The pandemic may have changed the formats and dates of the 11th annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, which begins tomorrow [Oct. 1] and runs through Dec. 11 this year, but it hasn’t changed the basic recipe. And luckily, there’s a way to savor it even if you can’t travel to Hawaii to enjoy it in person.
Featured image: Reid Shimabukuro
Created by co-founders Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi, two of Hawaii’s James Beard Award-winning chefs, the festival will bring together more than 150 internationally recognized chefs, mixologists, sommeliers and other celebrities of the food and beverage world. They’ll offer experiences showcasing a cornucopia of locally sourced produce, seafood, beef and poultry, along with top-shelf spirits, craft beers and exclusive wines, and a generous portion of Hawaiian culture. Proceeds (some $3 million since the festival’s founding in 2010) benefit local programs in culinary and agricultural education, sustainability and culture. This year attendees will have to present proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test, depending on the site, and many events will include Malama Aina (“care for the land”) opportunities for participants.
The festival takes place on three islands, starting on Hawaii Island’s Kohala Coast Oct. 1-2, jumping over to Oahu with events from Ko Olina to Waikiki and Kahala Oct. 15-Nov. 14, and wrapping up on Maui’s Kaanapali and Wailea resorts Dec. 8-11. Pele & Poliahu, a fire-and-ice-themed meal by eight chefs inspired by the respective goddesses of volcano and snow, will open the festival at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Oct. 1. Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit and work on a 5-acre taro patch in Waipio Valley, hosted by a local nonprofit dedicated to Hawaiian traditions.
Seven of the dozen Oahu events still have tickets available, including Kamehameha Schools Presents Backyard BBQ & Mele on the Lawn Nov. 4 at the Bishop Museum. The $250 ticket includes barbecue and breadfruit dishes from top Honolulu chefs and performances by award-winning Hawaiian music trios Na Leo and Keauhou. Wong and Yamaguchi will join other chefs and amateur players in the festival’s final event, the 24th annual Roy Yamaguchi Golf Classic Dec. 10-11, which includes savory snacks and sips during the charity golf tournament and a dinner hosted at Roy’s Kaanapali.
A less well-known aspect of the festival, its online auction, is a great way to participate for those who can’t join in person — and can help you plan your travel for next year. Open now through Oct. 25, the auction’s 427 items include more than 100 gift certificates to a wide variety of local restaurants and cafes, plus some to the establishments of participating chefs (e.g. Lunetta Dining Room and Citrin in Santa Monica, Plumed Horse in Saratoga, and Noreetuh in New York.) The 32 items in the Travel category include one- to three-night stays at hotels on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island and Kauai and six sets of miles from festival co-sponsor Hawaiian Airlines (160,000 miles apiece.)
The lodging possibilities range from moderate condos like the Castle Kamaole Sands in Kihei, Maui (two nights valued at $760, current bid at $300) to luxurious resorts like Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, on Hawaii Island (two nights valued at $2,000, current bid at $1,200.) Golfers can bid on rounds at six courses on Oahu, including the prestigious Waialae Country Club (round for four valued at $1,200, current bid at $600), and the Waikoloa Beach Resort on Hawaii (round for two valued at $370, current bid of $150.)
The auction also has plenty of items perfect for holiday giving without any travel required, such as gift cards for Big Island Candies, a Kona coffee subscription from Honolulu Coffee Company and a gift basket of spices from Burlap & Barrel., fresh taro from Hanalei Taro & Juice Company.