Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Maui, Part 3, Section B: On The Road From Hana...A Stop At (Yo') Mama's Fish House

(Sorry, I just couldn't resist the Yo' Mama part!)

With a 5:30 pm reservation at one of the most coveted tables in Maui, Isaac and I had a decision to make: Do we turn back now, or do we drive on past Hana and visit the Seven Sacred Pools?


Or more waterfalls?


Or more waterfalls?

With such a difficult decision to make, we couldn't help but feel like we were in the Looney Tunes cartoon
Rabbit Seasoning:

"Would you like to shoot me now, or wait 'til you get home?"

Rabbit season? Or Duck Season? Oh, decisions, decisions...

Suddenly, the sound of Daffy Duck screaming to Elmer Fudd resonated in our heads: "Shoot him now! Shoot him now!" which we translated as "Turn back now! Turn back now!" It made sense: everybody knows that there's not much to actually see in Hana itself, and we'd already OD'd on natural pools and waterfalls anyway. And so it was that we decided to skip the beautiful sights at the famous Seven Sacred Pools and did a 180 at
Wai'napanapa State Park to make sure we arrived at our dinner reservations on time. Daffy Duck is a very wise duck.

Mama's Fish House is located in Pa'ia, an old plantation town on Maui's northern coast. It's not on the main stretch of Highway 36 where all the eccentric little shops are, but it's off on its own just a tad more eastward. After driving in, valet parking your car, and walking around to the restaurant's entrance, you'll feel as if you've been whisked away to a larger, airier version of Disneyland's
Enchanted Tiki Room. The decor is true Polynesian kitsch--there are tikis and surfboards and birds-of-paradise as well as real live birds here. I would have normally passed this place off as a little too cheesy for my taste, because there is a difference between Polynesian kitsch that mocks Polynesian kitsch, which is cool, and Polynesian kitsch that really is Polynesian kitsch, which is cheesy. And this place just happens to be kinda cheesy. In pure Hawaiian tourist-destination fashion, they even presented me with a lei since we were on our honeymoon; I was gracious, yes, but I was admittedly also a little embarrased as everyone in the room turned to hem and haw at the "happy couple."

polly want some kitsch?

can one OD on kitsch?

i can just picture the cheesy t-shirt: i got lei'd in maui
and all i got was this lousy shirt

Soon the kitschy-ness and the tourist-trap cheesiness would go out the door, however, because the nice people at Mama's Fish House gave us some prime real estate at one of their oceanfront tables which more than made up for the cheese factor.

where'd all the cheesiness go?

Mama's Fish House's menu focuses on (duh) fresh fish and seafood, and for most of the menu entrees, even mentions the name of the fisherman who caught the fileted and pan-seared bastard that's going to be lying on your plate. I wish they'd also put a little picture of the fisherman next to his name for a little face-to-name association, but they didn't so we just had to let our imaginations run awry. My sauteed onaga was caught by a dude named Don Wakamatsu, who I imagined to look like "Uncle Marvin"--one of
my Dad's old friends--a short and pleasant-mannered Japanese man with a mustache who used to bring us freshly caught fish from his fishing expeditions. There was no specific fisherman named for Isaac's opah; the only information we had was that his fish was caught aboard the "Spacer K." For kicks, and because we had nothing better to do, we imagined that the opah was caught by a guy we named Tom Grundy, an old, onery fisherman with a beard. We pictured him as a rough & gruff kind of fellow, one who maybe wears the same flannel shirt day in and day out; we pictured him to look kinda like that hillbilly "Other" guy on Lost, you know, the one who sailed up to the Michael's escape boat and kidnapped Walt.

it's like my fisherman and i have known each other for years

A warm and fluffy loaf of whole wheat bread so small & bubbly that it looked like it should have been in a cartoon was brought to our table first to soak up the couple of vodka tonics we'd just downed. An amuse-bouche of carrot-tomato bisque was comforting and soothing going down the hatch, even for a humid Maui evening.

the powerpuff girls could have baked this

carrot tomato bisque was amusing to my bouche

Our appetizer of ahi poke, served in an oh-so-hip martini glass with taro chip garnishes, came next. The glistening cubes of red ahi tuna were obscenely fresh, but whoever seasoned the dish went a little overboard on the shoyu, making it a bit too salty for our tastes. Some sweet Maui onion added a slight kick which helped to offset the saltiness.

ahi poke: salty, but gets an "A" for effort

Don Wakamatsu, the catcher of the sauteed onaga I had on my plate, did a fine job as this fish, a type of Hawaiian red snapper, was also insanely fresh. Its white flesh was clean tasting with a flaky and tender texture; the preparation and presentation, however, was good, but not phenomenal. The fish was sauteed in a garlic, tomato and caper sauce that was reminiscent of sauces I've tasted at dozens of other restaurants; the rice was pretty much just plain rice given a little tang by the addition of some chopped parsley, and the sauteed vegetables were, well, just a bunch of sauteed vegetables. Good, but nothing out of this world, and I would have expected more for a $46 entree.

call it red snapper and it would have cost 60% less

Our fictitious fisherman Tom Grundy may not have very good social skills, but man does he catch a mean fish. Isaac's upcountry style opah was so obscenely fresh that we actually felt like we were doing something kinda perverse by eating it. It had a texture that was almost creamy and a taste so clean that was a little reminiscent of drinking a tall, ice cold glass of milk. Its preparation was tastier and a little more interesting than that of my onaga, with sweet soy flavors, caramelized Maui onion, tomato, and some chunks of avocado to add a cool edge. Jasmine rice wrapped up in a ti leaf cone and some sauteed baby bok choy came with, as did a pretty magenta colored orchid. (But we didn't care much about that, did we?)

opah...makes you wanna drink ouzo & break dishes

No dessert for us, as we were completely stuffed, but our meal did end with some wonderful hot almond-scented handtowels, some delicious (and gratis!) cubes of coconut custard, and a bill for about 175 bucks.

about the only free thing here

There is a price for paradise and I suppose this is it. Of course, we didn't mind because we were on our honeymoon after all, but the bottom line is--despite the fresh fish, the million dollar view of the sunset over the Pacific and the attentive service--I think this place is just a little too much buck for the bang. Yo' mama would think so too.

Mama's Fish House
799 Poho Place
Pa'ia, Maui, HI 96779
(808) 579-8488

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

Monday, October 16, 2006

Back To LA For A Second: How To Say "I Did" The Downtown LA Way

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this important post.

Let's stop for a minute to do something a little different, shall we? We're going to leave the beautiful Hawaiian islands and go back to smoggy-ass LA. But don't worry, it won't be all that different than what you've been used to over the last four posts. Why? Because we're going to talk wedding again--yay!

Despite all the advantages of having a small wedding (which I know I already pounded into your heads in my last
couple of posts), there will undoubtedly be a teeny-tiny part of you that misses the big, mingly party atmosphere of larger weddings. And so having been back from our Hawaiian honeymoon for only two weeks, that teeny-tiny part of us transformed our loft and parking lot in downtown L.A. into a swanky post-wedding party central as we hosted a Help-Us-Celebrate-Our-First-Month-Together-As-Husband-And-Wife shindig for 75 people. This past Saturday, we let the "Hey-We-Can-Still-Be-Young-And-Hip" sides of our personalities shine through: we ate, we drank, we hopped from table to table mingling with friends, neighbors, coworkers and foodbloggers, we satisfied that itty-bitty urge to celebrate our nuptials on a larger scale. But we couldn't have pulled what would normally have been a major feat without having followed a couple of guidelines:

1) Go with what you know and love

the first time Isaac and I laid eyes (and mouths) on the tacos from Taqueria El Zarape, we were in love. And when I say Taqueria El Zarape, I'm not talking so much about the restaurant located in Montebello, I'm talking about their catering services where they actually send a guy to whatever place you choose to make street-style tacos for you on the spot. What? Yeah, fuckers, you heard me. They send a guy to your house to make tacos for you. This was a no-brainer. We just had to have the taco guy at our party. Period.

everybody loves victor

I'm sure we tortured more than a few of the local vagrants as Victor, our taco cook, fired up his grill in our parking lot and the smell of freshly grilled meats and onions started to permeate the downtown LA air. Soon, tacos of succulent carne asada, luscious carnitas and tasty grilled chicken tacos, grilled onions and (hot!) jalapenos, velvety refried beans and fluffy Mexican rice filled everyone's plates. On the side, a variety of garnishes to help one fix their tacos to their hearts' desires: chopped onion and cilantro, spicy red chile salsa, smoky fire roasted tomato salsa, tangy tomatillo salsa, lime wedges and sliced radishes.

eau de taco is a good thing

The tacos were a hit, but we knew they would be. After all people love grub, so we gave them grub.

2) Know who the talent is

I remember when Dylan from
Eat, Drink and Be Merry was just starting out at "the restaurant" and with weekend catering gigs just to get some experience in the world of professional cooking. Over the course of several months, I'd read Dylan's posts chronicling his cooking and catering adventures, and I could tell that my fellow foodblogger friend was true talent who was just waiting to be discovered. It was at one of our fabulous monthly foodblogger food-fests that I asked him if he could help cater our post-wedding celebration.

"Sure, I'd be glad to. How many people are you expecting?" Dylan asked.

"Um, I think about 75," I responded.

Dylan's eyes lit up. "75??? Oh, I don't know..."

But after some further discussion, Dylan happily accepted the challenge, and Isaac and I were just relieved to have that part of our party planning crossed off our list. We were never worried that this was the largest group of people that he'd catered by himself thus far...we had complete confidence that Dylan's creations would be nothing short of specatcular, and in the end, he exceeded our expectations in every possible way.

With Jeni from
Oishii Eats and Yoony from Immaeatchu in tow, Dylan arrived with his arsenal of ingredients and gear and transformed my kitchen into a well-oiled machine slicing, dicing, frying, piping, and plating, the three of them moving and flowing in perfect harmony. Right before the clock struck 7, the first trays of their hard work were put out with cute little menu cards to describe each of their edible efforts.

dylan & team hard at work

as franck eggelhoffer would say: the "mahn-yoo"

The Hawaiian Tuna Poke with Yuzu and Green Apples was a downright sexy creation. Not only did each piece look beautiful with their little gleaming ruby red cubes of tuna contrasting with the green of diced apple and radish sprouts, but they tasted amazing. I loved how the citrusy yuzu and crisp apple brought out the fresh flavor and tender texture of the tuna; I loved how the crispy bite of the wonton crisp tied the whole thing together. Simply sexy.

super sexy hawaiian tuna poke with yuzu & green apples

The Dungeoness Crab Cakes with Remoulade were little bites of heaven, fried to a perfect golden brown. Each little disc was topped by a tiny dollop of remoulade sauce which provided a nice creamy tang to pair with the slightly spiced flakiness of the dungeoness crab. Excellent.

eliminate all crabbiness with heavenly dungeoness crab cakes

Edamame hummus was a refreshing twist on the more tradtional concoction of garbanzo beans and tahini in Dylan's Truffled Edamame Hummus on Parmesan Crisps appetizer. Add a little truffle oil and put the whole thing on delicate round parmesan crisps and you've got yourself a tiny mouthful of interesting flavors that you'll never forget.

palate pleaser: truffled edamame hummus on parmesan crisps

If I had to assign a
Sex and The City character to the Spiced Harissa Dip on Pita Triangles, I'd say they were Samantha--a little more forward and voluptuous than the others, but so self-confident that she gets what she wants. And boy, did we bite: the gorgeously maroon-colored pepper paste possessed deep, sultry and smoky properties that hauled you in at the first taste but that were tamed by a few crumbles of mellow feta cheese. Pillowy triangles of pita bread gave these just the right amount of body.

From preparation to execution to clean-up, Dylan and team handled our event so effortlessly and so professionally that I would have sworn he'd been catering for years. And from the overwhelming compliments our guests paid to the appetizer spread, I'd say he's got one heck of a bright future in front of him.

3. Satisfy those sweet tooths

...and what better way to satisfy them than with bite-sized cupcakes from Leda's Bakeshop in Sherman Oaks. Such squeals of joy filled the room when we brought these out that you'd think we'd brought a baby out for everyone to go ga-ga over. But the truth is, these are cuter than any baby ever will be. (OK, except for my 6 month old niece) Each little munchkin cupcake is dressed in a pleated silver cup and wears a darling little "hat" of frosting adorned with colorful candy decorations of flowers, birds, butterflies or dots. Oh, and did I mention? They taste dreamy too. Babies, eat your hearts out.

who can possibly resist an army of adorable little babies?

After the last guest had left, Mr. and Mrs. Gluttony plopped down on the sofa in the middle of our brick- walled space and let out a huge sigh. We were dead tired and could hardly move a muscle, but on the inside we were beaming because our gluttonous affair was a success. And all thanks to people who know good food.

Keep these peeps in your party-planning black book. Trust me, you'll thank me someday.

Taqueria El Zarape
2575 Via Campo
Montebello, CA 90640
(323) 838-9405

Dylan at Eat, Drink, & Be Merry

Leda's Bakeshop
13722 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
(818) 386-9644

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Maui, Part 2: Nurturing The Asian-Fusion Relationship At Roy's, Kihei

(hmm, peace and quiet here or...)

By the time we visited Roy Yamaguchi's namesake Roy's in Kihei, Isaac and I had pretty much had it with Contemporary Asian-Fusion, Pacific Rim cuisine. We had been on Maui for three days and since our arrival, it seemed as though we had eaten nothing but mahi mahi cooked 18 different ways, "macadamia nut crusted" everything, seared ahi up the ying-yang...all served on a bed of rice with a drizzling of some kind of lilikoi, guava or mango-infused sauce. We were sick of it. Enough already.

But food, like a relationship, has to be nurtured. And sometimes we have to make sacrifices to do things we don't normally want to do--all in the name of love.

Take, for example, the fact that we had just started our honeymoon. And then take the fact that my family was still on the island for another day. Now most couples would normally be insistent on some alone time, some much needed peace and quiet after the big to-do over planning a wedding. But I, being the good daughter that I am, and Isaac, being the good new husband, son-, and brother-in-law that he is, agreed to spend some quality time with my family on the first official day of our honeymoon. All in the name of love and for the sake of nurturing our own Asian-Fusion relationship.

It was very fitting, then, that we all went to Roy's, the epitome of Asian-Fusion Pacific Rim restaurants for dinner that night. Isn't it ironic? (Dontcha think?)

I really hoped that the food at Roy's would make up for its lack of atmosphere. With Safeway, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and Outback Steakhouse as its neighbors, Roy's Kihei wouldn't seem like a stand-out dining experience. Inside, its sleek, spacious and contemporary interior seemed like the perfect background for a Patrick Nagel painting. Our waiter, a young man who looked and acted like he should have been selling cell phones from a cart at the mall, gave the restaurant slightly more cheese-factor, although I will say that too much enthusiasm is always better than none when it comes to servers.

Combine several varieties of meat and local Hawaiian fish with creative execution and a menu is bound to give one a case of analysis-paralysis. The menu at Roy's was no exception. Fortunately for myself and other folks who can't easily make up their minds, the restaurant had a couple of "Mixed Plates" featuring duos of some of their meat and fish selections. Served side by side on a rectangular platter, my mixed plate of seared ahi tuna and grilled shutomi proved to be a good choice. The ahi itself was seared to perfection, its ruby red flesh looking oh-so-perky amidst a crispy coating of shiso and ginger. Underneath was a small disc-sized portion of gingery, vinegary rice flecked with furikake. A member of the swordfish family, my grilled shutomi was buttery and fleshy, and provided a meatier balance to the lighter textures and flavors of the ahi. Two spears of tender asparagus complimented the shutomi well yet were not enough to make my pee smell like it came out of an alien.

seared ahi (the yin)

grilled shutomi (the yang)

Isaac's misoyaki butterfish was fine, flavored with miso, ginger and soy and accompanied by baby bok choy and steamed rice. My mom ordered the roasted duck breast which was tender and tasty, given a Chinese kick with the addition of a black bean reduction. All of us agreed that the dish was good but because we are all used to authentic Chinese duck and black bean preparations that are so much more intense in flavor in texture, we also agreed that the dish was no match against the "real" thing. I never got to try my brother's pan seared sole which looked yummy enough sitting atop some mushroom ravioli. I'm taking his word for it that the dish was well-prepared.

you so fine: misoyaki butterfish

roasted duck: good, but it ain't no chinatown

supposedly, the sole had soul

The real winner of the night in my opinion were the honey & mustard braised shortribs, a "Roy's Classic" dish. Each bite was a perfect blend of deep smoky and sweet flavors and of beef swirled with that gelatinous goodness that only comes about with a nice braise. It's no wonder this dish stays on the menu day in and day out.

shortribs to die for

They say you can't leave Roy's without getting his famous melting hot chocolate souffle, and because it takes about 20 minutes to prepare, eager-beaver waiter boy came to take our dessert order practically right after our entrees had hit the table. I can't deny it--the souffle was ultra-sinful, oozing with silky molten chocolate as soon as the first fork broke it open. A scoop of vanilla ice cream helped to add a cool and mellow touch to this rich concoction. It was delicious, yes, but at the same time, I didn't think of it as super special--it seems as though every restaurant and its mother has their own version of a chocolate souffle nowadays, whether it's called a molten chocolate cake or a chocolate lava cake or a molten lava cake. Roy's version just happened to be well done. We also indulged in Roy's pineapple upside down cake which, though not quite as delectable as the chocolate souffle, was a special treat that we don't get to try very often.

chocolate souffle: everyone's got it, but this one's better than your mama's

pineapple upside down cake: it's hawaii...why not?

You'd think that having had meal after meal of Pacific Rim creations, we'd be completely sick of anything Asian Fusion/Pacific Rim after our meal at Roy's. What happened instead was the complete opposite. We had a wonderful experience which caused me to actually itch for more of Roy's creations here on the mainland and more importantly, we strengthened our own Asian-Fusion familial bonds by making that sacrifice--spending quality time with people other than ourselves during our honeymoon. Whodathunkit? So thank you, Roy's, for helping us nurture the Asian-Fusion relationship.

Roy's Kihei
303 Piikea Avenue
(inside the Piilani Shopping Center)
Kihei, Maui, HI 96753
(808) 891-1120

Friday, October 06, 2006

Maui, Part 1, Section B: Saying "I Do" The Hawaiian Way--It's Wedding Day!

It was all a blur really.

I remember that I started out my day with a chocolate croissant that my brother had picked up for me the night before.

It was 5:30 in the morning as my croissant and I sat in the living room of our condo rental waiting for the sparks to fly. Everyone was still asleep, and the sound of waves crashing would serve as my "tick-tock, tick-tock..."

Not less than an hour later, however, curling irons were being heated up, hairspray was filling the air, multiple shades of concealer and eyeshadow were being applied, people were running around ironing clothes and getting dressed. The slight "click" of a camera's shutter could be heard every few seconds as my photographer worked the room, trying to capture all of this organized chaos.

And at 9am I was being whisked off to the Seawatch Restaurant on Wailea's Gold and Emerald Golf Courses to marry my best friend.

I remember sitting and waiting anxiously in the lobby, our coordinator and my family members racing around putting stuff away and making sure Isaac was in places where he wouldn't see his bride-to-be; I remember that the sky and water surrounding us were a gorgeous shade of blue--proof that
my Dad was with me the whole time. I also remember taking one last look at the photo of my Dad that I had pinned to my bouquet before my Mom & brother started walking me down the grassy "aisle"..."OK Dad, are you ready? Here we go..."

The chocolate croissant that I had eaten 4 hours prior was now starting to become history and by the time our short 15 minute ceremony was over, I was starving. Perhaps that's why all the hugging and kissing and congratulations and signing our marriage certificate to make everything official and group photo shots and the ride down to the beach with our photographer and back up to our lunch reception are somehow stuffed in a place way deep down in the crevices of my memory--I was just way too hungry!

i couldn't wait to make it back here because here=eat!

Fortunately though, when it was finally time to sit down and eat, we really got to sit down and eat...one of the greatest advantages of having a small wedding in my opinion. It wasn't so crazy that my family wasn't able to save us a plate of hors d'oeuvres even with all the mingling they had to do. The tiny bright reddish-orange smelt eggs seemed to pop one by one against my tongue as I put each seared ahi canape in my mouth. The peanut glazed chicken skewers looked a little overcooked, but were actually quite tender & tasty. I was able to savor the Thai chili vinaigrette that dressed my tiger prawn cocktail and remember that it gave the entire salad a nice kick. I was able to taste the black sesame seeds that were sprinkled over the three plump tiger prawns and crisp napa cabbage. Hey, and you know what else you get to do at small weddings that you don't get to do at bigger ones? You get to take pictures of your food with your very own camera!

seared ahi canape and thai chicken skewers

tiger prawn cocktail

I remembered that the organic greens salad was perfectly refreshing for a hot Maui afternoon but was dressed with a dressing that was a little too citrusy for my taste. By this time, however, my mai tai, dressed in stereotypical tropical resort garb, i.e. pineapple slice & bright drink umbrella, had started to kick in, so instead of savoring my petite filet of beef with burgundy demi-glace, I scarfed it down in order to absorb the rum that had entered my bloodstream. What I can tell you is that the filet was tender but a little too saucy, and the mashed potatoes were grubbin'--probably not stellar but perfect for a bride who was tipsy at 12 o'clock in the afternoon.

this salad was a'ight

afternoon mai tai+heavy chignon=danger

filet mignon...the perfect mai tai sponge

I also had a couple bites of my Isaac's Macadamia Nut crusted catch of the day, which on that day happened to be monchong, a type of Hawaiian pomfret. I recall it being very fresh but a little too buttery tasting; Isaac thought the rice was a little too much on the soft side. My Mom chose the broiled breast of chicken because she eats neither beef nor fish (I'm not sure I'm really her daughter); it was prepared in the same fashion as my filet but with radish sprouts on top rather than the caramelized onions. I never tried it, however--it's just broiled chicken, you know? Like our filets and mac-crusted monchongs though, the chicken according to Mom, was moist. The Seawatch, therefore, passed their test of true wedding food chow-worthiness--no dry food here!

macadamia nut crusted monchong

"just" chicken

Dessert was a 6" and 10" 2-tier white wedding cake with vanilla cream custard & lilikoi filling made by
Maui Wedding Cakes. I can't believe the markup places charge on (as George Banks would say) flour and water just because there's the word "wedding" attached to it, but it's an industry I guess. This cake, albeit delicious--very moist and not too sweet with a slight tang from the lilikoi-- and beautiful, cost us $200; the same thing in Chinatown would have cost $60. So maybe it wouldn't have had pretty pink and green cymbidium orchids draped elegantly down the side of its smooth white buttercream facade, but still.

let them eat cake!

By the time we left the Seawatch my head was pounding from the 5 lb. chignon that was anchored to the nape of my neck as well as from the afternoon mai tais that I had just consumed (DG and afternoon drinking do not mix, by the way)--this bride was about to get a massive migrane and still had to entertain guests at dinner that evening. What to do??? We went back to my Mom's condo where I pulled about 500 bobby pins out of my hair, tore my wedding gown off and just let it all hang out. *Aaaah...*

While everyone else took advantage of the free time between our wedding reception and our dinner by going to South Maui's beautiful beaches, I crashed for about 3 hours.

At 6 o'clock that evening, we were off to Ma'alaea, located halfway between Lahaina and Wailea, to see our guests off at a Farewell Dinner we hosted at The Ma'alaea Grill. As with
Cafe O'Lei, we were a little hesitant upon first seeing its location--it shares the same parking lot as the big aquarium the Maui Ocean Center, does that say enough? We have our reputations to protect and we did not want our guests to feel like they flew 2000 miles across the Pacific to be treated to Red Lobster, n'est-ce pas? And also as with Cafe O'Lei, we were pleasantly surprised --an airy room decked out in bamboo and teak with tall french doors that opened out towards the Ma'alaea Harbor. *phew!*

the inside

the outside

Ma'alaea Grill's table bread was not only good because it was nice and crusty on the outside and warm & fluffy on the inside, but also because it was helping to bring down the major caffeine high that I'd been on from the two Excedrin I'd popped earlier in the afternoon and all the Coca Cola I had started to down. (Hey, it's a known fact burping helps ease the queasiness of headaches, no?) And soon enough, our fried calamari with wasabi aioli and sweet chili dipping sauces was out on our two tables. The calamari was good--I recall them being a tad too much on the overly battered side, but the calamari itself was of a nice texture--tender yet with a hint of elasticity. An otherwise boring green salad was given a bit more kick with the addition of bleu cheese and basil vinaigrette.

fried calamari

green salad with bleu cheese

We are very creative people, Isaac and I, so instead of the chicken-fish-steak fixed menu as with our wedding reception, the menu choices at dinner were chicken-fish-shrimp. My macadamia nut crusted chicken was cooked "picatta style": pound chicken flat, coat in macadamia nut powder, brown, remove chicken, deglaze pan with wine, add lemon juice & capers & whatever else, return chicken to pan with sauce. It's a cooking formula we all know, but regardless, the Ma'alaea Grill executed it well. My three chicken breast fillets had a nice outer crust formed by the mac-nut coating which absorbed the slightly tangy, caper-infused sauce nicely. On the bottom, a bed of buttery mashed potatoes.

mac nut crusted chicken

The shrimp on my Mom's garlic grilled shrimp were plump and juicy, served on a bed of rice with a nice spicy basil pesto drizzle, grilled tomatoes and boring broccoli. I passed on trying that night's blackened mahi mahi selection, which was a colorful presentation with its papaya salsa and cilantro garnish and completely repulsive to me without even having tasted anything. Don't mind me though. Don't let my hatred for the pukey smelling ass-fruit and vile weed of death scare you away--everyone thought it was delicious--I'm just weird like that.

grilled garlic shrimp

blackened mahi mahi with ass and more ass

The Ma'alaea Grill is part of the Cafe O'Lei group of restaurants so it was no surprise that dessert was served in a similar fashion to that we had the day before at Cafe O'Lei Kihei. Tiramisu, fudge brownie sundae, creme brulee, lilikoi cheesecake and pineapple upside down cake were served on platters for everyone to share. The tiramisu was our favorite of the bunch, having a nice balance of chocolate, marscapone, espresso & liqueur. The creme brulee was decent. Unlike the pineapple upside down cake at Cafe O'Lei which was excellent, the one here seemed dry and bland; the lilikoi cheesecake, however, also unlike the overly sweet one we had the day before, was just fine here in Ma'alaea. The brownie on our chocolate brownie sundae was hard as a rock and completely inedible.


and more dessert!

Despite a couple of misses here and there, I was quite pleased with our wedding food. I mean, it was wedding food after all, and I didn't have super high expectations--this is not The French Laundry we're talking about here. But because there were no rubbery pieces of chicken, no dry rice pilaf and no bland and mushy veggies, and because everything was pretty tasty, our nuptial chow gets the DG thumbs up.

Finally it was time for everyone to say goodbye and for Isaac and I to start our much needed honeymoon on both Maui and Oahu. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, my wedding day was over. And somehow I still couldn't help but miss the bride in me. I liked twirling around like a little girl in my white gown with a colorful bouquet of flowers in one hand. I liked feeling like a queen with her court as people followed me carrying my train. I liked that there were pretty pink flowers and little green polka-dotted boxes tied with pink bows surrounding me. I felt like I was on a cloud--even if only for a few hours. But when the clock struck twelve, the carriage turned back into a pumpkin, the horse turned back into mice, and me...I changed back into comfortable clothing. But I still had my Prince Charming to keep forever and ever. And some wonderful memories to go with.

The Seawatch Restaurant
100 Wailea Golf Club Drive
Wailea, Maui, HI 96753
(808) 875-8080

Ma'alaea Grill
300 Ma'alaea Rd.
Ma'alaea, Maui, HI
(808) 243-2206