Taste of Hawai‘i 2023
Aside from a Pacific-sprayed cruise alongside spinner dolphins with views of the incredible Nāpali Coast, another often overlooked but must-try experience while on Kauaʻi is the food scene. The eclectic mix of local fare includes so many sects of Polynesian influence as well as the melting pot of cultures that make up the Garden Island today. Fresh catch and locally-sourced meat, poultry and produce up local chefs’ game, and make for an incredible tasting experience.
Photo courtesy of TasteofHawaiʻi.net
The long-awaited return of Kauaʻi’s premier culinary event made a booming comeback on June 4th, 2023. The 31st Taste of Hawaiʻi, held at Smithʻs Tropical Paradise is affectionately called “THE ULTIMATE Sunday Brunch,” and definitely lives up to its name. Hosted by The Rotary Club of Kapaʻa, Taste of Hawaiʻi features Hawaiʻi-based vendors serving up their best dishes, sweets, and delectable cocktails, mocktails, and craft beers. This drool-worthy annual event is not only an opportunity to sample an abundance of different dishes in a stunning location, but it funds valuable scholarships and local nonprofit initiatives.
2023 Taste of Hawaiʻi Scholarship recipient Mailee Cervantes-Bautista
Photo courtesy of Taste of Hawaiʻi/The Rotary Club of Kapaʻa
Through Taste of Hawaiʻi, The Rotary Club provides SAT/ACT online prep courses and recreational court upkeep for The Boys & Girls Clubs on island as well as scholarships for high school students to continue their education at the college level. This year’s Taste of Hawaiʻi Scholarship recipient was Mailee Cervantes-Bautista from Hawaiʻi Community College Culinary Arts Program.
As a financial sponsor, the Rotary Club provides funding and support for:
- Kauaʻi Independent Food Bank – Founded in 1992 after Hurricane Iniki, KIFB provides roughly 100,000 meals and snacks per year to those in need.
- Mobile Munchies – Spearheaded by Līhuʻe Lutheran Church, this brown bag lunch program provides a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, raisins, baby carrots, a small bag of chips, a granola bar and a fruit drink to those in need. Lunches are distributed to Salvation Army‘s Good News Club, Nana’s House, Boys and Girls Club of Waimea and Kapaʻa, after-school programs, and the Kokua Soup Kitchen. Since its inception in 2005 over 100,000 lunches have been distributed.
- Kauaʻi Animal Education Farm – Animal rescue farm which aims to educate and provide interaction with rescued native Hawaiian and farm animals.
- Aloha Workbook Program – Integrating Hawaiian culture into elementary schools
- Hawaiʻi Literacy Project – Five programs that focus on low literacy skills and help underserved individuals prepare for and succeed in learning to read and write.
- Hale Hoʻo Malu – A Kapaʻa-based family center that offers a wide range of family support programs, services, and community activities. Rotary Club partners with Hale Hoʻo on several initiatives including holiday gifts for families in need.
- Friendship House – A safe, accepting psychiatric rehabilitation hub in which individuals with mental illness are offered empowering opportunities.
- Puʻuwai Canoe Club – Keiki paddling programs
…with the list growing each year.
Photo and caption courtesy of Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island
Chef Run Kamraithong of Big Monster Sushi dresses up his shrimp, curry chicken and tofu offering. The restaurant also had ahi poke and California roll for sampling during the Rotary Club of Kapa‘a 31st Taste of Hawai‘i at Smith’s Tropical Paradise in Wailua on Sunday, June 4, 2023.
The $165 (advanced purchase) ticket is recommended, as this summer highlight tends to sell out! With the entrance fee, attendees enjoy:
- 25+ chefs from restaurants around Hawaiʻi
- 10+ beverage vendors
- 12+ musical and entertainment groups
- Online silent auction – Bid from your computer, smart phone, or tablet
- Smith’s Tropical Paradise stunning 30-acre private park
- FREE Parking and shuttle service from Vidinha Stadium in Līhuʻe to/from Smith’s
Tasked with voting the best of the year, guests are given a ballot to place their votes in categories including Best Presentation, New Discovery, Aloha Spirit, and People’s Choice. Categories include Seafood, Meat & Poultry, Vegetarian, Desserts & Sweets, Cocktails, Beverages, and even Favorite Music.
Missed this year’s Taste? Fear not! With boots on the ground, we were able to sample Hawaiʻi’s finest this year and report back to you. Here are our favorite vendors from the Taste to check out (and keep in mind for next year.)
SEAFOOD – Dela Cruz Delight
Private Chef Amanda Dela Cruz brought it with her crispy shrimp and chive dumpling, topped with microgreens and dipped in a just-the-right-amount-of-spice aioli.
MEAT & POULTRY – Wranglerʻs Steakhouse
Chef Rowan Caberto’s lamb chop with pūlehu sauce (seen above) had everyone talking.
VEGETARIAN – Shakti Indian Cuisine
Opinder Deol’s samosas never disappoint! Be sure to check out their all-you-can-eat buffet on Friday evenings!
DESSERTS & SWEETS – Orly Patisserie
Pastry Chef Orly Yadao presented a sampler of island-style unique desserts. The lilikoi ube cheesecake, craquelin sweet potato cookie, and a cream puff were perfectly plated and delicious. If you stop by the storefront in Līhuʻe, don’t forget to sample their famous macaroons.
COCKTAILS – Fish Bar Deli
Fish Bar Deli’s soursop cocktail made with Hanalei Spirits was perfectly balanced and refreshing for a hot day. Known for their cocktails, unique dishes, and Ramen Bar pop-up, Fish Bar Deli is a must-try in Kapaʻa Town.
BEVERAGE – Aloha Ginger Beer
This nonalcoholic contender is so fresh! Handcrafted on island using locally grown ginger, fresh water, Kauaʻi honey, organic sugar and seasonal citrus, AGB is available in-store or at farmer’s markets and pop-ups across the island.
Do good by eating well, and plan for next year’s Taste of Hawaiʻi in June 2024 by staying up-to-date here.