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|Finding Farm-to-Table on Molokai|
|Written by Ann Shepphird|
At first glance, the Hawaiian island of Molokai may not appear to have all that much to offer the farm-to-table foodie. There are only a smattering of restaurants in the main town of Kaunakakai, and two of the best feature burgers and pizza. But, like a lot of things on Molokai, dig a little deeper and you'll find an abundance of fresh local (and, yes, organic) products. For instance, that burger spot, Molokai Burger, has a sign outside stating its meat is sourced from local ranches (and the burger was yummy) and the vegetables topping the pizza at the Molokai Pizza Cafe were incredibly fresh.
The truth is the island has always been an agricultural powerhouse, with its earliest inhabitants farming taro, sweet potatoes and fish ponds more than a century ago. Heck, even the high school mascot is a farmer (above) -- and a read of the local newspaper and signs alongside the road highlights the importance of agriculture (and, as with the other Hawaiian islands, the tussle between proponents of sustainable farming and the presence of Monsanto) to the community. With most accommodations on the island coming with kitchens or kitchenettes, Molokai offers a great chance to take advantage of truly local Hawaiian offerings.
Here are some gems we discovered on a recent trip:
Hotel Molokai: The former Hula Shores Restaurant at the Hotel Molokai (left), long considered the best restaurant on the island, closed two years ago after a fire. Chef Tante Urban of Tante's Island Cuisine recently took over management of the food and beverage operations at the hotel in partnership with a local family and, while they rebuild the restaurant, is offering a grill menu Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (when the hotel has its popular Kupuna Night featuring local musicians). The mahi mahi we had there was some of the freshest of our whole trip and Urban recently told the Molokai Dispatch that he plans to work with Molokai food producers, farmers and fishermen to feature local ingredients as much as possible in the reopening of the restaurant.
Farm Tours: A must-visit on the island is the organic Kumu Farms (right), which is known for its papayas, bananas and herbs and has a farm stand open Tuesdays-Fridays, where the lovely Ettie will ply you with more fruit than you know what to do with (especially on Fridays). Their shop has a wonderful array of local products such as honey and a body mist made using their fruit and herbs as well. Other farms available for visits include Purdy's Macadamia Nut Farm, where you can visit with Tuddie Purdy (a true character) and pick up some of his fresh-roasted (no oils or sugar, just very tasty, roasted, healthy) macadamia nuts; Molokai Plumeria, where you can see where they grow the flowers you find on leis throughout the islands; and Coffees of Hawaii, where you can visit the plantation or just stop by the shop and cafe to pick up some locally grown and roasted coffee. Some of their roasts are made from organic beans grown in partnership with Kumu Farms.
Kaunakakai: The main town of Kaunakakai hosts a Saturday morning farmers (and crafts) market and is also the scene of the famous hot bread runs at Kanemitsu Bakery. Other local gems are Kamoi Snack 'n' Go, which serves Hawaii-made Dave's Ice Cream (including one that features Molokai's famous purple sweet potato), and tiny Tiki's Coffee Shack, which offers local Molokai coffee, fresh food and a particularly yummy smoothie made with kale, papaya and mango -- with the kale coming right out of young co-owner Kaua Lester's own garden (our truest garden-to-table find).
If you are visiting the island, also make sure to catch local musician and storyteller Lono (left), who performs at the Paddler's Inn in Kaunakakai on Tuesday nights; as part of the Kupuna Night at the Hotel Molokai on Fridays; and leads workshops, including the annual Uke Ohana ukelele festival, at Pu'u O Hoku Ranch, a biodynamic ranch, farm and retreat center on the east side of the island. Also in Kaunakakai is Kalele Bookstore & Divine Expressions, which offers local arts and gifts (at a variety of price points) in addition to books. Owner Teri Waros is a great resource on how to get the most out of what you're looking for on your visit to Molokai, including how to have a box of organic produce ready for you when you arrive (see #9 on her travel tips page).