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Maui onion tortellini en brodo wins Kaanapali competition

May 8th, 2012

aonion8Nadine Kam photos
Chef Wesley Holder of Pulehu, an Italian grill at Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villa was the winner of the Kaanapali Restaurant Recipe Challenge on May 5, part of Maui Onion Festival 2012.

It's a good thing I like onions, because Maui onions were the star, morning, noon and night at the 23rd annual Maui Onion Fest that took place May 4 and 5 at Whalers Village Kaanapali. I was one of six judges for three events that took place May 5.

The first contest started at 10:30 a.m., with six Kaanapali resort chefs vying for the glass onion trophy in the Kaanapali Restaurant Recipe Challenge taking place in the center of Whalers Village.

While we tasted, I'O and Pacific'O chef James McDonald was on stage, entertaining guests with his sense of humor while preparing smoked pork and Maui onion jam panini. It paid to be in the audience as chefs provided tasting portions for all under the tents.

After all had been tasted, chef Wesley Holder of Pulehu, an Italian grill at Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas, for his
Maui onion tortellini en brodo, with a potent double onion whammy of Maui Cattle beef and onion broth and ricotta-onion tortellini.

Whenever I do a judging like this, there are always dishes that come so close to winning, but considering the festival's theme, Holder's dish showcased the nuances of the Maui onion in all its glory.

aonion6Chef Wesley Holder pours his Maui onion and beef broth over his tortellini featuring his homemade ricotta. The finished dish, below:

aonionbrodo

aonionChef Bernardo Salazar of the Royal Ocean Terrace at Royal Lahaina Resort offered a Maui caramelized onion sweet potato cake, while explaining his love of "simple foods with real flavors."

aonion2It was good to see a woman competing against the guys, and chef Jennifer Evetushick of Tropica Restaurant & Bar at Westin Maui Resort & Spa offered up seared hamachi with Maui onion pad Thai. The nori crusted hamachi was amazing, as was the onion pad Thai, but I needed a little more to tie the two together. The combination was a bit random for me.

aonion3Chef Ivan Pahlavi of d.k. Kodama's Cane & Taro restaurant in Whalers Village served up an ono dish of pan-roasted opakapaka over mafalde pasta with onion jus and local farm-fresh veggies.

aonion4Chef Christopher Napoleon of Tiki Terrace at Kaanapali Beach Hotel put a lot of thought into his creation, and designed his dish to look like layers of onion being peeled away, with flavors revealed in each layer. His dish comprised pan-seared opakapaka sprinkled with onion dust and spices, served atop caramelized onion gnocchi, with asparagus tips, oyster mushrooms, Kula sweet corn and Maine lobster meat. It'sfinished with butternut onion butter sauce and touch of mixed onion marmalade and Tahitian vanilla bean sauce.

aonion5

aonion9Hula Grill Kaanapali chef Chris Schobel went back to basics with a Maui onion grilled cheese sandwich accompanied by refreshing Thai-style gazpacho.

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