Food, wine and sumptuous
sights abound on the flanks of
East Maui's volcano
Related StoryBy Stephanie Kendrick
Assistant Features Editor
THE satisfaction derived from roughing it is directly proportional to the comforts left behind.
At least that was the rationalization behind pampering ourselves in the days surrounding our hike through the Haleakala Crater.
We flew to Maui the day before we were to start our hike. And since we knew we were going to be eating freeze-dried food for the next three days, we figured we deserved an outrageously sumptuous lunch.
I'd heard good things about Mama's Fish House so upon landing we headed off to Paia.
In a delightful example of small-town syndrome, we walked into the restaurant and nearly collided with an old friend now working in Mama's kitchen.
The restaurant has a breezy, open layout well suited to its beachfront location.
The menu is overwhelmingly attractive. We stuck with pupu plates so we could sample as much as possible. Local fisherman deliver their catch to Mama's daily, herbs are grown on the premises and the bulk of the produce comes from Maui growers, according to Casey Lara, one of the restaurant's kitchen mangers. All that freshness is combined with robust sauces -- some spicy, some sweet, some tangy, none disappointing.
And it's possible to eat till you sleep. Mama's Beachfront Cottages are available in one- and two-bedroom sizes.
But we had made other sleeping arrangements, so we headed back up the mountain to Moonlight Garden Bed & Breakfast in Keokea.
I had found Moonlight Garden on the Web and had corresponded with co-owner Anne Miura for months while we figured out exactly what we were doing. So I was pretty confident we were going to be comfortable.
We wanted to move in ... permanently.
Anne and her husband, Marvin Miura, have two cottages, the one bedroom Mahina and two bedroom Lehua.
Marvin, a scientist with special interest in Hawaiian flora and fauna, handles the landscaping and Anne greets the guests.
She also produces a continental breakfast that would be the envy of any luxury hotel.
Lehua Cottage was roomy, equipped with a full kitchen and laundry facilities, and decorated with such beautiful prints and ceramics we were stunned that random strangers such as ourselves were allowed to rattle around unsupervised.
Later, the overflow of art was partly explained by Anne's tenure as the manager of Oahu's Amfac Center gallery. The only other explanation is that the Miuras are gracious hosts who want their guests to be happy.
Our hosts insisted Moonlight Garden is suffering from the drought, but the property was still lovely with flowers, fruit trees and bamboo.
A lanai runs the length of Lehua Cottage commanding a view from Wailea to the West Maui Mountains. We cooked in the first night.
Hard as it was to leave our Keokea cocoon, we did splurge on one more dinner out, journeying a little farther up the slope of Haleakala to Kula Lodge.
A stone fireplace lends a decidedly lodgelike feel to the place, which also features a beautiful garden. The trip convinced me anything will grow in Upcountry Maui, with or without normal rainfall. Protea trees (they were way too tall to be bushes) stood next to lilies, succulents and roses.
The west wall of the restaurant is glass, and for good reason. The view spans the Maui saddle and picks up ocean on both sides.
We chose two soups, French onion and chicken with green papaya, that exemplified the France-meets-Southeast Asia flavor of the menu. It was beautifully prepared and hearty fare well-suited to the mountain setting.
While both Mama's Fish House and Kula Lodge had well-crafted wine lists, we had yet to enjoy any of the local nectar. The next day we headed off to Maui's winery, just down the road from Moonlight Gardens in Ulupalakua.
Tedeschi Vineyards operates out of Ulupalakua Ranch. The tasting room abuts a mini museum that describes the history of the property. The guided tour is as much about the ranch as the winery and offers a brief but fascinating look at both.
Though three of the five Tedeschi wines we tasted are made from grapes grown at the ranch, the pair of pineapple wines account for two-thirds of the vineyard's sales. Though my personal prejudices balk at the idea of pineapple wine, I tasted both the Maui Splash and Maui Blanc and I cannot imagine anyone besting Tedeschi's efforts. They were well-balanced wines that gave you a true taste of the fruit.
My favorite Tedeschi wine was the Plantation Red. It is a big wine the vineyard cannot produce every year as the summers do not usually get hot enough to grow a hearty red. Tedeschi makes two sparkling wines, Maui Brut Champagne and Rose Ranch Cuvée, as conditions on the mountain are best suited to that style of wine.
The trip to Ulupalakua is worthwhile for its beauty alone, but it also provides some insight into Maui's paniolo culture.
Back around on the north side of the mountain is the paniolo town of Makawao.
Ask anyone who lives there and they will tell you it's overbuilt and ruined forever. Don't ask them and you will think it is a charming country town that has obviously put a lot of work into making sure modern developments fit the flavor of the area.
On our way to The Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center, which is a couple of miles down Baldwin Avenue past Makawao, we stopped for lunch at one such modern country-style development.
The Courtyard Cafe is tucked in amid some of the art galleries and dress shops that make Makawao worth an unguided walking tour.
Soups, salads and sandwiches are the order of the day, accompanied by the obligatory list of coffee drinks. The fresh fish sandwich and liberal use of local produce are the stars of the menu. Generous portions and the shady outdoor setting soon had us refueled, revived and on our way.
Hui No'eau is in a beautifully restored 1917 plantation mansion designed by C.W. Dickey for the Baldwin family. The exhibit running through Aug. 14 comprises paintings by Kara Taylor and a multimedia installation by Pat Wood.
Wood is a family friend and the reason we put the center on our itinerary.
Her exhibit, "Of Nets and Roots," examines the evolution of culture in Hawaii through the interaction of different peoples. The setting was perfect on both micro and macro levels. The room was lovely. But more importantly, it was interesting to view the work in the context of Upcountry Maui. This rich agricultural area is going though yet another phase in its evolution as it is transformed by refugees from suburbia.
And who can blame them. I can't join the chorus of those who warn of the overdevelopment of Upcountry Maui, mostly because I'm nurturing a fantasy of my own Kula lodge with a breathtaking view.
Until then, it's enough to borrow the occasional sunset from Lehua Cottage.
Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center Baldwin Avenue near Makawao For more information, visit http://www.maui.net/~hui or call (808) 572-6560.
Kula Lodge and Restaurant Highway 377 in Kula (808) 878-1535
Mama's Fish House and Mama's Beachfront Cottages On Hana Highway about a mile past Paia town. For more information, visit http://www.mamasfishhouse.com, or call (808) 579-8488.
Moonlight Garden Bed &Breakfast Keokea One-bedroom Mahina Cottage is $95 per night, double occupancy. Two-bedroom Lehua Cottage is $105 per night, double occupancy; plus $25 per additional guest. For more information, visit http://www.maui.net/~mauimoon, call (808) 878-6977, or email email@example.com
Tedeschi Winery Ulupalakua Ranch For more information, visit http://www.maui.net/~winery, or call (808) 878-6058
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