The Big Island was home to another amazing foodie event, the Chef Fest Grand Tasting, held at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. I jumped at the chance to go and was able to bring my three foodie friends Jenn, Wendy, and Misty along with me. This event offered action stations, each presenting small plates paired with wine at a reception-style event where guests have a chance to meet the chefs, winemakers, and partners including local farmers. This event is part of Chef Fest which is a four-day event with a variety of culinary experiences including a brunch, a mixology class, several cooking classes, a beach cookout, champagne and oyster tasting, wine tasting class, and of course the finale gala dinner. What an awesome week it would be to stay at the resort and experience all the Chef Fest has to offer.
This year’s lineup of chefs includes: Hugh Acheson (Empire State South, Five & Ten, The National, The Florence – Georgia, and author of A New Turn in the South, Pick a Pickle and The Broad Fork); Seamus Mullen (Tertulia, El Colmado – New York City and author of Hero Food ); Naomi Pomeroy (Beast – Portland, author of Oui: Lessons From an Award-Winning Self-Taught Chef ); Jonathan Waxman (Barbudo – New York, author of Great American Cook and Italian My Way); Massimo Falsini (Four Seasons Resort Hualalai); Robert Gerstenecker (Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta), and Stephen Wambach (Four Seasons Hotel Chicago).
The four amigos met after we finished work that day and drove out to the west side on Saddle Road. We got there just in time to catch a beautiful west-side sunset as we enjoyed a bubbly rosé. We met with Chuck Wilson, general manager of ‘Ulu Ocean Grill + Sushi Lounge, who gave us a tour of the restaurant and also introduced us to David Ellis of Chambers & Chambers who was hosting their wine-tasting Wednesday at the restaurant.
We got to the Chef Fest held at the Hoku Amphitheater at 6 p.m. and were greeted by the fun and sexy Patron girls serving Patron margaritas in miniature Patron bottles. Uncle Earl from the resort started the event with a blessing and spoke about how the chefs and partners present live the philosophy of bringing farm to table and taking care of our kuleana. He spoke of the need to nurture the resources we have in order to continue to be blessed with the bounty it provides. The event then started with Uncle Earl calling for the party to begin! We walked around to the different stations and made it a point to try all the plates being offered by the chefs present tonight. We were so impressed by the friendliness of all of the chefs present. Misty got a great picture with one of her chef idols, Jonathan Waxman!
Our first dish of the evening, Waxman’s local abalone poached and fried and served with a caper lemon butter sauce was a delicious way to start the event. We then enjoyed Robert Gersetenecker’s honey glazed Korean fried chicken and pickled shrimp. Our new friend Norm raved about Chef Hugh Acheson’s tuna with Hamakua mushroom and mint on grilled bread. The crispy bread with the mushrooms were a great complement to the local ahi. Chef Seamus Mullen’s ceviche was another delicious dish and I would like to point out that Chef Mullen specially prepared a non-cilantro ceviche dish for my friend Jenn. Another incredible star dish of the evening came from Chef Massimo Falsini of Four Seasons Hualalai. His plin of Big Island wild boar (provided by Kulana Foods and can be found in KTA SuperStores on the Big Island) in creme fraiche was an explosion of flavors.
Our favorite of the evening was Chef Naomi Pomeroy’s laquered braised short ribs with fried caper relish, pickled kabocha and sauce verte. The ribs were so soft and just fell apart and melted in our mouth. The kabocha was the perfect amount of sweetness to go with the savory ribs. YUM!!!After the closure of the event, we ended the evening at the Beach Tree with a cocktail called Tom’s Pink Shirt. This cocktail was mixed and served to us by Tom, wearing his pink shirt! You’ll have to visit the resort and look for Tom and order his signature drink, a mixture of Tanqueray Rangpur, Orchid Guava Liqueur, Strawberries, Lime Juice-Agave Nectar, and Sprite. If you find Tom, you can ask him about the story behind how this drink came about.
What an incredible food event to experience. We spent time together, enjoyed good food, and had a great time. Truly Living Hilo Style.