Four Seasons Maui and an experience of a lifetime

If you know me, you know I’m not really spontaneous. Not that I don’t want to be, it’s just, err, um, sometimes responsibilities take over. Or I let them, rather. So sitting around one night and flipping through a few friends’ instagram feeds, I turned to Adam (who just happened to be scrolling insta as well) and said “Let’s go to Hawaii.”

We had just celebrated 10 years together, and all the cliches apply: where did the time go? could it really be TEN years? how does it feel like 3 months ago? I suppose those are all great signs, and while we previously celebrated the event with a fantastic evening out, we needed something else. Something warm, tropical, and far away. After a few clicks on the laptops, we threw caution to the wind and were Maui bound.

It had been about 15 years since my last visit to Maui and I was excited to experience it again. Having worked with Four Seasons in the past, it was a natural that we’d book our stay at Four Seasons Maui, and my mind is still blown by the levels of service we received while there. I realize I tend to speak in hyperbole, but this experience was one of the best of our lives.

First, let’s talk about the property, specifically the views.

four-seasons-maui-collage

Can you believe it?

missoni-cabana

This is the view from the serenity pool. And yes, we managed to do our fair share of lounging around here, peppered with a little swimming up to the bar along with dunking our heads underwater to hear the music. As in, yes-there-is-music-underwater. Pretty amazing. Also amazing? The Missoni-designed cabanas.

The rest of the hotel is simply stunning. Expansive open air corridors comprise the main building, with lush greenery and artwork at every step. In the center is the main pool, one of three.

But man, something about that serenity pool. And the service. It must’ve been the mists of water and cooling cucumbers that are brought to you as you recline.

adam-reclines

Ok, so enough relaxing already!

Four Seasons graciously offered to plan a few culinary tours for us during our stay, so we joined Executive Chef Nicholas Porreca and Crissa Hiranga, Marketing and Public Relations of Four Seasons, on a day of sightseeing and exploration. With a strong and vibrant local food scene, it was nothing short of fantastic to see first hand what’s happening on the island to promote good food.

Our first stop was Kihei Elementary School to check out the garden from Grow Some Good, a non-profit community program that creates hands-on experiences for kids by teaching them how to grow food. Of course it’s so much more than just learning how to plant a carrot, as the students learn about nutrition, cooperation, food sources, history, science and agriculture. On our morning visit, kindergarten kids were learning about watermelons and planting seeds. I can’t even tell you how adorable it was watching co-founder Kirk Surry interact with the inquisitive students in the garden.

kids-in-class

kirk-surry-image

After the school we stopped by Surfing Goat Dairy, located on the slopes of the Haleakala Crater in lower Kula. We sampled their delicious goat cheeses (which are also served at Four Seasons), but it was the goats that stole my heart.

surfing-goat-dairy-sign

Friendly, playful, sweet and loving, they are all hand-raised from birth and treated with the utmost care. I wanted to sneak one home so badly. Adam said no. So I ate more cheese.

hydroponic

Next we drove further upland to Waipoli Hydroponic Farm and immediately noticed a the drastic climate difference. Cool, foggy, wet, this garden grows lettuces and greens that are pristinely perfect. What’s grown here ends up on the tables of many Maui restaurants, and I can say they’re delicious. That’s Chef Nicholas Porreca of The Four Seasons looking over lettuce that is soon to be his.

After Waipoli Hydroponic Farm we headed to Alli Kula Lavender Farm for a quick tour through the terraced garden that ended with tea and a lavender scone, naturally. The views were breathtaking, and I don’t need to tell you how wonderfully fragrant the terraced gardens were. Something else I was excited to learn was that there are dozens and dozens of varieties of lavender. I had no idea!

lavender-farm

Our last stop was to see David Fitch at Malama Farm on Maui’s North Shore. They are Hawaii’s first providers of 100% Berkshire Pork, also known as Kurobuta. I had heard Malama Farm was doing great things and to also be prepared to see something unlike any other pig farm I’ve seen. Let’s just say that was an understatement.

This is it.

pigs

These pigs are born and raised here, lush pastures included. Once they’ve grazed all they can they’re moved to another area that’s had time to renew and regrow, minimizing the impact on the land.  Amazingly serene pigs in a setting full of air and light, Malawa is creating a new standard for humane livestock farming that has to be seen to be believed.

david-and-pigs

After a day of running around and discovering so many things about Maui’s food scene, we wrapped up our stay with an amazing sunset dinner from Chef NIcholas Porreca that was tailored to some of our favorite flavors. The meal, the sunset, the service, and the 10-year celebration was perfect. PERFECT. More on that later!

walking-away

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.

A very special thanks to my friends at Four Seasons Maui, and also to Jane Corrigan of Four Seasons Costa Rica. Also many thanks to the farmers and growers and the delightful crew at Ali‘i Kula!

Full disclosure: Ain’t nuthin’ to disclose about this post. Accommodations and airfare were paid for by author.

Are you up for an adventure? It’s chocolate. Yes. Chocolate.

Final-Intro-Collage

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again. The time when I ask you to dust off that kitchen counter (not that it was dusty, right?), conjure up that sweet creativity, and put those thinking caps on.

Why?

Because it’s time once again for The Chocolate Adventure Contest!

As I’ve done for the past few years, I’m joining TuttiFoodie.com and Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker for one amazing contest, and this year I’m particularly excited about the category. Well, I’m always excited, but this year, well, yes. Bring it.

It’s all about bars!

You. Chocolate. And a special ingredient. Are you up for the adventure?

THE CHALLENGE
Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker and TuttiFoodie.com invite you to show your spirit of adventure. Combine Scharffen Berger chocolate with one or more of 12 adventure ingredients to create an original bar recipe.

So what constitutes a bar?  The category is large! Brownies. Blondies. Seven-Layer Bars.  Cookie-Based Bars. Ice Cream Bars. Handcrafted Candy Bars. Chocolate Bark. And so much more. You get the picture. The big giant delicious picture. And the magic happens when you incorporate the Adventure Ingredients, because, well, that’s the competition. But trust me, you’re gonna love them.

ADVENTURE INGREDIENTS
Bourbon
Turbinado Sugar
Fresh Pomegranate
Hibiscus
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Peppercorn (any type—black, green, red)
Pandan Leaf or Pandan Leaf Extract
Coconut Milk, Cream, Butter or Oil
Oat Flour
Carrot
Sesame Seeds (black or white)
Fresh Croutons or Crostini

This year I’ll be judging along with John Scharffenberger, Alice Medrich and Angie Dudley of Bakerella. OH MY GOD I LOVE THESE PEOPLE. And the fact that I get to eat chocolate all day and judge, well, it’s tough. See my face? Tough I say.
You can enter the Chocolate Adventure Contest here, and make sure you’ve entered by January 2, 2014. This gives you a few months to come up with your winning creation, because the grand prize is so worth it. The Grand Prize is $25,000 plus a copy of Seriously Bittersweet and Essence of Chocolate. There are also Culinary Honorees:  10 Honorees awarded an iPad Mini. So you can’t NOT enter, if you’ll allow me to use a double negative there.

I’m excited to taste your creations!

Visit chocolateadventurecontest.com for official rules and entry form.

Bar images by yours truly, styled by the amazing Adam C. Pearson.