At this point, as shelter-at-home orders, business restrictions and other public health measures targeting Covid-19 are gradually being lifted, avid travelers are welling up with wanderlust.
Along with its mainland counterparts, Hawaii is gradually opening up more types of businesses and creating new protocols for restaurants, retail shops and other sectors. The mandatory 14-day quarantine for all Hawaii arrivals remains in effect, and state officials are still asking visitors to postpone trips to the Islands.
When visitors are welcomed back, there are a handful of new culinary offerings spread across the less-trafficked neighbor islands that will be looking for a second opportunity to introduce themselves to the public. Whet your appetite for the next Aloha State visit with these new food-focused experiences on Kauai, Maui and Island of Hawaii.
• In 2018 Kauai chiropractor Addison Bulosan bought Tasting Kauai in order to scratch his long-standing foodie itch, promising to expand the offerings. True to his word, by 2019 Tasting Kauai has added a Hanepepe walking tour and food truck tour to its collection of excursions based around the south, west, and north regions of the Garden Isle.
Continuing the momentum, Bulosan added two new tours to the lineup in early 2020. The Kauai Happy Hour Tour ($79 per person) takes participants to three locations to partake in a handcrafted cocktail, some made with local Hawaiian rum and other spirits, paired with a food item highlighting unique goods from the islands. There is also the chance to chat with the executive chef and bartender at each location to learn more about the creations.
The Lihue Farm Market tour ($109 per person) explores the fruits, vegetables and other food produced on the island, featuring tastings at the Farm Bureau Farmer's Market at the Kauai Community College and a visit to Go Farm Hawaii project, an agricultural incubator (subject to seasonal availability). The tour then heads into the town of Lihue for a few stops to meet chefs dedicated to the farm-to-table ethos, and a cooldown at a Kauai craft brewery.
• Hotel Wailea has been augmenting its dining options with carefully curated new programs in collaboration with James Beard Award semifinalist Chris Kajioka, best known as one of the two chefs leading the kitchen at highly lauded Senia in Honolulu. In February, the adults-only resort unveiled its Secret Garden dining program, a tasting menu meal set in a secluded outdoor garden with elegantly arranged tables on private, candlelit terraces that also have views of the hotel's newly renovated kitchen. Designed to work as more of an exhibition space, guests are able to witness the activities of the kitchen during their meal. Kajioka called the newly renovated kitchen a "chef's dream."
"The new layout allows our team to control the dining experience completely and allows our guests to dine at their own pace. With time, I envision the space evolving as a distinctive forum to host guest chefs from around the world and introduce fresh, global perspectives," he said in a statement announcing the new program.
Secret Garden includes optional wine pairings and starts at $145 per person.
• What do you get when a Brazilian chef and a Hawaii Island blacksmith tie the knot? Forged to Table Hawaii, a unique and visually captivating luau that blends the Hawaiian luau tradition with Brazilian churrasco and farm-to-table sourcing.
Chef Flora Kamimura grew up a "gaucha," or Brazilian cowgirl, and before coming to Hawaii she co-owned a pair of restaurants in Brazil and hosted a YouTube cooking channel. She slices, dices and preps using custom cleavers, knives, skewers and other tools forged by her husband, Neil Kamimura, who was a contestant on the 2017 season of History Channel reality show "Forged in Fire."
The menu cooked over an open fire varies for each Forged Laua four-hour feast ($87 per person), but there is usually a whole pig or lamb and a slow-cooked whole rib eye in addition to inventive fusion dishes like the "Brawaiian Salad," a Brazilian-style potato salad made with local taro and breadfruit. Prior to the pandemic shutdown, events were being held roughly once a month but with no set schedule.