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‘Dishcrawl’ unites adventurous diners
BY JOLEEN OSHIRO / firstname.lastname@example.org
Humans need food to survive, so it’s understandable that we have developed a palate for flavorful fare. If we need food to live, we might as well make it taste good, right?
Visit four food venues in one three-hour tour. The lineup is announced 48 hours prior to the event. Space is limited to 45 participants; visit www.dishcrawl.com/oahu. “Dishcrawl” is on rain or shine. On Twitter, follow @DishcrawlHNL. For inquiries, email Papiloa Jourdan at email@example.com.
» “Brunch Time Baby,” 11:30 a.m. Dec. 8, $39: It’s Saturday brunch at four favorite spots. Vegetarian options are available; contact firstname.lastname@example.org promptly after purchasing tickets.
But the current food phenomenon transports sustenance into the realm of pop culture. Nowadays even chefs without the four walls of a brick-and-mortar venue are reaching star status. Some cook in trucks, while others pop up for one-time dinners to show off their ever-evolving creations, something the food crowd of today welcomes with open arms and growling tummies.
Now, Oahu can add one more food event to the myriad others, and though it’s barely begun, it’s already popular.
The event is called “Dishcrawl,” and it takes participants on a walking tour of four restaurants during a three-hour jaunt. The inaugural “Dishcrawl” slots filled up long before it commenced Nov. 7 in Chinatown, where some 45 participants paid $39 to sample fare from Rakuen Lounge, Soul de Cuba, Indigo and Brasserie Du Vin, and socialized all evening. Destinations were kept a surprise until 48 hours before the meet-up.
“Dishcrawl” started in Silicon Valley in 2010 and now has chapters in 30 cities in the United States and Canada run by local representatives. The draw for most diners is the opportunity to visit new venues, though the social element of the event — many participants came solo — has turned out to be as vital to the evening as the food itself.
“I definitely think this was more about the social aspect than the food,” said Jeanette Kawakami of Mililani. “It brought people together through the food. Food is a good icebreaker.”
“I’m not a foodie but I like food,” said Melissa Moniz of Nuuanu, Kawakami’s friend. “I want to try new restaurants, but I have two little girls so lots of times where we go is dependent on what they’ll eat.”
The women got in plenty of talk story and food at Rakuen, where a generous sushi trio platter — salmon topped with cherry tomato and black salt, hamachi dressed in sesame oil with jalapeño, and ahi poke featuring avocado and spicy aioli — was served up to each guest.
Conversation was lively. An upbeat group of seven women was particularly celebratory as the drinks flowed, though they had serious thoughts about the value of “Dishcrawl” to the local community.
“I enjoy trying new places to see what’s going on in the food world,” said Denise Smith of Aiea. “I think this is a good event. It’s good for local people to try new things.”
Smith’s friend Charleen Deuprey of Ewa agreed.
“It’s good to promote small businesses to the community,” she said.
At the next stop, Soul de Cuba, guests were served pulled-pork sliders and a shrimp-guacamole bite. Temporary Hawaii residents Shirlee Maccrimmon and John Gavin said they found “Dishcrawl” the perfect introduction to downtown eateries.
The couple, who reside in London, saved up for three years to experience life in new places. They quit their jobs and promptly hopped on a plane to Hawaii, where they plan to spend six months. After that they’ll relocate to France.
“They do (‘Dishcrawl’) in my hometown in Canada, and it’s a good service,” Maccrimmon said.
“I think you have better restaurants here than in London,” Gavin said. “There’s such variety.”
The inclusion of 18-year-old Indigo in the lineup (where a trio of cheese won ton, shrimp lumpia and duck wrap were served) surprised more than a few folks. But Papiloa Jourdan, organizer of Honolulu’s “Dishcrawl,” said she considers more than trendiness in her selection of venues.
“It’s one of the prettiest restaurants around, and when you enter the doors, you feel transported,” she said. “When I pick someplace, I go by my own favorite places and what’s trending. But I also go with a vibe.”
The tour’s final stop, Brasserie Du Vin, created special desserts that included a chocolate cupcake with salted caramel, lemon tart with rosemary, and puff pastry with port-poached pear and cheese. Their efforts reflect the area’s dynamic culinary scene.
“I love downtown,” Jourdan said. “I understand there’s still much gentrification that has to happen, but it’s a lively place. This is all about the food and local establishments that make downtown amazing.”
She says the response to “Dishcrawl” from food venues around the island is promising. Many want to be on the event’s lineup, and some will follow Du Vin’s suit in creating special menus.
Depending on demand, Jourdan says there could be as many as five Dishcrawl events a month across Oahu.
A larger incarnation of the event, “Dishwalk,” will cater to 300 people.
“It involves eight restaurants,” Jourdan said. “‘Dishwalk’ is not a guided tour, but people can visit the restaurants at their leisure for three hours and enjoy a single tasting at each place. It’s like a food fair.”
Tracy Lee of San Francisco started the “Dishcrawl” phenomenon when she launched a business based on the outings she was already organizing for her group of friends.
“The concept was to bring people together over food to help support local businesses. From there a community formed, and requests for more ‘Dishcrawls’ started coming in,” said Lee.
“If you do this by yourself, it takes forever to plan,” she said. “It would take me something like three hours just on Yelp looking at restaurants. Then you have to make reservations and collect payments. It was just a mess. Here, we do everything for you. We do all the research.”
Jourdan believes the local community is primed for “Dishcrawl.”
“I feel there’s a sort of cohesiveness missing in Honolulu, a strong core that caters to us, not the tourists,” she said. “This is a tour that’s super fun, exciting and fresh.
“But it’s not just about foodies. It’s about having something that says, ‘This city’s amazing and here’s why.’”