Saturday, December 20, 2008

Foodie Field Trip--Upcountry Maui

I should probably be posting about Christmas, or cookies or other holiday fare but instead of a recipe today, I bring you a recap of a recent day on Maui spent when my friend Yoko visited.  People always ask me what is my favorite Hawaiian Island, which is hard to answer because I like different things about each island.  Probably one of my favorite places on any of the islands is upcountry Maui, where cooler temperatures, rolling hills and cute little towns, shops and galleries abound.  My friend Natalie and I try to go over at least once a year for a day trip of shopping, eating, touring, eating, shopping and some more eating.  Since Yoko had only visited the Big Island and Oahu, it seemed like the perfect plan to take her for a visit.  There is enough to see and do there that a couple of days is really nice and there are some cute bed and breakfasts, but Nat and I have it down to a fine art and can get a lot done in a long day.

After arriving in Maui at about 8:00 in the morning, we got our rental car and headed out to get some breakfast in Pa'ia but had to make an unplanned stop when we passed by Krispy Kreme. Maui has the only Krispy Kreme in Hawaii and when the fresh donut sign is on you really do have to stop.  Watching those crisp, freshly made donuts fall off onto the conveyor belt,

and get drenched with glaze, 

and then biting into the hot, fresh, crisp yet melty treat is heaven.  

When the Krispy Kreme opened a few years ago, people brought boxes and boxes of them back to Oahu and the overhead bins were jammed with the boxes.  (On our flight home a golf-playing foursome of men each had a box or two with them on our flight).  We told Yoko that the donuts were our "amuse-bouche" before breakfast.

Slightly out of the way on our drive to Pa'ia, we detoured to Old Wailuku, Maui's county seat and a cute little old-style town and drove up to the 'Iao Valley. ('Iao means "cloud supreme" and is pronounced "ee-ow").  It is a lush, tropical valley, beautiful and home of the 'Iao Needle, a chunk of lava peak, rising up about 1.200 feet from the floor of the valley.  

Since it was a pretty gray sky day and we had much to do, we didn't take time for the trail walk up to the viewpoint but took a few pictures, enjoyed the scenery and continued on our journey. On the way back, we were seduced by some roadside coffee and lilikoi (passion fruit) trees and stopped and took some pictures and "borrowed" a few coffee beans and a couple lilikoi

My apologies to the unknown owners but we couldn't resist.  If you have never sucked the fruit around a fresh coffee "cherry" and get a chance to, I highly encourage it!  I kept my beans and will try to grow a little coffee plant. I grew one once in Seattle but it didn't make the move to Hawaii with me.

Next stop, Pa'ia, a historic little plantation town that owes it start to the sugarcane plantations.  It's cute wooden buildings now house little shops, galleries and great places to eat. We stopped first at Anthony's Coffee Shop, a great little coffee roaster and retailer and place to get a little breakfast or nosh. Nat ended up with a cappuccino and a toasted bagel, Yoko a cup of their coffee and a mango scone, and I had some delicious "Snow Monkey Plum" tea and a bagel with lox.

And then we were ready to shop, visiting some of our favorite boutiques (Biasa Rose, Holiday and Co., Lilikoi Beauty, Nuage Bleu). They find it funny that we come to Maui to shop when people go from the neighbor islands to Oahu normally to do their shopping.  But they have many more original items that we want and don't see on Oahu and Oahu has the malls and bigger brand name selections that are not on other islands.  I bought a few things.  My favorite being these TOM's shoes, comfortable as slippers, patterned with one of my favorite quotes; "Be the change you wish to see in the world"  by Mahatma Gandhi, and best of all, when you buy a pair the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need.  (Way to make me feeling good about shopping!)  

I also bought some of my favorite stretchy hair bands,& pony-tail wraps, and some cute patterned fold- up shopping bags for gifts, and a few other little "gifty" things that aren't pictured.

Since it had been almost a year since Nat and I were last in Pa'ia, a few new places had opened, the most exciting being Ono Gelato Company, with fresh, beautiful, organic gelato.

We stopped in to check it out and the cases piled with fluffy, creamy gelato were impossible to resist. The pictures just don't do it justice.  

The great thing about this place is that in addition to your normal gelato flavors, they use a lot of local fruits and Hawaiian flavors in their gelatos and it is delicious.  We split two small combo cups between the 3 of us--Yoko chose the Lilikoi and the Apple Banana--both delicious and made with local fruit.  I chose the Lilikoi-Goat's Milk Quark and the Sea Mist. The lilikoi-quark, combines local passion fruit with a goat's milk quark, a kind of curd cheese (see explanation here) from a local dairy/cheese maker.  Sounds strange, but the sweet tang of the lilikoi combined with the rich, creamy, slightly tangy goat's milk quark was incredible. The sea mist features the Sea Mist tea they sell, lemongrass and lime and was also delicious. I ended up buying some of the Sea Mist tea and a couple other teas and may try to make some ice cream or gelato at home with it.  

We chatted with one of the owners, Stefano, who is a third-generation gelato maker and he and the other owners had a European style bakery in Vancouver before moving to Maui.  As good as their product is, I think my waistline is lucky they are a plane ride away on Maui!

Leaving Pa'ia, our next stop was Makawao, a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town a few miles from Pa'ia.  This used to one of our favorite shopping spots with fun boutiques and shops, but lately it has changed from "Maka-WOW!" to only "Maka-OK", as we just haven't been finding things there the last few times we have visited.  Nothing purchased or consumed here and no pictures taken, so we headed up country to Kula to visit the Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm and the Maui's Winery.  

We had our only low moment of the day on the way up to Kula. Stopped for a least a minute, in a line of cars at a stoplight, and suddenly "BAM!", a young girl in a 4Runner, slammed into the back of our rental car.  Luckily no one was hurt, except our car and its license plate but the hour+ that it took to wait for the police, get the report filed, etc. cut our time down. The girl said she "only looked away for a second and didn't realize we stopped!" Hmm...

So now, on double-time, we headed to one of our favorite stops the Ali'i Kula Lavendar Farm. Located at 4000 feet elevation on the slopes of Maui's Haleakala Crater, it is cool (sometimes cold) and gorgeous and as the owner, Ali'i Chang, discovered, it's the perfect place to grow lavender. They have over 10 hillside acres with 45 different types of lavender growing there.  

There are incredible views, (Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy, gray and drizzly when we were there) of the island, all the way to the ocean.  

It has been so exciting to see this company grow over the past few years.  They do a wonderful job of developing and collaborating with other local businesses to create wonderful lavender based products. Soaps, lotions, cooking products, even chocolate.  We didn't have time to take a tour this time but we made a little time to visit the gift shop and eat a lavender scone with lavender jam and tea (I tried the Lavender Earl Grey and my companions had the Lavender Herbal Tea) and relax and enjoy the scenery for a few minutes before heading off for a quick wine tasting.

I just grabbed a couple things there as I was pretty stocked up already--some lavender sugar, lavender poha (a tart Maui berry) jam and a lavender brownie.  

We had been eating little meals all day but were still a bit hungry but being a hour behind and feeling like we needed to get to the rental car return early to deal with any accident issues, we stopped on the way to the winery and grabbed a couple sandwiches to share at Grandma's Coffee House, thinking we would eat them on the grounds.  I forgot to get pictures but Grandma's is a great little place, they roast coffee there too.

Apparently they are calling Tedeschi Vineyards, "Maui's Winery" now, (maybe so people relate it to Maui more?)  In up county's Upupalakua Ranch, it is a beautiful property at about 2,000 feet elevation. Again, beautiful views, all though pouring rain when we got there, (so no pictures again!) and most importantly, a tasting room with four free pours!  Maui wine is not going to be the best wine ever but their fruity white, Maui Blanc and Maui Splash are nice, crisp, fruity wines that would be perfect for a warm afternoon or evening on the lanai. Their Framboise de Maui Raspberry Wine, their first specialty wine, was delicious as well.  I wish I had bought a bottle but should be able to find it on Oahu somewhere.  Yoko bought some wine to take back to France and I bought some vanilla beans and some locally made Thai-Basil salt (I am a sucker for salts!) in the tasting room gift shop.  

The rain finally stopped and we ate our sandwiches on a table under a tree where we fed some little birds our crusts.  (My one and only picture from the winery!)

Alas, it was getting close to 5:00, and we needed to get back to the airport, return our scrunched car and make our 6:45 flight so we had to leave.  We would have liked a little more time to enjoy tour last two stops and maybe spend some time at the Surfing Goat Dairy to taste and buy goat cheese, but we had a full and very fun foodie day on Maui.  Yoko enjoyed her first visit and it was fun for Natalie and I to experience it through new eyes.  I think that is what I enjoy most about having visitors, it causes you to re-expereince things in your own backyard as well as try new things.  Thanks to Nat (our excellent driver!) and Yoko for a fun foodie day! 

Feeling soupy? (or noodle-y, or stew-y) and want to drop by and share your comforting creation? Join me for Souper Sundays! All you need to do is make a soup, stew, chili, slow cooker dish, etc. (Really almost anything that is served in a bowl will work!) Send me an email or leave a comment before Sunday and let me know you'll be stopping by and I'll add you to that week's round up so you can share your souper creation. You can make and post the soup any time, I just round them up on Sundays.


  1. Ok, even though I love you with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns - I am getting my own bowl(s) of gelato when you take me to Maui.
    Sounds like an awesome trip - I love the scenery!
    And the salt and vanilla beans - good score!

  2. I feel like I just had a mini-vacation to Maui with you. Thanks for the treat (especially with a foot of snow falling outside).

  3. what an awesome foodie adventure!! I'm glad you guys weren't hurt in that rear-ending!!

  4. Thanks for the fun read... The coffee cherry sounds really interesting.


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