Side Dish: Sniffing out Truffles

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Illustration by Guy Junker

rudolph illustrationHappy holidays, my fellow gourmands! While you’re out window-shopping in Pa‘ia this season, don’t miss Penguini. This tiny walk-up window on the north side of Pa‘ia Inn dishes out handmade gelato in a myriad of locally sourced, luscious flavors: dragon fruit, lemon-rosemary, and Mexican chocolate. What, you might ask, would possess someone to set up shop next-door to the über-popular Ono Gelato? Well, it turns out that Penguini’s owner, Melissa McKelveny, is a bit of a gelato rebel—known over the years for peddling incomparably fresh sweets from the back of her truck. I can still taste the trio of sorbets I sampled once when she swooped through Ha‘iku Marketplace. Now we don’t have to rely on chance encounters—Penguini is open from noon to 8 p.m. daily. In addition to sorbets and gelatos, try the handmade truffles rolled in tarragon or spiced with cayenne. (Leave one of those red-hot treats for the reindeer and just see if Santa doesn’t double your loot under the tree.)

Speaking of truffles. . . ! Dedicated readers of this column know how Miz G loooves les truffes. Not just chocolates, and not funky, chemical-laced truffle oil, but real, savory, earthy truffles. If you, too, adore the fungi, perhaps a trip to Eugene is in order for the Fifth Annual Oregon Truffle Festival. Mark your calendars: Old World France will meet New World Oregon for a fête du truffes (celebration of truffles) January 29 through 31, 2010. In addition to lectures and dinners, a two-day seminar will train twelve lucky canines in the aristocratic art of truffle hunting! Perhaps your dog has the right snuff.

The Noble Chef (the festival formerly known as the Noble Grape) will take place at the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui in Wailea on Saturday, November 14. Don’t miss one of Maui’s best annual foodie events: an elegant five-course  dinner designed by Maui Culinary Academy’s chef instructors, fresh-faced students, and distinguished alumni—including award-winning chocolatier Stanton Ho, Chef James McDonald of I’O and Pacifico, and Chef Jake Belmonte, formerly of Ko. Tickets are $175. Call 984-3261. That’s right, sharp-eyed readers, Chef Belmonte left Ko to become an Academy instructor. Happy for him, sad for us.

Few sights are as sad as the shuttered doors of Chez Paul, the quaint French restaurant in Olowalu. Adieu, mon ami! Aside from being a great cook, chef/owner Patrick Callarec is a lot of fun, and we hope his next venture rewards him well. If the thought of life without the possibility of spooning créme brûlée out of a pineapple (a Chez Paul specialty) deranges you, as it does us, head to Honolua Store, where you’ll find the dessert of your dreams in the upscale café case.

Meanwhile, Duke’s Beach House should open any day at the new Honua Kai Resort and Spa. A second Fernando’s Mexican restaurant opened at Queen Ka‘ahumanu mall—this one with a liquor license. Now you can enjoy your flautas with cerveza. Ole! Maui’s only Indian restaurant, Shangri-la by the Sea, closed but was immediately replaced by Maui Masala down the street, in Kïhei’s Dolphin Plaza. The chai is free, but the chutneys are nonexistent. Just who are the fickle restaurant gods and where do we go to petition them?

Mauians signed petitions aplenty at the Labor Day “eat-in” on the lawn at Baldwin High School. Slow Food USA sponsored 200+ similar “Time for Lunch” events around the nation, urging legislators to fund “real food” in schools. Slack-key star George Kahumoku Jr. performed for the potluck crowd, who soundly declared that Cheez Whiz and Snickers bars do not satisfy. Honestly. Let’s feed our keiki (kids) lunches that nourish their bodies and minds.

Finally, a holiday tip from Miz G: Wondering what to stuff your favorite foodie’s stocking with? How about reservations for the ‘Aipono Winemaker’s Dinner Series? Sign up for a year’s worth of remarkable culinary events, each hosted by an esteemed winemaker at an ‘Aipono Award-winning restaurant. Proceeds benefit the Maui Culinary Academy.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good bite!

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