When the old Hotel Hana-Maui morphed into Travaasa Hana last June, there was a lot of confusion about the name and curiosity about its experiential aspect.
Now that the dust has settled and people are finding out that this "experiential" hotel offers fun activities from archery to bicycle tours and management is forging ahead with its culinary programs.
Basically, guests choose from two options: an a la carte stay, or the all-inclusive stay that includes three meals a day plus snacks and nonalcoholic drinks, spa treatments daily and all activities.
“The people who are coming here are worldwide, organic travelers,” says Director of Food & Beverage Manny Arriaga. “They don’t mind touching the flowers and getting to know the area.”
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Sous Chef Danny Baker leads the edible walking tours, the first of the hotel’s interactive culinary programs to debut this month.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
If you choose the all-inclusive route, you will get a taste of the brand's five "pillars," which are culinary, adventure, culture, fitness and spa and wellness.
"We offer different options each day and each guest has the opportunity to choose how much, or how little, to do," says Mark Stebbings, general manager.
If you choose the a la carte route, or if you simply drive to Hana for the day and drop in for a bite to eat, you may rest assured that whatever you buy in the restaurants has been upgraded in quality by Peter Longhi of the famous Maui restaurant family. In fact, it's never been better.
Travaasa at a glance:
* New culinary programs: Midday juicing classes, edible walking tours, Art of the Cocktail and fresh Hana fish preparation followed by family-style dinners will all be launched before the end of this month.
* Kau'iki Restaurant: Open for breakfast from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. and for dinner from 6 to 9 p.m. The menu highlights are French toast "Longhi" style; sauteed exotic mushrooms, New York steak, fresh catch of the day, baby iceberg wedge salad.
* Paniolo Lounge: Open for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Munch on hummus, guacamole, ahi sashimi, marinated olives.
* Hana Ranch: Open from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. with pizzas, pastas.
* For more details: Call 248-8211.
"We do all of the things food and beverage here," says Longhi. "We do room service, catering, weddings, poolside service and banquets in addition to running all the hotel's restaurant outlets."
Before the end of this month, three new culinary programs will be launched by the hotel's director of food & beverage, local boy Manny Arriaga.
"We'll offer the Art of the Cocktail once a week," says Arriaga, a Hana native who's traveled the world with the military from Germany to Louisiana.
The Art of the Cocktail will kick off with rum drinks, utilizing local fruits such as mangos, lemons, mountain apples and Waiui strawberry guavas.
"We host the Art of the Cocktail by the pool and I make at least one drink from the fruits grown on property. Like we'll make, for instance, the Hoku Dori, with starfruit juice, pineapples and rum with garnishes. And we do a juicing class midday, and the end result tastes totally different from the packaged juices. No preservatives, and it's so fresh and good."
Longtime Sous Chef Danny Baker also just started taking guests on edible walking tours. He'll cut open lilikoi (or passion fruit) and have participants taste it, as well as other exotic fruits from the land. It would be hard to find the trails he takes you on, unless you really know the area.
"Another culinary program that we're launching is fish preparation. So people can see all of the good stuff that comes out of Hana waters and from along the shoreline. They can see how Hana families subsidize their food bills."
"We pretty much get all of our fish from Hana," says Travaasa Hana's Executive Chef Barry Villiarimo, another Hana boy who's cooked everywhere from top hotels in San Fransisco to the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles. "We get locally trolled, fresh bottom fish such as mahi, uku, opakapaka, onaga, ono and ahi."
The same evening as the fish preparation class, Chef Villiarimo will do a family-style dinner featuring the fish. There are no more buffets at the hotel.
"At the fish preparation class, we'll also bring in stuff you don't ordinarily see in a restaurant," says Arriaga. "Like opihi is one of those things. And, hau ui ui, or sea urchin. 'Wana' in Hawaiian. In Italy, they put olive oil on a plate and dip the bread in the urchin. We're going to do tastings like these, so the people will understand it. It's what will set us apart from everybody else."
You'll also find these local foods on the menu in the form of lemonade made from freshly squeezed local Meyer lemons and Hawaiian honey; ahi tartare with roasted kukui nut relish, wakame seaweed and micro greens; Kau'iki garden greens; and rich and satisfying lilikoi creme brulee.
In addition, Longhi just started selecting individual cows from various Maui Cattle Co. ranches - all grass fed and free range for optimum quality.
"He's thinking outside of the box on this and the quality is phenomenal," Arriaga says. "So you get free-range New York strip steaks, juicy Hana burgers made from grass- fed beef and sizzling flat-iron steaks seared to perfect doneness."
Last but not least, the menus change every night. "Chef Barry is committed to changing it up," says Arriaga.
"Tonight was seafood risotto, yesterday, it was mushroom. Guests can even come to dinner in bathrobes if they like. It's casual dress here. But it's fine dining with elevated levels of food and service. Our wine list is excellent, too, and we look forward to more wine dinners and tastings, like the Turley events we had last November."