A Taste of Paradise on Maui
MAUI, HAWAII — In seven days on this tropical paradise, one can do major damage to the waistline. So much for that Speedo or bikini bod.
I can practically live on nothing but poke and papaya when I visit Hawaii. But of course, when you’re a guest invited by the Maui Visitors Bureau, with meals and accommodations provided, you end up eating a whole lot more. Happily, of course.
In fact, I miss the food already. Can you blame me? Just take a look.
Montage Kapualua Bay
One of the newer resorts in the area, the 24-acre, oceanfront Montage Kapualua Bay opened in June 2014. A former Ritz-Carlton time-share, the property still boasts a fair number of privately-owned luxury units. But 50 of them are operated by the hotel, comprising one-, two-, and three-bedroom residences with gourmet kitchens, living rooms and spacious lanais.
There’s also a large fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, spa services, outdoor hot and cold plunge pools, and exercise classes. Yours truly even dragged herself to an early-morning cardio core class one day.
But first things first. After a very long flight that arrived late at night, my husband and I were so looking forward to breakfast the next morning at the resort’s restaurant, Cane & Canoe.
The open-air restaurant affords a perfect view of the pool and ocean as the sun comes up. Bask in that sight as complimentary mini kabocha muffins arrive to the table.
You won’t be surprised that my husband, aka Meat Boy, dove right into a very gourmet version of Loco Moco — a mountain of white rice, local mushrooms, brown gravy, Kobe burger and a fried egg.
I, of course, had to enjoy my first papaya of the trip. That was followed by a huge stack of pancakes made with Molokai purple potatoes. They were fluffy and tender, and crowned with bananas, pecans and a sweet, glaze-like haupia (coconut) sauce.
That night, we really got to experience the restaurant at its finest when its Chef Riko Bartolome, created a tasting menu for myself and other media, as well as local and visiting chefs participating in that weekend’s Maui Ag County Festival.
The multi-course feast began with a perfect deviled egg, glammed up with truffle mousse and a smidge of Osetra caviar.
On it was to a lightly cured hamachi draped over uni curd, accented by the sweet perfume of logan fruit.
Next, a layer of passion fruit gelee hiding a creamy poached duck liver mousse. Raspberries and Meyer lemon dust ringed this gorgeous dish full of rich gamey and fruity flavors.
Then, a lovely potato basket encircling maitake mushrooms, Perigord truffle potato puree and a glistening fillet of onaga (long-tail red snapper).
Dessert was an unusual parsnip cheesecake, its nutty flavor heightened by a hazelnut puree. Chef Bartolome made us guess the dots of green puree on the plate. Would you believe it was chive oil? Yes, on a dessert. The oil was sweetened slightly, so what could have been totally wacky was actually just rather daring.
With 40 acres of beach-front property, the Grand Wailea is sprawling and picturesque. But since I last stayed there four years ago, it’s gotten a face-lift with a new look for the rooms and a new chef for its Humuhumunukunukuapuaa restaurant, which is named after the state fish.
The once dated rooms now sport a much refreshed, airier look. And Chef Mike Lofaro brings mainland sophistication to the food, having cooked for many years in the Bay Area with Chef Michael Mina.
One evening, he prepared a special tasting menu for our group of media, local chefs, visiting chefs, and representatives from the Maui Visitor’s Bureau.
The first dish was one of my favorites of the night. It was deceptively simple in looks yet suffused with intense umami flavor. Raw slices of Big Island Kampachi perched in a smoked ponzu sauce accented with mustard oil and grated ginger. I lapped up every drop of that brothy sauce with a spoon.
Next, raw hamachi dolloped with a riff on shave ice. Only this one was a a yuzu-ginger ice with a haunting green color from celery juice.
Another standout was a dish of plump scallops, paired with seared foie gras and a beguiling smoked strawberry sauce.
Colorado rack of lamb was juicy and flavorful with the brightness of apricot yuzu puree.
An inventive cheese course followed with a fortress of sweet watermelon slabs protecting creamy Maui goat cheese and bits of crisp prosciutto.
Lastly, everyone’s favorite combination of chocolate and peanut butter in the form of chocolate cremeux with candied peanuts and a scoop of creme fraiche sorbet.
And you wonder why I tried to fit in a cardio class.