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Kalua Pork, Tea Wine and Exotic Mushrooms: The Epicure’s Guide to Hawaii’s Big Island

Posted on January 24, 2014

-by Jessica Festa

A wine tasting at Volcano Winery

Those looking for an epicurious escape need look no further than Hawaii’s Big Island. With a culinary culture influenced by the destination’s volcanic soils, water access and ancient traditions, there is much to taste around the island. To help you plan your tasty itinerary, here is the epicure’s guide to Hawaii’s Big Island.

Wines Infused With Local Fruits And Homegrown Tea At Volcano Winery

One of three commercial wineries in Hawaii, the only winery on Big Island and the southernmost winery in the United States, Volcano Winery makes wines as unique as its titles. Home to eight acres (3.2 hectares) of vineyards and teas — as well as fruit trees — owners Delwin and Marie Bothof grow varietals like Syrah, Symphony, Pinot Noir and Cayuga White, as well as produce organic black, white and silver needle teas. From their crops they’re able to craft a number of unusual wines, their most prized being an “Infusion” meed featuring 100% Hawaiian products, including Macademia Nut Honey, Estate-grown black tea and wine grapes for an unusual twist on both meads and the traditional tea and honey pairing. Another wine that’s quite nontraditional is the “Volcano Red” — the winery’s best seller — which is made from 85% red and white wine grapes and 15% local Jaboticaba berries for a peppery spice finish. Pair these atypical wines with a cheese platter featuring cream cheeses infused with combinations like olive and feta; dried cranberry and smokey bacon; artichoke and Parmesan; smokey salmon and fresh dill; and sun-dried tomato and fresh basil.

Hamakua Mushroom bouquets. Photo courtesy of Hamakua Mushrooms.

Tour An Organic Mushroom Farm

On the Big Island, one can visit Hawaii’s only commercial mushroom producer, Hamakua Mushrooms. Visitors can tour the operation, which grows exotic varieties of mushrooms cultivated in a mixture of corncob, wheat bran and grandis eucalyptus saw dust. The farm uses sustainable practices, and the result is buttery, silky, robust mushrooms that are also organic. Learn the history of Hamakua Mushrooms, watch an informative video, see firsthand the stages of mushroom growth, view a cooking demonstration, sample the mushrooms, and have the chance to peruse their gift shop filled with mushroom goodies made in cooperation with local companies. In fact, one of their main purposes is bringing the community together, which they do by working with local candy, cookie, snack, coffee, wine and honey producers to create delicious mushroom-infused products. Fun fact: Mushrooms are filled with curative properties, including anti-cancer qualities, antioxidants and the ability to promote vascular health.

Dessert tray of Kilauea Lodge Restaurant

German-Hawiian Fusion At Kilauea Lodge

Located near the beautiful Volcanoes National Park in Volcano Village, a stay at Kilauea Lodge feels like you’re staying at a local friend’s home. Their restaurant is equally as warm and inviting, with local artwork, comfortable couches, a fireplace and polished wood tables adorned with lampshade candles. Owner and chef Albert Jeyte is the mastermind behind the eatery’s innovative menu, which blends local tradition with his native German culture. While dishes like ahi tuna topped with mango chutney and local mushroom caps stuffed with Swiss, cheddar, ham, turkey and herbs allow you a taste of Hawaii, you can also savor German meatballs with lemon caper sauce and an assortment of German sausages with fried potatoes and sauerkraut. Portions are generous, and each dinner entree comes with a soup or salad. Don’t leave without indulging in one of their decadent desserts, which you can choose from a sweet visual display tray.

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About Jessica Festa: Jessica Festa enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been road tripping through Big Island, teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, agritouring through Tuscany, and doing orphanage work in Ghana. Read more on her blogs Jessie on a Journey and Epicure & Culture. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest.

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