Friday, October 20, 2006
Maui, Part 3, Section A: On The Road To Hana
I suppose "exotic" is all in the eye of the beholder because when Isaac and I took the Road To Hana, the infamous scenic drive along the northeastern coast of Maui, one of the first things to come out of his mouth was:
"What the fuck? This looks just like Puerto Rico."
And so with me behind the wheel of our rental Buick LaCrosse taking hairpin turns and yielding to oncoming traffic on one lane bridges, I had to listen to my dear husband mouthing off about how "this part" of our drive looked just like "that part" of his native land.
I, on the other hand, loved it because the closest I've come to seeing lush green hillsides, pools, streams and waterfalls in the place I consider home is when I'm driving through the Hollywood Hills during rainy season. And that's only when I'm driving by a house on which the owner has let weeds and shrubbery go awry.
My eyes were on major sensory overload driving through this exotic landscape, but would the food on the Road To (and from) Hana be special and exotic as well? Read on...
Having driven a couple hours with a few stops here and there to check out the scenery, our stomachs were growling as all we'd had to eat during the course of the day was a lousy breakfast in Lahaina and a bunch of red iso peanuts and nori arare crackers we'd eaten in the car. Needless to say, once we spotted the Halfway To Hana stand located a little past the 17 mile marker on Highway 36, we immediately pulled the car over. The stand is popular with tourists making their way to Hana and for good reason: it's a place for those nauseated by the windy car ride to get some fresh air and though they don't sell much, it's pretty much the only place for miles that sells food other than fresh fruit. Their menu is not too extensive, just typical snack bar food like hot dogs that have been rotating under a heat lamp as well as some more Hawaiian selections such as fresh fruit (apple bananas, pineapple spears and coconut wedges), shave ice, and their "famous" banana bread. Because we'd heard so much about the banana bread on the Chowhound Elsewhere In America Board and in the book Maui Revealed, we decided to skip the snack bar food and go with a loaf of that instead. The small 6" loaves are wrapped and ready for purchase at the counter; if you're lucky, you might get one of the freshly made ones that they just brought from the house in the back. The sources are right: the bread is indeed very good--very moist and very fresh; I just didn't think it was all that special since I've had great banana bread from loads of different people & places. Not to toot my own horn, but even I can make great banana bread. (My secret? Add some sour cream...I'll do a separate post one of these days) But as we were two hungry souls on the road to Hana, this banana bread really hit the spot.
are we there yet?
the infamous loaf
mmm, nice n' moist!
About 10 more miles of driving behind other slow moving tourists through this tropical paradise and you'll run into a small grouping of food and fruit stands on the makai (ocean) side of Highway 36. Like most people that pull over at this popular stop, we were not there for the coconuts or bananas but were instead there to try a little piece of what some local woman was serving from behind a big black smoker. There's not much on the menu at the Up In Smoke BBQ--only tacos (fish, chicken or kalua pig), hot dogs, or baked breadfruit, so we made the choice to order a couple of kalua pig tacos pretty quickly.
up in smoke bbq
this ain't multiple choice
up in smoke's next door neighbor
Having brought our tacos back to the Buick because the seating area in back of the stand smelled a little like pee, we made a little bit of a mess in the car. I am convinced, though, that there were shreds of cabbage and cheese dropping with small globs of salsa all over our laps and seats not because of the mere fact we were eating in the car but because these just weren't very cohesive tacos. And by cohesive, any taco or sandwich fan will know what I mean. I'm not just saying this because I'm from L.A. where I'm spoiled by great tacos. Taco components are not just supposed to work independently; instead, they are independent parts that are supposed to work together, therefore forming a single cohesive work force. The kalua pig in these tacos, for instance, was warm and moist with a nice smoky flavor. Good on its own, right? But the rest of the taco was ice cold, including the tortilla which was not the kind of warm and fluffy flour tortilla that's supposed to cradle the meat like a mother's arms but a cold, tough, and chewy one. The cabbage shreds were cold, and I get that; but the cheese was almost too cold and fell all over my lap. Add to this a bunch of cold Pace Picante Sauce-type salsa and you've got yourself a five dollar taco organization that's devoid of teamwork. I really wanted to like the taco, but unfortunately was sorely disappointed. Out of sheer curiousity, I do wish that we would have tried the baked breadfruit, however.
There is no "I" in the word "team" nor in the word "taco"
So maybe the food on the road to Hana is nothing to write home about after all, but we weren't there for that anyway, right? Just a couple of miles down Highway 36 we stopped at Wai'anapanapa State Park where seeing slate blue waves crashing against awesome black lava rock formations made me completely forget about the lackluster meal at the taco stand. A short walk down to the small, crescent shaped black sand beach made me forget about food alltogether, even if for just a moment.
Stay tuned for Part 3, Section B, when Mr. and Mrs. Gluttony take the road from Hana to one of Maui's most popular restaurants, Mama's Fish House.
Halfway To Hana
Highway 36, about 1/3 mile past mile 17
Up In Smoke BBQ
Highway 36, near mile 28