Thoughts that occurred as I was going through my Maui receipts, business cards, menus and scribbled notes:
Upcountry with a trio of friends who’ve eaten everywhere on the Valley Isle, Cafe 808 was mentioned. “What do you like there?,” I asked. I’ve never heard anything like it: They practically recited the menu. The seared ‘ahi. The Mahimahi a la 808. The hot mustard mahi. The Asian crusted Mahi. The California Club with seared ‘ahi. I ran out of space on the Post-It note I dug out of my purse. It’ll be my first stop on my next trip. (4566 Lower Kula Rd.; 4-star reviews on Yelp and TripAdviser).
Speaking of mahi, a number of restaurants on Maui had to “86” the fish because they couldn’t get any. Those that did have mahi bought them from day boats with whom they had long relationships. Sad the state of our fishery in Hawai’i.
Did I mention the tapas at Main Street Bistro? It’s the only spot on the Wailuku-Kahului side that does what it does: early evening pupu with food-matched wines. Chef-owner Tom Selman (formerly corporate chef for D. K. Kodama) is server, sommelier and cook during the 3-7 p.m. tapas hours (if you’re there on a First Friday, there’s music and later hours). My happy choices were the eggplant terrine (you guessed it, layers of paper-thin eggplan with goat cheese but also asiago, mushrooms and a delish tomato vinaigrette) and the crispy polenta fries with demiglaze and sour cream. Tom believes in excess — demiglaze on fries????? But he was the first guy I knew to addt foie gras to mac and cheese so it’s only to be expected. How to make polenta fries? Chef Tom, forgetting I was Portuguese and had been eating fried milho (cornmeal mush) for breakfast all my life, explained that you use a little less water than usual in making the polenta, chill it, cut it into sharp-edged fingers and deep fry it. I didn’t think the demiglaze worked. But the sour cream will be a fixture when I make my Portuguese version (with lots of snipped parsley in the cornmeal). (www.msbmaui.com, 2051 Main St., lunch and tapas, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays only.) For two dishes, about $20.
I saved the best for last: lunch with my mom and my grade school BFF at Archie’s, a Japanese-Local Food fixture since the ’60s. It’s the only place on the island where you can still get breaded veal cutlet, so, of course, I had to order it. I loved the Japanese chochkes — wall-mounted fans, vintage sake bottles, maneki nekko cats — and it felt like home to be greeted with that shoyu-tempura-sunomono scent that any local would recognize. Good, solid, filling, familiar, inexpensive food. I’m told the teri beef is the best (I should have had it to compare it with Hapa Grill — next time). Archie’s, 1440 Lower Main. BLT. Cheap.
And on to travel: If you haven’t been in the airport lately, just be warned. You WILL have to use a computerized check-in kiosk (at least on O’ahu and in Kahului, Maui). If you have a problem at the kiosk you WILL have to wait in line for one of the few humans actually performing that rare pursuit called customer service. So you SHOULD leave yourself 60-90 minutes before flight time, in case your kiosk experience is, like mine, less than trouble-free. Warning: If you attempt to check in on a kiosk within 30 minutes of your flight time, it will refuse you and you’ll have to wait in line. And, yes, you’ll miss your flight.