The Free Range Gourmet Free range thoughts on the finest ingredients, cuisine, and fine dining in Hawaii.

Range Gourmet

  Local Hawaii ingredients used with an international flair

        ^BNanette^K^H (Gone but not forgotten) 1946-2020


Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Winners in the first race of the 2004 legislative session

It's not unusual for various advocacy groups or organizations to measure lawmakers on their effectiveness on a given issue. The Free Range Gourmet ( is the first to rate Hawaii state legislators on their performance so far in the 2004 legislative session. And there are clear winners to announce.

On this, the opening day of this year's session, The Free Range Gourmet surveyed the traditional opening-day food offered to well-wishers at the State Capitol offices of the 51-member House and  25-member Senate.

Offerings ranged from basic cookies through sushi to conference tables laden with rice, Chinese noodles, fried fish and chicken. In between were some special dishes worth noting.

The Free Range Gourmet was not interested in quantity, nor do mass-produced sushi rolls earn many points. Instead, what attracted our attention was food that appears healthy, refined, sensuous, enjoyable. If it was home-made, that was a plus.

There were some tough decisions to make, and unfortunately not all 76 offices could be visited this year, although we gave it a good try.

There were three clear winners:

House Majority Whip Representative Brian Schatz (D-25th district - Tantalus, Makiki, McCully) wins on the gourmet quality of his Caprese Salad, with slices of juicy tomato layered between fresh basil leaves and creamy mozzarella. Visitors to his office also enjoyed grilled vegetables and jai and Chinese food made by his wife, Linda, according to staffer Karin Gill, who was in charge of the arrangements. Jai is a traditional vegetarian dish eaten by Chinese families on New Year's Day, so Brian can make some claim to offering Italian-Chinese fusion cuisine to his office visitors today.

Majority Leader Representative Marilyn Lee (D-38th district - Mililani, Mililani Mauka) took the prize for her healthy food. Rep. Lee, the only practicing health professional in the Legislature (she still works every weekend as Nursing Supervisor), offered tasty, attractive and low-fat fare to her visitors. According to staffer Ann Thornack, the dressing for the fruit salad is on the side to offer a choice of with or without. Dishes were made with brown rice and there were buns with meat but also whole- grain vegetarian buns. Rep Lee's office offered a welcome respite from the catered fried dishes in the conference rooms.

Finally, the ice cream war on the Senate level also produced a clear winner. On exact opposite ends of the floor, Senator Gordon Trimble and Senator Les Ihara compete for the dessert honors. A line formed outside the office of Senator Gordon Trimble (R-12th district - Kapahulu, Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako, Iwilei, Honolulu) where an ice cream machine was set up dispensing soft-serve mixed up by the staff. I felt like a kid again, pouring a generous coating of chocolate sprinkles on top of my ice cream cup.

But the prize goes to Senator Les Ihara, Jr., (D-9th district - Kaimuki, Kapahulu, Palolo, St. Louis Heights, Maunalani Heights, Kapiolani Park). According to his office manager, Heather Bolan, the rich, creamy coconut ice cream served to those who learned the secret (and word travelled quickly through the Senate corridors) was ordered from La Gelateria on Cedar Street. The ice cream was made just the day before.

So the first legislative report cards are in, and congratulations to Rep. Brian Schatz, Rep. Marilyn Lee, and Sen. Les Ihara, Jr. for their outstanding performance so far in this new 2004 legislative session.


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