The first annual Ka’anapali Fresh festival took place August 31st to September 2nd as hotels, restaurants, chefs, and farmers from around Maui gathered in the Ka’anapali Beach Resort area for a handful of spectacular culinary celebrations.
Being from Vancouver (and John originally from Iowa), we’re well versed in farm-to-fork dining experiences and it was fantastic to see that concept in action while we were so far from home. Throughout our stay we ate a plethora of local ingredients in both simple and complex dishes — from grilled ono, fresh snapper or ahi tacos to taro rolls, poi, Maui Gold pineapples, and famous Moloka’i purple sweet potatoes. We walked a lot, we swam even more, and we enjoyed discovering what The Valley Isle had to offer.
Here’s a recap of the events that made up this first (and not the last) Ka’anapali Fresh.
The Event: Aloha Reception (at the Hyatt Regency Maui), Dinner Tastings (at the Westin Maui Resort), and Island Style Desserts (at the Sheraton Maui)
Features: One course per venue over three hours, starting at sunset. A complimentary shuttle ran between each venue but you could also walk along the beach pathway (which is what we did). There were signs and volunteers to guide the way but the live music and white tents were a giveaway whenever you approached the next stop. Each guest received a wrist-band (for entry to the venues) which had 3 tear-away tabs to be cashed in for drinks but there was also a cash bar.
Highlights For Us: There was just so much food! We are still talking about the tuna tacos from Executive Chef Scott McGill (TS Restaurants) that were at our first stop, the Hyatt. The Mai Tais at the Westin were also our first taste of island spirits. The bonbons (chocolate-covered ice cream balls with fresh coconut) at the Sheraton for dessert rounded out the evening perfectly. We loved exploring three venues and walking to each along the beach at sunset. It was a great introduction to the area on our first night.
Grown on Maui Farmers Market
The Event: Farmers Market at Whalers Village
Features: Farm-fresh eggs, pineapples, smoothies, brocolli, bok choy, green beans, kale, pohole (young fern shoots), and offerings from the Alii Kula Lavender Farm from the area known as Upcountry Maui (where you’ll find farms, goat cheese, flowers, etc.)
Highlights For Us: We grabbed two breakfast burritos for $5 a piece and walked around to see every piece of fruit and vegetable that was grown right there on Maui. A definite highlight was meeting the people who grew the food that we were eating throughout Ka’anapali Fresh.
Ka’anapali Coffee Tour
The Event: Touring MauiGrown Coffee
Features: We went upland with Maui Country Farm Tours to meet Kimo Falconer of MauiGrown Coffee. Participants piled into a tour bus and exited onto the red dirt on the upland slopes of western Maui. We picked coffee cherries, squishing out the beans, and learned about MauiGrown’s varietals like the highly-rated Mokka.
Highlights For Us: I wrote a full blog post about this portion of the festival.
Ka’anapali Fresh Food & Wine Festival
The Event: Bringing Maui’s Farms to Ka’anapali Tables
Features: Lanterns were hung up between palm trees on the golf course as each guest received a souvenir wine glass and a tray to wander and gather samples from each station. Chefs from local resorts and restaurants were paired up directly with farmers, side-by-side, so you could learn more about what you were eating. There was a silent auction benefitting the Maui Country Farm Bureau and the entertainment that evening was superb as Makana then Spyro Gyra performed under the stars.
Highlights For Us: We thoroughly enjoyed our first samples of Maui Blanc Pineapple Wine from Maui Wine at Ulupalakua Ranch along with their sparkling pineapple wine. We loved the Moloka’i purple sweet potato gnocchi prepared by Westin Kāʻanapali Ocean Resort Villas Chef Francois Milliet who won the Ka’anapali Fresh Gold Award for this dish that was prepared with wild boar bacon, Kula onions, currants, and pine nuts. The musical highlight of the trip for us was witnessing Makana’s mad guitar skills.
The Event: Maui’s Award-Winning Brunch at Ka’anapali Beach Hotel (“KBH”)
Features: Indoor and outdoor buffet lines (with everything from rotisserie lamb to an omelette station) at Maui’s “Most Hawaiian Hotel” prepared by Chef Tom Muromoto. Tiki figures, bamboo, live ukulele and hula performances near the lush green lawn and gardens at the Tiki Terrace Restaurant.
Highlights For Us: The champagne did not stop flowing. I recall that it was from Barefoot and had a silver label so I want to say it was their Brut Cuvee. Again, it did not stop flowing. The live performers and dancers were very talented, providing the perfect soundtrack for our meal. We fell in love with KBH, one of the hotels we stayed with during our trip. We even walked over from another resort a few days later just so we could do the breakfast buffet again.
Artful Creation of Organic-Infused Cocktails
The Event: Mixology with Chandra Lucariello of the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas
Features: We learned three cocktail recipes from Chandra, who was charming, entertaining, and very good at her craft. There was a Maka Tai (a twist on the Mai Tai), a Sparkling Rose Sangria, and the Solera Punch made in a huge silver bowl.
Highlights For Us: Sampling Chandra’s Maka Tai (similar to a Mai Tai) and learning the history of some of the spirits and cocktails.
1 oz Old Lahaina Silver Rum
1 oz Old Lahaina Dark Rum
1/2 oz DeKuyper Orange Curacao
1/2 oz House-made falernum (Chandra’s sweet syrup recipe)
3/4 oz Fresh lime juice muddled with 3 fresh pineapple slices and 1/2 Tahitian vanilla bean
Concert Under the Moonlight
The Event: Backyard BBQ & Official Launch of Maui Brewing’s Ka’anapali Golden Ale with Third Eye Blind in Concert
Features: We walked around the golf course and along the beach to get to the Royal Lahaina Resort for this outdoor dining event at sunset. There was a definite buzz in the air about headliners Third Eye Blind and this event was completely sold out.
Highlights For Us: We were introduced to Maui Brewing Co. at the media luncheon when we first arrived and instantly became fans. The Ka’anapali Golden Ale brewed for this event was crisp, fresh, with slight fruity overtones. We also tried the Bikini Blond Lager here and the Big Swell IPA. The wind was howling but that night our eyes were wide watching the sun slip into the ocean on the horizon. The streaks of clouds in the sky turned bright orange, then dimmed to red as Ka’anapali Fresh came to a close. Kathy Becklin was at our table and told us that it was a great sunset to witness, even as a local.
Early Bird tickets for the entire Ka’anapali Fresh schedule were available for $365 and individual event tickets ranged from $42 to $150. Organizers (like Shelley Kekuna) did a fabulous job with the festival. There was always a shuttle or an option to walk wherever we needed to go, which was nice. Everything flowed smoothly, there was always live music, and the farmers and the chefs were passionate, knowledgeable and very eager to share their product and their story.
I know Vancouverites travel to Maui (we met quite a few of them there) so if you’re a foodie who’s looking for a vacation getaway, mark Ka’anapali Fresh down in your calendar for next year. Follow Ka’anapali Beach Resort on Twitter and Facebook for more information. They are active on social media (there’s also a Maui Social Media User Group or #MauiSMUG) and their blog posts are a great resource.
View all of John’s photos in his Flickr set, and mine in my Flickr set.
Shout out to Ka’anapali’s social media super team Peter Liu and Jill for their excellent coverage of this event.