Straight from the Source

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The sunset dinner menu post expedition features appetizers, a main course showcasing Kanpachi in three different preparations and dessert.

FOUR SEASONS RESORT HUALALAI’S KANPACHI EXPEDITION PROVIDES A ONE-OF-A-KIND OCEAN- TO-TABLE EXPERIENCE.

SIGNING UP FOR THE FOUR SEASONS RESORT HUALALAI’S SUSTAINABLE FISH FARMING AND CULINARY EXPE- RIENCE EARLIER THIS YEAR, WE KNEW THIS WASN’T OUR FAMILY’S TYPICAL FISHING EXPEDITION! We were about to get close up and personal with the only open-ocean fish farm in the United States, and then feast on the harvest in one of Hawai‘i Island’s dreamiest restaurants—‘ULU Ocean Grill + Sushi set beachfront at the resort.

In partnership with Blue Ocean Mariculture, based on the island’s Kona Coast, Four Seasons Hualalai introduced a morning-long expedition and tour followed by an extravagant multi-course dinner that evening. Offered exclusively for Hualalai Resort homeowners and Four Seasons Hualalai hotel guests, the VIP tour is limited to just six people to ensure a highly customized adventure. The sustainable fish-farming firm is the sole producer of Hawaiian Kanpachi, and we were about to be guided through the full life cycle of the flavorful native fish by both land and sea.

The resort driver met our group in the hotel lobby for an early morning departure to the mariculture facility just 15 minutes south of the resort at the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park, where it was immediately clear that high tech has met environmentally conscious. The astonishingly clean, state-of-the-art fish hatchery along with the passionate team of staffers ensures a healthy start to life for these soon-to-be-marine babies.

Tyler Korte, offshore farm manager at Blue Ocean Mariculture, explains that while Kanpachi is native to Hawaiian waters, overfishing throughout the years has seriously limited the supply of the highly prized fish and other sought after native species. Overfishing begins a cycle that leads to the remaining fish not re-producing.

By capturing healthy fish in the wild, Blue Ocean Mariculture developed a healthy brood stock to begin producing, harvesting and incubating eggs. Established in 2009, the marine biologists say that through their first-hand experience in commercial-capture fisheries, they understand that some farming of the oceans is inevitable and necessary. The goal, they say, is mariculture done smartly with respect for local culture, ocean water quality and wildlife health. In the past nine years, through careful, sustainable farming, the rate of survival is much higher than in the wild.

As the hatchlings mature to juvenile fish, Korte says, they are transferred to the pyramid-shaped pens located just offshore in the pristine Pacific Ocean. These pampered juveniles are fed a healthy diet daily—no need to hunt on their own or be subjected to potential predators—within one of five heavy steel “net” cages. The massive cages are 250 feet high and have a capacity for up to 150,000 mature fish. The timeframe from egg to harvest is 18 months, and currently harvesting is twice weekly, netting from 15,000 to 30,000 pounds of fish each day.

Following the tour and discussion, it’s time to get out on the ocean to view the pens ourselves. Korte tells us that on this day we will witness the team harvesting the fish that have reached maturity at about eight to 10 pounds. Alternatively, the open water experience may include fish feeding rather than harvesting, he says. Our driver transports us back to Four Seasons Hualalai where we board the resort’s speedy Ribcraft for the 20-minute ride along the spectacular lava strewn coast and white sand beach coves to the open water pens.

With calm waters, favorable currents and a flexible itinerary, our captain—one of the resort’s incredible Alaka‘i Nalu (masters of the waves)—allowed us to call the shots of when and where we wanted to stop and snorkel or simply slowdown to watch an enormous pod of spinner dolphins and beached honu resting on shore. During humpback whale season (roughly November-March) our captain tells us they frequently see these amazing marine behemoths breaching and tail slapping, often with their newborn calves at their side.

Reaching the pens, we realize how incredibly close this exceptional quality, impeccably fresh food source is to the resort kitchens and the careful effort taken at each step to produce these naturally raised ocean fish. The crystal clear, clean waters provide our group with easy viewing from the boat as the cages are slowly raised and the mature fish are harvested. The experience plants a special understanding and appreciation for these ocean farmers and the delectable food they are raising sustainably for visitors and island residents alike.

Arriving back at the resort, we disembark for light refreshments at the Alaka‘i Nalu’s oceanfront reception center before heading back to our rooms for some relaxing downtime before our ocean-to-table sunset dinner. The menu, under the direction of executive chef Thomas Bellic, features appetizers, a main course showcasing Kanpachi in three different preparations and a sinfully delicious dessert.

Bellic is a fan of what he describes as one of the most versatile—and delicious— fishes. “This firm, fatty white fish has distinctly sweet and clean flavors and is perfect prepared as poke, sushi, roasted whole, or filleted and simply grilled or seared,” he says.

As a group, we couldn’t have agreed more after devouring every bite in each preparation along with the rest of the scrumptious meal.

reservations are a must—72 hours in advance; the fee for up to six individuals is $7,800. to book, phone (808) 325-8000. Visit fourseasons.com for details.

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