Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Maui, Part 1, Section A: Saying "I Do" The Hawaiian Way
When I was just a wee 6th grader in the early 80's, I read a story in one of our Reading Comprehension textbooks about technology and the future. The story described a day in the life of a typical American family at the turn of the century in which the family relied heavily on modern technology to get through their daily lives. They used "Vision Phones" to communicate with one another. If I remember correctly, they submitted their grocery lists electronically and were even able to type in what kind of meal they wanted via some high-tech refrigerator and have the food made for them. As a kid back in the day, I found technology fascinating, but at that level, I was more concerned about how to program the little turtle to turn 180 degrees on the screen of my Apple IIE than to think about how I'd be completely dependent on technology as an adult. So as much as I thought our reading assignment was cool, the little "yeah right" light went off in that little bowl-cut head of mine. Now, I don't think I'd ever trust my fridge to make my food, but never in a million years did I think I'd be using Skype and a web cam to see what my baby niece is up to. Never did I think I'd ditch the shopping mall for the convenience of online shopping. Never did I think that I'd plan my entire wedding via the web.
Yes, you heard me right.
I planned my entire wedding online.
Over the past year, my computer and I have been attached at the hip, sending emails back and forth between vendors, chatting and getting ideas from wonderful cyber-bride-friends I've met online, and searching through countless websites and photos to figure out how my dream day would come together without actually ever having seen anything in advance.
And so, on a beautiful and very warm September morning in Wailea, Isaac and I, along with 14 of our closest family and friends literally just "showed up" and celebrated one of the most important events in our lives. Technology did me right and all the cyber wedding planning paid off--it was the perfect day. The sky was a such a vibrant shade of turqouise and the Pacific Ocean such a beautiful deep shade of cobalt blue that morning that I knew my Dad was shining down upon us. We were completely encapsulated by the natural beauty surrounding us as we said "I do."
Maybe it's because I've always been the rebel in my family, always choosing to do the unconventional; whatever the case may be, I guess I'm what you can call the ultimate Chinese Anti-Bride. Not that I think that Chinese wedding traditions aren't beautiful because they absolutely are, but really now, I've been to one too many Chinese weddings in my lifetime and I didn't want to put on the same show that dozens of my friends and family members had done in the past. I also really didn't feel like going through a thousand rituals topped off by an extravagant 10-course dinner banquet at Ocean Star Seafood for 400 people. Isaac and I wanted small and intimate instead, and that's what we got. Sure, you might say that we missed out on a wad of red envelopes stuffed with cash from our elders, but we were willing to sacrifice money in exchange for some peace and quiet, the opportunity to spend quality time with our guests and most of all, the ability to enjoy and eat all of our food! I don't know how many times I've heard stories of my famished tuxedo and gown-clad friends making a beeline to In N'Out Burger after their own weddings.
It's a little easier taking a chance on a restaurant when it's only 5 or 10 miles away because you can simply do a drive-by. If not that, then with the growing amount of Southern California foodbloggers out there nowadays, there's bound to be someone with a delicious pictorial review of the restaurant in question. When planning a wedding that's a couple of thousand miles away, however, you're making a decision based on a website with maybe a couple 3x4 photographs of your venue at most. Most of the reviews out there, if any, sounded like whatever tourist-trap literature they had come from had been paid by the restaurants to write favorable reviews, or should I say advertisements rather. It took a couple months of web-tective work , googling Maui restaurants and spending time on The Knot, which is more or less the Chowhound of the wedding industry, to finally choose our shower, wedding reception and post wedding dinner locales.
I really hoped that the outside of Cafe O'Lei was no indication of the quality of food and atmosphere we'd be awaiting inside. We were here for the first of our wedding-related events, our Co-ed Wedding Shower-Slash-Welcome Lunch and though I am by no means an atmosphere snob, it's always nice to have a little bit of atmosphere for those special occasions. I had faith, however. I knew if there was one thing my brother and sister in-law are picky about it's food, and I knew that despite the restaurant's upstairs location in a Kihei mini-mall that was adjacent to Denny's of all places, the food was bound to be decent. I had also heard through the wedding grapevine, that these guys do a pretty mean catering gig. So under the awning, up the stairs and through the tinted glass doors I went.
The atmosphere proved to be very pleasant--we had our lunch and shower festivitites in a private room with arched doorways and teal blue walls--and the food also proved to be fine. Not excellent, but fine.
Their menu is a mix of contemporary American and Pacific Rim-inspired cuisine. We started off our meal with a couple plates of Manoa Lettuce Wraps and Cafe O'Lei Crab Cakes. The crab cakes, in my opinion, were slightly on the bland side, but made a little tastier with a few swipes of the remoulade-like sauce and a few bites of the arugula salad that adorned the dish. I also detected a slight hint of cilantro mixed into the cakes which immediately gave them the gag-factor. The Manoa Lettuce Wraps, however, were quite tasty. Hoisin sauce gave body to the bits of ground chicken, mushrooms, water chestnuts and ginger which were consequently wrapped up and eaten in cool, crisp lettuce leaves.
cafe o'lei crab cakes
manoa lettuce wraps
My Mom offered me a bite of her Jumbo Tiger Shrimp Salad, which was nicely presented on a bed of mixed greens. "What is that yellow stuff?" I asked her; to which when she told me it was yellow papaya, I politely declined, telling her that I don't eat that stuff because it smells and tastes like ass. She told me that I was silly, that the salad was "delicious and refreshing" and that I was missing out. I guess I'll never find out so I'll take her word for it, and here's a picture:
jumbo tiger shrimp salad
I quite liked my Seared Ahi Sandwich, served with wasabi mayo on focaccia because the big hunk of ahi tuna was extremely fresh and tender. On the side was a Caesar Salad...nothing special, but nevertheless providing some contrast to all that bread and meat. Too bad I couldn't finish it all--I had a wedding dress to fit into the next day!
seared ahi sandwich
My husband-to-be ordered the Sauteed Mahi Mahi with rice and salad and a couple of our friends ordered the Tempura Mahi and Chips, all agreeing that the mahi mahi, though quite a boring fish, was very fresh. Around the table were the restaurant's Crisp Fried Boneless Chicken, Crab Club Sandwich, Asian Salad, and Bill Eby's Makawao Beef Burger. I sampled some, I didn't sample others. Overall, we were quite pleased with Cafe O'Lei as the food, for the most part, was tasty and nicely presented as well as reasonably priced; the portions, however, were so large that it was a little overkill for those of us wanting to preserve our bikini bodies.
sauteed mahi mahi
tempura mahi & chips
crispy fried boneless chicken
Dessert consisted of a combination of treats for the table to share: a pineapple upside down cake which was excellent, a chocolate banana cream pie that was a little on the hard side and quite forgettable, a chocolate/Grand Marnier cake which was absolutely sinful and a lilikoi cheesecake that was so sweet it made my cavities hurt.
a bunch o' dessert
There were no games to be played at this particular shower--we did not have to play "Make a Wedding Dress Out of Toilet Paper" this time. Instead, my friends and family presented us with a scrapbook filled with pages that each of them had put together. Everyone gave loving well wishes and marital advice; some even chose to take us on a trip down memory lane...my oldest, bestest friend included a photo of us marching in an elementary school Halloween parade. There was a skinny boy wearing a giant Yoda mask marching in front of us; my friend was wearing 60's sweater and poodle skirt. I had on a purple leotard and my bowl cut hair was held in place by one of those headbands with the springy bug antennas on top. That dorky looking girl in the picture probably thought she was destined for a huge church wedding followed by an over-the-top Chinese banquet filled with red and gold good luck charms and lion dances. Little did she know that she'd be one day living her reading assignment--planning her dream wedding via a computer.
Stay tuned for part 1, section B, when DG actually ties the knot!
2439 S. Kihei Rd
Kihei, Maui, HI
lunch served from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm; entrees from $7-$15 per person
dinner served from 5:o0 pm to 9:00 pm; entrees from $16-$35 per person