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


Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Hawaii food blog The Cuis-Zine added to blog list

Thanks to blogger Anuhea for letting me know about her food blog The Cuiz-Zine. I've added it to the blog list over on the right side column.

Anuhea describes herself in part:
I am a college student in Hawaii, soon to be LA who enjoys eating, cooking, and visiting restaurants, all while learning about culinary culture. ...
She's also an avid photographer, it seems, and sprinkles her culinary adventures amply with scrumptious illustrations.

Click on over there to see what Anuhea is cooking up for her lucky fiance.


More than you want to know about your food

Just after posting my previous article on food safety I discovered a disturbing report in the Cape Cod Times, FDA inspectors overwhelmed by food imports. Do not, I repeat, do not, read this article before dinner.

I cantell you that it made me sick. Here are some excerpts:

Billions of dollars' worth of foreign ingredients that Americans eat in everything from salad dressing to ice cream get a pass from overwhelmed inspectors, despite a rising tide of imports from countries with spotty records, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal trade and food data.
When U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors at ports and border checkpoints look, they find shipments that are filthy or otherwise contaminated. They rarely bother, however, in part because ingredients aren't a priority.
You don't have to be a Ph.D. to figure out that ... if someone were to put some type of a toxic chemical into a product that's trusted, that could do a lot of damage before it's detected," said Michael Doyle, a microbiologist who directs the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety.
Please do read the entire article. There you can read how supplier drove a truck over tea leaves to dry them with exhaust, which leached lead into the leaves.
I almost feel bad about posting this at all. I'll bet you felt ok before reading it, but now???


Safety of US food supply in doubt

Recently I posted in Bioterrorism made easy: the contaminated pet food wheat gluten was "food grade" my fear that melamine-contaminated ingredients might be found in food for human consumption, and that bioterrorists could get evil ideas about this. Could Bush's defanged FDA protect us?

In an article in today's USA Today, Human foods to be tested for melamine, the writer recapped the discovery of melamine in hog food and revealed that grain-based products used in human food will be inspected.

The threat is obvious: the FDA has to resort to testing after the fact. That is, if the stuff is found, it's because it's already in our food supply. Too late to keep it out. So what happens if someone puts something really bad in our food supply?

The article mentioned that melamine might be found in products such as:

baby formulas, breads, pasta, cereals, pizza doughs, protein shakes,energy bars and some vegetarian foods.

Yikes! What is there left to eat?

I'm not sure that this country's food supply can be adequately protected even with the best FDA oversight.

We buy most of our food from the KCC Saturday Farmers' Market. But still, the bread sold there, for example, is not made with ingredients sourced in Hawaii. Still, I think the melamine crisis is one more good reason to develop Hawaii's agriculture to the extent reasonable and possible, so that we will be less dependent on the foibles of imported products.

Try some North Shore Farms tomatoes or organic veggies from Ma`o Farm. Read The Free Range Gourmet. Eat local, stay healthy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Will Kokua Market survive the arrival of Whole Foods?

Kokua Market held a grand opening for its new expansion this past Saturday. I was anxious to see whether they had grown and strengthened sufficiently to withstand the expected onslaught of Whole Foods, a powerful Mainland chain, originally scheduled to open in the Ward area in 2008.

As it happens, according to an article in the Star Bulletin, Whole Foods eyes Kahala Mall, construction has been delayed at the original site, and so Whole Foods is in negotiation for a possible opening at Kahala Mall in the space formerly occupied by Star Market.

On my mind was the closing many years ago of Software Plus just ahead of the arrival in Hawaii of big box CompUSA. The handwriting was on the wall then, and I am wondering what the appearance of two Whole Food markets will mean for comparatively tiny Kokua Market. There was no way that a local computer retailer would survive the competition from the large Mainland chain. Will a similar situation impact the health food market in Honolulu? Can Kokua Market find a niche to keep currently dedicated customers coming?

The Ward location will give Whole Foods a tremendous advantage. It will be surrounded by condos and so will have a huge nearby customer base. For many, it will be the closest food store of any kind, since there are no supermarkets located in that neighborhood. With an income most likely assured, Whole Foods may well engage in predatory pricing. Why not, it's the big-box modus operandi. It's second nature to many big-box chains.

A Kahala location will be attractive to East Honolulu customers and those wanting to grab some organic veggies on the way home from work.

No doubt Whole Foods will indulge in extensive newspaper advertising as well.

So as I cruised around Kokua Market looking for something I might buy to take advantage of the 15% member discount, I also checked out their newly expanded space to see if it would bring new advantage to shopping there. I brought my latest toy, my beloved cell-phone camera, with me to document anything special.

The new deli counter should have been a prime target, but it fully fit in my narrow viewfinder. Posting a picture would be an embarrasement, so I didn't even press the button. The cheese counter was about the same as pre-expansion, with less of a variety than at some times in the past. A demo of rice pudding was underway, but the product was nothing special, I wouldn't buy it. They'll have to do better.

With so few choices, unless the deli counter is re-thought, I wonder if it will attract very many new customers. Anyway, that was my first impression on Saturday. It would be fair to visit again and see what they're cooking up.

So what advantage might Kokua have? Standing near the deli counter, I looked around. I was surrounded with displays of packaged foods. Packaged noodles to the right of me, packaged Indian dishes to the left, packaged soups on the lower shelf.
I picked up a package of the Annie Chun's soup from the sale display next to the deli counter. These are soups of various kinds pre-packaged in a plastic bowl. The price was certainly attractive.

Turning the package over to look at the nutrition label, I first noted that a serving size is defined as 1/2 bowl. C'mon, now. That's an old ploy. Who is going to eat half a bowl and then push it across the table for the spouse to finish?? No, one bowl is a serving in real life. The 730 mg of sodium would have been outrageous for one serving, but now we're dealing with 1460 mg of sodium, or 60% of the day's allotment in this little bowl of soup! And of course, the meal will likely have some other packaged food as well, you can't live on soup alone.

Rotating 180 degrees I found myself facing a display of Indian packaged food. Picking up a Kitchens of India Palak Paneer package, I found that one serving was defined as 1/2 cup, and that a package is said to contain 2.5 servings. Right. Most people will probably divide the package in half. But for the 1/2 cup there is 800 mg of sodium, or 33% of the daily amount. And this is just one meal, not even complete yet. Also, of course, what looked like a bargain is really a high price to pay for ordinary salt.

Figure that between these two dishes one would get 100% of a day's worth of salt. And there's usually more to a meal than this.

Why did I go through this? Well, if this is what Kokua is offering... if this is what they expect me to buy on sale... I don't think so.

Sure, Whole Foods, Safeway, and other stores have products that are similarly questionable, or worse. But for a small market to survive these days, I feel it has to offer wholesome produce fresh from the market and a variety of other decent things to eat. Most of what I was surrounded by, I wouldn't take home.

On the other hand... if it's sugary cereals and quasi-health food that most people are looking for, maybe the formula is correct (sigh).

I know nothing of how to achieve success in the highly competitive retail world. Since I like shopping in Kokua, I wish for their success, and I hope they will indeed find a way to compete against relatively giant Whole Foods, which will have the junk of course, but a larger assortment of healthier choices and perhaps more competitive prices as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


"Liveblog" should be Moblog

Actually, I used the wrong term. What I was experimenting with in the prior post is properly called a Moblog. I just had to try my new Nokia 6133.

There's not much flexibility, and the battery, which has a disappointingly short lifetime in this phone, was about to give up the ghost. In fact, I didn't have enough juice to take or post a photo of the wine labels. Mansfield labels look like the spines of fine leather-bound books, it would have made a nice shot.

The Mansfield wines are available in Hawaii only from HASR.

If I can get there close to 5 p.m. one day I'll try moblogging again. Subscribing via RSS feed should get you the news within minutes, so you'll have time to come over if you're nearby. I'll try to have more info next time (batteries willing).

We didn't buy any wine this time but we did pick up some sake. The sakes available for tasting were:
  • Kurosawa Jun Mai
  • Otokoyama Jun Mai
  • Okunomatsu Ginjo
  • Mu Junmai Dai Ginjo
  • Hananomai Jun Mi Dai Ginjo
There was also some interesting wasabi salt, "Ono Poki Wasabi," to go with the edamame and sake. It will also be available for tasting at Don Quijote 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. tomorrow through Saturday along with some chilipepper salt. These things may be gimmicky, but it went well enough with the sake. If I understood correctly, the wasabi (which was the first ingredient listed on the label) is from the Izu Peninsula, which is where we used to go to buy our wasabi roots when we lived in Japan. The salt was from an island in Korea. Whatever. How long will these fads actually last?


Liveblog from HASR

Sake tasting at HASR tonight until 7 p.m. if you see this in time. Some great wines too.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Unique and flavorful treats at the KCC Market

There may be no more wasabi at the KCC Saturday Farmers' Market, but there is no shortage of treats. Look for fresh poha berries at Fresh From the Farm. These come from Hana Fresh and are grown chemical-free. When you buy these, you support the Hana Community Health Center.

Eat the poha berries fresh, within a couple of days of purchase. They make great gifts--each one is individually pre-wrapped in its little five-section paper container.

Another delectable treat is the smoked salmon and taro lau lau that you will find at the Taro Delights tent. This is a winning combination. Nanette re-heats these just before serving by boiling the water in the microwave steamer, then she plops the lau lau into the top, covers it, and zaps them for two minutes. The salmon is both rich and succulant and the whole dish is wonderfully aromatic. Don't miss this for a rare dinner treat, fresh and made in Hawaii.

For those of you who are reading this on the Mainland, I'm sorry, but you'll just have to plan your trip to include a Saturday visit to the market.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


No more fresh wasabi at KCC Farmers' Market

I was just about to post that I found stainless-steel wasabi graters at Longs Drugs Pali, of all places, when the bad news came in--due to some kind of black fungus problem, there won't be any more fresh wasabi at the KCC Saturday Farmers' Market.

It's enough to make you cry. What a letdown. All those plans on how to use wasabi in both washoku (Japanese cooking) and yoshoku (Western cooking) now given up.


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