Move over mai tai, the cool kids of Maui are drinking pineapple wine and beer
Discovering fresh, local fare – on your plate and in your glass – is a delicious highlight of visiting Maui, the second largest Hawaiian island. From Upcountry produce, to pineapple wines and brews, to fresh seafood with regional Hawaiian flair, here are a few ideas to help fuel your itinerary.
HARVEST YOUR OWN SALAD
For an immersive farm-to-table experience, head Upcountry (the higher elevations surrounding 3055m Haleakala) to O’o Farm in the Kula district, about 1066m above sea level on Haleakala’s northwestern-facing slopes. Restaurateurs Louis Coulombe and Stephan Bel-Robert bought the land in 2000 to supply their Pacific’O restaurant in Lahaina with organic produce; today, the 3.4ha farm also roasts 100 per cent Mauigrown Arabica coffee and serves meals on-site, just a few steps from its crops.
The three-hour tour and gourmet lunch includes a peek at the farm’s coffee trees and roasting facilities; the chance to pick (and taste) a variety of field greens and edible herbs and flowers for a salad; and, finally, a multi-course, family-style, BYO-wine outdoor lunch, where the people who grow and harvest the colourful veggies cook and serve them as well.
Mains might include coffee cherryglazed tofu with sprouted legumes, broccolini, and aubergine-celeriac puree; locally caught fish with beets, daikon, chayote and arugula puree; and Maui-raised chicken with fireroasted parsnips and rutabaga.
A cup of French-press Aina coffee paired with Maui Gold pineapple slices and a sliver of dark chocolate decadence (flavoured with coffee cherry, apple, banana and cumquat) provides a sweet finish.
TASTE PINEAPPLE WINE
Also Upcountry is 8093ha Ulupalakua Ranch, home to Maui Wine and a 9.3ha vineyard. The winery began growing grapes in 1974; while waiting for the grapes to mature, they developed wine made from Maui Gold pineapples. The pineapple wine was such a hit that they now produce three types: off-dry Maui Blanc, sweet Maui Splash, and sparkling Hula O Maui.
Taste all three in circa-1870s King’s Cottage, built for the visits of Hawaii’s last reigning king, or sample small production estate wines in the Old Jail, a thick-walled stone building, once a basement jailhouse.
DRINK FRUITY BREWS
Wine isn’t the only adult beverage incorporating Maui Gold pineapples. Maui Brewing Co., Hawaii’s largest craft brewery, uses the famous fruit in a wheat beer called Pineapple Mana, which is available throughout the island in stores and some restaurants as well as in the company’s Kihei tasting room and Kahana restaurant in Lahaina. The tasting room has a 32tap draft system, featuring other flagship beers such as Coconut Hiwa Porter, made with hand-toasted coconut, as well as limited release drops such as Mango Hefeweizen, a Bavarian-style wheat ale brewed with locally sourced mango.
SIP MAUI’S BEST MAI TAI
Peter Merriman is one of 12 Hawaii chefs who, in 1991, established Hawaii regional cuisine, which showcases Hawaii’s diverse ethnic flavours with fresh local ingredients.
One of Merriman’s restaurants is the lively and casual Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea (also soon to open in Whalers Village, Ka’anapali), where the locally sourced menu includes items such as Kauai shrimp and Hamakua mushroom potstickers; handmade gnocchi with pork sausage, ricotta, vine-ripened tomatoes, and organic kale; and kiawe (a mesquite tree) wood oven pizzas.
However, even if you’re not hungry, the tart and perfectly balanced Monkeypod Mai Tai – made with Old Lahaina silver and dark rums (made from local ingredients and distilled in Paia), fresh lime juice, macadamia nut orgeat, orange curacao, and a thick layer of house-made honey liliko’i (passionfruit) foam – is reason enough to visit.
A MOUTHFUL OF FISH
Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the Grand Wailea’s Polynesian thatchroof restaurant, is named for Hawaii’s state fish, the Hawaiian triggerfish – and attempting to say its name correctly is a fun challenge as you peruse chef Mike Lofaro’s menu, which reflects a “culturally conscious, modern Hawaiian seasonality”.
Small plate contenders include seared Hokkaido scallops with radish, truffle vinaigrette, and “canoe plants” such as breadfruit and sweet potato, brought to Hawaii by Polynesian explorers; Hamachi Carpaccio with chilli, celery, and ginger shave ice; a rich “risotto” made from breadfruit instead of rice; and marinated tomatoes, molasses, Surfing Goat cheese and smoked Kula strawberry.
Main choices are simpler: opt for the catch of the day – which could be the easier-to-say Opakapaka (Hawaiian pink snapper) – served with ginger rice, dark soy and scallion vinaigrette, and sunomono (cucumber salad).
SAMPLE ORGANIC VODKA
Distilled from Maui-grown organic sugar cane and blended with deep ocean mineral water sourced from the Big Island’s Kona Coast, OCEAN Organic Vodka features in cocktails throughout the island, and tours of its Kula farm and distillery are available.
You don’t have to wait until you arrive in Maui for a sample, though: it’s served on Hawaiian Airlines flights and is delicious on the rocks or with a splash of pineapple juice.
ORDER PUPUS FOR DINNER
A pupu is a Hawaiian-style appetiser or hors d’oeuvre, and indulging in several types (and a cocktail or two) at one of Maui’s ocean-view restaurants is a great way to relax as the sun slides into the sea. At the Westin Maui’s Relish Oceanside restaurant in Ka’anapali, for example, try the spicy Ahi poke tostadas, a combination of avocado, Ahi poke (raw yellowfin tuna salad), and Hawaiian chilli pepper aioli served atop a crispy wonton chip; taro focaccia with Kimchee butter, shallot and garlic confit; and miso yakitori (miso-shoyu seared bamboo chicken skewers with sambal pickled pineapple). And, while not technically a pupu, a serving of the lobster mac and cheese is worth sharing as well.
As for cocktails, resort bartender mixologist Freddie Sconfienza’s award-winning Dragonberry Bomb (Bacardi Dragonberry, St Germain elderflower liqueur, fresh lime juice, local sugar cane syrup, and blackberries) is a refreshing choice.
THE WRITER WAS A GUEST OF HAWAII TOURISM OCEANIA
Pupus and cocktails (below) at Westin Maui’s Relish Oceanside in Ka’anapali.