Same-day Hawaii farm-to-table cuisine on Oahu’s Waianae Coast?
It’s more than for real at Kahumana Organic Farm & Cafe. It’s also really good.
A macadamia nut pesto tossed with whole wheat pasta and stir-fried kale picked just hours earlier? Check. Organic turkey meatballs flavor kicked with fresh-gathered spinach and basil in a housemade tomato ratatouille brimming with just picked eggplant and long squash? Check. The best homemade hummus—yes, hummus!—you’ve ever had, wonderfully flavored by bits of fresh cilantro, red onion and the kick of Hawaiian chili pepper? Oh, yeah.
Getting to Kahumana Organic Farm & Cafe is quite the drive—a full 30 miles from Honolulu, past Pearl Harbor and Ko Olina Resort to the town of Waianae, on Oahu's scenic, but mostly residential leeward coast. Still, if the thought of sampling dishes made with Hawaii-grown produce at its freshest rouses your tastebuds, there's no place quite like Kahumana.
Kahumana is a certified organic farm that grows more than 40 varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs. The farm's A Taste of Kahumana Café is part of a long-term commitment toward providing a community model for healthy eating. The 14-acre farm and café are also part of a larger nonprofit focused on providing transitional housing and career training for individuals in need, seeking jobs in agriculture and food service. Opened a year ago, the cafe is one of the only restaurants we know of on Oahu that specializes in same day, farm-to-table dishes.
Official harvest days at Kahumana are Tuesday and Friday. But café manager/director Robert Zuckerman and his co-chef Ranjith Ramanakumar walk the farm every day to gather produce for their menu, which changes daily.
“The menu is mainly improvisation. It has to do with what’s available on the farm, and what’s available at the market,” says Zuckerman, who supplements fresh-picked Kahumana produce with organic products from local markets and Waianae's weekly farmers market. “The farm determines some of the specials. But if I get an early morning phone call from the person I regularly get fish from—for example, last week she gave me some fresh akule—we’ll put something together.”
For the record, Zuckerman fried up the akule crisp and served it alongside organic brown rice and a stir-fry of vegetables picked fresh from the farm.
Zuckerman smiles. “Most of the time, the menu is creative spontaneity.”
Recently, photographer Dawn Sakamoto and I took the drive to Kahumana Organic Farm & Cafe for a tour and some lunch. Check out our time there in words and photos:
Kahumana Organic Farm's "A Taste of Kahumana Cafe" serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday (dinner from 6 to 7:30 p.m.). But we arrived early and took a walking tour of the farm first.
The farm and cafe are located in Lualualei Valley on the Waianae Coast of Oahu.
Farm manager Lou Clark prepares to harvest dryland taro for the day's lunch menu.
Clark digs under the plant to get to the taro root—the tasty, starch-filled part of the plant.
Digging the entire plant out of the ground takes some effort. Notice the complex root structure of the taro.
Clark cleans off the dirt from the taro, which also takes some effort, right in the field.
The taro root after cleaning.
Clark and Kahumana Cafe manager/director/co-chef Robert Zuckerman pose for a quick photo before heading back to the kitchen.
Meanwhile, we walk the farm's fields and orchards, finding bananas ...
... and more than three dozen types of fruits, herbs and vegetables, including multiple varieties of kale.
The cafe at lunch is bright and airy, cooled by tradewinds.
Several tables offer a view of Kahumana's orchards, rowdy with the sound of chirping birds.
Chef Ranjithkumar Ramankumar chops freshly-picked basil for the day's lunch specials.
Other vegetables and herbs—also picked fresh from the fields just hours earlier—await the chef's dinner menu plans.
Just picked-produce that will be a part of our lunch include radish, long squash, string beans, various types of salad greens and taro.
The taro farm manager Lou Clark harvested and cleaned earlier, now ready for the chef.
Turkey meatballs—filled with fresh spinach, basil, carrots and onion—ready to be added to the day's lunch special ... a housemade ratatouille.
The fresh spinach also lent robust flavor to the soup of the day—light, delicious and thickened by pureed onion and potatoes.
The cafe's Greek salad is served daily, with Zuckerman's toothsome housemade cilantro hummus. The medley of Kahumana produce in the salad on the day we lunched included fresh mizuna, tatsoi, arugula, red kale, cucumber. Zuckerman crafts his salad dressing with fresh Kahumana herbs.
The cafe's macadamia nut pesto is tossed with whole wheat pasta and bits of Kalamata olive, carrot, garlic, onion and produce from the morning harvest (on the day we lunched, two varieties of kale). It's served with lightly blanched, still crisp Swiss chard. For just $3 extra, you can order the pasta with a thick, locally-sourced ahi steak drizzled with olive oil, parsley and garlic.
Kahumana Cafe's entree special—eggplant, long squash and tomato ratatouille with turkey meatballs—was a homey and delicious marvel of fresh vegetable and herb flavors.
The cafe's dessert menu features fresh fruit from the farm, such as mango, when in season. When Zuckerman can't get fruit fresh from the fields, he opts for market-purchased organic ingredients like raspberries for this housemade brownie with fresh whipped cream ...
... or Italian plum for this fresh-baked Linzer torte. Hungry yet? Here's how to get to the cafe ...