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Appetizing Islands

April 24, 2012 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent


Ko at The Fairmont Kea Lani
Ko at The Fairmont Kea Lani serves Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese dishes using local produce.


Hawaii has much to offer even to the most sophisticated of palates.

In recent years, Hawaii’s culinary scene has gone far beyond poi and Spam. Top-notch chefs are working with farmers to bring local ingredients to diners’ plates, and resorts and restaurants alike are turning the state into a premier foodie destination.
On Oahu, the Sheraton Waikiki opened Kai Market a few years ago, placing Hawaiian food front-and-center at one of the world’s most famous beaches. On Kauai, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa has an organic garden that supplies vegetables and virtually all the culinary herb needed for the resort.
On Maui, Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar debuted a farm-to-table menu last summer that uses locally sourced ingredients prepared in-house daily. Lumeria Maui, formerly known as SoulSpace Sanctuary, has its own organic garden, which supplies food to the farm-to-table kitchen. The Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui just opened its new restaurant, Ko, which translates to “sugarcane” in Hawaiian. The restaurant serves Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese dishes courtesy of Executive Chef Tylun Pang, who uses local produce, meat and seafood, and gives traditional recipes a contemporary twist.
Hawaii Island is home to some of the state’s biggest harbors, farms and cattle ranches, so local food can cover a very wide range. Hilton Waikoloa Village began focusing on “Homegrown Hawaii” last summer. Chef Charles Charbonneau created a menu of traditional Hawaiian dishes based on sustainable farm-to-table ingredients from the island, such as the Lagoon Grill Kona lobster burger and KPC Kasuzuke Glazed Hapu’upu’u. At Orchid Marketplace, guests can try Kona coffee at the nearby state-licensed Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation. The restaurants at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel use local Kohala Coast ingredients, and offer monthly locally sourced specials. In April, guests can try “Simply Sustainable Seafood,” a prix-fixe menu featuring Kona Kampachi sashimi, pineapple smoked “open water” ono and grilled shutome (broadbill swordfish), all sourced from the island.
At the Four Seasons Hualalai, Executive Chef James Babian works with over 160 farmers and fishermen on the island, so a full 75 percent of the resort’s food is sourced from the island. Babian also works with farmers to create new ingredients. Ninety percent of the food served at Pahu i’a restaurant is from the island, and the resort raises moi fish and shrimp and grows its own fruits and herbs.
At Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Executive Sous Chef Jayson Kanekoa takes guests to the local markets, farms and sometimes fish market to purchase fresh produce, meat and fish. Kanekoa then creates a special farm-to-table dinner to be served at the resort’s Hawaii Calls Restaurant & Lounge that evening.
Food Festivals
Festivals also help to enhance and promote island cuisine. This year has already seen the 17th annual Kona Brewers Festival, a celebration of local beers that includes island-style dishes from 30 Hawaiian chefs. June will see the annual Kapalua Wine & Food Festival on Maui, which will include food tastings with celebrity chefs and wine samplings from popular sommeliers. This year’s event will also include a tribute to legendary chef Julia Child in honor of her centenary. In Ko’olina, Oahu, the four-day Hawaii Food & Wine Festival will showcase dishes using local produce, including locally sourced seafood, beef and poultry. James Beard Award-winning chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong will reportedly be part of the September event.
Two new food festivals will debut this year: At the Ka’anapali Beach Resort, Ka’anapali Fresh, A Culinary Experience is a brand-new three-day signature event that will run from August 31 to September 2. The Wailea Wine & Food Festival will run from December 6 to 9—no information about it has been released except for the name and dates, but keep checking for updates.

Tour operators are also making the most of the trend: On Oahu, Hawaii Food Tours is a tour operator designed and guided by former Hawaii food writer and restaurant reviewer, Matthew Gray. Three tours are available, and activities can include hole-in-the-wall restaurants, a Hawaiian luau feast (complete with cooking demonstrations) and lavish multicourse wine dinners.

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About the Author

Jena Tesse Fox
Jena Tesse Fox covers Europe, Africa, Australia/South Pacific and business travel for the Questex Travel Group's publications. The daughter of history teachers, she can spend...

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By Jena Tesse Fox | April 24, 2012
Organic products and various food-based events held across the state are turning Hawaii into a culinary hot spot.