Pairing Isle Fish And Wine

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - September 07, 2005
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Cheers!: Chuck Furuya and Lyle Fujioka

Ask Lyle Fujioka if there are any rules to wine drinking, and you’re going to get a resounding “Yes!” The passionate and highly respected wine merchant who was instrumental in kicking up Honolulu’s vibrant wine scene more than a decade ago is no less enthusiastic today, nor less opinionated about his work.

“There are rules to wine and we want to be able to let people understand what works,” he says. “It’s very fashionable to say that anything goes, but if you live by that, then people are going to come back to you and say ‘this didn’t work’ and that’s because their combinations (of food and wine) might be crazy.”

Helping to lay out the rules, establish the groundwork and point fellow winos in the right direction, Fujioka has teamed with a perfect palate partner. Colleague (and calabash cousin) master sommelier Chuck Furuya has been working closely with Fujioka on the Hawaii Lupus Foundation benefit “From The Vineyard To The Sea” on Sept. 10.

“I’m excited,” says Furuya of the event, where seafood and wine will be spectacularly paired. “Lyle contacted me and explained the thought process (of pairing island seafood and wine), and it sounded like an opportunity to band together and ultimately have more impact.”

Furuya goes on to mention the success of Hawaii Regional Cuisine where 12 chefs on four islands came together with one vision. “Same thing,” he says. “We’re looking at the big picture here.” Saturday night’s picture may need a colossal frame.

Guests arrive at a wine tasting room set up within Dole Cannery and then, from “the vineyards” will proceed to “the sea.”

“They’ve promised me it’ll be like walking into a fish tank,” says Fujioka.

The vineyard-to-sea concept will pair some of Hawaii’s finest fish - coordinated by Brooks Takenaka of the United Fishing Agency’s fish auction (see Newsmaker, page 10)- with wines suggested by Fujioka, Furuya and a host of sommeliers putting their best palates forward. “Brooke’s knowledge of fish is phenomenal,” says Fujioka, “and the event is going to be really special because of his involvement.” Takenaka is as excited as anyone about the event. “I’m really looking forward to it,” he says with great enthusiasm. “It’s a wonderful way for our industry to reconnect with the public.”

Chefs include Doug Lum, Colin Nishida D.K. Kodama, Philippe Padovani, Russell Siu and Elmer Guzman, along with Chef Mavro, whose love of island fish is legendary. Other grand names for the evening include Alan Wong, who’ll work with sommelier Mark Shisido.

But it’s to the poke station that I’ll be headed first.

Colin Nishida, (Side Street) Elmer Guzman (Poke Stop), Dean Okimoto (Nalo Farms), Scott Okamoto (Chart House) and Santa Miyoshi (Tokuri Tei) will present some of the best poke in the state - with wines chosen by Furuya.

“Someone was asking about great poke guys,” says Furuya, “and I had to suggest Dean. Everyone thinks he’s a farmer, but his poke is about the best I’ve ever had.”

With farmers making poke and fishermen tasting wine, it promises to be one of the most exciting food events of the year. Get your tickets now - tomorrow may be too late.

Happy eating - sipping! The 16th annual Honolulu Wine Festival, Sept. 10, at the Dole Cannery Ballroom. Call Hawaii Lupus Foundation for tickets: 538-1522.

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