Side Dish: Extra Scoop of George Clooney

Miz G praises charitable chefs and gets ready for a summer full of feast-ivals.

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Story by Gossip Gourmet |  Illustration by Guy Junker

George Clooney dreamsWhy yes, Clooney, I’ll take another chocolate-dipped strawberry. . . .”

Miz G found her editor slumped over a laptop, mumbling in her sleep, as the magazine’s deadline fast approached. “Drat,” the groggy grammarian said upon awakening. “It was just getting good. Oh well, I can wait until the party.”

Dreams, apparently, do come true. When the movie stars land on Maui for this year’s film festival, Maui No Ka ‘Oi will be there to greet them. On Saturday, June 18, we’re hosting an exclusive late-night soirée at Spago for the glitterati—a.k.a. folks with VIP patron passes, for purchase on the Festival’s website (www.mauifilmfestival.com). And if cocoa-covered fruits are anywhere on the premises, our editor will invite George Clooney—or a reasonable substitute—to feed them to her.

Do you, too, have delicious daydreams? Fulfill them at this summer’s smorgasbord of festivals.

Dig into irresistible, golden onion rings at the Maui Onion Festival, May 7 at Whalers Village in Ka‘anapali. What makes Maui’s trademarked bulb so brag-worthy? Grown in fertile Kula soil, it’s among the sweetest onions in the world. Fans claim to eat ‘em like apples. And they’ll be doing just that during the fest’s raw-onion-eating contest. Don’t miss the cooking demonstrations and free samples courtesy of Hawai‘i’s best chefs—Roy Yamaguchi and D.K. Kodama, among others—on the main stage. Later they’ll sweat it out under the VIP tent, cooking for a panel of judges, including yours truly. (Spare mint, anyone?) Find the most appealing recipes—past and present—here.

Clink steins with artisan beer makers from around the nation at the Maui Brewers Festival. Bring lawn chairs and blankets to picnic in style at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, May 14. (808) 242-7469, www.mauiarts.org

On the last Wednesday of every month, Slow Food Maui hosts deliciously inspiring Taste Education sessions where local food artisans explain their craft. On May 25, Melanie Boudar of Sweet Paradise Chocolatier will talk chocolate. On June 29, William Jacintho of Beef and Blooms will share how to expertly prepare local, grass-fed beef. Leis Family Class Act Restaurant, Maui Culinary Academy, 310 Ka‘ahumanu Ave., Kahului; 6–7:30 p.m. $15. (808) 243-2290, slowfoodmaui.org.

The second week of June, the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, transforms into an oenophile’s paradise. Eavesdrop on visiting winemakers and master sommeliers at the thirtieth annual Kapalua Wine & Food Festival. Learn to use magnums, flagons, and flutes with impunity. Root for your favorite Aussie and Yankee grapes during the “You Say Shiraz, I Say Syrah” showdown. On Sunday night, waltz down to the gorgeous beachfront lawn for the Seafood Festival finale, when top island chefs vie for MNKO’s “Best of the Fest” award. Click here and here for more information, or purchase tickets at (808) 665-9160.

Take a power nap before heading to Wailea for another round of parties. The celebrity-studded Maui Film Festival kicks off Wednesday, June 15. In addition to celluloid fantasies, foodies can revel in a gamut of gourmet events: the fest’s opening and closing parties at Capische, the Taste of Wailea, the Taste of Chocolate, and, of course, the aforementioned June 18 Spago Soirée. Find the full schedule on our calendar page.

Watching cutthroat shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef, it’s easy to forget how benevolent cooks can be. After all, their life’s work is feeding strangers. They dazzle us with Grand Marnier soufflés on special occasions and spoon-feed us Vietnamese pho when we’re sick. Without their spicy gifts, our lives would be bland indeed.

Maui chefs are particularly philanthropic. Consider their annual fundraising calendar: wine dinners, beach buy-backs, art affairs, garden parties, bake sales—even “Fur Balls” (for which the island’s four-legged residents gratefully bow). Our kitchen heroes plant school gardens, donate dinners to auctions, mentor apprentices, and share prize-winning recipes. All this generosity pours from bleary-eyed folks who clock out waaay past a decent bedtime!

Whew! With that in mind, Miz G applauds the 2011 ‘Aipono Award-winning chefs and restaurants. Past winners recently shared what motivates them. Elaine Rothermel, whose A.K.’s Café won Best-kept Secret in 2006, says, “I show up for work to see people smile because they had a great meal—that’s all I need to return the next day.” Chef Ivan Pahk of Sansei and Cane and Taro says he “felt like a rock star” when he won Chef of the Year in 2007. “It is an awesome honor!” Bobby Santos, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award before retiring from the Maui Culinary Academy last year, asks, “Who wouldn’t be thrilled to be recognized by the best magazine on Maui for any culinary award?” Awww . . . It’s our turn to blush!

And finally . . . Gossip’s very own annual Golden Fork Awards.

Lousiest Landlords: Whoever evicted Ku‘au Mart. Where are windsurfers supposed to go for free leftovers now? Auwe!

Bitterest Sweets: La Provence in Kula, is unparalleled for its perfect croissants—and its stereotypically French  proprietor. This ain’t Burger King—you’ll have it his way.

Hottest Grand Opening: Flames spelled out J-A-P-E-N-G-O against a backdrop of palms and Pacific Ocean. Geishas greeted guests in a swirl of dry-ice smoke. Lightning-quick sushi chefs dished out Kona abalone, crab, and particolored mamenori (soy paper) rolls.

If this is a sign of things to come, Maui diners are in for a treat!

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