his blog and podcast for some great listening. He tries to cover the Vancouver scene also, but now from a distance. I expect we'll learn a lot about Italy and nearby parts of Europe as he runs out of canned Canadian material and focuses more on the fantastic experience in store for him in the very special environment in which he will be immersed until the end of the year.

The current episode features an interview with celebrated cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Help keep local milk in Hawaii's school lunches

Federal and state legislation requires schools to increase the nutritional content of school lunches and vending machine contents in order to substitute healthy food for empty calories and junk food. Milk has long been an important component of a healthy diet for children, and so it has been served in the schools since who knows when.

It seems, though, that the feds prohibit discrimination in favor of local dairies, according to an article in today's Honolulu Advertiser, Outsourcing Hawai'i's school milk:
In previous years, there was no question that the DOE would always buy local milk. However, federal rules prevent such favoritism, according to state DOE officials.
The article notes that giving the school milk contract to a Mainland supplier could be the tipping point for the local dairy industry, which has been in decline for some time.

Without a local dairy industry, Hawaii will be vulnerable in the event of a natural disaster or oil shortage that limits the amount of food brought in. Since milk is so important to our children, it would seem that we should take steps to protect our local industry and keep the school milk contracts in Hawaii.

I don't know what's best to do, but I'll bet that our Congressional delegation can help fix this problem. I faxed each of them suggesting that a federal exemption be made for any location farther than (say) 1500 miles from its source of supply. Maybe there's a better way, but that's what came to my mind.

You can help too, and I hope you will. Please make four phone calls. Here are the local phone numbers for our federal representatives. Please tell them to fix things so that Hawaii can continue to supply its school children with local, rather than Mainland, milk. Please do it.

Representative Neil Abercrombie, Phone: (808) 541-2570
Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Phone: (808) 522-8970
Representative Mazie K. Hirono, Phone: (808) 541-1986
Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Phone: (808) 541-2542

Don't worry, you don't get to speak to the congresspeople themselves, someone will take a message. Your call can make a difference--please call right away before you forget. Thanks!

Thursday, January 18, 2007


A pic from the 2006 legislature opening day

I'll have to admit to wondering if this guy, or rather, a distant relative, would be back at the legislature this year. I didn't see him. But I thought I'd share the picture anyway.

Ian Lind's post this morning puts me on notice that he spotted me making off with a Costco chocolate cake. He probably has photographic evidence, too.

I need to reassure him that it was for research purposes only. It's important to have a basis for comparison, right?

And I can report to you that the Costco chocolate cake was better than some legislative offerings, but that many were far better. Costco doesn't do a bad job, actually.

If you'd like to do your own taste test, mark your calendar for opening day next year (January 16, 2008). You'll need to figure out parking nearby since there aren't enough spaces in the basement parking lot to accomodate all the diners ...   er, visitors.

Yes, there is such a thing as a free lunch. Even better, until May, we make the legislators work for it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Rating our state legislators -- what's cooking on opening day

The Free Range Gourmet is proud that it can be the first to rate the performance of our state legislators so early in the 2007 session. We're off to the State Capitol now, ready and willing to undertake this demanding task.

The Capitol building WiFi wasn't working, so although I brought my trusty tablet PC, I couldn't post as I munched my way through the corridors. That's the bad news. The good news is that since I wasn't blogging, I had more time to eat (burp!).

I try to avoid piles of fried noodles, fried chicken, and other fast food and gravitate towards cuisine that shows our lawmakers are thinking of our health as well as our greed. This year it seems the fried stuff was in ascendance. Haute cuisine suffered a setback anyway since Brian Schatz is no longer in the leg.

I started at the top. Unfortunately there are quite a few members of the House (both on the 4th floor and on the 3rd floor). Between sampling all the goodies and trying the WiFi every once and a while, it was quite late before I waddled down (burp!) to the 2nd floor, so I missed most of the Senate action this time. Next year I'll have to start at the bottom and work my way up.

Ok, here we go.

Marilyn B. Lee (D)
Mililani-Mililani Mauka
Vice chairwoman: Finance

Opening day at the Legislature is quite a gala occasion. Often legislators are presented with so many leis that they can literally disappear. Here's Rep. Lee early in the afternoon. Visitors with leis were still waiting outside her office, so good thing I got to snap her while you can still make out who she is.

Rep. Lee knows healthy food. Here is part of her table. Note the colorful veggies. Good food and personal hospitality can be found here every year on opening day.

Michael Y. Magaoay (D)
Chairman: Legislative Management

Rep. Magaoay usually offers quite a spread (was it last year, he had a whole pig, head and all?). This time it was Hawaiian-style food. An army of servers made sure the trays were full. There was also poi and other side dishes on the side table. And of course a long line. Word travels fast in the corridors of power [lunches].

Colleen Hanabusa (D)
21st: Nanakuli-Makua
Senate President

Long line, as befits the new president of the Senate. I never got inside.

It wasn't the longest line, though. Rep. Caldwell's line snaked down the corridor and out into the hall. Sen. Chun Oakland probably set the record: from one end of the line you couldn't see the other end. And Sen. Chun Oakland gets buried in leis several times over.

However, no one who waited to get into Sen. Hanabusa's office looked unhappy, so she is starting off her presidency in the right spirit.

Lyla B. Berg (D)
Hahaione Valley-Aina Haina
Vice chairwoman: Education

Rep. Berg's office was orderly, bubbling with good cheer, and a pleasure to visit. This pic shows one table, there was another with desserts. I'd love it if one could just bring one's own beer, sit down, relax, nosh, and chat. Opening day isn't like that, and I couldn't linger (I didn't bring a beer, either).

Blogger vs. blogger. This is long-time Hawaii blogger and reporter Ian Lind in Rep. Berg's office, snapping me as I struggled to get my cheap camera to flash properly. Note he has a really good camera. A really, really good camera. He was very patient and stood still as I fumbled with the buttons on mine. Is it a guy thing? I better check his blog tomorrow to see if he posted a picture of how foolish I looked.

Dr. Josh Green (D)
Chairman: Health

I'm a sucker for Dr. Green's cheesecake. Each year I choose the Oreo. I love Oreos anyway, and it's on the right side of the long table, near the exit door. So all I have to do is sneak in the exit and grab one.

Actually I had to wait a long time to get a clear shot of the table. Dr. Green is very popular so there was a line outside waiting to come in, and a line inside snatching the cheescakes.

There's another secret though, if you're not fussy. Visit the offices with good desserts first, the lines aren't so long until later. Sure, you can start lunch with cheesecake. Why not.

Yes, the health of our children is important. Keep them away from this cheesecake.

Tom Brower (D)
Waikiki-Ala Moana
Vice chairman: Agriculture

Yes! Chewy mini-bagels--plain, garlic or poppy, and spread it yourself with your choice of plain cream cheese, or cream cheese with lox, chives, cinnamon-raisin, strawberry or garden veggie. I'm from New York and don't understand bagels with strawberry anything, so I went for the lox.

Simple. Elegant in its simplicity. What is more perfect than a bagel, anyway?

Clarence K. Nishihara (D)
Waipahu-Pearl City
Chairman: Tourism and Government Operations

Sen. Nishihara has a nice assortment of desserts, and a quite, welcoming smile. He makes me feel I should visit his office more often. Here's someone who gets the job done. You can tell from his approach to caring for his visitors. Yes, opening day at the legislature is more than just food, it's a relationship thing. You get to know your elected representatives in a special setting.

Gary L. Hooser (D)
Kauai, Niihau
Majority leader
Vice chairman: Energy and Environment

Sen. Hooser had food, but I didn't notice it. I detected the unmistakable aroma of 100% Kona espresso. I was trapped. Terry Teeters was there from Kele's Coffee Roasting Company with just-roasted beans to die for.

For those of you reading this on the Mainland, be advised that we have coffee that far exceeds the coffees you can usually get. We also have Kona Gold oranges that shame Florida with their concentrated sweetness, and apple bananas that laugh at Mainland DelMonte. I could go on. As I sipped the dark, fragrant brew topped with an admirable layer of crema, I was really carried away thinking of how lucky I was to have the opportunity of living in Hawaii and experiencing the culinary miracle of the opening day of its legislature.

Yes, you can get drunk on Kona espresso. It took a great effort not to go back inside and ask for another, but there were more offices to visit, more treats to sample...back to business, such as it is.

Les Ihara Jr. (D)
Majority policy leader
Vice chairman: Human Services and Public Housing

Sen. Ihara's office is usually my last stop. He has had great desserts year after year. A guy you can count on, clearly. I have no idea what else they might offer because by the time I get downstairs and over to his office, it's all gone.

These are Heather's pumpkin bars, made the way I like them. They taste like pumpkin, not like pumpkin spice. And again, the warm welcome from his staff made me feel right at home. Along with some other visitors, we discussed the blogosphere and who was deleting whose comments. Yes, these folks are into computers. They are in touch with the blogosphere. A perfect reminder that eating is good, but I better get home and write all this up.

If you missed opening day at the legislature this year, please do your civic duty and come down next year. It's important to learn which legislators believe in giving back to their constituents. Of course, it's an opportunity, between mouthfuls, to let them know what's on your mind.

I think they should do this more often, not just once a session (hint). Hearings and committee meetings have their place, but arguing for a good cause is easier with a full stomach. With plate in hand, I had a chance to talk with Sen. Menor about gas caps, with Rep. Souki about red light cameras, and with Rep. Green about regulating health insurance premiums.

In the hallways you can run into Mufi Hanneman, powerful lobbyists (hint: anyone with an expensive jacket and tie might be a lobbyist), drug company representatives, and all the activists whose email lists you're on. Activists are good people to check with on which office is serving up the best food, by the way.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Still time to enter tomato recipe contest

An added incentive for us Oahu residents to enter the
Hamakua Springs recipe contest is that, according to this Hawaii Tribune-Herald article, if winners live off-island, they will be provided with airfare and ground transportation so they can enjoy a personal tour of Hamakua Springs Country Farms in Pepeekeo.

Other prizes are gift certificates. The contest runs until January 31, 2007. Check the links above for details.

Now, that should get us all cooking!


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