It wasn’t until I started dating my future-husband that I discovered I was a bit of a foodie. Prior to that I was your standard broke college student eating a can of corn for dinner most of the time. But here at last was this man willing to/wanting to take me out to a nice dinner.
We do this thing. We take bites, and enjoy bantering back and forth about what ingredients stand out, what the flavors evoke. It really takes a meal to a whole new level and it’s something we’ve shared, amidst the many hobbies and interests we don’t have in common.
It was also around this time I did a short stint as a food and restaurant critic with Maui Time Weekly. (But it’s hard to be a critic when you love everything you eat)
When I’m not a burnt out mother, I also LOVE to cook food for the very same reasons I love to eat it. The art of crafting something nutritious and tasty can be absolute magic… not to mention chopping ingredients can be highly therapeutic.
All of that is to say that when I was offered the opportunity to attend the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, I was ecstatic. I’ve always wanted to attend an event like this. People do it all the time, but not this girl. My friend Wisa, a little more refined and seasoned, has been there done that and I was like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I must say we were the perfect little “media team” on task by the lovely Malika Dudleyz. And we took on our job of eating, drinking and instagramming quite seriously.
The general vibe of this festival is very uplifting. We arrived at sunset, when the Ka’anapali sky softens and then intensifies again as the sun drops behind the ocean. As the night fell and the gentle bistro lighting took over, the sprawling green lawn of the timeless Sheraton Resort Maui was transformed to a glowing, festive dream of amazing food and drink and a good mix of people.
Perhaps we were best described as little schools of fish, exitedly migrating from one booth to another. Amidst the crowd is a woman dressed like a hula-girl-lamp-shade, another gal is twirling glowing hula hoops. There was a magician, a henna artist, a dude on a saxophone, island musicians and probably a bunch of stuff I missed.
Now, let me just get this out there, I’m typically a pop the cork and over-pour kind of gal and there’s nothing wrong with that… but, theres definitely something about taking the time to appreciate the individual flavors, aromasand bodies of a wine, it’s also fun to geek out over the different types of grapes, and methods of curation. Rhetorics of wine really do something for me as well; terms such as “effortlessly light” and “ample bodied” make consuming wine an experience instead of an adult beverage. Wine is truly an art and a science.
The Hawaii Food and Wine Festival creates an environment that brings together vineyards and sommeliers from around the country as well as Hawaii based. What a treat to interact with the people who have a real heart for the product they offer. It was especially nice to check in with some of the Sonoma County wineries who have been directly affected by the current wild fires that continue to wreak havoc in these special and historical locations.
In addition to wine, there was a Stella Artois station as well S craft cocktails which were offered by local mixologists. My favorite was the Ebb & Flow, by Chandra Lucariello of Southern Glazier’s Wine & Spirits of Hawaii. This pink beverage garnished with grapefruit and lavender boasts ingredients including Maui Ocean Vodka, Lillet Rose, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, fresh lemon and graft and hibiscus lavender manuka honey syrup. A bit bubbly and refreshing.
After some drinky drinky and mingling, it’s of course time to indulge in some eats. This event, is called “Global Street Food” which in my interpretation would be a culturally diverse offering of intensely gratifying eats and drinks. A celebration of indulgent and tasty experiences using a mix of invented and expected ingredient pairings. And although the theme ushered in a global theme, there was a very strong presence of our local community. All ingredients were obtained from local farms. This element of sustainability, particularly in an island culture, is as commendable as it is essential.
Each food booth is set up with a banner introducing the chef, the chef’s restaurant, location, and the food channel worthy tasting. The chefs were present to represent their unique preparation, which were crafted with the assistance of University of Hawaii Maui College culinary students. So how do you decide where to start? I struggled with this briefly. Do I start with hawaii chefs and work my way to England? Or visa-versa? But then it dawned on me “you begin with lobster, of course.”
My favorite dish of the evening was from Yuji Wakiya from Tokyo, Japan. He offered a crispy lobster spring roll with chili sauce. It was that total enjoy-it-with-your-eyes-closed moment of the best thing you’ve ever eaten. I had a lot of these moments, but this one takes the cake.
I’m not going to lie, though. The night was not without awkward moments. Fish and ice-cream paired together is something only a pregnant woman could think of, or maybe an inspired chef. Though I would not put this on next week’s dinner plan, it was a great experience to open my mind and pallet and try something new.
So here we have world renowned chefs, and fresh local produce, meats and ingredients, wine brought in from tragic circumstances and other places around the world. It was the perfect conglomerate to celebrate how things both big and small, near and far, paired, unrelated, artful, scientific, spicy, sweet, red, white, eccentric or expected can come together beautifully to make something amazing.
Much like the food blends. So too do we.
It was a big surprise to find out that there was, for the first year ever for Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, a grand finale of fireworks, spanning 3 songs (I think) and marking the end of a fantastic evening.