For the longest time, I have wondered what happened to the glorious Maui Gold pineapples that I used to snag so easily at Bay Area Costcos and local grocery stores.
A recent trip to Maui turned up an explanation for why they are MIA here — along with an unexpected gift of wonderfully aromatic Maui-grown vanilla beans.
It all started one morning just after I finished breakfast at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa. Guests like myself staying in the newly revamped Hokupaâ€™a Tower rooms enjoy breakfast bites on the lanai included in their reservations. To make the lanai more festive, the resort often has featured performers, chef demos or other entertainment.
That morning, I spied Michael Schenk at a counter, cutting up samples of Maui Gold pineapples to give out to guests. Or rather, my nose first caught wind of the unmistakable sweet, tangy, tropical scent of the fruit and I followed it to its source.
Such was the case, too, when he and his wife Janice Simeon bought the nearly two-decade-old Tiffany’s restaurant last year when its former owners, the Orite family, decided to retire. Long an old-school locals’ favorite, the expansive restaurant had a lived-in look and a huge menu leaning into Chinese, Japanese and Korean classics.
When the Simeons took over, they refreshed the interior a bit, but kept its funky island flair. The menu was honed, with some more Filipino influences added, as well as a few of Simeon’s signatures such as his version of Fat Chow Funn.
Having visited nearly every other one of their restaurants, my husband and I couldn’t pass up dining at Tiffany’s on our most recent visit to Maui last month.
A 2023 James Beard semi-finalist for “Best New Restaurant,” the small plates or okazuya-style establishment is helmed by Chef-Owner Jason Peel, former executive chef of Roy’s Waikiki and culinary instructor at Kapiolani Community College.
Nami Kaze, which is Japanese for “wave” and “wind,” sits on the pier at Honolulu Harbor, where fishing boats pull up with their fresh catch daily.
This is the perfect place to gather with a small group, so you can sample many different dishes, all of which spotlight fresh ingredients, whose farms are listed prominently on the menu.
Honolulu, Oahu, HI — For a truly special experience, snag a seat at the chef’s counter at natuRe Waikiki — if you can.
The two-story restaurant opened in 2022 with plenty of outdoor seating on the first floor with an a la carte menu. But the best spot in the restaurant is definitely at the 10-seat chef’s counter, where Chef Nae Ogawa and her young team hold court in the open kitchen.
I had many wonderful meals on my trip to Hawaii last week. But by far, one of the most outstanding was the tasting menu at this gem that Honolulu Magazine named “Best New Restaurant” in 2022.
To be honest, natuRe (pronounced the French way, “nah-tur) was not even on my radar. On a sun-and-sand, sandals-and-shorts kind of vacation, I wasn’t necessarily even contemplating an upscale, fine-dining dinner.
But friend Sarah Burchard deserves special thanks for steering me to it. The former chef at San Francisco’s Barbacco, Burchard moved to Honolulu more than six years ago to become a successful food writer. In fact, anyone planning a trip to Hawaii should check out her online site for tips on must-visit places. When she’s not writing or volunteering her time for all manner of community eco projects, she is a server at natuRe. So, when she recommended the chef’s counter there, I knew she wouldn’t steer me wrong.
Honolulu, Oahu, HI — At one point, Hawaii’s respected chef, Ed Kenney, had four restaurants. But following the throes of the pandemic, only one remains.
Mud Hen Water is still going strong, thankfully. Opened in 2015 with a strong locavore focus, it continues to be relevant and incredibly popular, among both locals and tourists, as I found when I dined there last week. It’s no wonder, too, because this is food that captures the cornucopia of cultures that comprise Hawaii, from the Mediterranean to most of Asia. With a homey Hawaiian quality and assertive flavors, this is food that you easily crave again and again.
With Kenney’s Kaimuki Superette next-door now closed, Mud Hen Water has taken over that outdoor space to offer al fresco dining. But even if you dine indoors, as we did, there’s plenty of air circulation from whirring ceiling fans and patio doors left open to take advantage of the balmy, tropical breezes.
Start with a playfully named Shurb a Dub Dub ($11), a bracing mix of vodka, lemon, ginger, and seasonal shrub, which in this case was a mix of guava and citrus. Zingy and tart, it’s exactly what you want on a warm night.