Friday, July 03, 2009

More pictures of nutmeg, and my trip to the north shore.

July 3

Boy, Hawaiians sure get up early. Or maybe farmers do, I don’t know, but my second morning in Hawaii I had a 7:45 a.m. appointment with Dean Okimoto, one of the founders of the Kapi‘olani Community College Farmers Market.
My directions for getting there were so easy that I didn’t even turn on the GPS, and in fact it was very easy to find, the only surprise being how far away I had to park at 7:30 in the morning. The place was packed.
I strolled around the market a bit and took pictures of nutmeg, as you can see in the first picture.
The second picture is just a detail from the first picture, because about a third of this blog’s readers are New Yorkers, and they’ve probably never seen a nutmeg fruit before.
Other than the nutmeg and a couple of other somewhat exotic fruits such as soursop — and mango and papaya if you count them — and the fact that the weather was more perfect than at most farmers markets, it was pretty much a farmers market. Dean explained that the inspiration for the venture came from time he spent in San Francisco. And indeed, it did have a sort of Bay Area vibe somehow, and lots of temperate-climate vegetables.
Those are new crops in Hawaii, Dean explained, driven in part by chefs who want to use more local produce, and by farmers who have been priced out of the pineapple and sugar cane markets by lower production costs elsewhere in the tropics (everywhere in the tropics, I would think, except maybe Singapore).
Dean himself is the head of Nalo Farms, which specializes in salad greens (indeed, I’d had some the night before at Orchids). I asked if it was a challenge to grow lettuce that wasn’t bitter, as the tropical sun tends to do that to lettuce, and he said that, indeed, it was, and in the summer they had to harvest the greens at a younger age than at other times of the year.
So that was interesting.
I snacked around a bit — a little pulled pork sandwich made by the culinary school students, some curry musubi, a bit of roasted corn.
There was a lot of prepared food at the farmers market, which I guess is okay, but Dean said they had 60 merchants at the market and a waiting list of 40 more who wanted to display their wares. I'd think I'd want to give priority to the farmers who are selling their own stuff, but I’ve never tried to run a farmers market, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Then it was time to check out of the Halekulani and move about a block over the the Royal Hawaiian, a procedure that, given the one-way streets and the fact that neither the GPS nor I were sure, exactly, what little unmarked side alley we were supposed to drive down to find the hotel, took about half an hour. In fact, I tried at first to check into the Sheraton Waikiki, which is considerably less upscale than the Halekulani (or, as it turns out, the Royal Hawaiian). Sheraton owns the Royal Hawaiian, too, so the receptionists, even while managing a patient herd of tourists standing in line, were able to direct me to my proper hotel.
“The pink one,” one of them said.
The Royal Hawaiian is, indeed, pink. And there's no typical front desk there at which to check in. Instead there are several fairly opulent desks. You are supposed to sit down at one end, across from the uniformed hotel employee who will help you while you sip a light, refreshing beverage presented to you as you sit down. It’s very civilized.

But it being 10:30 a.m., my room wasn’t ready.
No matter, as I was driving to the north shore anyway to have lunch at a seaside place called Ola.
“Turn right on [brief pause] *ee *oy street,” the GPS said.
“On where?" I asked it as I found myself in the wrong lane to turn onto Piikoi Street.
The GPS isn’t very good at pronouncing those hard voiced consonants, but it does provide an interactive map, and its verbal instructions are also written on the screen.
“Recalculating.” said the GPS and she started pointing me to the airport.
I thought maybe she’d had enough of me and that her next instructions were going to be: “If you think you’re so smart, get out and find a way to fly to the North Shore, dip-shit.”
But no, we headed north and without too much fuss ended up at the Turtle Bay Resort.
Ola looks like a touristy seafood shack that sells fried clams, calamari and, if you’re lucky, cold beer. But instead I had a tuna poke salad, and baby octopus with orechiette pasta in a coconut milk sauce that might have had just a whiff of curry. I was kind of shocked by its deliciousness.

Here's how the menu describes those dishes:

Ahi poke
North Shore Limu, onion, Inamona, Kahuku sea asparagus, sesame soy.

Grilled baby octopus
Orechiette pasta, spinach, Maui onion, roasted pepper, citrus, lemon grass herb oil, crab luau cream.

Oh, and the chef is Fred De Angelo.

To view all the blog entries about my trip to O‘ahu, click here.


ylee said...

I'd have loved to see a photo of you holding a nutmeg, for scale. They look giant... are they? (I could ask the Google, but it's more web 2.0 to ask you :)

And this reminds me of an excellent book I read about the history of nutmeg harvesting and its connection to the founding of New York City, speaking of NYC readers: Nathaniel's Nutmeg. The writing I recall as being so-so but the history is totally fascinating.

Bret Thorn said...

I now must learn what nutmeg, a plant from the Spice Islands of Indonesia has to do with the founding of New York, although now that I think about it the Dutch connection is pretty clear.
At any rate, a nutmeg is about the size of an almond in its shell. the fruit's about the size of an apricot.
That reminds me of a day I spent in the Sumatra town of Tapak Tuan in January of 1992. That’s the opposite end of Indonesia from the Spice Islands, but clearly nutmeg was growing there, too, as it drying on canvas all over the place. It was, like, 105°F out, and the air was redolent of the stuff. Mmm.
From what I understand, Tapak Tuan, being on the northwest coast of Sumatra, was devastated by the 2004 tsunami. I asked the Google how it’s doing now and couldn’t find an answer.

Paul Adams said...

"The sobriquet 'the Nutmeg State' is applied to Connecticut because its early inhabitants had the reputation of being so ingenious and shrewd that they were able to make and sell wooden nutmegs."