What the Heck?
COURTESY CHRISTOPHER GOFF / MAUI ONION FESTIVAL
Greg Denton, center, in the white hat and sunglasses, beat out 10 other competitors at the Maui Onion Festival's onion-eating contest. He finished in three and a half minutes.
Sweet Maui onions stir chef's competitive juices
When was the last time you ate a pound of raw onions? Last Sunday, under the blistering sun at the Maui Onion Festival, 11 people stood on the stage at Whalers Village, ready to do just that.
First to finish would receive a crisp new $100 bill. An EMT technician stood by. There was a large bucket under the table, in case of gastric misfortune, and a tin of breath mints for every contestant.
The oldest was Carolyn Ivy, 78, from Miami. The youngest was Andrew Romero, 17, from La Quinta, Calif. There were some homegrown contenders, including the defending champ, Eric Puhl of Kula, and Lahaina's Greg Denton.
Denton, chef of a waterfront eatery called Mala, had entered the professional chef's recipe contest earlier in the day, losing out to Keith Endo of Sansei/Vino. Why also enter the eating contest? "I'm competitive," said Denton.
Go! All the contestants started strong, but in a couple of minutes, most began to falter. It came down to a race to the last swallow between Denton and the California teenager Romero. Onion juice flowed down Romero's chin. Denton was rocking back and forth, eating and swallowing in rhythm. He won, by a bite, in three minutes, 30 seconds.
"You have to understand an onion is mainly water," he said. "It's unlikely that it will get stuck in your throat."
"I feel kinda terrible," said runner-up Romero afterward. But Denton just had another beer. He patted his stomach. "There's nothing going on down there that I'm not comfortable with."
Don't Stop: Also at the Onion Festival was Chai Chaowasaree, shooting for his KHON-TV show, "Two Skinny Chefs." Chai saw a familiar face in the crowd and introduced me to a tall guy in a bright blue aloha shirt and shorts, with a long gray ponytail. "This is Mick Fleetwood," he said.
Yes, the former Fleetwood Mac drummer was there with wife Lynn and their 4-year-old twin daughters, Tessa and Ruby. Visiting? "We have a house here," said Fleetwood. "We'll move full-time starting in October."
No Snakes Here: "Snakes on a Plane," starring Samuel L. Jackson, opens Friday. If the deafening Internet buzz is any indication, it's already a hit, possibly because it manages to cram its whole concept into a four-word title.
The movie features, you know, snakes, 450 of them planted on a Honolulu-Los Angeles flight. The soundtrack features three Hawaiian music tracks: Brother Noland's "Backfire," Amy Gilliom's "Kaimana Hila" and Israel Kamakawiwoole's "Henehene Kou 'Aka."
Mountain Apple President Leah Bernstein is delighted to find Hawaiian music in a summer blockbuster. But when New Line Cinema first called and told her what they wanted, she blurted out: "You can't make that movie! There are no snakes in Hawaii!"
The Usual Comic Material: Each year New York's Abington Theatre gives a playwriting award for new work. This year, there are nine finalists out of 700 submissions. One of them is veteran Honolulu ad man Richard Tillotson, for his play, "Inside Out."
What's the play about? says Tillotson, "It's a comedy about disease, hunger, overpopulation and homeless refugees." At least it's not snakes on a plane.
No Accounting for Taste: Katrina Merrem and Noah Houghton were a pair of successful accountants from Canada, when they took a trip to Switzerland in 2002. Standing on top of the Matterhorn, they decided their professional lives weren't fulfilling.
"We wanted to do something else," says Merrem. "The only problem was we had no idea what." The answer: The two started Noka chocolates (for Noah and Katrina).
Noka chocolates cost $854 a pound, though you don't buy them by the pound. They are tiny squares of dark, dark, dark chocolate, from single-source producers, designed for tasting.
You can taste them yourself Saturday at Neiman Marcus. From 3 to 6 p.m., Merrem will be offering free samples, paired with wines chosen by Cheryl Lynn of JMD Beverages. Notes Merrem, "That's two of my favorite things."
Save Our Surf: You may not remember the Surfaris, but you probably know their 1963 hit, with its maniacal laugh, blazing surf guitar and one-word lyric: "Wipeout." The Surfaris, who now consist of original guitarist Bob Berryhill, his wife and two sons, flew into town Thursday, braving the hours long security lines at San Diego Airport.
Wednesday they'll play Starbucks Wildest Show In Town at the Zoo. Friday they play at Calvary Chapel Central Oahu.
Berryhill and family are, in the words of Calvary Chapel's pastor Rick Irons, "full-on Christians." The Surfaris will headline a surf night, during which the church will give away surfboards from shapers John "JC" Carper and Eric Arakawa. Mililani High School, Friday, 7 p.m. And Irons points out, "Like salvation, it's free."
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