A flavor-obsessed retailer searchesBy Stephanie Kendrick
out huge tastes, from bacon, ginger
and chocolate, to honey and artisan
breads, to the big, red wines
an Philips has little patience for "connoisseurs" and little interest in mild foods.
The owner of the Grateful Palate, an artisan food and wine company based in California, Philips is coming to Hawaii next week to spread the word about Australian wines, but he doesn't believe in applying a lot of rules to wine drinking.
"I think that all good food goes with all good wines," says Philips, whose wide-ranging culinary passions include ginger, bacon and Shiraz.
"If you think about bacon, and ginger and shiraz, there's a similarity in all of them," he says. "I like really intense flavors."
Featuring: Importer Dan Philips and wines paired with dishes of chef Philippe Padovani
GRATEFUL PALATE WINE DINNER
When: 6 p.m. July 27
Place: Padovani's Bistro and Wine Bar
Philips started the Grateful Palate three years ago after a working on a story on Australian Shiraz for Food & Wine magazine. The big, rich style of the wines and their relative obscurity seduced him right away. "It'd be like discovering a Van Gogh in your attic," says Philips. "I tasted them with my friends and they said words like 'epiphany.' I was back on a plane to Australia the very next day.
The food and wine festival benefits the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific:
DOWN BY THE SEA
Dates: July 28-30
Place: Hilton Hawaiian Village
For tickets: Call 544-3385 or visit Fujioka Wine Merchants, Market City Shopping Center
HighlightsClambake: 6-8 p.m. July 28, Lagoon Green. Seafood, beer, wine, fireworks; $75.
Grand Wine Tasting 1-5 p.m. July 30, Coral Ballroom. Food, wine tasting, silent and live auctions. Wines will be arranged by varietal, not winemaker, so tasters can compare the same grape from different vineyards. Also: Limited seating remains at Australian wine seminar with Dan Philips. Cost: $50 advance, $60 at door; $95 for tasting and seminar.
Sold out: Gourmet Wine Dinner July 29 with Ken Frank, chef-owner of La Toque in Napa Valley, Calif., and the Guigal seminar, with Frederick Ek of Boston, at the Grand Tasting
"In the past three years, it's really taken off."
When Kevin Toyama, food and beverage director at Padovani's Bistro and Wine Bar, was approached about doing a wine dinner with Philips later this month, he didn't hesitate.
"I didn't have to ask when or why or what. Being that one of my passions is wine and food, I read a lot of things," says Toyama, and Philips has been racking up glowing reviews in industry publications.
Philips and Chef Philippe Padovani will present a four-course wine dinner July 27. Toyama admits pairing food with the full-bodied wines favored by Philips can be a challenge, but it's a challenge he welcomes.
"They can be big, but they are balanced," says Toyama. "The level of quality is exceptional."
Philips takes his quest for quality to some areas far afield of the typical gourmet food company. An example is the Grateful Palate's bacon club, providing mail-order and online customers with small-production, hand-crafted bacon delivered monthly. "It's become this incredible sensation all over the country," says Philips.
"For me its all about pleasure. Bacon just happens to be an incredibly pleasurable thing," he says. "It turns people on."
He wasn't sure whether the high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet trend has spurred demand, but the subject of diets in general doesn't interest him.
"I never inhibit what I eat and drink," says Philips.
He tells a story about having been chastised for a high cholesterol reading when he was in college and living off fast-food. After avoiding the test in subsequent years, during which his diet had evolved to comprise wine, bacon and fois gras, Philips finally relented and was surprised to get a better result. It validated his philosophy: To be healthy, keep fit and don't deny yourself good food.
Chutney and marmalade made from blood oranges, artisan marshmallows in four flavors, chocolate truffles and Hawaiian honey are among the other treats to be found in Philips' catalog, or online at http://www.gratefulpalate.com (Motto: "Quality driven for the flavor obsessed").
In addition to the bacon club, the Grateful Palate organizes three wine clubs; a global selection of two bottles per month, a Syrah of the month club and a Champagne of the month club. The Syrah club is his most popular. "No one had ever done a single wine of the month club before," says Philips, who prides himself on being an innovator.
That same drive compels him to find Australian wines no one else carries. He's already been Down Under eight times this year and he'll be sharing some of those discoveries July 30 in a wine seminar at the Down by the Sea Grand Wine Tasting.
The tasting and seminar are part of the Down by the Sea Summer Food & Wine Festival, a benefit for the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific.
Founded in 1953, Rehab helps people from Hawaii and throughout the Pacific recover from strokes and injuries. "All the money that's raised stays in Hawaii," says Susan Kam, director of annual giving for Rehab Foundation and organizer of the weekend festivities.
Last year's festival raised more than $60,000 in two days. The goal for this year's three-day event is $100,000, much of which is expected to come from Sunday's auctions, says Kam.
Some of the more interesting items up for bid are a booklet written and autographed by the Dalai Lama; a football autographed by June Jones; a custom perfume named for Jack Nicholson's mom, June; and a two-night stay in a Tuscan villa, complete with with wine dinner: "They sent us photographs, it looks beautiful," says Kam.
The festival is in its third year, but the Friday night clambake is a new event. "It's a perfect time for people to get off work and head down to the beach," says Kam. "It's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be outdoors very festive, very casual."
Entertainment will be provided by Anita Hall and the band Nueva Vida. "They're going to do kind of upbeat beachy music for us," says Kam.
The menu will be heavy on seafood, local favorites and summery offerings. A dozen different Robert Mondavi wines will be available along with Sapporo beer, all provided in conjunction with co-sponsor Southern Wine & Spirits.
On Sunday, Philips will have his own table in the Australian wine pavilion to share his wines with those not attending the seminar. He'll have another specialty on offer as well.
"He'll be doing a first-ever sizzling gourmet bacon tasting," says Kam. "I've never had gourmet bacon before."
Philips also plans to have artisan marshmallows available for tasting. Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate will host a chocolate tasting table and co-sponsors Fujioka's Wine Merchants and Southern Wine will host a tasting of olive oils.
Lyle Fujioka, owner of Fujioka's Wine Merchants, is working on a plan to import some of Philips' inventory for sale through his store. The agreement would be a first for the Grateful Palate, says Philips.
Philips is a frequent Hawaii visitor and carries locally made honeys and fruit preserves. "I love Hawaii," says Philips. "(Local producers) are driven by freshness, which is what it's all about for me. They're driven by passion, which is what it's all about for me."
Click for online
calendars and events.