Wine dinners an underground hit at Bread + Butter

Last month, I got a last-minute invitation to a wine dinner at Bread + Butter. Normally, I would debate attending, but since the theme was truffles, I cancelled all my appointments and headed over.

Aside from the fact that it was truffles, the dinner itself was quite impressive. The restaurant only has 20 seats for the monthly dinner and they don't advertise it, but usually sell out. There are regulars who show up religiously and have their own spot at the end of the row of tables. I live right there. How could I not have known about this?

Chef Arnoldo "Masa" Gushiken at Bread + Butter.

Bread + Butter has been having these dinners on the third Thursday of every month for about two years now. The theme changes every month ... basically, chef Masa Gushiken sits down to plan, gets drunk, has a vision, and decides on the next theme. (This is the neighborhood I live in.)

I got a preview of next week's wine dinner and pairings, which is more focused on California blends. Wine enthusiasts know all about The Prisoner Wine, a company (and wine) from Rutherford, CA, a unique and innovative red blend that's popular for pairing or just drinking on its own. The company has since introduced a few other blends: Blindfold, which is white; and Thorn, which is a different blend of red grapes. The wine dinner will also feature Tom Gore's Field Blend, an award-winning wine with a unique mix of Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and Carignane. The dinner ends with a classic Robert Mondavi moscato.

Be sure to sip some of each wine before trying the food, then with the food to compare. Each wine was straightforward, as American wines often are, but the food mellowed their flavors when they were together.

When you eat here, keep in mind that Gushiken's dishes are made so that you have to get every element in each bite to get the full effect. The first course is a fresh smoked scallop with grilled peach, drizzled with Maui onion vinaigrette and fresh lilikoi. It will be paired with BlindFold White Blend.

The deconstructed foie gras bagne caudal turns an Italian favorite into a work of art: grilled foie gras and homemade anchovy puree pull together the tasty plate of fresh local veggies. They should bottle that anchovy puree. This will be paired with The Prisoner red blend.

The sea bass confit is a wonderful meal on its own, with duck oil and berry compote, accompanied by a tempura squash blossom stuffed with camembert mousse. Normally you'd pair a white with fish, but here the Thorn Merlot works well with the cheese and the berries.

One of the best pairings was the "Pig & Fig" with the Tom Gore Field Blend (which is making its exclusive premiere in Hawaii at this dinner). The dish is an Earl Grey-braised pork belly, charred fig, fennel arugula salad, blood orange, and pomegranate. The richness of the pork with the strong fruit flavors stand up well to the wine. Field on your plate, field in your glass.

After a dinner like that, a simple ending is perfect. They'll be serving their version of a lemon meringue tart, with edible flowers and pomegranate. The dessert is not too sweet, so a Robert Mondavi Moscato D’Oro helps to balance that out.

Dinner is $95 per person and they only have about 20 seats, so get a reservation early. You can call 808-949-3430 or email by September 20. (Chef can accommodate most allergies.) Go with an open attitude, as there are regulars who attend and it's exponentially better if you're able to talk story with your neighbors.

Bread + Butter's monthly wine dinner
September 21, 6 p.m.
By reservation only
1585 Kapiolani Blvd.