Pan roasted Rack of Maui Venison. (Photos by Ryan Tatsumoto)

Ryan Tatsumoto
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Since remodeling its private dining area a year or so ago, 12th Ave Grill in Kaimukï has been hosting monthly dinners featuring four- or five-course meals paired with vino specially selected by wine director Rick Lilley. Sometimes the dinners highlight a specific winemaker as the guest of honor. On other occasions, certain wines are highlighted, such as the release of 12th Ave Grill’s own private wine label.

The event I attended highlighted Hawaii Ranchers and the sustainable beef, lamb, venison and eland they raise on our neighbor islands.

Why Sustainable?

For starters, there is a limited supply of all natural resources — even our sun will extinguish its flames someday in the very distant future. But our fuel and food supplies have a much shorter “shelf” life. For instance, wild bluefin tuna, or maguro, probably will not be around for another generation due to overfishing. Wild king salmon is also getting scarcer each fishing season. To make matters worse, Hawai‘i is a small island state in the middle of the Pacific and must import most of its food (and dry goods) from Mainland sources. Something like a work stoppage can magnify the effects of unsustainable practices. Ask an older relative about the ILWU dock strike of 1949, or the 1971 West Coast dock strike. So, while it’s highly unlikely that Charmin will start manufacturing toilet paper locally, we can still try to grow our own food.

Hawaii Ranchers

Several independent ranchers on the neighbor islands started an organization to promote the marketing of their products, including beef, lamb, venison and eland. Since 12th Ave Grill regularly serves these proteins, it was only fitting that they host a dinner highlighting them.

Chef/owner Kevin Hanney has been a strong proponent of locally sourced products since opening 12th Ave Grill more than a decade ago. Maybe it’s those degrees he holds in natural resource conservation or renewable energy and solar architecture, but one thing is for sure: I have never been disappointed with food from 12th Ave Grill. Not ever.

Since most people are familiar with beef, I won’t highlight locally raised beef except to say that I think grass-fed beef, while potentially a little tougher since it doesn’t usually develop the fat marbling like corn-finished beef, has a better, beefier flavor. Applications such as slow braising, sous vide cooking or simply grinding nullifies the advantage that corn-fed beef has in texture.

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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.”

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