The Best of Maui, 2012

The Best of Maui, 2012

Aloha!

Every year The Maui News runs a contest for people to vote on the best of everything Maui, including restaurants and activities. It is the Valley Isle’s “Best of Maui” survey, established in 1992. The results are in…and while I whole-heartedly agree with some, others leave me scratching my head. Huh? For instance, Alan Wong’s new “Amasia” won “Best New Restaurant” and since we were just there for my birthday (and the review will be posted later on), I can’t say I back up those reader’s opinions.

But that’s what Opinions are all about, right?

However, as we sat at Amasia (at The Grand Wailea) we looked around, and comparing it to other restaurants, said, “You just can’t beat “Mama’s Fish House” for ambience on Maui–and sure enough, listed under

“Best Ambience” was Mama’s Fish House.

Best Water Activity: Teralani Sailing Adventures. I have been on almost every boat EXCEPT the Teralani!

Best Lu’au: Old Lahaina Luau. I disagree. I would move in and live at “The Feast at Lele” luau and let them feed me their gourmet food for the rest of my life. (We have friends in Europe who say that their night at The Feast at Lele was the highlight of their entire Hawaii trip, which included multiple islands.) But I’m talking food here, and the Old Lahaina Luau’s buffet line and watery drinks just don’t do it for me.

Best Restaurant Overall: Lahaina Grill.  Oh, my. Don’t get me started on the last time we went there. A mix-up with our gift card (we were in the right, they were in the wrong)– had the waiter chasing us down the street as if we’d robbed the place. Not a fun way to end the evening. Anyway, as Mike just said, “Why would anyone go there, when Gerard’s French Restaurant is just down the street? It’s way better.”  I can’t agree more, though Gerard’s did win for Best French Restaurant.

Best Ethnic Restaurant: A Saigon Cafe www.mauivietnameserestaurant.com 1792 Main St., Wailuku. Again, sorry. Just can’t agree with those who say they crave the “exotic and fiery rice in a clay pot.” Their food doesn’t win me over, the place has a strange smell from those clay pots –maybe Chinese Five Spice?  and it has always seemed a bit seedy, but the article on its win says that it’s under a renovation that should be completed next week. But there are obviously people who love this place.

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant- Ruby’s Diner 275 Queen Kaahumanu Center www.rubys.com  Kids’ menu available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Best Resort Restaurant: Ko at the Fairmont Kea Lani Foods from Maui’s illustrious plantation heritage: Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese. It just re-opened this spring after a $5.1 million renovation. It’s next on our list of places to try, but I’ve heard really good things about it from friends.

Best Sushi: Sansei, in both Kihei and Kapalua www.sanseihawaii.com This is also our choice for sushi because of their early-bird and after-10 pm discounts.

Best Pizza: Flatbread Pizza Company, Paia www.flatbreadcompany.com

Best Seafood: Mama’s Fish House www.mamasfishhouse.com What’s not to love about Mama’s?(other than the large dent in your wallet) Its ocean-view, cove-like setting makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to Trader Vic times, only better, much better. I once asked about their many wow-factor tropical floral arrangements and was told they have their own floral designer who works only for them. So that explains it. I’m not even a fish eater…but I love Mama’s.

Best Bakery: Komoda’s Store and Bakery in Makawao. They’ve been in business for 96 years, they must be doing something right! They’re best known for their cream-puffs, however all the breads are done by hand, 100% from scratch. No automation involved.

Best Steak: Ruth’s Chris Steak House. www.ruthschris.com. They have two locations, one in Wailea and one in Lahaina. We go for their prime time special, between 5 and 6 PM; the three-course special runs $42.95 and is more than we can possibly eat.

So that about wraps it up… What is your opinion of this year’s winners? Who would you add or subtract from the list?

A hui hou. If you’d like to subscribe to this blog please click the Follow Button on the Home page. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

You Know You Live in Hawaii When…

Aloha!

You know you live in Hawaii when you pull your laundry out of the washing machine and out pops one very clean, but alas very dead, gecko:

Gecko with Hawaiian Blue Ginger

You know you live in Hawaii when you are as tired of being hot now, as you used to be being cold.

You know you live in Hawaii when a road crew takes as long to fix a stretch of street two blocks long… as it would take a California road crew to build a stretch of freeway eight miles long.

You know you live in Hawaii when you’re at a restaurant and see a salad called “Whole tomato in a pool of li hing mui sauce” and know what that means.

You know you live in Hawaii when your food bill is three times higher than your electric bill was on the mainland.

You know you live in Hawaii when every single person you know “back home” thinks you are the luckiest person alive.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home page. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, baby…Jamaica

Have You Laughed Today?

Aloha!

Maui is a pretty loose place. I’m always amused when I’m out and about and notice how feral-like many Maui children are. They haven’t been groomed within inch of their lives, unlike the little mainland boy I saw at Ha’iilimaile General Store the other night. He was about six years old, pasty-skinned, like he never stepped outdoors. Blonde hair parted with military precision; slicked down. Wearing khaki shorts and a plaid button-down shirt, with gleaming white tennis shoes. He looked like someone sat on him a lot.

Then there are the Maui kids: their hair sticking up and out, like it hasn’t been brushed in a week. They wear bright, mismatched clothes, and are tanned and healthy- looking. Usually they sport some interesting choice of footwear, like zebra-print rubber boots with shorts. Surely to grow up to be iconoclasts, all. Another thing about Maui kids: they laugh a lot, and don’t seem to pitch fits like I hear the kids do when I’m on the mainland. It leads me to believe that mainland kids spend way too much time indoors, and Maui kids are pretty much allowed to run wild, so they’re just calmer by nature.

Hearing lots of laughter was one of the things I noticed most when I first moved to Maui. At the beach, in restaurants, standing on street corners. Locals are a raucous bunch. I was in an office building yesterday and all the female workers were just cackling loudly, maybe over some bawdy joke. No one sushed them or reminded them they were in a place of business. Maui children running wild grow up to be Maui office workers. And they laugh a lot. Even in bad times.

One of my favorite things about working at the hotel all those years was hearing the laughter from the Front Desk people. The Concierge desk sat further out in the lobby, so I wasn’t really part of the Front Desk. But I could still hear them tell stories, share what they had for dinner the night before, and always, there was laughter.

The other evening, after a long day, I stopped at IHOP in Kahului and put in a to-go order. I had about a fifteen minute wait (should have just eaten there) and while I waited, a local family came in. More and more of them, till they filled the waiting area with ten people, and more of their party was still to arrive. Watching them all together, laughing, telling stories in their melodic pidgin and cutting up, I had a twinge of loneliness–of missing my family on the mainland, the choice that all of us who move an ocean away must  live with.

It turns out this family had just come from a surprise engagment party. They had all gathered, knowing the young man was going to propose to The One. Except, she didn’t show up. She was always running late. They waited and waited. Finally, she arrived. In pidgin the groom-to-be now related, “While we was all dhere waiting, I got to tinking…instead of engagement ring, mebbe shouda got her one watch!” They all roared, and I couldn’t help joining in.

Laughter: it’s good for the soul.

Thought for the day: Live a balanced life–learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday some. —Robert Fulghum

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home page. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

A Silver Lining

A Silver Lining

Aloha!

Police say a California woman robbed a bank and fled to a Pacific Gas & Electric office to pay her utility bill. The Fresno Bee said the woman was arrested shortly after the Bank of America heist.

Kinda makes you long for the days when a good old-fashioned bank robbery netted you enough to buy diamonds or retire for life. Now it only pays the electric bill. Hawaii’s economy closely follows California’s…so I expect to see a rash of bank robberies here, since Hawaii’s kiilowatt per hour electric cost is five times higher than the mainland’s. That’s another one of those shockers that people experience when they move to Paradise.

I hang my clean laundry and sheets on the clothesline, as do most of my neighbors. It’s a lot more work that way, almost like doing the laundry twice, vs. tossing it into the dryer, but it shoots our electric bill sky high if we use the dryer. There is no natural gas on Maui.

But for these many things that make living on Maui so very expensive, there is a silver lining. Each time we get in the car to drive anywhere, we are treated to sublime views. I never tire of heading down the mountain and seeing the cloud formations over the West Maui Mountains, seeing the pinky-sunset hues shoot up into the sky and color those clouds every evening.

On our way out to dinner for Mike’s birthday, we saw this, the very essence of a silver lining.

West Maui Sky

It’s been doing this every evening for a week now. I’ll never grow tired ot it.

A hui hou (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home Page. Mahalo for reading!

Maui Weather Today: High 85, Low 72

Aloha, Jamaica

Shark Snack

Shark Snack

Aloha!

As those of you who follow this blog know, Mike works as a boat Captain on the Scotch Mist out of Lahaina www.scotchmistsailingcharters.com/

A couple of days ago he came home from work and told me this story: another Captain out of Lahaina had taken a snorkel tour over near the coastline of Lanai. The group of snorkelers were in the water enjoying themselves.  While the Captain waited on the boat, he looked down in the water and saw a large turtle surface. Under the turtle he saw another shape, and assumed it was a second turtle…when suddenly an eight-foot tiger shark surfaced just behind the turtle, and opening its large jaws–swallowed the turtle whole!

The Captain started yelling, “Everyone back on the boat. Back on the boat, NOW!” but the shark had his snack, and took off, not bothering any of the humans.

I guess he didn’t get the memo that the turtles are endangered and not to get too close.

For those who would enjoy a sailing adventure the next time you’re on Maui:

Scotch Mist Sunset Tour Highlights:

The Scotch Mist is the fastest production line sailboat of her size in the world.

■ Bubbly Champagne, Kula Chocolates, Beer, Wine, Soda & Juice ■ Quiet and Relaxing Sunset Sail ■ Beautiful views of Maui, Lanai and Molokai ■

Snorkel Trips Available (to the brave and fearless!) to Lanai

Call 1-877-669-1077. Enjoy!

A hui hou (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home Page. Mahalo for stopping by.

Maui Weather Today: High 87, Low 73

Aloha, Jamaica

Restaurant Review: Colleen’s at the Cannery

Restaurant Review: Colleen’s at the Cannery

Aloha!

Colleen’s at the Haiku Cannery http://colleensinhaiku.com/location.html is an out-of-the-way gem mostly frequented by the locals, but it would be an excellent stopping-off point on a trip back from Hana for the tourists. When you come to the Haiku Community Center, make a left and then another left onto Haiku Road, and up to the Cannery, which will be on your left also. It’s across from the Haiku Post Office. On our visit for Mike’s birthday, we saw one tourist couple waving a Maui driving map about, but other than that it was an interesting mix of locals who could have been doctors or windsurfers, sitting next to the guy with hair halfway down his back….and bare feet. Only in Hawaii.

We went on a Friday night and waited about thirty minutes for our food, but the service was good and the wait staff attentive with refilling water glasses. Colleen’s ambience reminds me of something you would find in Berkeley or Benicia, the town I was from in California. It has a restful vibe and they’re doing it right with the portions and flavors. The the only thing missing for me is artwork–a place for the eye to land. So I had to content myself with people-watching.

The place was packed and all tables full during the dinner hour (we arrived at 7 pm, with no reservation). Don’t stand at the door and wait, because it’s seat-yourself. Mike had the special: mahi-mahi with tiger prawns in a beautiful beure-blanc sauce that was excellent. We detected a hint of saffron. It came with a large scoop of fluffy, not gummy, rice and asparagus, for $25.00.

I had the Warm Bacon Spinach Salad for $14.00. It was quite large, had crispy potatoes, carmelized onions, cherry tomatoes, fresh bleu cheese and white truffle vinaigrette. If anything there was a little too much dressing and bacon in it (full slices, unusual for this salad.) In addition to their full pizza menu, the dinner menu is imaginative and it would appear there is something for everyone: BBQ Baby Back Ribs in a Maker’s Mark Honey sauce, a Shrimp and Garlic Linguine, Wild Mushroom Ravioli for the vegetarians (very important in Haiku) and a Vodka Penne Pasta, in addition to the Burgers and Fresh Daily Catch. I saw a number of Fish and Chips baskets come out, so they must be worth trying, if that’s your thing.

We were too full for dessert. We grabbed their breakfast and lunch menus also and plan to go again soon. The breakfast menu is typical and includes an Organic Tofu Vegetable Wrap. For the vegetarians, lunch includes a Grilled Ono and Avocado Wrap  (if you eat fish) and a  Roasted Vegetable Wrap.

The place is clean, comfortable (lots of booths, a biggie for me) and the noise level surprisingly low for concrete floors and high ceilings with an open-kitchen plan.

Give Colleen’s a try if you venture to Hana, or make it a destination with a pretty drive and side trip to Paia or Makawao. I think you’ll be pleased.

Colleen’s at the Cannery: 810 Haiku Rd., Haiku, HI 96708. 808-575-9211

Zagat Rating: 21/30.

A hui hou (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button on the Home Page.

Aloha, Jamaica

You Asked for It

Maui Weather Today High 84, Low 72

You Asked for It

Aloha!
It seems we’ve been on a food theme for the last few blog posts. I have asked readers what they would like to see in this blog, and the answers came back, “Restaurant reviews.” Being that I lived for 20 years right next to the Napa Valley in California, and did Interior Design work there, I will provide some
restaurant reviews in this blog. I’m a pretty good cook, but I LOVE to eat out.

First of all, I don’t know how any restaurant survives these days. Especially on Maui, with the price of food. We used to buy the good canned crab meat
at Costco on a somewhat regular basis, and it was $ 8.99 per can. (I make a mean crabcake.) Then the price went to $9.99 then $12.99 then $15.99 and the last I saw, it was at $18 can. We stopped buying it. So if crab has doubled on the shelf at Costco, how much are restaurateurs having to pay? The same with our electric bill; it’s doubled on Maui in the last few years. Business people are paying those same rates.

When you come to Maui on vacation, you are in vacation mode. You have set a certain amount of money set aside to spend… and do so gladly. We are the same way when we go on vacation, our filters are different. We just go with the flow and if we want something, or want to eat out, we do it. It’s just the price of taking a vacation.

Not so when you live in a place. So eating out on Maui can be a minefield… We don’t have it in the budget to eat at the normal tourist places. And when we do eat out, we are more critical than a normal tourist would be.I laugh when I remember the time my stepdad John was here visiting from California, and one day we went to Ruby’s http://rubys.com/ in the Kaahamanu shopping center for lunch. It’s a hamburger place mostly, with a 1950’s diner vibe. John and I spent a lot of time in California comparing hamburger joints. There is so much to choose from there, with Nation’s, and In-and-Out Burger. The first thing we would do when he picked me up at the Oakland airport was go straight to Nation’s for a cheeseburger. It was our ritual. You can get out of In-and-Out Burger with a nice freshly made cheeseburger, fries, and a drink for around five bucks. It’s an eat- in restaurant, and has booths, the same as Ruby’s. And when we opened up the menu at Rubys, and John saw that the hamburgers were going to be about $12 a piece, I thought he was going to fall out of the booth. (He was a big guy, so that would’ve been quite difficult for him to do.) I ordered a cheeseburger and a drink. He ordered a bowl of chili, onion rings, and a shake.

The bill came to somewhere in the neighborhood of $27. He talked about that bill at Ruby’s for the next three years. To anyone who would listen, he said, “How in the world does anyone afford to live on Maui? When you can’t even go out for a cheeseburger….”
And I agree.

Just going out and having a good time without worrying about the tab can be a real challenge on Maui. I remember when I first moved here and was working at the hotel, I met one of the maintenance guys who had also recently moved here from Northern California. He had a good job at the hotel, his wife also worked. But they were moving back to the mainland. I questioned him, but you just got here, why are you leaving? His answer: “Because we are so
spoiled with going out to eat in Northern California, and we simply can’t afford
to do it here.”It was their thing, and it just wasn’t going to fly in Maui.

It does become a bit of of “look, but don’t touch.” I know there are a lot of nice restaurants at the hotels in Wailea and also in Lahaina, but we just don’t go eat there, because it’s not in the budget. This was a huge
adjustment for me, being from Northern California, and having Napa Valley right there at my disposal.

You can find good, honest chef-prepared food in Napa Valley for not much money. Also, a few years ago we went to LA to the Great American Pitchfest, with one of my scripts. Afterward, we drove to Santa Barbara to stay for a couple of nights. This was going to be the “vacation” portion of the trip. And because we were on vacation, I was prepared to pay good money to eat out. We got some recommendations from the concierge and headed downtown.

And were blown away. First, by all that there was to choose from. It was like its own little Napa Valley right there on the main street of Santa Barbara. Once we chose a restaurant (not an easy feat), we were treated to some of the most mouthwatering, gourmet food I have ever had for such a good price. I still think about that meal. We had an appetizer and entrées; I had one glass of wine and we shared a dessert, and were out the door for about 60 bucks. Amazing!
This is never going to happen on Maui. So, any restaurant reviews that I do on this blog will be through the eyes of hard-working Maui people with normal working people’s budgets. Not a tourist’s budget. Forewarned is forearmed.

You asked for it!

Let the games begin.

A hui hou (til next time). if you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button the Home Page.

Aloha, Jamaica