Tag Archives: Maui

#CatTravels: Weekend in Upcountry Maui

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Maui has quickly become one of my favorite travel destinations.

And not just because we’ve got awesome friends on the island we love visiting.

Maui’s got great restaurants, hiking trails, friendly farms and gorgeous views (like the one of the sunrise at Haleakala above) that make any excuse to travel here a good one.

So when I got a writing assignment on the Valley Isle, I took it — and packed in a weekend of eating, hiking and cruising.

The only downside is, at some point, I gotta come home.

Here’s what the first part of the trip looked like:

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As soon as we arrived on Maui on Friday, we visited a start-up farm in Kula on the slopes of Haleakala. This farm is going to utilize aquaponics — the integration of aquaculture and hydroponics — to grow a variety of veggies. We lucked out with the weather, too. It was a balmy 70 degrees during the day in Kula.

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This farm is right next to the huge stretch of land owned by Oprah Winfrey. Not a bad view, right?

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We stopped off at Kula Bistro, which opened in this rural town in 2012, for a quick lunch. I had a grilled chicken sandwich with a pesto aioli.

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After visiting the farm, we headed to Makawao to stay with some friends — and immediately went to dinner at Makawao Steak House on Baldwin Avenue. This popular steakhouse started as a six-table restaurant in Makawao more than 10 years ago. Now it’s turned into a full-service restaurant and catering company with locations in Kihei, Kahului and Waiehu.

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We started with focaccia bread, calamari rings and this flatbread ($8).

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Here’s the slow-roasted 14-ounce certified Angus prime rib ($25) with an alaea salt crust and au jus.

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And here’s the fall-off-the-bone Asian-style braised beef short ribs ($23) with ginger, sesame, anise, sriracha, shoyu and steamed white rice.

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It was great to spend time with the Doyle family — here’s my pal, Anuhea — at dinner. This was really the best part of the entire trip.

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The next morning greeted us with nice weather again — Honolulu was getting hit with rain — so we planned our day around the sunshine.

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Well, after eating breakfast, of course. We stopped off at the locally owned Koho Grill & Bar at the Queen Kaahumanu Center in Kahului first.

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Here’s the King Platter, with eggs, corned beef hash and the best potatoes I’ve had.

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Honestly, I could have just eaten these potatoes as a meal. They were topped with green onions, bacon and cheese. Totally crave-able.

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Next stop: surf check at the world-famous Hookipa Beach. It was Saturday and the break was crowded (though windy). But it was still fun to watch surfers take off on shoulder-high sets — and wish we had brought our boards.

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Our friend, Tanya, took us to the Waihou Spring Trail in Makawao for a quick hike this forest reserve established in 1909 to protect one of the few perennial springs on the west slope of Haleakala.

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This reserve spans 186 acres, though the area we walked was fairly small. We turned off the loop trail and headed down to some old irrigation tunnels through this forest-lined stream bed.

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Those holes are the tunnels — and yes, you can climb into them.

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The next morning Tanya took me to La Provence in Kula that serves up authentic French pastries and other dishes. (We are already planning a girl’s trip to Paris.)

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It’s a quaint little place with views of the Central Maui Valley. And the pastries here — though it does offer a lunch menu with salads and sandwiches — were why we make the trek.

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Here’s chef Thierry J. Michelier making Hollandaise sauce. He was born in France and has lived on Maui for more than 20 years.

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I’m a sucker for chocolate croissants and these were the best I’ve had — in Paris or Japan.

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There were also three different kinds of quiches.

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This was one of the three boxes we took home. It was a great starter to Super Bowl Sunday and what will likely be another gorgefest. Until then, though, this will keep me happy for awhile.

Follow my #CatTravels adventures on Maui on Twitter @thedailydish and on Instagram @catherinetoth.

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Maui’s the star of tonight’s ‘Top Chef’

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If you’ve been following me, oh, since 2006, you’ll know my all-time favorite reality show is Bravo’s “Top Chef.”

And not since we’ve had local boy Sheldon Simeon (@chefwonder) from Lahaina’s Star Noodle last year have I been this excited for the show.

Based on the flavor-rich city of New Orleans, this season’s show is culminating with the final competitions right here in Hawaii — Maui, actually — with the first part of the finale airing tonight.

Oh, yeah.

Bravo filmed the two-part finale on the Valley Isle last October, showcasing the island’s rich bounty of ingredients and some of our best local chefs including Peter Merriman and Sam Choy.

What’s even cooler about the finale is that not only did Bravo show off the gorgeous grounds of the new luxe Andaz Maui at Wailea, the backdrop for the show’s online companion series, “Last Chance Kitchen” and other challenges, but a bunch of local farms and food producers got some air time, too, including Kumu Farms, Surfing Goat Dairy and Ocean Vodka.

I got to chat with Keli’i Brown, director of public relations and promotions for the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau, about the finale on Maui, and here’s what he said:

Q: What was the experience of hosting the finale of this season’s “Top Chef” like?

Many would be surprised to learn for a destination such as Maui, “Top Chef” represents much more than being included on a popular TV show. This is simply a facet of a comprehensive marketing program which required the support of many including the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, Andaz Maui, Merriman’s Kapalua, Gannon’s Wailea as well as various farms and farmers.

Everyone worked hard devoting tremendous hours and throughout the process, we learned about the inner workings of network productions. We established solid professional relationships, made new friends, and will be able to raise awareness of Maui. Viewers will capture a glimpse of our people, history, culture, food and other offerings that make our island home a highly desirable travel destination.

Q: How will this two-part episode showcase Hawaiiʻs food, farms and flavors?

A lively quick fire challenge with Chef Sam Choy centers around a “beloved” local staple and the semi-final challenge hosted at Merriman’s Kapalua celebrates Hawaii’s beloved foods including taro, breadfruit, fish and more. Maui is presented as a premiere culinary destination with a genuine food culture.

Q: I know you can’t give anything away, but is there something you could share with us?

There are a lot of locals included in the segments. It will be fun for all of us at home to see the chefs, farmers, food producers, cultural practitioners, educators and others who supported this project enjoying the various events.

Watch the first part of the finale at 8 p.m. HST tonight on Bravo.

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The best Neighbor Island bakeries

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Born and raised on Oahu to a family who loves to eat sweets, I’ve been to my share of bakeries on the island.

I have memories of going to Manoa Bakery as a kid for stick donuts, one of my dad’s favorites, and Valley High Bakery in Kalihi Valley for butter rolls.

I remember the long johns at 9th Avenue Bakery and the giant glazed donuts from Kimuraya Bakery, both in Kaimuki.

While those bakeries have been long closed — and sorely missed — that hasn’t stopped me from trying every bakery that’s popped up since then.

In fact, visiting bakeries could be listed as one of my favorite pastimes, along with surfing and hiking with my dogs.

But as much as I travel to the Neighbor Islands, I haven’t been to too many bake shops there. And I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m always there on assignment or to visit family and never really have time to explore the neighborhood bakeries. Sure, I’ve been to the most famous ones — like Komoda Bakery on Maui (above) and Punaluu Bake Shop in Naalehu on the Big Island. But that’s about it.

So I’m throwing this out there: where are the best bakeries on the other islands? And what should I order the next time I’m there?

This is good to know!

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Q&A with Hawaii’s ‘Top Chef’ Sheldon Simeon

Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle - Wailea, HI

Tonight’s the night, the finale of Bravo’s “Top Chef.

And, more importantly, your last chance to vote for local boy chef Sheldon Simeon for #FanFavorite. (Tweet #ChefSheldon for the next couple of hours!)

Simeon — who chefs at two my two favorite Maui restaurants, Star Noodle and Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop — made it to the Final Four of the hit Bravo reality show and garnered fans around the country with his fresh approach to Asian-style cooking, his laid-back attitude and, of course, saying things like, “That chicken was frickin’ good!”

Love the guy!

So I chatted with Hawaii’s “cheftestant” today to get the lowdown on tonight’s finale and what he’ll be doing in the near future.

CT: So where are you right now? Still on Oahu?”

SS: No, I’m back on Maui. Actually, I’m working at Star Noodle. Back to the grind already!

Top Chef - Season 10CT: That last episode you were on, where you were cooking in (‘Top Chef’ judge) Tom Colicchio’s kitchen seemed a bit crazy balls!

SS: (laughs) It was. At one point, I just stopped in the middle of service. There were tickets coming in, Tom’s yelling, cameras were in my face. But I had to stop. It was so surreal. I was cooking my ass off. It was just so unreal. At that moment, I realized I was blessed.

CT: You cooked for some world-renowed chefs including David Chang and Katsuya Uechi. Who intimidated you the most?

SS: Actually, it was Restaurant Wars that intimidated me, to tell you the truth. Not because of the judges, but because I was cooking something that was kinda new, but something I really believed in. The whole time I was putting myself out there. It was fun.

CT: The gamble (to cook Filipino food) paid off. Your team won. Was that also your proudest moment then?

SS: Oh, definitely. In fact, that was the proudest moment of my whole career. I put Filipino food out there and everyone received it well and it kinda made me realize the type of cooking I want to do. This was something I could actually spend the rest of my career doing.

CT: Has your participation on ‘Top Chef’ changed your career direction?

SS: Yeah, for sure. The next step is looking for something on my own. I’ll continue with Star Noodle, though, because they gave me so many opportunities and they’ve done amazing things for me.

CT: You planning to move away? I hope not!

SS: There’s just tons of opportunities right now up on the Mainland and even here. I’d like to raise my children here, but in the end, it’s whatever’s best for my girls, my wife and my family.

CT: I know you’re a fan of the show. Does it trip you out that you’re now part of the show’s legacy? I mean, you’re one of those chefs you watched!

SS: Frick, a year ago, when Paul (Qui, Season 9 champion) won, I went to Uchiko (in Texas) and I was the guy who was starstruck. I was, like, ‘Hey, Paul, how’s it going, I love your food, your sashimi is sooooo fresh.’ (laughs) I was THAT guy! Now we’re constantly talking on Twitter and on the phone. I have contacts with Emeril (Lagasse) and Tom (Colicchio). In a blink of an eye! It’s crazy!

CT: As a viewer, you don’t really know what’s going on. Was there anything that totally shocked you, something you didn’t expect, once you became a cheftestant?

SS: It’s long days on the set, man. It’s brutal. It’s back to back to back to back. We’re doing 16- to 18-hour days, average. Some days we were doing 22-hour days. It’s crazy. You’re out there, you’re so vulnerable at that moment. You don’t know what to come up with, you have to go with your first instinct. It’s definitely the most physically and mentally grueling thing I’ve ever done.

CT: So the finale tonight… can you tell us anything?

SS: Tonight I’m going to support… I can’t say! But I’ll be working (at Star Noodle). I’m actually cooking on the line tonight. We’re doing an ahi belly … I’m going to kill it.

CT: What’s the best advice you got from other cheftestants?

SS: Every single one of them gave me advice for life after ‘Top Chef’ and it was this: don’t ever stop cooking. Don’t ever forget what brought you to ‘Top Chef’ and your newfound fame. It’s the food. Don’t forget that.

Watch the “Top Chef” finale on Bravo at 8 p.m. tonight.

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#CatTravels: Top 10 Maui Moments

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There’s a lot to love about Maui.

The sunny beaches, the great restaurants, the long scenic drives.

And though I’ve been to Maui many times — three in the last year alone — this most recent trip took me on new experiences that have only made me like the island more.

Here are my Top 10 moments from this trip to Maui — some old, some new, all good:

10. Komoda Bakery

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Let's face it: bakeries are a must on any Top 10 list, and T. Komoda Store & Bakery would make anyone's list. If you're not a cream puff fan — that's the bakery's specialty — get the stick donut.

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