Eat Local at Verde Hawaii
Diners can now eat local in Hawaii at Verde restaurant, located in Kapaa. The popular New Mexican eatery has recently upgraded its menu with “clean” ingredients, such as produce that was grown on Kauai as well as antibiotic free chicken and pork. From the beginning, they’ve served Kailani Farm’s lettuce mix and for the past two years, grass-fed beef that’s raised and processed on Kauai’s Westside. As always, there are gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options.
Verde owner, Maris Manzano, wanted to support our small island community by replacing imported produce with what’s available and abundant on Kauai. For Maris, part of a sustainable Kauai is also partnering with local businesses. She contracted Tasting Kauai as a consultant to help connect her with Kauai’s top growers, and Pono Photo to document the process.
We visited Kealia Farm and harvested taro with owner Adam Asquith, who grows on more than 40 acres. One sultry afternoon, Maris and her brother Carlo joined me at the Kealia Farm Market market. I introduced them to all the vendors including, Michael Yulo, of My Kauai Honey Co., who readily agreed to be Verde’s exclusive honey supplier.
Together, we made subtle changes that freshen up the menu. Spinach, which does not grow well on Kauai, has been replaced with sweet potato greens, which thrive on
Kauai with minimal effort. I have some growing and they threaten to takeover my garden. Sprawling vines crawl over mint and twist over the eggplant. I cut the vines and snip the leaves into a sink of cool water. The leaves of the sweet potato are cooked as a vegetable in many parts of the world. They are rich in vitamin B, ßcarotene, iron, calcium, zinc and protein. After a quick sauté, they have a mild taste and rich body.
Spirit of the Earth Farm, a biodynamic farm located in Moloaa, is planting just for Verde. Four beds include sweet potato greens, broccoli, cilantro and long beans.
At Moloaa Organicaa, a certified organic farm located in Moloaa, we ate mangos right off the tree. After munching on long beans plucked from the vine, Maris determined they are an easy replacement for imported green beans. We followed Linda Yoshii through her farm, which is also in Moloaa, and secured avocados and Tahitian limes.
Verde partnered with Kauai Juice Co. for their savory Pina Verde Picante margarita ($12). The blend of fresh pineapple, lemon and fermented chili peppers is well balanced and lightly sweetened with agave. Muddled cilantro, organic tequila and Grand Marnier make it a generous serving that packs a punch.
Every week, Adam delivers 75 pounds of steamed taro. The Verde kitchen crew cut it into cubes and deep fry it, resulting in a creamy inside that’s surrounded by a crunchy outside. Taro is folded into the Al Pastor burrito ($13.95); tossed with soft pinto beans in Huevos Rancheros ($13.95); and tucked inside Stuffed Sopaipillas ($12.95) as well as the Breakfast Burrito ($12.95). Long beans and sweet potato greens are layered inside Verde Verde Burrito ($14.95); Vegan Tacos ($13.95) and Veggie Stacked Enchiladas ($16.95). My Kauai Honey is served with plain sopaipillas ($7) and blended with butter and served as a dip with Churro Fries ($7).
Regulars know that Verde can get very busy. To make things easy, you can make to-go orders online. They also replaced punch cards with a rewards system. Once you sign up, you get $10 off for every $100 you spend. Verde’s Red Salsa and Escabéche (pickled vegetables) are available at Costco in Lihue, Cost-U-Less in Kapaa as well as Foodland in Waipouli and Princeville.
We salute Verde for taking the road less travelled. Buying precut vegetables in large quantities streamlines work in the kitchen, which makes Verde’s choice to serve locally grown food labor intensive. In addition, purchasing from regional family farmers costs more, because they tend to be small. All of this is reflected in higher prices, but we appreciate that Verde enables us to cultivate food security on Kauai. Cheers Verde! Mahalo for making Kauai a better place to eat.
Meet Adam Asquith while he shares his manao (knowledge) during the first leg of our Royal Coconut Coast Kauai Food Tour. You can also purchase his family’s poi and steamed taro, as well as My Kauai Honey, at the Kealia Farm Market, every Monday and Friday from 3 to 7 p.m.
All photos copyright Daniel Lane and Pono Photo 2015.