Side Dish: Gourmet Marathon

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Illustration by Guy Junker

marathon-illustration-mauiLace up your trainers, fellow gourmets, because this spring’s foodie festivities require some laps around the island.

The marathon starts April 3rd with the Maui Ag Festival at the Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu. Make a beeline for the Taste Education tent, where you can get your gourmet on at any price: go gangbusters with a $25 Taste ticket or try an all-locally grown plate lunch for $8. Play barnyard games (burlap-sack races and the like) and admire the Maui Cattle Company’s steer and lambs on display. You’ll find Miz G in a corner fiendishly hoarding ‘ulu (breadfruit) croquettes—that is, if the Hotel Hana-Maui chefs are kind enough to bring a repeat of last year’s scrumptious appetizer. (Please, please, pretty please!)

Join Maui No Ka ‘Oi Magazine in honoring the chefs and restaurateurs who work hard to wine and dine us all at the 2010 ‘Aipono Awards Gala, Sunday, April 18th. Ballots have been tallied for Restaurant of the Year, Chef of the Year, and perennial favorite, Best-kept Secret. You voted, now watch the crème de la crème collect their wins. This event sells out quickly; call 244-8331 to reserve your seats. Proceeds from the gala and yearlong ‘Aipono Wine Dinner Series benefit Maui Culinary Academy.

Hana chefs have another chance to woo us, during the annual Taro Festival Saturday, April 24th. Hightail it out to the Hana ballpark to pound poi, eat ‘ono grinds—a.k.a. delicious food—and watch the aunties dance hula. Stay overnight to gorge on taro pancakes Sunday morning, then tour the lo‘i (taro patch) at Kapahu Living Farm. Call 264-1553 for details.

Jog over the pali for the 21st annual Maui Onion Festival, May 1st at Whaler’s Village in Ka‘anapali. Watch Miz G sweat it out in the judges’ tent, deliberating over onion-inspired delicacies prepared by Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s, Mark Ellman of Mala, D.K. Kodama of Sansei, James McDonald of I’o, and reigning champion David Paul Johnson of David Paul’s Island Grill. Crowning a winner at this year’s cook-off will be extra difficult, given the all-star line up of competitors.

Speaking of all-stars, the savvy folks behind Aloha Mixed Plate and Old Lahaina Lu‘au (OLL) finally blessed their handsome new baby, Star Noodle, in the Lahaina Industrial Park. Sneak peeks of the menu are promising: house-made ramen, Singapore noodles, chow mein, and Lahaina fried soup (a nostalgic chow fun recipe dating back to the whaling town’s WWII days). This isn’t your grandpa’s noodle shop, however—snazzy sake cocktails kick the city sophistication up a notch.

Down the road at Olowalu, OLL partner Michael Moore and his team will reopen the shuttered Chez Paul (sob!) as a take-out deli. Forgive Gossip for shedding a few tears in memory of the former restaurant’s coque au vin.

On South Side, chef Peter Merriman is brewing up excitement with his newest venture, Pete’s Island Pub. The hip gastropub in the new Wailea Gateway Center is sure to be an instant favorite. Next door, Pita Paradise offers gyros and fresh-caught fish at its second location—this one with sit-down service. We don’t know about you, but Miz G needed another spot to score baklava ice cream cake. (With temptations like this on the trail, it’s a good thing we’re pounding some pavement!)

Worn out after chasing down Maui’s best bites? Kick off your sneaks and join the online potluck at ShareYourTable.com, a Hawai‘i-based site spilling with photos, blogs, and videos. Current and former Honolulu Advertiser food columnists Wanda Adams and Joan Namkoong team up to share local food history, recipes, and how-to’s. Deee-lish!

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