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Gertrude’s Jazz Bar: Raising the Bar on Bars

Posted December 28, 2016, 12:00 PM HST Updated December 28, 2016, 12:12 PM HST
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    Kona grownups and jazz lovers rejoice! There’s a new bar in town where you can listen to live music and enjoy unique tapas, and craft cocktails. And don’t forget to wear your dancing shoes!

    Gertrude’s Jazz Bar on Aliʻi Drive in Kailua-Kona opened its doors a couple of months ago and has been going strong ever since. The bar’s uniquely creative menu offers the perfect culinary balance of delicious tapas. Patrons who are out for an evening of dancing and jazz music can indulge their taste buds all in the same beautiful location.

    Gertudeʻs Jazz Bar was the brain-child of Kona’s dynamic mother/daughter duo Marlina Lee and Kira Kamamalu, along with musician Greg Shirley. The inspiration for Gertrude’s Jazz Bar came from American novelist, Gertrude Stein, who moved to Paris in 1903 where she nurtured the creative talents of artists and writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Scot Fitzgerald.

    Lee, Kamamalu and Shirley are all professional artists in their own right—dancer, painter and musician respectively. Gertrude’s is the culmination of their vision to create a collaborative space where artists and those who appreciate the arts can converge for conversation and to celebrate life in general.

    With such a respect for creativity, the culinary arts were not to be excluded, so Gertrude’s owners called upon their friend and chef, Desirae Brown, to help them create a tapas menu of unique and satisfying dishes.

    “It started with us telling Desirae we wanted to put together a globally themed tapas menu,” said Lee. “We liked the idea of tapas because it’s family style, where you order plates and everyone shares. I have always enjoyed that style of dining, whether it’s just ordering a bunch of appetizers or it’s actually a tapas type of restaurant.”

    The three sat down with Chef Brown and brainstormed what their favorite dishes were and what dishes were popular.

    “The Garlic Shrimp was definitely a must, and the Devils on Horseback were totally new to me, but everyone loved it right off the bat because it had bacon in it,” said Lee. “So it started with finding the right chef and then letting her get creative.”

    The trio chose dishes that were popular with most diners, as well as some comfort food and globally inspired dishes. One favorite is Spicy Arugula and Prosciutto Deviled Eggs, a unique creation inspired by classic flavor combinations. The Tand-Thai Chicken Fusion, combines the Asian flavors of curry yogurt marinade and peanut sauce.

    More original dishes include the Devils on Horseback, created with bacon wrapped dates and a gorgonzola crumble. The Croquettes are made with chorizo and potato patty that is pan-fried in coconut oil, and served with a chipotle aioli.

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    Other dishes include‘Smoked Salmon Mousse served with cucumber chips and bagel crisps, topped with red onion and capers. Standout desserts are Marlina’s Famous Macadamia Nut Cheesecake and a light, delicious treat that is not on the menu called “Alice’s Apples Francais,” made with apples braised in fresh lemon syrup with organic blueberry puree.

    Because Chef Brown had her own business to run, Gertrude’s hired Chef Frederick Abel Vander Bosch to take over the culinary end of the business and add his own spin to the chosen dishes. The entire chef selection process turned out to be quite serendipitous, as Chef Vander Bosch gets much of his inspiration from The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. Toklas, a prominent American expat who lived in Paris, and was Gertrude Stein’s lover. Her cookbook was a precursor to the famous culinary works of Julia Child and MFK Fisher.

    Lee felt it was a synchronistic event that Gertrude’s found a chef that is also inspired by the same artistic influences.

    “Alice’s cookbook is right there on the shelf with him all the time while he is cooking, giving him ideas for different dishes to add to the menu,” she said.

    Gertrude’s prides itself on having a healthy and balanced menu from which patrons can order a fulfilling dinner while sipping a crafty cocktail or two.

    “We want to raise the bar on bars,” said Lee. “That’s our motto. The nice thing about tapas is you can mix and match them together. This idea goes well with our collaboration of mixing together art, music and dance. We want food on our menu, even though it’s a tapas menu, where people can get a full meal—they don’t feel like they have to get dinner afterward, and they can have a nice variety of items to choose from which are really fun.”

    “From our tapas menu to our libations menu, it was all about picking food we like,” said Lee. “Because if we like it, other people are going to like it. We want to inspire people by the things we love and the experiences we’re providing, and inspire them to have the same experience.”

    Gertrude’s Jazz Bar is located at 75-5699 Ali’i Drive in Kailua-Kona. It is open everyday from 5 to 10:30 p.m. For more information about Gertrude’s live music schedule and to view the bar’s full menu, go online.

    Bon appetite!

    Alice’s Apple Francais at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar. Karen Rose photo.

    Chorizo Croquettes at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar. Karen Rose photo.

    Garlic Shrimp at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar. Karen Rose photo.

    Salmon Mousse at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar. Karen Rose photo.

    Spicy Arugula & Prosciutto Deviled Eggs at Gertrude’s Jazz Bar. Karen Rose photo.

    Karen Rose
    Karen Rose is a writer and journalist living on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. Her writing focuses on food, wine, travel, arts and entertainment. She never met a food she didn't like—except black licorice.
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