wailea le‘a at the shops at wailea: a celebration of joy

THE_SHOPS_AT_WAILEA_MAUI_CONCIERGE_OCTOBER_2014_MAUNALUA.inddLe‘a is the Hawaiian word for joy, pleasure, happiness. It’s also one half of the name of The Shops at Wailea’s new monthly event, Wailea Le‘a—a lively celebration held under the stars in the center’s fountain courtyard.

Featuring live music performed by award-winning local musicians, delectable menu samplings, make-up touch ups, and a genuine good time, Wailea Le‘a also offers an opportunity to take advantage of special discounts from participating merchants available only during the event.

It’s a balmy Maui evening when Janet and I arrive at Wailea Le‘a, which begins at 6:30pm. A light breeze wafts through the courtyard, and the air is filled with birdsong cheerfully provided by the myriad feathered friends who seem to enjoy hanging out at The Shops. Lines are already forming at the food sample tables, and the featured musicians—talented trio Maunalua from O‘ahu—are setting up on the stage. Rows of folding chairs have been set out for those who want to enjoy the concert up close and personal.

But Janet and I, having had a light dinner in anticipation of the tasty tidbits to come, decide to first divide and conquer the food tables: she takes one side of the courtyard, while I take the other, and afterwards we perch on a bench to share our treasures.

Tommy Bahama’s dainty round brownies are ooey, gooey, and topped with a dollop of creamy chocolate frosting. Ruth’s Chris’s manager Randy Spencer has served up generous portions of their famously delicious bread pudding with decadent whiskey sauce. An attractive young lady from Lappert’s Ice Cream gives out samples of their crunchy, munchy waffle cones, which you can smell as you walk by their store. Longhi’s haupia pie square is a luscious combination of flavors and textures. And the new kid on the block, Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars, has both savory and sweet offerings: chunks of crusty bread accompanied by their 18-year-old dark balsamic vinegar and Tuscan herb infused olive oil; and madeleines with a choice of wild blueberry, espresso bean, vanilla bean, or chocolate infused balsamic vinegar.

When Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning Maunalua takes the stage to begin their performance, they open with a beautiful rendition of “Moku Kia Kahi,” from their 2007 album entitled “Ho‘okanaka.” The trio, consisting of Bobby Moderow, Jr., Kahi Kaonoki, and Richard Gideon, fill the air with their energetic guitar playing and powerful vocal harmonies.

Next, “Sanoe” features hauntingly beautiful falsetto led by Bobby. “Ku‘u Lehua” allows Kahi to demonstrate his prowess on finger bass. For their next selection, Bobby tunes his guitar to C6 for “E Liliu E,” which gives him an opportunity to showcase his impressive slack-key guitar playing. These talented musicians performed at an inauguration lu‘au for President Obama in January of 2009, and their captivating music perfectly epitomizes what visitors to Hawai‘i want to hear.

Janet and I decide it’s time to wander around. Debbie from The Cos Bar is offering complimentary make-up touch ups. Although I don’t wear much make-up, I think “why not?” and get in line. When it’s my turn, Debbie applies a variety of Bobbi Brown cosmetics with a light touch. The result is a natural-looking, better me!

Next, Janet and I head upstairs to check out the newest store at The Shops: Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars. The Wailea location is the latest outlet for this company whose first location was opened in Traverse City, Michigan, in 2008, by owners Jim and Lane Milligan. The Maui store’s walls are painted a rich goldenrod reminiscent of the Mediterranean. Shiny stainless steel containers (called “fusti” in Italian—hence the store’s name), which contain aged balsamic vinegars and extra virgin olive oils in very interesting flavors, are arranged in tidy rows along the walls.

Store manager Jill Sullivan, who previously worked as a concierge for Pleasant Holidays, puts together some vinegar and oil combinations for us to sample. Posted at each fusti is an informational card listing the product’s flavor and which foods it complements, as well as suggested Fustini’s product pairings and cooking usages.

Hands-down, my favorite pairing is the Gremolata Olive Oil with Sicilian Lemon Balsamic Vinegar. The oil’s lemon zest, minced garlic, Italian flat-leaf parsley, and mint notes hold up well to the vinegar’s pleasantly assertive and bright lemon flavor. As suggested by Fustini’s, this winning combo will nicely complement seafood and poultry dishes. Jill even gives me 60ml samples of each product to try at home. Bellissimo!

As Janet and I ride the escalator back downstairs, Maunalua is performing their rendition of John Cruz’s popular song “Island Style”: We eat and drink and we sing all day, kanikapila in the old Hawaiian way. It’s an appropriate ending for a relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable island-style evening under the stars.

–heidi pool



Wailea Le‘a, The Shops at Wailea’s monthly celebration featuring live music performed by award-winning local musicians, menu samplings, make-up touch ups, and merchant discounts.


In the fountain courtyard at The Shops at Wailea, 3750 Wailea Alanui Dr.


Next up December 17, Jerry Santos will perform. Third Wednesday of every month from 6:30 to 8pm.



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