It’s hard to sum up just how delicious last week was.
The festivities kicked off with “Enter the MODERN Dragon: Morimoto and Friends” at The Modern Honolulu hotel where the chefs set up their booths in a fabulous courtyard surrounding a pool with a dragon (no, not a real one) to honor—you guessed it—the year of the dragon.
Iron Chef Morimoto was the popular man for photos, but chef Chai Chaowasaree’s Kona baby abalone with Hamakua mushrooms in a chili garlic sauce stole the show.
Another favorite: Ming Tsai’s ruby red ahi sashimi on top of foie gras fried rice had lines snaked around the pool for hours (luckily, it was near the bar for gin cocktails and a potent rum punch.)
The four-day festival had something for every palate including seminars on wine and cocktail tasting, and a more educational experience about Oahu’s local cuisine at The Bounty of He’eia II (we scaled our fish with a shell, wrapped it in banana leaves, and left it for the chef to cook, then we ate it. It was a (mostly) scale-free success.)
At the grand finale, “From Farm to Table: A Makahiki Festival” impressive James Beard Award winners were around every turn.
Todd English’s line was long (who doesn’t want a photo with this guy?) but his salt-crusted monchong with Spam fried rice had many people going up for seconds—myself included.
But it was Boston chef Ken Oringer of Toro restaurant that had the best dish of the night (in my opinion): his kampachi tostada featured fresh, thick slices of kampachi sashimi with a spicy chipotle mayo on a Hawaiian-made tortilla. I left the evening wishing I had smuggled the tostadas in my purse.
And like any great festival, the wine, beer, and cocktails were flowing. I particularly enjoyed Chrystal and Steve Clifton’s Palmina Wines from the Santa Rita Hills in California. (They are also the cutest.)
Jonathan Waxman, David Burke, and Susan Feniger (pictured below) were a few other impressive names to add to the list.
After days of feasting on some the freshest island produce around, I had to say mahalo and return home, but keep the Hawai’i Food and Wine Festival and Oahu Visitors Bureau on your radar. You won’t want to miss this culinary adventure next year.