Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
We are in the third full month of the COVID-19 pandemic and besides supporting local businesses by purchasing weekly take-out, my wife and I have also found alternative means of supporting local food purveyors. We recently made the drive into town from our home on the windward side to explore the to-go menu offerings of MW Restaurant (https://mwrestaurant.com/to-go-menu).
Husband and wife team, Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka, have been offering take-out service at the MW Restaurant since late March when Gov. David Ige issued the stay-at-home order. On the menu was a selection of their take on classic plate lunches and complete meals feeding three to four people. They also offer weekly themed specials that highlight a local farmer or feature a food theme.
My wife and I decided to check out “Bar Night” which featured favorite local-style bar foods. Apparently the Ueokas like to prepare Korean dishes. We ordered kalbi noodles (grilled kalbi on fried noodles); meat jun made with American wagyu beef with melt-in-the-mouth, lightly battered cutlets of beef surrounded by an assortment of pickled local vegetables (banchan); kim chee fried rice topped with two sunny-side-up eggs; and garlic-fried jidori chicken. The Mrs. noshed on fried chicken skin. If this had been any other fried chicken, she would have peeled the skin and tossed it — it was that good!
Chef Karr-Ueoka’s dessert is always a must-have, so we ordered four: the strawberry “Pop Tart” with the flakiest dough I’ve ever eaten, the apple-cinnamon “hand pie,” the Valrhona chocolate pudding cup which was the best chocolate dessert I’ve tasted all year and several of their “bombucha” grandma cookies which were oatmeal-chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookies.
MW also sells local produce from Ho Farms, MA‘O Organic Farms, Twin Bridge Farms and Mrs. Cheng’s Tofu to support local farmers and food purveyors. And since the County is currently allowing sales of “adult” beverages with the purchase of food items, I also picked up a bottle of Kin No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin to support their bottom line as any wine, beer or liquor that sits on idle shelves of any restaurant is just like letting cash sit on the shelves that could help pay for rent and health insurance.
Founder Ignacio Fleishour started Makana Provisions in collaboration with Hawaii Meats to provide the 50th with grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free locally raised beef that are also processed in a local U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected processing facility. Currently, some of Makana Provisions’ products are sold in the Times Supermarket chain, but due to the stay-in-place orders, they also offer island-wide delivery for just a $5 fee (or you can pick up at their Kapolei facility) on Fridays.
For $58 (on special) we ordered the 10-pound Ohana Meat Box online (hawaiigrassfedbeef.com) which includes four individual one-pound packets of ground beef, three pounds of stew meat and three pounds of thinly sliced sirloin. I also added one pound of ground venison (on special for $6). Any order placed before Monday at 2 p.m. will be ready for pick-up or delivered that Friday. Five Star Transportation provides the delivery services and the meat products arrive slightly frozen.
I immediately thawed the four packets of ground beef to create a smoked meatloaf and placed the other meats in the deep chill. I plan on eventually braising the three-pound stew meat with onions and peppers for my rendition of Italian braised beef for “sammies” and hoagies, marinating the thinly sliced sirloin for my rendition of bulgogi, and probably simmering ground venison with red wine, garlic and rosemary for a pasta sauce. But $58 for 10 pounds of beef? Isn’t that a little expensive especially since ground beef on sale is usually less than $2 per pound? Yes, but with a caveat. That cheap ground beef sold at the big-box stores comes from mainland sources, and because of the spread of the coronavirus at some of the nation’s slaughterhouses, some stores are limiting the quantity you can purchase. No limits with Makana Provisions, and the money you spend stays in the 50th.
We first met Chef Robert McGee about eight years ago when he held court in the kitchen of The Whole Ox Deli which has since become the public parking structure for SALT at Our Kakaako. Back then, we dreamt of his fried pork shanks, his 21-day dry-aged burger topped with seared foie gras, those Johnny Aloha potatoes and any of the house-cured charcuterie that came out of his kitchen.
These days, he butchers porcine product raised from David Wong’s Mountain View Farms in Wai‘anae that are raised hormone- and antibiotic-free. The processed products are sold primarily to restaurants, though individuals can buy them through Kokua Market or at Chef McGee’s shop near Costco Iwilei. However, Chef McGee recently started providing delivery service on Saturdays for a $10 fee!
We ordered the Hawaiian Meats CSA — Community Supported Agriculture — online (ponopork.com) for $75, a small box which included one pound of ground pork, one pound of ground lamb, one pound of breakfast sausage, one pound of spicy lamb sausage, two rib chops, two Porterhouse pork chops, two pounds of stew meat and a quart of pork bone broth.
As soon as I brought my box home, I placed the four chops in vacuum-sealed bags and cooked them sous vide (vacuum-sealing food in a bag and cooking it to a certain temperature in a water bath) for two hours at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the chops were only about 3/4 inch thick, I should have cooked them for just an hour, but they were still very tender and moist. The next day, I defrosted the two pounds of stew meat and braised them in coconut water with lemongrass, Thai basil and galangal (a young, spicier ginger) and shoyu for about two hours for a Thai-inspired braised pork. I’ll use the ground pork for local-style chow fun, the ground lamb for my rendition of “gyros” without the rotary gyro cooker and the breakfast sausage for breakfast muffins.
Chef McGee informed me that if he can sell 30 to 40 orders every week, he may invest in his own USDA-inspected slaughterhouse as well as an inspected charcuterie facility, since Pono Pork currently uses the Kunoa facility which primarily is for Hawaii Meat’s cattle, and Pono Pork has to remove their products once the pork carcass is fully chilled. He said pork should ideally hang for three days once it’s slaughtered.
This recipe originally called for ground veal, but any ground meat can be used. I serve this hearty ragu over fettuccine or tagliatelle though you can use any pasta that you like.
Meat and Red Wine Sauce
1 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground meat
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup canned beef broth
1/2 can tomato paste
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat, garlic and rosemary; sauté until the meat is no longer pink, breaking up large clumps with back of spoon for about five minutes. Add tomatoes, wine, broth and tomato paste. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until mixture thickens to sauce consistency, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Along with supporting your favorite restaurants by ordering take-out, also consider patronizing local food purveyors to reduce our dependence on mainland sources whether it’s purchasing from local farmers or purchasing local meats. And now, you can choose to have them delivered right to your doorstep!
Ryan Tatsumoto is a clinical pharmacist by day. In his off-hours, however, he and his wife enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet” (gochisogourmet.com).