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Hawaii Food and Wine Festival 2013: The big finale


The Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, now in its third year, has grown to include two islands (Maui and Oahu), more chefs and a slew of workshops. Its purpose? To bring in world-class chefs (primarily from the Mainland and Asia) and to highlight Hawaii's own culinary resources. It is, in short, an event to put Hawaii on the culinary map. The festival culminated over the weekend with back-to-back tasting events; here are some of our favorite bites.

Mourad Lahlou's uni and abalone on coconut panna cotta

Taste Our Love for the Land, held at the Convention Center rooftop on Saturday night, was the largest of all the events, with 19 chefs, a dozen wineries represented, and five mixologists, including Jim Meehan and Julie Reiner. The no-contest highlight was Mourad Lahlou's uni and abalone on coconut panna cotta, the silky base matching uni's smooth texture, and delicate touches of seaweed, tender abalone and lime zest making every mouthful delightful.

Left: Art Smith's Southern-fried island catch; right: Hiro Sone's abalone

Art Smith's Southern-fried island catch fused a crunchy crust with flaky mahi, the raw sweet potato slaw completely unexpected. Hiro Sone treated his abalone to a herb butter bath, with sea asparagus and fresh cherry tomatoes lending salty crunch and acidity.

Left: Ed Kenney's paiai and kukui nut broth; right: Sheldon Simeon's goat kilawen

Some of the most standout dishes of the night were the simplest: Ed Kenney truly gave a taste of Hawaii, with paiai treated like mochi, grilled Japanese street snack style, brushed with sweet shoyu, crusted with sesame seeds and folded into crisp, crackling nori. Then there was Sheldon Simeon's gutsy goat kilawen, a Filipino style ceviche made with raw goat. Yup, raw. When Simeon posted a picture of this dish on Instagram, he wrote, "Up to a year ago I would have been afraid to serve a dish like this. I would want to do a crumble of this, a swipe of that, and some type of frilly garnish. But [this] dish, even stripped of its makeup and glamour, was a dish that I was never more proud about."

Left: Mark Freischmidt's coconut and chocolate; right: Toshi Yoroizuka's Hawaiian sundae

For dessert: Mark Freischmidt's matcha sponge, candied rhubarb and chocolate and coconut bonbon that a friend called an upscale Cadbury egg. Toshi Yoroizuka presented a perfect Hawaiian sundae, with ice cream and panna cotta layered with fresh papaya and mango, a tropical fruit gelee and rice paper crisps.

Left: Bloody Mary bar; middle: Melissa Bow's chocolate pikake gelato and lilikoi shiso sorbetto; right: Dominique Crenn's nuts and seeds

Sunday's Girls Got Game brunch set out to highlight female chefs and farmers, the underrepresented gender in the industry. It certainly provided role models: Mixologist Chandra Lucariello and Erin Suzuki helmed the Bloody Mary bar, opening my eyes to a cocktail with aquavit and tomato water (tomato juice with the solids strained out), a lighter and more refreshing drink than a traditional Bloody Mary, while still retaining its savoriness. Melissa Bow scooped a chocolate-pikake gelato and lilikoi-shiso sorbetto, sprinkled with crunchy salt.

And Dominique Crenn gave her take on breakfast granola, with a bowl of nuts, seeds, toasted quinoa, and a drizzle of dark chocolate. Crenn's resume is impressive: she was the first female executive chef in Indonesia, and, in the US, the first female chef to receive two Michelin stars. She's also well-spoken; it seemed like a waste to bring her in for a few dishes when she really could have been inspiration for all genders. (Hear and read her thoughts on being a woman in the kitchen.)

Left: Ricardo Zarate's ceviche; right: Kevin Chong's chili prawns

The HFWF closed out at Koolina to fireworks (in the sky and and on the plate). Ricardo Zarate's simply perfect ceviche, with ahi slices in a pool of leche de tigre, refreshed the palate, while Kevin Chong's crispy Singaporean prawns sent it singing with sweet lemongrass and bursts of cilantro.

Left: Michael Ginor's spice garden; right: Michelle Karr-Ueoka's chocolate coffee cup

Now that California has banned foie gras, maybe Hawaii should make it a culinary draw for tourists. Especially if it's prepared anything like Michael Ginor's whimsical pot, a cylinder of foie planted in "soil," sweet and sandy like graham cracker crumbs and spiced with anise and fennel. Just as fun: Michelle Karr-Ueoka's layered chocolate dessert, with chocolate-coffee pudding, tapioca, coffee jellies, brownies and a crunchy chocolate tuile. Not content with that, she also gave attendees a taste of local sweets: take-home packages of butter mochi and okoshi.

For more photos, see our photo gallery of Taste Our Love of the Land.

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