Many of you will take the long and winding road to Hana Ballpark this weekend for the 19th annual East Maui Taro Festival full of food, culture and fun.
For those who only get out Hana way occasionally, it may be the last time to see the Hotel Hana-Maui with the same name and the same concept.
Come June 1, the owners of the Green Tea hotel group plan to rebrand the hotel, and change the Sea Ranch cottages to an all-inclusive experience with unique culinary and spa programs for its guests.
Hana Ranch Restaurant Manager Karyn Johnson (top photo, right) and server Aolani Estrella open wine on the patio.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Executive Chef Barry Villiarimo is a Hana boy who came back to his roots.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Apparently Peter Longhi of the Maui's famous restaurant family is friends with the Green Tea owners, Joy Berry and Chris Manning, and they invited him onboard last May to operate the restaurants.
Joy was the former right-hand of Bill Marriott and now her vision is to create a spa environment, an "experiential wellness resort," which is all the rage with the luxury travel market. With Peter's help, she plans to offer wine tastings, chef's gardens and cooking demos.
"Right now, we do all things food and beverage," Peter says. "We do room service, catering, weddings, poolside service and banquets in addition to running all of the hotel's restaurant outlets."
Restaurant managers include Michael Rose of Longhi's Wailea and Jude Augustine of Longhi's Lahaina, who trek out there weekly.
Running the show on a regular basis are Hana boys Barry Villiarimo as executive chef, and Manny Arriaga as director of food and beverage.
"I will say this, there are big plans for the new culinary program," says Arriaga. "It will be something really unique like a Miravel or a Mi Amo. These Green Tea people like to think outside the box."
Arriaga, who's traveled the world in the military from Germany to Louisiana, is pumped up about the changes and about what Peter is already doing.
"Peter has an organic style of food service, more of a fine dining tone. But because Hana is so different from elsewhere, we try and keep it Hana," says Arriaga.
The hotel's signature Ka'uiki Restaurant is open daily from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. for breakfast; and from 6 to 9 nightly for dinner service.
"There are no more buffets," says Arriaga. "Even for the holidays and big groups, we do prix-fixe meals. The people are loving the Pacific Rim cuisine."
For breakfast, savor views of Hana Bay and Ka'uiki Hill as you dine on lobster Benedict, and a Hana take on Longhi's famous French toast. You may sip fresh-squeezed orange and watermelon juices. Breakfast doesn't get much better on Maui. Except at Longhi's, of course.
"We try and feature a lot of local ingredients such as Ono Farms organic papaya," says Executive Chef Villiarimo. "We feature local pohole fern shoots, lettuces from Hana Fresh, oranges. A guy supplies me with Meyer lemons and Tahitian limes. We also pretty much get our fish from Hana. We get locally trolled, fresh bottom fish such as mahi, uku, opakapaka, onaga, ono and ahi."
After serving as executive chef at the hotel many years ago, Villiarimo worked in the same capacity in San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles at other top hotels such as the Westin Bonaventure.
"I've got Filipino, Hawaiian, Portuguese and Chinese blood," says the chef. "I try to incorporate my style into the recipes and bring it up a step."
You'll also find his special cuisine in the hotel's Paniolo Lounge all day from lunch through dinner. Dig into hoisin barbecue ribs, ahi tartare, rock shrimp and avocado cocktail as you listen to live music.
Diners will also find entertainment at the Hana Ranch Restaurant up the street. Former Longhi's Lahaina manager Karyn Johnson returned from Tahoe to take the job and the place was jumping on a recent visit.
We devoured crisp Greek and Caesar salads and giant bowls of pasta Bolognese with Italian sausage and ground beef tossed with ricotta cheese.
"We also feature entertainment here on a regular basis," says Johnson. "There's a ton of talent in this town and we bring in Marty Dread and others. Before Peter took over, it was more just burgers and pizzas and it was only open a few nights a week. Now, it's rockin!"
With Peter Longhi's culinary vision combined with the expert team of Green Tea that includes General Manager Mark Stebbings, the hotel will be the place to watch in the months to come. Stay tuned.
For further details, call Hotel Hana-Maui at 248-8211.