What the Heck?
PHOTO COURTESY OF BILL HARBY
Cowboys from Kahua Ranch cooked mountain oysters by torchlight at Taste of the Hawaiian Range last weekend on the Big Island. Crews from the ranches competed in The Great Kohala Mountain Oysters Cook-Off.
Big Isle paniolo cook up mountain oysters
Taste of the Hawaiian Range, over on the Big Island, is hardly your typical food gala. Admission to the vast number of food stations is only $35, so 2,000 people show up. Dress runs to boots, jeans and cowboy hats.
The event draws Big Island farmers and ranchers, but also name chefs from as far away as Oahu -- Town's Ed Kenney, the Pacific Club's Eric Leterc, Holokai Grill's Eldon Ricardo, 12th Avenue Grill's Kevin Hanney.
"You have to love this event," said Fred DeAngelo of Ola. "Everyone's aunties and uncles show up."
"It's my favorite," said George Mavrothalassitis of Chef Mavro, "because you never know what you are going to have to cook."
That's the kicker. Some chefs get sirloin tips, but others get tripe, tongue or heart. The most problematic ingredient is mountain oysters -- which, in case you are wondering, aren't oysters at all, but bull testicles.
"Ooh, I never get to cook those," said Mavro, who had to content himself with a whole lamb.
Most of the mountain oysters are turned over to the real professionals -- Big Island paniolo. Crews from the ranches compete in The Great Kohala Mountain Oysters Cook-Off. Someone volunteered me as one of the judges.
"Real cowboys eat them raw," said Pono Von Holt of Pono Holo Ranch. The Pono Holo crew is hard-core. Last year, they tried to serve the judges raw mountain oysters. Most refused to taste them. This year, reminded that this was a COOK-off, they prepared an official entry, simmered in a mushroom sauce.
But, undeterred, Von Holt prevailed upon me to try a shooter -- a slice of raw mountain oyster, some seasonings, in a shot glass full of whiskey. I drank it. I have to say: The whiskey was the best part.
Ranches cooked up some elaborate recipes. But the winner was the simplest. "We're cooking them the way we do on the range," said Kahua Ranch's Tim Richards. His crew had brought along the gas torch they use to turn branding irons red hot. They set a pan on top of the branding stand and crisped the mountain oysters with a little garlic salt.
"Like it or not, this is how we eat 'em," said Richards.
You're not going to believe this: I asked for seconds.
Azure's Not Blue
Haven't seen jazz singer Azure McCall lately? She's on the Big Island.
Heard a familiar voice coming out of the Malolo Lounge at the Hilton Waikoloa --and there was McCall, singing Etta James' "At Last," and filling the tiny dance floor with local folks who'd come to catch her set.
Near the song's end, McCall stepped down to the floor. "This is the part where you dip and kiss," she said. As she hit the final "At Laaah-st," three out of four couples followed her instruction. The other skipped the dip and went right for the kiss.
"I commuted here from Oahu for a while," she says. "Then I realized I was working steady and loved it. So it was ... " She stops, sings: "Bye, bye, Honolulu, goodbye."
Roy's chef Jackie Lau was robbed last month at the 2007 Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans. A last-minute scoring change knocked her seared Kona Kampachi out of the lead.
There's still hope. You can vote for Lau's kampachi as one of the six best sustainable seafood recipes in the country. At the moment, her local-style recipe is trailing badly. So go to www.greatamericanseafoodcookoff.com, and vote a lot. (Hey, it worked for Jasmine Trias.)
One random entrant wins a free trip to New Orleans.
Fashion Never Dies
It's barely been publicized. It's not been advertised at all and almost didn't happen. Still, Honolulu's very own Fashion Week starts tomorrow.
It almost didn't happen because $10,000 in expected funding didn't come through from the Honolulu Arts & Culture District.
"We were about a week from the event, suddenly zero budget," says Eric Chandler. Chandler and his partner in 2Couture, Takeo, panicked, scrambled and got eleventh-hour contributions from Scott Schumaker of HONOLULU Magazine and Adrian Kamali'i of Pae 'Aina Communications.
The weeklong series kicks off with a "Fashion Museum" tomorrow at Pegge Hopper gallery. Chandler has gotten noted Hawaii designers to dig deep into their storage closets and show clothes from the '50s, '60s, '70s. Says he, "Everybody's coming out of the closet for this one."
The week culminates in an outdoor fashion show next Saturday, 80 models parading a catwalk down Nuuanu Avenue. "Last year the street festival drew 10,000 people," says Chandler. "Fashion is the new rock 'n' roll."
Life After Dark
The Academy of Arts is still buzzing about the success of last weekend's ArtafterDark event, put on by Halekulani Corp. as a sort of coming-out party for the redone Waikiki Parc Hotel.
Red carpets. The lawn parked with Ferraris and Maseratis. Food by Roy's and Nobu. Music by DeShannon Higa. By far the most successful ArtafterDark ever, with 1,800 folks in attendance, the Academy pocketing all the proceeds.
"We were thrilled," says Academy director Steve Little. "I've never been surrounded by so many fashionable people in my life."
I missed it, being on the Big Island and all, but called one of the few fashionable people of my acquaintance. "It was fabulous," he said. "Bars, bars, bars. Lines, lines, lines. Some of the restaurants ran out of food early."
"Ah, the price of success," said Little.