By RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
Pono is a Hawaiian word meaning righteousness; brothers Ted Shin Nakato are trying to use this righteousness in their business model at Pono Farm & Fine Meats. In growing, butchering preparing the naturally raised beef pork from their farm in Culver, their goal is to provide Central Oregon with a consistent source of quality meat at competitive prices.
The Pono Farm shop operates as a butcher shop restaurant. Chef Jay Clark uses select cuts from Wagyu Red Angus beef as well as heritage breeds of Berkshire Red Wattle pork. Other ingredients in his cooking are sourced locally will change seasonally.
The Nakato brothers grew up on the east coast in a family entrenched in the restaurant business. Ted has been running several restaurants in North Carolina while Shin wife Kelli have been farming cattle at the families’ Culver farm for the past nine years. While the two brothers worked together to open the business, Ted has been commuting from North Carolina hopes to eventually move to Central Oregon. Shin runs the day to day operations at the farm the pair have over ten employees between the farm shop.
The idea for Pono came about as Ted found it increasingly difficult to find a consistent source of quality meat for his restaurants, so the brothers decided to get into the production side of the business. Ted shares, “Folks in Bend like living a healthier lifestyle help support the local businesses. We want to provide a premium product at a reasonable price…since we are the farmer we try to pass some of the savings on to the customer.”
The cows are raised without the use of hormones, antibiotics or animal based feed. The two farms raise about 200 head of cattle, 120 hogs some egg-laying chickens to provide the restaurant with fresh free-range eggs. The brothers are proud of their method of raising animals, the cattle are fed a diet comprised of mostly grass locally grown hay. The pigs are grown slowly the brothers want to reintroduce the kind of pork that was grown before the days of the genetically enhanced ‘commercial’ pork that grows rapidly with the boost of growth hormones.
I met Ted at the Pono Farm shop over a busy lunch hour to sample a few of the dishes available. The shop was doing brisk business when my lunch companion Kirk I arrived, we noticed just about everyone there for lunch also walked out with a package for home.
The brothers try to schedule bringing meat into the shop so it will stay fresh; recent business has them using about one steer a couple of hogs per week. Even though there is little waste in the process, the Nakatos are looking into donating extra food to a local food bank.
Chef Clark uses a creative touch with the meals, we could see taste the seasonal influences in the food we sampled. Pono offers coffee from the local roaster, 11R, water from the farm’s Opal Springs a variety of sodas without high fructose corn syrup.
We started with the Split Pea Soup with Guanciale. The savory soup was served with a crisp tasty bite of guanciale, a form of unsmoked Italian bacon, which set the tone for the meal. Next we sampled the Wisconson Bratwurst with Kraut fries. Having grown up in Wisconsin, I have had my share of brats, this one was delicious. The fresh sauerkraut was excellent the fries were lightly sprinkled with sea salt served with a dejon mustard.
We tried the Wagyu Cheeseburger next, served with a colorful cucumber salad which was sprinkled with fresh oregano, sun dried tomatoes, lemon rind. Upon biting into the s wich, Kirk exclaimed, “This is so much better than any beef I’ve had in a long time.”
My favorite dish was a Skirt Steak Kilbasa plate special. The cuts were extremely tender flavorful. Again, the lemon rind was a surprisingly refreshing burst of flavor combined with the sun dried tomato based sauce prepared by Chef Clark.
If that wasn’t enough meat for our meal, we could not pass up the butcher case before leaving purchased some marinated ribs to throw on the grill at home. The staff was helpful when deciding what cut of meat to choose, even offered suggestions on preparation.
Look for Pono Farm Fine Meats to be evolving filling into their role in Central Oregon’s local food movement over the next few months. There is talk of farm to table dinners, rotating specials more as the Nakato brothers explore their options.