ka malama dinner series: culturally centered food at grand wailea resort

KA MALAMA_800_8745Chef Mike Lofaro of Humuhumunukunukuapua‘a, and Grand Wailea Resort’s Hawaiian Cultural Ambassador Kainoa Horcajo, have cooked up a truly unique and delectable dining experience: The Ka Malama Dinner Series held the third Thursday of every month. Chef Mike and Kainoa forage, fish, and gather the foods and inspiration for the dinner based on the Hawaiian Moon Calendar. And, best of all, they informatively and reverently explain each course while it’s being consumed.

As our servers bring the first course, entitled Wai Ola (water of life), Chef Mike explains, “Every ingredient that went into tonight’s dinner has a purpose. For this first course, we wanted to give respect to water. We never say exactly where we go on our journeys for these dinners, but we want to share what we smelled and tasted there. So we imbued the water with the flavors we tasted, and the aromas we encountered on today’s journey.”

“We’ve put ‘ola‘a grenadine into the bottom of the glass,” continues Kainoa. “‘Ola‘a is actually an invasive thimbleberry, and it was brought here by mistake. But it’s delicious! So we are using it as a sweetener. There’s also an ‘awapuhi leaf in your glass you can macerate to add a hint of ginger.” I find the water not only refreshing, but curiously addictive.

The second course, entitled Kai Momona (fertile ocean), is visually appealing, and a delightful combination of flavors and textures: wana (sea urchin), limu (seaweed), ‘opihi (limpet), and niu (coconut) “sea foam.” It’s paired with Domaine de la Tourmaline Muscadet, produced in the Loire Valley of France. Grand Wailea’s sommelier Yeshua Goodman says he selected this particular wine for its light profile and high acidity, which nicely complement the umami flavors of the dish.

As the aroma of kiawe smoke fills the air, we’re presented with Hearts of Palm (kiawe smoked shallots, fennel slaw, pickled grapes, and fine herbs. “The highlight of this dish is the kiawe smoked shallots, which are a tribute to this time of year when you can smell kiawe smoke everywhere,” says Chef Mike. Yeshua has chosen Adelsheim Vineyards’ Auxerrois Ribbon Ridge, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. “This wine was originally made in Alsace, France,” he says. “It’s a unique style of wine, and I can’t think of another vintner that uses this particular grape as its own varietal. This brings to the table pear and melon notes to pair with the pickled grapes. You get a slight vegetal note, like fennel, to pair with Chef’s fennel slaw. I wasn’t sure how it would pair with the smoked shallots, but I think it knocks it out of the park!” I think so, too!

Since the current moon phase is Kupau, the fourth course, entitled “Katsu” Moa, is a tribute to the god Ku. “The moa (chicken) was a body form of the god Ku,” says Kainoa. “We wanted to do a play on chicken katsu,” explains Chef Mike. “This is Big Island chicken. It’s rubbed with a mousse of poi, fois gras, and truffle, then breaded katsu style in kiawe bean flour and fried. It’s served with ‘ulu (breadfruit) from our garden that’s been steamed and candied overnight; then we fry it and cook it down in a dashi fondue, and finish it with clean herbs and shaved summer truffles. ‘Ulu with truffles is my new favorite combination!” I think it’s mine too, and I can’t get enough of this earthy, tasty dish.

I also can’t get enough of the wine Yeshua has selected: Louis Latour Puligny-Montrachet from Burgundy, France. “The truffle calls for an earthy, rich white burgundy,” he explains. “This full-bodied wine stands up well with this dish, and has a refreshing quality to it as well.”

My eye catches Chef Mike in the far corner of the room who resembles a mad scientist as he pours liquid nitrogen into the stainless steel bowl of a stand mixer. He rubs the bowl vigorously with both hands and repeats the process several times: pour and rub, pour and rub. When he’s satisfied with the concoction, he spoons it into coconut halves. The result is our exquisite dessert course: Niu Waiawi—coconut and strawberry guava with poi crema, ‘awapuhi, and ginger sorbet. “Although strawberry guava is extremely invasive, it’s now part of our environment,” Kainoa explains. “Being able to use is as a food source is a great thing to do.” “During our foraging today we picked a lot of strawberry guava,” continues Chef Mike. “We knew since it was a Ku night, we’d use coconut because that is also a body form of Ku. And we can’t let you get out of here without eating some poi, so there’s poi crema whipped with vanilla bean. Yeshua has chosen Saracco Moscato d’Asti, a sparkling wine from Piedmont, Italy. It’s clean and bright with honeydew, white peach, and strawberry notes.

“The monthly Ka Malama dinner is always very special for us,” Kainoa concludes. “It’s an opportunity to put a lot of thought and work into making it a complete experience, rather than just a dinner.”

–heidi pool



Ka Malama Dinner Series, serving five exceptionally creative and delicious courses based on the Hawaiian Moon Calendar. Cost is $150 per person, inclusive of wine pairings, tax, gratuity, and valet parking.


Humuhumunukunukuapua‘a restaurant at the Grand Wailea Resort, 3850 Wailea Alanui Dr., Wailea.


The third Thursday of each month from 6 to 8:30pm.


Reservations are essential: 875-1234 ext. 51.

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