The Best Brews
Pesto, a Cup of Coffee Can Be "Pure" Heaven.
by Lance Tominaga
Heavenly ganache, a chocolate
torte with raspberry puree, accompanied by a 100%
Kona peaberry iced mocha and a 100% Hawaiian coffee
Dare to be different. Bold is better. Life is an adventure.
Those are the messages David Palmer champions at his
two Café Pesto restaurants on the Big Island.
Whats worked well for us is blending the familiar
with the exotic, says Palmer. Everyone knows what a
pizza is, so we like to put exotic toppings on it. We
let them be adventurous.
And what applies to Café Pestos food also
applies to its coffee. Café Pesto is one of those
rare establishments where 100% Hawaiian coffee is served
regularly. While the restaurant also features blended
coffees (because Guatemala and Colombia happen to make
very good coffees as well, Palmer points out), the advantages
of Hawaiian coffee are that the beans are roasted fresh
that week, and Palmer usually receives them the same
day. We grind them to order, he says, and in the case
of French Press coffees, theyre brewed
right at the table. You can taste the difference.
Grilled fresh catch on
a bed of island greens.
At Café Pesto, coffee lovers have a wide selection
of coffee concoctions, and Palmer encourages people
to give everything a try. The adventurer might want
to try a little bit of everything, he says, smiling.
People know what coffee is, but it usually never occurs
to them that there are different types of coffee; theyre
usually consumed with having their Yuban or whatever
else is popular on the Mainland. My family, when they
visit (from the Mainland), they try the Hawaiian coffees
here and they really notice the difference. And they
Palmers personal favorite is the Kona Peaberry
coffee, which he describes as a darker roast that packs
a lot of flavor. That, in fact, is probably our biggest
seller. He laughs. Im more of a purist in terms
of wanting a really rich, dark-roasted coffee without
a whole lot of other flavoring involved.
Also featured at Café Pesto, besides the blends
and espressos, are Maui Red Catuai (described on the
menu as the Cabernet of coffees), Maui Mocha (rich chocolate
flavor) and Kauai coffee (mild and earthy).
The main reason most restaurants dont serve 100%
Hawaiian coffee is cost. Palmer admits the prices he
pays for Hawaiian coffees may be as much as three or
four times higher per pound than hed pay for the
usual brands. But then again, he says, its freshly
picked and freshly roasted. We get it right then and
there. And the people that we cater to have a real appreciation
for the difference.
The Hawaiian coffee drinks are priced from $3 per cup.
Executive chef Kevin
Nutt, owner David Palmer, and Kawaihae manager Michael
Of course, great-tasting coffee isnt the only
reason to visit Café Pesto. The food menu is
equally innovative, with a wide variety of tantalizing
selections. Café Pesto, in fact, was recently
named Best Restaurant on the Big Island by Honolulu
Lunch items include zesty fresh salads like Ceviche
Pasta Salad (Tahitian lime-marinated fresh Island fish
and tender gulf shrimp tossed with fettucini, cilantro
pesto and sun-dried tomatoes); hot sandwiches like Grilled
Chicken Fajita (fajita-wrapped free-range chicken breast
with charred peppers, onions and garlic); and sumptuous
pastas like Salmon Alfredo (fettucini, smoked salmon,
fresh spinach, shiitake mushrooms and fresh Parmesan
in a light cream sauce). And dinner entrées include
an Island Seafood Risotto (Hawaiian spiny lobster tail,
succulent tiger prawns, scallops and grilled vegetable
compote mixed with a sweet chili risotto); Mango Glazed
Chicken (grilled free-range chicken breasts and chili-anise
just served with jasmine rice, grilled eggplant and
a pineapple relish); and the Grilled Fresh Catch (prepared
with a soy-mustard vinaigrette and served with furikake
mashed potatoes and a crispy Asian slaw).
Lunch selections range from $6.95 to $10.95. Dinner
selections are priced from $12.95 to $23.95. The menu
is the same at both Café Pesto locations.
Palmer opened Café Pesto in Kawaihae in 1988,
originally starting as a small take-out pizzeria. It
quickly evolved into a popular eatery and served as
an early innovator of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine
concept. Palmer opened his Hilo restaurant in 1992 at
the newly restored S. Hata Building.
Café Pestos Kawaihae restaurant is located
at the Kawaihae Shopping Center on the South Kohala
coast (882-1071). The Hilo restaurant is located at
the historic S. Hata Building at Hilo Bay (969-6640).
Both restaurants are open daily from 11:00 A.M. to 9:00
P.M. Sunday through Thursday, and 11:00 A.M.-10:00 P.M.
on Friday and Saturday.
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