Side Orders • February 22, 2018

Mama’s Fish House rose like cream to the top to be named a semifinalist in the uber-prestigious James Beard Awards this year. Hostess Kelsie Meza (left) is at the greeting stand with Floor Manager Noele McClure. The finalists will be announced on March 14. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

AROUND THE TOWN . . . As a former panelist for the Oscars of the food world, the James Beard Awards, I used to say how unfair it was for our island state to be grouped in the Western region with California. After all, the Golden State has an economy bigger than most nations and countless restaurants with big-name chefs. The region also includes Nevada with foodie haven Las Vegas.

But I guess it doesn’t matter anymore — as Hawaii has seven, count ’em, semifinalists chosen from more than 20,000 entries for this year’s awards. On Maui, Mama’s Fish House swam ahead as semifinalist for “Most Outstanding Restaurant.”

“We’re all in a bit of shock, actually,” says Mama’s Karen Christenson, talking from Tasmania. “We’re definitely honored and awed. This is something that doesn’t happen in Hawaii very often. I know that my parents (founders Floyd and Doris Christenson) are thrilled.”

While it comes as no surprise that Mama’s was chosen, a baker from Molokai threw me for a loop. Only because the Friendly Isle has never been a mecca for foodies per se. But it does have ono grinds.

George Kanemitsu of the 80-year-old Kanemitsu’s Bakery & Coffee Shop on the main drag in Kaunakakai is a semifinalist in the Western region.

The only other one with Maui ties is Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar on Oahu, the sister outlet of Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar with two venues here and more elsewhere. Vino was named as a semifinalist for Outstanding Wine Program. Finalists will be announced March 14.

Moving along, there are some tasty things on Maui’s calendar.

“We are in the final stages of planning our upcoming Art Affair fundraiser that will be held Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. and some tickets are still available,” explains Director of Development Erin Wooldridge. “The evening features a live and silent auction, live music, dancing, a gourmet seated dinner by Chef Bev Gannon’s Celebrations Catering, signature cocktails and an opportunity to gather and celebrate with the community of visual art supporters.”

Gannon’s menu includes passed pupu of steamed dumplings, tempura shrimp and spicy tuna roll. Family-style fare ranges from teriyaki salmon to chicken yakitori to braised short ribs to veggie entrees and dessert. For tickets, call 572-6560.

Big Beach BBQ is a popular food truck that has teamed up with a delivery service in South Maui.

“Head Chef and founder, Jerry Lauther, whips out culinary masterpiece after culinary masterpiece, ranging from nachos to tacos and sliders to pine dogs,” says Hopper Maui owner Jacques Perwin, who delivers the fare to diners. “The meat is smoked in kiawe and the fish is caught locally, both offering you a genuine taste of the islands that’ll keep you coming back for more. Order today at www.hoppermaui.com.”

I’ve heard of champagne and yoga. But beer and yoga — with a little champagne? Why not? Social by Spa Grande will present Boot Camp, Beer and Bubbles at 5:30 p.m. today at the Reflections Pool at Grand Wailea.

“Get moving, get social as we welcome back Katie Healy, one of the island’s most sought-after boot camp and personal training instructors,” offers Liz Patterson of Spa Grande. “Then enjoy Moet & Chandon and Maui Brewing Company beer social hour. Boot camp is for all levels.”

The cost is $30 per person. Call Grand Wailea at 875-1234.

Fahgettabout . . . Guinness. Country First Fridays will kick up its heels at Mulligans on the Blue in Wailea with live music and dancing March 2 and Coors Light will be on special. The menu sounds fun, too.

* Got restaurant/dining-event scoop? Call Dining Editor Carla Tracy at 242-6342; or email carlatracy@mauinews.com.