HOW SWEET IT WAS . . . Each year, the Maui Onion Festival keeps growing on me and I must say, emcee Ramsey Wharton of Hawaii News Now did a bang-up job out in the hot sun all day getting the crowds revved up.
Staged at Whalers Village Fine Shops & Restaurants in Kaanapali, the daylong event pitted Kaanapali Beach Resort chefs against each other in the Maui Onion Challenge, the first contest of the day.
First Place winner was Chef Wesley Holder of Pulehu: an Italian Grill at Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas, who wowed the judges with his Maui Onion Tortellini En Brodo. It was a rich, Maui Cattle Co. beef and Maui Kula Onion broth with housemade tortellini filled with three cheeses. Do try it at Pulehu. A passerby picked up my bowl in the judging and slurped it all down after I was done, deeming it "crazy good!"
Chef Wesley Holder of Pulehu: An Italian Grill won the hearts and the palates of the judges of the recent Maui Onion Challenge with his Maui Onion Tortellini en Brodo with rich beef and onion broth and housemade ricotta cheese.
CARLA TRACY photo
Since it was also Cinco de Mayo, the festival jumped with its first Mixed Cocktail Contest. Sean King, bar manager of Cane and Taro, won.
In the Maui Onion Recipe Contest, Chef Jojo Vasquez of The Banyan Tree at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua bowled the judges over with Liver with Maui Kula Onions. Tyke Dante Gramuglia ate the most and the fastest in the Keiki Maui Onion Eating Contest, and Darrell Ghormley Jr. won in the adult division.
CIAO DOWN ON MAUI . . .With the recent closing of Matteo's as well as Aroma d'Italia restaurant in South Maui, island diners are wondering who will step in to fill the Italian void.
In a departure from his high-end Tri-Star Restaurant Group with Wailea entities such as Sarento's on the Beach and Nick's Fish Market, Aaron Placourakis will take over Matteo's as Manoli's Pizza Co. soon.
"We're going to continue to fill the niche that Matteo started," says Placourakis. "I'm continuing with the mind set of affordable for families. Manoli is the name of my dad and my son. We hope to open this summer with pizzas, salads with fresh, local ingredients."
We also hear an Italian restaurant will open in Wailea Gateway below Monkeypod Kitchen.
BITS AND PIECES . . . Has anyone seen rock legend Alice Cooper as the pitch man in the television ads for Mala Wailea? He's one of the famous partners in that restaurant, by the way.
Speaking of famous people, the stars will soon be upon us at the Maui Film Festival at Wailea and we hear the special event tickets just went on sale. This year, the Starry Night Moondance on June 17 will move to Mulligan's on the Blue, which can accommodate 450 people. The festival runs June 13 to 19 with events such as the Opening Night Reception at Capische?, Taste of Wailea outdoors above Celestial Cinema, and Taste of Chocolate at Four Seasons, according to founder-director Barry Rivers. For tickets, visit www.mauifilmfestival.com.
The 39th annual Seabury Hall Craft Fair from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday is a draw for many reasons, one of which is the Restaurant Row.
"People from all over the island enjoy coming Upcountry to ooh and ahh over the beautiful flowering trees, and spend a fun day on the 11-acre campus, eating delicious food, enjoying live entertainment and checking out the fun activities and exhibits," says Gayle Hart Seabury parent coordinator and director of development.
Popular items include mochiko chicken from Tiffany's; eggplant parmesan by Serpico's; seafood chowder by Hula Grill; and braised beef and potatoes by Dewar's Four Seasons. You'll also find chow fun, hamburgers, hot dogs, Caesar salad, kalua pork and rice, turkey tacos and roast beef sandwiches.
In celebration of its 22nd anniversary, Lahaina Grill will run its kamaaina special of 50 percent off entrees Mondays through the end of May. Just show a valid Hawaii State ID. "It is our pleasure to offer this special to the community," says owner Jurg Munch,
Tickets are being snapped up fast for Taste of Makena, set for 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 19. The Rotary Club of Maui's signature fund raiser. To be held at the Kula Kai Lani Estate of Joe Sugarman, it will feature food from numerous top restaurants, such as A Saigon Cafe, Roy's Kaanapali and much more.
* Maui Scene / Side Orders. The Rotary Club of Maui's "Taste of Makena" fundraiser will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. May 19 at the Honua Kai Lani Estate. An incorrect location was published on Page S24 of Thursday's Maui Scene. (Parking for the event will be at Mulligans On The Blue in Wailea, with free shuttles provided to the estate in Makena.)
The Maui News apologizes for the error.
We hear A Saigon Cafe's owner Jennifer Nguyen just got back from France, where she ran in the Marathon de Paris with 35,000 other competitors. Of course, they were served wine and cheese en route.