WAILUA — Leoni Sosner’s birthday was on Sunday. Alyssa Nishihira just graduated as a neurosurgeon from Butler University.
These were some of the reasons — besides great food, drink, music, scenery and lots of company — to celebrate at the 28th annual Taste of Hawaii hosted by the Rotary Club of Kapaa at Smith’s Tropical Paradise on Sunday.
“This is a perfect day to do this,” Nishihira said. “I’m on a short break before I have to start paying back my student loans.”
Hundreds of people paid $100 in advance and $125 at the gate to attend what is billed as “The Ultimate Sunday Brunch.” The fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Kapaa unfolded under blue skies and a gentle wind blowing off the Nonou Mountains.
It was fun and festive as guests tasted the cuisine of some of Hawaii’s best chefs, and sampled a variety of fine beers, all while listening to rock and roll, big band and jazz and other musical styles as they strolled the gorgeous grounds.
Christian and Madison Marston with Tahiti Nui cranked out mai tais, trying to keep up with the line of customers.
“This is one of the good ones,” a patron said. “The Tahiti Nui mai tai and the sausage (Maui Nui Venison Sausage with Yukon Gold Potatoes, Maple Mustard). Make sure you taste some before you leave.”
Ron and Monica Morgan of Chicago said they were on Kauai for a vacation when they heard about the Taste of Kauai. They said it sounded like a wonderful event so they checked it out. They were not disappointed.
“How great is this?” Ron Morgan said. “Not only a spectacular setting, but terrific food and different beers everywhere you walk. This really is something special.”
As guests strolled through Smith’s and gawked at peacocks strutting their stuff, they had a chance to test their tastebuds on traditional fare, oriental, barbecue and spicy. Throughout, there were seats in the shade next to ponds with tropical fish.
A small army of volunteers pitched in to keep things moving smoothly, too.
Nel Melchor Asuncion, helping at the volunteer check-in station, said with more than an hour before the gates opened, at least 120 volunteers had already signed in.
Haylee Garcia and Sydney Nice were volunteers from the Interact Club of Kapaa High School, distributing programs to the stream of customers emerging from the air conditioned shuttle
“We’re going to be sophomores and this is exciting to be able to taste some of the food,” Garcia said.
Bobby James of Da Kine Foods, located in the Tip Top Building, said every year the Taste of Hawaii happens, it marks another year he’s been in business. It was their ninth Taste of Hawaii appearance.
“We brought our new chef Lucas Sautter from the Voyager Grill and all our decorations came from our associates,” he said. “I was even out chopping coconuts and hauling them through the lobby.”
Funds generated from the Taste of Hawaii support service projects undertaken by the Rotary Club of Kapaa.
“While we know there is a lot of work which needs to be done out there, the best sources for service project suggestions come from the people who live out there,” said John Oszust of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay who was helping the Kapaa Rotarians with the project.“We’d like to hear their ideas on what needs to be done.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.