Cooling off with Chef Mavro at the 10th Annual Rice Fest at Ward Village
In Hawaii we embrace the new and different. A huge example of that can be seen in our food culture. It’s our universal language. We speak it all and we can’t get enough.
Over the years, our little State has seen more and more options when it comes to food, but with that comes the loss of other local traditions. Four years ago, I decided to start documenting all the things I love about Hawaii. My homage to my home.
After a couple years of blogging, our family of two became three. Our little bundle of joy couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of “me time” and worse he became severely ill.
Two years passed in what feels like ten, but finally we are getting some normalcy back in our lives. I still think about my little experiment from time to time but life never seems to slow down long enough.
Then, a couple weeks ago I received a voicemail. It’s from Tom, a journalist making a TV show for one of the largest networks in France. The show is a pilot about various topics, but all in Hawaii and all about culture and identity.
He explains he found my blog online. They’re interested in local food culture and want to meet. Surprised someone on the other side of the computer, no less the other side of the world, read my foodie thoughts, I say yes. Yes, before he changes his mind. Yes, before I talk myself out of it.
We collaborate over the next two weeks and with a little compromise and serendipity, I find myself getting mic’d up at Rice Fest, with one of my besties Dustin Deniz, ready to eat and talk shop with local food icon Chef Mavro.
Luckily I had met Chef Mavro and his wife Donna once before so I wasn’t as badly awestruck. But I was still pinching myself.
Our first stop, Off The Hook Poke. I ask what’s on the menu. They boldly point to a single item—cold ginger poke. Nuff said. Though it’s been rather famous for some time, I don’t get out to eat the latest and greatest as often as I used to, so this was a first.
I steer clear of the forks and grab two pairs of chopsticks. One for me and one for Chef. My friends will tell you I have a thing about using the wrong utensils for a dish. Always eat poke with chopsticks. Never forks. Ever.
We go on talking about what is and is NOT poke. Chef says it’s not poke but it is Off The Hook. Not to mention genius in my book 😉
Cold ginger chicken. Cold ginger Ahi. What took us so long to figure this out? This is what we do! Apparently there’s a little more to it than just switching out proteins. The recipe for the sauce contains special secret ingredients. I’m still giving it a shot at home.
We move next to the obligatory spam musubi. This one from Gotz Grindz had a little twist—double shiso. Fresh shiso on top and ume shiso inside. Spam musubis are a funny thing. I try to resist but once I start eating I realize how much my soul actually needs it. Then before I know it, it’s gone. It’s a good thing we split this one.
We talk story a little more. I ask Chef what he thought about Hawaii food when he first got here. Back then he says the running joke was “Enjoy the food on the plane cause it’s the best thing you’ll eat on vacation.” But when he got here he was happily surprised with the taste of real local food (aka not Waikiki food). He fell in love and the rest is history.
Since then the tables have turned. Hawaii food is being recognized and imitated all around the world. Even “Waikiki food” has the potential to be amazing. And you’re definitely better off starving than eating the so called “food” on the plane.
Today Chef Mavro expertly intertwines the food he fell in love with, with his Five Diamond cuisine. It still blows my mind how he’s able to sneak uniquely local profiles onto his high end menu without anything ever seaming out of place. It’s completely effortless, always makes sense, and though inherently French, undoubtedly local. There’s nothing else like it, anywhere.
We finish with poi mochi and shave Ice. The perfect end to another sweltering day. Then we say our goodbyes. Aloha! Au revoir!
Life still doesn’t want to slow down and toddlers don’t grasp “me time” any more than infants. But the day was so memorable it had to be made full circle with a post. The Hawaii food scene is an ever evolving animal. Who knows if time or a two year old will let me squeeze “blogger” back on to my list of titles but it feels official…at least for now.