Sweet Delights

What May Be Considered Out-of-the-Way for Some Might Be Out-of-this-World for Others

LIKE MANY GOOD THINGS IN HAWAI’I, this dessert was a mash-up of ideas between an executive chef, a general manager and a pastry chef. First, the obvious: “I wanted a traditional strawberry shortcake on the menu. Period. But as conversation evolved, it became clear that everyone’s idea of ‘traditional’ was a bit different,” says Chef Charles Charbonneau of Kamuela Provision Company at Hilton Waikoloa Village.

First, the hotel’s manager wanted to evoke the desserts from her Midwestern upbringing, which is how the sweet biscuit evolved. When the pastry chef scoffed at traditional whipped cream, he replaced it with a delicate white chocolate mousse. Chef Charbonneau insisted on the dish solely because of “the most astonishing berries I’ve tasted-anywhere” that come from nearby Rincon Farms in Waimea. Finally, the dish gets a tropical spin with slices of fresh mango layered under the top biscuit.

Just down the road at Mauna Lani Resort, Chef Sandy Tuason may have studied in N.Y. with star chef Daniel Boulud as well as Albert and Michel Roux in London, but his signature dish at Canoe House is all Hawai’i. The centerpiece of this plate is his ultra-refined, homemade mango sorbet. Surrounding the orb of perfect frozen delight is a compote of Hawai’i Island-grown fruit, which rotates on an in-season basis; one month it may include pineapple, strawberry and mango while another it could be starfruit, longan, lychee and dragonfruit. The compote is finished with a white wine reduction (that’s been chilled), lime zest and a mint leaf chiffonade. A crisp pineapple chip finishes the dish, adding dimension and an artistic flare.

“This dish is essentially a taste of Hawai’i Island,” chef Tuason proclaims.

Over on the North Shore of Maui, Travaasa Hana executive chef Barry Villiarimo (who was born and raised in Hana) has a bit of self-proclaimed a sweet tooth. Hence his “Chocolate Decadence” dessert-a sliver of uber-rich chocolate that packs a big “wow” into a small serving.

He begins with Hawaiian-grown vintage chocolate, and crafts a gluten-free pie. Skirting the sliver is a delicate crème anglaise. The dish is finished with powdered sugar.

“Something this rich only requires a few, sumptuous bights,” says Villiarimo.

Morimoto Waikiki’s debut pastry chef Daniel Skurnick has seen his share of top kitchens. While studying anthropology and sculpture in college, he worked at Gramercy Tavern and next to legendary pastry master Johnny Iuzzini at Jean-Georges. So when Morimoto asked him to craft a signature dish at his Waikiki outpost, this is what ended up on the plate: an art gallery worthy study of texture and flavor.

Centered is a chocolate caramel tart, which counts among its neighbors a silken dollop of Kona coffee ice cream and crumbled Kailua “chocolate nibs.” The dish is then artistically painted with caramel sauce and sprinkled with Hawaiian red sea salt.

“Moving towards a less-structured, more natural and organic style, I like to use different areas of the island to inspire the plates. The chocolate tart reminds me of some of the beaches near Pupukea, where sand and volcanic rock and coral all meet in a jagged landscape,” Skurnick shares. “Flavor-wise, I utilized classic French confection using some of the best local ingredients around-Madre cocoa nibs, Naked Cow butter and ‘alaea sea salt.”

Over in the highland climes of Lana’i, Four Seasons Resorts Lodge at Koele executive pastry chef Rabii Saber concocted his “R&R Symphony” after some divine inspiration, clearly. This dessert features a raspberry rose verrine (raspberry gelee, rose foam, candied rose petal) that holds Greek yogurt sorbet.

A pistachio air cake accompanies-made with almond-oatmeal streusel, yogurt honey sauce, hibiscus reduction and edible Hawaiian flowers-and topped with a raspberry macaroon (raspberry jam and vanilla butter cream). In true Four Seasons style, the glass (verrine) is wrapped in rose petals to create an over-the-top effect.

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