Friday, September 13, 2013

Maui 2013: Day Five - Paia/Makawao and Dinner at Pacific'O

For our last full day, we headed up to Paia and had breakfast at Charley's.

Paia is a funky little hippy town up on the north shore of Maui.  It's quiet, laid-back and feels very far removed from the touristy areas of Kihei and Kaanapali. 

We love the down home Maui love you find at Charley's and Brian especially loves their macadamia nut pancakes (or should I say pancake....who could eat two)?

After breakfast, we took off for Ho'okipa Beach Park, a place we've never explored before (which is about 2 miles from Charley's)!

Ho'okipa on the north shore of Maui is perhaps the most renowned windsurfing site in the world.  A combination of large, well-shaped waves breaking across a system of reefs that extend across the bay and consistently strong winds make it ideal for the sport.
The name Ho'okipa means "hospitality" in Hawaiian.

 Is there a monk seal lying there?

Unfortunately, the winds were down, but the swells were improving which makes conditions better for surfing then windsurfing.  We walked down the length of the beach and sat in the sand for a while.

All of a sudden, Brian spots a sea lion heading from the beach into the water about 25 yards from us.  Neither one of us recognized the seal and mistook her for one of the large black rocks on the beach.  Come to find out, we witnessed a rare Hawaiian Monk Seal leaving her sun-bathing position to head into the water for lunch.  We saw a couple sitting under the shade of a kukui nut tree and chatted with them about what we just witnessed.  Come to find out, they are seal sitters (also transplants from Seattle) who explained the seals rarity and almost near extinction.

Before leaving the beach, Brian and I vowed to visit next year, pack a lunch and spend the whole day.  It was a delightful place to watch the surfers and enjoy the sun.

After the beach, we took a little drive off the beaten path which eventually lead us back to Baldwin Avenue and the up-country town of Makawao.

Makawao is one of Hawaii's last paniolo towns.  The paniolos were the first cowboys in the United States.  Long before there were cowboys in the old west, the paniolos came to Hawaii in the early 1800's from Mexico to teach Hawaiians how to herd cattle.  There is little that remains of the paniolos other than a wild 4th of July rodeo every year.

I love the shopping...from cheap trinkets to expensive art work. It's a great place to stretch your legs and explore, plus I love the flora, and the smells of up-country.

However, it always rains in Makawao, every time we visit, so it was nice to drive back towards Lahaina and into the sunshine.

Our last happy hour on condo lanai

We had time in the afternoon for a nap, I did some last minute shopping near the condo and started packing up for our journey home.  We gathered on the beach for our last sunset of the vacation, bittersweet.....ah so bittersweet.

Our last sunset in Kahana

Being a foodie, my quest every visit to Maui is to try a new restaurant.

I thought with the O'O Farm tour earlier in the week that it would be a real treat to have dinner at one of their partner restaurants.


Pacific'O located in the 505 Front Street complex has been around for 20 years and serves contemporary pacific cuisine.

In hindsight, I made a couple of tactical errors for dinner.  My first pick was Star Noodle and you should always stick with your first pick.  I didn't and I was wrong and I am so glad that I'll be able to visit next September and have them at the top of my list.

I took the shots of Pacific'O the day we had lunch next door at Betty's

Another error was not going for dinner at sunset.  I made reservations for 7:15 and by the time we arrived, the lanai area of the restaurant (tables almost right on the beach) was plunged in darkness (except for a small amount of light from a couple of tiki torches).

Nothing busts the start of a good meal then sitting in the dark!  Not only can you NOT read your menu (barely) but being a foodie means that I love seeing the presentation of my food and knowing the history and concept of the restaurant, I figured that the presentation would be amazing.

Pork Belly - not as good as I was hoping for

Brian and I decided to have three courses.  If I've learned anything about Maui this trip (eating in restaurants) I learned that portions are small, but good and simple.  Brian had soup du jour (beef barley) and I ordered Pork Belly, braised in ginger, mushroom soy and spices then garnished with wilted greens.  I've never had pork belly before, but it's all the rage these days and I figured that it was a good place to try it.  I was wrong!  Pork Belly is the grossest concoction that I have ever had (and I eat liver and raw oysters).  Two, 1 inch thick cubes were served on a bed of some super sweet/tangy red sauce.  The middle of the cube was raw, chewy pork FAT...plain and simple.  The top and bottom of the cube was fried (I didn't see any braising) and cooked so much that it could not be cut with a knife or chewed with my teeth.  Needless to say, I was disappointed with my pork belly experience.  Brian liked his soup so I figured I just chose wrong.

Course #2, was salad so pretty hard to mess up, right?.  Brian's House Salad was dressed with way too much blue cheese which mixed with the oil and vinegar to form a soggy mess.  Disappointing, because I so fondly remembered picking those same greens out in the field at O'O Farm and that made me happy.  My salad was beautiful (or so I noticed after reviewing my photos) and called Kula Sunset and designed with beets and greens to form the colors of the sunset.  Aside from the beets being a little al dente, the salad was the best part of the meal. 

Too much Mexico and not enough Maui

Our main course was a disaster.  Brian's kalua pork quesadillas missed the "island" mark and seemed to be seasoned with way too many hot peppers and was what I would expect to find in Mexico, NOT Maui.  With the delicate simple sweetness of pork, I thought the quesadillas would be a true representation of Maui flavors, but the spice overwhelmed every thing.  

My scallops, which I dearly love and would call them one of my favorite foods, were strangely served with the same super sweet/tangy red sauce as the pork belly and four lovely spears of asparagus were laying right in the sauce.  The 5 scallops themselves were cooked perfectly, but heavily salted and topped with a cilantro pesto and lined up against at least 2 cups of the most unappetizing poha-berry quinoa I have ever had.  Seriously, it looked and tasted like beach sand.

A sloppy disaster!

Look, I'll give every restaurant the benefit of the doubt.  Some nights the staff and kitchen is off.  The execution on this night was terrible and the menu concepts extremely poor.  With fresh ingredients in abundance at O'O Farm, I expected an unbelievable sophistication of clean, fresh ingredients.  What we got was overcomplicated, poorly prepared, high priced, and overly seasoned and sauced.

As we headed back to the condo, I kicked myself for not sending the food back.  I never like to complain and I hate being one of those diners, but the experience was like a kick in the gut.  At the very least, we should have asked to move to a well lit area.

Once back at the condo, the strawberry ice cream while gazing at the stars made me feel better, but the disappointment of the restaurant and the fact that we went on our last night, will probably linger for awhile.