2011 trends: looking back at food

‘Tis the season for food writers to recap 2011's food trends. Check back tomorrow for 2012's predictions.

Favorite new restaurants of the year:


What I'd classify as tongue-in-cheek Italian. You'd recognize some of the preparations as Italian, i.e. pappardelle, panna cotta, but what Italian restaurant serves a curry bolognese with pappardelle, a fennel panna cotta with fennel marmalade and coffee salt, a fish with pepperoncini vinaigrette? This is fun and unexpected food.

Heeia Pier Deli and General Store

This eatery is a sign of our times: Consciously-sourced (highlighting locally-grown) plate lunches that manage to unify the old salts who hang around the pier as well as the ahupuaa-aware hipster coming from town. Oio loco moco, saimin, taro mac salad, guava chicken—all familiar, yet new—all served on a rustically scenic waterfront.


So many izakayas have recently opened that I can hardly keep track of them, but Wada sears itself into my taste memory with its ishiyaki tongue and skirt steak, cold noodles, poke made with the fatty ahi rib meat and doused in sesame oil. Perhaps less innovative than some other izakayas I love, but delightful nonetheless.


YuZu's fresh udon noodles—in particular, with the beef sukiyaki dipping sauce—are in my regular dining out rotation.

Home Bar and Grill [added 12/15/11]

How could I forget?! Tater tot nachos, kimchee steak, smoked pork, "negi toro" (fresh cubes of ahi dressed in green onion coulis and bubu arare): local comfort food at its best in classic Honolulu sports bar/dive settings.

Trends of 2011

Elevation of coffee culture

This year, two coffeehouses opened—Beach Bum Cafe and Morning Glass. Both take the craft of coffee seriously, with special emphasis on the brewing process and Hawaii-grown coffee. 2011 also saw a Hawaii barista, Pete Licata of Honolulu Coffee Co., crowned as a national barista champion, second internationally. Hawaii has grown world-class coffee for some time now; our local coffee culture is finally catching up.


Over the past few years, there have been many agricultural products (i.e. vanilla, tea) that seek to elevate Hawaii to Napa status, as a tourist destination where you can taste and see the production process of a luxury item. Napa, of course, has wine. Chocolate, I think, is most promising for Hawaii. We've had a long history of it on the Islands—the first cacao tree was planted in 1850 in Foster Botanical Garden—but only recently do we have a growing number of chocolate artisans developing a chocolate industry in earnest. They include Derek Lanter of Waialua Estate, Dave Elliott and Nat Bletter of Madre Chocolate, Seneca Klassen of KoKa Chocolate and more are currently scheming to make chocolate happen in Hawaii.

Pizza ovens

It used to be that pizza in Honolulu meant maybe J.J. Dolan's, but most likely some chain pizzeria. Not anymore. It seems that no restaurant can open these days without a brick/deck/wood-fired/Italian pizza oven (they don't have all those characteristics, but they are all blazing hot). Prima, as the sister of V Lounge, of course has one; so does Lupino, La Tour Cafe, Bernini, Monkeypod Kitchen, even Inferno, a food trailer with a mobile pizza oven.

Food Trucks

Eat the Street, need I say more?