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Hawaii Food and Wine Festival

Hawaiian Food and Wine festival-tables, tents, people on the beach from Gourmet Done Skinny

My husband and I heard about the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival last February from our waiter Kurt (Aukai is his Hawaiian name) at The Olelo Room at Aulani. This festival was very intriguing to us because: we both love good food, I love great wine and what could be a better location for a food and wine festival than Hawaii? Kurt explained that the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival was founded by Hawaii’s own James Beard award-winning Chefs, Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong as well as Roy’s wife, Denise Hayashi Yamaguchi. Over the past 9 years, the festival now includes a prestigious list of 120 chefs, 20 events over 3 islands and more than 10,000 attendees.

Bartender at the Olelo room making a drink
Kurt (Aukai) at the Olelo Room. He told us all about the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival and thus our reason for coming this October.

Who benefits from the proceeds of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival?

Proceeds from the festival go to support non-profit charitable organizations who support local food sustainability and cultural and educational programs. Since the festival’s launch in 2011, HFWF has donated more than $2.4 million to those community organizations.

These funds support local culinary colleges, grants for Hawaii chefs to learn culinary skills all over the world, programs to help small farmers to get their produce to customers and programs that teach children how to grow their own food in school and make healthy dishes at home.

Amy at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival holding a glass of wine
Little did I know I would find my “local” Washington winery here in Hawaii among such other outstanding wines.

First event: Swirl!

There are over 20 events for this festival, we chose 2 events this year. This “Swirl” event was held on the rooftop of the Hawaii Convention Center. Such a great location and what an amazing collection of food and wine! This was our first taste of the festival. I was blown away by the recognizable names of the quality wineries – Opus One, Silver Oak, Stags Leap, Behrens, the list goes on and on. I was so happy to see my “local” Washington winery – Col Solare (partnership between wine producers-Tuscany’s Marchesi Antinori and Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle) made the cut. The food was just as amazing as well. The chefs were from all over the United States.

I had two favorite dishes that night. The first was from Ravi Kapur, a chef from the Liholiho Yacht Club in San Francisco. His dish was the Surf and Turf Taco: Pono Farms pork belly, housemade spam and chili Kono lobstster. Such an incredible combination! Who knew I liked spam?

My second favorite was from Chef Bert Agor Jr with King’s Hawaiian. It was a Duck Confit Grilled Cheese Sandwich with local fig jam and Hawaiian goat cheese set with Hawaiian Heirloom Tomato Bisque. Talk about gourmet comfort food, this is it!

Wine Seminars

I signed up for two wine seminars while my husband hiked Koko Head Crater on Saturday morning. I have done that hike before, but I know my limits. I’m too short for that one, my legs don’t reach across the railroad ties. Although I do love to hike, this one is just too much for me. I was happy tasting wine instead!

Wine glass with white wine in front of many other glasses for wine tasting
Corsican Wine Tasting

Seminar 1: Corsican Wine Discoveries

Corsica is one of the oldest wine producing areas in all of Europe. It is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, located closer to Italy than to France, but politically part of France. Three of their greatest wine producers: Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Jean-Baptiste Arena, and Domaine Giacometti guided our tasting through these interesting Corsican wines.

Relatively unknown grape varieties

These wines are not fruit driven but more place driven. You taste the minerality, the sun kissed richness and the wild herbs. It was such a great experience, and reminded me of my tea tasting seminars. I am working on knowing wine like I know tea! These wines are such a bargain as their indigenous grape varieties (Niellucciu, Sciaccarellu, Vermentino and Barbarossa) are relatively unknown in the U.S. After taking this class, I’ll be drinking more of them for sure!

12 wine glasses for tasting on a table
Jean-Francois Ganevat wines

Seminar 2: Jean-François Ganevat: The Wine Discovery of the Decade

I thoroughly enjoyed this seminar as well. These wines were from the Jura – foothills of the French Alps. It is a tiny region between Switzerland and Burgundy formed during the formation of the Alps. The hillside where these wines are made are cooler, not high in elevation. The winemaker, Jean-François Ganevat comes from a long line of family winegrowers dating back to 1650. These wines are very distinctive and unusual. One of the wines we tasted, caught me totally off guard, it was almost like a sherry – Côtes Du Jura Chardonnay “La Cuvee Du Pepe 2005.” Very unique! To learn more about Jean-Francois Ganevat, check out this page.

If you would like to try some of these wines as well as the Corsican wines, I would suggest checking out this website. Although I haven’t purchased any from here ( I do plan on doing that soon though), I met Anthony Lynch (the merchant’s son) during one of the wine seminars. He was our translator as well as wine expert for both classes. He’s very knowledgeable and their website proves to be very informative on both of these wine regions.

Life’s a Beach Party

This was our last evening event and what an event it was! We were fortunate that it was held at the beach right at Aulani. No driving, just walking to the beach and then back to our room.

The grazing part of the event was held right on the beach and dinner was on the deck overlooking the ocean and sunset. Tent covered tables were arranged with gourmet food and outstanding wines. There was so many great dishes to try. My favorite was from Chef Michelle Bernstein with Cafe La Trova in Miami. Her dish was Rabo Encendido Sweet Plantain Arepas. Such tender corn cake dough topped with oxtail and red peppers. OMG, it just melted in your mouth! One of the best things I’ve ever tasted!

We were honored to be seated at the same table as the former mayor of Honolulu and his wife, a former t.v. news anchor and her husband (who just retired the day before from 25 years with the Hawaii Police Department), and a darling local couple both retired from the military but still actively working for the military. The conversation was stimulating and the entire evening was delightful!

We’ll be back!

I’m so grateful to Kurt, our bartender for telling us about the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. We will definitely be back next year and are really looking forward to it!

Wonder how I do Gourmet Done Skinny at a food and wine festival?

Check out this post!

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