Wednesday, October 5, 2011

HFWF's grand finale

Nadine Kam photos
John Besh of the Besh Restaurant Group in New Orleans and James Beard Best Chef of the Southeast 2006, cooked up Molokai shrimp and andouille and served it over baked jalapeƱo cheese grits. I'd heard it was very good, but I was too full to try it.

With 15 chefs, plus winemakers, mixologists and dessert purveyors stationed on the lawn at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort for "Mauka to Makai: Hawaii's Sustainable Future," on Oct. 1, the finale of the spectacular three-day Hawai'i Food & Wine Festival, there was more than enough food and drink for the evening's 1,100 guests to handle.

I say "handle" because for those who took in two or all three days, could barely manage to sample six or seven more plates, much less sample all the chefs' creations.

The inaugural festival—one of, if not the biggest food festival held on Oahu—was a major feat for James Beard Award-winning chefs and co-chairs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, and executive director Denise Hayashi, who drew on their international cred and connections to draw their illustrious roster of chefs. Usually, festivals with this caliber of talent have taken place on the Big Island.

Evening 1 at the Modern Honolulu drew 800 for its focus on "Streets of Asia: Morimoto and Friends, Evening 2 gave way to a Halekulani Master Chefs Gala Dinner Series aimed toward the 270 elite diners who could afford a $1,000 ticket or two. During the days there were chocolate and wine tastings, a food-oriented fast-pitch session with Dave McClure of 500 Startups which provides seed money for entrepreneurs, and discussions of the 21st century table in Hawaii and innovations in the food and farming industries.

When it got dark, Rick Moonen's fiance, art director turned photographer Roni Fields, guided me to the light for this photo.

Moonen served up striped marlin poke with tropical vinaigrette, hearts of palm, Waialua onion, inamona and lemon balm.

The Hilton's Great Lawn could barely contain the event, with reserved tables in the center forcing those without tables to crowd the perimeter. I finally got smart and crossed through the central area whenever I had to move quickly. In trying to get photos of all the visiting chefs, I think I sampled just five or six dishes that night, and even had to pass on some of my favorite foods, I was so full. I was amazed when skinny people told me early they had not only made a complete circuit, but tried everything!

I did make it a point to try town's pig's feet though, after being told by a couple of people, including L.P. "Neenz" Faleafine how good it was, "and I don't even like pig's feet!" she marveled.

To promote sustainability, all the chefs were provided with local ingredients to use in their creations. In addition to the host chefs, the night's roster featured:

John Besh, John Besh Restaurants, New Orleans
Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Los Angeles
Celestino Drago, Celestino Drago Restaurant Group, Los Angeles
Dean Fearing, Fearing’s, Dallas
Michael Ginor, Hudson Valley Foie Gras & Lola, New York
Ed Kenney, Town, Hawaii
George Mavrothalassitis, Chef Mavro, Hawaii
Peter Merriman, Merriman’s, Hawaii
Rick Moonen, Rick Moonen's rm seafood, Las Vegas
Michel Nischan, Dressing Room, Connecticut
Philippe Padovani, Padovani’s Grill, Hawaii
Jeffrey Vigilla, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Hawaii
Marcel Vigneron, "Top Chef Bravo," Marcel's Quantum Kitchen TV, Los Angeles

Marcel Vigneron, who gained national notoriety in season two of Bravo's "Top Chef," and now with his own reality series, "Marcel's Quantum Kitchen," presented Big Island moi and pork belly with pineapple poi, sea asparagus, hon shimeji and micro shiso, below.

Marcel accommodated several fans who wanted photographs.

Host property Hilton Hawaiian Village executive chef Jeffrey Vigilla with the wok-fried Kauai shrimp tempura that crowned the kiawe wood-smoked Kahua Ranch beef he was also serving with Hawaiian brown sugar-black rum BBQ sauce, Surfing Goat cheese and kabocha puree, micro arugula and radish. The assembled dish, below:

It was hard to track down Roy Yamaguchi, who was all over the premises as event co-chair, along with Alan Wong. Finally caught up with him as he greeted Deena Nichols, senior vice president of Macy's West, right, and Laura Townsend, also of Macy's.

Alan Wong served up Keawa Nui Farms sweet and meaty Molokai shrimp with Sumida Farms watercress, below. He is one busy guy, who will be giving a culinary demonstration and signing copies of his cookbook, "The Blue Tomato: The Inspirations Behind the Cuisine of Alan Wong," from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Williams-Sonoma store at Ala Moana Center. He'll also be hitting the road with food historian Arnold Hiura on a "Taste Hawai'i" tour of the San Francisco Bay area from Oct. 27 to Nov. 2, with culinary demos, tastings and book signings. Details are at

HFWF executive director Denise Hayashi is interviewed by Emme Tomimbang. The soon-to-be wife of Roy Yamaguchi was planning her nuptials while also helping to bring the inaugural festival to life.

When it came time for liquid refreshment, mixologist Christian Self was there, creating PDTs and Don Tikis, the latter shown here. It was pretty potent! Recipes for both are at the end of the post.

Michel Nischan of Dressing Room, in Wesport, Conn., with some of the 12 kinds of veggies and nuts that went into his splendid chopped salad that sat beneath equally splendid grilled ribs, below.

The fire was going behind Nischan's station.

I'm not usually a fan of quail, but I enjoyed the light and crisp cornbread pudding batter that enveloped Dean Fearing's dish of chicken-fried Big Island quail.
I was less enamored of the Texas barbecue sauce on top of the quail.

Michael Ginor, co-founder and chef of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Lola, New York, created a Thai larb salad with foie gras, another of those dishes I wish I had tried.

Michael Cimarusti of Providence, Los Angeles, served Kona kampachi with pearl tapioca, vine-ripened tomato, shiso and smoked sesame.

Celestino Drago of the Drago Restaurant Group, Los Angeles, talks with fans who were enjoying his Hawaiian wild boar sausage and pepeiau mushroom ragout over penne.

Those who managed to tear their eyes away from their plates for a few minutes would have seen a beautiful sunset.

As promised earlier:

Christian Self's PDT
1-1/2 ounce Absolut Pears
1/2 ounce lime
1/2 ounce agave nectar
1/2 ounce pasteurized egg white
4 sage leaves
Dash of Tabasco Chipotle
Mix together, shake and pour into a highball glass. Garnish with sage leaf.

Christian Self's Don Tiki
1-1/2 ounce Don Q Cristal Rum
1/4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1/4 ounce Patron Citronge
1 ounce fresh orange juice
Juice of 1/2 lime
3/4 pistachio orgeat syrup (homemade if possible)
1 das Fee Whiskey Barrel Bitters
Mix together, shake and pour into rocks glass. Garnish with mint sprig.

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