Shake and I were invited to the 2nd annual Kā‘anapali Fresh food event over Labor Day weekend. Here’s a short-ish recap; more photos in the gallery. The weekend included three evening events—Friday’s Progressive Dinner; Saturday’s “Kā‘anapali 5-0” in celebration of Kā‘anapali Resort’s 50th anniversary; and Sunday’s Mālama Maui, a joint event with the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival (I already covered that event)—plus daytime tours and seminars. Maui knows how to have a good time, so if you enjoy food events but you like them a little more laid-back (in other words, you can wear slippers with your cute dress and no one bats an eyelash), Kā‘anapali Fresh is a great choice.
The first event of the weekend was a mixology seminar with Southern Wine & Spirits’ Chandra Lucariello—unfortunately, my plane landed at the exact moment class started, so we missed it. I was super bummed to learn that this year, instead of just demonstrations from Chandra, the seminar included the chance to make your own cocktail from a wide array of spirits, mixers and garnishes. Had I known, I would have booked an earlier flight! Our friend Melissa attended, so check out her post to see all the fun they had.
This year, the Progressive Dinner included just two stops—the Westin Maui for pupus and entrées, and the Sheraton Maui Resort for dessert and a concert by Jake Shimabukuro. I liked this better than last year, when there were three stops.
This “Steak & Lobster” from the Westin was probably my favorite dish of the night:
Shake liked this Crispy Pork Belly, also from the Westin, though we both agreed that we could do without the spicy biscuit.
This Hāmākua Mushroom & Anuhea Asparagus Quiche with Asparagus Emulsion & Kā‘anapali Coffee Farm Foam by the Westin Kā‘anapali Ocean Resort Villas was interesting.
What I really liked was the coffee foam. Several dishes incorporated coffee. Fun Fact: This year marks the 200th anniversary of coffee cultivation in Hawai‘i.
At the second stop, there was an enormous dessert buffet provided by the Sheraton Maui with lots of pretty dishes. Their haupia-sweet potato mousse cake was particularly beautiful. But the stand-out dessert in my opinion was Hula Grill Kā‘anapali’s Ice Cream Sandwich. Lovely, cold ice cream (it was sooooooo hot out!) was sandwiched between two pieces of fudgy, chewy brownie. All three of us who shared the dessert are fans of chewy brownies. Don’t tell me about your cake-y brownies, I’m having none of it!
The next morning we got up and headed over to the Maui Grown Farmers Market at Whalers Village. The retail complex holds the market quarterly. I always say that Maui has the best produce and I’m always tempted to buy more vegetables and fruits than I could possibly take home.
Simpli-Fresh served up Local Eggs Benedict Sandwiches with Sautéed Greens & Sweet Potatoes, which were just amazing. I love it when fried eggs have that crunchy bit along the edges.
After the market, we were put on a Maui Country Farm Tours bus to visit MauiGrown Coffee’s Kā‘anapali Estate Coffee Farm. The tour started off with lunch at Hale Kope Coffee Plantation Estate. Hale Kope is a private home located in the middle of the coffee farm. This is a pretty cool concept, I thought—kind of like golf course homes, but instead of staring at a bunch of old dudes in bad outfits and worrying they’ll shank a ball through your living room window, you get to enjoy the view of coffee trees and the ocean.
Chef Christian Jorgensen of CJ’s Deli & Diner served up an incredible lunch. This Mozarella & Herb-Stuffed Tomato with 50-year-old Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil & Summer Truffles was the starter. It was so beautiful, it sort of pained me to cut into it. Still pretty inside, too.
Except for the tomato starter, lunch was served buffet-style. Shake, Melissa and I did a quick assessment and since everyone else was piled up on the fruit and cured salmon end, we jumped the line and grabbed some soup to start. (I am sure this is a total buffet-line faux pax, but part of the reason I abhor buffets is the inevitable waiting because someone is busy picking through the seafood tray for the “good stuff” and no one can pass ahead.) It was a hot day, but this Kabocha & Moloka‘i Sweet Potato Soup was still delicious. Melissa remarked that it “tastes like Christmas!” and it totally did.
Another standout of the lunch offerings: Chef CJ’s Summer Vegetable Risotto. I’ve never had a risotto stuffed with so many vegetables!
After lunch, we were loaded back on to the bus to drive up to the farm to wander around the coffee trees. We almost missed dessert, but Melissa had a keen eye and spotted it. We took some to go.
If you’ve never seen how coffee looks before it makes its way into your cup, here’s a branch of coffee cherries:
As you can see, none of them are the same color—the cherries don’t all ripen at the same time, so it makes harvesting a pain in the rear. Many farms do it by hand; in Kona (the most famous of Hawai‘i’s coffee-growing regions), it HAS to be done by hand because of the terrain. At Kā‘anapali, they’re able to use special machines to shake the trees to release the ripe cherries. Even then, it’s a laborious process. So if you’ve ever wondered why Hawaiian coffee costs so darn much, this is part of the reason.
Our visit to the farm was after harvesting season, so there really wasn’t much interesting to see. (Not to us, anyway, since we’ve seen coffee farms before. The other guests on the trip seemed to be having a lot of fun taking photos and hiding in the coffee trees.) I haven’t visited a farm when the trees are in bloom yet, though, and I really want to do that—the flowers are supposed to smell absolutely amazing.
After romping in the field, we headed back down to visit the MauiGrown Coffee store, located in Lahaina. Kā‘anapali Estate Coffee (MauiGrown is a trademark for their coffee) was originally an offshoot of the Pioneer Mill Sugar Company, but the sugar company shut down in 2001; MauiGrown was started by James (Kimo) Falconer to keep the coffee business going. The store sits next to the historic Pioneer Mill smokestack, which was saved and restored by the Lahaina community.
Saturday night’s Kā‘anapali 5-0 dinner on the golf course was just as beautiful as last year’s event. This is the weekend’s signature event, featuring 12 Maui chefs, each paired up with a farm to showcase Maui-grown items. I can’t stress enough how much I love how Maui chefs and farmers work so closely with each other. It seems like every chef has his or her own “pet” farm where they—sometimes literally—work hand-in-hand with the farmers to grow what they want to cook. Farms and restaurants on O‘ahu have partnerships, too, and O‘ahu chefs are great supporters of local ag, but I think we just have fewer farms, so the ones we have either support a lot of chefs or they sell to wholesalers instead of going direct to the restaurants.
Here are my three favorite dishes from the evening. Starting with dessert. Of course. (Incidentally, here’s a grazing event tip for you: Grab dessert toward the beginning of the event. No one ever starts with dessert, so there’s no line, and at the end of the night, there’s guaranteed to be a HUGE line. Also, the really good ones are sometimes the most intricate dishes being served, so that can hang up the line, too—scooping ice cream, fresh-frying doughnuts, etc.) This was Chef CJ’s (same chef who served us lunch earlier in the day—hardworking man!) Basil & Coffee Ice Cream. Sounds weird, but totally delicious. The ice cream was very subtly coffee-flavored, not like your average Baskin & Robbins coffee ice cream, and the basil added a fresh, herb-y bite that worked remarkably well with the earthy coffee. I’d like to try making this at home, but I have a suspicion it won’t go as well. (And that I’d be the only one eating it.)
Winner in our book for best dish of the night: Compressed Watermelon & Green Tomato “Sashimi”, Kaiware Sprout Salad with Maui Onion Crisp & Shoyu-Shiso Syrup from The Westin Maui. I am definitely going to try to duplicate the Shoyu-Shiso Syrup dressing. I love the taste of shiso (it’s sort of like a cross between mint and basil, but uniquely its own thing) and my mom just started growing a plant and doesn’t know what to do with it all. (It grows like crazy—she got a starter from my aunt and theirs has practically taken over the front yard.)
This “‘Ahi Blossom” by Chef Greg Grohowski of Hyatt Regency Maui Resort also won us over with Hawaiian big eye tuna with a sushi rice center, topped with opilio crab, tobanjan sauce & green onion. Possibly because we were still feeling fish and rice deprived, but I think it was more than that.
We followed all this up the next night with the Mālama Maui event, which I’ve already written up here. This was a joint event with the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival and was a great closer to the weekend.
But, as if we hadn’t eaten enough all weekend, before we headed back home we had a couple more stops to make. First, we were invited to have lunch with Chef Greg Grohowski of the Hyatt Regency Maui (where we stayed our last two nights on Maui) at ‘Ūmalu, the property’s poolside restaurant. “Uncle Kimo’s” ‘Ahi Poke Nachos are the recommended must-have there: ‘ahi poke-style, guacamole, lomi lomi salsa, Surfing Goat chèvre cheese, fire cracker tobiko.
We left the ordering up to Chef Greg and in addition to the nachos (and a few other bites), he asked the kitchen to bring us some SPAM® musubi. I don’t know if he was reading our starved-for-local-food minds or if he was just having a craving of his own, but these really hit the spot.
I love a chef who likes simple food. Honestly, I eat SPAM® musubi, like, once a year, generally for reasons that involve a long car trip. But during that one moment…man, it tastes so good!
For dessert, we moved over to the Westin Maui. The Westin folks know how much I adore dessert, so they set it up so I could try the “Spiked Shakes” and Da Whoopie Pie (because I missed out on the chance to do so earlier in the week) at Relish, their poolside restaurant. (All these poolside restaurants and I never once stuck a toe in the water all weekend…)
We ordered up Rainbow Guri Guri and Ono Malt Spiked Shakes. These are plays on two favorite Hawai‘i frozen desserts—Tasaka Guri Guri and the old KC Drive Inn Ono Ono Shake, which had peanut butter in it. On the whole, I like my shakes to be thicker, but that can be hard when you’re tossing in alcohol. I also would have preferred if they’d used straight vodka and fresh fruit instead of flavored vodka; that might help with the consistency, too. Still, for a cold treat to sip poolside? Totally tasty. (Shake gave himself a brain freeze.)
I never had Whoopie Pies when I was a kid, so I’m never quite as excited about them as people who have nostalgic fondness for them are. But I do think that they are some of the most adorably presented treats and who can turn down a sandwich made of chocolate cake, right? I was a little afraid Da Whoopie Pie would be super-sugary to cater to the many kids on property, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was actually not very sweet at all. The chocolate “bun” (it was decked out with sesame seeds like a little dessert hamburger; Relish is a “Burger Bar,” after all) was nice and fudgy and instead of being pure sweet whipped cream in the center, there was a thick layer of haupia (coconut pudding) inside!
What a sweet way to end our Maui trip. (But it’s a good thing that I didn’t have to be weighed before I got on the plane, like when we flew in to the Kapalua airport. That would have been embarrassing.)
Disclosure: Sugar + Shake were hosted by the Maui Visitors Bureau, Kā‘anapali Beach Resort Association, Kā‘anapali Fresh and the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival. Travel, accommodations and access to events were provided by the hosts, but no compensation was received for this post, and the opinions expressed are strictly my own.