We’re Tasting: One Spectrum to Another – Hualalai vs. The Orchid

Gary and I are sometimes somewhat spoiled. I admit it, freely. We love good wine, we adore great service, we thrive to find amazing food…some of our greatest joys revolve around memorable experiences with all of the above.
We don’t indulge in many things, but food, wine and travel are our mutual passions.

With that our plane set down at the Kona International Airport at exactly 6:15 Thursday night, an hour till sunset. June’s place is about half an hour from the airport, and our norm is that we drive straight there, relax a bit and then head to The Canoehouse at Mauna Lani for a bite before falling into bed.

This time, however, as we drove 15 minutes up Queen Kaahumanu Hwy Gary turned into what we consider heaven on earth, The Four Seasons Hualalai. Making the familiar drive up to the resort we immediately feel at home. If there is a place that sealed our love for each other it was on our first trip here a few years ago, and many nights through the years have been spent over drinks, Chateau Montelena and sushi at Hualalai. (So, we may be slightly biased…but only slightly because their staff truly goes out of their way to make sure you have the most enjoyable experience possible, whether you are there for a night at dinner or staying for a week).

We stroll to The Beach Tree bar just as the sun is setting and grab chairs in the sand to enjoy the view and order a bottle from their diverse, and reasonably priced list with options ranging from $40 to $80 total, a nice touch for a Four Seasons.  We need something refreshing so opt for an easy drinking Pinot Gris from Luna. Nothing show stopping, but fits the bill that we were in the mood for, delivered ice cold and immediately so our first toast was clinked just as the sun hit the water.  After that over Ahi Carpaccio that I dream about when we are home with oranges, shallots, olive oil and smoked Hawaiian black salt, and flat bread with truffle and ricotta we enjoyed a bottle of Qupe Syrah, which was a happy reminder of our great trip to Santa Barbara Wine Country. Our service was prompt, ensuring we never topped off a glass on our own, the food was tasty and the atmosphere was welcoming.  A perfect first night in our little piece of paradise, and in the grand scheme of Hawaii, quite inexpensive.

Our second night we decided to head just down the street to the Fairmont Orchid. We love the Orchid, another favorite spot, but usually for post work out, Bloody Mary’s in the morning.
One of my favorite memories was sitting at their beach bar with a crowd of anti-Yankee fans watching the Ranger’s win their conference last year. We love it.

This night we were doing something different, dinner and wine. Though we were at their beach bar we requested the wine list from their premium restaurant, Brown’s, and were told it was fine to have anything on their list at their restaurant so we could watch sunset. We ordered a bottle of Saintsbury Unfiltered Chardonnay in honor of my Napa Valley Wine Auction buddy, Richard Ward, owner of Saintsbury.

Though slightly above the temperature that we would normally like it was delivered and an ice bucket was brought to try to chill it down. We enjoyed sunset over the bottle and an abundant cup of their house fish chioppino, stocked with shrimp, scallops, clams and white fish in a coconut and lemongrass broth. Fantastic!

From there the night just fell apart. A huge wind stirred just as the sun went down and it seems it took everything stellar about the night with it.

I am not one to write about a bad night or bad wine or bad food, it is just not my style. I prefer to write about what I love and just not mention the rest. This, however, became truly comical seeing what would happen next.   Over the next 45 minutes we tried to order 3 different bottles of wine, all of which Brown’s was out of (this was also a Friday night, not a Sunday – I could understand Sunday with a delivery not coming in until the next day). Finally a Kenneth-Crawford arrived, listed under the Syrah section of the list, a wine I have had many times and am quite fond of, this however was a Grenache. Still a good wine, but a different flavor profile than we were expecting. Our disheveled waitress cut the foil, inserted her waiters corkscrew and yup, promptly broke the cork in half.  Distraught she left the table to retrieve another bottle and try again.  She reappeared shortly after saying the bartender was able to open it and poured….. Not what we were expecting but we were happy to have something. 

With the bottle served we wondered about our dinner. Gary had ordered fish and chips for dinner when we requested our first bottle after sunset, and I had ordered a doctored up salad. Nothing too extreme, my usual “please add tomatoes, dressing on the side.”  At an hour and twenty  minutes we finally got our entrée.  Mine was not quite right, but fine. But Gary’s, bless his sweet heart, was completely raw…raw, uncooked flour encasing raw fish with soggy fries. With that we just laughed and quickly agreed that the bar was ideal for Bloody Mary’s….and that was it.

Just amazing how two experiences could be so different from such quality establishments. Needless to say, if visiting, always, always run to The Four Seasons, a safe bet in pretty much any city. If it is within the next two weeks it is highly likely we will see you there.

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