Culinary Adventures in Hilo

Monday Musings from Melinda by Melinda M.

Call me defensive or paranoid, but I feel like people think Hilo is this sleepy little town where nothing ever happens. Maybe the first part is true, but that doesn’t mean the second part is – and the evidence is on the Living Hilo Style Facebook page!

Running into friends adds to the fun!

This weekend, I had the good fortune to go to the Taste of Hilo for about the sixth time with my good friends. Now in its 18th year (click here to read about the 2015 Taste of Hilo) this popular fundraising event is hosted by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce for the Hawaii Community College’s culinary and business programs. It is such a good excuse to taste what all of Hilo restaurants, caterers, bakeries and beverage distributors have to offer! Enjoying the event requires strategy, dexterity, and stamina as there are more than 40 tastings at your disposal. You must gracefully balance your plate of choices while standing in a pretty warm venue and holding your souvenir wine glass that is filled with a tasty beverage. We always start out strong and are wilting, though with smiles, by the end!

So fun to compare foodie notes with each other.

This year I sampled yummy foie gras on a guava toast point from AJ & Sons Catering, cajun shrimp with orzo from the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel and panna cotta from Holy Bakery.

Cajun shrimp on herbed orzo salad with sriracha aioli.

Mmm mmm! I also “won” several items from the silent auction table. Chee-hu!

Love trying food from new places in Hilo!

If you missed Taste of Hilo this year, there are other Hilo events that allow you to eat, drink, and be merry and charitable simultaneously! For example:


Hilo Hui – now approaching its 13th year on May 7, 2017, this food and drink event at Coconut Island is the South Hilo Rotary Club’s fundraiser for several Hilo charities.

Hilo Brewfest – this local beer and food fundraiser is put on by a different Rotary chapter – the Rotary Club of Hilo – also to benefit local charities! It is held at the Wainaku Executive Center, also known as the old C. Brewer building, on a precipice overlooking Hilo Bay. Next year’s event is on June 24 so start negotiating who drives now!

The Traveling Plate – I’m not sure if this “Hilo Style Grazing Event” will be an annual one. It was held in August 2016 to raise money for and celebrate Easter Seals Hawaii on its 70th anniversary in the state. I didn’t get to go to this one so I hope it returns!

Suisan’s spicy ahi poke is ‘da bomb’ (and really spicy)!

The Hawaii Poke Festival – this July, Hilo hosted the first annual festival dedicated to poke, our culinary treasure of cubed raw fish (though sometimes beef) seasoned by the creativity of the chefs that prepare it. I don’t believe this one was a fundraiser but I think it was a lot of fun! Keep your eyes out for next year’s event! (Read about 2016 Poke Festival here.)


There are other food events that aren’t necessarily fundraisers, but also quite delicious and festive:

So if you come Big Island, come hungry!



  1. You captured the spirit and energy of this great event perfectly! What good fortune for me to be visiting from San Diego this weekend so I could attend! Two hours filled with sightings of Hilo friends and tastes of awesome dishes from Hilo restaurants. I especially loved the venison dishes prepared by the culinary school.


    • What good fortune that you were in town for this fun event. Yes – I forgot to mention how yummy this year’s featured dish was: venison from Maui prepared in 2 spectacular ways by the very capable students at Hawaii Community College! Bravo, chefs!


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