Food of Hawaii

Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much tuna and other seafood in my life. And you know what? It was delicious. Here are my thoughts on our culinary tour of Hawai’i in no particular order:

  • Coconut makes everything more delicious.  I knew this before we left, but my belief was confirmed.  Coconut pancakes topped with coconut syrup?  More please!  (Diamond Head Market & Grill)  And Starbucks has a Mocha Coconut Frap that you can supposedly only get in Hawaii.  It’s like a Mounds slushie.
  • Never, ever, ever miss this if you visit the island of Hawai’i: Tasting or luncheon at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company. Follow their directions, not Google’s. Trust me. But get there and get there fast. The tasting is actually about 3/4 of a meal, or a full lunch if you had an early breakfast. Delicious and divine. We bought several items in the store and plan to replicate most of their recipes. Sugar/vanilla/spicy crusted pecans? Check. Vanilla caramelized onions to top some brie warmed in pastry? I’ll host dinner for guests just as an excuse to make it. Vanilla balsamic vinaigrette? Bought it & already opened it up for dinner last night. Vanilla bean lemonade? I’m all over that one. Also free: tips on mixing vanilla with booze & how to best use said booze in food. This will be an “every future trip” stop for us any time we hit the Big Island again. Best $25 you can spend on food.
  • Are you an atheist looking for proof of a higher being?  Proof that there is a God and he loves us is found in a plate of Shrimp Scampi from Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.  It was so good, we visited both locations the two days we were up on the North Shore.
  • Best unexpected find?  Ilikai Bar & Grill.  Sit outside at the bar, enjoy the sounds of the harbor and take advantage of the good company behind the bar – particularly a bartender named Sarah.  She was great – so was their coconut shrimp appetizer.  I kept reading complaints that the property was dated, but I didn’t think it was in a bad way.  The atmosphere was great.
  • A great hidden gem: Liliha Bakery. We were the only rental in the lot – that says a lot right there when every other customer in the packed joint was kama’aina. The haupia cake – oh, be still my heart. It was so simple and mild, just what I love about it. Not too sweet, not overpowering, and wonderfully moist. The coco puffs are a delicious treat, and it’s worth picking up some cinnamon donuts for breakfast. There’s a reason they’ve been in business longer than Hawaii has been a state.
  • Looking for the tiki bar vibe?  Hit up La Mariana Sailing Club on Oahu.  The drinks were a bit weak, but sitting on the water and enjoying the harbor sunset made up for that.
  • Kona Brewing Company was worthy of three stops (two on Oahu because it was the only place outside of Waikiki we could find that was open at a reasonable hour and one on Hawai’i when we stayed in bumf*ck no where and had to drive to Kona for dinner).  I strongly recommend the roasted garlic appetizer.
  • Luau: Most people will tell you not to waste your money on a commercial luau.  I can somewhat sympathize because, from what I have read, most have terrible food and many are pretty damn expensive.  But, Sebastian was up for a luau, and I read there are only two worth seeing according to residents & frequent visitors: one on Maui & one on the Big Island.  We were on the Big Island, so we ended our trip with the Polynesian luau hosted by Kona Village Resort.  At just over $100/person (adding tax & extra drinks), it isn’t cheap.  But, for a multi-hour dinner show & bbq with a buffet that definitely qualified as filling & good, it was a reasonable price.  It was a great last evening for a trip to the islands.  Also, the fire dancer on their website – totally hot in person.

Obviously, we did eat more than just these places.  Oh, and Sebastian was introduced to the wonderful varieties of macadamia nuts thanks to my grandmother.  He loves them.  If you ever want to know, Mauna Loa Honey Roasted are superior to Hawaiian Host Honey Roasted.  But neither of us turned down either of the bags offered to us.  And if you aren’t walking it all off, then you aren’t doing Hawaii the right way. :)

4 thoughts on “Food of Hawaii”

  1. I’ve actually stayed at Kona Village twice, and you’re right: the luau is pretty fun.

    1. I couldn’t bring myself to make a reservation there for anything other than luau. The $500+/night rooms just seemed like a waste for our style of vacation – never in the same place twice. (Except in Volcano where would could have easily spent a week!) But it does look really nice, and the luau was definitely worth it. I would even suggest that if we went back, we consider trying their Hawaii-themed show.

  2. Yeah, if you’re touring the island, KV is probably a waste. But if you just want to stay mostly in one place and relax other than to waddle from meal to meal, it’s fantastic — and, you know, driving distance from the coffee and sugar plantations, and Waipi’o makes a nice day trip. The other big nighttime event that KV does is a paniolo barbeque, celebrating the Hawaiian cowboy heritage (which I had no idea even existed until I went there).

    I’m going to have to remember to hit the Hawaiian Vanilla Company next time I’m there. Sounds like you guys had an absolute blast!

  3. Hawaiian Vanilla Company was having zoning issues when we went there in ’08, glad to hear they’re still in business. We want to go back in April, when the plants are in bloom.

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