Archive for Food and Wine


Food & Wine Ideas

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Pairing wines & foods is always fun & challenging.  Here are a few we had fun with recently.

Savoy Cabbage Wrapped Shinsato Pork 2aSausage & San Marzano tomato sauce–this is not a super hearty, robust dish by any means.  It is instead a more refined combination of VINO Chef Keith Endo’s savory home-made pork-fennel sausage & the refreshing, fruity-lightly earthy edge created by the tomatoes.  This dish therefore, in my opinion, really beckons for a dry, fruity, earthy, more masculine style of PINK wine.  The wine which really worked well on this night was the 2012 Corte Gardoni Bardolino “Chiaretto” from the Veneto region of Italy.  Produced mainly from the Corvina grape variety (the same one used to produce Valpolicella & Amarone red wines).  It has a very red color & features lots of refreshing, earth nuanced fruit with very tamed bitterness & extract levels, especially in the finish.  I like to work with rose (& Beaujolais) with sausages.  It really does help take the fatty edge off the dish & keeps the palate refreshed between bites.

House Cured Bacon with charred, carmelized red onions, 2bKahuku corn, BBQ sauce & white beans–the whole key to pairing wine with this dish is finding a wine which can handle the BBQ sauce & its sweetness.  The wine we suggest is the 2012 Gunderloch “Jean Baptiste”.  This wine has some residual sugar to counter the sweetness, & a pronounced, stony minerality, which will help refreshen the palate & thereby make the pairing seem fresh & alive.

2dJicama “pockets” with avocado, Santa Barbara uni & local opihi–the wine we paired with this surprisingly delicate dish was the 2013 Birichino Malvasia Bianca.  It is yet another example of how wonderfully perfumed, fruit driven, somewhat minerally, crisp white wines deftly produced from an aromatic grape variety can work magic with contemporary, fusion dishes like this.  Its lime-like edge worked wonders with the avocado AND also the uni & opihi.  The 2013 is plumper with much more fruit than the 2012 & was much better suited.  (we tried both).  BOTH, FYI, are wines which work with a very wide range of foods, in addition to being delicious, light, & gulpable.

2eVeggie Crudite with grape tomato, breakfast radish, cucumbers & “buttermilk ranch”–the 2013 Birichino Malvasia Bianca really came in handy & worked with this dish as well, which again showcases the wonderful diveristy this wine has with foods.

Braised Veal Cheeks with fresh, home-made fusili pasta & shaved  2f Oregon Summer truffle–one could easily pair a more rustic style red wine with this dish.  The one we really liked was the 2009 Domaine Joncier Lirac “Les Muses”, which had a good dollop of Mourverdre to its blend.  Lirac is one of the rising star villages of France’s southern Rhone Valley, largely because of young vignerons such as Marine Roussel, in this case.  Her wines are NOT so masculine or brooding  or overdone like those of the neighboring, much more famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Much more tempered, suave & classy AND without hard edges or high/noticeable extract/alcohol levels.  Plus, this one had a few years of bottle age, which really helped to round out the edges.  Another wine one could do with this rich, savory dish is the 2012 Domaine Maxime Francois Laurent “Il Fait Tres Soif” Rose, a masculine, somewhat heady, surpisingly dark hued rose from the northern part of the southern Rhone Valley.  This Pink wine certainly has the guts, hutzpah & some apparent tannins in the finish to hold its own here, but with a far more refreshing personality to freshen the palate between bites.  This one gets my vote!

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Dry Aged Steak & Wine

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Over at our DK Steakhouse, located in Waikiki, we dry age our own steaks.  Generally speaking, as the meat dry ages, moisture evaporates from the muscle which concentrates the natural meat flavor & at the same time, helps to tenderize (the natural enzymes help break down the connective tissue) the steak.

The showpiece steak to try here is a 21 day dry aged “bone in” rib-eye.  We start with a terrific no growth, no hormone steak.  In addition to the qualities listed above, once the steak gets over 20 days of aging, it also develops a nutty, gamey, almost bleu cheese like character which true steak lovers really look for & relish.  I bring this up, only because it will be an important consideration when we look to pair a wine. For me, 21 day typically is a good sweet spot for many to enjoy.

DK Steakhouse also has an 1800 degree oven, which essentially sears 0_a_steakthe steak on 2 sides, keeping the middle tender & juicy when cooked medium rare.  In addition, the steak does not get that charred, burnt taste on the outside like charcoal or wood cooking can create.  This is again, another factor to consider when pairing wines.

Yes, to me, this is an ideal dish to pair all kinds of red wines with.

For many wine collectors, this is certainly the dish to bust out your treasured bottle of Californian Cabernet/Merlot or red Bordeaux.  Since most wine collectors are well versed in this arena, I will only mention the Forman Cabernet Sauvignon.  Ric Forman Cabernets are not like anything else from the Napa Valley.  They exude a much more gravelly character, which really steps forward in the wine with bottle age.  I find the gravel rusticity works very well with this steak’s more rustic character.  In addition, the Forman Cabernets are not “fruit bombs” & have really good structure, elegance & wonderful balance.  I have been very fortunate to taste many older vintages of these masterpieces recently & would suggest the 2002, if I had a choice.  The 2002 still has an amazing, resiliant core AND, the gravelly character is very prominent, both qualities very ideal to create an interesting pairing.

True wine lovers can also use this as an opportunity to be adventurous & try other kinds of wines.  Consider, for example, a hearty (for the meat’s full flavor & marbling), more rustic styled (which will work with the nutty/gamey edge) red wine.  My first, knee jerk thoughts are from France’s Rhone Valley –Clape (or Allemand) Cornas, a Syrah based red from the north or Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau” (or Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras) a Grenache blend from the south.  In each case, I would suggest vintages which still feature a virile core of mojo, fruit & structure.  For both the Clape & Allemand Cornas, therefore, consider the 2000 vintage.  Although not overly heralded, having had both recently, they both still have the hutzpah to handle this wonderfully marbled steak & the wild gaminess to make things interesting.  In the case of the Vieux Telegraphe & the Sang des Cailloux, my wish would be the 1998, both still being a real beast with lots of true character, depth & soul.

If you are looking for a Californian red wine, I suggest this can be a wonderful opportunity to explore California Syrah & other “Rhone Varietal” red wines.  There are growing number of really interesting, provocative renditions being produced up & down the state.  Standouts which immediately come to mind include more worldly styled Syrah based reds, such as the 2001 Ojai Syrah “Bien Nacido Vineyard” (from the Santa Maria Valley); the 2011 Linne Calodo “Perfectionist”; the 2006 Saxum “Bone Rock” (both from the limestone/siliceous hillsides of Paso Robles); the 2010 Neyers Syrah “Old Lakeville Road” (from the Sonoma Coast, near Petaluma) or the 2007 Autonom Syrah “Law of Proportions” (a blend of Santa Barbara & Arroyo Grande grapes).  Somehow these kinds of masculine, rustic, earth driven, peppery reds create a real interesting synergy with dry aged steaks like this.

Here are some other interesting wines/grape varieties, recommended by managing Partner, Ivy Nagayama, to explore–

–Mourvedre (Domaine Tempier or Domaine Gros Nore from Provence, France)

–Nero d’Avola (Riofavara “Sciave” from the southern tip of Italy)

–Malbec (Clos la Coutale Cahors from southwest France or Tritono from Argentina)

–Tannat (2004 Cambiata from Monterey, California)

–Nebbiolo (2005 Barolo or Barbaresco from Piemonte, Italy or the 2004 Palmina”Ranch Sisquoc” from Santa Barbara, California)

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As VINO regulars well know, we are HUGE fans of delicious, wonderfully light, food friendly & absolutely gulpable wines.  Furthermore, because of our Mediterranean/Italian comfort style of cooking in VINO, we generally look to the Mediterranean basin for inspiration, both in food & in wine.

We are therefore absolutely thrilled that on this night, TWO of our favorite French producers of delicious “country” styled wines will be joining us at VINO– Ghislaine Dupeuble (Domaine Dupeuble) & Cyriaque Rozier (Chateau La Roque/Chateau Fontanes).

0c2Dupeuble hails from Beaujolais where they have been for well over 500 years.  Typically, theirs is one of our favorite because of its deliciousness, unpretention & incredible food friendliness. “They tend to their vines without the use of any chemicals or synthetic fertilizers. The grapes are harvested manually and vinified completely without SO2. The wines are not chaptalized, filtered, or degassed and only natural yeasts are used for the fermentation”.

Cyriaque Rozier is the highly revered winemaker and vineyard manager 0c1at Château La Roque in the Pic St-Loup appellation of Languedoc.  (He also makes his own wine under the label Château Fontanès).  The land is hard as a rock, quite literally, and composed primarily of limestone and clay. To plant a vineyard here is a game of patience and incredibly hard work. Over the last few years, Cyriaque has taken to farming biodynamically, a noble task that forgoes the shortcuts that most vignerons have at their disposal today in favor of producing organic grapes in a rich, healthy soil. Make no mistake, raw terroir and spicy garrigue abound in these wines, with rich, juicy fruit and silky tannins”.

I am sure for them this trip all the way to Hawaii is part of a life long dream.  For us, this will also be quite a dream come true, having such authentic, exemplary, artisan, “country” vignerons visiting us at VINO & a night of their delicious, gulpable, food friendly French “country” wines paired with a special menu created by VINO Chef Keith Endo.  Here was the menu–

0c3Kona Maine Lobster Uovo–with Kahuku corn ricotta cheese, tarragon brown butter

WINE: 2013 0c4Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Blanc–Beaujolais Blanc accounts for only about 2% of the appellation’s wine production & is mainly found in the northern & southern parts, where clay (& some limestone) can be found.  This soil is very different from the more common granitic soils & results in a surprisingly, mesmerizing minerality & vibrancy in the Chardonnay based white.  Dupeuble has but 4 hectares planted, which is why we do not see this wonderfully delicious, uplifting, food friendly, gulpable wine too often here in the Islands.

 0c6Shinsato Farms Smoked Fennel &  Sundried Tomato Sausage–with pancetta bacon demi glace, corn relish

WINE: 2013 Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais 0c7–I have been a HUGE fan of this estate & its authentic, TRUE Beaujolais for many, many years, not only because of their much more natural approach to grape growing (now biodynamic) & winemaking, but mainly because of how delicious & incredibly food friendly their Beaujolais is, year in & year out.  Most people would scratch their heads why we would pair this wine with a hearty, flavorful pork sausage & its fixings, but this wine’s innate fruitiness , stoniness & wonderfully refreshing edge not only counters the dish’s richness, but also absolutely keeps the palate fresh & alive between bites.  (reminiscent of how the cranberry sauce works at the Thanksgiving feast).  I hope the attendees walked away with a  better understanding at how food friendly this wine truly is.

0c9House made Papardelle–with shredded red wine braised chicken,  cured  smoke bacon, Nalo Farms Swiss chard & natural jus  0c10

WINE: 2012 Chateau Fontanes Vin de Pays d’Oc (Cabernet Sauvignon)–on this night, I was clearly reminded why my wife Cheryle & I were so taken by this wine on a visit there some years back.  It is a wonderful representation of what a really good, delicious, food friendly “country” wine can be.  AND, it certainly smells of the earth where it is grown & the shrub, wild herbs & sun baked countryside which surrounds the vineyard.  Cyriaque began this family project back in 2003.  The soil is reddish with limestone chips scattered throughout.  This wine is interestingly 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (40 to 50 year old vines, biodynamically farmed).  It, however, is really NOT about the grape variety & therefore does NOT resemble any Cab from California or Bordeaux.  In fact, if you think of this wine as a Cabernet, you might be missing out.  It really is about a wild countryside & a family & should therefore be served at one’s family dinner table, just as they would do there.

0c11Pear Braised Short Rib “ Au Poivre”–with truffled parsnip puree, charred carrots & chimichurri  0c12

WINE: 2012 Chateau La Roque “Cupa Numismae”–Cyriaque is the winemaker & vineyard manager for this venerable, historic site & estate.  It is said the Romans first planted here, which is further supported by an old Roman coin found there.  (By the way, it is this coin that is the legacy of Cupa Numismae).  This is a remote, rugged terrain with clay-limestone soils & an abundance of wild scrub & wild herbs seemingly growing everywhere surrounding the vineyard itself, which also somehow finds its way into the core of each wine.  “Cupa Numismae” is the bottling (of 8), which originally caught our eye.  Once, it was Mourvedre dominated.  Today, it is roughly 2/3’s Syrah & 1/3 Mourvedre, without compromising its sense of place, integrity & soulful-ness.  (I was once VERY leary of the meteoric usage of Syrah booming down in southern France.  Because Syrah can be such a dominant grape variety, it can easily mask a wine’s terroir, especially if it is not grown in the right place, by the right people). Having spent some time with Cyriaque, thankfully one gets an immediate feeling/understanding his is a belief of terroir & balance first & foremost.  In fact on this night, one of the diners opened a 1997 ballyhoo-ed northern Rhone Syrah to share.  Judging from his facial expressions, one could immediately tell this wine was not to his liking.  It was not because of the near over ripe fruit, nor the lavish amounts of new oak dominating the wine, but instead, the presence of “green”, unripe tannins protruding.  The wine was not balanced & therefore not drinkable/enjoyable. The $150 to $200 a bottle price tag was therefore quite disturbing to him.  In the Chateau La Roque “Cupa Numismae” bottling, in comparison, Cyriaque was able to find an intriguing,  synergistic coupling of Syrah & Mourvedre with seamless-ness & a fine tuned balance without compromising its strong sense of place, character & mojo.  It really is such a pleasure to drink, with or without food.  Kudos, my friend!

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10 or 11 years ago, Cheryle & I met Dino Coro’ & Isabella Zambon aabb01& their two beautiful, young children—Jessica & Filippo, as they dined in our Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas restaurant.  Every year, they would come back to vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii & make periodic “shopping” trips to Oahu & dine at night either at VINO or Hiroshi’s.  They have become such dear friends over the years & we have watched Jessica & Filippo grow up & blossom.  They all really warm my heart.

A few years ago, while on a wine trip in Germany, Cheryle really wanted to go to Venice to see the city, but also to see our friends.  We discovered that their Osteria Oliva Nera eaterie ab02is generally regarded as the finest restaurant in Venice & we had 2 great meals there. We were also amazed at how many people from Hawaii have dined there too & every year when the Coro’ family came to Honolulu thereafter, their Hawaii friends would get together with them in VINO on a special night.  For 2015, after a hiatus of 3 years, the Coro’ family (Isabella, Jessica & Filippo) came back….& January 8th was that special night.

Rather than asking Isabella to cook, VINO Chef Keith Endo aabb02came up with a special menu & we came up with the wine pairings.  For all who know the Coro’ family, this was their chance to say hello.  For those who do not know them, this was a chance to savor some of Chef Keith’s foods AND meet some very special people, (which may come in handy if they ever were to go to Venice in the near future).

Here was the menu—

dinoaperitif—Sommariva Prosecco–a toast to Dino Coro’

Crispy English Pea Tortellini–served with charred Kahuku corn & smoked Big Island pork

WINE: Corte Gardoni Bardolino “Chiaretto”  ab08

UOVA–with sage brown butter sauce 

WINE: Hofstatter Pinot Bianco

ab09Compressed Chioggia Beets–served with fried cheese, pickled hearts of palm, prosciutto & balsamic drizzle

WINE: DeMedici Lambrusco “Quercioli”  ab10

Crispy Pork Porchetta–stuffed with mushrooms & served with charred Spring vegetables, home-made cavatelli & pork jus

WINE:  2006 Friggiali Brunello di Montalcino

Pear Tart–with caramel sauce

Yes, it was a very special night.  Thank you to all who came.  ab01Also, many thanks to Isabella, Jessica & Filippo.  I know Dino was also there amongst us & I thank you for coming.  As I have said many times in the past, I am somehow connected to this family beyond what I can explain.  They truly warm my heart.

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Rustic Reds from the Mediterranean Basin

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Again, one of our goals for 2014 is feature more & more good wines……those which others can be compared to.  This will help, tasters create a solid base to work from as their tasting adventures continue.  It is not as easy as one would think.  Here are 4 standouts from the Mediterranean basin. These are some of the most interesting & provocative rustic reds we have run across.  I think soulful is a really good word to use here.  If you want to better understand what we mean when we say soulful, then you should come & try these wines. Yes, just another really good opportunity to learn!  Wines like this just don’t happen along!

0a12009 Abbatucci Ajaccio  “Cuvee Faustine

Corsica’s star is rising on the American wine scene.  Sommeliers & wine professionals across the country are jumping onto the Corsican bandwagon on the fast track.  The rugged & very remote countryside produces some equally rugged, masculine red wines, of which the very finest are crafted from indigenous grape varieties.  Certainly leading the charge is Abbatucci.  Genius!!!! AND, a true champion of tradition & authenticity—in their wines & especially their environment..  Here is their Ajaccio (southwestern Corsica) which is produced from the Sciaccarellu & Niellucciu grape varieties, which are biodynamically farmed.  A must to try!!!!  0a5

2007 D’Aupilhac  “Le Carignan

The family has been working this special tract in Montpeyroux down in southern France since the 1800’s, although the vineyard itself dates back to Roman times.  (The Romans were true experts on where to plant their vines!)  The neighbors across the way include Daumas Gassac & Grange des Peres (talk about an unreal neighborhood!!!).  The ancient Carignane vines were planted on severe terraced hillsides with all kinds of crazy, extreme soils, which, at least partially, explains the completely wild & rustic character of this standout French “country” red.  You never had something like this before!  0a3

2008 Guido Porro Barolo  “Santa Caterina

Here is our chance to show tasters a Barolo as it was made BEFORE roto fermenters & all of the other modern technology which is used to make modern/contemporary renditions.  Yes, this is a winery who is dedicated to traditional methods both in the vineyards & in the cellar.  The Caterina monopole vineyard is located at roughly 1200 feet elevation in the limestone heavy soils of Serralunga d’Alba.  The region is most noted for producing long lived, full bodied Barolo.  I therefore smile that the Porro version is much more elegant & refined, yet masculine, traditional & truly authentic in its core!!!!  0a2

2008 Tempier Bandol  “La Tourtine

Tempier has to be the most storybook wine of all.  Their wines & estate is iconic, steeped in tradition, history & regional culture.  It is hard for me to separate the wine from the family & its history.  There is really nothing else like Domaine Tempier.  The La Tourtine bottling usually is dominately Mourvedre, with some Grenache & Cinsault for finer details.  I find the resulting wine has wonderful structure, more refinement & needs bottle age to really strut its stuff.  Here is your chance to taste one of their treasures yourself & experience the magic of Domaine Tempier & its wines.  

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Wine & “Small” Plates part 2

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More “small” plates & wine thoughts at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas……..

17Panko Crusted Mongo Cuttlefish with Asian caponata

WINE:  2012 CF Muller Thurgau–we needed a high toned, minerally pure, precise, highly refined white for this dish.  This one is crafted exclusively for us by Paul Furst of Franconia, Germany.  16

Crab Salad with grapefruit, cucumbers & pickled wasabi 

WINE:  2013 Birichino Malvasia Bianca–this winery made quite a big leap in quality with the transition from 2012 to 2013.  They were able to source some malvasia grown in limestone soiled vineyards, which apparently added minerality & ethereal-ness to the blend.  Furthermore, this wine’s innate aromatics just heightens the dish’s nuances in quite a magical way.

08Charred Waialua Asparagus with home-made mahimahi flakes, shredded ginger & a miso sauce

WINE: 2008 Gysler Silvaner Medium Dry “Estate”–in the old days, one would not consider pairing a wine with asparagus.  It is still quite the challenge.  We instead, therefore, look for an appropriate wine based upon its gulpability, meaning aptly wash the morsels down WHILE keeping the palate fresh & clean between bites.  A few years ago in Alsace, I truly re-discovered the food friendly merits of the Silvaner grape variety.  While it may not be the noblest of grape varieties, it does work wonders with a myriad of foods.  This one comes from Germany’s Rheinhessen region & has a tiny bit of age to round out its once upon a time hard edges.  07


Sliced Sous Vide of Vintage New York with mushroom medley, lemongrass scallion relish & kaffir lime butter

WINE:  2012 CF Riesling Medium Dry “Euro-Asian”–don’t let this dish fool you.  We find an off-dry Riesling to work best, especially because of the finely chopped picked wasabi top-ginger-scallion relish.  This particular Medium Dry Riesling is grown on steep, red slates hillsides in the Rheinhessen’s Nackenheim & Nierstein vineyards, right on the Rhein River.  It is crafted by Fritz Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch exclusively for our DK Restaurants & seemingly tailor made for dishes like this!

 06Okinawan Soba with spare ribs, grilled Tokyo negi, red ginger & truffle oil (not pictured here is the pork broth)

WINE: 2012 Eric Chevalier Pinot Noir Rose–when most tasters see the words Pinot Noir coupled with the word rose, they have visions of a pink, completely fruit driven wine.  That is not the case here.  Because of the extreme marine soils & metamorphic rock composition of the vineyards AND the close proximity to the extremely cold Atlantic Ocean nearby, this delicious rose is remarkably light, ethereal & minerally.  So much so, that in a blind tasting, one would be hard pressed to guess the grape variety used in its production.  This wine therefore is light enough for this dish & ethereal enough not to clash with its oriental components.

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Wine & “Small” Plates 04-20-14

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We looked to taste advantage of Easter Sunday at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, to do another night of “small” plates served on a cart.  Not only are the small plates tasty & craete an opportunity to try a bunch of different tastes, it is also a golden opportunity to try out different wine pairings too.  Here are some to think about–

14Somen “Nicoise” Saladyukari seared ahi, quail egg, Kalamata olives, haricot vert, grape tomatoes & soy sesame vinaigrette

WINE: 2006 Milz Riesling Medium Dry “180 degrees”–we needed a slightly aged (8 years old), ever-so slightly off dry Riesling, because of the slightly sweet & slightly salty sesame vinaigrette.  It is amazing what a little age will do to a wine like this!12

Seared Scallopserved on a bed of seaweed salad with Shinsato pork broth & wasabi-XO ragout

WINE:  2007 Theo Minges Riesling Medium Dry “Estate”–Minges is from the Pfalz region of Germany & his wines therefore have a little bit more round-ness, which we needed for the pork broth, with just enough sweetness to take off the salty edge created by the XO sauce which is mixed in.  13

Home-made Squid Ink Linguine with deep fried Kauai Shrimp, Manila clams, calamari & Asian Clam jus

WINE:  2012 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe DRY–this 2012 Wirsching Scheurebe has a real lemongrass, green thing permeating through the minerality & lime-citrus character which mixes in well with the galanghal & lemongrass components fused in with the Asian clam jus.  Plus the wine’s crisp, lime fresh edge keeps the palate cleansed & refreshened between bites.

Seared Kampachi with pancetta risotto & English pea broth  11

WINE: 2012 Champalou Vouvray “Sec”–is an absolutely riveting, minerally, remarkably light & ethereal white wine from France’s Loire Valley.  We find the wine’s minerality very compelling & adds to the refreshing edge of this wine.  Furthermore, as we have noted in the past, these aromatic white wines really help to heighten vegetable & fresh herb character of dishes like this.

15Yukari Mochi with ume sauce

WINE: Filippo Gallino Birbet–is a fizzy, wonderfully fruity, low alcohol RED wine produced from the Brachetto grape variety, which is grown in this case in Roero, Italy.  (The same grape variety grown in between the towns of Asti & Alba in the more famous regions of Piemonte, which follow the appropriate governmental restrictions, can be labeled as Brachetto d’Acqui).  In many instances, however, I prefer the Birbet, because it is more joyous, unpretenious & fun lovin’!  This is one of those occasions.

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Thoughts on Wine 04-08-14

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It wasn’t that long ago when Hawaii’s best restaurants featured foods from Europe, especially France.   That was significantly changed when a group of 12 chefs, founded HRC (Hawaii Regional Cuisine).

From that day the concept of “fine” dining & high level foods changed.  For HRC chefs like Roy Yamaguchi & Alan Wong (& later on “new generation” chefs such as my partner DK Kodama) their foods often feature a real dynamic Asian flair.

In terms of wine, this created an incredible, new learning opportunity of pairing wines to foods.

From the classical French cream and butter sauces, we now had to, for example, consider what worked with shrimp served with a contemporary spin off of the pungent Chinese black bean sauce for one and a hoisin marinated duck for the other.

As one can see, this was a whole ‘nother ball game.

From all of this came three interesting revelations.

The first was the realization that different kinds of foods call for different kinds of wines.  The wine most apropos for a fish with a rich, classic French cream or butter sauce would not be, at least for me, as compatible with a salty, slightly sweet teriyaki glaze.

It became clearer as time went by & much experimentation that with salty, spicy and/or sweet

Asian inspired foods, off-dry to slightly sweet, fruit driven, lower alcohol wines, like German Riesling, seem to work well.  And on the red wine side, more elegant, really delicious, wonderfully textured, minimally oaked with no hard edges, especially from grapes such as Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir, were more advantageous.  These kinds of wines were less confrontational with the strong characteristics of Asian foods.

Then, when our restaurant group (for more info, go to opened VINO, with its contemporary Italian/Mediterranean foods, we again had to go back to rethinking pairing wines with the foods.  We learned that with rustic, heartier foods with so many earthy characteristics from tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, roasted peppers & fennel, we needed more rustic, earthy, higher acidic wines more common to the Mediterranean basin.  For white wines, this included grape varieties such as Pinot Grigio from Friuli, Vermentino from Sardegna & Liguria, Moschofilero from Greece and Albarino from Spain.  On the red wine side, we sought out indigenous grapes such as Sangiovese from Tuscany, Tempranillo from Spain and Mourvedre, Syrah & Grenache from southern France.

From all of this came the (second) realization that there are thousands of different grape varieties available in the world.  Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Merlot are but four.  To truly enjoy myself why would I want to limit myself to just a few?  Just as with dining, why would I want to eat only Chinese food and miss the diversity and pleasure of what Italian or Korean and/or Mexican food has to offer.

Since taste is so subjective & personal, let me close with the third realization…..the real fun of it all is experimentation.  There are no wrongs or rights and there should be no judgments.  Enjoying food (and wine) should be just that….enjoying.

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Food & Wine 03-12-14

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We continue with the fun filled journey of pairing foods & wines.


“In House” Smoked Shinsato Pork with Hau’ula tomatoes, sliced Maui onions & lemon-fish sauce  (Keith Endo, VINO)

2012 Eric Chevalier Pinot Noir Rose–this is marvelous, light, airy Pink wine from the Muscadet region of France’s Loire Valley.  It wasn’t that long ago, when we were lucky to get 2 or 3 vintages out of every ten which would ripen the grapes.  Imagine!!!!…today now Pinot Noir!!!!  This rose gives the dish a real uplifting, palate cleansing fruitiness between bites.  MFP Beet Salad

Roasted Beet, Avocado & Surfing Goat cheese “Salad” (Ivan Pahk, Maui Fish & Pasta)

2012 Champalou Vouvray Sec–I have tasted a fair share of Vouvray over the years, but I always seem to come back to Champalou’s Sec, as that is home for me!  I just love the deftly crafted sweet sour tug of war this bottling masterfully features year in & year out.  I also adore this wine’s riveting minerality & amazing lightness & ethereal-ness.  It really is like no other!  It makes this dish just come alive, especially with the fresh herbs gently sprinkled on top.  MFP Parppadelle Pasta

Home-made Papardelle with wild mushrooms (Ivan Pahk, Maui Fish & Pasta)

2012 Drew Albarino “Anderson Valley”–who doesn’t love a more classic styled of Pasta once in a while?  Yes, one could readily pair this wine some kind of Chardonnay.  But if you want magic, I suggest a more aromatic white wine.  This one especially connects with the potpourri of fresh herbs sprinkled on top at the last moment before serving.  Just it uplifts the flavors & remarkably counters the dish’s richness.   238

Kula Strawberries with miso vinaigrette & micro arugula (Keith Endo, VINO)

2011 Filippo Gallino Birbet–in Piemonte, Italy between the towns of Asti & Alba, top caliber Brachetto wines can be labled as Brachetto d’Acqui.  Yes….& this is fastly growing wine category in terms of popularity.  I therefore also see the price quickly rising as well.  In Roero, this style of slightly sweet, fizzy, deliciously fruity Brachetto wines are called Birbet.  It does wonders with the smoked miso & especially the strawberries.  Boy, this was a fun pairing!!!

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Food & Wine 03-07-14

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One of the most interesting aspects of the restaurant industry is pairing wine to food.  The very complex matrix of understanding how they interact is really totally fascinating & compelling to say the least.  I am so lucky to work with a group of chefs who are continuously churning out new foods.  Here are some of the most recent–

MFP Tomato SaladFresh Island Tomato, stuffed with Surfing Goat cheese & served with baby arugula & a balsamic drizzle (Chef Partner Ivan Pahk, Maui Fish & Pasta)

2010 Gysler Silvaner Halbtrocken–most aficionados of fine German wine, would wince with the word Silvaner.  In fact, one lady the other night shared her real distain for the Silvaner grape variety.  Still, I distinctly remember dining at a restaurant & trying a myriad of wines/different grape varieties  with all kinds of foods & being the food friendliness of Silvaner.  In short, it may not be a noble grape variety, but good ones certainly have a place at the dinner table.  We needed a hint of sweetness to the wine, because of the innate fruitiness of the tomato & the saltiness of the goat cheese.  Silvaner seems to work well with earthy dishes like this.    230235

(On the right)–Bruschetta with porcini-olive tapenade, roasted peppers & sunny side quail egg. (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)

(On the left)–Fresh Burrata with crab & charred tomatoes (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)

2012 Domaine Skouras “Zoe“–this is a “quietly” exotic, absolutely delicious white wine from the Peloponnese of southern Greece.  We love these kind of aromatic wines (in this case of Roditis & Moschofilero) with these kinds of foods.  It really does heighten the earthy flavors & help top wash it down.  236237

(On the left)–Kampachi Crudo, with avocado puree, chili pepper water aioli & ogo  (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)

(On the right)–Curried Cauliflower with truffled aioli & pickled Maui onions  (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)

2012 Birichino Malvasia Bianca–here is another example of a terrific, wonderfully food friendly “aromatic” white wine.  You really can have alot of fun with these kinds of wines with a whole myriad of foods.  The real challenge is finding good ones.  231

Lobster “Roll” with baby arugula pesto & cole slaw (Chef Partner Keith Endo, VINO)

2012 Hans Wirsching Scheurebe DRY– by reputation, Hans Wirsching is the top producer of the Franconia region of Germany.  (I would also add Rudolf Furst).  Wirsching excels in dry white wines, which in this case is light, airy & iressistable.  It also scores high on the gulp-ability scale.  233

Duck Confit with home-made linguine, XO sauce & Sumida Farms watercress

2012 CF Euro-Asian Riesling Medium Dry–in case you are not familar, the XO sauce is some kind of scallop reduction–salty & full of dried scallop character, which is why we are pairing it with a medium dry Rheinhessen Riesling, which was crafted by Fritz Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch.  It certainly can stand up to the duck with enough sweetness to offset the XO sauce & still keep the palate fresh & alive between bites.

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