Side Orders • April 28, 2016

AROUND THE MOUNTAIN . . . Thousands of people will get to the root of Hawaiian culture by driving out to Hana for the East Maui Taro Festival from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

The 24th annual event will be pounding from start to finish with nonstop food items with taro, or kalo, incorporated into them, culture and music in Hana Ballpark. Admission is free and open to the public.

“There is so much to enjoy – the vendors, the hands-on activities, the music, the hula,” says event coordinator Judy Kinser. “The 20 food booths are always a main attraction. There are many delicious local dishes; all plates having some type of taro.”

In addition, Travaasa Hana chefs will participate in a Poi Supper benefit for Hana Youth Center on Friday at Hana Ranch; and on Sunday, Barry Villiarimo of Barefoot Cafe & Catering at Hana Bay will present the Taro Pancake Breakfast with one taro pancake, link sausage, scrambled eggs and taro hash browns.

Driving around the backside of Hana on the way home? A great pit stop is the Ulupalakua Ranch Store with burgers made of elk, venison, ranch beef or lamb. Dine outside and enjoy the views and mosey across a rural stretch of highway and do a tasting at MauiWine.

The “old jail” has been magnificently renovated under the supervision of MauiWine President Paula Hegele, and you may book appointments there to taste estate-grown and back-vintage wines.

“The old jail is the former office of Captain James Makee built in the 1880s,” says Hegele. “It received its endearing nickname in the plantation and ranching eras when it was used as a holding place for wrongdoers awaiting transport to the county jail.”

For the King’s Visit tasting at the old jail, you may sip a chenin blanc with a li-hing-mui-dipped pineapple; syrah with cucumber in lemon and mint; grenache with provolone; and malbec with a date. Call 878-6058.

With jacarandas in bloom, Upcountry is a vibrant spot this time of year. Reader Carol Meyer raves about the fresh monchong stuffed with crabmeat at the Kula Bistro on a recent visit. “Everything was perfection,” she advises. “I’ve eaten at so many restaurants all over the world and the meal was phenomenal.”

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BITS AND PIECES . . . Getting into a wine-tasting dinner groove Friday will be Lahaina Coolers Restaurant & Bar on Dickenson St. The three-course dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. with lobster skewers and tropical-pineapple salsa paired with Noble Vines sauvignon blanc, according to Sean Stover; followed by crab-and-shrimp cheese pizza rolls in pesto dipping sauce and Black Stallion chardonnay; and salmon Florentine puff pastry with spinach, gruyere and garlic paired with Alexander Brown pinot noir. Cost is $60 per person. Call 661-7082.

Da Vine Corner in Paia will also get in on the liquid fun with sake tasting classes Tuesdays, starting next week and continuing May 10 and 17 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Certified wine and spirits specialist Jodi Komine teaches the classes with food pairings. Cost of all three is $105 and one class only is $40. Call 579-8904.

Better late than never. You may sign up for the Tacos & Tequila cooking class from 5:30 to 9 today with everything from classic guacamole to macho nachos at Sugar Beach Events in north Kihei.

Chef-owner Lee Anderson will teach how to set up the perfect taco bar; cook elotes, or Mexican street corn; and add churros and tres leches cake into the mix. And you may relax with a tequila cocktail. For more details, call 856-6151 or visit www.sugarbeacheventshawaii.com.

Last but certainly not least, I would be most remiss to not mention Heinz Gerner when writing about things Cinco de Mayo and Mexican. The legendary chef and restaurateur passed away under Hospice care in Las Vegas recently. He was the founder of Nachos Grande (see related story) and enjoyed a shot of fine tequila now and then from his once vast collection.

So let’s do a toast to Heinz on Cinco de Mayo. But don’t drink and drive. As George Carlin once said, “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila . . . floor.”