Friday, March 23, 2012

Eat Like a Local on the Big Island of Hawaii: Hawaiian Vanilla Company

Eric's parents were here on the Big Island to help us celebrate the big 3-0 this year and I knew I wanted to plan a special outing. I'd heard great things about The Hawaiian Vanilla Company, so I booked a reservation for their afternoon luncheon and tour.

Our afternoon began with a vanilla themed lunch. Iced tea and lemonade were generously laced with teeny tiny black specs of real vanilla seeds and served in mason jars for a homey touch.

Next up was a chicken sandwich with a vanilla seed bun, barbeque aioli made with cayenne, paprika, curry and you guessed it: vanilla! The chicken was incredibly tender and juicy and the homemade bread was still warm from the oven.

What dessert showcases real vanilla better than ice cream? It was topped with a delicious lilikoi sauce, and the tartness of the lilikoi flavor was in perfect contrast to the cool, creamy, sweetness of the ice cream. Can you see the vanilla seeds?

After lunch, we toured the farm to learn about the time consuming art of growing real vanilla. Vanilla comes from an orchid- the only orchid species in the world that produces a usable fruit. It takes four years for a plant to produce pods, and the process is slow and labor intensive. Each flower must be hand pollinated during a one week blooming season, which goes a long way towards explaining why real vanilla beans are so expensive. This plant is just a baby at only two years old. It will creep slowly up these poles and begin to create its first blooms in two more years.

Our tour was brief due to rain, but we enjoyed learning more about this exotic plant, first discovered by the Mayans and cultivated continuously ever since. (Chocolate AND Vanilla? Those guys had some precious knowledge, wouldn't you say?) It was a great way to celebrate Eric's birthday, (he has a secret fascination with spices and farms!) and if you are paying a visit to the Big Island of Hawaii, I would highly recommend this for an afternoon adventure in the rural mountain country of our island.

Have you ever tried a culinary tour before? I can't wait to do it again.

1 comment:

Stacey Merrill said...

ooh - now I'm hungry. Looks like fun - thanks for sharing

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