Sous Chef April Matsumoto delivers fresh-made garden smoothies at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.
When I was invited to tour the organic culinary garden at the posh Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, where I was staying courtesy of the Maui tourism bureau, I was expecting a modest plot.
Not the spacious grove of paradise that the hotel has managed to create past the swimming pools and near the auxiliary tennis courts, which will soon be torn out to enlarge the garden.
Frank the gardener, who’s a former engineer, tends the lush swath fragrant with kaffir lime and lemongrass. All manner of herbs, greens, figs and citrus grow here. Flowers are planted all around, including a shrine of orchids, the blooms of which had been discarded by guests that Frank has then brought back to life. Butterflies flutter all around, landing here and there on the many blooms.
A paradise for people and nature.
The larger of two culinary gardens, which will expand to become even larger in the future.
Guests of the resort can enjoy herb garden tours on Mondays. The highlight is when Sous Chef April Matsumoto comes bounding down the garden path with a tray of smoothies for everyone. Made with many of the home-grown goodies from the garden, that morning’s smoothie was redolent of banana, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, kaffir lime, spinach, celery and cilantro.
Snails — being raised for escargot and other gourmet dishes — on an urban Maui farm.
Napili FLO Farm
If former massage therapist Monica Bogar has her way, Maui restaurants will some day spotlight organic snails on their menus.
After all, there’s already a waiting list of restaurants eager for the mollusks she is growing aquaponically in ingenious systems devised by her and her Uncle Tony. I had a chance to visit their homestead on the west side of the island, during my trip to Maui, courtesy of the tourism and conventioner’s bureau.
An urban farmer for the past 12 years, Bogar started her Napili FLO Farm a year ago. She now sells her microgreens, edible flowers and watercress to Maui restaurants such as Star Noodle, Hula Grill, and Pineapple Grill, the latter where Isaac Bancaco is chef and a huge supporter of hers.
Monica Bogar and Chef Isaac Bancaco inspect one of Bogar’s aquaponics systems.
Pick you way through Uncle Tony’s backyard to find a miraculous series of tanks — built from scavenged items, including styrofoam boxes, old fish tanks and a grandson’s former wash tub. “We are aquaponics dumpster-divers,” Bogar says proudly with a chuckle.
Alice Waters and Cecilia Chiang in a scene from “Soul of a Banquet.” (Still courtesy of the San Francisco Film Festival)
Mega-Benefit Banquet by the San Francisco Film Society
If you’re an aficionado of Chinese banquet galas, you will not want to miss this stellar one by the San Francisco Film Society at Yank Sing in San Francisco, 6 p.m. April 10.
Among the noted guests who will be in attendance: Bay Area culinary legends, Alice Waters and Cecilia Chiang; acclaimed food writer Ruth Reichl; and noted film director, Wayne Wang, who will be showing a sneak preview of his newest film, “Soul of a Banquet,” his tribute to Chiang, who changed the face of Chinese food in America when she opened The Mandarin in San Francisco in 1961.
The event benefits Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Project.
Tickets, which include the reception, film screening and dinner, are $288 per person. A table for 10 is $2,500.
Avant Garden Food & Art Fundraiser in San Jose
Celebrate all things local in the South Bay at the third annual “Avant Garden” event, 7 p.m. April 19 at The Armory, 240 N. 2nd St. in San Jose.
Enjoy live music, crafts, artwork and plenty of food and drink by vendors such as Little Bee Pops, Good Karma Vegan Cafe and Cafe Stritch.
Event tickets are $10 online or $12 at the door. Food and drink tickets are $3 each and available at the event site.
A butcher making porchetta at Belcampo Meat Co. in Larkspur.
Belcampo Meat Co. in Larkspur may look like the latest trendy, farm-to-table butcher shop stocked with pedigreed meat for sale at sky-high prices.
But it’s so much more than that.
It’s part of a corporation that aims to start a new food revolution — by producing sustainable food on an unheard of scale. And at a profit, to boot.
It is the brainchild of Todd Robinson, a Wall Street veteran with deep pockets; and Anya Fernald, a California-native and long-time locavore entrepreneur. She may look familiar from her previous appearances as a judge on “Iron Chef America” and as the founder of the Eat Real Festival in Oakland.
The two founded Belcampo, Inc. in 2011, which consists of several operations spread across three countries. They include: a 10,000-acre certified organic, sustainable ranch at the base of Mt. Shasta in California, where cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, rabbits, goats, turkeys, geese and squabs are raised sustainably, organically and on pasture; another cattle ranch in Uruguay; and an eco-lodge and farm in Belize that produces coffee, chocolate and rum.
It opens up like a miniature grocery bag with handles to sit squarely in your mug of hot water.
Inside of it, organic tea leaves swell and swirl, steeping an exquisitely fresh tasting brew that’s smooth, satisfying and noticeably less tannic.
Take a taste of Ineeka teas, founded by a husband and wife team in Chicago whose families have been in the tea business for generations.
Shashank and Sumita Goel tout their company as the only completely vertically-integrated tea brand in North America. That means they grow their tea on family farms along 15,000 acres in the Himalayas north of India and package the teas, themselves.
Ineeka (“little Earth” in Sanskrit”) grows their tea organically and biodynamically in self-contained systems. For instance, the animals on the farms eat the food grown on the farms. In turn, their manure fertilizes the soil. The company employs 25,000 people who also live on the farms. As Fair Trade certified, the company pays higher than wages than the industry norm, too.
But of course, the proof is in the taste.