Ka’anapali Fresh: Media lunch and progressive dinner

Ka'anapali Fresh ©dpaul brown

It stands to reason that a festival dedicated to the emerging food scene of an area would have plenty to eat. Even so, I don't think we were prepared for the barrage of food that awaited us. 

We kicked off  the weekend with a media lunch event at the Ali'i, where we were staying. We were greeted with leis, and mixed and mingled until Fred Torres, cultural director of the Ali'i, announced the commencement of the lunch by blowing the traditional pu shell horn to the four directions and offering a blessing. 

Ka'anapali Fresh ©dpaul brown

The lunch was prepared by the Hyatt Regency's Chef Greg Grohowski, with each course paired  with a beer from Maui Brewing Company. To enhance the pairing, Chef Grohowski incorporated the beers into the dishes. We started with a salad of Kula greens and strawberries, with a macadamia brie crouton and Maui Brewing Co. Golden Ale vinaigrette. 

#kfreshmaui Kula greens and strawberries, macadamia brie crouton, golden ale vinaigrette

With this dish we were privileged to get a sneak preview at Maui Brewing's Golden Ale, which they would release officially on the final night of the festival. It's a full-bodied ale made with fresh lilikoi and guava, which only came to rise on the finish, adding freshness to the brew.

Next up: Maui Cattle Co. tenderloin, sweet potato hash, edamame and hamakua mushrooms, Maui Brewing Co. Scotch Ale demiglace.

#kfreshmaui papaya-marinated Maui cattle tenderloin, sweet potato hash, edamame and hamakua mushrooms,  scotch ale Demi glace

Maui Cattle's beef is extraordinairily lean, so they used papaya to tenderize the beef. It was positively fall-apart tender. The Scotch ale, a higher-ABV and heavily malty ale, added sweetness to the demiglace. Delicious. 

Finally, Kula strawberry shortcake on a lavender scone with whipped sour cream.

#kfreshmaui Kula strawberry shortcake, lavender scone, whipped sour cream.

The chef joked that this was his least photogenic dish, but i'm inclined to disagree. This was paired with Maui Brewing Co.'s CoCoNut Porter, the beer that put them on the map. 

Ka'anapali Fresh ©dpaul brown

Brewer Garret Marrero is passionate about his craft, affable and loquacious on the matter. He's also easy on the eyes.

Ka'anapali Fresh ©dpaul brown

The hardest part was trying, and failing, to show some restraint. After all, this was a substantial meal, and we had to save room for the evening's kickoff event, the progressive dinner spanning three Ka'anapali resorts. 

The first stop was at the Hyatt, at the south end of the beach, for appetizers. The theme was seafood, with a huge raw bar in the center. Among the highlights we really enjoyed were some okonomiyaki-esque Korean pancakes.

Ka'anapali Fresh ©dpaul brown

And Chef Gevin Utrillo and Sushi Chef David “Jay” Ledee's ceviche tacos, in crisp wonton shells with guacamole.

Ka'anapali Fresh ©dpaul brown

All this while sipping sake or champagne as the sun made its way to the horizon between Lanai and Moloka'i. As dusk fell, it was time to head to the Westin for the second course. 

We were greeted with mai tais — not a bad start — and almost immediately drawn to the local taro farmer, explaining how taro is grown. Nearby, a family member pounded taro into poi in the traditional method. 

Ka'anapali Fresh ©dpaul brown

Poi is a word that strikes fear and dread into the heart of mainlanders. Everytime I've uttered it, I'm met with a twisted visage of disgust or horror. Personally, I think it's got a bad rep. Yes, it's bland and it's pasty, and those are its charms. I tasted the freshly pounded stuff. Still bland, still pasty, yet had a fluffier, almost chewy texture. I'm not saying poi is going to take the US by storm, but it's an important food to consider. It's nutrient-rich, low-glycemic and very high in fiber. Consider that the next time you settle in for a plate of potatoes. 

Being the main course, heavier plates prevailed at the Westin, presided by Chefs Garrett Fujieda and François Millet; our highlights were a super tender Colorado lamb chop, a hearty slab of pork belly on a Chinese spoon with a dollop of poi underneath, and seared beef and hamakua mushroom poke. And, of course, there must be fire dancing. 

Ka'anapali Fresh ©dpaul brown

Our final stop was the Sheraton, whose original building is the oldest hotel on the strip, a bubble-balconied tower backed up against Black Rock. As we strolled across the expansive lawn, warm breezes blowing in from the sea, we were serenaded by the cheerful tones of Hawaiian group Nā Leo.

Ka'anapali Fresh ©dpaul brown

We've had the pleasure of seeing them before, here at the Stern Grove Festival, and they kept the mood light and fun as we enjoyed our sweet ending to the evening. Chef Greg Gaspar celebrated Ka'anapali's local coffee farm with an array of coffee-themed desserts, including a memorable Ka'anapali coffee creme brûlée. As we lounged on the lawn in the warm evening, listening to the sound of the nearby surf, the full moon — the blue moon — rose above us, flooding the yard with light. A guy could get used to this … 

Ka'anapali Fresh ©dpaul brown

ReviewOur trip to Ka'anapali Fresh, including airfare and lodging, was compliments of the Ka'anapali Beach Resort Association. We received no monetary compensation for this post. All views are our own.

  • I love your blog! You should totally post some of your stuff on
    My friends and I use it all the time to find random food blog stuff. Anywho, cool site!