A couple of Wednesdays ago, I had the pleasure of attending an event hosted by Hyatt Resorts & Spas in Hawaii to showcase the changing culinary scene of Hawaiian food. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, having never been to Hawaii. Clare had once cooked me a Hawaiian breakfast which was basically rice, eggs, and spam. The snob in me is most definitely not a fan of spam (but then again, I can do without ham in general or corned beef and the likes).

In short, the food was very impressive. Talking to a lady who transplanted herself from Long Island to Maui, it was interesting to see how Hyatt is taking a leap to help transform tourists’ view of Hawaiian food. Supposedly, it was difficult to find Hawaiian inspired “fine dining” food. Obviously, there’s good tasting food for every culture, but Hyatt wanted to showcase Hawaii’s fresh seafood, local ingredients, and package it in the way that a blindfolded traveler wouldn’t be able to tell that he was in Hawaii and not in New York City.

To do this, they brought in Chefs Isaac Bancaco & Jon Matsubara, who are both native Hawaiians but highly esteemed chefs. Isaac trained at Blue Ginger (Ming Tsai’s restaurant) and even served as Tsai’s sous chef during an Iron Chef America, helping defeat Bobby Flay. Jon has worked at Jean Georges, Tabla, and Bouley- definitely some impressive establishments. I had a few minutes to speak to Jon, following the dessert. Essentially, he created a Hawaiian / glorified version of a Twix bar, but using coconut. It was f’in awesome.

Isaac and Jon both introduced the group to some native Hawaiian ingredients. They actually flew in all the ingredients from Hawaii- something that I think was slightly under-appreciated given all of the logistics they had to go through! In any case, we tried poi (very similar to taro), breadfruit (needs a bit of getting used to), and some local cheeses, olive oil, and honey. For the full menu, scroll beyond the photographs.

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Hawaii Fresh Menu

From August through the end of September, Hyatt Resort and Spa will feature a special “Hawaii Fresh” menu to highlight and celebrate their relationships with local farmers and producers throughout the islands. A portion of the proceeds from these menus will be donated to local culinary schools and organizations to help support Hawaii’s next generation of culinary innovators. We were lucky enough to have a taste below of a modified menu.

COCKTAILS

Upcountry Buck: Rum, lime, pineapple, ginger, soda

Pisco PunchPisco, pineapple, lemon, sugar, bitters, clove 

TASTING MENU

Ahi Tataki: Octopus, goat cheese, burrata 

Royal Hawaiian Venison: Roast venison, red wine gastrique, taro purée, sea beans, almonds

Keahole Lobster Tail: Poached Kona lobster, Hilo wasabi potato purée, pickled dragon fruit, breadfruit crisp

“Hawaiian Kit Kat”: Waialua Estate chocolate, young coconut caramel, macadamia nut shortbread, Hanapepe sea salt, Kula strawberries, Hawaiian ginger syrup