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Ka’anapali Fresh, celebrating the Maui food scene

Sorry, guys, but this is going to make you jealous. It just is. We went to Maui. And it was as marvelous as you would expect. 

Actually, no. Let me restate that. It was more marvelous than you would expect. And here’s why. 

We’ve been to Maui once before, about a decade ago, and to Kaua’i and O’ahu a decade before that. Both those trips were fabulous, except for one thing: The food. For countless years, the Hawaiian food scene has been synonymous with spam musubi, schlocky luaus with tiki buffets and uninspired plate lunches. If you stayed in a place with a kitchen, you could try to head that off with a trip to the grocery store, only to be faced with expensive, sad produce flown in from the mainland. 

On Maui in particular, most of the arable land used to be dedicated to two major commodity crops: Pineapple and sugar cane, almost all of which was for processing and export. Consequently, any produce for actual human consumption on-island had to come from somewhere else. But that’s changing. 

The commodity crops have scaled back considerably, and a new culture of small, independent family farmers is on the rise. Farmers markets are cropping up across the island. Fresh produce is now becoming so available that even the chefs of the big resorts are featuring it. And this was the central premise for the inaugural Ka’anapali Fresh food and wine festival, a three-day bacchanal celebrating the emergence of this new food culture that took place August 31-September 2, 2012. 

dpaul and I were invited to attend, courtesy of the Ka’anapali Beach Resort Association, representing the collective of resorts that sprawls up the West Maui coast north of Lahaina. These run the gamut from shimmering high rises to low-slung bungalows. Some are hotels, others are condo/timeshare resorts, coming in at a wide range of prices. What they all share is access to one of the best beaches in Hawaii, overlooking the channel to Lanai and Moloka’i.

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