Pumpkin Dessert, Ravioli, Festival, Picking

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - October 20, 2010
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Pick a pumpkin at the Kadooka farm in Waimanalo

Pumpkins are popping up all over town, serving as a timely reminder that the holidays are on their way. At Chef Mavro, as part of his fall menu, you can have Kabocha Coconut Custard, a dish with a description as enticing as the dessert itself: “Nut crusted, cranberry, basil, fennel pollen, island orange sauce cream cheese ice cream.” Tell me you wouldn’t want a spoonful of that after dinner ...

And returning to the menu at Vino, after dozens of requests by customers, is chef Keith Endo‘s gorgeous pumpkin and Molokai sweet potato ravioli. The pasta pockets are light and filled with sweet, golden potato and pumpkin, bringing a taste of rustic Italy to a corner of Restaurant Row. You’ll find most chefs trying to incorporate fall flavors this month as Thanksgiving approaches and favorite holiday foods are just a month away. Watch this space. Before you know it, we’ll be talking about Thanksgiving dinner and where to make reservations ...

Making a pumpkin debut this year is something that I’m sure will become a popular annual event: The Pumpkin Carving Festival is scheduled for Oct. 24 at Blaisdell Center. It’s the brainchild of Billie Gabriel.

“Historically, pumpkin is a staple of Thanksgiving and Halloween,” she says. “We wanted to give families the chance to meet master carvers, art students, and learn how to do something exciting and creative with pumpkins this year.”

If you’re like me and your idea of pumpkin carving is a toothy grin and a triangular nose, Gabriel brings salvation. “This year we’re giving pumpkins a makeover,” she enthuses.

Safeway has donated 1,000 pumpkins to the cause, dozens of experts have signed up, and chefs and artists will be in attendance to help with the carving and contests. The cost of the event includes pumpkin, carving tools and access to the experts. Online applications have closed, but the festival is welcoming walk-ins on the day.

“We’re starting small,” says Gabriel, “but we think the festival will grow.”

Master knife maker Ken Onion will be at the festival, and earlier in the year he promised me he’d be working on some crazy pumpkin carving tools. Onion has designed and sold more knives than anyone else in the world, so you can guarantee he’s not bringing any of those orange plastic cutters with him. Go to pumpkincarvingfestival.org for details ...

And pumpkins are proving to be prosperous for Waimanalo farmers Shawn and Dominic Kadooka, who planted pumpkins for the first time this season to try to combat a year hampered by drought, bugs and wild pigs.

“We’ve had such a horrible year,” says Shawn. “We wanted to end it on a positive note, so we thought we’d try pumpkins.”

The Kadookas have opened up their 52-acre farm and corn maze to families who’ve been flocking to Waiamanalo on Saturdays to ride through the pumpkin patch, pick their own pumpkins, and get a taste of some home-cooked, farm-raised food.

“We had no idea how many people would want to come,” says Shawn. “The response has been really amazing.” For details go to waimanalocountryfarms.com. And this just in: The farm will now open on Sundays through October to accommodate demand.

Happy eating!

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