Isle agriculture, cuisine celebrated at weekend festival |


Hawaiian wild boar will be sizzling on the rotisserie, its tempting aroma wafting from an open fire. Also dazzling diners will be tantalizing cuisine prepared at numerous chef stations using locally raised lamb, mutton, goat, pork and beef—plus a cornucopia of fresh, island-grown veggies.

The onolicious fun is part of the 14th Mealani A Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agriculture Festival at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.

The day-long ag showcase features Big Island products Friday, Sept. 18 and culminates with the 6-8 p.m. taste extravaganza. 

More than 30 of the state’s premiere chefs rely on their culinary expertise to prepare delectable dishes using a variety of meat cuts — everything from beef tongue to oxtail.

While “grazing the range,” eager eaters can get acquainted with Hawaii’s food producers at gaily-decorated vendor booths and talk story with the farmers and ranchers who make a living growing our food. Tickets are $40 presale; $80 at the door.

Prior to the evening taste experience, learn how to prepare local, pasture-raised beef at a 4 p.m. culinary demonstration: “How to Cook Grass-Fed Beef 101” by Chefs Jackie Lau and Ronnie Nasuti of Roy’s Restaurants-Hawaii.

Participants receive a takeaway recipe and cooking tips. Tickets are $10 for the informative, hour-long cooking demo.

“We support ‘Mealani’s A Taste of the Hawaiian Range’ and it’s efforts to educate people on the goodness of quality, Hawaii Island-grown beef,” said Tom Asano, sales manager of Kulana Foods.

The Hilo slaughterhouse and meat fabricator processes all the meat for ‘Taste,’ approximately 3,200 pounds in 2009.

In addition, this year’s Taste expands to offer a noon seminar geared toward members of the food service industry. Presented by the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Kona Kohala Chefs Association, “It’s All About Taste” delves into the attributes of local grass-finished beef.

According to Chef William Kaluakini Trask, local ACF president, the seminar’s goal is to demystify grass-fed beef. Trask, who is a long-time proponent of food sustainability, said the seminar is important to help ranchers sell their beef “because we will connect the product with the potential user.”

Following “It’s All About Taste” is the 1-3 p.m. Agriculture Festival, a trade show to hook up chefs and wholesale buyers with farmers and ranchers.

While the event is closed to the public, vendors will continue their displays at Taste. Many of the vendors are Taste volunteers who make the event possible through their generous donation of time and products.

Mealani history

Mealani A Taste of the Hawaiian Range provides a venue for sustainable agricultural education, encouragement and support of locally produced ag products.

The quality and growth of this event are rooted in small business participation, sponsorship and in-kind donations.

While ‘Mealani A Taste of the Hawaiian Range’ has evolved through the years to feature a wide range of ag products, the event was founded in 1995 to jump start the Big Isle’s grass-finished beef industry.

According to Milton Yamasaki, manager of the University of Hawaii’s Mealani Research Station in Waimea, the event began as a three-phase educational program with two parts: an on-site Forage Field Day, followed by A Taste of the Hawaiian Range at the then Kahilu Town Hall.

“First, the goal was to educate and promote grass-finished beef to ranchers so they would produce a consistent, quality product,” Yamasaki said. “Second, the evening Taste event was designed to educate the food service industry that grass-finished beef can be good and of high quality. In addition, we also wanted to promote the value of the product by using the entire animal.”

Yamasaki adds the third educational goal of the event was, and continues to be, to show consumers that grass-fed beef is a good, healthy product that supports our Big Isle economy.

“Many chefs and restaurant in Hawai‘\i have expressed interest in sourcing locally produced meats, including cattle born and raised to maturity on the island,” Asano said. “The Mealani Research Station has been instrumental in making this happen by documenting research for raising quality, grass-fed beef and making the results available to our ranchers. This includes important info on intensive grazing methods and the use of legumes in pasturage.”

The ag tourism event is a partnership between CTAHR, Big Island Farm Bureau, Hawaii Cattlemen’s Association, Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, Kulana Foods and community volunteers. Sponsorship also includes the Hawaii Tourism Authority, county Research and Development, Big Island Resource Conservation & Development, the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers Association and KTA SuperStores.

Tickets and more information

Tickets for Taste can be purchased islandwide at UH CTAHR locations: Komohana Ag Complex in Hilo, 808-981-5199; the Kamuela Extension Office in Waimea, 808-887-6183 and the Kona Extension Office in Kainaliu, 808-322-4892.

Tickets are also on sale at Parker Ranch Store and Kamuela Liquors in Waimea, Kuhio Grille in Hilo, JJ’s Country Market in Honokaa, the Pahala Plantation Store in Ka‘u, the Kona Wine Market in Kailua-Kona and the Hilton Waikoloa Village Kohala Essence Shop.

The Hilton Waikoloa Village has a room package starting at $229 for one night that includes two tickets to the 6-8 p.m. Taste; package code is THR.

To register for the Cooking 101 demonstration and get info on the expo, contact University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) Agronomist Susan Miyasaka at 808-981-5199 ext. 201 or

To register for “It’s All About Taste,” contact Michelle Galimba at 808-430-4927 or

Taste of the Hawaiian Range:

Isle agriculture, cuisine celebrated at weekend festival |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.