Nadine Kam photos
Alan Wong at work in the VIP tent at the inaugural Taste of the Nation Hawaii fundraiser.
Foodies made the rounds of more than 17 tasting all-star tasting stations during the inaugural Taste of the Nation Hawaii that took place April 29 at the Bishop Museum.
Chefs and farmers partnered to share locally grown and sourced products during the event to raise awareness of childhood hunger. Leading the cause was chef Alan Wong, who participated in Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation California last year, and took to heart the mission of eliminating childhood hunger in America by 2015. Hawaii's child poverty rate is nearly 14 percent and one out of every four keiki in Hawaii go to bed hungry. One hundred percent of ticket sales will benefit Aina in Schools (a program of the Kokua Hawaii Foundation) and the Hawaii FoodBank.
VIP admission was at 5 p.m., and general admission was at 6. I got there at 5 and essentially had an hour to go through the food before I had to be at the University of Hawaii "Revolution" fashion show.
Here are a few of the dishes I was able to sample:
There were a lot of people happy to sample mixologist Joey Gottesman's cocktail introducing Grey Goose Vodka's Cherry Noir flavored vodka. Cranberry, elderflower, Madagascar vanilla and all the local citrus he could find made for a refreshing, and as you can see smile-inducing blend.
Maui Cattle Co. & Otsuji Farms ingredients were featured by Taste of the Nation Honorary Chef Chair Alan Wong in the VIP lounge, where Maui Cattle Co. strip loin and umami sauce was the main course, plated with the help of Conrad Nonaka.
After a stellar chocolate and wine tasting at Mariposa recently, I've been a little obsessed with the stuff, so much so that I may take a side trip en route to New York this summer to visit Washington, D.C., and stop into Coco Sala, where most of the courses have a hint of chocolate. So it was wonderful to see Dole Waialua Chocolate accompanying steak served up by BLT Steak's Johan Svensson.
Chef Svensson's dish gets paparazzi treatment.
Kahua Ranch's Tim Richards, representing the Hawaii Ranchers' Association, shows Halekulani's braised Hawaii ranchers veal breast served with blue grits and gremolata.
Hilton Hawaiian Village executive chef Jeff Vigilla—in the foreground, with Bali Steak & Seafood chef de cuisine Matt Alleshouse—went all out in his presentation using ingredients from Manoa Honey Co. and Khamphout Farms. He served up Surfing Goat Cheese and Mango Cheesecake, accompanied by a honey-mango cocktail. As if preparing a dish for the event was not enough, he was up the night before cooking up batches of Mango, Manoa Honey and Lemongrass Jam, filling up small jars so that guests could take home a sample.
Vigilla always comes up with beautiful displays, so I asked him about it and he said he was channeling his inner Martha Stewart. Well, he already could cook and make preserves, so it shouldn't be a surprise.
The Manoa honey Vigilla worked with.
I was excited to sample Cane Rush's organic sugar cane juices. I think women gravitate to color anyway. The sugar cane juice falls on the lower half of the glycemic index, measuring the rise in circulating blood sugar a carbohydrate triggers. Anything below 55 is considered low, and the cane juice registers at 43, putting it on par with an orange. Unlike its processed counterpart, the cane juice retains its complex carbohydrates, and minerals such as riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. You can find Cane Rush at health food stores like Down to Earth, Celestial Foods and Kokua Market.
Cane Rush's Cherub Silverstein was a temptress with her cool pitchers of Cane Rush juices, starting with plain cane juice, to a gingered version, to the "Hot Kiss" spiced with cayenne, ginger and turmeric with a splash of lemon. So delish! She said people fear the word sugar, but she said the juice is far less concentrated than the concentrated sugar produced from the cane. Most people are removed from the actual sugar cane, but growing up in Waipahu, we sucked on the reedy stalks that served as a form of candy to us.
Kauai shrimp went into Morimoto's serving of shrimp tacos with cucumber salad.
Each of Morimoto's tacos were accompanied by a single deep-fried shrimp head. Usually, I don't eat the tough shell heads, but these were crisp and easy to devour.
Teresa Lemoon with Morimoto's Kauai shrimp tacos.
Polly Kauahi, director of Hawaii Foodbank, Inc., was there to talk about the Food 4 Keiki Backpack Program at Kaiulani Elementary School. The program aims to fight childhood hunger, starting by distributing food-filled bags once a month to students from low-income families. The program delivers the meals every Friday.
Dan and Linda Naksone with rancher Michelle Galimba, center, who was there to answer questions obout Kuahiwi Ranch beef.
Among the side dishes in the VIP tent was this dish of Hamakua Hertiage Farm mushrooms tossed with Tokyo negi oil.
Ho Farm tomatoes and Big Island goat cheese were served in a crack seed jus in the VIP tent.
Robin Lee of Nobu prepared sake-and-konbu-braised Big Island abalone ceviche with dashi gelee.
From SALT Kitchen & Tasting Bar's Quinten Frye were plates of Shisato Farms suckling pig porchetta served with Kunia Country Farms baby Manoa letuse, Maui onion, compressed grape tomatoes and smoked carrot vinaigrette.
I saw Hiroshi Fukui at two events over the weekend. This time around, he served sous vide opah with saikyo miso kim chee sauce, topped with shiso and Big Island ginger, and accompanied by ume musubi. He was partnered with United Fishing Agency.
Roasted eggplant soup was Town's contribution, with Ma'o Farms.
From Sam Choy's Kai Lanai came a seafood and corn cocktail with Aloun Thai melon.
Other chef-farm partners for the event were:
>> Kula Country Farms, featured by Le Bistro's Alan Takasaki.
>>Ho Farms, featured by the Sheraton Waikiki's Colin Hazama.
>>Garden and Valley Isle Seafood and Hamakua Springs Country Farms, featured by Kai Market's Darren Demaya.
>> He'eia Hui, featured by He'eia Kea Pier General Store & Deli's Mark Noguchi.
>> Surfing Goat Dairy and Waialea Agriculture, featured by Roberts Hawaii's Roger Dikon.
>> Kona Kampachi, featured by Roy Yamaguchi of Roy's.
>> Kuahiwi Ranch and Nalo Farms, featured by 3660 On the Rise's Russell Siu.