This yearʻs Huliau Film and Food Fundraiser was held at the lovely venue of Ocean Vodka in lower Kula last Saturday. Farmers, filmmakers, and supporters of local agriculture gathered to support Mauiʻs youth and enjoy a gourmet meal of locally produced, farm fresh foods inspired by canoe plants or early Polynesians crops.
Oʻo Farm was one of the main sponsors for the event and our very own Cheff JJ Johnson prepared the main entrée. The ambience was romantic, with live acoustic guitar and edible flowers everywhere!
We arrive before sunset, when the light is golden and the windswept grass particularly pink. A glamorous dinner gazebo sits atop a plateau with stunning views overlooking the hourglass shape of Maui island below. During what you might call the magic hour, large orange-tinged cumulus clouds gather on the southern horizon and egrets trace their dusk route across the sky.
As the sun descends, an alluring array of pupus await. As appetizers, they are small in size but momentous in flavor!
Mahi Mahi bathes in a coconut red curry sauce so delicious and complex in flavor that it leaves you yearning for more! The paʻiʻai is pounded to perfection, the ʻuala is of the most vibrant purple, and the poisson cru is topped with pieces of toasted black rice that are so aromatic and intricately flavorful, the mind is challenged to compare it to anything experienced before. The dish is accompanied by an indigo rose tomato that has hints of sweet rose in its flesh.
After such an intriguing and tantalizing appetizer experience, anticipation merges with aroma as dinner is being prepared onsite.
Chef JJ of Oʻo Farm uses Kiawe wood to grill fresh island fish to perfection, cooked so wonderfully that each bite seems to melt in the mouth. This is accompanied by Oʻo Farm roasted seasonal vegetable hash, chayote slaw, coffee cherry-myer lemon-sugar cane vinaigrette and edible upcountry flowers gathered from the Earth the same day.
The Kumu Farms salad is more flavorful than one might ever imagine a salad being capable of, with banana chips, crispy sweet potato shreds, and a sugar cane coconut vinaigrette. Vegetarians are served a locally made, GMO-free Life Foods veggie burger of grains, beans and local herbs, also kiawe grilled and delightful.
Throughout our meal, we are graced to witness the talent of Mauiʻs youth through a series of short films produced with little time, and alive with the energy of creative inspiration. The films revolve around the five canoe plants of Coconut, Sugar Cane, Sweet Potato, Kalo or Taro, and Ulu or Breadfruit. The aspiring filmmakers capture not only the story behind each canoe plant, but also the values and passions of each chef.
They speak of the importance of locally grown food to sustain communities, food that comes to your plate by the minute or the hour, but not by the days. Our evening rounds off with the most delectable banana, coconut, taro, and breadfruit pie bites from Pono Pies that leaves a taste on the palette one wishes could be permanent!
Not only is fresh, locally produced food incredibly delicious, but also highly nutritious and as one chef notes, “our food is our medicine”.
By Joia Holman