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Going whole hog at Mealani A Taste of the Hawaiian Range

<p>A large crowd enjoyed last year’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range. (NHN FILE PHOTO)</p>

A large crowd enjoyed last year’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range. (NHN FILE PHOTO)

Vegetarians beware, you may want to quit reading while you’re ahead. It’s that time of year again. That time when chefs, farmers, and ranchers unite to educate the community on the benefits of whole animal consumption. Chefs call it ‘nose to tail eating’ — the practice of consuming every part of an animal so nothing is wasted.

This Friday, Oct. 4, from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, more than 30 of the state’s top chefs will enthrall local foodies and sustainability folks as they serve up delectable dishes using grass-fed beef, pork, lamb, goat, mutton and wild boar—along with an abundance of fresh island fruit, veggies, honey, spices and beverages.

Now in its 18th year, Mealani A Taste of the Hawaiian Range Agricultural Festival assigns each chef an animal or animal part, everything from tongue to tail, to the infamous “Rocky Mountain Oysters,” or bull testicles. Of course, they’re also serving up favorites such as brisket and sirloin as well. So whether you’re a culinary adventure seeker, or a meat and potatoes type, there is something for everyone.

Jeff Readman, head chef at Lava Lava Beach Club explains the importance of using local meat and produce.

“The quality and freshness of our local products is outstanding,” Readman said. “For example, the lettuce we get from Waimea is the best in the world. It’s the best I’ve ever seen and I’ve been all over the mainland and Europe. I find it ironic that we live in Hawaii and some of the restaurants here get their mangoes from South America and their bananas from Ecuador. About 80 percent of our produce at Lava Lava is grown locally, and all of our ground beef is Big Island beef.”

This year, Lava Lava Beach club was assigned beef clod as their cut of meat.

“I’m doing a braised dish with polenta, Hamakua mushrooms, roasted chili demi-glaze and orange crème fraîche,” Readman said. “It’s a fun event and a great way to raise awareness and try new things.”

The annual event showcases Hawaii’s grass-fed beef industry while bringing together local ranchers, farmers, restaurateurs and eager diners to celebrate a bounty of locally produced food. While mingling and tasting, festival goers can meet Hawaii’s food producers and talk story with the ranchers and farmers who make a living growing food for the community.

Another chef taking part in the event his year is Edwin Goto from Village Burger.

“I’ve participated for over 10 years,” says Goto. “I enjoy meeting the people who attend the event year after year, as well as supporting local community and businesses. Our diners absolutely notice the difference in our use of local products. The tomatoes we use are sitting on the counter — they’re never refrigerated. Our lettuce is grown two miles down the road, and all of our beef is from Ahualoa.”

“This event is unique to the state of Hawaii,” explains Goto. “It’s the only one like it — where ranchers and community get together and have great food prepared by great chefs. I like to see what other chefs are doing because everyone has their own unique approach to how they are going to prepare their meat, and I find that interesting. I hope everyone can make it down there — it’s a great event.”

Other restaurants participating in this years event are Four Seasons-Hualalai, Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, Kohala Burger & Taco, Kuhio Grill, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Merriman’s Waimea, Red Water Cafe, Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill, Sansei Waikoloa, The Fairmont Orchid, Tommy Bahama, and many more. There will also be educational displays and agricultural booths.

A Taste of the Hawaiian Range is an opportunity to not only try great food, but to learn a new and sustainable way of nourishing our bodies. Nose to tail eating may be familiar to chefs who’ve traveled internationally, but may still seem exotic and uncommon to contemporary Western palates. This event is an opportunity to become familiar with the renewed, earth-friendly practice of responsible consumption. Tickets are $40 pre-sale, and $60 at the door. A free parking shuttle operates from ‘Anaeho’omalu Bay parking lot, 12-10 p.m. For more information visit www.tasteofthehawaiianrange.com.