The old adage that everybody must eat seems to be working in the food and beverage industry because there have been some fearless restaurateurs in 2011, to say nothing of an incredible number of new openings compared to closings. Chef Peter Merriman opened Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea with an amazing selection. Vineyard Food Company (headed by Chef Giles) opened in Wailuku, then later expanded into the space next door. Chef Sheldon Simeon and the Ho Aloha Na Eha Crew busted out Leoda’s–the picturesque destination dining in Oluwalu. Chef Mark Ellman opened Honu Seafood and Pizza Restaurant, located next to Mala Ocean Tavern on Front Street. Two new restaurants have opened in the last seven days, Fabiani’s in Kihei on Lipoa and Spanky’s Riptide at 505 Front Street.
Food trucks were a predicted trend upping the ante from 2010, and Maui delivered, with popular food truck food popping up everywhere and in lots of flavors. The newest being the bento truck (which appears at the Kahului Boat Landing Unofficial Food Truck Food Court), the Puerto Rican Food truck (follow them–literally–on Twitter @daPRFT) and My Office at Park Plaza in Kihei’s Tech Park. With changing destinations, sellout menus and weekly specials, lunches have become new and exciting again.
The buzz words for Maui foodies in 2011 were “Eat Local,” which in turn made “Farm to Table” into the mantra for the chefs. I’o and Pacifico were some of the restaurants ahead of the curve, since they have their own O’o Farm up in Kula. Meanwhile, executive chefs from the major resorts began planting their own on-property gardens and added farmers to their speed-dial lists.
Chef Alan Wong, who plans to open a restaurant in the Grand Wailea in 2012, is fond of quoting the Hawaii Department of Agriculture study saying that if we can replace just 10 percent of the foods we import with locally grown and manufactured foods, then we could generate $94 million for farmers in our local economy. Kanu Hawaii (@kanuhi) is a website that urges individuals and corporations to make public eat-local goals like, “I will source one meal daily from local protein and produce.” Destinations like Tedeschi Winery, the Ali’i Lavendar Farm and the Surfing Goat Dairy are part of a new push for tours that involve local food production and agriculture. Eat Local has become a catch phrase for shopping at farmers markets, ag tourism and now dining out.
The Cocktail Renaissance may yet reach us on Maui. Pretentious wax mustachioed tie and suspender-clad speakeasy mixologists may abound in the metro mainland but here, that would never fly with the Mai Tai, happy hour, sun seeking tropical beach bar clientele. Of course, Mauians can still hold their drink, and locals in the know go to great lengths to search out the best cocktail menus.
Liquor sales continued to grow in our county, the $236 million in gross liquor sales reported by the LC in 2010 was up from the year before, and 2011 is on the same trajectory. But highlights in local liquor go to our distilleries, which continue to turn out quality adult beverages and garner national attention. Hali’imaile Distillery and master distiller Mark Nigbur made perhaps the biggest splash with the launch of Sammy Hagar’s new Beach Bar Rum, available exclusively on Maui for the moment. Haleakala Distillery’s exotic Okolehao is coveted on the mainland, and they now have a pineapple rum that you can only try at The Westin Maui. Wine Dinners, wine festivals, film festivals, foodie events, bartender competitions, red carpet revels and the Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival are helping us all shake off that 80’s pre-mix stupor and step into the 21st Century of handcrafted cocktails.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, working in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, blew American minds with their updated dietary guidelines (they update every five years). Three main points were the groundbreaking suggestions from their last update: eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products and seafood; eat less sugar, salt, cholesterol, trans-fats and refined grains like white flour; balance consumption of calories with exercise.
The catch? There are no recommendations for the corporate food producers to stop filling our super markets with Hostess treats and other processed foods filled with salt, sugar and refined grains. Nor are there recommendations for large fast food conglomerates to cease marketing meals full of sodium, fat and cholesterol. The result, which is hardly surprising, is that there’s little change in the way America eats. In fact, a new study by the University of Michigan suggests obesity may be one of the unintended side effects of our free market policies. Lucky for us places like 2011’s westside Choice Health Bar opened to guide us through delicious raw food and fresh juices.
Finally, in 2011 chefs and restaurants became more savvy in using Twitter, Facebook, blogs and the ever-adapting world of social networking. Static websites have given way to blogs, online booking reservations sites like Open Table and food and service critiques on Yelp and Urbanspoon. Chefs and foodies alike now share food pictures through Instagram and follow each other’s gastronomic adventures on social sharing sites like foodspotting like never before.
OPENED IN 2011:
Spanky’s Riptide, Lahaina
Bistro Manila, Kahului
Four Sisters Restaurant, Wailuku
Monkeypod Kitchen, Wailea
Da Office at Lahaina Cafe
Royal Lahaina’s Barefoot Bar, Ka’anapali
Lilikoi Cafe, Haiku
Jay’s Place, Lahaina
Guava Gouda & Caviar, Kihei
My Office, Kihei
Sweet Paradise Chocolate, Wailea
Teddy’s Bigger Burger, Lahaina
Yum Yum, Wailuku
Captain Jacks, Lahaina
Choice Health Bar, Lahaina
Da Sushi Bar and Nai’s Place, Kahului
Buzz’s Wharf: Over 40 years serving food on Maui
Casanova turned 25
Roy’s turned 20
All of the Best of Maui Maui Time Food and Drink Winners
Capische: Open Table’s Top 50 Romantic Restaurants in the US
Lahaina Grill: Open Table’s top 10 Hawaii Restaurants
Mama’s Fish House: Open Table’s top 10 Hawaii Restaurants, open since 1973
REOPENED IN 2011:
Paukukalo Store–The original owners came back and reopened with their $1.50 Pakuz Burgers.
Melting Pot–After closing their doors in October, they reopened Dec 20 with a new world menu & wine concept, plus the fondue.
Taco Del Mar–A new owner, who was a fan of the restaurant under the old owners, gave Kahului the $6 Mondo burrito again.
Blue Lagoon-The beloved Wharf waterfall grotto and lounge is back!
Scoreboards, Kiwi Roadhouse, Max Bistro
Village Cafe, Alexander’s Fish and Chips,
Wok Star, Tia Juana’s, Cafe 808, Da Kitchen (Lahaina)
For more foodie news, visit MauiTime’s food blog at: mauidish.com