In Italy, during the month of June, you will find Cherry Festivals practically everywhere. In the fall it is then time for Grape Festivals, Truffle Festivals and Porcini Festivals. I am sure that in some of the Southern United States – like Georgia and South Carolina – there are Peach Festivals, and I am guessing that New England will have Lobster Fests here and there at various times.
In Hawai’i we have luscious tropical fruits and July is smack in the middle of mango season. Hence, a celebration of all mangoes, which the Moana Surfrider Hotel in Waikiki, together with Makaha Mangoes have been hosting for 5 consecutive years.
The 2013 event opened with the Best Mango Recipe contest, for which chefs and chef hopefuls were invited to submit their best mango recipes in two categories: Baked Goods and Mixed Plate. Above and below are some of the entries, which I photographed on the fly as the judges were walking around tasting.
Above: 1. Mango Cheesecake; 2. Mango Bread; 3. Mango Tarte Melange
Below: 4. Mango Tango Cupcakes; 5. Mango Tapioca; 6. Mango Delight
Above: 7. Luscious Mango Cheesecake; 8. Mango Millefeuilles; 9. Mango Pudding
Below: 10. Kaiulani’s Chicken Curry Salad with Mangoes; 11. Mango Curd with Waffle Chips; 12. Mango Chicken Salad in Won Ton Cups
Before you ask, let me tell you that I did not get to taste any of them. I left temporarily before the judges were done and, when I returned, the room was flooded with people eager to get a taste. Soon after that, the Best Mango contest started in the same room, followed by several seminars and workshops.
While all of the above was going on, in my chase for better light and good photo material, I headed out to browse the market. When I am carrying heavy camera gear, my hands and shoulders cannot really handle anything else. Since I was by myself, I could not shop… but I could nibble on anything that required only a couple of fingers in a pinch: divine mango samples, mango creamsicles and popsicles, mango bread, mango chutney, mango iced tea, and divine mango chocolate, especially created for the event by the talented Nat Bletter and Dave Elliott of award winning Madre Chocolate. You can read more about them and about the art of making chocolate from bean to bar in Hawai’i by clicking here.
A little nibbling was ok, but not too much, because the Mango Throw Down was starting at noon. Ten local celebrity chefs taking part in this friendly competition with mango-inspired dishes especially created for the occasion is not something you want to miss. I made sure to pre-book my pass the week before for $65 ($75 at the door on the day for access to all samples + 2 drinks, or $6 per script) and was glad I did. A portion of the proceeds from the Mango Throw Down benefited the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers Association.
With my bracelet pass securely around my wrist, I headed out among the stands in the beautiful banyan courtyard of the Moana. Photos would have to come first, sampling after. Above and below are images from each stand with each Chef’s team preparing a different dish. I was pleasantly surprised that, in the land of obsessive chicken eaters (I mean the U.S., not necessarily Hawai’i), there was no chicken dish to be had at any of the chefs’ stands – something I had been expecting almost without a shadow of a doubt. For once I was thrilled to have my expectations crushed.
The images that follow show the food prepared by each of the ten teams. Some prepared a dessert and some chose a savory dish. A few did both. Everything was very enjoyable.
Above: Chef Chai Chaowasaree (image on right) of Chef Chai Restaurant and his team at work.
Below: Chef Chai’s Naked Shrimp and Mango Kimchee Summer Roll with Lemongrass Garlic Dressing.
Above: Pork Loin with Mango Chipotle Sauce, crispy Maui Onions and Kahuku Corn by the Beachhouse at the Moana team led by Chef Celeste Pasag (not pictured).
Below: Mango Crab Arancini with Mango Fondue, Jalapeño Shallot & Cilantro Jam by the 53 by the Sea team led by Chef Thomas Ho.
Below: Mango Chiboust with Big Island White Honey-Mango Compote and Mango Oolong Sauce by the Aulani – A Disney Resort & Spa team led by Chef Patrick Callarec & Chef Ron Viloria.
Above: the oh-so-good Mango Refresher by the Rum Fire Waikiki team led by Chef Brett Villarmia.
This was a Big Island Mango pudding with a bottom of Haupia (coconut milk pudding typical of the islands), topped by Curry-spiced Granola, Mango Pearls and Micro Cilantro.
Below: Grilled Mango, Mahi, Ginger & Coconut with Caramelized Maui Onion, Maori Bread, pickled Mango slaw, Hawaiian Chili Pepper and Mango Chutney Mayo, with a side of Ulu & Sweet Potato Salad by the Turtle Bay Resort team led by Chef Conrad Aquino.
This team also featured some lovely gift bags with Mango Bread and tender Coconut Cookies, both of which I took home and thoroughly enjoyed over the next couple of days.
Above: Makaha Mutton & Mango Mortadella with Green Mango Mostarda – a simple but truly excellent preparation by the Town Restaurant team led by Chef Ed Kenney.
Below: the delicate Mango Bavarian by the JJ’s Bistro & French Pastry team led by Chef JJ Pastreuth Luangkhot.
Above: Blackened Beef Carpaccio with light Tomato Vinaigrette, shaved fresh Island Mango Pesto, with Roasted Butternut Squash Crostini by the Michel’s team led by Chef Hardy Kirschner.
Below: Mango Citrus Water and Mango Croi-Sadas by The Kahala Hotel & Resort team led by Chef Wayne Hirabayashi.
Further below: on left – Beef & Pork Kefta with Mango Slaw & Mango infused Greek Yogurt; on right – Spicy Mango Ahi Temaki and Pickled Mango; both also at The Kahala Hotel & Resort stand.
Some of the restaurants are familiar to me as I am either a regular or have been at least once. The others are definitely on my dining list. True to the Hawaiian spirit, everyone was friendly and happy to chat, whether about food or anything, and the setting was just perfect. The Moana Surfrider Hotel is one of the oldest and classic hotels on Waikiki, and being there is always a pleasure. I know everybody loves food, but let me tell you, here in Hawai’i food, music and talk-story are the top pleasure activities.
Mangoes from Hawai’i outclass any other mangoes I have had anywhere else. So if you happen to be in Hawai’i during mango season, I suggest you gorge away. This year I am definitely missing my mangoes. I am enjoying peaches, though, divine ones that are locally grown and I pick up at the farmers’ market. I have already had quite a few.
What are the festivals in your area that celebrate specific foods? I would love to know. If you have good Food Festivals to share, please leave me a message below or use the contact form to e-mail me. Mahalo.
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