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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

Zippy’s Steps Up To The Farm-fresh Plate

I was fortunate last year to be invited to host a forum with local chefs, foodies, farmers and educators on local food and the sustainability issues facing our islands. While the discussion continues, one of the most impressive parts of the daylong symposium was when Wayne Komamura, executive chef in charge of research and development at Zippy’s, told the audience of a renewed commitment by Zippy’s to supporting local agriculture by using local beef.

It may have seemed like a small and obvious statement, but when a major player in our food arena like Zippy’s stands by its conviction to support local agriculture, the results are phenomenal.

A year later, Zippy’s was a finalist in the National Beef Backer Award as a leader in beef promotion for chain restaurants, and today Zippy’s continues to support the Big Island cattle ranchers, singlehandedly reviving the flagging industry and increasing its locally grown range of meats and produce on menus statewide. It’s easy to give kudos to the trendy, media-friendly, next-generation of chefs serving farm-to-fork fare, but let’s not forget the humble attitude of a multimillion-dollar restaurant chain started by a local family to serve local people. Next time you order up a Zippy’s hamburger steak or hamburger pattie, know that you’re supporting our island economy – and farming industry, too …

Japengo, the fusion restaurant at Hyatt Waikiki, serves small portions of some of the best examples of fried rice, soft shell crab, pork gyoza, pork belly and beef tataki you’ll find in Honolulu. It can now add “award-winning” to the menu, as winner of the annual Mango Throwdown at Sheraton Moana Surfrider.

Winning this contest is no easy task, as the competition includes chefs from some of Honolulu’s best restaurants, including town, Michel’s, Nobu, Azure and 3660 on the Rise. To make it even tougher, this year the judge was Roy Yamaguchi.

The winning dish, Washugyu Beef Sirloin with edamame mash and mango sambal was the creation of Japengo chef Mike Imada. Imada is one of those chefs who has been quietly under the radar for years. He’s worked his way through Hyatt’s many faces of culinary change, consistently producing contemporary food that has always been excellent. One can only hope that at Japengo he is allowed a stage on which to shine – and I can’t wait to go back and taste the award-winning beef …

In other food news, if you’re a fan of rabbit – or are just intrigued to try some locally raised lapin – you’ll find it on a one-night-only menu next week at 12th Avenue Grill. The Kaimuki neighborhood restaurant is hosting a Summer Maui Beer Dinner, pairing dishes such as rabbit fritters, marinated Maui beef heart, slow-roasted Maui goat and mango-glazed leg of Maui lamb with beers from Maui Brewing Company. Sara Tomlinson will fly in with some brews that are not usually available in Honolulu. She’ll be pouring Summer Ales and Wee Heavys, and explaining the pairings of Maui Cattle Company’s meats the Valley Isle’s brews. The Aug. 5 dinner has limited seats available.

Happy eating!

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