Ready to switch gears back into Hawaii mode? Okay? Here we go! I started off this Saturday morning with a visit to the KCC Farmers Market. I used to come to this market every weekend, but since moving to Manoa, my visits have been less frequent. However after today’s trip, the sight of all the fresh produce, breads, muffins, kettle corn, plants and the smell of sausages, beef stew, lau lau, morning coffee and sorts of good stuff, I plan on reestablishing my weekly visits!
My main reason for today’s trip was to try a loaf of bread from the new Mauna Kea Baking Co. My friend Radford first told me about this bakery and sent me a link to this story, which I found to be a memorable, and somewhat inspiring read. They have quite a wide selection of breads, both sweet and savory, in a range running from taro rolls to guava bread, focaccias, crusty baguettes and sourdough boules. I was deciding which one I wanted to call my own when a man working there recognized me from this blog! Chee, it was pretty cool moment there! He was so kind to give me loaf of the black pepper parmesan sourdough, which you see right above. It’s speckled with just enough black pepper weaved into the crusty round to appreciate, but not overwhelm. The peppery flavor comes through strongest and shows at its best when the slices are toasted to a light crusty brown. A bit more parmesan would be beneficial, the cheese was more of an afterthought as opposed to a central flavor in the loaf. The innards find a balance between the hearty La Brea loaves and softer ones at local bakeries, there’s a definite chew factor involved while retaining the soft, near plush innards.
The original sourdough (above) has just the perfect tang to enjoy on it’s own, yet made for a fine roast beef sandwich (with plenty of horseradish) this afternoon! I like the thick crusty top most, it simply crackles apart with each tear, your teeth sinking into the chewy innards rich with a welcomed sour bite. It’s about time we had more artisan bakeries in Hawaii. I’ve grown up with soft breads from Japanese bakeries such as Saint Germain’s buttertop and the Hokkaido bread from Panya, and it wasn’t until I went off to NYC and LA for school did I discover just how much I was missing. Thankfully in the last few years Hawaii has seen a gradual increase and interest in artisan breads, and for that, all I can say is, “hooray!”
I picked up a bottle of a bottle of Maui Onion dressing (which conveniently doubles as a marinade), a shoyu based dressing with strong hints of sweet, rather than spicy onion. My entire family are huge onion fiends, so we were eager to give this a try.
After reading about Taro Delights here here, and here, I knew I had to go and have a taste for it myself! And oooh, is this good stuff! They’ve got a bunch of flavors, think taro with sundried tomatoes, black olives, green curry, and even taro poke. I found it somewhat pricey at $6 per container, but the thing is, I can’t stand paying for overpriced items at Safeway, but when it comes to local products, the extra cost can be justified the majority of the time (hehe, we’ll see if this stays true when I can no longer be financially dependent on my parents…which would be when I move away and start work in a few months! ;)
Think hummus, only lighter with a whipped taro base. After sampling a few of the flavors, I opted for the “taronaise,” which surprisingly turned out to be a vegan product, completely free of dairy and eggs. I like the slight tang and pucker from the inclusion of rice vinegar and capers – how anyone ever got the idea to combine taro with rice vinegar and capers will forever puzzle me, but the world wouldn’t be nearly as delicious if people didn’t experiment! A good spread with focaccia or just smother over a toasted slice of baguette, man you could even just spoon and eat it by the mouthful.
Then I saw these crazy looking sprouts…and while we’re talking about sprouts, I hope you don’t mind if I go off on a super short tangent. Farmers markets = a wonderful, exciting place with awesome people and equally great food. Also a place where I end up buying a lot of stuff I never intended to and probably don’t need. But stuff that I love anyways. So I buy. I buy things like these sprouts. Which I really could do without…but they were just so pretty looking! They taste like super nutty popcorn! Some are bitter, others are slightly sweet, but all combined together makes for medley I could eat straight out of the bag like trail mix!
What became of all these ingredients and products? Why, I did what any good daughter would do and made lunch for my parents! A salad of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, spicy sausages (found in the freezer, the Aidell’s brand from Costco) and the Maui onion dressing. And since we’re a family raised on onions, I sautéed a ton of onions with a fair amount of butter and garlic and just placed that on the bottom right of the plate, (my dad can eat onions like you eat apples!) Right above that is a mound of the taro spread, and two gorgeous hunks of the Mauna Kea bread, a slice each of the sourdough and black pepper parmesan, because no Saturday lunch is complete without good bread!