On a Thursday night in Kailua, especially if you’re hungry, your feet might inadvertently carry you to the haze of food smells and the din and clatter of saucepans and utensils, vendors and consumers, all enthusiasts discussing what they like to eat. If you’re in Kailua on this night, it’s likely that you will find yourself in the Longs parking lot at the Kailua Farmers’ Market, whether you meant to be there or not. Walk through the hallways of pop-up restaurants and produce and find many hands extended to you offering samples of something that they’ve made or something they’ve grown. All of the dishes you’ll find at the pop-up restaurants are made as much as possible with local ingredients and there’s no doubt that you’ll find something you’ll want to eat again and again.
One of the most popular farmer’s market pop-ups is The Pig and the Lady. Former sous chef at Chef Mavro, Andrew Le keeps his customers happy by serving some of the most delicious and inventive Vietnamese style street food on the island. The menu is always changing, but a favorite mainstay entrée is Com Ga Hoi An, which includes an organic Vietnamese style chicken salad made with outstandingly fresh-tasting herbs dressed with a fish sauce vinaigrette and turmeric-infused jasmine rice. An appetizer to spring for is beef steak tomatoes stuffed with shitake mushrooms and pork. Their soup specials change just about every week. This time around it had chicken and kajiki (marlin) cuts, garlic and fried shallots, hand-cut noodles with crispy pork cracklings on top, served with a delectably flaky pate chaud pork pie.
Purchashing a piquant Gingercooler drink with a small lemon slice or hint of basil from PacifiKool should always mark the unofficial start for a satisfying Kailua farmers’ market experience–these drinks are the perfect summer concoctions. The zesty Hawaiian ginger will not only quench your thirst as you peruse what types of dishes you might have a hankering for, but it’s also a refreshing kick to the senses. Cheryl To registered PacifiKool back in 2004 as a catering business. Seven years later, Her Hawaiian ginger syrup products have blossomed into a statewide attraction. You can find these drinks and syrups, made with ginger grown here in Hawaii and sweetened with raw cane sugar, at many farmers’ markets and stores, including Whole Foods, Tamura’s, Foodland and R. Field.
The Ishisaka and Wong families steer the ship here at Grandma G’s. Just one glance at the smiling faces employed here will tell you that these are people who care about what they put on your plate. In a refreshing non-competitive spirit, the mother and daughter team working during the last visit sketched a vivid overview of their favorite pop-up neighbors, including The Pig and the Lady. If every pop-up at the farmers’ market gave their personal recommendations, my guess is that the name Grandma G’s would pop up frequently. Their Furikaki ‘Ahi plate hit all of the right notes, served with white or brown rice and fresh ‘Nalo greens. You can watch the cooking with fresh ingredients unfold before your eyes–honey chicken teriyaki, kimchee fried rice with eggs and Portuguese sausage, mochiko chicken and French toast are all favorites.