Party pics: Grand opening of Contour @ CabaRAE

CabaRAE at Hilton Hawaiian Village opened its doors for its first nightlife after-hours party Saturday, with the grand opening of Contour, a suave new nightlife party thrown by veteran promotion groups Level H Productions and Artist Groove Network. Honolulu’s elite party people showed up to mingle, check out the unique new multimillion dollar space built specially for the CabaRAE show, and dance to DJs Toma, Hapa Boy and Flip.

Contour @ CabaRAE Lounge

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Eat the Street France: Chocolate

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While there wasn’t really much French food to be seen at this month’s PACKED Eat the Street (organizer Poni Askew said this event had the most Facebook RSVPs of any Eat the Street ever), there were a few standout chocolate dishes, and lots of chocolatey sweet treats to be had. The crowds got there early, and waited patiently in loooong lines for grinds like newcomer Earl of Sandwich’s avocado sandwich, Cooking Fresh’s Chocolate Sampler, which included steak covered in chocolate demi-glaze, a chocolate maple crusted drumstick and a chocolate-dipped strawberry, and the sweet/savory chocolate-drizzled pizza from Kiawe Pizza. After most people ate, they headed for (you guessed it) the dessert tents, which had long lines until closing.

In addition to the food, there was also entertainment by Sistah Robi & Jeff Rasmussen, a beer garden with happy hour specials and various other attractions.

Eat the Street France: Chocolate

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Hukilau Honolulu’s Big Mondays

Hukilau Honolulu, located under Executive Center downtown, has started a new “Big Mondays” beer tasting program, which includes pupu and big screens for Monday night sports. Every week from 5 to 8 p.m., for just $25 you can get a platter of pupu and six new beers, some of which will be making their Hawaii debut. In addition, you can get some “beer talk” with Beer 808’s Andy Baker.

The Frolic team checked out the first Big Monday, featuring Anderson Valley, Maui Brewing, Goodlife Brewing, Sierra Nevada, Mendocino and Coronado Brewing. Here’s their take:

Tracy Chan

Hukilau as a beer pub is believable. The atmosphere is right, the seating encourages small groups of two to four people to settle in and talk story, the tables and bar counter offer enough room to spread out a little with some pupu and several beer glasses. It’s quiet enough that when brewmaster Andy Baker came around to talk about the beers, we could hear him clearly.

Cons: The spacious interior isolates each group, even if you’re coming with a few close friends but want to hang out with a larger group or interact with the people nearby. Suggestion: Rope off half the space for a beer-tasting lounge. That would make it easier on the brewmaster too.

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I’m going to be honest, I’m not a fan of IPAs. Why Hukilau chose to launch their beer tasting event with a collection of beers that only a well-schooled minority would fully appreciate, I’m not sure. The first beer in the flight, Andersen Valley’s Blood Orange Gose (a cloudy, top-fermented beer made sour with the controlled application of lactobacillus bacteria) sounded good on paper, but I could only ingest it in careful sips because of the sourness. As first impressions go, not great.

That said, NONE of them tasted like Primo (Melissa!) and I was pleasantly surprised by Maui Brewing’s Lorenzini Double IPA. The Kihei, Maui company’s special Winter 2015 release was delicious, hazy and sweeter than most of the IPA offerings. Named after a shark’s “Ampullae of Lorenzini,” which allows the shark to detect electric fields in the water, this beer had a higher bitterness rating (80 IBUs) than any of the others but was also the most accessible, with a fruity mango scent, a smooth, mild carbonation and a sweet bitterness from the blood orange and Maui cane sugar it’s brewed with. I definitely would drink this beer again, and it went great with the steak and calamari.

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One cool thing about attending the beer tasting was the free Erdinger beer stein we got to take home, while supplies lasted. This tall, elegant glass stein is an incredibly classy way to drink beer. It’s shaped for getting the maximum flavor and enjoyment out of your favorite wheat beer/hefeweisen. No promises that Andy can get these steins again, but we hope so!

Some of the featured pupu at Hukilau Honolulu.

Some of the featured pupu at Hukilau Honolulu.

Grant Shindo

I was pleasantly surprised at the selection that Hukilau offered for this first Monday beer event. Leading off with the Anderson Valley gose was a bold move for any beer lover. Personally I don’t like sours and the citrus from the blood orange is a pucker-inducing sip that lingers on the tongue. The Sierra Nevada is a good introduction for the inexperienced craft beer drinker with lots of hops, big flavor and overall a solid choice.

A huge trend in the craft beer scene is the rise of the IPA. These bitter sips are gaining popularity across America and have become a mainstay in the craft beer movement. We tasted the Maui Brewing Lorenzini double IPA, GoodLife descender and Talon double IPA.

The last beer of the night was the smooth, almost caramel-flavored Erdinger dunkel. This dark beer is a great choice to end the flight. I’m looking forward to future events, as the price is definitely right and the selections are well-informed.

Hukilau Honolulu
1188 Bishop St. (downstairs)
808-523-3460

Did this: Pitch/Fork pop-up dinner

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Welcome to Pitch/Fork, a new experience in pop-up dining! This fun dinner, hosted by Thieves in the Night and chef Chris Bailey, is centered around the concept of “synesthesia,” when one stimulated sense affects another. The idea was to combine a five-course meal with music by indie-folk power duo Foreseeable Futures. Taking it a step beyond dinner and a show, the band actually chose songs for each course, and chef Chris conceptualized his menu around how each dish would work with the music.

Apparently we weren’t the only ones who thought it was a cool concept; the $30 dinner held Friday night was sold out with nearly 50 people in attendance.

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Chef Chris Bailey (left) hails from Portland, by way of Hawaii. After a stint in the restaurant biz, he’s been doing pop-ups in Portland and branching out into a more creative form of culinary experience. He returned to the islands about a month and a half ago, and literally stumbled across Kakaako Agora as a venue for his pop-up. “I was walking around Kakaako and found this place,” he says, and adds that he’d like to see the pop-up dining scene return to Honolulu.

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Phil Potter and Anna Sachs (also a couple in real life) share a passion for the subtleties and harmonies of music. Their soothing but lively sound was perfect for dinner music.

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Time to get started! Expert servers hustled to get each course to the diners.

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Chef Chris prepares one of the courses, a colorful ramen dish infused with nasturtium, (with a couple leaves for garnish) wild amaranth and a green soup made from sweet potato greens and butter. He said this dish drew inspiration from the gardens of his youth.

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The ramen dish. Isn’t it pretty?

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Chicken roasts in a pan just outside in a setup for the fourth course. The whole pop-up operation reminds us of camping, but with much tastier results.

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Some of the diners.

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Chef Chris prepares the bird, which will be served with a coconut/tumeric sauce and butter-soaked turnips on a plate accented with tinta de calamar (black squid ink.)

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Fire!

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A bird’s-eye view (get it?) of the diners.

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Dessert was a delicious purple sweet potato pudding, topped with condensed milk and marshmallow sauce, seared.

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Foreseeable Futures goes into party mode with its last song.

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The band poses for a picture after dinner

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A few of the diners with the chef.

After tonight’s sold-out dinner, chef Chris says he’s considering making this a series, so if you missed out this time, stay tuned, or send an email to thickasthieveshnl@gmail.com for access to its mailing list and more information.

POW! WOW! 2015 recap: Our 5 favorite murals

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POW! WOW! 2015 is history. Now that the artists have laid down their spray cans and brushes, Kakaako is vibrant with freshly painted murals that will grace the walls for a scant year before many will be painted over again. This year saw some famous artists from Honolulu and all over the world doing epic things with paint, so where do you begin?

Here are our suggestions. It was hard to choose just five, but we thought these were some of the most eye-catching and mind-boggling.

POW! WOW! Hawaii 2015 Mural Painting Day 2

Artist: ROA
Where: Entrance to Lana Lane

One of the first murals to catch attention was Belgian artist ROA’s double nautilus piece. I’m a sucker for monochrome, and this guy’s work is just amazing. The detail, his use of architecture and surrounding elements, and his hyper-realistic biological approach to the subject all make this nautilus and the hermit crab right around the corner two of this year’s most striking pieces.

ROA is known for his obsession with painting animals, often incorporating elements of life, death and life after death. He often uses native animals of the location he is painting in, like this nautilus and hermit crab, both native to the Hawaiian islands. For more info on ROA, visit his Street Art Bio.

- Tracy Chan

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Artist: Tristan Eaton
Where: Ahui Street

Los Angeles-based Tristan Eaton returned to POW! WOW! this year with his brother, to paint on the same wall he painted last year. This strikingly complex collage shows a samurai astride his horse — you need to look at it for a while to fully appreciate and comprehend. The crisp precision of the outline, contrasted with everything that’s going on within, is why I keep driving past this mural.

Tristan designed his first toy for Fisher-Price at 18 years old and has been working as an artist full-time ever since. His work can be seen in galleries around the world and in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

- Tracy Chan

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Artists: Esao Andrews and Aaron Horkey
Where: Fresh Cafe, 831 Queen St.

This one’s both easy to find and mind-blowingly complex. Fresh Cafe got a mural makeover by Los Angeles artist Esao Andrews and Midwest artist Aaron Horkey. I just can’t get over the gorgeous detail and flow of these fantastic creatures. Everything looks organic, even the ship, with fun details like the little owl sitting on its prow.

- Tracy Chan

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Artist: Natalia Rak
Where: Off Cooke Street

I love this painting of the lady in red with the white tiger, and how the red flows into the fur of the tiger and blends into her skin and eyes. The color palette is simple but the red adds such intensity to the painting that it somehow seems to glow. This piece is by Polish artist Natalia Rak, who often incorporates faces and mysterious moods of women into her paintings.

- Trenton Kakazu

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Artist: Maya Hayuk
Where: Auahi near Lana Lane

What I love about this painting are the geometric lines and color palette that seems to pop out at you, even from a long way away. The placement of dark colors and white gives the painting a 3D effect. Artist Maya Hayuk is based in Brooklyn and is known for her bold colors and intricate, symmetrical geometric compositions.

- Trenton Kakazu