So today I'm taking a break from my normal cooking post to share an experience we had while on vacation on Maui, in Hawaii.
A few weeks back we were enjoying a few beers with our friends, Brittany and JD (he recently quit his job in the cheese industry for an opportunity to make beer!!). During the evening we talked about upcoming vacations. We were both planning on going to Maui, only just a couple of weeks off of each other. Then Brittany told us about a farm tour you can do on Maui. She knows how much we love farmers markets, so it was right up our alley. The farm was O'o Farms They do a farm tour, harvest and lunch. (They also do a coffee breakfast tour, but Craig's not into coffee, so it's lost on him). So I contacted the friends we are staying with in Maui to see if they like to go with us, and they jumped at the chance. I know that island activities book up way in advance, so I contacted them right away and were able to get the date we wanted (thank god!).
To get to the farm, you travel partially up the side on the mountain, Haleakala. It's a bit of a windy road. And once you get to the farm, there's a very unassuming sign. Arrive early, the tour starts right on time, and you don't want to miss any of it. There isn't a ton of parking, so also be respectful of other cars and park "like a normal person". Hahaha. (Little pet peeve of mine!). Across the street from the far is Maui Olive Oil company they are not open to the public) and when you look down the valley you are directly above Kihei.
Today's tour started at 10:30. Eldon, our guide, met us in the parking lot where the tour started. He explained a brief history of the farm and the restaurants and coffee shops they have owned, throughout Maui. The day before we arrived at O'o , Maui had a horrible storm come through, dumping 2 inches of rain in a few hours time. So yesterday's tour had to be canceled. While this wasn't great for the tour, it was great for the plants and trees.
The first stop on the tour was the coffee trees, they only produce a small amount of estate grown coffee, at this time, and purchase the rest of the 50,000 lbs of green coffee beans they roast and sell. Overhead are the Australian Black Wattle tree and eucalyptus trees. The Black Wattle Trees, also know as Acacia, are native to Australia and are quick growing and provide shade, as well as the wood for the brick oven, they use to cook and materials for building. The farm also uses wood from these trees for cove-netting over crops that need protection from birds. A couple of years back they had a storm that knocked down a several Eucalyptus trees. They used these trees for finishing of the coffee roastery.
So Eldon asked if we knew where coffee originated from. Most people said South America, but he explained that it was actually Ethiopia. The plant drinks a ton of water, when they water they water them about 2 inches a week. They then bloom and fruit up. Inside the coffee cherry is the green bean. He had us pick off a red/yellow ripe cherry and taste it. It was sweet, with a large pit (bean). The beans take up to 9 months from bloom to cherry, or flower to cup. They then take the cherry and separate it from the bean, which they roast. The remaining fruit, they dry and powder to add as an ingredient in whatever dishes they are making. It adds a fruity flavor, without imparting a sweetness.
Next up was the Loquat trees. They are a tropical tree or Schaumburg that bears fruit resembles a large cumquat/apricot mix. In the Asian region they are known as Japanese plums, or pipa. We picked a few pieces of fruit off of the tree to try and found 3-5 seeds inside. They were very juice and mildly sweet. A little citrusy/sweet lemon, but the texture of an apricot.
To take advantage of all the growing opportunities, they planted potatoes under the trees. He said something about it imparting more nutrients in the soil. I was a little distracted with the chicken coops and rooster (Bravern). They chicken are Free range, but are cooped up when they have a tour. They move the coops to provide more eating opportunities for the chickens and even out the grazing area. It also naturally fertilizes the area they are moved too.
As for trees they have Avocado, pink grapefruit, pomelo, lime, lemon, orange, keffer lime just to name a few. Avocados year round production.
From the tree groves, we headed to the kitchen area and spoke with Chef Daniel Eskelsen about lunch. He showed us the harvest basket of what he was going to prepare for lunch, each menu is based on what's able to be harvested that day. We got to see the wood fired brick oven, which is used to cook all of the lunch courses, and some of the food he was already cooking. We headed to the garden patch to harvest the salad for lunch. We picked spinach, Sorell, fava flowers, and many other types of greens. Tasting each one as we went along.
There are Many micro climates on the property. These climates also allow the farmers to plant, and harvest everyday of the year and allows them to grown many different types of vegetables. One in particular was Cardone, it's part of the thistle family, a cousin of the artichoke, and resembles celery without the The licorice-y taste and fiber, Actually, its reputation is beginning to grow, as cooks who try Cardone once are usually hooked.
On the property they have 3 types of compost one is vegetarian another is fish and lunch scraps (high in protein) and the last is for the orchard, mainly clippings and "waste".
Lunch wasn't ready yet, so we headed to the coffee roastery. They harvest the coffee cherries(ripe coffee beans) each week. The first machine cleans off the cherry. Then they have to soak the green coffee beans for 2-3 day to remove the sugars, dry it, remove the parchment, then roast the bean. Each coffee has a desired finish taste so each roasting batch has a different temps and time of roasting. Each batch they roast is 80 lbs.
After visiting at the coffee roastery, we headed to the lunch area. Lunch was served family style. We chose (shady) seats in between a group of women on a golf trip from Southern California and a active couple from Detroit. Normally I'm not a family style-communal seating arrangement, but when the time is right and this group was so friendly, and accommodating. When I said I was taking notes and photos for this blog. Every time a dish came out it was sent to me for pictures, then passed around.
First course was the harvested salad greens with a handmade vinegarette of avocado and herbs. It was served with a brick oven baked sour dough focaccia topped with rosemary and thyme. I have to say that the bread was simply amazing. It's has motivated me to experiment with foccicia.
Second course was the roasted vegetable course. This was a mix of rainbow carrots, broccolini, chayote vines and seared tofu. This was seared in a skillet, in the brick oven.
Third course was freshly caught sword fish served on roasted red and yellow beets, cardone, snap peas and a sauce of avocados and the sautéed tops of many of the vegetables.
Fourth course was a pan seared chicken breast, served on a bed of Italian kale, leeks, fennel and a creamy pan sauce.
Lastly, but definitely not least, was dessert. They served a dairy and wheat free chocolate diamond (made with powdered coffee cherry), with fresh citrus and strawberry-bananas. This was pared with their estate roasted Mokka Coffee.
Touring the O'o Farms was definitely the highlight of our stay on Maui. If you make it over, make sure you make reservations and time to see this great working farm in action. And make sure you finish lunch with a swing.....