HFWF 2014: Under a Maui Moon

The stage at Kitchen Stadium

The stage at Kitchen Stadium

The Hawai’i Food and Wine Festival returned to the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa last night at Kaanapali Kitchen Stadium’s “Under a Maui Moon.” The sold-out event featured a unique presentation of renowned chefs (and their renowned sous chefs) plating courses assembly-line style on a stage in front of the guests.

The six-course dinner, shown in the gallery below, showcased local ingredients cooked in each chefs’ unique, creative style. All courses were paired with wines selected by master sommelier Roberto Viernes, who explained each course’s selection.

HFWF: Under a Maui Moon

The featured chefs at this year's Maui event, from left: Mourad Lahlou, Isaac Bancaco, Bev Gannon, Gregory Grohowski, Floyd Cardoz, HFWF co-chair Alan Wong, Ming Tsai and HFWF co-chair Roy Yamaguchi. —Photo by Ed Morita

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Kaanapali Fresh: ‘Aha’aina O Ka’anapali

Kaanapali Fresh 2014There’s farm to table dining, and Maui has a lot of that … but have you tried evolutionary dining? This year, Kaanapali Fresh challenged their featured chefs to use traditional Hawaiian ingredients (and/or recipes, if possible) to create dishes that enhanced those natural flavors.

In keeping with the theme, the evening started with an elaborate Hawaiian ceremony. A flotilla of outrigger canoes, followed by a double-hulled sailing canoe, landed on the beach — that was an event in itself, even for locals like me who have seen Hawaii canoe regattas. We then watched an elaborate Hawaiian ceremony with chants, songs, and the exchange of gifts to start the event. In addition to great food, we enjoyed entertainment by Nāpua Grieg and Hālau Nā Lei Kaumaka o Uka.

Kaanapali Fresh 2014

This year's theme was "'aha'aina o ka'anapali," where the event organizers emphasized Hawaiian culture to tie it all together. It was a unique experience for locals and visitors alike.

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Be sure to follow the hashtag #KFresh14 on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook so you can see everything that is going on, even behind the scenes!

Disclosure: This trip was provided by the Kaanapali Beach Resort Association.

Kicking off Kaanapali Fresh 2014

Kaanapali Fresh 2014Maui has some of the best food celebrations in the state, and one of the relative newcomers, Kaanapali Fresh has become the most blogged-about culinary destination event on the island so far. It’s a great way to showcase the island’s bounty through the creativity of their chefs and mixologists, and appropriately segways into the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival.

The Kaanapali Beach Resort Association (KBRA) puts this together and attracts people from all over the world to enjoy the area, food and culture. Yes, it’s Labor Day weekend, but I think it bumps the tourism up even further for the week. I attended last year, and I don’t remember the hotels bustling at this level!

The media arrived a day early to get settled in and meet each other. Our first evening was hosted by KBRA and the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa at Japengo, followed by a stargazing tour on the roof.

Eddie Mahoney of NASA leads the stargazing tour.

Eddie Mahoney of NASA leads the stargazing tour.

By the way, if you find yourself on Maui, the Hyatt offers this stargazing program exclusively for their guests, run by Eddie Mahoney of NASA. Unlike most scientists, he breaks down the celestial landscape in layman’s terms and peppers his presentation with a lot of humor. Most stargazing programs will show you the usual constellations and stars — which he does — but this one will show you things that you never even knew existed. (Well, I didn’t, anyway.) We got to see Saturn, Tanabata (a unique pair of stars), “cat’s eyes,” and more through state-of-the-art telescopes and learned about ancient Hawaiian navigation with Hokule’a and Hokupa’a. Good stuff for both locals and visitors.

Here’s what we did at the media reception. I only got one photo of the stargazing — the Milky Way — since it was too dark to capture images of the telescopes.

Kaanapali Fresh 2014

First things first: On Maui, you have to stand back and enjoy the view. This is my view at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa. If I leave the lanai door open, I can hear the water flowing.

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Follow the hashtag #KFresh14 on Twitter and Instagram so you can see what everyone is posting!

Click here for last year’s coverage.

Disclosure: This trip was provided by the Kaanapali Beach Resort Association.

Preview: The Good Table 2014

kupunaMany of you come to this website to read about and plan your outings to the latest restaurants around town. Here’s a chance for you to do that, plus do good for a nonprofit that feeds our kupuna.

For the last six years, Lanakila Pacific’s Meals on Wheels program has put on a different kind of fundraiser: Restaurants around town create a menu for this one event and donate at least one table for four to the cause. Lanakila then puts the table up for sale. On one specific night — this year it’s Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. — everyone who has purchased their tables go to their respective restaurants and have dinner at the same time. You can see what everyone else is eating at the other restaurants by following the hashtag #TheGoodTable.

You can buy a table at various price points, from Zippy’s and Big City Diner all the way up to Alan Wong’s; you can even get a truck from Street Grindz or a build-your-own poke bar from Ruger Market. There are crazy fans who wait for the site to go live every year, so they can get the restaurant they want (Hank’s Haute Dogs always sells out immediately). All proceeds benefit Lanakila’s Meals on Wheels program, which feeds needy senior citizens year round. To see the whole list, click here.

I hope I never have to use this charitable program. I hope you never have to, either. But for those who are not able to afford or access a hot meal daily, this is a source of nutrition, comfort, and in many cases, company. Ed Morita and I have supported the program since the beginning, and he was even a featured chef at Hank’s Haute Dogs in 2012. Here’s a quick preview of two of the restaurants, JJ’s Bistro and French Pastry, and Haili’s Hawaiian Food.

JJ's Bistro & French Pastry

Each year, participating restaurants set aside at least one table for Lanakila Pacific. Owner/chef JJ Luangkhot has generously donated 10 tables of four. That's right, he's feeding 40 people a special fixed menu, with all proceeds benefiting The Good Table. The tables are $350 each, which comes out to $88 per person.

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This year, anyone who buys a table is entered to win a Maui vacation for two. Lanakila is also partnering with Uber for the event to make it convenient for those who want to enjoy wine with dinner or just don’t want to fight for parking anywhere.

Lanakila Pacific’s The Good Table
October 2, 6 p.m.
To see past event coverage, click here

Hidden gem: Il Buco

DSC03482I know locals very rarely want to venture into Waikiki — traffic can be bad, parking is expensive, and the crowds can be maddening. But you know, you’ll find that in Chinatown, too. It was so refreshing to find a hidden bar in Waikiki that’s reasonable, mellow, and has free parking.

Two months ago, Salvatore Agresti and Darko Vidak opened a little wine bar in the Waikiki Sand Villa Hotel. The two already have other business ventures together, including a yacht service and a spa in the hotel, so they figured they’d try this out when the opportunity became available.

The venue is tiny, as is the food menu. But the wine selection is pretty extensive, and the per-glass prices run from $8 to about $14, which is on par with any other typical wine bar in Honolulu. The food is about $14 to $29, “all Mediterranean-style dishes with Italian influence,” according to Vidak.

One thing I liked about the place was Vidak’s excellent memory, making it typical of a neighborhood bar. He remembered me immediately on my second visit, and remembered what I had ordered on my previous visit. He also recognized my eating companion Sean Morris, who had met him many years before. Other than that, the vibe is super mellow, which is a nice way to unwind at the end of a long day.

Il Buco

You'll find Il Buco in the Waikiki Sand Villa Hotel, tucked away at the back by the pool (where Gaan Sushi and Zen Dining used to be).

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By the way, the parking is valet-only, but free. You don’t even get a claim ticket; simply drive up and tell the valet you’re going to the bar. When you leave, just tip him.

Il Buco
Waikiki Sand Villa Hotel
2375 Ala Wai Blvd.