© Eva Kolenko

Chefs and mixologists keep giving us more reasons to get excited about Hawaii's food and drink scene.

May 10, 2017

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hawaii Regional Cuisine last year, we shared twenty things we love about Hawaii. Well, that list keeps growing as chefs and mixologists give us more and more reasons to get excited about our 50th state. If you're not feeling the love yet, here are five more things that just might make you fall hard.

1. Insider Access to Culinary History and Heroes

Tickets are still available for the Connoisseur’s Culinary Journey presented by The Kahala Hotel & Resort and Kamehameha Schools, May 29-June 2. Limited to just 10 guests, this trip is a chance to learn about Hawaii’s incredible food history and interact with some of its best chefs. Guests stay at the legendary Kahala on Oahu, which has been a favorite among presidents and celebrities for years (I had a Kate Hudson-Goldie Hawn-Amy Schumer sighting last year). Some of the highlights of this year's trip include:

-Day trip to Kauai for a farm tour and lunch with the local community
-Hands-on poke lesson with chefs Lee Anne Wong and Wayne Hirabayashi
-Sailing the Wai'anae Coast eating dishes that ancient navigators prepared
-Beach party with 10 local chefs

2. The Bread Game Is On Point

Baker Chris Sy, who grew up in Honolulu, left the island to attend the University of Chicago. When he graduated he decided his true calling was a life in the kitchen. After working in some of the best restaurants in Chicago, New York, California and Copenhagen he returned to Honolulu where he is now making artisan breads at the bakery he opened last year, Breadshop. He’s not making sweet rolls or other breads many associate with Hawaii. These are classic European-Style loaves that take a few days to make and rival some of our favorites all over the world. You can visit his Kaimuki shop to pick up his rustic, tangy country bread or the milder city bread or subscribe to his monthly service to be sure you get your weekly loaf before they sell out.

3. It’s Not Just About Mai Tais (Though We Do Love Mai Tais)

Hawaii’s cocktail reputation was built on tropical drinks with paper umbrellas. But now there’s a serious new scene that’s experimental, innovative and, most importantly, delicious. One of our favorites on that scene is Bar Leather Apron, a small, reservations-recommended spot that is the brainchild of Justin and Tom Park. Try the Japan Old Fashioned with umami-Infused Hakushu 12-Year, Angostura bitters and maple.

4. The Spot You Wish Could Be Your Neighborhood Joint

Chef Andrew Le (and the rest of the team behind the awesome Pig & The Lady in Chinatown) recently opened Piggy Smalls in Kaka’ako. This is the party you want to be at, from the killer play list and energetic vibe to the pho-strami burger (makaweli beef, crispy smoked brisket bacon, burnt onion, super awesome sauce, salad of peas & thank you) and slushies.

5. Flip-Flop Friendly Fine Dining

Chefs Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush like to say their restaurant (finally open after 2 years of work) is casual. And the vibe is. But whether you’re sharing family-style food in the dining room or small tasting portions at the chef’s counter, there is an incredible amount of work and technique that goes into every dish, making it more ambitious than laid back. A few standouts: charred cabbage (Kajioka has always had a gift with local cabbage), bone marrow with Hawaiian sweet bread, slow-roasted pork belly with beet “charsiu” and pastry chef Mimi Mendoza's sophisticated desserts like Meyer lemon chiffon cake.