Last month, my super-awesome BFF Marisa (check out her work on Instagram @BalancingLeaves) invited Shake and me to be her guests at a special pop-up dinner held at Livestock Tavern in Chinatown. The dinner was to be a seven-courser, with wine and cocktail pairings, cooked by chefs Lamont Brown and Bob Bates (also producer of the documentary Ingredients Hawai‘i) and featuring produce from Holoholo Farm and their Holoholo Food Hub partners (Nozawa Farm, Mana Micro Farm and Fresh Island Fish). Think it sounds fantastic? It was.
Holoholo General Store is a multi-farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program that sources sustainably grown or certified organic produce from North Shore farmers. You can subscribe and get a CSA delivery or pick up at an established drop site. As a Food Hub, they’re able to help smaller farmers connect directly with consumers by providing a means of distribution. They also invite volunteers to get dirty and do some farming with them (your sweat equity earns you some tasty fresh produce) or take a tour. If you thought the edible Hawaiian Islands Farm Day challenge I mentioned in last week’s post sounded fun, but just couldn’t participate that day, you can hit up Holoholo Farm and arrange a farm day of your own.
And now, on to the food!
We started with a “Whiskey and Pickle Back” with a local whiskey blend and a “chaser” of actual pickles. Haha, cute, right?
The Paniolo whiskey is a blend of Kentucky straight whiskey and pineapple distillate (it doesn’t taste like pineapple at all, don’t worry, you purists) from Hali‘imaile Distilling Company, the folks who make Pau vodka and Sammy Hagar rum.
The first course was by Chef Bob Bates and was a take on a deconstructed ‘ahi Niçoise salad. He called it a “Tuna Salad Sandwich,” as it was served on crostini, like an open-faced sandwich. A very nice start to our dinner. This was paired with a pinot grigio. (Hover over the photos for more detailed descriptions of the wine pairings.)
Course Two was the weakest of the bunch. It was intended to be a “Rice Porridge,” kind of like a chazuke (tea rice) bowl with broth, vegetables and scallops. However, the rice was not as soft as it should be, and it needed more broth to really be called a “porridge.” The scallops and vegetables had a wonderful taste, though. (And in the end, it was all for the best that I didn’t eat my rice anyway—too full!)
This was another wine pairing course, this time with a Pinot Noir Rosé. Sorry, I can’t remember which chef made this dish. I actually am not too sure on most dishes, to be honest. I forgot to take notes, I was so busy enjoying the food!
The next course, No. Three, was our favorite. Don’t freak out: It was corn fungus. Chef Lamont Brown served huietlacoche over a sweet corn cake with crème frâiche and Thai chile sauce. (Actually, if memory serves, Chef Lamont said he couldn’t get the chiles, so that element was nixed.)
The black stuff is the huietlacoche. I’ve linked to the Wikipedia page, but yeah, you probably really don’t want to go look. Basically, it’s a fungus that infects the corn and then instead of corn kernels, you get these tumorous, black lumpy growths. It’s gross. But delicious. If you read about it, you won’t ever want to try about it, so just trust me when I say, it was sweet and earthy, a bit funky (reminiscent of Kō Hana agricole rum, actually), a great complement to the corn cake. We wanted more.
It was paired with a delicious cocktail by “Dr. Joey” Gottesman, which he called “There’s Fungus Among Us.” Ha, ha, ha, Joey. The drink was tequila-based, with Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, fresh lime and orange bitters. He rimmed the glass with Tajín seasoning, which I am totally in love with, ever since having it on Chef Quentin Frye’s fried potatoes at Cocina. (By the way, Chef QF is no longer at Cocina, but they are still serving up tasty food.) The sour/bitter profile made a good contrast with the sweet/earthy taste of the food.
Course Four was fish, monchong, with mustard greens, bacon-braised beans, arugula and chimichurri. It was a pretty healthy serving of fish, so this is where Marisa and I started to get full. I love chimichurri sauce, but the highlight of this course for Shake was the beans. He’s really into beans. I guess I should make them for him more often.
Next up! This was a decadent course of arugula and beets with a bone marrow-topped crostini accented with citrus vinaigrette. Chef Lamont roasted the bone marrow with mango to give it sweetness.
I loved it, except the beets, which I doled out to Shake and Marisa. (I tried a bite of one, to see if this might be the time I like beets. It wasn’t.) Marisa eats much more sensibly than we do, so the richness of this did her in, and she surrendered half her marrow and crostini. I was tempted, but there was no way I could finish it and still expect to eat any more dinner. So Shake scored.
This course was served with my favorite drink of the evening, “The Richness,” a rum cocktail, with hibiscus and Punt e Mes sweet vermouth. The sweetness, and the bitter bite of the vermouth, offset the oily heaviness of the marrow.
A break to acknowledge the hardworking chefs who made this delicious dinner: That’s Chef Bob on the left, Chef Lamont on the right. We were given a copy of Bates’ film, Ingredients Hawai‘i, as a take-home gift. I’ve been wanting to watch it since I learned about it. Now I just need some, what do you call it? Free time?
Course Six was big, a pork belly confit with sautéed rainbow chard and baby kale with red lentil purée. This defeated me, although it was quite delicious. The lentils were especially tasty. I should learn to cook lentils. They had a nice earthiness that balanced out the decadence of the pork belly. Most of this went home with me for lunch the next day, plus a few bites from Shake’s servings. (Still yummy.) Marisa took most of hers home for her hubs, who couldn’t make it to dinner with us.
Finally, dessert! This Basil-Lime Semifreddo was a nice choice by the chefs (again, can’t remember whose dish it was!) because it had a nice, rich taste, but no heaviness. It was topped with macadamia nuts and a bittersweet chocolate sauce.
By the way, aren’t all the flower garnishes so pretty? Marisa got a kick out of eating all of them. Me, too.
The dessert was accompanied by a cocktail Joey called “The Garden Fairie,” a concoction of Oxley gin, fresh lemon, lavender honey, egg whites, St-Germain and a dash of Peychaud’s bitters. Very refreshing after all the food. Like a lemon-honey garden party in my mouth.
Well, that’s it! Are you stuffed imagining all this food? So here’s the sad news: When we asked Chef Lamont (who made our favorite dishes, the corn fungus and the pork belly) where he cooks so we can visit him and make him feed us some more, he said, “Nowhere. I work for a restaurant supply company. I only do catering every now and then.” What?!? Sadness. We hope that Holoholo Farm will organize another dinner and feature him. (And then we’ll take Marisa as OUR guest!)
Before I conclude, I have to give kudos to Jill Nordby, Holoholo Farm’s founder, and her team for setting up this dinner. Jill was incredibly sweet, and when Shake told her at the end of the meal how much he loved the snap peas in the rice and scallop dish, she charged into the kitchen and came back with a bag brimming with peas for us to take home. (Jill, I made a stir fry with them, and they were delicious, sweet and crunchy! Thanks again!) I wish these hardworking ladies all the success they can handle.