Kāʻanapali Fresh featured three days (and nights) of events, showcasing the restaurants of the Kāʻanapali area and the locally-raised agricultural bounty of Maui. © 2012 Sugar + ShakeShake & I went off to Maui earlier this month — yes, again — to attend the inaugural Kā‘anapali Fresh weekend. Kā‘anapali is a popular resort area of Maui, and they’ve launched the Kā‘anapali Fresh weekend as a way to showcase the restaurants of the area and Maui agricultural products in a similar fashion as the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival. I really like these Maui festivals because I think they do the best job of placing the farmers equally as prominently as the chefs.

And — this is such a girly comment — after having attended quite a few tasting events, I have to say that the Kā‘anapali Fresh folks had the most beautifully decorated events; their signature Food & Wine Festival night even offered cushy armchairs as well as cushioned barstools for the high-top tables. I appreciate any event that offers ample seating. It’s so rare.

Kā‘anapali Fresh runs over three days and nights. The first evening’s event was the Progressive Kā‘anapali tasting. Three resorts shared hosting duties, each offering dishes for a course — appetizer, entrée and dessert.

Poke Tacos from Hula Grill at Progressive Kā‘anapali, the first of the Kā‘anapali Fresh Food & Wine Festival events. One of our favorite dishes of the evening. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

The finished Westin dish was our Progressive Kā‘anapali favorite: Crispy Kalua Pork Belly & Poi with Lomi Kula Tomato. © 2012 Sugar + ShakeAppetizers were served up at the Hyatt Regency Maui, a combination of items from their restaurants and neighboring restaurant Hula Grill Kā‘anapali. Our favorite were these Poke Tacos from Hula Grill (above).

Next stop: the Westin Maui Resort for entrée dishes. (By the way, unless you really enjoy exerting yourself during mealtime, I highly recommend you take the offered shuttle service. People will tell you, “Oh, it’s just a 10 minute walk down the beach,” which makes it sound like a pleasant post-sunset stroll…but you just get hot and sweaty and end up with sore feet.)

At the Westin, the Crispy Kalua Pork Belly & Poi with Lomi Kula Tomato (right) was our pick for best dish. The poi was hand-pounded on site. You could watch it being pounded and ask questions about poi.

At the second Progressive Kā‘anapali stop, the Westin Maui Resort had poi being freshly pounded for their dish. © 2012 Sugar + Shake This was particularly cool because you could see all the different stages, from raw taro to partially-pounded to finished poi. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Desserts at the Sheraton Maui were lovely and liquor sponsor Southern Wine & Spirits brought a selection of after-dinner liqueurs and spirits. (No photos because it was dark, and we arrived at this spot so late we couldn’t snag a table, making it difficult to take any photos.)

Day Two of the weekend featured a Made on Maui Farmers’ Market at the Whalers Village Beach Walk. I love Maui farmers’ products, but every time we go over for these events, the farmers’ market always happens days before we leave so I never get to take any goodies back.

Kula strawberries, yum! © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Also from Kula Country Farms: blueberries! Unusual for Hawai‘i. © 2012 Sugar + ShakeHowever, when we admired the Kula Country Farms blueberries, farmer Chauncy Monden gifted us with a container of them. We devoured them on the spot. Homegrown blueberries in Hawai‘i are an unusual sight. It’s exciting to see our local farmers branching out into new items. The berries were a mix of tart and ultra-sweet. I wished I could buy boxes and boxes of these to take home for desserts and pancakes.

The gala Kā‘anapali Fresh Food & Wine Festival on the Royal Kā‘anapali Golf Course featured a dozen chef and farmer pairings with two dishes apiece, and wines matched to the dishes. The wine pairing didn’t quite work, in my opinion, since the wines were offered in tents completely separate from the food tents, and were often far from the chef whose food was supposed to match the wine. But I love that the concept was all about integrating the food with the wine.

One of our favorites of the evening: Pork Belly Sous Vide, truffle unagi sauce, pickled vegetables by Chef James Domingo, Leilani’s On The Beach. It won Second Place in the competition between the featured chefs. © 2012 Sugar + ShakeThe dishes were a mix of hit and miss. But I always try to be forgiving at tasting events, since the conditions are far from ideal and not representative of eating in the chef’s controlled environment. One of our favorites of the evening (right) was affectionately called “Pork Pork Pork” by the servers: pork belly sous vide, truffle unagi sauce and pickled vegetables by Chef James Domingo of Leilani’s On The Beach. It came with little pieces of chicharrones on the plate. Yum. It won second place in the “Best in Show” competition for best dish of the night; the first place winner, Westin Kāʻanapali Ocean Resort Villas Chef Francois Milliet’s Sweet Moloka‘i Potato Gnocchi with wild boar bacon, Kula onion, currants, pine nuts, and micro basil was our other favorite. (See below, right)

This represents just a small fraction of the dishes we ate; just the ones I could snap while the light was decent. There are a few more in the gallery.

Lobster won ton min served in tomato lemongrass jus with Syl’s tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms & sweet corn by Chef Thomas Muromoto of Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel. © 2012 Sugar + Shake The First Place award-winning dish: Westin Kāʻanapali Ocean Resort Villas Chef Francois Milliet’s Sweet Molokai Potato Gnocchi with wild boar bacon, Kula onion, currants, pine nuts, and micro basil. This was our other favorite. Guess we have good taste! © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Roasted pork with Syl’s (local farmer) roasted eggplant, served with daikon kim chee, in crispy won ton pi from Chef Thomas Muromoto of Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Curried shrimp and mango “ice cream” cone, namasu vegetables, crunchy beet nest by Chef Chris Schobel of Hula Grill Maui. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Full moon and lanterns at Kāʻanapali Fresh Food & Wine Festival. © 2012 Sugar + ShakeI tried photographing all the pretty décor, but it never came out particularly well. I couldn’t resist including this shot of the moon and the lanterns, though. I love how the shape of the moon mirrors the round paper lanterns.

We didn’t stick around for the concert by Spyro Gyra, but the crowd seemed to be really excited about it. (Actually, we could hear them back at our hotel room, so it was almost like being there. Except I could lie down on our bed.)

The third day kicked off with a champagne brunch at Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel, which has been named Maui’s best brunch buffet numerous times. (There were a few extras for the festival weekend, but the brunch is a regular Sunday feature of the hotel.) It’s not as fancy as the Ritz-Carlton Easter Brunch we had (but that’s to be expected), but offers an impressive array of items. You could really park yourself and transition from breakfast to lunch over a three or four hour period. Shake attacked the waffle bar. He’s still on that waffle kick.

Alaska Distillery Smoked Salmon vodka at brunch for Bloody Marys. It’s...interesting. Definitely salmon-y. Probably best in small doses. © 2012 Sugar + ShakeAs part of the special brunch offerings for Kā‘anapali Fresh, a Bloody Mary bar featured a pair of drinks crafted by Southern Wine & Spirits’ Director of Mixology, Chandra Lucariello. One was a tasty, fairly standard-issue Bloody Mary. No big surprises. Refreshing. The other, however, incorporated this crazy Smoked Salmon Vodka. Vodka which, no joke, has had smoked salmon steeped in it. We tried a little bit straight. It wasn’t awful. It really was quite interesting. Definitely fishy. I could see making an amuse bouche for in-between courses with this, like a granité. We didn’t think either of us could handle a whole drink’s worth, so we skipped the salmon Mary.

It was OK to skip the Bloody Marys, though, since after brunch, we attended a cocktail class with Chandra featuring tropical drinks. (Yes, I had a very tiki drink month.) The class was called “The Artful Creation of Organic Infused Cocktails,” but the title didn’t quite match up with what was covered in the class. Oh well. Maybe they meant “organic” in the sense of having grown there.

Chandra’s a very talented mixologist (plus, she always looks so fabulous) and she covered three different cocktails: a take on a mai tai, a sparkling sangria and a punch. The punch was made in the most ginormous punch bowl I’ve ever seen. It was more like a bathtub.

After brunch, a cocktail class with Chandra Lucariello, Director of Mixology for Southern Wine & Spirits. © 2012 Sugar + Shake The Maka Tai, mixologist Chandra Lucariello’s interpretation of a Mai Tai in honor of Kā‘anapali Fresh. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Ingredients for the three cocktails in Chandra’s class. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Chandra’s Solera Punch, made with rum and port. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

The closing event, the Concert Under the Kā‘anapali Moonlight, featured backyard barbecue food—sliders, tacos, ribs—and a concert by Third Eye Blind. No photos except this one of the colorful sunset, as the food wasn’t nearly as impressive as at the other events of the weekend, and I didn’t bring a camera suitable for concert photography.

Beautiful sunset sky at the closing event, the Concert Under the Kā‘anapali Moonlight. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

A beautiful close to a fabulous weekend. We wish the Kā‘anapali Fresh organizers much success!

Disclosure: Sugar + Shake were hosted by the Maui Visitors Bureau and Kā‘anapali Fresh. Travel for Shake, 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.