West Side Story–Ko’olina Explodes for Food & Wine


I was wondering how I’d possibly make it through the last day of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival with two events in one day.  Girls Got Game +1 in Waikiki’s Hyatt was a two hour tour de force for the female chef and after an hour ride to Marriott’s Ihilani Spa and Resort, I was happy to have a short nap to prepare for the final onslaught of 14 chefs, a veritable village of vintners and a spectacular West Oahu sunset in this center of calm.


VIPThe Savoury Ever After setup on the beach was superb with an island of VIP tables which were served rather than their having to pound the sands fronting up to each stand’s chef creations.  I liked being an ordinary person and relating to the chef and crew, watching the prep work, reading the posters with ingredients and where they were form.  For those of us who wanted, there were high top tables with a few tall chairs, an expansive beach behind


koolia crowd


the stage where a jazz band played and the comfort of a lawn area behind the food stands.  It was certainly more comfortable on the feet and balance than last year, the food was on a par with great dishes and outstanding chefs plus the wine was imaginative rather than just pourable.



koolina sunset 2

Ko’olina started over 20 years ago as a vision of a Japanese developer to create an artificial beach and lagoon with a world class resort and gradual growth of the lands around it.  It was a bold move and first appealed mostly to Japanese tourists though it’s now found a broader clientele and the growth he’d predicted but didn’t live to see, has eventuated and turned this once deserted part of Oahu into a mini-paadise.  The sunsets here are always special and I love the fact that is only 30 miles away from Waikiki but really a world away, yet still as luxurious or as informal as you want it to be.


It was also a bold move for Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi to stage an event this far out when the world of cuisine and fun revolves around Waikiki.  Even more so being the last night of a five dinner extravaganza.  But the crowds came, the hotel sold out on rooms, there was a 95% takeup on tickets at $500 a pop for the VIPs and $200 for ordinary mortals.  The event was smoothly run with great music, charming people, no lushes or loudmouths and the finale was a 10 minute fireworks display that seemed to go on forever to the oooohs and aaaahs of the crowd.

posterThe only minor downside to the proceedings was the unfortunate placement of the boards detailing the chefs, their ingredients and suppliers which were up front in other events but relegated to the rear walls in this one.  It made for difficult viewing and photography of chef and dish so some of the descriptions below may be a little lacking.  However, it was a minor point and one that will probably not recur next year.

For me as a journalist, the other events were simple; rock u to the stand, take a pic of the poster on the front in green and white, then shoot the dish on the table and if the timing is right, get a shot of the chef with dish in hand.   Of course, I had to shoot all of the stands and dishes before I could taste so as not to schmear goo on the camera.

So here are some standouts;


Dean Fearing of Dallas was flat out best for this Southern boy with his jocular nature, good-humoured ribbing and call to the hungry to sample some real Texas cooking.  Fried quail with gunbarrel city greens and jalapeño creamed corn.  Da winnah!



foie gras



Michael Ginor used mini clay flowerpots to plant a garden of treats–a cylinder of foie gras in a soil of graham cracker crumbs with fennel and anise with edible flowers.







Michelle Karr-Ueoka had a layered chocolate creation with tapioca pudding, chocolate-coffee pudding, chocolate jelly cubes, brownies and a flame hardened top of crispy chocolate tulle.







Rich Rosendale   Tuna Tartar Tacos with avocado cream pickled ginger and  togarashi.






Joseph Citrine of Melisse in Santa Monica used island pork, roasted with macadamia honey, mustard cabbage, fermented black beans and eggplant.







Jason Kina of Marriott, Five Spiced marinated Lamb Chops with truffle honey glaze, Molokai Purple Sweet Potato mash, shaved reggiano and micro greens.  Yowie!



And that rounded out the five evenings of great chefs, over 60 of them, which i will be looking forward to coming back next year.   After I’ve worked off all these calories!


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