Oahu adds pair of food experiences to its menu

HONOLULU -- Hawaii's growing reputation as a culinary destination got a boost recently with the introduction of two different food experiences on Oahu with the same aim: to give local culture the palate test.

One is a new farmer's market at the end of Waikiki, the other a cooking class held weekly at the Lyon Arboretum, which is located 15 minutes from Waikiki in the Manoa Valley.

The farmer's market is an enticing stopover for visitors to the Diamond Head Crater. Located at Kapiolani Community College along Diamond Head Road near the entrance to the crater trail, the market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon, selling products grown exclusively in Hawaii by island farmers and food producers.

In addition to fresh food are easy-to-pack items such as jams and jellies made from mango, papaya, strawberry guava and other exotic fruit selections created from jaboticaba and ohelo berries.

The other food experience, "Foods of Hawaii," which began this fall, calls itself a cooking class and cultural/history lesson rolled into one.

Visitors are asked to arrive at 9 a.m. for the 10 a.m. class, held each Tuesday, to allow time for a tour of the arboretum's tropical, native and culinary plants, including nutmeg, cloves and vanilla orchids. Also on the property are cacao trees, sweet potatoes and fruit trees.

"Whatever is in season or in bloom, we'll bring into the classroom," said Joan Namkoong, the program's creator and chef.

In the demonstration kitchen, visitors are given snacks of seasonal island fruits along with a lesson on choosing and preparing fruit for eating. The three-hour cooking class features recipes adapted for home using island staples such as kalua pig (traditional Hawaiian roast pork), ahi (tuna) and vegetables.

Participants then lunch on the food they have prepared.

But cooking and tasting what they've made are only part of the instruction.

"It's more than just a cooking class, it's a food experience, and it's a way to learn about Hawaii's culture through the food," said Namkoong.

The cost of the class and tour is $85; transportation to and from Lyon Arboretum is not included (about $15 one-way in a cab from Waikiki).

There is a minimum requirement of four people and a maximum of 15. A group of 12 can arrange for an alternate day and time. The deadline for reservations is noon on Mondays.

For more information about "Foods of Hawaii," call (808) 988-0471. For more about the Farmer's Market, call the Hawaii Farm Bureau at (808) 848-2074.

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