Going Gourmet For The Holiday

Jo McGarry
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Friday - December 16, 2005
| Del.icio.us | podcast Podcast | WineAndDineHawaii.com

Robin Hashimoto is ready to serve you at Tamura’s Fine Wines on Waialae Avenue

Robin Hashimoto is ready to
serve you at Tamura’s Fine
Wines on Waialae Avenue

If I remember my childhood poetry well enough, it was the owl and the pussycat who dined on “slices of quince” after their marriage by a turkey. Quince (a highly astringent fruit that makes excellent marmalade and jam) may indeed be the essential wedding feast food, but where the heck do you find it? And, while we’re on the subject, who has canned ahi belly when you need it? Or fresh ahi poke with wasabi or jalapeño? The answer might surprise you.

Tamura’s Fine Wines on Waialae Avenue has been quietly entering the gourmet food market and, while the setting remains typically Tamura’s - unpretentious with a focus on giving the best price - the inventory items are getting more interesting all the time.

The gourmet food aisles in the popular wine store may have a pedestrian look, and the fluorescent “sale” signs are more mom-and-pop grocery store than up market deli, but the selection is well worth stopping in for - especially if you’re looking for something to go in a gift basket for the holidays or that elusive item in a recipe.

Tamura’s is no stranger to bringing consumers what they want. About seven years ago, Glenn Tamura decided that his expertise in the grocery business could be applied to the fine wine market and he began selling wines at highly competitive prices. Today he’s the first stop for many when they need something from the Wine Spectator‘s “Best of” list, or a Robert Parker pick.

Add to the inventory of wine some hard-to-find foods and the store has now become a regular stop for foodies.

Pecorino Romano, goat’s milk cheese, Devon cream, rich European butter, triple cream cheese and Amish Gorgonzola are just some of the things you’ll find in the dairy section. Next to the quince paste, you’ll find pickled peppers, roasted red pepper tapas and a variety of hot and heavy sauces. Salami, pancetta and prosciutto (the prepackaged kind) sit next to imported cheese and cream, and a little farther along the cold shelf you’ll find a wide selection of North Shore Cattle Company products, including hamburger steak and barbecued meats from the Lum family ranch high above Haleiwa. Maple Leaf roast duck breast, pate and mousses, fresh island produce including Dean’s Greens (and Hauula tomatoes when they’re available) and lots of Made in Hawaii sauces pack the shelves alongside imported pasta and some of the best ready-made pasta sauce you’ll find. A couple of jars of basil and tomato sauce with some Italian pasta, pesto sauce, Pecorino cheese and a great bottle of Chianti and you’ve got yourself the perfect gift basket for any Italian food lover - for less than $35.

But it’s to the poke stand that many of you may rush first - particularly during the next two weeks leading up to the new year. There are more than 30 different types of poke on display daily, and “poke master” Robin Hashimoto says he has up to 35 different kinds, depending on the day and what fish comes in fresh. Robin has been making poke professionally since the 1980s, and on an average day at the Tamura’s poke counter he’ll go through about 40 pounds of fish. For holidays and New Year’s you can pretty much double or even triple that number. “We can get pretty busy,” he says with a smile.

Unassuming it may be, but look around and I promise you’ll be impressed.

Tamura’s Fine Wines 1216 Waialae Ave. 735-7100

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