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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

 

Rating our state legislators -- what's cooking on opening day


The Free Range Gourmet is proud that it can be the first to rate the performance of our state legislators so early in the 2007 session. We're off to the State Capitol now, ready and willing to undertake this demanding task.

The Capitol building WiFi wasn't working, so although I brought my trusty tablet PC, I couldn't post as I munched my way through the corridors. That's the bad news. The good news is that since I wasn't blogging, I had more time to eat (burp!).

I try to avoid piles of fried noodles, fried chicken, and other fast food and gravitate towards cuisine that shows our lawmakers are thinking of our health as well as our greed. This year it seems the fried stuff was in ascendance. Haute cuisine suffered a setback anyway since Brian Schatz is no longer in the leg.

I started at the top. Unfortunately there are quite a few members of the House (both on the 4th floor and on the 3rd floor). Between sampling all the goodies and trying the WiFi every once and a while, it was quite late before I waddled down (burp!) to the 2nd floor, so I missed most of the Senate action this time. Next year I'll have to start at the bottom and work my way up.

Ok, here we go.


Marilyn B. Lee (D)
Mililani-Mililani Mauka
Vice chairwoman: Finance

Opening day at the Legislature is quite a gala occasion. Often legislators are presented with so many leis that they can literally disappear. Here's Rep. Lee early in the afternoon. Visitors with leis were still waiting outside her office, so good thing I got to snap her while you can still make out who she is.

Rep. Lee knows healthy food. Here is part of her table. Note the colorful veggies. Good food and personal hospitality can be found here every year on opening day.


Michael Y. Magaoay (D)
Schofield-Kahuku
Chairman: Legislative Management

Rep. Magaoay usually offers quite a spread (was it last year, he had a whole pig, head and all?). This time it was Hawaiian-style food. An army of servers made sure the trays were full. There was also poi and other side dishes on the side table. And of course a long line. Word travels fast in the corridors of power [lunches].


Colleen Hanabusa (D)
21st: Nanakuli-Makua
Senate President

Long line, as befits the new president of the Senate. I never got inside.

It wasn't the longest line, though. Rep. Caldwell's line snaked down the corridor and out into the hall. Sen. Chun Oakland probably set the record: from one end of the line you couldn't see the other end. And Sen. Chun Oakland gets buried in leis several times over.

However, no one who waited to get into Sen. Hanabusa's office looked unhappy, so she is starting off her presidency in the right spirit.


Lyla B. Berg (D)
Hahaione Valley-Aina Haina
Vice chairwoman: Education

Rep. Berg's office was orderly, bubbling with good cheer, and a pleasure to visit. This pic shows one table, there was another with desserts. I'd love it if one could just bring one's own beer, sit down, relax, nosh, and chat. Opening day isn't like that, and I couldn't linger (I didn't bring a beer, either).

Blogger vs. blogger. This is long-time Hawaii blogger and reporter Ian Lind in Rep. Berg's office, snapping me as I struggled to get my cheap camera to flash properly. Note he has a really good camera. A really, really good camera. He was very patient and stood still as I fumbled with the buttons on mine. Is it a guy thing? I better check his blog tomorrow to see if he posted a picture of how foolish I looked.



Dr. Josh Green (D)
Keauhou-Honokohau
Chairman: Health

I'm a sucker for Dr. Green's cheesecake. Each year I choose the Oreo. I love Oreos anyway, and it's on the right side of the long table, near the exit door. So all I have to do is sneak in the exit and grab one.

Actually I had to wait a long time to get a clear shot of the table. Dr. Green is very popular so there was a line outside waiting to come in, and a line inside snatching the cheescakes.

There's another secret though, if you're not fussy. Visit the offices with good desserts first, the lines aren't so long until later. Sure, you can start lunch with cheesecake. Why not.


Yes, the health of our children is important. Keep them away from this cheesecake.




Tom Brower (D)
Waikiki-Ala Moana
Vice chairman: Agriculture

Yes! Chewy mini-bagels--plain, garlic or poppy, and spread it yourself with your choice of plain cream cheese, or cream cheese with lox, chives, cinnamon-raisin, strawberry or garden veggie. I'm from New York and don't understand bagels with strawberry anything, so I went for the lox.

Simple. Elegant in its simplicity. What is more perfect than a bagel, anyway?




Clarence K. Nishihara (D)
Waipahu-Pearl City
Chairman: Tourism and Government Operations

Sen. Nishihara has a nice assortment of desserts, and a quite, welcoming smile. He makes me feel I should visit his office more often. Here's someone who gets the job done. You can tell from his approach to caring for his visitors. Yes, opening day at the legislature is more than just food, it's a relationship thing. You get to know your elected representatives in a special setting.




Gary L. Hooser (D)
Kauai, Niihau
Majority leader
Vice chairman: Energy and Environment

Sen. Hooser had food, but I didn't notice it. I detected the unmistakable aroma of 100% Kona espresso. I was trapped. Terry Teeters was there from Kele's Coffee Roasting Company with just-roasted beans to die for.

For those of you reading this on the Mainland, be advised that we have coffee that far exceeds the coffees you can usually get. We also have Kona Gold oranges that shame Florida with their concentrated sweetness, and apple bananas that laugh at Mainland DelMonte. I could go on. As I sipped the dark, fragrant brew topped with an admirable layer of crema, I was really carried away thinking of how lucky I was to have the opportunity of living in Hawaii and experiencing the culinary miracle of the opening day of its legislature.

Yes, you can get drunk on Kona espresso. It took a great effort not to go back inside and ask for another, but there were more offices to visit, more treats to sample...back to business, such as it is.




Les Ihara Jr. (D)
Kaimuki-Palolo
Majority policy leader
Vice chairman: Human Services and Public Housing

Sen. Ihara's office is usually my last stop. He has had great desserts year after year. A guy you can count on, clearly. I have no idea what else they might offer because by the time I get downstairs and over to his office, it's all gone.

These are Heather's pumpkin bars, made the way I like them. They taste like pumpkin, not like pumpkin spice. And again, the warm welcome from his staff made me feel right at home. Along with some other visitors, we discussed the blogosphere and who was deleting whose comments. Yes, these folks are into computers. They are in touch with the blogosphere. A perfect reminder that eating is good, but I better get home and write all this up.



If you missed opening day at the legislature this year, please do your civic duty and come down next year. It's important to learn which legislators believe in giving back to their constituents. Of course, it's an opportunity, between mouthfuls, to let them know what's on your mind.

I think they should do this more often, not just once a session (hint). Hearings and committee meetings have their place, but arguing for a good cause is easier with a full stomach. With plate in hand, I had a chance to talk with Sen. Menor about gas caps, with Rep. Souki about red light cameras, and with Rep. Green about regulating health insurance premiums.

In the hallways you can run into Mufi Hanneman, powerful lobbyists (hint: anyone with an expensive jacket and tie might be a lobbyist), drug company representatives, and all the activists whose email lists you're on. Activists are good people to check with on which office is serving up the best food, by the way.




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