I was fortunate to recently attend the 5th Annual Food & Wine Magazine’s annual festival at the Hilton Waikoloa on August 29th representing the Big Island Chronicle. This year’s signature event was titled Seven Chefs, One Big Island and featured some of the best chefs in the country, including some from Hawaii and New Zealand. The Hilton served as an ideal venue for gourmet enthusiasts to enjoy bio-regionally specific haute cuisine. The current farm to table trend that focuses on local ingredients was emphasized and with the incredible and varied gifts we have here in Hawaii from both land and sea, the chefs were provided outstanding ingredients to dazzle guests.
Beginning just before sunset there was a VIP reception featuring cocktails and hors d’oeuvres prepared by Chef Hans Lentz and his team from the Hilton Waikoloa Village. If this was any indication of what we would be feasting on later, we knew we were in good hands. There were several delicious offerings inducing : Roasted Kabocha Pumpkin Shooter with Ohia Honey, Coconut Foam and Ginger Brittle; Opihi Poke Nori Wonton Cup with Yazu, Uni Creme Brulee and Micro Wasabi; my favorite was the Charred Gochujang Kauai Prawns with Kalamansi Compressed Watermelon, Cotija Cheese, Lime Caviar & Micro Cilantro. I missed out on the Berkshire Pork Belly Crostini with Pineapple Adobo Gastrique with Crispy Pancit, but heard rave reviews.
After the reception we were guided to our tables in the adjoining banquet hall for dinner. As a custom in Hawaii for a special gathering, a traditional Hawaiian Pule or chant was performed, first in Hawaiian and then in English. The Pule was to bless the attendees, the chefs and the food and wish everyone safety and wellbeing following the meal. The land and sea were both honored for their contributions as well as the many (many) hands that put the time and effort to make such a grand and beautiful event possible. A band onstage performed live music throughout the event.
The first course was from Chef Michael Meredith of Merediths Restaurant in New Zealand. It was a Beetroot Cured Ono with Japanese Cucumber, Kauai Shrimp & Avocado Cream. It was paired with Kitaya Kansansui “Cold Water Mountain” Junmai-Dai-Ginjyo Sake from Fukuoka Prefecture. This was perhaps my favorite dish of all, it had a slight citrus backnote, the fish had a lovely mouth-feel and was infused with the beautiful color of beets. All the textures and flavors had a nice interplay. I am not usually one for sake, but this one was extremely smooth and matched the flavors perfectly.
The second course was from Hawaii’s own Chef Roy Yamaguchi who has his signature restaurants all over the Hawaii islands as well as a few places on the mainland. His offering was Miso Charred Lobster with Toasted Rye Cavatelli, Beurre Noisette Lemon Cream and Smoked Ikura. It seemed everyone at my table was initially confused as to what the Cavatelli is, it’s a rustic handmade rye pasta in a small cylinder shape. The lemon cream was a delightful counterbalance to the smoked ikura. Lovely presentation. The wine pairing was a 2011 Bouchard Pere et Fils Puligny Montrachet from Burgundy and it was nothing short of outstanding.
Our third course was from the famous Chef Ming Tsai of the Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA. His offering was a Steamed Kona Abalone and Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Black Bean Flash. If you like Foie, you love it, and if you don’t, I’m so sorry for you. There were a few folks at my table that were not fans and I certainly felt sorry for them because they were truly missing out. The foie was inside of the abalone shell and the abalone was on the outside. There was a serrano chili garnish that provided a nice spicey offset to the richness of the dish. The wine pairing was a 2013 Maison L’Envoye Cote de Py’ Gamay, Beaujolais, France, as somewhat surprising choice of red with seafood, but really the star of the dish was the foie.
Our fourth course was from Chef Andrew Sutton of Napa Rose in Anaheim CA. His offering had multiple directions and flavors. Grilled Big Island Wild Boar Meat Loaf on Red Chile Chimichurri with Hearts of Palm Salad, Poha Berries and Macadamia nuts. There was the earthiness of the wild meat, the spice and smokiness of the chimichurri, the neutral and mild flavor of the hearts of palm and the sweet and crunch of the poha and macnuts. This wine was maybe my favorite of all them all, a 2011 Gramercy Cellars ‘Inigo Montoya’ (yep, think Princess Bride) Tempranillo from Walla Walla, Washington.
Our fifth course was from Chef Richard Rosendale of the USA Representative Bocuse d’Or 2013. This course was a Coriander Rubbed Grassfed Beef with a Short Rib Dumpling, Lapsang Souchong Poached Beets, Seared Bok Choy and Orange & Pepper Puree. The beef was outstanding, perfectly prepared. The was some confusion at my table about the dumpling which didn’t seem to have any noticeable beef inside of it. Otherwise the flavors married nicely and it was and a great way to finish the savory portion of the meal. The wine paring was a delicious 2012 Hobel Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, CA.
For dessert we had an incredible and playful offering from Chef Jayson Kanekoa of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort. We were served a Lilikoi Sponge Cake with Hawaii Island Goat Cheese Panna Cotta and Lilikoi Macaroon with Lilikoi Meringue. What was also included was a curious plastic syringe of sorts filled with a kind of berry puree that allowed the dinner to administer onto their desert as desired. Frankly, even though I’ve mostly out-grown my sweet tooth, I cleaned this plate. The lightness of the cake which was thankfully not overly sweet melted in your mouth. We were served both Kona Coffee as well as a 2011 Domaine De L’Alliance Sauternes from France, a sweet dessert wine.
A huge thanks to the Food & Wine magazine, the chefs, the Hilton and everyone else that made this event possible. By the end of the meal after six courses and paired wine it seemed everyone had been swooned by the gracious efforts of the chefs. Hopefully next year we will see some new and exciting offerings from the event. I’d also like to thank my editor Tiffany Hunt for sending me to the event. This evening in particular had me think, lucky to live Hawaii.
(Sofia Wilt, also known as Kitchen Diva, is a columnist for Big Island Chronicle and a personal chef based in Puna.)