From the Glitz of Vegas to the Ritz of Maui

Living in Las Vegas, everyday is a vacation: a chaotic, wild, all-night, strobe-lit, party-until-the-sun-comes-up vacation. And I'm in the middle of it all 24/7.

So when it came time for me to pick a spot for MY vacation, I wanted to get away to the most relaxing place on Earth. I longed for a place where the thumping bass and the slot-machine-bings of the Vegas Strip would be a distant memory... a place where screaming crowds were non-existent… and a place that I didn't have to spend three hours standing in line at a foreign customs department to get into.

Well, I found that place, and if you promise to keep this between you and me, I'll tell you all about it.


What?! You’ve heard of it?

Well, more specifically, I’m heading to the world-renowned Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui.

Yes, the rolling ocean, the white sandy beaches, the clear skies, the endless tennis, the Maui Gold Pineapple fields, the 100 miles of walking and biking trails, the overall Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua tradition and everything else you see in these unreal pictures, which are drawing your eyes away from this text, were all reasons why my wife and I chose to unwind in this paradise. (And when I get back from the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, in a few weeks, I will tell you all about the 54 acres of Maui’s lush northwest shore, the plantation-style hotel which is part of the 23,000 acre master-planned Kapalua resort on Maui, the newly planned Town Center and especially the PGA Tour-quality golf courses, which host the Mercedes-Benz Championship. And did I mention the $110 million renovations? It seems that the best is getting better!)

But even with all of those unbelievable Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua luxuries to look forward to, the reason I’m going to Maui is for the food and the wine!!

Those of you who watch “Extra” know that I dropped 15 pounds in the month of May through diet and exercise. And I’ve had no problem keeping it off during the month of June. But when I’m on vacation, I like to eat fine food. So having the finest food in the world at my Hawaiian doorstep is a BO-NUS!

That’s where the 2007 Kapalua Wine & Food Festival comes in. One of the longest-running festivals of its kind in the United States, the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival celebrates 26 years of fine wine and food with a 4-day culinary extravaganza from June 28-July 1 at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. Master Sommelier and host Fred Dame brings together world-renowned winemakers, nationally acclaimed master sommeliers, celebrated chefs, industry insiders... and, uh, me… for a series of fun, themed tastings, seminars and gala events. Cooking demonstrations featuring food samplings and fine wine pairings, wine tasting seminars and a rare wines winemaker dinner are a few of the highlights.

“The secret of success for the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival is that it has the perfect blend of exceptional wine, extraordinary cuisine, expert panelists and lots of fun at the spectacular and scenic Kapalua Resort,” said Dame.

Soooo, let’s get my schedule down:

June 23 thru June 27 – Workout non-stop in the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua fitness center.
June 28 thru July 1 – Eat and drink as much as possible at the Wine & Food Festival.

Good? Good.

Seriously, these are the events that I’m going to take part in at the 2007 Kapalua Wine & Food Festival.

Thursday, June 28, 5:30 p.m. – Kapalua Wine & Food Festival Welcome Reception – This is a very important event to attend because I can eye the room for the potential “non-finishers.” These are people who I determine will NOT be able to finish any and all of their delicious food portions, thus prompting me to swoop in with “You gonna finish that?”

Friday, June 29, 7 a.m. - Kapalua Wine & Food Festival Golf Tournament – I don’t know what golf has to do with fine food and fine wine, but I’m not complaining. Oh, wait, here it is... There’s a luncheon with an awards presentation to follow the tournament. I don’t expect to get any awards at the luncheon, but I do plan to get plenty of luncheon at the luncheon.

Friday, June 29, 2:30 p.m. – What’s Hot & What’s Next – I understand this is going to be a seminar about the food of the moment and of the future. From a personal stand-point, “What’s Hot” is me before eating all the food I can this weekend, and “What’s Next” is me living at my personal trainer’s house after this weekend.

Friday, June 29, 6 p.m. - Kapalua Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting – Spanish-inspired cuisine and over 100 wines from around the world will be featured at The Grand Tasting. I will be interacting with eight Master Sommeliers as they discuss featured wines in themed tents. Yessss!!

Saturday, June 30, 8 a.m. – Cardio Tennis – This should be interesting. I’m worse at tennis than I am at golf. My wife consistently wipes the court with me whenever she can convince me to play at home. And being filled with wine and Spanish cuisine from the previous evening should make this morning extra interesting.

Saturday, June 30, 10 a.m. – Master Sommelier 104 – I’m not going to lie to you. I had to look up what the word “Sommelier” means. The first definition that I found was: a pack animal driver or official charged with transportation of supplies. I didn’t think that applied here, so I kept searching and found that a Sommelier is a waiter in a restaurant who has charge of wines and their service, a wine steward, if you will. So they’re going to teach me how to become a wine coinsurer. This should help me improve on the current way I select a fine wine at dinner, which involves me handing my wife the wine list and saying, “Have at it.”

Saturday, June 30, 11:45 a.m. – Mark Tarbell Cooking Exhibition – I don’t mean to brag, but I am quite accomplished in the kitchen. My specialty is Pop-Tarts with a side of Fruity Pebbles. The man in charge of this cooking exhibition, Mark Tarbell, has described the connection between wine and food as “Fascinating, frustrating and at times truly magical. “That’s exactly how he’ll be describing the connection between Carlos Diaz and cooking when we finish up this day. (Without the “fascinating” or “truly magical” parts.)

Saturday, June 30, 12:30 p.m. – Wine Tour – Let the games begin. I find it intriguing that there are no other events scheduled for Saturday after this early afternoon wine tour. Apparently, there will be much wine consumed. Much.

Sunday, July 1, 10:30 a.m. – Hangover Helper – This will be the event I will need the most all weekend.

Sunday, July 1, 12:30 p.m. – Golf Clinic – I do wish Sunday’s golf clinic was BEFORE Saturday’s golf tournament, but after Saturday’s Wine Tour, my game will be beyond repair anyway.

Sunday, July 1, 6:00 p.m. – The Kapalua Seafood Festival – This is different from my own personal “Kapalua See Food Festival,” where I eat all the food I see.

Now that’s what I call a vacation. I will update my “Extra” blog with daily accounts of my Ritz-Carlton experience from June 23 to July 1. Stay tuned.

Better yet, if you want to join me at the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival, just e-mail for tickets.

The first glass of wine is on me! (As long as it’s free.)