Ready to up your game in the farm to table foodie playoffs this year? This weekend, the Maui Ag Fest is expecting 8,000 people to show up at Maui Tropical Plantation. While those kind of numbers might sound like there won’t be enough room for your tastebuds, don’t be afraid. There’s so much going on at the Ag Fest you can certainly find your niche: food trucks, gourmet tastings, flower booths and locally made doggie treats. There will be keiki arts, horse rides, a main stage with acts like Kalapana, contests and the College of Tropical Agriculture will have an education tent.
Those wanting to focus on the food should head to the Grand Tasting from 11am to 2pm. The Grand Tasting pairs chefs with farmers with themed challenges for their dishes. To add a layer of difficulty, they must make the dish in their appointed cultural cuisine of the islands. That means Chef Sheldon Simeon joins up with Oluwalu Nui Farms to take the tomato on a trip to Portugal and Ian Cole of the Breadfruit Institute teams up with Chris Kulis to bring us a Hawaiian dish. That’s 12 farms, 12 chefs and 12 amazing plates to taste for $35 (there-sale price is $30 before midnight, April 3).
Ag Fest wasn’t always this big. The first Ag Fest happened in June 2007 in the War Memorial soccer field. They skipped 2008, then moved to the Maui Tropical Plantation and settled in there from 2009 on. The 2009 Ag Fest was the first one that kicked off the concept of the Grand Tasting, hooking up farmers with chefs and exposing our palates to some of the most inventive garden inspired cuisines that $30 can buy.
“The goals of the Ag Festival is first and foremost to have allow residents and visitors to meet farmers, ranchers and those involved in Ag on Maui and to allow farmers, ranchers, and others involved in ag a market to sell and share their products and services,” says Charlene Kauhane, who organizes the event for Maui County Farm Bureau. “Ultimately, Maui Ag Festival allows everyone to connect with those who buy and sell agricultural products (from food to plants and more) as well as to talk story with those who work in ag on county, state and federal levels.”
There will also be flower demonstrations and a new flower contest. A new food product recipe competition kicks off, where the winner will get help from Maui Food Technology Center. Also new this year: free continuous shuttle service that runs from Baldwin High School to Maui Tropical Plantation from 8:30am to 4pm. Get up early because the live chef’s challenge returns and starts at 9:30am.
Oh, and early Saturday morning, right before the chefs have to man their booths, they will be surprised with a mystery box of Grown on Maui ingredients sponsored by Kula Fields. Then they will have to whip up something to wow the judges Quickfire style.
The Maui Ag Fest has put the pressure on Maui’s chefs by inviting a few hot shots from Canada to compete: Chef Pierre Lamielle, currently from Top Chef Canada, and Chef Jessica Pelland of Charbar and CHARCUT in Calgary.
“We wanted to include the Calgarian chefs as a way to keep Ag Festival exciting and fresh for all involved–presenters and attendees,” says Kauhane. “These particular chefs are greatly responsible for establishing Calgary as an important culinary destination in Canada. They work closely with farmers, ranchers in their community, and they believe in the important relationship that must exists not only with providers but amongst the chef community. They collaborate and work very closely with their chef peers and together they created a destination. It can’t just be one or two great restaurants, but a community of restaurants thriving, buying from farmers and ranchers and serving the residents and visitors. In addition, Calgarians love Maui.”
After the competitions, head out find all the local sustainable products your heart desires. They have a little of everything–body products from Ali’i Kula Lavender Farms, produce, baked goods, Ocean vodka, Pono Pies, handmade kitchen knives, frozen bananas, poi, orchids, coffee and kimchi from Napili Flo Farm.
If you still want more, Life Foods will be making their tempeh wrap at the Localicious tent, the Maui High School rodeo will serve Maui beef burgers, Three’s Bar and Grill food truck will offer coconut crusted fish sandwiches and hurricane fries and the Kiwanis Club will have kalua pig, just to name a few more of the Maui epicurean delights that will be available.
The Ag Fest has a $3 entrance fee for adults over 21 this year. If you’re socially inclined, share your photos and tweets with the hashtag #MauiAg, Tweet them to @MauiFarms and find the Maui County Ag Festival page on Facebook. For more information, visit mauicountyfarmbureau.org.
All photos courtesy of Peter Liu.
The Grand Tasting Menu
* Gevin Utrillo, Japengo at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa Farmer: Noel Escobedo Farms Vegetable: Eggplant | Cuisine: Phillipines DISH TORTANG TALONG with a KARE-KARE RAGOUT Escobedo Farm’s eggplant omelet “Phillipines Style” with a ragout of the traditional oxtail peanut stew. Garnished with shrimp fry and calamansi.
* Eric Faivre of Grand Wailea Korean inspired dish: Chap Chae with Crispy Pork Belly in Heidi’s Manoa Lettuce Cup with Assortment of Kim Chee: Won Bok, Cabbage, Daikon, Cucumber. Partnered with Heidi Watanabe of Watanabe Processing LLC. / Head Cabbage/Bak Choy / Korean
* Marc McDowell of Makena Beach & Golf Resort making Green Bean and Pork Potsticker with a Fresh home-made Green Bean dumpling wrapper and firecracker slaw. Partnered with Manu of Kumu Farms. Assigned ingredient green beans / Chinese cuisine
* Jeff Scheer of Maui Executive Catering making Taro “Musubi” with taro leaf soubise. Assigned ingredient taro / Hawaiian cuisine / Kupaa Farm
* Isaac Bancaco of Kaana Kitchen paired with Chauncy Monden of Kula Country Farms is making Maui onion: Malasadas, Sour Cream, seeds, jam & dust. Assigned ingredient: onion, portuguese cuisine.
* John Cadman with Ian Cole of the Breadfruit Institute. Dish name: ʻUlu hummus on a Maui Taro Burger Huli / Hawaiian
* Tylun Pang / assigned zucchini / Filipino cuisine. Dish: ”Zucchini and Shrimp Lumpia with Zucchini Achara” / Paired with Traje Farms, Fernando Traje.
* Jojo Vasquez – Sweet potato and my ethnicity is Korean. His dish will be called “Goguma-Bap” Sweet potato rice / Farmer James Simpliciano / SimpliFresh
* Wesley Holder/Pulehu. Dish: Kai Choi Lup Chong Manapua / Chinese / Kai Choy / Farmer Jamie Shishido/ J. Shishido Farm
* Sheldon/Migrant/Tomato/Cuisine: Portuguese/ Dish: Olowalu Tomato, Confit Ahi Kama, Hawaiian Chili “Piri Piri”, Chourico
* Bobby Masters / Hula Grill / Assigned ingredient cucumbers /Cuisine Japanese/chilled Japanese cucumber soup with Shichimi cured Ono Pastrami
* Chris Schobel, Fat Daddyʻs BBQ / Assigned ingredient: watercress. Farmer Geoff Haines.