Summertime Sipping And Noshing

After a couple of years when it seemed like the form had gone out of style, summer wine dinners are in full swing with food and wine pairings at a number of restaurants and bars around town.

STAGE, the eclectic restaurant at the Honolulu Design Center, hosts a wine dinner on the last Monday of each month, and the $75 four-course dinner also is offered without wine for $45. For more information on upcoming monthly wine dinners, go to

Chef Jeffrey Vigillia

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Chef Jeffrey Vigillia. Jo McGarry photos

Bali Steak and Seafood Restaurant at Hilton Hawaiian Village kicked off a series of summer wine dinners last month. But don’t worry if you miss the one-night-only celebrations. Bali chef Matt Aleshouse has been creating pairing menus that run for the entire month, basing his tasting menus on wines chosen for the dinner, then offering guests the pairings at dinner each night.

On June 20, guests will have the opportunity to taste wines from New Zealand winery Villa Maria, the country’s most award-winning winery. You can make reservations by calling 941-BALI, or go to

And there’s ample opportunity to taste summer at Hilton Hawaiian Village without wine and in a more casual mode. Certainly one of the best times is Saturday evenings when Henry Kapono plays at the resort’s beachfront Tropics Grill and Bar. The combination of Kapono’s mellow music, a Waikiki sunset and a menu of locally grown, island-inspired dishes makes for a perfect weekend evening.

When Tropics opened after its extensive renovation, executive chef Jeffrey Vigillia committed to supporting local farmers with a menu that showcased hundreds of farm-grown foods.

Today the hotel has kept to its word, and on the Tropics menu you’ll find a host of locally produced foods. Hugely popular dishes include Kona salt-seasoned, fresh island furikake beer-battered fish, and the summer classic – brown sugar barbecue pork ribs served with french fries, baked beans and coleslaw. You’ll even find local ingredients at the luau – something that surprises kamaaina guests who expect the usual tourist trappings.

“We wanted our luau right from the beginning to be a showcase for local food,” says Chef Vigillia. “It’s a journey through Polynesia with music and dance, and we keep the food as locally grown and as traditional as possible.” With traditional dance and music and a firework finale, the Starlight Luau offers spectacular all-round entertainment as well as a taste of local dishes.

The luau menu changes with the seasons, but expect to find dishes such as steamed banana leaf-wrapped island fish; Thai lemongrass marinated huli huli chicken; rotisserie sir-loin of beef with rosemary and guava barbecue sauce; Hawaiian paella with Portuguese sausage, island fish and shellfish; local greens; Pacific rice noodle salad; and Molokai herb-roasted sweet potatoes. Hilton Hawaiian Village also is playing host to celebrity and island chefs this September as part of the second Honolulu Food and Wine Festival. Joining local chefs on the lawn will be Todd English, Susan Feniger (Border Grill, Los Angeles) and Ken Oringer (Clio, Boston).

Happy eating!