We can add fresh abalone to the short list of compensations for living in Hawaii. Itʻs a luxury item found not just in name restaurants (Hiroshi, Roy’s, Alan Wong’s, Chef Mavro) but also Whole Foods, Costco and farmers’ markets, said Big Island Abalone CEO Hiroshi Arai. “All the chefs like it. We are very lucky.”
Luck and abalone never used to meet in the same sentence. Free-diving for them, which I did as a boy, meant timing waves and walls of kelp to slide down crevices with a miniature crowbar. In Costco, I picked up five freshly grilled abs for $9.99 from the same couple whose booth at the KCC farmers’ market is always mobbed. Unlike California abalone, which must be pounded to tenderness, these babies sliced easily and were wonderful between toasted Bale sourdough.
Our abs are sustainable–fed on BIA’s own, homegrown algae; farmed using 43-degree seawater piped up from 3,000 feet deep. The company recently doubled capacity to 150 tons annually, and received an infusion of capital and marketing expertise thanks to its not-yet-announced acquisition by an unnamed mainland seafood company. Did we mention the pretty mother-of-pearl shells? Watch for more abalone ashtrays, a Mad Men touch of retro. —Orders and information: [bigislandabalone.com]; 866-509-1144