I woke up from my food coma post Welcome Reception the next morning and thought it was all a dream. Partially because it was, no joke, the best sleep of my life. I’m fairly certain the beds at the Ritz are enchanted, the bedding is probably woven from unicorn hair and the pillows stuffed with magical cotton candy, because seriously, it was a sleep experience like none other. But then I peeked out the window and saw the view.
And was all like, “Pheeew! I’m still in paradise.”
Good thing I got my rest because today was going to be a big day. The prior night’s festivities were just a warm up.
Things were about to get real at the Kapalua Wine and Food Festival: Grand Tasting.
I was glad to see that the festival moved the grand tasting down by the beach this year. I mean, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, right? The tents were all done up pretty like with glowing lanterns, and we got to enjoy a sunset on the beach while we wined and dined.
- Kai Sushi, Chef de Cuisine Tadashi Yoshino
- The Banyan Tree, Chef de Cuisine Jojo Vasquez
- Pineapple Grill, Executive Chef Isaac Bancaco
- Merriman’s Kapalua, Executive Chef Neil Murphy
- Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, Executive Chef Kaipo Nakata
- The Plantation House, Chef/Partner Alex Stainslaw
First bite of the evening was Alaloa Mu Shu Beef with shaved carrots and Chinese BBQ sauce on a mantou steamed bun from Kai Sushi Bar. One of the things I love about Hawaiian cuisine is all the different regional influences you see. This Chinese-style bun represented well.
The Banyan Tree served up big, juicy Lamb Sliders with roasted tomatoes. You know how sometimes you go to an event and all the food are these itty bitty bites, so when you go home you’re forced to make yourself a sandwich? Yeah, this wasn’t going to happen tonight. It was clear no one would be leaving this party hungry.
Pineapple Grill caught my eye with their giant steamers of fancified Shumai, stuffed with Keahole lobster, ginger toban jiang (a spicy chili-bean paste), watercress and pink peppercorn.
They must have gotten the luxury memo, because they also prepared a Kobe Beef and Kona Crab Sushi Roll with black sesame miso, nitsume (a dark, sweet eel sauce), and truffle oil.
My favorite bite of the evening was from Sansei – a cool and refreshing Kona Kampachi Tataki Sashimi served over Ho’opono Farm baby arugula, and adorned with Ho Farm’s grape tomatoes and a balsamic reduction. The kampachi was sweet and fresh, the flavors were balanced, and the balsamic brought a touch of richness and acidity. Simple, but utterly delightful.
And then came an onslaught of desserts from The Ritz-Carlton pastry chefs.
There were cream puffs and banana caramel beignets, chocolate crunch cake and nutty coconut bars. As someone who likes to taste a bit of everything, this was quite overwhelming. My plate was embarrassingly full. Ok, fine. Maybe I had two plates. I should have asked for a sign that said, “I’m sharing this!”
By this time, people are fed, well-wined, and feeling pretty darn good. Cue, musical guest, Henry Kapono. He’s a Grammy-nominated Hawaiian singer/songwriter. He’s kind of a big deal.
We danced until they made us leave…which was fine, because the weekend was just beginning!
(Maui winning at life, to be continued…)
31st Annual Kapalua Wine and Food Festival
June 8-10, 2012
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua