Thursday, January 18, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, January 18, 2001

Hawai'i's grandest free lunch is back

Lawmakers set out agendas as session opens
Partisan rivals come out swinging

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Staff Writer

It is now safe to announce that the ban on hospitality at the annual opening of the Legislature isn’t working. The chow line outside Rep. Bertha Kawakami’s office extended halfway down the hall yesterday.

Carrot sticks are once again getting buried under Filipino lumpia and Chinese egg rolls.

Teriyaki chicken has given way to flavors from Mongolia and Vietnam.

Sophistication and ethnicity are the new buzzwords for legislative hospitality.

All this points to a slow return, at Legislature openings, to Hawaii’s lavish tradition of edible bounty. It had ended a decade ago after getting out of hand. Lawmakers decided enough was enough when tour buses dropped off visitors to freeload on opening day.

Danny Ramos, office manager for Rep. Benjamin Cabreros (D-Kalihi Kai, Mapunapuna) is a shining example of our new version of taste-bud aloha at the Legislature.

"Honolulu has redefined its culinary tastes," he said firmly. "Newly arrived immigrants have adapted their own ethnic foods to Hawaii. We try to represent all of the 14 ethnic cultures in Kalihi."

He named the ethnic categories he’d assembled on the groaning board:

Filipino — Pork gisantes, chicken adobo, fried squid, miki (noodles from Narvacan province, where Cabreros hails from), Mrs. Ancheta’s famous cascaron, sweet rice in banana leaf.

Vietnamese — Seafood noodles, imperial roll.

Chinese — Roast pork.

Caucasian — Potato salad.

Asked why Mrs. Ancheta’s cascaron is famous, Ramos said: "Because there’s never any left over."

Rep. Mindy Jaffe, R-19th (Waikiki, Kaimuki, Diamond Head), and Rep. Emily Auwae, R-44th (Waianae-Makaha), introduced a new hospitality wrinkle. Office neighbors, they teamed up to hire the Ladies K Trio to perform outside in the hallway, thereby combining entertainment with economy.

Auwae capitalized on a new rage in Honolulu by serving garlic chicken, a specialty of Mitsu-Ken, a hole-in-the-wall in Kalihi run by a twenty-something destined to be a female Sam Choy.

Jaffe went with Mongolian barbecue, from Mongolian Bar-B-Que, and barbecued guava chicken wings by the Big City Diner.

Kawakami, D-14th (K¯loa, Waimea, Niihau), served one of the most elaborate spreads, reminiscent of legislative openings before austerity set in. She even had fresh opihi from Kauai and namako, sea cucumber that looks terrible but tastes delicious.

I found another taste sensation on the lanai of Rep. Ezra Kanoho, D-13th (Waipouli, Lihue), where veteran committee clerk Ray Adams presided over a wok from which emerged tender, succulent Kauai shrimp seasoned with Hawaiian salt and black pepper.

Freshman Rep. Joe Gomes, R-51st (Lanikai, Waimanalo), gets the prize for the most original gift for constituents: shower slippers with an attached note saying "Joe Gomes won’t flip-flop on issues important to you."

Two florists in Honolulu reported a noticeable increase this year over last in the number of bouquets sent to legislators.

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