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Eating in Maui Part I - Tasted on May 28-June 1, 2005 It takes me awhile to learn things. I suppose that's part human nature, and part me being relatively slow. I know that for example the traditional sources of food expertise in my hometown of Seattle commonly recommend places to eat as good that are simply not. I know that food that caters to tourists is likely to be of lowest common denominator. I know that I generally haven't enjoyed food in Hawaii. I know that typically restaurants at hotels are subsidized and while it's not scientifically proven, I tend to think it makes them not try as hard. I know all these things. But yet, when we went to Maui I seemed to throw them out the door. And I do this not just when I travel to Maui but when I travel to other places. And I throw out all this knowledge because I assume (typically incorrectly) that if there's a gem somewhere in the place I'm visiting, a true culinary find, then someone will have written profusely about it and I'll find that description on the web. The trouble is, there's so much crap on the web that it's basically impossible to know who to trust, which I guess is why I started this site in the first place. Still it has taken me forever to learn this lesson.

The food experiences we had in our short hop to Maui were overall, not good. Not good at all. To be fair, the Bistro Molokini poolside restaurant at the Grand Wailea made kickass Oreo Milkshakes and Lava Flows (yes I'm comfortable with my masculinity) - lots of ice cream. Ferraro's at the Four Seasons did actually try to make decent food, but overall things were uninspired. The sole exceptions being the artichoke spread at the beginning and the beef carpaccio generously doused in truffle oil. Still those weren't enough to carry the meal beyond just barely above average hotel restaurant Italian food. At one point we were so desperate for some good raw fish (we were on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for god's sake) that we went to the super market and bought some pre-done poke - raw ahi + soy sauce + other stuff. We gorged. It wasn't great, but it hit the spot especially after we were told that there were no sushi restaurants open for lunch anywhere on the west side of Maui.

We should have known the second we saw that David Paul's Lahaina Grill was located in the heart of super-touristy Lahaina that it wasn't going to be anything to write home about. The super mediocre pan-Asian, creole-influenced mish-mash was the typical mess that "adventurous" eaters in the U.S. like to call "good". I got depressed. This may all sound snobbish and I don't really care. It's not that a restaurant by definition sucks because it's in the touristy area. But it sure is likely.

And while I'm sure it's been clear to all of you for some time, almost by definition the traditional sources for food recommendations on the web are all geared for visitors. This is true of every destination, not just Maui. I admit this is pretty close to, if not actual, whining, but nonetheless, it is damn hard to get recommendations of good restaurants from people you really trust. I admit, I'm bad at judging where to go to eat when I've never been there before. At a certain point during our trip I wondered aloud if there would be any good food to be found on Maui. And then of course I bit into some fresh pineapple. Pineapple on Maui is pretty much the best you've ever eaten in your entire life. Fleshy, sweet, sour, crisp, and unbelievably juicy. Not syrupy in anyway, and closer to white than yellow in color. Pineapple takes on a whole new meaning when you eat it there.

(Stay tuned for our next post where this entry concludes.)











Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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