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A relaxing picnic on museum grounds


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POSTED: Sunday, November 09, 2008

The new economy has some advantages for beleaguered consumers. On the bright side, businesses are working extra hard to entice people to shop, buy and eat, even if it simply means tweaking what they already have.

               

     

 

 

THE CONTEMPORARY CAFE

        The Contemporary Museum, 2411 Makiki Heights Drive / 523-3362

       

Food: HHH1/2

       

Service: HHH1/2

       

Ambience: HHHH

       

Value: HHH1/2

       

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays; noon to 2:30 p.m. Sundays

       

Cost: $30 for two for "Lauhala and Lunch"; about the same for two a la carte meals at a table.

       

       

That was the impetus behind "Lauhala and Lunch" at The Contemporary Museum Cafe, where nature lovers are no longer confined to the restaurant area. Instead, retail operations manager Bob Madison and his staff are inviting art enthusiasts to enjoy a picnic lunch on the grounds.

The prospect of al fresco dining may bring back those who love the serenity of the museum grounds, but who may have grown weary of the streamlined menu. After all, can't we all make a tuna sandwich or ham-and-cheese sandwich ourselves?

The introduction offers the opportunity for a second look and the museum staff aims to make it as easy as possible. There's no need to worry about buying or bringing your own mat, because they'll pack one with your lunch. (No, you can't keep it; drop it off at the front door before leaving.)

Call ahead to order a salad, sandwich or wrap off the regular menu, which can be viewed at http://www.tcmhi.org/. Two soft drinks and a dessert of the day will also be tucked into your picnic basket, ready to take to any shady spot under the sprawling branches of the property's 70-year-old monkeypod tree.

The cost is $30 for two, roughly equivalent to a la carte prices at the restaurant, where salads and sandwiches run about $10.50, deserts are about $5, and soft drinks are $2 to $3.

It seemed as though finger food would work best, so I opted for the Hawaiian chicken wrap that included avocado, carrots, sprouts and mixed greens in a flour tortilla. The greens are dressed with a sweet, creamy pineapple chutney.

I like the cafe's menu of simple basics, such as a Waldorf salad, tuna sandwich served with greens and slices of hard-boiled eggs, and a grilled vegetable sandwich of eggplant, zucchini, portobello, sun-dried tomato and melted provolone.

It's definitely a place to consider over the holidays, when you might need a relaxing middle-of-the-day respite from shopping and house-cleaning chores.

The sculpture and meditation gardens, called Nu'umealani, (Heavenly Terraces), were designed between 1928 and 1941 by the Rev. K. I. Inagaki, who was influenced by shizen, the Japanese doctrine of interpreting nature. He used rocks as functional stones, pathways, edge stones and as landscape boulders in subtle ways to evoke the qualities of a natural landscape. So, it's no wonder I always find the TCM Cafe a pleasant place to dine.

The only thing I miss with the picnic is that it doesn't include the opportunity to order the deviled eggs ($5). And while it would be tempting to bring in cheeses and fruit to supplement your meal, sorry, no outside food is allowed. Consider it a genteel form of roughing it.

 

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin.