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The Big Island of Hawaii

The Art of Food and Wine

The Big Island of Hawaii does not at first seem like a plausible setting for a food and wine festival. In fact, the home bases of the approximately 65 vintners and wineries that participated in the "1997 Winter Wine Escape" at the two properties that are part of the Mauna Kea Resort might appear to be more apt settings than the Kohala Coast. However, Hawaii’s reputation as a destination with stellar chefs and fine food is growing. Vacationers now travel there not only to play golf and to enjoy the beaches and native culture, but to eat at many outstanding restaurants and hotel dining rooms.

Although the greatest number of bottles uncorked at the escape were from California, wines from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy and Portugal were showcased, too. During the six years in which the three-day event has taken place, teaching oenophiles and food lovers how to match food and wine has been a central purpose. And, of course, having a good time is high on the list, too.

The Art of Food and Wine, The Big Island of Hawaii. (Credit: Edwin Fancher)

The theme—in 1997 it was The Art of Food of Wine—varies at each festival and new celebrity guest chefs cook and do demonstrations every November. The Prelude held in the open courtyard at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel and the Finale on the lawn of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel drew many hundreds of guests. Stations were set up with cooking equipment and were manned by visiting and resort chefs who prepared dishes that are served at their restaurants. Wine was poured by wine makers or their representatives who talked about the characteristics of the vintages they opened.

There was so much food and drink on the first and last nights that even the most enthusiastic nibbler or imbiber could not make his way through all the tables. The chefs dispensed mini-dinners, entrees (duck, lamb, boar, veal, venison, salmon) paired with side dishes. The menu included not only Pacific Rim cuisine, but recipes from other cultures. Desserts were not forgotten. Topping this course was an extravaganza of pineapple in which the fruit was presented in several tempting ways.

The most elegant dinner of all, A Concerto of Food and Wine, was served in formal surroundings. Six courses, each one prepared by a different chef and accompanied by a specially selected vintage, were offered at a leisurely pace to enhance the enjoyment of the meal.

Other events were designed to invite both discussion and participation. During three seminars—Vie Vins, Merlot and Beer and Sake—the panels of experts helped tasters to discover the features that make each drink unique. A lecture on the History of Wine traced its 7,000-year chronicle and its relationship with the arts. Using slides, the researcher illustrated how wine had been represented by artists and sculptors throughout the centuries and also talked about the thoughts of philosophers and world leaders on the subject.

Uncovering the Secrets of the East, a luncheon/discourse focused on the intricacies of blending Eastern spices with three seafood dishes and complementing them with six handcrafted wines. Perhaps the afternoon that created the most excitement was The Art of the Sea with seven tables of guests preparing their own four-course lunches. A chef helped each group decide how to use the selection of exotic raw ingredients (ope, ahi, rambutan) and taught them kitchen skills, such as how to fillet fish and chop vegetables. Judges chose the most attractive and best tasting dishes. Although there was some competition, it was done in the spirit of sport.

Luncheons, dinners and seminars were individually and reasonably priced. Packages were also available that included the prelude, finale and accommodations. In 1998 the Winter Wine Escape will take place on November 5, 6 and 7.


The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, started by hotelier Laurance Rockefeller more than 30 years ago, reopened in 1995 after an extensive renovation. One year earlier construction was finished at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel. Now the resort has two distinct low-rise structures. A collection of 1,600 pieces of museum-quality Pacific and Asian art is on display throughout the public and private areas. Guided tours of the collection are given regularly. Airy, light-filled rooms are decorated in neutral and pastel shades and furnished with rattan and willow.

Some of the facilities, such as the stables at Waimea and the oceanside tennis park, are shared by both properties. Each hotel has its own golf course, fitness center and on-site activities including Hawaiian arts and crafts and aerobic classes.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, 62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Drive, Kamuela, HI 96743. Tel. 800-228-3000, 808-882-7222. Rates begin at $325. www.maunakeabeachhotel.com/mkb

Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, 62-100 Kauna’oa Drive, Kamuela, HI 96743. Tel. 800-228-3000, 808-880-1111. Rates begin at $325. www.hapunabeachhotel.com/hbp


The promotional literature from the Big Island of Hawaii lists 365 things to do. Catering to a wide range of interests, there’s something appealing for everyone. The 300 miles of coastline provide opportunities for all water sports and the more than 4,000-square-miles of land mass offer a truly Hawaiian experience for sightseeing and learning about the culture. There are enough diverse climates—11 of the earth’s climatic regions can be found here—and landscapes to capture every visitor’s attention. Major festivals and celebrations take place during every month. Just a few of the special spots are Lapakahi, Kaloko Honokohau and Puukohola Heiau National Parks, Kaumana caves, Parker Ranch with its historic homes, W. M. Keck Observatory, Onizuka Space Museum, Puako Petroglyph fields and Kona Coffee Farm and black, white and green sand beaches.

There’s much, much more. When you think about booking for the ‘98 Winter Wine Escape, think about extending your stay so that you can explore the island.

For more information contact the Hawaii Visitors Bureau, Big Island Chapter, 250 Keawe Street, Hilo HI 96720. Tel. 808-961-5759, fax 808-961-2126. www.visit.hawaii.org


Aloha Airlines has frequent flights from Honolulu to Kona. Tel. 800-367-5250 www.alohaairlines.com

Spring 1998