The Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival (HFWF) gathers a highly distinguished group of chefs, sommeliers as well as wine and spirit producers annually to produce an elaborate display of creative genius. Beyond the endless supply of culinary and libation choices, there’s a true aloha spirit that captures your soul.
(Photo: Scott Eddy and Roy Yamaguchi, Twitter.com/@MrScottEddy)
This festival, which will be heading into the 6th annual gathering next year results from a true visionary in the culinary world, Roy Yamaguchi. Most people probably know his widely popular Roy’s Restaurant, but he has a superstar resume, which includes a James Beard, Conde Nast Traveler and John Heckathorn Dining Excellence awards to name a few. The influence on Hawaiian cuisine dates back over a decade ago.
In 1992, twelve chefs, including Roy Yamaguchi joined forces to sponsor a charity cookbook called The New Cuisine of Hawaii (1994) by Janice Wald Henderson. The goal of this new group of chefs was to link local agriculture with the restaurant industry, making Hawaii Regional Cuisine a reflection of the community. For this, they took an uninspired international hotel cuisine based on imported products and replaced it with a cuisine based on locally grown foods.
In case the complimentary Mai Tai and lei upon arrival didn’t capture someone’s attention, this view from the Hyatt Residence Club definitely will. The rooms are a perfect harmonization between condo and hotel living, which includes a complete kitchen.
Probably the most challenging part about covering HFWF was narrowing down the most inspirational dishes and perfectly complimented beverages. Here are a couple show-stopper dishes and spirits that have left a lasting impression.
These tasty arrangements are the creation of Chef Ryan Luckey at Leilani’s on the Beach. An incredibly kind gentlemen, who focuses on locally sourced ingredients and ultimately creates a unique experience.
(Counterclockwise R to L): Hawaiian Ahi Poke – Avocado, kukui nut, local ogo, shaved Maui onion, crispy taro chips.
Local Tomatoes & Fresh Burrata – Maui Cheese Co., Hana fresh tomatoes, pickled onion, radish, basil oil, lava salt.
Gnocchi – Maui onion, fresh herbs and wine reduction.
Miner Viognier (Simpson Vineyard) – Super crisp with notes of fresh honeysuckle, Meyer lemon and citron peel.
The most innovative stroke of pure genius comes from Hali’imaile Distilling Company. Oaked Vodka? Coffee Whiskey? Fermented pineapple? Make it a point to visit the distillery, especially since only the original Pau Vodka can be purchased on U.S. mainland.
Pau Maui Vodka is distilled using the Maui Gold Pineapple. Hali’imaile Distilling is settled in the middle of pineapple fields that have been harvested for over a century with access to the best pineapple in the world. So it’s an obvious choice! The extra sweet Maui pineapple gives them a great start for fermentation due to its high sugar content.
These collective experiences completed shifted my knowledge of Hawaiian cuisine and attention to detail in everything this island is capable of. Cheers to living life with aloha and mahalo spirit!