Honored to partner with Outrigger Resorts and Kapalua Villas Maui to bring you a behind the scenes look at the Kapalua 2016 Food and Wine Festival in Maui, Hawaii ~ the longest running food and wine event in the United States of America.
I knew before arriving to my Maui destination this event was going to be a favorite. My job does have its perks. The event itself, hosted on the grounds of two spectacular Kapalua properties, the Montage Kapalua Bay and the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua are enough to get anyone a little excited. I was lucky enough to be staying at the Kapalua Villas Maui, condominiums nestled right between these two resorts. After familiarizing myself with the area, I must admit I had great access to festival activities from my location. More on the villas in another post, but I look forward to taking my family back to this property in the near future to experience everything Kapalua.
Just the backdrop of these West Maui resorts are enough to woo travelers to this stunning Pacific island destination. However, sprinkle in celebrity chef demos, tastings and educational seminars with industry leading winemakers and master sommeliers, a Grand Tasting and an elegant Seafood Festival, one can see why locals and out-of-towners flock to this beloved event year after year.
Many festivities throughout the weekend are small, intimate affairs, a key ingredient, in my opinion, as to why this festival remains successful . The intimacy makes you feel like you are part of something special.
Rain showers on Maui are common, but we were kept dry at Friday evening's Grand Tasting under this stunningly lit tent.
Wine sessions and a celebrated welcome reception for 4-day pass holders and festival VIPs make Thursday the day when this festival kicks itself into high gear.
It's hard to imagine a more beautiful setting to sip premium wines from some of the very best wineries around the globe.
Served with plentiful Maui sunshine and a golf course view, 4-day pass holders dined on colorful Cauliflower Pupusa Bites at an exclusive invite event held at The Plantation House Maui.
Grilled Miso Salmon tucked in delicate steamed buns with pickled cucumber, also from The Plantation House.
Always a treat to observe firsthand the intensity, creativity and deliberateness each chef spent making and serving their gastronomic indulgences. Much thought, time and a "no expenses spared" theme was common throughout.
Sansei Seafood went above and beyond at Friday's Grand Tasting with their Maguro Sushi ~ topped with Saikio miso and a ginger scallion salsa. It could not get made fast enough for those wanting second, third and fourth helpings, a testament to its deliciousness.
Sansei's Charred Octopus with seared pineapple and a Thai curry reduction was also a festival favorite.
The Grand Tasting hosted by the Montage Bay Kapalua showcased Maui's best Chefs sharing their very best bites. It was "the place" to be seen in Maui that particular Friday evening.
Nothing was more plentiful over the weekend than the fresh, local seafood. Everything from prawns, crab and lobster gnocchi and seared diver scallops, to name a few, were offered and prepared thoughtfully, highlighting their delicate tastes.
Spago Maui impressed us all with their creative presentation of Spicy Ahi Tuna "Poke" in Sesame-Miso Cones.
Chef Kenneth Sniffen, part of the of the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua culinary team, making magic at Sunday's Seafood Festival.
One of my favorite bites of the weekend came from the Ritz-Carlton's own Kai Sushi ~ Cherry Smoke Kampachi and Bocco-Avo Roll with soy-balsamico and sesame-hibachi shishito with crispy shaved garlic. I have reminisced about this dish many times since returning home. It was taste inspiring and the presentation was on point. Let's just say I made sure to re-taste this dish several times to be sure it was my favorite.
More beauty in a bowl these "Katzu-Katzu Style" Hokkaido Sea Scallops in a Kona Lobster bouillon with noodles were savory perfection, from the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.
Even New Zealand Master Chef, Brent Martin, headed to the islands to show off famed cooking skills with an Ora King Salmon, prepared tataki style with apple-kiwi chutney and a mint-cucumber puree.
Sake was plentiful at the Grand Tasting and paired well with the Hawaiian inspired cuisine.
Delicious and stunningly presented from Chef David Viviane of Cane & Canoe at Friday's Grand Tasting ~ Opakapaka Ceviche ~ Maui Gold pineapple, papaya puree, local avocado with a Molokai potato chip.
Sliders from the famed "Burger Shack" at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua showed us all how sliders should be done: Homemade, branded brioche buns, Kiawe Smoked Anchiote-Citrus Hefeweizen Berkshire Pork, Pinotage Maui Onion Marmalade, St. Andres Triple Cream and Lahaina Mango-Jicama.
Notable winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett of La Sirena pouring one of her own selections at Friday's Grand Tasting.
Was thrilled to see wines of friends and colleagues from Oregon and Washington presented at the festival. Wineries from all over the world came to showcase many of their rare and celebrated vintages. Guests were treated to wines from New Zealand, Napa Valley, Italy, Germany, Sonoma and Santa Barbara Counties. I'm not sure it was possible to taste them all.
The beauty and attention to detail of each bite never failed to impress.
All the way from New Zealand, Big Sky Wines brought their most famed selections.
Sunday's Seafood Festival included more incredible food and wine, but also showcased Kona Brewing Company's Hawaiian-inspired beers on tap (their Big Wave Golden Ale is one of my favorites). And how can I forget the Absolut Elyx cocktail bar serving up some amazingly creative drinks. It was one heck of a way to close the festivities of the weekend.
Chef Jin Hosono of Japengo took a second place win in Sunday's "Best of the Fest" contest sponsored by Maui's No Ka 'Oi magazine with his Seared Kampachi (pictured above) ~ shichimi pepper with ikura on top of a Japanese mountain yam chip, uni, arare shiso, house made eel sauce and saikyo miso vinai. First place was awarded to Morimoto Maui for their incredible Toro Tartare.
I have no doubt guests of this years festivities are already looking ahead to next year's festival (June 8- 11th 2017) and wondering just how it could possibly be topped. With such great local, national and international sponsors, I'm sure they will find a way.
The Kapalua Food and Wine Festival is by far an event worthy of the paradise surrounding it. I will be counting the days until I can hopefully return to experience it all over again.