Chef Charlie Owen, Courtesy of Hula Grill
Consuming calories for charity is one of the more delicious ways to give. When I had an opportunity to check out Hula Grill’s Chef’s Tasting Menu that benefits their Legacy of Aloha program, I was ready for gastro gift giving. Throughout October and November, one dollar from every tasting menu item ordered goes to their Legacy of Aloha, which benefits Imua Family Service. Imua will put the funds to good use maintaining their early childhood development services that help more than 3,000 people.
“We try to raise money for organizations that perpetuate Hawaiian culture, protect our environment, or benefit the people of Maui,” says Katie Say, Community Relations Coordinator for Hula Grill Ka’anapali. “We love giving away giving dinners to local organizations and families for use in fundraising. We also sponsor sports teams such as West Maui Little League, give away award plaques and $100 dinners to a King Kamehameha educator of the month each month, participate in Adopt-a-Highway, sponsor a Blue Aina sail, support the Localicious program and much more.”
So how is the food when you’re dining for dollars? We got a group together to check it out. The Chef’s Tasting Menu is available from 4:45pm to 5:30pm daily in the dining room–think of it as an early bird special. It’s three luscious courses for just $25.95. If you can’t make the early deadline, no worries because you can get the Chef’s Tasting Menu daily all evening at the Chef’s Counter.
We were lucky enough to have reservations in the ocean front dining room, where things were already off to a busy start with plenty of visitors there for the sunset off of Ka’anapali Beach. The dining room has a perfect view of the beach, and live Hawaiian tunes coming from the barefoot bar is an ideal accompaniment. Little silver lunch cans on the table pop open to serve you housemade focaccia to nibble while you order drinks and peruse the menu.
The Chef’s Menu comes with plenty of choices. To begin, you have your choice of five starters from the Localicious Salad, which I find irresistible, to the tomato soup, lobster and scallop potstickers, Surfing Goat cheese and local tomato salad or Kiawe Grilled Farmers Skewer featuring in-season, Maui-grown veggies. The Localicious Salad is elegant and tropical with hearts of palm, pohole fern, maui onion and greens with miso dressing. It’s a great start if you want light. The Localicious Salad is also on the main menu and a portion of its sales go to Growing Future Farmers of Maui. The potstickers also proved to be a popular pupu, and are served with a bit of cabbage salad.
The entree course offers two fish preparations: Baked Mac Nut-Crusted with Lemon Beurre Blanc or Herb Grilled. Then there’s the Kiawe Grilled Steak and Potatoes or a sophisticated Organic Miso Tofu dish with Rainbow Quinoa and fresh herbs and local veggies. I went for the mac nut crusted fish, and it was flawless. It was also served with Hula Grill’s fancy coleslaw and steamed rice. Several of us also tried the steak–melt in your mouth beef–that was served with asparagus spears and drizzled with herbed butter.
For dessert, there really was only one choice for me: the Hula Grill ice cream sandwich. Imagine macadamia nut brownies end-capping a square tower of vanilla ice cream with a bit of chocolate ganache, raspberry puree and whipped cream for good measure. If that’s not your kind of sweet, then the pineapple upside-down cake with caramel sweet rum sauce should do it.
Hula Grill is not done giving this season, either. Their Black Friday Fundraiser, which comes from the saints behind the bar, happens on Nov. 28.
“All day and night, our bartenders donate 100 percent of their tips to someone in need,” says Say. “In keeping with the theme of sale shopping, we also have a super sale on Hula Grill logo items. This year, we are trying to surprise a recipient with what ends up being a sizeable donation. The deserving family is so loving and humble that we know they would never ask for handouts, but would surely appreciate the help. We encourage the community to come out on Black Friday and spend a little time at the bar.”