Sunday, November 13, 2011

First Lady Shows Off Hawaii's Organic Foods At 2011 APEC Spouses Luncheon

At Kualoa Ranch, Mrs. Obama's farm-to-table menu by chef Ed Kenney spotlighted the work of student farmers...
In Hawaii on Sunday, First Lady Michelle Obama treated the spouses of leaders attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to an organic farm-to-table luncheon at Kualoa Ranch, an historic agritourism venue on the windward side of Oahu. Held beneath a white pavilion overlooking Kaneohe Bay, the event was intended to "introduce" the guests to Mrs. Obama's signature Let's Move! initiative, according to the East Wing. Thus Honolulu chef Ed Kenney's menu was anchored by fruit and vegetables harvested on Saturday when Mrs. Obama visited MA'O Organic Farms for a tour and discussion with student farmers. President Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, was included on the luncheon guest list, which numbered just eleven. She also accompanied Mrs. Obama on Saturday. (Above: Mrs. Obama was seated between Mrs. Laureen Harper of Canada and Ms. Lynda May Babao of Papua New Guinea; Soetoro-Ng is at far left)

The First Lady dined with many of her guests on Saturday evening when she and the President hosted the APEC Leaders Dinner in Honolulu. But there was a formal arrival ceremony for the luncheon, and Mrs. Obama, clad in a bright yellow silk sleeveless dress printed with an island pattern, greeted each spouse individually, reaching out to clasp their hands and exchange pleasantries, and then posing for formal photos.

The lone male spouse on hand for the lunch was Mr. Tim Mathieson, the "domestic partner" of Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia. Mrs. Kim Yoon-ok, First Lady of South Korea, was also in attendance; she was at the White House just last month for a State Visit. (Above: Mathieson presented Mrs. Obama with a photo during their greeting)

At the start of the luncheon, Mrs. Obama stood at the head of the single, long table, and spoke of her fondness for Hawaii, which she said essentially sealed the deal with her husband.

"I have to tell you that this state, as you know, has a very special place in my heart. As many of you know, my husband was born and raised here," she said. "Our family has the privilege of coming here--the burden of coming back here every year...And that's really one of the reasons I married Barack."

"When I realized that this is where we'd be spending the holidays, I said, "Yes -- I love you!" Mrs. Obama added, to laughter.

The First Family now spends the Christmas holiday each year on island; during the President's time in office this has been at a beachfront rental compound in the town of Kailua, which also has a view of Kaneohe Bay. Mr. Obama is referred to locally as kama'aina, a child of the land, someone who is not a Native Hawaiian but who was either born on the islands or has spent much time there.

"He has always talked about how growing up in this place has shaped his character," Mrs. Obama said. "There is a special spirit here, a spirit of openness and tolerance."

"In many ways, Hawaii is really the perfect place for this APEC summit," she added, echoing the President's toast at Saturday night's dinner, when he called on the APEC Leaders to adopt the spirit of Hawaii and act as ohana--family--when pursuing their goals.

"Folks here view their differences as strengths--not as weaknesses," Mrs. Obama said. "And people of all different backgrounds live together and work together and seek to learn from each other."

The menu...
The First Lady then introduced Kenney to her guests, hailing him as "a great Hawaiian chef." He owns the restaurants Town and Downtown, and sources much of his produce from MA'O Organic Farms, a 24.5-acre certified organic operation in the Waianae area, which is run primarily by students interns who work in exchange for college tuition and a monthly stipend. Kenney sits on the farm's advisory board, and has been working with it for a decade. He held a wood platter with fresh vegetables as he explained the menu and farming practices (above).

"I had the pleasure of spending a very cool afternoon with many of these young people yesterday, and I can tell you that they are some amazing, positive people who will have an impact not just on the state of Hawaii, but on the rest of the world," Mrs. Obama said.

Ninety percent of the produce for the luncheon was grown at MA'O, Kenney said, and harvested on Saturday by the two young farmers who joined him to prepare the lunch, Ku’u Samson and Manny Miles.

The luncheon began with a salad of MA'O beets with arugula, clementine, and pistachio, with Naked Cow Dairy feta, and poppy seed vinaigrette. The entree was freshly caught mahi mahi with limu sauce, which was made with basil, parsley, capers, and shallots.  The accompaniment was MA'O root vegetables--carrots and rutabaga; as well as pa'i 'ai, a hand-pounded taro; and pickled limu--seaweed sourced from Heeia fishpond--"right down the road" from the Kualoa Ranch.  Dessert was a Meyer Lemon Tart and fresh Liliko'i--passion fruit plucked from Kenney's own backyard, he said.

Kenney said the fish had been caught the day before off Heeia, and since they didn't know what it would be, its name wasn't on the printed menu that accompanied each place setting.  The menu noted fresh fish from Kaneohe Bay.

The Honolulu Boy Choir entertained after the luncheon, singing traditional songs. After, a garden of native trees at the Ranch was dedicated in Mrs. Obama's honor, in a ceremony closed to press. (Above: Mrs. Obama introduces the choir)

The other guests joining Mrs. Obama were Madam Mai Thi Hanh, First Lady of Vietnam; Mrs. Nadine Heredia, First Lady of Peru; Mrs. Laureen Harper, spouse of the Prime Minister of Canada; Mrs. Fang-Yui Lien, spouse of the Representative of Chinese Taipei; Ms. Lynda May Babao, spouse of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea; Mrs. Kristiani Herawati, First Lady of Indonesia; and Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor, spouse of the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Mrs. Obama presented the APEC spouses with diplomatic gifts created by Hawaiian artists from natural materials that represent Hawaii, including orchids and Koa wood. These were atop each place setting, in small woven presentation boxes. The women received one-of-a-kind brooches cast from real orchid blooms selected by Mrs. Obama; Mr. Mathieson received Koa and sterling cuff links, with the inscription "Made exclusively for Michelle Obama." Read more about the gifts here. (Above: One of the brooches)

The family-owned Kualoa Ranch was founded in 1850, purchased from King Kamehameha III, and the dramatic terrain encompasses mountains and sea. It has been much used by Hollywood, most notably for the "Jurassic Park" films and the "Lost" TV series. It also includes a grass-fed cattle operation.

Mrs. Obama has hosted two previous farm-to-table events for spouses of world leaders. In 2010, she welcomed the spouses of UN General Assembly members to New York's Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture Center, where they took a farm tour and had lunch at Blue Hill resturant, cooked by chef Dan Barber and the White House chefs. During the 2009 Pittsburgh G20 Summit, Mrs. Obama hosted a farm-to-table dinner for spouses at Teresa Heinz Kerry's Rosemont Farm. Both events spotlighted local, organic and sustainably grown ingredients. (Above: Mrs. Obama walking with her guests)

*The full transcript of Mrs. Obama's remarks.

*Pool photos by AP and Honolulu Star Advertiser