WStep into Bamboo Fresh in Lahaina, and the first thing you’ll notice are the ingredients crammed all over the place: a big round stalk of bananas hangs behind the counter, heaps of orange papayas and bright liliko’i nestle together on top of shelves, pineapples decorate the counters, and coconuts form a small mound. The special thing about Bamboo Fresh is that all of these ingredients are locally sourced: Kula strawberries and Hana beef, among other fresh local dishes, are advertised on the colorful menu on the board. Local ingredients don’t just make for tastier food; they are also facing a big problem in a tasty way.
According to analysts, the state of Hawaii imports between 90 and 95 percent of its food. This, on an archipelago of once productive land that, before Western contact, fed all of Hawaii’s estimated millions of residents. It is an unbearable situation, and there is a growing awareness of this harsh reality. There are those on our islands who are already doing what they can to help this unbearable situation, but we can all do more with our daily expenses and eating habits. One simple solution is to support businesses that offer local products.
The movement towards locally grown foods is the driving force behind Bamboo Fresh, which serves healthy dishes with fresh flavors. With a menu full of color and flavor and options for vegetarians and omnivores alike, Bamboo Fresh, now in its seventh year, is committed to providing a meal that comes with a clear conscience.
The restaurant is at the very end of Front Street, hidden behind a jumble of shops in The Shops at 505 Front Street next to Lahaina Shores. The interior is cute and colorful, reminiscent of a beachside fruit stand, with brightly painted walls, a smoothie station, piles of fresh fruit ready to put in a blender for smoothies, and planks. boards hanging over the cash register.
The day I went to check it out Michelle the owner was happy to tell us about the menu and the choices she makes when buying to include local produce. “The pork and beef are grass fed and run free on the island,” she told me. “Everything is home cooked, simmered in our oven. All of our products are delivered three times a week.
The menu includes flavors of Honey and Dijon Chicken, Rosemary-Sage-Seasoned Beef, Kalua Pork, Herb-Butter Turkey, and Lemon Pepper Chicken. For vegetarians, Mama’s Garden and Tofu & Spice options include avocados, sweet potatoes, local goat cheese, and fresh vegetables. The menu is versatile and each flavor can be ordered as a wrap, salad or bowl of rice.
“You have a balanced meal in each wrap,” Michelle said. You have the right balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates; you have your live food and your cooked food. Chicken is organic and hormone free. We also use fresh herbs.
Smoothies are popular and delicious. “Fruit puree is used to make our smoothies, so there is no sugar, syrup or dairy,” Michelle said. Smoothies suit a variety of palates, such as Mermaid, with mango and liliko’i flavors, and Jedi OG, with cocoa and peanut butter. Or, they can be custom ordered. The house special, Life Force, combines 10 fruits with kale, mint, ginger and spirulina. Each smoothie is mixed with coconut water. Besides these main stays, the menu also offers coffee and bagels.
“We started from scratch and we’re still here,” Michelle said. “I am not a foodie; I am not a chef; this is all by accident. Michelle was inspired by her childhood in Rhode Island, where her family used seasonal ingredients and used to “jar and can everything,” she said. Since her beginnings, she has been passionate about local cuisine. Despite a series of challenges faced by many small businesses in Maui, the cafe persevered, mostly thanks to word of mouth and a mix of tourists and local regulars. One of the hard-to-swallow aspects of eating well is the price, but Bamboo Fresh keeps its prices pretty reasonable.
On the wall near the cash register, a small sign is hung. “Wouldn’t it make sense… that a community that nourishes itself is a community that thrives? It would.
505 Front Street # 142
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