6 Reasons You Need to Go to the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival
Tickets are still available for the sixth annual culinary event.
The sixth annual Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival has already begun, but tickets to events on Hawai‘i Island and O‘ahu are still available.
Photo: KELLI BULLOCK
The sixth annual Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival kicked off on Maui this weekend with a golf tournament, farmers market, cocktail talk-story and two dinners that showcased big-name talents in the culinary world including Ming Tsai (Blue Ginger), Graham Elliot (Graham Elliot Bistro) and Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto).
And that's just the beginning, with most of the culinary action on O‘ahu.
There’s another dinner on the Big Island this Saturday and 11 more on O‘ahu. So there’s still plenty of time to nab tickets and feast on the cuisine of more than 100 internationally renowned master chefs and drink experts. (Just FYI: Clash of the Ramen on Oct. 28 and Foodtopia on Oct. 29 are already sold out.)
Here are six reasons to book your tickets now:
1. The Urban Lūʻau
One of my favorite events at last year’s festival was the Urban Lūʻau, presented by Kamehameha Schools. And it’s back! Five chefs will be paired with established local restaurants, each of the teams creating its own version of a classic Hawaiian dish. Just looking at the list of who’s coming—Peter Merriman, Mark “Gooch” Noguchi, Chung Chow (Noreetuh)—and the restaurants featured—Alicia’s Market, Helena’s Hawaiian Food, Highway Inn—gets me excited about the possibilities.
Oct. 26, 5 to 7 p.m., Salt in Kaka‘ako, $95
2. Get Funky at the Hungry Monkey
The pool deck at The Modern Honolulu was designed for food events like the Hungry Monkey, which pays homage to this year’s Fire Monkey, the most versatile and inventive sign in the Chinese zodiac. There will be about a dozen food and drink stations situated around the pool, with stunning views of the sunset-flecked skies. Thirteen innovative chefs and a few talented mixologists will prepare small plates and cocktails to elevate your usual Thursday pau hana. I’m most excited to sample the cuisine from Hugh Acheson, celebrity chef, food writer and co-owner of a slew of Georgia restaurants; two-star Michelin winner Aiyin Li, the head of the world-famous Li Jai Cai in Beijing; doughnut and milkshake maven/pastry chef Mariah Swan; and the rock star of L.A. Thai food, Kris Yenbamroong of NIGHT + MARKET restaurants.
Oct. 27, 6 to 9 p.m., The Modern Honolulu, $225, $325 for priority admission
3. The Festival Showcases Local Ingredients
From the very beginning, the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival has put a spotlight on Hawai‘i agriculture, says executive director Denise Yamaguchi. “Unlike other food and wine festivals, we ask our chefs and mixologists to use local ingredients,” she says. You’ll see them using Big Island hearts of palm, greens from Waimānalo, fish from our reefs and local beef. And many of the visiting chefs tour local farms while in town, getting to know the people who grow and produce our foods. “They go home becoming culinary ambassadors for Hawai‘i and often start using our products in their restaurants,” Yamaguchi says.
4. Taste Coveted Wines You’ll Likely Never Have Again
Domaines Antoine Jobard and Jean-Marc Roulot bring library wines from their cellars in Meursault to sample at the Masters of Meursault event. Meursault is considered one of Burgundy’s great white wine producers, coveted by collectors and aficionados. Jobard, a second-generation winemaker from Meursault, will be making a special appearance for this rare tasting. Seating is limited to 50.
Oct. 29, 9:30 to 11 a.m., Halekūlani, $200
5. Round 3 of the Battle of the Brunches
The battle just got real. Two-time reigning brunch champions, Lee Anne Wong and Sven Ullrich, make a run at their third straight title this year against MW’s Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka and the Royal Hawaiian’s Colin Hazama and Celina Tio from Julian in Kansas City, Missouri. Guests get to sample the six dishes and crown the winner. And there’s entertainment, too, as two bands compete for a limited contract at the hotel’s Kani Ka Pila Grille. Plus, Travel Channel’s Adam Richman is hosting, so it’s guaranteed to be fun.
Oct. 30, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Outrigger Reef Waikīkī Beach Resort, $115
6. It’s For a Good Cause
Since its inception, the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival has raised $1.3 million for 14 local culinary programs and agricultural groups. It recently formed a partnership with the Ment’or BKB Foundation to provide grants for local students interesting in pursuing the culinary arts. Proceeds also support the Culinary Institute of the Pacific and the culinary programs at local community colleges. “What the festival has become and how it continues to grow and help Hawai‘i, as well as put the spotlight on the people, culture, food and bounty, are the most important things,” says chef Alan Wong, co-founder and co-chair of the festival.