Toasting the Scottish at The Willows

Features Inside Feature

March 13, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Bust out those bagpipes and prepare to don your finest tartan, because it’s almost time for the 30th annual Hawaiian Scottish Festival and Highland Games, scheduled to take place April 2 and 3 at Kapiolani Park.

  • The entrance to The Willows, with the chapel to the left.
  • An outdoor double-hulled canoe, where patrons often dine.
  • Bruce McEwan, board member of the Hawaiian Scottish Association, with a bottle of Macallan Scotch.
  • Fish and Chips
  • Shepherd's Pie
  • Corned Beef and Salmon Soup
  • Scottish Bangers with onions and bell peppers.
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To celebrate the return of this yearly festival, The Willows Restaurant is playing host to two nights of good drink, food and fun, Scottish-style.

On Friday, March 25, the Hawaiian Scottish Association and Fujioka Wine Times present The Grand Scotch Tour 2011. Now in its second year, this gathering serves as a chance for locals to explore and enjoy nearly 20 acclaimed Scotch selections, including Aberfeldy, Dewars, Famous Grouse, Ardbeg, Balvenie, Caol Ila, Highland Park, Laphroaig, Macallan, Chivas, Clynelish, Cragganmore, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Scapa, Talisker, Signatory, Glenmorangie and Singleton.

“Everybody does wine tastings, but we wanted to do something a little different,” says Dan Peddie, chieftain of the Hawaiian Scottish Association.

“It’s not only an opportunity to taste good whisky, but it’s also an opportunity to learn about whisky,” adds Bruce McEwan, association board member and chieftain of the nonprofit Caledonian Society of Hawaii, the largest Scottish organization in Hawaii.

To be a Scotch whisky, McEwan explains, the drink must be made in Scotland, be at least 3 years old and have matured in an oak cask. However, every single-malt and every blended Scotch will taste slightly different, which is why there will be whisky experts on hand to help guide guests through the tasting.

“Whisky sort of goes with the mood you’re in,” McEwan says. “It’s a drink that can pick you up if you’re down, help you celebrate if you’re up, and just mellow you out if you’re uptight.”

The Willows executive chef Jay Matsukawa also is pulling out all the stops with a pupu buffet inspired by traditional Scottish fare but with his own twist. For example, Scottish Bangers traditionally are heavy pork sausages served over mash (mashed potatoes and turnips) or colcannon (cabbage). Matsukawa’s version is a daintier, lighter Scottish Banger Hot Dog made from beef and served atop fresh vegetables and cabbage slaw.

Other delicacies to try are Fish and Chips, Shepherds’ Pie, Corned Beef and Salmon Soup, Petite Scottish Meat Pies and Butterscotch Bread Pudding. There also will be unlimited soft drinks, iced tea and coffee provided.

The Grand Scotch Tour takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. in the main banquet hall. Cost to attend is $65 pre-paid, $75 at the door, but reservations are highly recommended by March 23, as space is limited.

“We’re hoping to get anywhere between 100 to 200 people at this event,” says McEwan. “It’s really for people who are interested in trying Scotch for the first time, and also for people who know and understand Scotch and want to try some fine Scotches.”

For those looking for a bigger celebration, wait a week for the fifth annual Taste of Scotland Ceilidh.

According to McEwan, a “ceilidh” (pronounced kay-lee) is a time to come together in celebration, and folks will do just that April 1 as the Hawaiian Scottish Association takes over the entire property of The Willows from 5 to 9 p.m. for this official kick-off party to the next days’ festival and games.

In addition to food and beverage stations nestled around The Willow’s lush gardens and pools, there will be live Scottish entertainment from groups like the Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawaii and Mainland band Mythica and Melissa Cox.

Cost to attend is $25 in advance, $30 at the door, and includes access to unlimited pupus, soft drinks, iced tea, coffee and three drink tickets good for beer, wine or 1.5-ounce Scotch tasting. Children’s tickets cost $15 each and include a separate children’s buffet and unlimited soft drinks.

“It’s a true Scottish evening,” McEwan says. “The quality of the food is very good, as well as the venue,” Peddie adds. “It’s kind of hard to beat.”

The Willows Restaurant

  • Where
    • 901 Hausten Street
    • Honolulu, HI 96826
  • Call
    • (808) 952-9200
  • Hours
    • Monday – Friday
    • 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. (lunch)
    • 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. (dinner)
    • Saturday – Sunday
    • 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. (lunch/brunch)
    • 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. (dinner)