This year, the Maui AgFest added a new event: a Grown on Maui Chefs’ Collaboration dinner to benefit the Maui County Farm Bureau’s Grown on Maui program. The dinner was originally planned to be held at the Maui Tropical Plantation, where the AgFest is held, but inclement weather moved the venue to the Maui Culinary Academy. It was a fitting move, though, since the MCA students work alongside the participating chefs at AgFest to serve up all the incredible dishes showcasing local produce, and were also helping at the GoM dinner where they served under the watchful eyes of Maui chefs Lyndon Honda (Laulima Events & Catering), Eric Faivre (Grand Wailea Resort), Ryan Luckey (Leilani’s on the Beach), Tylun Pang (Kō at the Fairmont Kea Lani) and Sheldon Simeon (Migrant/Māla), as well as visiting Canadian chefs Connie DeSousa (CHARCUT Roast House), John Jackson (CHARCUT Roast House), Pierre Lamielle (Food On Your Shirt) and Jessica Pelland (charbar).
The evening started out with passed appetizers by Lyndon Honda (who was instrumental in coordinating the chefs for this event, as well as organizing the live “Black Box” cook-off challenge on Saturday), Ryan Luckey, Jessica Pelland and Pierre Lamielle. Here’s the ever-cheerful Lyndon with his appetizer: Echigo rice beer and miso beef tataki, ponzu gel, grated daikon, watercress and bonito flakes. I had two. I would have had a third, but I was on the hunt for the elusive appetizer by Chef Jessica of Charbar, opening next year in Calgary. Apparently, we had arrived too late and it had been eagerly snapped up by more timely attendees. It reportedly included chicharrones. (They were an inadvertant theme of the weekend. You’ll see what I mean.) At least two different people promised they’d get us a sample, but none ever materialized. It must have been fantastic.
We did, however, get to sample these bone-in meatballs with papaya ketchup and marrow confit pineapple by visiting Canadian chef Pierre Lamielle. (Below, left; on the right is Chef Lyndon’s tataki.)
Chef Ryan Luckey of Leilani’s on the Beach served the sole non-meat appetizer, opting for shrimp and veg instead. It was a refreshing bite. (No photo because I didn’t like how it came out.)
I snuck (actually I pretty much just waltzed in—it’s Maui, no one gets uptight about much) into the back prep area to take some photos of the chefs and MCA students plating the various dishes. It was fun to see how all nine chefs worked so carefully on each other’s plates.
Our first entrée: a fairly light fish course by Sheldon Simeon. This was a riff on the Filipino vegetable soup/stew called inabraw. Sheldon’s deconstructed version included marungay purée, kabocha and squash from his own garden served alongside Kona kampachi.
Some folks felt this was a sort of small portion for a four-course dinner, but I, for one, was quite happy with the size, considering what came next. This beast of a meat course by John Jackson and Connie DeSousa from CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary:
Chefs John and Connie affectionately called this dish “Pork Stuffed With Pork.” Made with Maui pork, the belly and loin were wrapped around a kielbasa-style sausage made with the pork shoulder and heart, served with local veggies, sea asparagus and coconut bone marrow foam. Also, see that cracker on the side? It’s actually a First Nations flat bread, which was so tasty that everyone on our table wanted more. We asked. (We did not get.) There were many “I like da crackah” jokes and social media posts coming from those at our table. Shake and our friend/neighbor/travel companion @Melissa808 decreed that I had to figure out how to make it at home.
Seriously, it was so good that when we pulled up in the valet at our hotel and the CHARCUT chefs happened to hop out of the SUV next to us, I accosted them to ask what the heck went into that cracker. As I had suspected, there’s lard. Of course. The seeds on top were heirloom seeds that had been grown in their kitchen garden.
In case you’re wondering what’s up with the visiting Canadians, Sheldon Simeon had befriended them while on a visit to Calgary. He also shares a Top Chef tie with two of them: Chef Connie was a finalist in Season One of Top Chef Canada and Chef Pierre was on the current season as a competitor. (At the time he visited Maui, he was still in the running, but was cut in the recent Restaurant Wars episode.) This Maui visit was a mini-exchange program of sorts, and it will hopefully become a regular thing! All the Canadian chefs were incredibly talented, friendly and fun. And kick-ass in the kitchen. Chef Connie holds the record for skinning a pig’s head in 49 seconds flat. I don’t think I can do anything in 49 seconds.
Our third course was an incredible cheese course prepared by Chef Eric Faivre, which he called a “pre-dessert.” He gave a very adorable intro to the course, saying, “You don’t have to eat it all.” Seriously? No one on our table followed that suggestion. On the left: Surfing Goat Dairy cheese on chocolate sourdough bread with macerated fruits. On the right: A pistachio goat cheese panacotta topped with pistachios and poha berries.
The final course was a dessert trio by Chef Tylun Pang (below, left) and his Kō pastry chef Amber Ching. In the foreground: Pineapple Buttermilk Plantation Cake. Center: Filipino-style Chocolate Custard. Back: Passionfruit Chiffon Cheese Cake with Sesame Tuille. I couldn’t pick a favorite, but I really loved the sesame tuille because I’m a bit of a sesame seed nut. I used to pour myself a bowl of black sesame seeds for a snack as a kid.
At the end of the evening, the chefs of the evening, plus some of the other chefs who would be participating in the Saturday AgFest Grand Tasting and/or Live Chefs’ Challenge assembled for a photo:
Left to right: Chefs Eric Faivre (Grand Wailea Resort), Chris Schobel (Fat Daddy’s BBQ), Connie DeSousa (CHARCUT Roast House), Sheldon Simeon (Migrant/Māla), John Jackson (CHARCUT Roast House), Wesley Holder (Pūlehu), Jessica Pelland (charbar), Pierre Lamielle (Food On Your Shirt), Jeff Scheer (Maui Executive Catering), Lyndon Honda (Laulima Events & Catering), Isaac Bancaco (Ka‘ana Kitchen) and Tylun Pang (Kō at the Fairmont Kea Lani).
We started off the evening at Capische? with several cocktail and charcuterie offerings. Amusingly enough, our first cocktail was The Last Word.
Chef Chris Kulis set out an enormous marble table top spread of charcuterie selections—cured meats, sashimi, cheeses, pickled veggies and an amazing “Caesar” Crudo (a piece of fresh fish topped with garlic aioli, abalone vinaigrette and black salt). Chef Chris wasn’t able to participate in the Saturday AgFest events because he was just about to open up The Market Maui (we’re hoping to check it out on our next trip to Maui). Last year, though, his dish got my vote for fan favorite.
Earlier, we had told Melissa about Ilocandia Filipino Store in Lahaina, a place Sheldon had told us about on a previous trip. He swears their lechón (roast pork) is the best but it sells out FAST. Melissa had to go to Lahaina, so she stopped there around 1pm and sure enough, there was no more pork. She did, however, get one of the last bags of chicharrones, which she brought down to the hotel lounge for us to sample…and then stashed in her purse for later. Sheldon and Chef Chris found this entertaining.
After Capische? we hit Ka‘ana Kitchen. We ate here for my birthday last month, and Chef Isaac Bancaco served us nearly everything on the menu. I took much nicer photos of his food then, so I’m not including any here. At this stop we sampled the pressed watermelon with feta, ‘ahi and tomato with burrata, and tako with chèvre, all of which we tried at our dinner. (If you really want a look at our Ka‘ana Kitchen stop, check out Melissa’s blog post—she also has a good view of the massive charcuterie table from Capsiche?)
Our final stop of the night was Chef Sheldon Simeon’s new home, Migrant. The restaurant’s slogan is “Come my house. Eat.” It’s quite fitting since what’s served up is very much based in local comfort food. Some of it might seem a little odd to non-locals, such as the “Bottom of the Kalbi” salad—a dish of shredded cabbage and warm kalbi sauce as a dressing. In the vast majority of casual restaurants you go to here, especially in Hilo—where Sheldon and Shake are both from—many meat dishes are served on a bed of cabbage. I’m not among those who do, but a lot of folks like to eat the sauced-up cabbage at the end of the meal. (No photo because with so many media folks trying to shoot the dish, with all the camera flashes and iPhone lights, my shot ended up more weirdly lit than I’d thought at the time.)
And of course there’s this:
A bowl of chicharrones in place of a bread basket. We needed a refill anyway, since Melissa’s snack baggie from earlier was empty.
This “Fat Chow Funn”—roast pork, achuete (achiote), pipinola shoots and Parmigiano Reggiano—was one of my favorites. This was a slightly different preparation of the dish Sheldon made for the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival Mālama Maui dinner last year. I just love fat, chewy noodles.
It’s worth noting before I conclude that the Maui AgFest, the new Grown on Maui dinner and our own trips to the events would not be possible without the efforts of Charlene Ka‘uhane. Charlene is a passionate supporter of Maui chefs and farmers and works night and day to put everything that goes into the Maui Ag weekend together.
So that’s it for my second Maui AgFest 2014 installment. I think I’ve got one more in me…
Disclosure: Sugar + Shake were hosted by the Maui Visitors Bureau, the Maui County Farm Bureau and The Grand Wailea. Travel and accommodations were provided by the hosts, as well as entry to the Festival and the Grand Tasting, but no compensation was received for this post, and the opinions expressed are strictly my own.