Over the past month or so, I’ve had the pleasure of dining with those that mean the most to me:
the Mrs., family and good friends. Coincidentally, the common denominator for all of these
gustatory celebrations was Hawaii’s senior Master Sommelier, Chuck Furuya. Those who have
read past columns know that I do enjoy great food, good company and fine wines so it’s actually
not coincidental that Chuck Furuya will often be a part of this social trio.

Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas

Since I previously detailed an excursion to Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas (see February 2005  article,
“Food for the Heart”), I won’t elaborate in detail. We did start the evening with their famous
“foamed” martinis. For the uninitiated, a restaurant trend these days seems to be serving various
dishes with flavored foams. In essence, any solution with a touch of protein mixed with
pressurized carbon dioxide can create flavored foam that’s often used as a light sauce or garnish
for various dishes. Hiroshi also uses his foams in signature martinis such as the Peach Melba-Tini,
a sweet peach flavored libation that truly tastes like a sweet peach topped with a raspberry foam
and the Peach Apple Cobbler, another sweet-sour apple martini topped with a cranberry foam.
Liquid candy as aperitifs!
We started our tasting dinner with a Gaston demi-sec Vouvray made from the maligned Chenin
Blanc grape that is often relegated to box wine in the states but makes wonderful, Asian food
friendly wines in France. We paired this with the Sashimi of Kanpachi, Pan Roasted Shrimp with
garlic foam, Seared Scallops with kabayaki butter, Roasted Duck and Red Wine “Braised” Veal
Cheeks. Chuck stopped by our table on several occasions to suggest wine pairings with our
“tapas”. He also explained that he was in the midst of selecting wine pairings for Ron Siegel’s
three dishes to be served at the Hawaii Lupus Foundation fundraiser dinner. Since Chef Fukui
originally assisted Chef Siegel with a Meals-on-Wheels fundraiser dinner in the Bay Area in May,
Chef Siegel was returning the favor by assisting Chef Fukui for the Hawaii Lupus event. Chef
Siegel was serving Slow-Cooked Pork Belly with grilled Asian pear, a Crispy Chicken with anise
and lemon-chicken jus and a Filet Mignon with fried bone marrow. Bay Area denizens may be
familiar with Ron Siegel’s dishes as he is currently the chef at the Dining Room at the Ritz-
Carlton, San Francisco as well as being the first “gaijin” chef to beat one of the original Iron
Chefs.
During the course of dinner, Chuck offered us several wines not listed on the wine menu
including a Whitcraft Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir and an Au Bon Climat Cuvee Isabelle Pinot
Noir (named after winemaker Jim Clendenen’s daughter). Woefully, Chuck explained that the
Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir was not being continued by Whitcraft due to procurement and
shipping issues involving these wonderful grapes… oh woe is me! The Whitcraft was like a 12
cylinder Ferrari that took us to 100 miles per hour in 5 seconds versus the Au Bon Climat made
in the Burgundian style which was like a classic Mercedes – both wines were excellent, your
preference simply depended on your mood. We finished the evening with the Lemon Cake,
Hawaiian Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta and Chocolate “Ooze” Cake along with some Ramos Pinto
port. The meal certainly contributed to my sweet dreams that night!

Chris Miura, Bread Maker Extraordinaire!

About a week after our first venture, we stopped by Vino, the Italian themed wine bar adjacent
to Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas. It wasn’t really a coincidental visit as we were there to sample some of
Dr Chris Miura’s artisanal breads. By day, Dr Miura is a practicing physician and the rest of the
time he’s a bread maker extraordinaire. He started baking bread out of necessity as it was the
only food that didn’t nauseate his wife when she was pregnant with their first child. He simply
followed the recipe provided on the back of the Fleischman’s yeast packet. Another child later,
countless seminars and courses and the construction of a wood burning oven in his backyard and
we have a baker – dare I say -who makes La Brea pale in comparison.
About every other month or so, he provides freshly made bread for Vino that Chuck pairs with
various wines. The Wild Mushroom and Black Truffle Ciabatta was inadvertently paired with a
Leon Barral Faugeres (which by the way was my favorite pairing). I felt that the earthiness of the
Faugeres and the wild mushrooms neutralized each other and highlighted the fruit in the wine.
Oh well, it shows you may not agree with a Master Sommelier but still be on speaking terms. It
actually was supposed to be served with a Querciabella Chianti Classico. A Caramelized Onion
and Raisin Foccacia was served with the Chianti (the intended pairing was the Faugeres). The
next bread was a Pecan Pesto Foccacia paired with a Cavallotto Barbera. If you can find any of
Cavallotto’s wines in the Bay Area, I suggest you purchase a case or two since they aren’t readily
available – and while you’re at it, purchase another a case or two for me! The last bread was a
Dark Chocolate Cherry bread served with a Wishing Tree Shiraz. The perfect marriage of ripe red
fruit and hints of cocoa in both bread and wine!
We also enjoyed Vino’s signature Asparagus Milanese, asparagus tips on mini toasts topped with
a sunny side quail egg and truffled bread crumbs, the Eggplant Napoleon, layers of eggplant,
roasted mushrooms and artichoke hearts with kalamata tapenade and sun-dried tomato puree
and the Tuscan Style Skirt Steak served atop arugula dressed with a truffle vinaigrette. Once
again, Chuck suggested a wine not on the wine list, a 1998 Cavallotto Bricco Boschis Barolo. At
$75, I wanted to purchase several bottles to go but alas, wine purchases in restaurants are meant
purely for on-site consumption. The Mrs. bartered with Dr Miura – a glass of Barolo for another
plate of bread – to which he readily agreed which transported all three of us just south of heaven!

Chuck’s “Communal” Table

About three weeks later, we attended one of the inaugural “Chuck’s Table” events at Vino. These
dinners are limited to 12 participants by reservation only and feature an appetizer, a pasta course
and an entrée along with dessert all served family style. Chuck opens a bottle or two with each
course and simply explains his rationale for the food/wine pairing without lecturing. He
explained that he dislikes formal lectures and the idea of Chuck’s table revolved around the
typical European restaurant table where strangers may share the same table with lively
conversation that ensues after hearty food and wine.
We started with a trio of whites, an Insolia, a Vermentino and a French interpretation of
Vermentino. This was served with a Grape Tomato and Proscuitto Bruschetta and a Marinated
Calamari Salad. A Bandol Rose as well as a Muller Thurgau was served before my favorite wine was
presented with the Thyme Marinated Chicken Pasta. It was a Cavallotto white Pinot Noir. You
read that right, a WHITE Pinot Noir. It was as rich as a white French Burgundy and paired
perfectly with the chicken pasta. Sadly though, only a couple of cases made their way to Hawaii
after much begging by wine merchants and a certain Master Sommelier and now are exclusively
in the hands of said wine merchants and one Master Sommelier. A Veal Scaloppini with roasted
wild mushrooms and potatoes was served with a variety of reds – a La Garrigue, a Faugeres along
with numerous other bottles (at this point I obviously was consuming more than writing). I also
brought a La Roncaia Picolit dessert wine for the Mrs. to have with the Hawaiian Vanilla Bean
Panna Cotta. This actually was followed by several more red wines (Vino serves up to 20 wines
by the glass so Chuck simply filled a mini carafe with each wine).
I know that you’re assuming this feast must have set me back a whole paycheck. WRONG!
Thirty dollars per person. It would have been worth it for the meal with just 3 wines. As it was, it
was the best thirty dollar investment I’ve ever made for a restaurant meal. And the conversation
that flowed was infinitely more interesting than Andre’s one sided dinner conversation with
Wally.
My Dinner(s) With Chuck