If the Taste of Hawaii gets much bigger, it will take over Upper Senate Park.
At least a dozen lawmakers sampled some of Hawaii's finest offerings at the second annual event, along with a crowd estimated at more than 1,000 in a spacious Dirksen Senate Office Building hearing room.
Several guests overheard Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a repeat visitor, preaching the gospel of Spam musubi. Multiple sources told HOH the New York Democrat roped Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., into trying the exotic treat, and Schumer was still gushing about the magic of potted meats on his way out the door.
Democratic Sen. Mazie K. Hirono again led the event, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.
The popular reception followed a Hawaii on the Hill policy conference; Hirono was posted at the front door, offering floral bing and air kisses to new arrivals, while Reps. Mark Takai, D-Hawaii, and Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, mingled about inside.
Former Democratic Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a longtime House member, also made an appearance.
Willie K and Amy Hānaiali'i performed, along with The Aloha Boys — a group that's brought Hawaiian music to the D.C. area for almost two decades.
But guests seemed most captivated by all the hand-crafted island goodies.
“I’m getting so many things for free, I can’t hold it all,” one gift-laden congressional aide jokingly complained to a pal.
“Take ‘em, take ‘em,” one silver haired gent, sporting a Hawaiian shirt and vibrant purple lei, urged friends as he swept two sacks of King’s Hawaiian rolls into his complimentary tote bag.
Surfing Goat Dairy plied passersby with goat cheese truffles laced with native chili peppers (pleasant burn), shaved coconut and whole coffee beans (exquisitely bitter).
“Did you want my kimchee? I’m not going to eat it,” one cabbage-averse individual confessed to a pal after polishing off the kalua pork-slider (juicy shredded pig) portion of the tropical sampler platter (ahi tuna was splendid).
“There’s musubi!” one elated woman cheered when she bumped into a friend.
“I know! I found it, too,” the fellow grilled meat aficionado gushed.
Not everyone was as enthralled by the curiously sweet delicacy.
“Somebody just left that there,” a slightly annoyed vendor told HOH about a half-eaten chunk of musubi mysteriously dumped on her display table.
The get-together was so well attended, purveyors of the featured Hawaiian fare ran out of papayas before the arrival of Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin — leading organizers to make arrangements to ship a box of the fruit to the Illinois Democrat's office.
Durbin would be wise to show up earlier next year. (Just follow Schumer.)
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