Inaugural Kauai Poke Festival coming in November

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Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu will hold the first Kauai Poke Fest, a benefit for Habitat for Humanity, on Nov. 2.
Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu will hold the first Kauai Poke Fest, a benefit for Habitat for Humanity, on Nov. 2.

Moved to create an ongoing event to boost community involvement, draw attention to the property and augment its partnership with famed Hawaiian chef Sam Choy, Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu is launching the Kauai Poke Festival on Nov. 2.

The resort on Kauai's south shore hopes to make the festival dedicated to one of Hawaii's most well-known dishes an annual event.

"We wanted to create a special event on Kauai to bring together both residents and visitors in celebration of poke, Hawaii's iconic dish that has risen in popularity both nationally and internationally," said Andy Evers, general manager at Koloa Landing Resort.

The festival includes a poke competition split into two categories -- one for professionals and one for amateur cooks -- judged by a celebrity panel of poke testers including professional surfer Sebastian Zietz and Mel Tanioka from Tanioka's Fish Market on Oahu. There will also be an opportunity for the public to sample the various entries and vote for their favorite.

"They'll be judged on presentation, taste and originality," said Stacy Manzo, Koloa Landing director of marketing. "Those are the three basic criteria, but they can go as crazy as they want. Sam Choy told me about one competition where someone put gummy bears in their poke."

There is also a market highlighting Garden Isle farmers, food trucks and purveyors, live entertainment including local musicians, and a poke demonstration by Choy, who helped popularize poke with the spread of his modern Hawaiian restaurants.

"Kauai has some amazing food options, and we haven't really shown how great some of those selections are," Evers said. "This is a great way to showcase some of the island's food and tastes."

Poke, which literally means "to slice" or "cut into pieces" in Hawaiian, is traditionally made of raw fish, seaweed, onions, sesame oil and soy sauce, and is often served in a bowl over a bed of rice or as a side.

"The most important thing for a good poke is that the fish, the main ingredient, is fresh from local waters here," Manzo said.

A portion of proceeds from the Kauai Poke Fest will benefit the Kauai Habitat for Humanity.

"We want this to be an ongoing event, and it will be part of our continued support for Habitat for Humanity and some of their really great projects across the island," Evers said. "We are always looking for more ways to get involved in the community."

Koloa Landing is also a cosponsor of the Poipu Food and Wine Festival on Nov. 9, which benefits the Kauai Community College Culinary Arts Program and includes cooking demonstrations and classes with top Hawaii chefs, live music and a silent auction.

The Kauai Poke Fest runs 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 2 and tickets are $55 per person.

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