Take a Bite

A sip of Maui onions

May 8th, 2012

onionNadine Kam photos
Fans of the Maui Onion Festival found many of the dishes being created on stage t be finger-lickin' good! This is the aftermath of their getting a taste of chef David Paul Johnson's sweet Maui onion fritters with caramelized Maui onion aioli. Yum! His recipe is at the bottom of this post.

In the afternoon at Maui Onion Festival 2012, fans of the Maui Kula® onion could watch demonstrations or line up for a taste of onion rings being cooked up by Hula Grill Kaanapali executive chef Chris Schobel and his team. People were in line all day for a taste of the 1,000 pounds of onions that went into the deep fryer.

They were so good, crisp on the outside and soft and melty on the inside, without the stringiness that usually has you pulling them out of the bready ring at most, if not all, restaurants. His recipe is at the end of this post.

Chris said the secret is steam that from the water in the onion when the rings hit the oil. Unfortunately, you won't find these rings at the restaurant, because frying them this way is a messy task and he said those onions would take up too much space. So, if you want great onion rings, you'll just have to fly over to the festival next year.

With the festival falling on Cinco de Mayo this year, there had to be a cocktail and margarita contest to commemorate the occasion, and I was called upon to judge six drinks created by Dennis Day of Leilani's, Aloha Dave of Hula Grill, who came up with an avocado-lime margarita, and Sean King of Cane & Taro.

All of their creations were great, and Sean King took home the glass onion trophy for his Maui Wowie Maui Gold pineapple and strawberry margarita and Volcano cocktail, both with a strawberry and Maui onion muddle. His recipes are at the end of the post, minus the onions though.

onion1Hawaii News Now's Ramsay Wharton with chef David Paul Johnson of David Paul's Island Grill after his demonstration. Ramsay did a great job on stage from about 10 a.m. until the last competition ended at about 5:30 p.m., talking and tasting her way through the events. I could never talk that long!

onionlineLined up for Hula Grill Maui onion rings.

onionringsMaui resident Derek Takahashi with his rings, also shown below.


onionagMae Nakahata was manning the Maui Farm Bureau booth, showcasing the bounty of six of the island's farms.

Sean King of d.k. Kodama's Cane & Taro restaurant was one of three Whalers Village mixologists competing in the Cinco de Mayo mix drink contest in the afternoon.

onionsipLisa Donlon takes a sip of Sean's showy cocktail creation, with its strawberry and Maui onion muddle.

onionglassRimming the judges' glasses with sugar, with dark salt reserved for the margarita segment of the competition.

onionmargAll the competitors were on equal footing, using smooth Corzo tequila.

onioncitrusDennis Day of Leilani's stocked his station with an array of Maui fruit for his citrus margarita. He also made a vanilla-ginger tequila cocktail. Both were perfect on the hot day, and I think they put us on the hot stage, under the sun, on purpose! I hate sun. By the time the final drinks arrived, my pictures of the other cocktails were coming out blurry!

onionconureAmong those enjoying the onion fest was Sunny, a Jenday conure with owner Patrick Ching.

onionsettingThose who wanted to take a break from the festival could relax on the beach just behind Whalers Village.

Here is Chris Schobel's recipe for Maui Onion Rings:

5 pounds Maui onions
1 cup milk
1 cup canola oil
1 cup water
2-1/2 cups flour
Pinch salt and pepper
Pinch of garlic salt

Chop onions into rings 1-inch wide.
Combine all ingredients and whisk together. Whisk in more milk or flour to achieve a thick pancake batter.
Dip onion rings directly in batter and fry at 350 degrees, turning once during cooking.

Also, chef David Paul Johnson's recipe:




Sean King’s winning drink recipes

“A Little Piece of Heaven”
Smirnoff Coconut Vodka blended with fresh local pineapple, strawberry and mango. Shaken with cranberry juice and served on the rocks with Black Lava Sea Salt.

“Maui Wowie Margarita”
Peligroso tequila, Cointreau muddled with fresh lime, lemon, pineapple. Shaken with ice and strained. Layer in a green sugar rim martini glass with fresh strawberry puree  and ice.

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