Taste of Wailea: 13 Maui Eateries in One Great Spot



Tempura lobster and crispy spicy ahi roll, from Ko at the Kea Lani. The prettiest plate at Taste of Wailea.

John Heckathorn

Nothing better than dinner and a movie. 
Except maybe dinner and a movie and Maui.
The Maui Film Festival has a signature culinary event, Taste of Wailea. 
Biting Commentary, who never gets to Maui enough, is always glad to go. It's a chance to sample the best from a baker's dozen of Maui restaurants, all in one spot.

                                 

And it's a not a bad spot, on a hilltop above the Wailea Emerald and Gold Golf Course, with a view that encompasses the whole Wailea-Makena coastline and Mookini in the distance.

There was so much to eat even Biting Commentary couldn't consume it all.

                                 

 Some highlights:

  • The scene-stealer was Spago chef Cameron Leuark (above), who stood out in the hot sun next to an even hotter fire, basting a pig with a brush he fashioned out of rosemary and thyme and other herbs. A whole pig, ordered eight months earlier, much of which ended up in his pulled pork sliders with kochujang and pineapple kimchee, a dish everyone should taste before they die.
  • Tastiest vegetable award went to Capische at the Diamond Resort, which whipped up salads with fresh baby artichokes. "They were a lot of work, take off the little leaves, slice them by hand, marinate them just right" said chef Chris Kulis (right), "but they're worth it."
  • The most beautiful plate award (and also the longest line) went to Ko at Kea Lani, which served crispy tempura-battered lobster, spicy tuna roll and asparagus, although its pineapple cream cake topped with a gold foil-flecked chocolate macaroon was equally beautiful.
  • Raw award: The Four Seasons Maui did great spicy ahi poke on warm flatbread and a Greek restaurant called Pita Paradise did ahi with a basil-caper-yogurt sauce on what else, pita bread. Pita Paradise owner John Arabatzis caught the ahi himself. "I do the fishing," he said. "All I'm good for in the restaurant is drinking up the beer."
  • The three good things award went to rollicking Irish pub Mulligan's on the Blue Golf Course, which did crab-stuffed shrimp wrapped in bacon.

But the most wonderful thing award goes to pastry chef Natalie Wilkinson (left) of the Grand Wailea. Taste of Wailea starts at 5 p.m., when it's still quite hot out. 

Wilkinson did shave ices—mojitos, lava flows and mai tais. Why didn't someone think of this before? Shave ice for grown-ups, alcoholic, not too sweet, complete with a bit of basil pineapple sorbet just to tickle the palate at the end. Thanks, Natalie.

Why does Taste start so early? Because all you have to do is stroll down the hill and you're at the Maui Film Festival's stunning outdoor Celestial Cinema, just in time for opening short before the double feature.

Next year's Taste of Wailea is June 16, 2012. You may want to be there.

 

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