ʻAipono Awards Run-down

Gossip Gourmet dishes about the 2006 'Aipono Awards, and doles out prizes of her own.

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Story by Gossip Gourmet

Bravo! Ballots rolled into the MNKO office this year by the barrelful—double that of last year. Apparently you, too, love to eat and rave about it. I knew we had something in common!

Overall, votes were heavy on the sentiment. The Plantation House surrendered first place to the Gazebo for Best Breakfast. The garnishes may be fancier at the Plantation House, but the quirky atmosphere of the Gazebo won your loyalty. Little old Aloha Mixed Plate pulled the rug out from under Mama’s—snatching first place for Most “Maui-est” by just a few votes. I guess kickin’ back is still as important as puttin’ on the Ritz here on Maui.

Speaking of the Ritz—whew! Four ‘Aiponos! Let’s cross our fingers that The Banyan Tree’s new maestro is at least as crazy as the last one. Incoming Chef Jojo has already received some “Chef of the Year” votes from his peers—a good sign. Still, foie gras ice cream is a hard act to follow.

Since we’re talking chefs, Miz Gossip can’t resist spilling some sour beans: many of the chefs we queried for Chef of the Year shamelessly voted for themselves! They supplied good reasons, of course. Most likely, they haven’t stepped foot from their own kitchens in longer than they can remember. Chefs: put the spatula down. Get out once in a while.

I’m not trying to start a South Side-West Side rumble or anything, but South Maui voter turnout wasn’t as enthusiastic as West Maui’s. Kihei, Wailea, where were you? I guess all those new restaurant openings on the West Side dizzied your heads. South Shore star restaurants were all but neglected. That’s it, no soup for you! At least both shores broke ranks when it came to Best Asian—little old Wailuku carried away both first and second place: A Saigon Café and Tokyo Tei.

It warmed your gossip’s heart to read specific desserts written in for the Best Dessert category. I know exactly how you feel. Your devotion is won by a certain sweet—not just any pastry puff will do. Among those mentioned by name: the tart tatin at Gerard’s and the Tahitian pearl at Mama’s. Fourteen write-in votes came in for the tiramisu at Pizza Paradiso—who knew? Thanks for the tip!

I think we all know which dessert earned Roy’s the top honors: the chocolate soufflé. I’ll hazard a guess that this dessert’s enduring popularity is due partially to the fact that most of us secretly still play with our food. Causing the dark chocolate volcano to erupt with bittersweet molten lava is the grown-up version of making choo-choo tracks through mashed potatoes and gravy—is it not?

And now . . . what you’ve all been waiting for: Gossip Gourmet’s Hand-Picked Awards:

Most Wanted: Dim sum. (Can Maui get a restaurant, please?)

Best Dressed: The suit-clad waiters at WM: The Restaurant. Dining at WM is like having the Blues Brothers at your service—minus the sunglasses.

Most Appetizing Mural goes to the lovely ladies decorating the wall of Enrique’s Mexican Restaurant. Four bombshells are depicted enjoying a different entrée each. The brunette’s shrimp look downright happy to be eaten.

Most Innovative Bentos: Wailuku’s Takamiya Market, where you never know what shrink-wrapped treasure awaits your discovery under the heat lamp.

Best In-Your-Face Signage: Aloha Shave Ice in Pa‘ia, where a rainbow is served with two scoops of attitude. You’ll hope for a wait in line by the register to read their handwritten ode to stupidity, entitled, “Frequently Asked Questions.”

Most Novel Wine List: Sipping cabernet at Marc Aurel’s Wine Bar & Cafe is a literary affair. Each wine is lovingly described with passionate care—a whole paragraph per pour! Why settle for Cliff Notes wine lists, when you can explore this moveable feast glass by glass? You’d need 100 years of solitude to try each hand-picked vintage; not a grape of wrath among ’em.


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