Spent a long weekend on Maui, which explains the blog-less days of last week. My mother’s home is Internet-free. Every time I go there, I suffer severe withdrawal, though not quite severe enough to send me to Starbucks (or Wailuku Coffee Co.) every day.
Best meal, home division: The shabbat (Sabbath) spread I put on for some friends, starring Sepharadic-style chicken cooked with dried apricots and figs in a balsamic-honey “gravy.”
In attempt to get healthful for dessert, I tried a low-sugar almond milk panna cotta made with tropical fruit. Good flavor, really nasty color — kind of a muddy brownish gray. However, I’m going to play with this recipe. Panna cotta, as “Top Chef” fans know, is a chilled Italian sweet made with gelatin (pros use gelatin sheets) and cream; scarily simple. I say “scarily” because the fewer ingredients, the more complex the technique and the fewer places to hide. The original of this panna cotta l is from the new Kapi’iolani Community College book “A Sweet Dash of Aloha,” but it calls for liqueurs and I didn’t want to use alcohol, and Sucarat (a sugar cousin) and I didn’t have any. The big problem was that the mixture didn’t gell (it’s supposed to be soft as pudding but hold its shape like Jell-O). I had to add a second packet of unflavored gelatin and reboil it to make it work. Also, it wasn’t quite sweet enough. More on this one later, however.
Best meal, restaurant division: A chef’s sampling at Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop in Olowalu. This four-month old spot specializes in housemade pies, both savory and sweet, as well as exceptional sandwiches and fresh-baked breads. It’s a member of the family that includes Old Lahaina Lu’au, Aloha Mixed Plate and Star Noodle. You’ll recall — or maybe you won’t — that I raved about Star Noodle in previous Valley Isle blog. If that place, with its housemade noodles and creative ideas, was on O’ahu, I’d be there every week. Leoda’s too. Although I was there to have a serious talk with chef Sheldon Simeon about pie crust (for a future story in the Star-Advertiser), I came away singing a sandwich, a pupu and a daily special. (This isn’t to say the pie crust was disappointing, far from it.)
The sandwich was “pork, pork . . . mmmm pork” ($12.75 — and yes, that’s what it’s called), which brings together proscuiutto, duroc ham, applewood bacon and salami on the restaurant’s own butter white bread with Swiss cheese and grainy mustard. (I got one of those goofy looks on my face, like the hilarious guy in “Notting Hill” when he stumbles on Julia Roberts in his bath tub; shutting the door gently, he folds his hands in prayer, raises his eyes and whispers fervently, ‘Thank you, God.”) Me, too.
The pupu comes from Simeon’s ethnic background, with a twist: a reuben lumpia ($8.25), corned beef, sauerkraut, provolone cheese in a lumpia wrapper. Deep fried. Deep sigh. Dip in house Thousand Island, if you like.
The daily special was fresh ‘ahi, seared on two kinds of toast: butter bread and hapa loaf (half whole wheat, half white flour) with a topping of greens. I’ve had crostini before but this was a multicultural experince, different because the bread is so very old-style American, the ‘ahi so very Asian, the idea so very Mediterranean. And it worked even if you had to crank your mouth open pretty far to manage a bite.
Whatever you do, follow the directive on the chalkboard: Save room for pie. I tried the banana cream (with graham cracker/Nilla Wafer crust) and mixed local berry pie (sweet sugar crust). I hadn’t saved enough room, but those babies went home with me.
Leoda’s, 820 Olowalu Village Road (which road is basically just a parking lot off Honoapi’ilani Highway midway between Ma’alaea and Lahaina); 662-3600; leodas.com.