There is a phenomenon happening on the streets of Honolulu that I am finding quite tasty. Lunch wagons are popping up all over the place. It's not like they weren't already a common occurrence, it's just that these are active in the Web 2.0 space. This past week I visited 4 around the Keeaumoku St area. They include Melt, OnotoGo, Yajima-Ya and Eatgogi. I haven't tried all of their food fare but intent to. The closest to my work place is Melt, located on Akoko St. a side street off King. If you are driving just hang a left on Akoko St. right before Easy Music. Word is they have some great sandwiches which I plan to try next week. Next up is Yajima-Ya on Sheridan St. They are right next to Hinone Mizunone in an empty parking lot. On first appearance, how they got the lunch wagon into that space looks like an engineering feat. As it turns out, Tomo, the guy managing the lunch wagon tells me it was just a matter of careful driving. They got some delicious looking donburi starting from $6.50. Another on my must try list. Further down the street, on the corner of Sheridan St. and Makaloa St. in another parking lot is @WedgeLee's lunch wagon OnotoGo. They are right next to Modern Pet Center which is a landmark for me since small kid time. Wedge is the master social media guru so it surprised me to see him behind the grill also. His signature lunches include his kiawe grilled selections but he also told me his hamburger curry is also a winner. Finally for a nice walk all the way to Kapiolani Blvd. you'll find Jim Wilson's EatGogi lunch wagon. Get their Gogi Dog for a broke do mouth experience. This "korean" fusion selection has a hefty hot dog covered in bacon chili topped with an egg and hot sauce. For $6 I would definitely go back and have another. These bulgogi tacos look pretty good too. I understand Jim is planning to introduce other fusion creations which I am sure he will announce on this twitter account.
This past week was quite a learning experience participating in the Kanu Hawaii Eat Local Challenge. To be conscientious about sourcing locally produced foods is a challenge and has to be well planned out. In our eat and run culture, I found myself slowing down a bit to think about what markets to go to and which restaurants might offer a local dish. On Sunday, Sept 26, I started off by picking up several local favorites from Foodland Pearl City. Poi, Okinawan sweet potato, local kim chee, lau lau and poke were on my list. This was to at least take care of three evening dinners. I asked the fish department folks at Foodland if the poke was local and they said only if it said fresh. And on this day, nothing was fresh. All the fish was from either China, Taiwan or the Philippines. I thought about Tamashiro Market but never made it out to Palama. Convenience is still a big factor in what we eat and for me eating choices are made based on convenience and price. Foodland fit the bill. I did have to sacrifice on variety for my dinners but did get a treat when I was able to get some local white crab. Three medium size crabs made for a good alternative to lau lau for one of those days. Also a buddy at work brought in a hand of apple bananas for everyone in the office. That was a great and perfect for breakfast along with my non-local coffee from Papua New Guinea (via Costco). Lunches are a challenge especially if you are going to bring a home lunch. I tried one day with okinawan sweet potatoes, dried ahi and an apple banana, but the rest of the week was bought lunches. Honolulu Burger Co. did a great job with a Eat Local Special burger, very flavorful and the mushroom was to die for. An added bonus for mentioning Kanu was free fries and a drink. Worth it for $10. Next was Downtown @ HISAM. It was the Sept. monthly Bytemarks Lunch so it was good reason to talk tech and support #EatLocalHI. I had their Eat Local special which was a fish dish featuring opah and local vegetables. Wow, this combo was a like a punch in the taste buds. The fish as ono but the local radishes were overpowering. I enjoyed it but, not sure if I would order it again and at $16 we're getting up in price. On Friday the Kaimuki Lunch Bunch had a #EatLocalHI lunch tweetup at Big City Diner. Good turn out and BCD's special was mahimahi with local vegetables like baby bok choy, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes with a light cream sauce. Perfect combo for a fish dish and at a price of $13 it was a bargain not to mention @bcdlane threw in the edamame appetizer and decadent chocolate dessert. Obvious going out to lunch like this is not something I can financially sustain but I didn't think the price of the local selections were out of the norm for a sit down restaurant lunch. What I think this challenge brought to my attention was that with some simple choices you could support the local agriculture business. Next time you are at the market, buy some local produce like sweet potatoes, onions, baby bak choy or some local eggs, beef and fresh fish. I'll pay a little more attention the next time I make my purchase. If we all did, maybe we could show the local food producer there's a market out there and help encourage Hawaii's local food industry. It might be our first step toward food sustainability.
When you stop to think about where all our food comes from you realize how much of it is shipped in from outside the state. About 90% of Hawaii's food is brought in from elsewhere. And, if transportation to Hawaii was cut off, there would be about 2 weeks worth of food on island to sustain the population. That's a little scary. Granted, I'm not about to stop buying my Rotisserie chicken and box of Fuji apples from Costco anytime soon, but what if for one week we were to challenge ourselves to eat local. By this I mean eat foods that are grown here in Hawaii. With this we can raise the awareness of locally grown foods and support our local farmers, ranchers and fishermen, perhaps even grow this industry to be more than 10% of our food intake. Kanu Hawaii started this challenge in 2009 and the 2nd annual Eat Local Challenge 2010 is talking place on Sept. 26 to October 2. Last year several restaurants joined in the challenge by offering selection that were 100% locally sourced. Town and Downtown both participated and I assume will continue this year. I am on the hunt to find out if there are more restaurants joining in. This will at least make the lunchtime, Eat Local experience more tasty. Another suggestion would be to stock up on local produce at the KCC Farmers Market. In the meantime the Kanu Eat Local site will have a list of participating restaurants and produce specials but as of this writing it's Coming Soon. You can also keep up with the play-by-play tweetstream by searching for the hashtag #EatLocalHI on Twitter. I plan to also blog my adventures and learnings along the way to eating local. Hope you will also join in the challenge.
What better way to spend an afternoon than with friends sampling all manner of burgers. @Turkeyboy808 (aka Jason Kim) Chief Proprietor of Burgers on the Edge has this contest going to pick the best custom burger. Jason and his team ran this contest last year and based on its success are making it an annual event. They culled through several hundred submissions and ended up with these 7 burgers, 3 in the beef category, 2 in turkey and 2 in veggie. The number of burgers bought by June 30th will determine which custom burger will get added onto the menu. There will be one burger winner for each category. According to Jason, he updates that Burger track on the home page every day, manually. Our little tasting party consisted of @Neenz, @Nctrnlbst, @tweetpea @noe808 and @RodneyLee. We ordered each of the entries (Mr. Smarty Pants, Save the Chickens, Plan B, Garden Isle, Da Local Kine, Kung POW and Southern Belle) and sampled the creations. Here are my rankings on a scale of 1 to 5 where 5 is the best.
- Mr. Smarty Pants: 4 - Pepper Jack cheese and fried egg worked well with the turkey burger.
- Save the Chickens: 2 - Cream of mushroom didn't quite do it for me. Sorry @ryankanno
- Plan B: 4 - The tonkatsu sauce and onions worked on this veggie burger. Nice job @starletshay
- Garden Isle: 2 - Too subtle for my tastes, it needed something.
- Da Local Kine: 3 - Kinda liked the spam and pineapple combo but novelty did not last.
- Kung POW: 1 - Wrong! Hoisin should not be used on a beef burger.
- Southern Belle: 5 - My favorite, the Ranch worked with sharp cheddar and fried tomato.