We talk a lot about mindful eating around here, and for lots of good reasons! But, at least for me, I often think of it as a personal practice. Maybe not solitary, exactly, but it’s something that I do, for myself – not because someone else is influencing it.
But mindful is one of the first words I reached for when describing my incredible outdoor dining experience with Kiawe Outdoor, along with thoughtful, elevated, and, holy cow how did I get this lucky?
I happened to be on Maui for my husband’s work (which, yes, is a big part of the answer to that last question) when a PR contact reached out about an experiential dinner with Kiawe Outdoor later that week, and she had a couple of spots available for media. Fortunately, it was the one night we were free from work obligations (luck strikes yet again), so we were happy to accept.
I’m of the belief that the atmosphere and company is just as important as the ingredients used when it comes to a truly elevated dining experience, and that’s part of what makes Kiawe Outdoor’s events so special. You’re not just getting their famous coal fired sourdough bread with Kihei mango butter and sea salt – you’re watching them take that loaf straight off the fire, where it’s been baking in a cast iron Dutch oven. You’re not just sipping what’s quite possibly the best bubbly you’ve ever had – you’re watching the sommelier saber it open (or, if you’re lucky, maybe even trying it yourself!).
Every wine they opened came with a thoughtful story, often about its origins, but always with at least a nod to why it paired so perfectly with each dish. (In one case, the story was nearly 10 minutes long, during which time we all sat, eyes closed, following along as a grape became wine and thinking back to where we were at each point in that wine’s journey.)
Kiawe Outdoor founder Yeshua Goodman grew up running all around Maui, hunting and fishing and sharing what he’d caught with friends over a fire. After he became an advanced sommelier, he decided to merge his love of wine with his appreciation for the island’s abundant produce, all mixed in with the experience of sharing a special meal prepared over an open flame, served in gorgeous outdoor locations using vintage glassware on impeccable tablescapes.
Oh, and not just any open flame will do. Each dish, from the most incredible snapper stew to a mushroom gnocchi that convinced even Jared to become a mushroom lover, is cooked over wood or using the smoke from the kiawe tree, a species invasive to Maui. That’s no accident, and, in fact, Kiawe Outdoor regularly incorporates other invasive species, like Axis Deer and wild boar, into their menu.
While they offer custom events, visitors can take part in this elevated experience at preplanned dinners; Kiawe partners regularly with several properties around Maui, like the Royal Lahaina Resort, where we joined them. (Normally, they host their dinners there in an area called “The Branches,” beneath a 100-year-old, 40-foot-tall rubber tree, but some wild winds caused us to move to a slightly more protected outdoor spot.)
Is it pricy? Yep, you’ll get no argument from me on that. But it’s the kind of experience that can be once-in-a-lifetime – and leave you with no regrets (especially if you’re smart enough to snap pictures of the wine bottles and take a few notes on the food!). Serious foodies and wine lovers can pass by the traditional luau and opt for this elevated dinner without a second thought. Unless you have a truly magical whale encounter, I can pretty well guarantee this will be the highlight of your visit.
Have you had a dining experience that you know you’ll never forget? Tell me all about it! –Kristen