No More Romp and Taste
Over the past two years our food tours have enabled us to meet some amazing people from all over the world. We have watched our guests’ eyes light up as they taste just-picked pineapples, noting that they tasted nothing like the store-bought kind — which are picked before they’re ripe so they can be shipped long distances. On our tours, we have had guests of all ages and it was delightful to watch children stuff their mouths with bright red mountain apples as seniors were invigorated by the fresh tropical air and lush landscaping. Our guide Kai led them through the orchard and each person connected deeply with him, each other, the moment and the food.
If our guests were on the “A Taste of Kilohana” tour, Kai would escort them to Mahiko Lounge where they would learn how to make a Gaylord’s Mai Tai with fresh-pressed sugarcane juice. Afterwards, Kai would escort them to the private dining room inside Wilcox Mansion. Executive Chef Todd Barrett, often with a whole fresh catch in hand, would introduce himself and present his off-the-menu meal made especially for our guests.
At lunch during “A Culinary Romp Through Paradise,” guests would meet Executive Chef Guy Higa and ask questions during his cooking demonstration at the Kauai Marriott Resort. We’d be hot from the orchard tour and everyone always appreciated the cool courtyard with its vibrant landscaping and waterfall. Just like Kai, Chef Higa has an island style charm and infectious smile. He’d always serve four courses and he always prepared something different, such as hand-made noodles and pork belly from whole hogs raised at Kaneshiro Farms in Omao. At the end, many guests would get their picture taken with Chef Higa.
Our last stop always included cocktails and during these two years, we visited Nani Moon Mead, Oasis on the Beach and The Feral Pig. Sometimes, Jeanne Toulon of the Koloa Rum Co. would stop by and talk about their award-winning rum that is made here on Kauai. Joel Downs, mixologist at Oasis on the Beach, would prepare cocktails with local fruit and herbs while we stared at the ocean just 20 feet away. At The Feral Pig, Dave Power (co-owner and bartender) would get his cocktail geek on. He’s a pretty quiet guy, but once behind the bar he opened up as he created custom cocktails or talked Tiki History. A handful of guests would often linger after the tour, ordering more drinks and food while making new friends. We weren’t just eating, we were experiencing a perfect moment in time. In the entire two years, I never heard one complaint. I usually got comments like this one, which is from Brad, who unknowingly attended our last “A Culinary Romp Through Paradise” tour.
“Marta, thank you again for an awesome day out! It felt like we were meeting up with your friends in the community, all of whom are authentic and knowledgeable. We made Kai’s fruit salad this morning for breakfast and it was a treat. We’ll certainly find our way back to The Feral Pig before leaving this amazing island. I sincerely hope we can take your tour again next year when we visit!”
As Brad noticed, he was meeting my friends from the community. Kauai is basically a small island, so almost every one knows each other. But it was my intent to introduce guests to special people who are passionate about what they do. People who I have become friends with. These tours gave me more blessings than I can count. But a combination of factors has forced me to let them go.
I am a writer before anything else. I am responsible for finding, interviewing, writing and submitting two stories each week for The Garden Island newspaper (TGI). In addition to that, I have published a restaurant guidebook which lists the restaurants that I have covered since 2010. Tour logistics required more time than I had available. The advertising and marketing I did was not sufficient, so I hired Melissa Gregory, who is a former sales person for Kauai Coffee. Even so, we were booked at 50 percent capacity or less. I had to cancel “A Culinary Romp Through Paradise in June and July due to lack of registration. With this low attendance rate, the tours just covered the costs. After running on fumes for the last 6 months or so, my “passion” bank account ran dry and it just didn’t make sense to do them anymore.
I will continue to do the farmers market tour because the logistics involved are minor and I enjoy meeting and interacting with the people who sign up. Last Wednesday, I led a young couple through the Kapaa farmers market. I was thrilled to learn that they had arrived on Kauai the day before and hadn’t gone to Costco yet! Since they didn’t have groceries and it was the beginning of their visit, they were able to load up. When they left, they were no longer intimated by the market, knew the names and faces of about 10 farmers and left with bags full of mangoes, white pineapple, papaya, bok choy, kale, fresh ginger, avocados, eggplant, mushrooms and more.
I was able to use some of the money from our tours to pay Laurie Cicotello, who wrote our weekly Pau Hana Friday blog post. Without the tour money coming in, I had to let her (and Pau Hana Friday) go. She only worked for me for two blessed months, but that enabled me to make a huge dent in the updated version of our Kauai restaurant guidebook, which Dan is laying out in Adobe InDesign right now. We expect it to be available this October and I can tell you, it’s going to be fantastic! I was able to hire the editing services of Viviane Gilbert Stein, a former writer for TGI. Her work gave my work more clarity and I know the reader is going to appreciate that!
It isn’t all doom-and-gloom over here. I have mourned the losses. I have had a good cry. Between my TGI assignments, freelance assignments, tours, writing books and acting as a board member for various events and associations, I wore myself out. Right now, my goal is to create a gorgeous book that provides valuable “insider” information for both residents and visitors. Once that is released, I will spend my time selling it. Since it is a guide to eating well (with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dining options), I’d like to see it in doctors’ offices and gyms, as well as Costco and food festivals.
I will continue finding people who make good food and share them through my “Taste of Kauai” column which runs every Friday in TGI. I will also continue to put a face on our food by highlighting small family farms thorough my “On The Farm” column, which runs every Sunday in TGI. As for the blog, I will still share seasonal menus and special events, but now I’ll have more time to post recipes and Hawaii cookbook reviews. I will also continue to post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We will continue to donate a portion of book sales to the Hawaii Food Bank – Kauai Branch. I am planning some delicious book release parties, too and I also have a few more food-related books to write!
In the end, my passion is to share who grows and makes good food on Kauai. I feel blessed to be able to do that and I appreciate the support and passion of everyone who reads my work. I will keep finding ways so that we can all eat well on the Garden Island!