BBeyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is the first free roaming event open to the public at the Hawai’i Convention Center since the start of the pandemic, so to mark the occasion, the 1801 Café in the lobby debuted – what else? – cocktails on the theme of Van Gogh. Since the popular exhibition has been extended until September 26, that gives you two months to sip drinks named after some of the Dutch painter’s greatest hits.
I grab a chair from the bar and browse the menu. I have a private tasting because Frolic’s sister publication HONOLULU Magazine brought the traveling exhibit to Hawai’i, so I’m taking my time. There are wine and beer offerings, specialty blueberry and strawberry lemonades ($ 2.75), and coffee and tea options. On the food side, in addition to the sandwiches, salads, and snacks, there are two small plates – fruit and cheese ($ 6.25) and cheese and cold cuts ($ 8.25) – that pair well with wine. I’m starting to feel like I’m really at an art reception instead of waiting for my booked time slot for the exhibition.
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On the $ 9 themed cocktail menu, Starry Night catches my eye. A refreshing sip of berries with vodka, sweet and sour triple sec, grape juice and soda topped with blueberries and lime, it turns out to be my favorite, sweet with hints of blueberry and grape and just a hint of sparkling. There is also the Almond Blossom, made with hazelnut amaretto, orange juice and soda; and The Imperial with vodka, pineapple, orange and cranberry juices topped with soda and lime.
On a Friday afternoon, the downstairs lobby is a lively but relaxed scene, with couples and friends lounging, and a few families with curious young children biding their time. After a cocktail and a plate of cold cuts with some new friends, I head to Beyond Van Gogh. I’ve heard and read so much about it now, but nothing quite like the experience of going through it myself. I spend about an hour inside, admiring the panels that document the course of the great artist’s life, then gazing at the larger-than-life art exhibit projected onto the walls, columns and floors of the building. huge exhibition hall, set on that of Van Gogh. words and a moving musical score that encompasses everything from sweet classics to “Starry, Starry Night”.
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At this point, I remember trying to spot the paintings that also inspired the Almond Blossom and Imperial cocktails. Then I return to the bar to unwind and meditate on what I saw. It is evening, and on Fridays and Saturdays there is live music at 1801 Café from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., performed by one of the talented employees of the Palais des Congrès, Kai Adarna. I order red wine. Adarna’s warm and soothing voice and guitar complement the contemplative mood I find myself in, providing a brief respite before returning to the world.
The café’s opening hours are Sunday to Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. The bar opens daily at 3:00 p.m.
Tickets for Beyond Van Gogh are currently available through September 26, Hawai’i Convention Center, Kamehameha Exhibit Hall III, 1801 Kalākaua Ave., vangoghhonolulu.com, @vangoghhonolulu