My son Anthony and I were invited to attend a very special luncheon at Merriman's in Waimea on Friday last weekÂ to say farewell to Chef Neil Murphy who is moving on to the Merriman's Kapalua, Maui location.
The event was hosted by Pam and Kurt Hirabara (Hirabara Baby Lettuce Farm in
Waimea) and attended mostly by farmers and ranchers with which Chef Neil had
made connections and who supplied him with Big Island products...such as veggies/fruit/seafood/meats... Besides the food providers, also attending were our friends, food writerÂ Joan Namkoon and Chef 'Olelo pa'a Faith Ogawa as well as Chef Neil'sÂ fiancÃ©e who flew in from a neighbor island for the event.
This was a surprise to the chef who did not know the event had beenÂ planned....He was loaded down with dozens of lei, cards and gifts, including aÂ canoe paddleÂ ....and ended up cooking onÂ his last dayÂ at Merriman's Waimea a veritable feastÂ for our group.
It wasÂ a wonderfulÂ meal which I understand was composed of mostly "off the cuff" creations by Chef NeilÂ and his crew when he realized so many of his suppliers were there.... he incorporated as much of the produce/meats the farmers and ranchers provided him with in the dishes he chose to send out.
We ate for about 2-1/2 hours non-stop...dishes kept flying out to our two long tables (aboutÂ 26 - 30Â people all together) in a constant stream and everything was
delicious and beautifully presented.Â
The mouth-wateringÂ offerings started with lidded baskets filled with warm freshly baked rolls and little bowls of warabi (fiddlehead fern) salad and pickled salads strewn all the length of the tables.Â These were followed by platters of grilled quesadillas and 'ahi and ono sashimi.Â
Bowls of beautiful mixed greens and more bowls of cubed beets, slices of cucumbers, red and yellow tomatoes and red, sweet,Â juicy strawberries topped with chopped and toasted macadamia nuts.
More platters of sashimi topped with cubed avocadoes were brought out as well asÂ marinated and grilled shrimp, macadamia rice, seasoned and roasted potatoesÂ andÂ beef tenderloin medalions.
The main entrÃ©e, portions of a delicious freshly caught mahi-mahi on a bed of sauteed assorted mushrooms and onions topped with a perfectly poached egg was, in my humble opinion, one of the best mahi I have eaten on this island.Â It's not even on the menu and it doesn't have a name.
When we thought we couldn't eat anymore, out came the desserts!Â Seven.....count them...Â seven different delicious desserts to choose fromÂ came marching up and down the tables!
Cheesecakes with strawberries, strawberries and cream,Â delicate crÃ¨me brulÃ©e, chocolate brownie and ice cream, pineapple upsidedown cake topped with whipped cream, dark, rich chocolate cake and shortbread drizzled with chocolate, and a chocolate flan that was my favorite of all....
ItÂ is alwaysÂ gratifying to see the wonderfulÂ synergy that can exist between a chef and his suppliers and this ocassion was no exception.Â The aloha that could be felt surrounding theÂ tables was palpable and very special.Â
A comment overheard had Chef Neil telling one of the guests summed it up...to the effectÂ that being a chef was more of a vocation than a profession; "where else can you come to work in the morning, grab a cup of coffee and get to play with food while trying to express an idea and have the satisfaction of knowing you pleased someone when they ate it later that day?"
As Pam later said; "I too, thought that lunch was special special.Â It is as if the food was the least of it.Â I'm sure you know what I mean.....the food was fabulous because it was, after all, Neil Murphy, but the thing that I remember bestÂ was looking around the room and seeing a kind of group of peopleÂ whoÂ got cleaned up (and left their farms)Â to come to lunch.Â Both Kurt and I felt extra proud to be farmers that day"
Mahalo Pam and Kurt for being our gracious hosts for a very special special lunch.
To learn more about the growers and suppliers you can reach them below: