Whether you're a film buff, a food buff, or just want to gawk at all of the Hollywood buffs, the Maui Film Festival at Wailea is the place to be with its larger-than-life parties through Sunday.
The 12th annual film fest kicked off Wednesday night, as the full moon rose over Maui, and Capische? and Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar dazzled moviegoing crowds at separate events.
The culinary lineup keeps getting better and better, and on Friday the Taste of Chocolate will be a show-stopper at the Four Seasons Resort Maui.
Taste of Wailea is the premier food event of the film festival. It not only draws the largest crowds, it offers an icy martini bar, chef-manned food booths, live music and admission to Celestial Cinema, just down the slope of the Wailea Gold and Emerald Course.
Maui Film Festival photo
Each of the parties includes admission to the Celestial Cinema the evening of the event. Other culinary parties that we'll talk about here are the Taste of Wailea coming up on Saturday, and the Cosmic Closing Night Fashion Show and Poolside Party Sunday at Hotel Wailea.
Let's indulge in Taste of Chocolate first.
"Friday is our over-the-top event for chocolate lovers!" says Barry Rivers, festival co-director with his wife, Stella. "Eat it, drink it, love it."
* Taste of Chocolate: From 10 p.m. to midnight Friday at the Ocean Terrace Lawn of the Four Seasons Resort Maui. Enjoy live music, delectable upscale desserts, fancy drinks, beer, wines and dessert wines. Cost is $150 per person.
* Taste of Wailea: From 4:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday at David Leadbetter Golf Academy. (Must shuttle there.) Enjoy food by 13 top chefs and live music by Brasil Connection. Cost is $140.
* Cosmic Closing Night Poolside Party: From 10 p.m. to midnight Sunday at Hotel Wailea. Pupu, drinks and DJ music for $70.
* For tickets: Visit www.mauifilmfestival.com or call 579-9244.
"Dress up and come experience the never-been-there, never-had-that, extraordinary flavors and sensual experience that is the Taste of Chocolate. If you've attended before, you know what I mean. If you haven't, come experience what you've been missing."
For starters, the drinks sound incredible. Ruby Slippers will take you back in time to 1939, one of the best film years ever, when "The Wizard of Oz" premiered. It consists of Dows Ruby Port, Godiva Chocolate Liqueur and Scharffenberger Brut for effervescence.
"This year's theme is bubbles," says newlywed and Four Seasons Executive Pastry Chef Rhonda Ashton-Chavez, who is all pumped up about creating a wow factor for the event after a relaxing honeymoon.
"One of my desserts will be pomelo mousse with Earl Grey tea foam. Others will have fizzy aspects with carbonated components."
The stage will be set on the Four Seasons' Ocean Terrace Lawn with ice sculptures, six dessert stations and live music by Eddie Avilas.
Other must-try cocktails at Taste of Chocolate include the Mocha Arancia, Framboise White Chocolate Truffle, Java Classique, and Mocha Caramel Macchiato with a perk me up of chilled espresso.
"This year, we're pairing drinks with chocolate, so you may have a glass of wine or champagne with a chocolate and experience them together."
The pastry chef's "newest toy" is a machine that pops out hot, fresh mini doughnuts. She'll serve them with milk, dark and white chocolate sauces. Or head to the chocolate fountain and dip the housemade marshmallows, short bread, banana cake, and fresh pineapples and strawberries into the molten goodness.
"I know the doughnuts and the items from the chocolate fountain will go fast," she says. "People love to eat what they know, and also what they are intrigued by. Like we'll make frozen mousse with liquid nitrogen, just like it's done at El Bulli in Spain."
From 4:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, "buffs" will gather at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, better known as the event site with jaw-dropping views.
The two-block ice martini bar will cool you down on the hot slopes of Haleakala, gourmet foods will be manned by top chefs, and expectation will run high for attendees to rub elbows with the stars.
"With Wailea's best restaurants and hotels participating, this event should not be missed!" says Michael Rose, who is the beverage coordinator each year. "With its great food, fun spirits and breathtaking views, it's the party to watch and be watched."
Kimo Correa and his crew from Southern Wines and Spirits will serve a selection of wines from around the world, Ocean Vodka will pour four martinis such as Fresh Cosmo, White Water, Watermelon, and Lemon Blossom; and you may sip assorted cold brews from Stella Artois to Leffe Blonde to Hoegaarden.
You may listen to hot Latino sounds of the Brasil Connection, and if you bring children under the age of 21, they may enjoy a special alcohol-free seating area throughout.
Of course, the food is all A-list and is sure to steal the show. Each chef will tempt you with two to three dishes at the various food stations.
For instance, Mala Wailea will make adult mac 'n cheese, and Balinese gado-gado salad; Ruth's Chris Steak House will serve its famous veal ravioli as well as bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman will do summer gazpacho and grilled basil, tomato and cheese sandwiches. Matteo's will make slow-braised lamb shank Osso Buco, beef tenderloin and fresh Maui Onion focaccia in cherry-barolo wine sauce. Mulligan's on the Blue will have you kickin' up your heels with crab-stuffed bacon- wrapped shrimp, Harp beer-battered fish 'n' chips, and Irish soda bread ice cream.
Savor pork tacos and spicy tuna flat bread by Four Seasons, risotto of pancetta and shave ice by Bistro Molokini and spicy ahi pita crisps and spinach tiropitas by Pita Paradise.
Other participants include Gannon's, Joe's, Spago, Ko and Capische?.
Last, but certainly not least, the Cosmic Closing Night Fashion Show and Poolside Party will be catered by Capische?, the signature restaurant of Hotel Wailea, which will serve as the co-host. From 10 p.m. to midnight Sunday, wrap up the film fest with the culinary artistry of Chef-owner Brian Etheredge, who has won too many prestigious awards to mention here in this space.
Come hungry and hit the four stations with self- service platters of cheeses, assorted salumi, galantine and rillette, and sashimi and cured fish. Chefs will man the action stations, grilling lamb, Kobe beef and veggies for sliders; and use liquid nitrogen to make frozen gelato and brulee spoons at the fire and ice dessert bar.
"Refreshing Stella Artois beer and Maui's organic Ocean Vodka cocktails will provide the lubrication and the plumeria-scented Maui night will infuse the senses at this first-ever official Maui Film Festival wrap party," says Rivers about the grand finale. "Hope you can make it!"