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Walnut Creek Magazine

Theater of Cuisine: Napa Wines Co-Star at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Mar 12, 2019 12:43PM ● By Fran Miller

By Fran Endicott Miller 

While floral bedecked mai tais and daiquiris play a de rigueur role in a relaxing Hawaiian vacation, a perfectly paired glass of wine can also induce the aloha spirit. Case in point - Four Seasons Resort Hualalai’s elegant and authentic Mauka to Makai Dinner, where seven artful courses derived from land and sea are paired with wines from around the world. At a recent Mauka to Makai dinner, the majority of those wines happened to come from the Napa Valley.

Staged weekly in the open dining room of the resort’s signature restaurant ‘Ulu Ocean Grill + Sushi Lounge, with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, the Mauka to Makai dinner event is culinary theater at its best. Starring the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai’s dream team of chefs - Executive Chef Thomas Bellec, Executive Pastry Chef Kalani Garcia, and Chef de Cuisine Chad Yamamoto - the trio minces, chops, bastes, and sears in its outdoor kitchen, before an intimate audience of no more than 18. ‘Ulu’s general manager Paul Jennette works with the culinary team to select the wines that will impeccably complement each dish, and on this night, Napa Valley wines made the casting call.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai Executive Chef Thomas Bellec, Executive Pastry Chef Kalani Garcia, and Chef de Cuisine Chad Yamamoto

The intimate gathering encourages mingling – not only amongst guests, but with the chefs as well, each of whom is amiably present during a pre-dinner offering of champagne and appetizers. As their work begins, guests are encouraged to take part in up-close observation of the dinner preparation taking place within arms’ reach, and to ask questions of these expert chefs, who preface each dish presentation with the story of its inspiration and origin.     

On this night, a first course of Lomi Lomi Salmon with ikura, avocado, sea asparagus, inamona, scallion oil and onion, paired well with a glass of Prêt à Boire Rosé from Napa’s Amuse Bouche winery. Winemaker Heidi Barrett would no doubt be pleased to know that her southern French-style blend of 63% Grenache and 37% Syrah from the high altitude vineyards in the eastern Rutherford hills had made its way to this posh paradise.

Diners watched the resort’s sarong clad torch bearer illuminate the beachfront tiki torches as a second course of seafood consommé was served, an elegantly simple dish enhanced by its pairing of Napa Valley PlumpJack Reserve Chardonnay. Like Barrett, original PlumpJack proprietors California Governor Gavin Newsome and philanthropist and composer Gordon Getty might take pride in knowing they made the Jennette ‘cut.’

A sunset of golds, pinks, and purples provided the backdrop for Chef Yamamoto’s “French Toast” third course, a slice of brioche topped with chutoro tartar, Hilo caviar, and kabayaki syrup, and served with a Columbia Valley, Washington Riesling. The evening then ventured toward Santa Barbara County for the fourth course with a Flor de Campo Pinot Noir paired with Hualalai Shrimp & Lobster Dumplings – a modern and sophisticated take on Chef Yamamoto’s favorite childhood dish. 

Following a palate cleanser of passion orange guava sorbet, a pork belly main course was made even more succulent with its pairing of Napa’s Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery’s name hints at the ‘patchwork’ provenance of its grapes, selected from six prime Napa Valley AVAs. 

A grand finale of apple banana bread pudding served with a French Sauternes left the appreciative crowd applauding its congenial and talented hosts as enthusiastically as the patrons at a Festival Napa Valley performance. And for the curtain call? A small box of chocolate minardises by which to remember this incredible evening. Bravo.

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