A toast to Tuscany with Frances Mayes

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From left: Jim Hansen, Alvin Savella, Matt Skaletsky and Frances Mayes.

From left: Jim Hansen, Alvin Savella, Matt Skaletsky and Frances Mayes.

As if you needed an excuse to hop over to Maui … On September 23, Pūlehu, an Italian Grill at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort (KOR) Villas is having a “Toast to Tuscany” dinner featuring Frances Mayes, the best-selling author of “Under the Tuscan Sun.” You get to meet her, try her new Tuscan Sun Wines, and taste appropriate food pairings at the restaurant.

Pūlehu’s chef de cuisine, Alvin Savella, and the resort’s executive sous chef, Matt Skaletsky, have created a special four-course dinner for the event. Restaurant and wine list manager Jim Hansen has selected three wines from Mayes’ label.

The labels all have something to do with Mayes' books.

The labels all have something to do with Mayes’ books. Each name means something: Pensiero refers to how you always show up with a gift when you visit someone’s home; Tondo Tondo means “just perfect,” and Aguri means “big wishes.”

We got a sneak peek at the dinner yesterday, and got to meet Mayes herself — who was amazingly approachable and down to earth, considering her fame and accomplishments. She told us about how she and her husband discovered their home in Tuscany (where they live six months out of the year) was once a winery, so they tried to revive the old vines and make their own wine. After their first attempt, and subsequent failure, they were still determined to have their own wine label but accepted that they couldn’t produce it themselves. They partnered with a Denver winemaker and hand-selected seven wines to express her favorite flavors of Tuscany, and a new label was born.

They’ve been launching the wine around the country, and the Westin KOR picked up on it and invited her to Maui for a special pairing dinner. These plates are just small tastes, not the full size servings.

Fresh catch to start.

Fresh catch to start.

Monchong with fregola (the little round pearls are pasta), fennel, and porcini cream. This was paired with the Pinot Grigio, or the Pensiero. The fregola is pretty neat!

Venison bolognese.

Venison bolognese.

The chefs took Molokai venison and created a familiar meat sauce for the fusilli pasta, topped with fresh ricotta cheese and micro basil. This was paired with the Aguri Sangiovese blend, which was a nice, strong bottle that could stand up to the venison, but wasn’t too heavy.

Mayes' wines are approachable and casual, meant for drinking with friends and pairing with food.

Mayes’ wines are approachable and casual, meant for drinking with friends and pairing with food.

The chefs prepping their plates table side.

The chefs prepping their plates table side.

Pork belly.

Pork belly.

The pork belly with kabocha risotto, sage, and pomegranate was perfectly paired with the Sangiovese, or Tondo Tondo. We were hesitant to eat the flowers and the sage, but it worked!

Hazelnut chocolate torte.

Hazelnut chocolate torte.

You might want coffee with your hazelnut chocolate torte, which is served with orange zabaoione and mint gelee. Something about this made me think of my childhood, and maybe you will, too. This will be paired with Toccare le Stelle, a prosecco.

Ed Mayes educating us on olive oil, which they also sell.

Ed Mayes educating us on olive oil, which they also sell.

Squee! She signed my book and gave me a bottle.

Squee! She signed my book and gave me a bottle.

 

If you want to go to this dinner, it’s one night only at Pūlehu: September 23 at 6 p.m., followed by a screening of the movie, “Under The Tuscan Sun.” Tickets are $125 each and can be purchased at HonoluluBoxOffice.com. The restaurant will continue to offer Tuscan Sun Wines after Wednesday, as well.

Toast to Tuscany
Pūlehu, an Italian Grill – Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas
6 Kai Ala Dr., Lahaina
808-667-3200

More photos here.