Since it’s almost Friday and much of the country is stuck in Polar Vortex 2, it seems like an appropriate time to profess my love for Monkeypod Kitchen on Maui. Oh, how I wish there was a Monkeypod Kitchen just down the street. And that it was 78 and sunny with a light tropical breeze.
Peter Merriman is one Hawaii’s most recognized, celebrated and well-known restaurateurs. Credited for developing the locavore concept in food, his work to elevate the farm to table concept is a big contribution to Hawaiian cuisine–and to locally grown, harvested and simply prepared foods all over the world.
After a tip from a server at Merriman’s in Kapalua, we made a beeline to Monkeypod Kitchen to burn off that awkward time when you have to check out of your hotel (weeping) and it’s much too early to sit at the airport in Hawaii when it’s so incredibly gorgeous everywhere you look.
So, off to Monkeypod Kitchen for happy hour we went. Wow. This place puts the happy into happy hour.
For starters, there is the Monkeypod Mai Tai. Old Lahaina light rum, Maui dark rum, lime, orgeat, orange curacao, honey-lilikoi foam. Did I mention honey-lilikoi foam? Unbelievable. Luckily, I wasn’t driving to the airport. The handcrafted culinary cocktails are imaginative, reflective of the Hawaiian setting and yummy. What’s not to like?
The wood fired pizzas were hand tossed and with a variety to choose from such as Hamakua wild mushroom & truffle, roasted butternut squash, bourgeois with Big Island lobster, mushrooms, white sauce, parmesan, thyme. To top it off, they had live Hawaiian music and a beer list featuring high-quality brews from top breweries and microbreweries from around the world. Although I am not a beer expert or a beer drinker, I know quality and selection when I see it.
Bananas don’t grow on trees. They actually grow on the world’s largest herbaceous flowering plant and what appears to be the trunk is actually called a corm. So, it is actually a large perennial herb. This was news to me. This was a banana plant we admired in Maui last month.
My favorite bananas are the apple bananas, which are often found in the farmers’ markets in Hawaii. They are tiny, sweet and the perfect snack. We learned that the Big Island is actually the largest domestic producer of bananas in the United States.
Here’s a sample of what we might find at a visit to one of the wonderful farmers’ markets on the Big Island, including the candy-like apple bananas.
Earlier this year, I wrote about what is perhaps the best use of bananas I have ever witnessed: A bananarama smoothie from What’s Shakin’ on the Hilo side of the Big Island.
Some things are just meant to be together–the perfect combination. Like Sundays and a tropical brunch. Why not start it out with a glass of passionfruit, orange and guava juice, or POG as it’s called in Maui where the combination was created in the 1970s?
It’s Friday and the start of a holiday weekend. Time for a Mai Tai? The Mai Tais at the Mauna Lani on the Big Island are impossible to replicate. Perhaps it’s the setting? Still, one can try, right?
In the Midwest, land of temperature extremes, we are dealing with record-breaking heat and humidity this week. Yesterday, the relative humidity hit 79 percent, which we were told made the temperature outside feel like 108 to 111 degrees. As the saying goes: It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.
This dry and hot late August weather wreaks havoc on the flowers, trees, vegetable gardens and lawns unless they are watered regularly. Although it’s steamy hot, we desperately need rain. Most of the blooming flowers look exhausted and ready to be replaced with mums or other autumn plants and flowers once the heat subsides.
Yes, we have color everywhere and the farmers’ markets in our region are bursting with vegetables, herbs and plenty from the harvest season. It’s here, and then—poof. It’s gone. So, we enjoy it.
Hawaii residents and visitors are so fortunate to experience color, flowers, nearly perfect weather year-round. I’ll take the high temperatures any day over the cold and snow of January, February, March and sometimes even April. (Yes, it sometimes snows in April, the cruelest month.) One weather newscaster told us yesterday that the temperature was 140 degrees warmer than our coldest day last winter. Yet, today I dream of the next visit to Hawaii. This time it’s to cool off from the heat.
It doesn’t get much better than outdoor dining in Hawaii, especially when you know it’s snowing at home. Or, anytime really. This was a special anniversary meal at Hualalai on the Big Island. As close to dining on the beach as you ever will find with the perfect view of the sunset. Somehow, a great meal turns unforgettable with the sound of waves and a beachside setting. Aloha.
For most coffee lovers, a cup of 100 percent Kona coffee will be love at first sip. The smell of Kona coffee brewing is enough to get you hooked.
Kona coffee is the official name for coffee grown in the North and South Kona districts on the Big Island. The weather in this region is apparently ideal for growing the coffee, with the volcanic soil and sunny days with a mix of light clouds in the afternoon. Other islands grow and produce coffee, but the Big Island is the home of pure Kona coffee.
A fun way to spend an afternoon is to go coffee tasting, sort of like wine tasting in Napa or Sonoma except you don’t need a designated driver. On our first trip to the Big Island, we discovered Greenwell Farms. We have since been back to visit and our tour guide was once from our home state. We were hooked and have been members of the Greenwell Farms coffee club since—sort of like a wine club, except you don’t need to worry about your shipment freezing in our frigid winters.
We get a quarterly shipment of chocolate macadamia nut coffee. In the middle of January, it’s heaven in a cup.
There are many wonderful coffee farms to visit. Many of them are located on the Mamalahoa Highway 11, south of Kona and hear the Holualoa area. Many of the farms will offer tours, which are well worth the time, often provide a scenic view of the ocean in the distance, and will make you want to sit and sip and stay a while.
In March 2012, we biked for 10 miles plus so that we could enjoy the delicious breakfast and brunch at the Bay Terrace at the Mauna Lani Hotel on the Big Island. With its outdoor tables overlooking the gorgeous grounds, pool and ocean, you can’t go wrong. We get the sense that many of the waiters and waitresses have worked at the Mauna Lani for years. Since this is the type of place that people seem to return to year after year, it wouldn’t surprise me if they eventually learned your name and waited for your return.
We enjoyed the Hawaiian-inspired eggs benedict and coconut French toast with bananas. So tropical and so delicious. Paired with a freshly brewed cup of Kona coffee, it’s perfect for a Sunday brunch. Or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Good morning, paradise.