Maui onion festival promises sweet time


POSTED: Sunday, April 19, 2009

Come May 2, the Maui Kula Onion will once again be the star of its own festival.





        » Place: Whalers Village, 2435 Kaanapali Parkway, Kaanapali Resort, Maui

» Date: Saturday, May 2


» Time: 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.


» Admission: Free; free parking all day at Whalers Village's parking garage


» Phone: 661-4567


» E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


» Web site: www.whalersvillage.com/onionfestival.htm


Notes: Festivities kick off April 27 with special merchant offers and promotions. Hula Grill will sponsor a four-course dinner at 6 p.m. May 1, featuring Maui Brewing Co. beer paired with Maui onion-inspired dishes prepared by guest chef Russell Siu, winner of the festival's recipe contest last year. Tickets are $59.95; call 667-6636 to make reservations.


Kaanapali Beach Resort properties are offering kamaaina specials; call for specifics: Aston Maui Kaanapali Villas and the Whaler, (800) 321-2558; Kaanapali Alii, (800) 642-6284; Kaanapali Beach Hotel, (800) 262-8450; Outrigger Maui Eldorado, (800) OUTRIGGER; Royal Lahaina, (800) 22ALOHA; Sheraton Maui, 921-4646; and the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas and Westin Maui Resort & Spa, (866) 716-8112.


“;The Maui Onion Cookbook,”; by Barbara Santos, features recipes for everything from soups and salsas to salads and souffles. To order a copy, call 661-1457 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Cost is $6.95 plus shipping and handling. Peruse www.maui-info.com/onion.html for more information.




Foodies know, of course, this is no ordinary onion. Only a dozen farmers cultivate it on 150 acres in Kula between the 1,200- and 4,000-foot elevations of Haleakala Volcano. The district's cool climate and rich volcanic soil produce an onion that's low in pungent, tear-inducing pyruvic acid and reputedly so sweet you can eat it raw.

In fact, that's exactly what 20 people will do at the Maui Onion Festival, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary at Whalers Village this year.

“;The onion-eating contest is definitely one of the festival's highlights,”; said Lisa Donlon, marketing manager of Whalers Village. “;We have two divisions—one for 10 adults and one for 10 children age 14 and younger. Contestants eat as much raw Maui onions as they can in a minute while hundreds of spectators cheer them on.”;

Two years ago, Kihei resident Dave Sheridan won the adult division by downing eight ounces of onions in the allotted time. A clever strategist, he wore goggles to prevent tearing.

Also drawing crowds is the recipe contest, which challenges acclaimed Hawaii chefs to create original dishes incorporating Maui Kula onions. This year, two award-winning chefs from Honolulu, Colin Nishida from Side Street Inn and Russell Siu from 3660 on the Rise, will be vying for top honors along with three of their Maui counterparts: Patrick Callarec of Chez Paul, David Paul of David Paul's Island Grill, and James McDonald from Pacific'O and I'o. Each chef also will present a cooking demonstration, after which ono samples will be offered to the audience.

“;As the popularity of Hawaii Regional Cuisine has grown, more and more chefs are seeing the Maui Kula onion as a 'must' ingredient,”; Donlon said. “;The onion is so versatile, it can even be used in desserts; in past contests, chefs have made cheesecake and ice cream with it!”;

The onion ring booth sponsored by the Maui Onion Growers Association is another perennial favorite. Farmers, their families and friends clean, slice, batter and fry more than 500 pounds of onions to a golden crisp. The rings are served piping hot to customers who wait patiently, sometimes in lines that are 50 deep, to place their orders. MOGA also will sell boxes of fresh whole onions so customers can make the rings themselves at home.

In short, the Maui Onion Festival brings together farmers, visitors and kamaaina for an entertaining, educational family event.

“;It sheds light on Maui's most popular export and the wonderful things local chefs are doing with it,”; Donlon said. “;Attendees can meet and talk to the innovative people who are growing the onion and preparing gourmet dishes with it. It's a full day of fun, learning and sharing!”;





        Center Stage at Whalers Village

        » 10 a.m.: Welcome by emcee Guy Hagi, followed by Patrick Callarec's cooking demonstration

        » 11 a.m.: James McDonald's cooking demonstration

        » Noon: Onion-eating contest (children's division)

        » 1 p.m.: Russell Siu's cooking demonstration

        » 2 p.m.: Polynesian show

        » 3 p.m.: Recipe contest

        » 4 p.m.: Onion-eating contest (adult division)

        » 5 p.m.: David Paul's cooking demonstration

        » 6 p.m.: Colin Nishida's cooking demonstration

        » 7:30 p.m.: Tahitian dance show

Beach Lawn Stage
        » 10 a.m.: Tahitian dance show
        » 11 a.m.: Cutty Cutler from TV's “;Cooking with Cutty”; shows kids how to make smoothies
        » 11:30 a.m.: Maui Onion Growers Association presentation
        » 1 p.m.: Air Force Band of the Pacific
        » 3 p.m.: Benoit Jazz Works
        » 5 p.m.: Polynesian show
        » 6 p.m.: Island Sounds by Ray Gooliak
        » 7 p.m.: Air Force Band of the Pacific




Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.