FOOD FOR THOUGHT. . . Maui is quite the dynamic dining destination in 2009. But like many others, I have a wish list of what I'd like to see happen to make this a safer, tastier place.
I wish Hawaii would follow New York City's lead to ban trans fats from restaurants. I wish certain distributors would stop injecting carbon monoxide into fish to enhance their coloring. I wish imitation crab would be labeled as "krab" on Maui menus. And I wish more Maui restaurants would go sustainable and green.
Of course, so many restaurants already grow their own and/or use local produce. The leaders of the pack include I'o and Pacific'o, Merriman's Kapalua, Pineapple Hill and also A Saigon Cafe. In fact, owner Jennifer Nguyen of A Saigon Cafe grows it all in her backyard. She just celebrated 14 years in the biz Monday with good pals and six bottles of Veuve Cliquot, her favorite bubbly.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Santa Fe Cantina partner Patrick Silva (left) and Manager Kevin Amorous stand by their mural of the American Southwest by Alberto Zalmas.
Besides having its own 8-acre farm Upcountry, I'o will continue its I'o Wine Club from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday with the theme Cal Italia - California-made Italian varietals will be paired with regional cuisine.
The e-vite reads, "Break out the Gucci and Versace, hop in your Ferrari, and speed on down to the always fashionable I'o restaurant."
I'o is also offering half off its pupu menu in the bar only now through Jan. 31.
Cafe Marc Aurel in Wailuku will uncork its wine series this month at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The theme is "Bubbly" and you will taste bubbly wines from Spain, Italy, France and Tasmania. It includes a pupu cheese platter and insight into the bubbly biz by wine expert Alan Jahns, owner of JMD Beverages.
TASTE THE SOUTHWEST . . . We hear that 90 percent of diners who flock to the Santa Fe Cantina, tucked away across from the movie theater in Lahaina Center, are locals and Maui residents.
On a recent visit, I found this to be true, recognizing many of the faces in house. Taco Tuesday is a big draw from 4 to 8 p.m. with $1 tacos. And happy hours that run daily from 3 to 6 p.m. and again from 10 to midnight, attract locals with $3 Tecate cans, $4 margaritas and $2 tacos.
Many of the authentic New Mexican recipes are inspired by the mother of partner Patrick Silva. For breakfast, you may wake up to tamales, chilaquiles and Huevos Rancheros. At lunch and dinner, savor menudo, green chile beef and grilled fresh island fish.
"New Mexicans eat more chile than Mexicans and flour tortillas are preferred to Mexico's favorite - corn tortillas,"?says Patrick's mom, Nundy Silva.
Live music plays and drinks range from the Fuzzy Worm to El Donkey Whip.
BITS AND PIECES . . . Are you searching for ever more inventive types of sushi? Look no further than Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar with outlets in Kapalua and Kihei.
Called the "New Sushi Looks," the menu is very different from traditional sushi. All items are priced reasonably and are perfect for sharing with pals.
"In keeping with Sansei's reputation for cutting-edge and innovative dishes, we think these are a great showcase for fresh local products," says owner DK Kodama. "All with great combinations of flavors and textures. All with a little bit of a kick."
In addition, Kodama says he looks forward to the opening in February or March of Quattro in the old Hirohachi near Foodland in Kihei. "My chef partner is Eric Arbogast," he says. "I believe in his food so much, I decided to go in with him on this concept. He's so talented. It will be Latin-fusion. And, my Cane & Taro in Kaanapali will now have an April opening as we must replace the structure."
* Contact Carla Tracy at email@example.com.