The Ultimate in Sustainability
Early on in the history of restaurant dining, only the most privileged class could afford and
patronize restaurants so menus catered to those with lots of extra spare cash including the most
decadent ingredients whether it was truffle and foie gras in France, swallow’s nest and shark fin
in China or eggs and oysters during the California gold rush. Of course as time marched on, the
industrial revolution allowed those in the middle class to also occasionally enjoy a restaurant
prepared meal all the way up to our current generation where virtually anyone can dine out. Of
course at some point, the raw materials for these wonderful meals can cross the breakpoint
where there just isn’t enough to go around. Like the red drum during the Cajun blackened
redfish craze of the 80s or the current plight of Bluefin tuna due to the incessant demand for
maguro and o-toro. So over the past 10 to 20 years, younger generations of chefs have
sustained a movement of using sustainable ingredients. And especially here in the 50th where
we’re isolated in the middle of the Pacific with shipping fees that are so exorbitant that local
cattle ranchers find it cheaper to ship a 1000 pound animal round trip to fatten stateside than
to continually ship grain to the 50th…
So all restauranteurs should be practicing sustainability so subsequent generations can also enjoy
the bounty of the harvest. Otherwise we’re all doomed to consuming… Soylent Green.

A Step Further

A new generation of chefs in the 50th have taken purchasing local and sustainable a step
further. By incorporating invasive species into their repertoire of ingredients. Seaweed that grows
so fast it chokes out native species and threatens coral by blocking sunlight. Feral pigs that
constantly burrow for food and in doing so create pits where water collects creating the perfect
breeding ground for mosquitoes which contribute to avian malaria and decimates native bird
species. Or introduced fish species that breed faster than indigenous species and take over whole
ecosystems by simply outbreeding everything else. We can just organize mass eradication efforts
of these invasive species to rebalance nature but that takes time and money and what do we
now do with dump truck loads of seaweed, swine or fish. Bury them in landfill? That’s not
solving anything. It simply solves one problem but creates another. But even invasive species
often are alternate food sources so…

If you can’t beat ‘um, eat ‘um!

Which is exactly what Chef Ed Kenney of Town, the Kaimuki Superette and Mud Hen Water did
in creating a dinner utilizing these “pests” in the 50th. He either used them as additions to, the
focal point of or to prepare a fabulous meal we recently sampled. To take a step back, Chef
Kenney’s Invasive Species Dinner was one of many items up for bids during last year’s Hawaii
Food and Wine Festival online auction. Ever since sampling his Whole Hog dinner about 4 years
ago, I knew I had to win the auction. Fortunately there was a “Buy it Now” option which I
promptly selected ensuring that I secured the dinner. So fast forward several months with the six
of us eagerly anticipating our Invasive Species Dinner. The menu looked like this with the
invasive species in bold font:

gorilla ogo, pohole, grape tomato,
basil, shallots

piccolo frito with ta’ape, fennel, sweet onion,
lemon, remoulade

mangrove planked opah, local veggies,
salsa verde

hand-cut pasta, venison Bolognese

wild boar loin, navy beans, lacinto kale,
vinaigrette

kiawe financier, pineapple, honey

The starter salad with gorilla ogo was an updated version of the usual ogo, tomato and raw
onion salad served at many luaus in Hawaii. It’s a little thicker than the prized Gracilaria species
that’s normally used but because it grows so fast, it has a tendency to overwhelm coral blocking
the sunlight from other seaweed thus killing both coral and native seaweed alike. But mixed
with the vegetal crunch of blanched pohole or young fiddlehead fern shoots with succulent
grape tomatoes and fresh basil made it one of my favorite dishes of the evening.
Ta’ape or the blueline snapper were intentionally introduced to Hawaiian waters from French
Polynesia about 40 years ago. Marine biologists are still uncertain whether their rapid
propagation comes at the expense of indigenous reef fish but they seem to be everywhere… in
very large numbers. But like most snappers, they have a mild, flaky white flesh that takes to
many cooking preparations including the deep fryer. So we were served a plate of batter coated
mixed morsels and while the ta’ape was good, my favorite was the fried slice of lemon.
Our 3rd course wasn’t an invasive species but rather it was cooked on an invasive species. Chef
Kenney used a slice on mangrove wood the way you would (pun intended) utilize a cedar plank
to bake fish. Makes a lot of sense to me, instead of paying a lot of money for cedar planks, just
use mangrove planks which basically are free… short of the elbow grease needed to saw the
planks…
The pasta course once again returned to an introduced species though I think its habitat impact
isn’t as severe as the rest. Venison primarily is limited to certain ranches and the populations
that may have escaped from those ranches don’t cause havoc like our friends that ended the
savory courses.
Wild boar. What can you say about these critters and the damage they do to the environment? I
think it’s universal wherever they establish wild populations whether it’s contributing to avian
malaria in the 50th to damaging native flora by their incessant digging and rooting and the
subsequent soil erosion that ensues. And never mind running into a mother sow with her piglets
while hiking or biking. Those tusks can maim and even kill. When I actively mountain biked
years ago, we used to joke that if a wild boar started to chase you on a bike trail, you didn’t
have to out bike the boar… you just had to out bike the guy next to you. But I did see them
occasionally cross the bike path. And though we were served the loin, this boar did remind us
that wild boar carries a lot less fat than their farm raised cousins and had a lot firmer muscle
structure.

Huli-Huli Anyone?

I see one species in The City that I’m sure everyone will agree is a pest. And it’s not even
considered weird cuisine as the French have been dining on these for years. Those Histoplasma,
Cryptococcus and Chlamydia propagating feathered nuisances also known as the pigeon. Because
they’re about the size of Cornish game hens or young chickens, I’m sure they would be quite
tasty marinated in shoyu, sugar, garlic and ginger then charcoal grilled while constantly
turning… huli-huli pigeon anyone?