Upcoming: Farmer dinner at Cactus featuring the He‘eia ahupua‘a

Photos courtesy of Kako‘o ‘Oiwi

Latin American flavors meet … the He‘eia ahupua‘a? Reserve your seat for Cactus' upcoming farmer series dinner, a unique six-course dinner featuring ingredients from He‘eia, some of it rarely seen on restaurant menus. There will be Samoan crab, starring in a hominy and crab broth spiced with guajillo chiles as well as atop a Peruvian causa, reinterpreted as a sweet potato terrine layered with pickled ho‘io (fiddlehead fern). It might be the first time Samoan crab has ever been prepared this way.

John Memering, chef/owner of Cactus, describes the Samoan crab as "mean ass;" it's an aggressive creature with a shell that barely gives way to a hammer and claws large and fierce as gorillas' jaws. But the reward is lots of meat.

Also on the menu: a limu salad tossed with Big Island fava beans and aji amarillo; spicy grilled he‘e, or octopus, alongside crispy ulu confit; and a kalo fritter with spiced Madre hot chocolate.

Memering says, "I obviously wanted to showcase the ingredients [from He‘eia]… But my main focus is to showcase them in 'non-local' preparations. I want people to realize that the ulu tree in the backyard is a source of good eats. Poi is so much more than a condiment at a luau … The flavors will be familiar, but with a Latino twist."

The dinner is a collaboration with the three organizations dedicated to restoring the He‘eia ahupua‘a, from mountain to sea, from lo‘i to fishpond: Papahana Kuaola, which restores native ecosystems and lo‘i; Kako‘o ‘Oiwi, tasked with managing 400 acres of He‘eia wetlands; and Paepae o He‘eia, which cares for the He‘eia fishpond. They will be on hand at the dinner to talk story.

"My first encounter with the 'gang' was at a workday at Kako'o ‘Oiwi," says Memering. "I was totally blown away by the intelligence, work ethic and passion they and everyone else had that I met that day … Every time I'm out there for a work day, they work the livin' s--- outta you. But the feeling you get being part of the mana with such amazing people in such an amazing, fertile, spiritual place is indescribable."

$65/$95 with wine and cocktail pairings, Thursday, April 4, reservations required, 261-1000

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