Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) first caught my eye (and pen) when Maui’s Surfing Goat Dairy got invited to the annual Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco in January. Maui Chef Beverly Gannon was the featured celebrity chef at the festival, and she says it gave her, “The chance to expand the boundaries of Hawaiian cuisine with the pairing of world-class Zinfandels.”
The folks at ZAP apparently have a fondness for Maui, because now they’re sponsoring a wine-tasting event and fundraiser, the likes of which we’ve never seen on Maui. They’ve teamed up with Maui Culinary Academy to offer a fabulous night of Zinfandel tasting on May 21, with food pairings designed by student chef teams. The twist is that it’s also a competition for the students; attendees get to vote for the winner. Tickets are $55 in advance ($45 for ZAP members) and $65 at the door. The students are challenged with expanding their knowlege of wine pairing while staying within a set budget. Their intriguing creations include Hoisin short ribs with sweet potato ravioli, Maui Cattle company beef sliders with kim-chee reduction and phyllo-wrapped herbed goat cheese with dried blueberries.
I had the opportunity to sit down with John Hanhauser, who serves on the ZAP board, and Chris Speere of the Maui Culinary Academy. We met outside the lobby of Class Act, the academy’s fine-dining establishment that occupies the second floor. Downstairs, the lunchtime hustle and bustle of the college’s food court—also run by the academy—is going strong. Speere says the facility cost $17 million to build, and features a top-of-the-line bake shop in addition to the restaurant, the skills kitchen and food court, all operated by the student chefs. That’s one of the reasons the academy has been designated by ZAP to be highlighted as a beneficiary and supported through this new fundraising event. The school’s Pa’ina food court will be transformed into the tasting room and the student chefs will be serving their creations while the winemakers will be pouring their wine. Meanwhile, the bake shop will be baking fresh bread, led by the San Francisco Baking Institute’s bread class.
Zinfandel is not the most popular or commonly known wine. It is recognized, however, for being an American wine, and through organizations like ZAP and their outreach, Zin’s popularity and trendiness is expanding. That’s a major part of ZAP’s strategy: to target young chef’s and educate them early about the wine. Zinfandel grapes are only grown in the United States; it’s our unique grape. Formerly, Zin had been pegged as a red that paired with meats, but after Bev Gannon’s island cuisine approach at the festival in January, that stereotype has been broken. Come taste why.
Ten different wineries will be pouring around 40 different Zinfandels at this groundbreaking event. For a list of participating wineries and other info, visit www.mauidish.com For the low-down on ZAP or to purchase tickets, visit www.zinfandel.org To learn more about Maui Culinary Academy, visit www.mauiculinary.com or call 984-3225.
Got a hot food scoop? Contact Jen Russo at 808-280-3386 or fax to 808-244-0446.