How to Eat Local During the Pandemic

There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 Pandemic has caused a lot of pain. Our economy has ground to a halt, families are struggling, and many of our beloved businesses are on the brink of collapse. But, one positive result of this horrible situation is how quickly some businesses have adapted to the current situation. Specifically, local farmers and producers have made it exponentially easier to get your hands on their fantastic products.

Farm Link Hawaii

Prior to COVID, Farm Link Hawaii focused on linking up farmers and restaurants. Their goal was, and still is, to create a thriving, equitable local food system by empowering local farmers and improving access to local foods. Only, today, they’ve taken things a step further by selling directly to the public as well. And, thank goodness for that because some items continue to be hard to find in grocery stores – or are garbage when you do find them. For instance, I had a hard time finding Italian or American parsley the other day. Down to Earth? Nope. Don Quijote? Nope. Safeway? Yuck. After that, I gave up. But, last time I ordered from Farm Link, I got a giant, gorgeous bunch of parsley.

Personally, I’ve used Farm Link a few times already. Product availability tends to vary, but, on their site, you’ll often find a variety of produce, meats, pantry items, and processed items like chocolates. What’s more, virtually everything sold through Farm Link is grown or produced right here in Hawaii.

When you place your order, you can either opt to pick-up your order or have it delivered. No subscriptions required. All you need to do is create an account and pick your items on either Tuesday or Friday. Items picked on Tuesdays will be delivered on Thursday, while items picked on Monday will be delivered on Mondays. Delivery fees vary by area, but I pay $15.

Pono Pork

Robert McGee has done many meat-centric things over the years. Recently, this newest venture centered around raising quality hogs to supply us with fantastic cuts and amazing products like his homemade bacon, sausages, and Prosciutto di Waianae (see Farm Link Photo). But, in recent months, Pono Pork has expanded its reach to offer us fantastic cuts of pork, beef, venison, chicken, and lamb from around Hawaii. They even sell high-quality, hard-to-find locally spices to go with your meats.

I ordered with Pono Pork back when they offered only CSA Boxes. Often, you’ll find cuts of any of the previously listed meats in your box, along with some sort of processed items. In my case, that meant McGee’s amazing Korean Pork Sausage, slab bacon, smoked shank, burnt ends, a pork chop, Maui Nui Venison stew meat, and ground Maui Nui Venison.

Pono Pork delivers to most parts of Oahu and charges a $15 delivery fee.

J Ludovico Farm

Chicken is just chicken, right? WRONG. Nothing beats an all-natural, pasture-raised, cruelty-free, local chicken. Sure, you’ll pay about $5 per pound rather than $5 for a whole bird (Costco), but it’s worth it. The flavor is better, its carbon footprint its smaller, it’s more ethical, and you’re keeping your money in Hawaii.

J Ludovico Chickens are available at Nijiya Market (University), Kokua Market, Foodland Farms Ka Makana Ali’i, direct from the far, and occasionally from Pono Pork.

Big Island Fish

If you want to try your hand at making your own luxurious, seafood laden meal at home, look no further than Big Island Fish. These guys operate under a similar model as Pono Pork. But, instead of selling just meat, they sell meats, seafood, greens, and eggs from the Big Island. This includes items like live (whole) and frozen (tails) Kona Cold Lobster, Kona Abalone, Kona White Shrimp, live Pacific Oysters, live Manila Clams, whole or filleted Kona Kanpachi, locally raised grass-fed steaks from Waimea Butcher Shop, a variety of sausages from Waimea Butcher Shop, chicken and duck eggs, and salad mixes.

Orders ship on Thursdays for delivery on Friday via FedEx Priority Overnight. Sounds expensive right? Thankfully, it’s not too bad. Shipping usually comes in around the $10 to $20 range.

What’s more, if there are items you want not available through the portal, you can call Kona Cold Lobster or Waimea Butcher Shop directly to place a custom order. Oh, and Waimea Butcher Shop supplies Na’au Hilo with their 60-day dry-aged Lewis Cattle Co (Big Island) steaks.

Butcher & Bird

At his Kaka’ako neighborhood butcher shop, Chuck specializing on sourcing the best of the best for his customers. Whether that be house-aged wagyu beef or cured meats from Italy, odds are, you’ll find it here at Butcher & Bird. And, since we went into lockdown the first time around, Chuck has made more of his stuff available online. So, now, you can order and prepay for his deli items, butchered items, and custom boxes for easy pick-up at the shop. Don’t see something online that you want? Give them a call and they’ll build you a custom order. Chuck’s wife even makes and sales frozen, proportioned cookie dough to go along with your steaks and sausages.

Now, I know some will question what the difference is between buying Chuck’s USDA Prime Beef versus getting it from, say, Costco. Well, there’s a HUGE difference. See the plates up there? The steak on the plate on the left is from Butcher & Bird, while the unnaturally red ones are from a discount warehouse. They may be the same grade cooked to the same temperature, but the discount warehouse ones took on an unnatural color. What’s more, Chuck’s steaks are buttery soft with an excellent beefy flavor, while the other was bland and tough.

What to Do With Your Local Bounty

With access to so much great stuff, it’s easy to flex your creative muscle. For example, I took J Ludovico’s fantastic chicken, stuffed it with local thyme and lemons, and roasted the sucker. Then, I roasted off some local veggies and made a pan dripping gravy. The next day, we took the leftover chicken carapace and made chicken long rice.

On another occasion, I pan-seared some steaks, made glazed carrots, and butter-poached some lobster tails. A mostly local butternut squash with Kona roasted Kona shrimp was also on the menu another day. And, finally, I experimented with some PNW salmon over roasted local vegetables and chimichurri. Oh, and, Tahitian limes paired with KoHana Kea made for a nice margarita.

Snacks

You’d be surprised by how much locally grown and produced snacks you can find online too. I’ve been working on a review of tree-to-bar chocolate from every island for Roaming Hawaii and have sampled a TON of local chocolate. I had no idea these places existed, but now I know. Hawaiian chocolate I’ve tried so far includes:

Want something more savory? I’ve recently become a fan of Ulu Mana Hawaii‘s Ulu Hummus. I’m particularly fond of their Fun-Dried Tomato version. It’s a fantastic dip and makes for an excellent, healthier sandwich spread (in lieu of mayo).

Better yet, because ulu hummus has no beans in it, it won’t make you futt!

Conclusion

Sure, I know there are many, many more suppliers and portals out there. But, these are the ones I’ve used so far. And, generally, I’ve been happy with what I’ve gotten from them. I’m always open to hearing about others’ experiences too, though, so let me know what services you’ve tried and how you like them in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading! Stay safe and stay healthy, Hawaii!

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