It’s nearly impossible to find Twin Bridge Farms in Waialua without specific directions from someone who’s actually been there.
It turns up in two different spots on two different map apps on my iPhone. In one, it’s near the roundabout between Waialua and Hale‘iwa on O‘ahu’s North Shore; in another, it’s in the Pacific Ocean.
And the farm doesn’t have a website, either.
Turns out, the farm is by the old Waialua Sugar Co. mill — which shut down in 1996 — at the end of a dirt road that looks like it leads nowhere.
There’s no sign welcoming you. There’s just an unmarked plantation-style structure outside a chain-link fence.
Good thing the rest of the tour came in a golden tour bus; otherwise, I would have never found the place.
The farm recently hosted about 30 people, mostly guests who enjoyed a gourmet dinner the night before at the Sheraton Waikīkī using the veggies grown here.
Started in October 2014 by Senior Executive Sous Chef Colin Hazama, this table-to-farm event, part of the Chef’s Table and Farm Tour series, offers diners a chance to see where their food is grown and meet the people behind the ingredients on the plate.
It works like this: For $170 ($200 with wine), you get an oceanfront dinner at the hotel on Friday night, with a menu featuring products from a local farm. The next day, you board a bus that takes you to that featured farm, where you meet the people responsible for your meal the night before and feast on a gourmet lunch prepared by Hazama at the farm.
“We wanted people to enjoy eating dinner first, then see what they ate the next day,” Hazama explained, while I sampled the sweet potato pie he was serving that night at the fourth dinner in the series. (The sweet potatoes came from Twin Bridge Farms.) “You don’t really get a full understanding of what you’re eating until after you’ve eaten it.”
Nearly 80 people showed up for the Twin Bridge Farms collaborative dinner, with about 30 of them making the trek to Waialua the next morning. (The farm tour is limited to 30 people.)
I was lucky enough to tag along with Hazama and his guests last weekend to Twin Bridge Farms, a farm that specializes in locally grown asparagus and potatoes. It doesn’t offer regular tours, so visiting was a special treat.
Here’s what it looked like:
One of the owners, Milton Agader, greeted everyone at the farm’s recently renovated packing facility and commercial kitchen. He started this farm with his partner, Al Medrano, in 1998. They both had worked for the Waialua Sugar Co. until it closed down in 1996, then decided to start their own farm, instead.
The farm has a contract to test potato seeds that are required to go through a stringent certification process. In return, they keep the crop. Up to 90 percent of the seeds sold in North America are first tested here.
This is Agader holding up a tray of potatoes. The workers here plant the seeds in November and by early January, technicians come and take readings of the plant and send samples back. The farm grows a variety of potatoes, from Yukon Golds to Adriondack Blues.
After a quick tour of the packing facility, the commercial kitchen and the outdoor area where workers use a customized machine that cuts asparagus into perfect spears, we boarded the bus (again) and headed to the fields.
After a short walk through this area, we headed to the fields of asparagus, the farm’s signature crop. Asparagus plants are perennial, which means the same plants grow in your garden year after year. Some of these fields are more than 15 years old.
While the U.S. is the largest importer of asparagus, it’s not the largest exporter — at all. China is the world’s largest producer, with Peru and Mexico a far second and third. Most of the U.S. production of asparagus comes from California, Michigan and Washington.
Hazama and Ryan Loo, executive chef at the Moana Surfrider, prepared a gourmet lunch that was served at the farm on this plateau with stunning views of the fields and mountains.
In addition to Kaua‘i shrimp po’ boy sandwiches with Nalo Farms micro cress and Dole pineapple cabbage slaw or the country-style Bloody Marys with picked veggies and herb salt, the chefs highlighted the lunch with the farm’s asparagus: grilled spears with a whipped potage cream and crispy speck courtesy of Shinsato Farms.
It was an incredible experience to taste both the raw veggies fresh from the farm and the creative interpretation of these same ingredients by skilled chefs.
So if you’re looking for a new twist on the whole farm-to-table dining experience, this event series is worth checking out.
The next one will be at the Sheraton Kona on the Big Island. Hazama will team up with the hotel’s executive chef Matthew Naula to create a meal featuring the products from Wailea Agricultural Group — known for its hearts of palms — Kona Cold Lobsters and Living Aquaponics Farm. The dinner is scheduled for June 5 and farm tour on June 6. Cost is $170 for the dinner, farm tour and gourmet lunch; $200 with wine pairings. Seating is limited to 50 dining guests. The hotel is also offering a discounted room rate at $159 per night for guests who are attending this event. Make reservations at 808-921-4600.