Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Maui Update V (the Final Update!)

Well, our last few days in Maui were just as great as all the ones that came before! Here's the final update (to infinity, and beyond!).

In this review: Kama'ole Beach I in Kihei, Big Beach, and Makena Beach in south Maui; also "Hobo Packs" (recipe), Iao Valley, Hookipia Overlook, and Mama's Fish House.

Thursday, May 21st

After the long drive to Hana yesterday, we took all day today to explore the wonderful beaches of south Maui. Our first stop (bright an early) was Kama'ole Beach I (there are three so-named beaches) in Kihei. Since this beach is part of a public park, it has restrooms (yay!) and a lifeguard. Its a great beach, with some of the softest, finest sand of any we visited. The beach is also shallow quite a way out into the surf, so its good for timid swimmers, and the north end has a nice rocky outcropping for snorkelers.

After lunch (at the Maui Taco chain - adequate fuel for the hungry body), we drove even further south...in fact, as far south as you can go, to "Big Beach."

Once over-run by live-in hippies, this beach has since been reclaimed by the state and is now a pristine, wild spot at the edge of the world. Beautiful vistas out to Molokini crater, big waves, and long stretches of golden sand characterize Big Beach. Hard to beat.

Our final stop was Makena beach (this beach has several names, we are referring to the one in front of the Maui Prince Hotel). This is a cute little curving bay, nice and protected. There was great snorkeling at the south end (and - a rarity - shade!) and good swimming in the middle. Very pleasant.

For dinner, we headed up the grill and reprised our steak dinner from a few nights ago - this time with a favorite grill dish of ours: "hobo packs". The idea here is to take some nice Yukon Gold potatoes, cut them into bite sized pieces, toss them with lardons and sweet onion (we used Maui onions), salt, pepper, and a touch of olive oil (the bacon will make nearly enough oil on its own). Wrap these up in neat little tinfoil packages and put them in the coals. The end result is a nice individual serving size of roasty, toasty, caramelized goodness (if you are in a rush, it can help to precook the potatoes, and par-cook the bacon and onions).

Friday, May 22nd

Our last day was not one we planned to squander! Our flight left at 9pm at night, so we squeezed in a FULL day of fun. The morning was spent back at good old Ka'anapali Beach, lunch was leftovers from Honokoawai Okazuya deli (see the previous update for a review).

We also visited the Hyatt resort in Ka'anapali - they have a virtual menagerie of exotic birds and plants on their grounds, which makes a fun tour.

A visit to the Iao Valley rounded out our afternoon. This beautiful spot is nestled in the west Maui mountains and has a short, easy nature trail to an overlook point.

Our Big Event, foodwise, today was dinner at Mama's Fish House (located in central Maui, about 1 mile outside of Paia).

Since we were a bit early for our reservation, we drove another mile down the road to Hookipia overlook. This windy spot is a favorite with surfers, and a beautiful place to watch the afternoon sun on the water.

Dinner at Mama's was an apt finale to our wonderful trip. It was probably the best meal we had on-island (vying with Merrimans). When we first arrived at the restaurant, I have to admit that I was pretty skeptical that it would live up to my expectations. Everyone (friends, strangers, internet reviews, guidebook reviews) raved that this place was The Best. How could it really be so great? Most other places on Maui are overpriced and underwhelming, and Mama's had that "look" that suggested a gimmick to me (parrots in the entryway, canoes to pose around for photos on the beach, etc.).

But I was oh-so wrong. Mama's did more than live up to my expectations, it exceeded them. Fish is the thing here, so I wouldn't bother ordering anything else (though I'm sure their other offerings are good). All the fish and seafood on their menu is caught locally and the same day it is served. They even list the fisherman and boat that hauled in the catch on the menu. So, you really can't get it too much fresher than this. Mama's was the only fine dining establishment we visited that began our meal with an amuse bouche - in this case a very fine asparagus soup served in a tiny little sake cup. It boded well, and was followed by a warm loaf of house-made honey poppyseed bread with sweet cream butter.

For our starter, we chose to share their special offering for the evening - Moi Poke. Moi (Hawaiian kingfish) is not something I've ever tried before. I now wish it was possible to eat it raw for every meal for the rest of my life. It was Awe-Some. Simply prepared with good sea salt, lots of onion, and some dried seaweed, this stuff was addictive, melt-on-your-tongue goodness. The taro and sweet potato crisps were the perfect edible silverware.

For dinner, Sid had the house special: Mahi Mahi caught on the north shore, stuffed with local lobster and crab, baked in a macadamia nut crust, and topped with a lobster tail. It was as fresh as can be and alluringly subtly sweet from the crab and lobster. Delicious.

I had the Deep-water Ahi (grilled with a peppercorn crust) served with a Hamaka mushroom basil sauce atop sweet potato-taro mash. The strongly flavored sauce was great with the tender Ahi and the mash was really addictively good. When the server told me the chef preferred to cook this dish medium rather than rare or medium rare, I was a little nervous. But I need not have worried - it was just right with the assertive sauce.

For dessert (which I figured would be an overpriced afterthought) we shared the incomparably good "Black Pearl", which was a glistening chocolate mousse filled with Lilikoi cream nestled into a cookie shaped like an oyster shell. Ostentatiously beautiful presentation was matched by the rich flavors and interesting (in a good way) pairing of the chocolate and Lilikoi. A perfect end to a perfect meal.

It was with both heavy hearts and stomachs that we made our way, weeping oh-so-softly, to the Kahuli Airport and off into the night.

Aloha and Mahalo for reading about our trip! I hope the reviews are helpful!

Mama's Fish House on Urbanspoon

Maui Tacos on Urbanspoon


Carol said...

Hi Miranda-
Haven't checked in with your family blog for quite awhile. It was fun to see some Maui info on it, since we like to go there once or twice a year. Thanks for the reviews of restaurants, I've been wanting to try Nick's for some time and don't think we will now. Mama's is by far the best, along with usually a good meal at the Haliimaile General Store. I was thinking of you recently as I'm reading Molly Wisenberg's (Orangette blog) new book. Have you heard of it? She has such great things to say about her dad as I'm sure you do too! Carol Maki

suomynona said...

Hello :) Does one need reservations for Mama's? I'm going to Maui from 7/5 through 7/8 (7/7 being my last possible day to try Mama's). I lived here for 4 years between 1994-1998 and neglected trying them and don't want to miss out.

I'm disappointed that Hakone is closed temporarily at the Maui Prince. They supposedly have the best Sunday brunch on the island -- not that it matters. I won't arrive in Makena until around 3pm.

Great pictures of food. I'll be posting mine here either while I'm on the island, or when I return to Seattle.

Mahalos :)