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


Thursday, July 31, 2008


Surfing Goat Dairy is first Hawaii farm to be certified humane

Congratulations to this well-respected goat farm on Maui. From today's Star-Bulletin story:

Surfing Goat Dairy on Maui now also has the distinction of becoming the first Hawaii-based producer to receive the Certified Humane Raised and Handled label from Virginia-based nonprofit group Humane Farm Animal Care.

To qualify for the label, farms must meet precise standards for the treatment of farm animals, which include a nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones, adequate shelter, resting areas, and sufficient space to support natural behaviors.

For those of us on Oahu, the article indicates that Whole Foods will carry Surfing Goat products. So just a little more patience please...

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Eel Alert

Unagi donburi Today is Doyo-no-Ushi-no-hi according to the Japanese calendar. When we lived in Japan, it was the day when we just had to eat some unagi. Everyone did. It was, by custom, the hottest day of the year (and although it’s already mid-afternoon as I write this, it’s getting hotter every moment)!

The day wanders on the Western calendar. It’s calculated by the ecliptic path of the sun, so each year it is different. And there can be more than one of them (good for us eel lovers).

So although unagi (eel) is a popular dish at any time in Japan, on this particular day there was competition for seats at neighborhood eeleries everywhere, and supermarkets were piled high with fresh and frozen eel.

Trouble was, all sorts of eels were served that had been imported from Taiwan or elsewhere and which were, frankly, not at all as good as the local product.

Except at the top-notch eel joints. Since I was an executive in a joint-venture company, I had access to places that most foreigners didn’t even know existed. We did very well in the eel department.

In Hawaii, the holiday is hardly known at all, so there is no mad rush at the supermarket.

For the six of you who already know about Doyo no Ushi no Hi, you’ve either bought your eels at Don Quijote (theirs are imported from Japan; Costco’s are from China), or you’ve made your reservation for a kabayaki lunch at one of the finer restaurants.

To learn more about how this holiday fits into Japanese custom and its seasonal cuisine, I recommend this article. There are handy links there on how to prepare unagi yourself.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Shout-out at the Banana Leaf Pasta Cafe

This happened to us before, at the Grand Cafe in Chinatown. Maybe its a new law of physics. It has something to do with critical mass. And a lot to do with poor restaurant design.

We dined last night at the Banana Leaf Pasta Cafe, in the McCully Shopping Center. It was our second visit. it seems fair to give a place a second try. Maybe last night will be enough for awhile, though.

The pasta was competent, but not special. We felt that for the price charged, one can do better elsewhere. I can't complain about my Spaghettini with Fresh Clams, but neither can I praise it. It was ok. I asked for it al dente and it came al dente, though a bit on the chewy side. Nanette chose the Chicken with Anchovies Spaghettini and reported it to be acceptable and properly al dente.

We were just saying that it would be ok to drop in again if we were nearby and really wanted to have some pasta. Service was very friendly and attentive, and we noted that while the room was very live, we could easily hear each other so it wasn't difficult to hold a conversation. But it was early, and the center table, which could hold ten, was empty. We wondered what would happen if a party or large family were to come in.

We ordered dessert. A large family came in.

Taro Ice CreamNanette ordered the Panna Cotta and I asked for the day's special ice cream, taro.

At this point a normal conversation was impossible. the family was having a good time, and we were shouting at each other. By the time the desserts arrived, the family was having a very good time, everyone else was shouting too, and we could no longer shout loud enough to hear each other across the table.

That's the new law of physics I think. When the number of diners in an acoustically live space reaches a critical mass, the noise rises to a level where a normal conversation becomes impossible and remains there.

We couldn't talk any more and just wanted to leave. Our dining experience was ruined by the cacophony.

Oh, the Panna Cotta was gritty, not silky smooth (compare to Town's unbelievable buttermilk panna cotta), and the ice cream, though colored deep purple, had no taro character at all. It tasted strongly of coconut.

The last time we were here we tried their Tiramisu, which was unrecognizable as Tiramisu and disappointing.


Banana Leaf Pasta Cafe
McCully Shopping Center #103
1960 Kapiolani Blvd.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96826
(808) 946-3338


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