Wednesday, October 7, 2009

No Mac Salad!

It's not every day that a couple of top chefs from Hawai'i come to town and offer to prepare a feast for me. Well, it wasn't just me, but I was part of a lucky group of travel and food writers who attended this delicious event Monday night at the Lake Oswego branch of In Good Taste.

The Hawai'i Visitors and Convention Bureau sponsored the event, which featured Neil Murphy, chef at Merriman's Waimea, near Parker Ranch on the Big Island; and Faith Ogawa, a celebrity private chef also known as 'Olelo Pa'a.

There were a number of tasty appetizers waiting for us, but once we were all gathered around the kitchen we were served a starter by way of introducing Hawai'i's tea industry. Who knew? Of course, I'd heard of Kona coffee, but there are also some thriving artisan tea plantations on the Big Island. We were served a cup of organic green tea, along with a biscuit with diced taro baked in. Each little biscuit was cut in half and spread with macadamia nut butter and mango jam. The plate was garnished with the the three tender leaves that are picked from a tea bush for processing into tea leaves.

Neil and Faith just kept on cooking and plating small helpings to be passed out among us. There was fresh abalone cooked in butter and capers; filet mignon from the Parker Ranch, served with Maui sweet onions carmelized and cooked with bone marrow; pureed hearts of palm with lemon zest, milk and butter (move over, garlic mashed potatoes!); chili with tenderloin beef and Portugese sausage; kalua lamb wrapped in cabbage and served with a coffee BBQ sauce; fish; shrimp . . . and what have I forgotten? No, not mac salad. That didn't make it onto the menu.

For a palate cleanser we got a dollop of mango sorbet drowned in a healthy dose of Ocean artisan vodka from Maui. Between the vodka and the wine, there was a lot of toasting going on. Faith's exuberant toast was "Ho'o kahe inu!" She said it means, "Never drink alone." I'd better look that up in my Hawaiian dictionary before I yell it in a crowd.

A member of the contingent from Hawai'i was Charmaine Tavares, Mayor of Maui, who was celebrating her birthday on October 5. Dessert was birthday cake, as well as a yummy little brownie made with chocolate grown and processed on Hawai'i Island, along with ice cream. A perfect dessert.

As we departed we were each given an apron and a copy of the Hawai'i Farmers Market Cookbook. A lot of the ingredients listed are easily found in Portland, although a special trip to Uwajimaya might be in order to find some of the more exotic items.

Events like that one remind me how lucky I am to be a freelance writer, with opportunities for fine meals and travel popping up here and there. Most of us freelancers aren't rich in financial terms, but our experiences can't be beat. As another writer said to me after finishing off her abalone, "Aren't you glad you aren't a checker at Costco?"

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