A man about Town – Ed Kenney’s Town, Honolulu, Hawaii

When the Gastronomy guide for the 2013 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival arrived in my letter box, the timing could not have been better. We were just about to leave for Hawaii and seeing Ed Kenney’s name featured in the ‘Earth MasterClass’ section, (Huxtable are bringing him out for the event) reminded me that I needed to book dinner at his restaurant ‘Town‘, in Honolulu.

A couple of tweets and a 10 hour plane flight later, we turned up on Town’s doorstep, to a super warm Hawaii welcome from Ed, and settled in to read a menu full of ingredients I’d never heard of. Town, which has multiple accolades and awards to its name, is renowned for utilising local produce and promoting indigenous ingredients. Ed is not only passionate about the food he serves, but where it comes from. He is on the Board of Directors for MA’O Organic Farms, Kokua Hawaii Foundation & Sustain Hawaii. His philosophy is that “Food is the unifying fabric of humanity, connecting us to the earth and each other.” Word.

I quickly decided the way to get the most out of this visit was to ask Ed to feed us his favourite dishes until we fell into a food coma, and he was only too happy to oblige. He started us off with the ahi (Hawaiian tuna) tartare served on a risotto cake, with balsamic vinegar, which was superb, both in texture and flavour, and came at us soon after with the cured opah (Moonfish) with pa’ i’ ai (made from taro root), watercress and persimmon which all worked beautifully together. Our extremely sweet and friendly waitress Randi patiently explained each ingredient to us and answered my incessant questions throughout the meal.

The salad came full of avocado, papaya, butter lettuce, pecans, and cucumber, and was served with a ‘green goddess’ dressing (apparently a West Coast US staple but again something I’d never heard of, typically containing a range of fragrant herbs, spring onions and mayonnaise or similar). I’m offically a fan.

We also tried the hand-cut pasta, which was served with a south shore he’e (octopus) ragu, and it was a knockout. I probably wouldn’t have ordered this if I’d known what it was, simply because I couldn’t imagine how you could execute it – more fool me and lucky I wasn’t in charge of the food selection, because this was one gorgeous, rich, hearty bowl of goodness. Slightly salty, beautifully textured with silken ribbons of perfect pasta.


We then had some more opah, this time served with farro, roasted root vegetables, purslane and salsa verde which was moist, sweet and delicious, as was the mahi mahi dish, served with local veggies, limu (Hawaiian algae) and meyer lemon. Then came the extremely sensational shinsato pork chop, served with an ulu (breadfruit) mash and bitter greens. I was only a little mad with Ed that he’d left this til last when I was already getting full because this was some of the best pork I have ever eaten IN MY LIFE. Juicy, tender, with incredible flavour, and the breadfruit mash was like velvet. Oh my. I needed a little rest, and another glass of wine whilst contemplating how I would finish this plate. (I privately congratulated myself at this point for wearing a loose-fitting dress). But finish it I did (I had help), and then it was on to dessert – obviously utilising my altogether separate ‘dessert stomach’ to fit this in.

The meal lost none of its momentum in the ‘wow’ stakes when it came to the dessert. We were spoiled with 3 different dishes – the beautiful satiny buttermilk pannacotta was first, made with local nalo meli honey and served with fresh tropical fruit, and some figs from the tree right outside the restaurant. We then tried the ‘financier’ (from the friand family of French baked goods) made with browned butter and almond meal, and served with prunes which had been stewed in Earl Grey tea, and some whipped creme fraiche. I’m still dreaming about this fluffy treasure 3 weeks later. The piece de resistance for me however, being a self-confessed chocoholic, was the stunning salted dark chocolate pretzel tart which had wafer-thin slices of candied tumeric on top. The tart base was made up of crushed pretzels, offering its saltiness as the perfect foil to the rich, smooth dark chocolate filling. The tumeric was hot and sweet all at once and it just rocked. This was a flavour explosion of the highest order and one of the best things I have ever put in my cake hole.



I cannot rate this restaurant highly enough, and it was truly one of the highlights of our visit to Hawaii. The hospitality at most of the places we ate was excellent but Town’s waitress Randi took it to a whole new level of awesome, to the point where when we left we were hugging her goodbye. For me, Town feels like that place that no matter who you are, or where you come from, you’ll feel right at home. And I can’t wait for Ed Kenney to come Down Under in March 2013 so we can return the favour, take him out and show him our town.

“Local first, organic whenever possible, with Aloha always”. Amen.

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Sweet little mystery – Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ Cookbook

I have a confession to make. My name’s Melissa and I’m a sweet tooth. I always look at the dessert menu first in a restaurant, and I am a self-confessed, card-carrying chocoholic. And I love a drink. Or three.

But I am also an avid fan of Sarah Wilson and have been following her blog for some time. I love her positive, honest messages, and the whimsical, beautiful imagery of her posts. I watched with interest months ago as she invited countless people to follow her ‘I Quit Sugar’ program via Twitter and Facebook. It was like a science experiment that I was observing, waiting to see what happened. And what happened was people started raving about how delicious everything was and how they lost weight and felt amazing and wait…did I mention they GAVE UP SUGAR? Wahhhhh….

I didn’t wanting to have to commit to anything as drastic as cutting sugar out of my diet forever because quite obviously I WOULD DIE, but it had sparked my interest enough to give it a bit of a crack. I wanted to try and incorporate some Sarah’s ideas into my daily life, slowly and gently – after all, my New Year’s resolution this year was to stop eating processed foods, which I’ve been doing (mostly) quite well with.

When Sarah announced the ‘I Quit Sugar’ cookbook I was super excited, and as soon as it was available I printed it all off, as well as using the handy tool on the PDF version to create a shopping list, and got in the kitchen with my pile of new supplies, alongside some of my staples, like coconut oil, LSA, and chia seeds.

I went straight to the sweet section of the book, and started with the choc berry mud, made using frozen berries, ice cubes, avocado, spinach and raw cacao powder and a tiny bit of stevia powder all whizzed together in the blender. The first spoonful was a shock, as clearly my tastebuds were expecting something super-sweet and went into cardiac arrest, but after that it was just plain delicious, very smooth and creamy.

The second little treat I whipped up was for breakfast, using almond milk, chia seeds and some cinnamon. I also added some vanilla, and some raw cacao powder again, because the chocolate taste makes it feel a bit naughty and the end result is something like ridiculously satisfying adult Coco Pops but with NO SUGAR. This is my new work desk-breakfast for ever. Until I try one of Sarah’s other recipes for something else as easy and delicious anyway.

Next was the recipe for chocolate nut balls (are you sensing a theme yet?): I used a mix of walnuts, cashews and almonds, crushed in the food processor, and mixed with butter, coconut oil, almond spread, LSA, shredded cocunut, raw cacao powder (obviously I am going to have to start buying this in 10kg bags) vanilla and cinnamon. After a spell in the fridge, these little babies come out tasting like nutty chocolate crackles. The 7 year old has 2 of them in his lunchbox today and he’s pretty excited about it.

I also took the pumpkin porridge breakfast recipe and turned it into dinner, using pumpkin puree, coconut milk, some galangal, lemongrass, chilli, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce and lime juice and stirring through some cooked quinoa. This was sensational.

This entire experiment has let me experience the true flavours of all the ingredients I’m cooking with, without having everything tinted with a sugary glow. It’s made me think alot more about how much sugar is in just about everything we eat. And best of all it’s given me a huge range of super-healthy options for making snacks at home out of ingredients I now have as standard in my pantry, and every single bite is doing my body the world of good. You’ve got to be happy with that!

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Green Smoothies – local and delicious!

I’ve been banging on about green smoothie goodness for a while now, and here by popular demand is a post dedicated to the what, why, how and where of it all.

Green smoothies are quite simply the result of blending ripe fruit and raw leafy greens together with water.
I like to add lots of other good things to my smoothies, like chia seeds, LSA mix, coconut oil and flaxseed oil, gubinge and maca powder. These collectively do great things for your system like help lower cholesterol, increase metabolism, maximise nutrient absorption, balance hormones, enhance memory function and much more.

The health benefits of green smoothies have been well documented, but Victoria Boutenko’s book ‘Green for Life’ (and subsequent  Raw Family website) is perhaps the definitive guide on the subject.

In Victoria’s own words, green smoothies are good for you because “greens are the most nutritionally dense food available on the planet. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, and phytonutrients. What better way to consume them than in a delicious green smoothie? The fresh ripe fruits dominate the flavor of the greens and the absence of any fats maximize the absorption of the nutrients. These two factors make the green smoothie the most epic nutritious concoction the world has seen to date. Adding even one cup of green smoothie a day to one’s existing diet can dramatically improve anyone’s health. And the best part is, nearly everyone already has what they need to make a green smoothie sitting around in their kitchen right now!’

Another health benefit of the green smoothie is that unlike juicing, you actually retain and consume the fibre which is essential for a good digestive system and helps eliminate toxins from the colon.

A really handy tool recommended to me by a mate is the iPhone app from Raw Family, which gives you ideas for green smoothie combinations, as well as the nutritional value of each of the ingredients – you can get the app here.

So down the the basics – how do you make a green smoothie?

You’ll need a blender, some water, and whatever (preferably seasonal) fruit and fresh leafy greens you fancy.

The types of greens we eat at home (and grow ourselves) are: spinach, lettuce, bok choy, choy sum, kale, and silverbeet (chard). And if we don’t grow it, we buy it from the lovely folk at Ceres, or at one of our local farmers’ markets – see here for your nearest one. We also like to shop at Organic Gertrude in Fairfield, who are kind enough to provide information on where all their fruit and veg comes from, and you can see how many food miles your goodies travelled to get to you!

You don’t need a big garden to grown your own vegies – friends of ours have built an amazing greenhouse on the balcony of their apartment, and we’ve gone down the permaculture route, using existing wine barrels containing our lime and lemon trees, and have planted all our greens around the base of the citrus plants.

<Insert local produce rant here> I’m passionate about supporting local business and farmers, and avoid buying fruit, vegetables, meat (or dairy if I can help it) from the supermarkets. I’d rather know where my food comes from, and thanks to the most excellent work from the good folk at the Victorian Farmers Market Association, as well as the Locavore Edition with their Field Guide to Victorian Produce, it has never been easier or more enjoyable to connect with your local producers and get your food on the the day it was harvested. There’s also the added bonus of being able to sleep at night, knowing the wonderful people who spent their time growing your food are being fairly paid for doing so. <end rant>

Which fruit you select is entirely up to you, but the ones we have had the best results with include bananas, pineapple, mangoes, blueberries, strawberries, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, and some dates for extra creaminess. We try at all times to utilise what’s in season, with the exception of pineapples and bananas which we use year round.

It’s important not to overdo it on the fruit, since fructose is still sugar – but a few well chosen pieces will have your smoothie tasting super-delicious, and you won’t even realise you’ve just drunk a cupful of spinach. And take it from me, if my 7 year old is happy to drink one of these bad boys every single day, then you won’t have a problem downing some of this green goodness!

It’s usual to start with the fruit, so roughy chop your fruit, only peel the obvious ones like bananas etc, core your apples and pineapple etc, take out pips from peaches and so on. Add fruit to the blender jug with at least 1 cup of water. Now is the time to throw in all your awesome additions like the chia seeds, coconut oil etc. Start blending, and once it’s nice and smooth start adding your spinach, lettuce etc. Cucumber is also a fantastic smoothie ingredient. Again, don’t peel it.

Listed below are some ‘beginner’ combinations to get you started – once you get a feel for it, you’ll know what works and what you like, so just experiment and have fun with it. Just remember to rotate your greens and don’t eat the same ones every day. There are many to choose from, so it isn’t hard to do.

1 cup berries (any kind), 2 cups fresh spinach, 1/4 inch fresh ginger, water

1/2 bunch lettuce, 1 cup strawberries, 2 bananas, water

2 big handfuls mixed baby greens, 1 pears, 1 mango, 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1 handful of spinach, 2 bananas, 1 apple, 1 cup water

1 cup spinach and 1 pear, 1 cup water

Once you’ve cut your teeth on these, start getting stuck into the chard, kale, choy sum, etc. You’ll love it!

Some more great recipes from Victoria Boutenko, can be found here.  There are literally hundreds of websites dedicated to green smoothie goodness, and everyone has recipes to share so get googling!

Here are a few to get you started:

http://www.veryediblegardens.com/iveg/green-smoothies

http://greensmoothiegirl.com/

http://www.vitamix.com/household/Health/green_smoothie.asp

http://rawfoodhealthwatch.com/raw-food/green-smoothies-recipe/

http://cheekychimpsmoothies.com/green-smoothie-recipis/green-smoothie-recipes/