Hot Grills

Kick outdoor entertaining up a notch with high-end BBQ devices

Chef Kelvin Ro, owner of Diamond Head Market & Grill, uses the barbecue above his gourmet eatery to enhance flavor, atmosphere and convenience, and serve as the focal point of upscale private parties.

“It’s another dimension beyond just putting heat to food, and it’s healthier because you’re not using oils and butter to cook it in,” says Ro, who outfitted the deluxe outdoor kitchen on the lanai atop his Monsarrat Avenue location with a $10,000 Viking grill, where he cooks everything from salmon to his signature Portobello mushroom burgers and Kalbi short ribs. Mesquite wood chips soaked in water complement the flavor of certain dishes, and the low heat smoker also can dry fish. Poultry and prime rib turn out best on the grill’s rotisserie.

The grill symbolizes “a more significant gathering experience for people in Hawaii,” adds Ro. “We’re so used to the backyard barbecue. It’s a cultural thing to be doing it together in a very relaxed, enjoyable setting. It’s one of our favorite pastimes here. Nobody’s going to hang around the stove and have a party. This brings people together.”

Summer is coming, and what better way to entertain in style than with an outdoor grill? But leave the charcoal thrown inside a metal bin to the college kids. Products from Sub Zero/ Wolf, Viking, Fuego and Weber have turned the down-home barbecue into a sophisticated affair with minimal fuss.

Anything priced above $1,500 qualifies as high-end, according to Margie Yoshioka, Weber’s retail branch manager in Hawaii. Restaurants such as Roy’s Ko Olina also have used a grill for outdoor functions, and some residents might say it’s an essential accessory on the lanai of any luxury home.

Ro chose the grill concept for good taste and health, but also for practical reasons. Aside from the station organization and planning necessary to prevent prolonged exposure of un-cooked food, “all you do is turn it on,” he says. Ro can accommodate 10 to 15 people upstairs for a multi-course fine dining experience, or host a party of up to 40 people with the grill as the highlight. In addition to the excellent food, patrons such as Robert Cazimero and his halau enjoy sweeping views of the Waikiki skyline to Palolo Valley.

When preparing to purchase your own outdoor all-in-one, experts emphasize quality, cooking options and easy clean-up. Do you need burners to simmer a sauce or boil water for pasta? How about closed cabinets beneath the grill? Extra side tables? A smoker? “Our grills don’t use charcoal, so a lot of customers feel they won’t get that smoke flavor,” says Yoshioka. A tray inserted on the end holds spiced wood chips, yielding a more traditional taste.

Some models also have a swinging tray that toasts bread while the meat is roasting. Or it can be used to keep cooked hamburgers and hot dogs warm before serving. Only the cook’s creativity limits the options. “You can do almost everything on these grills,” confirms Yoshioka.

Along with side burners, the Wolf outdoor barbecue includes a rotisserie with an infrared burner, according to Brad Schmidt of the Sub Zero-Wolf main office in Wisconsin. In addition, you can use portable propane tanks or hook up the grill to the house’s natural gas supply.

Cooking becomes a lot less fun when the aftermath is impossible to clean. Make sure your barbecue has an easily removed tray that catches the drippings. And all parts should be made of stainless steel for durability. “Look for something that’s designed to be used outdoors rather than something that looks nice but won’t stand up to the elements,” explains Schmidt. And that means a willingness to pay for top-of-the-line equipment.

“The quality speaks for itself,” says Weber’s Yoshioka. “This is something you’re going to own for the next 10 years.”

Ro’s attempt to re-create a homey environment – beginning with the grill – has resonated with customers. “I want to do things that nobody else is doing or offering,” he says. “It’s perfect for my rich clients who don’t want to entertain in their houses, but want a level of excellence and quality.”

But a certain amount of understated elegance goes along with that. “The trend across the country is toward experiencing the outdoor kitchen and the outdoor living space,” says Ro. “In Hawaii, it’s conducive to our weather. When you’re in a picnic setting, it’s just more fun.” And with a high-end grill? “It’s pure luxury living outdoors.”

To get a list of retailers in Hawaii carrying Weber products, visit www.weber.com, www.fuegoliving.com, www.vikingrange.com, ww.wolfappliance.com, or visit the Sub-Zero-Wolf showroom on Piikoi.

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