Friday, January 14, 2005

Merriman's and More

Details of my full blown Hawaiian culinary adventure is long overdue. The start of the new year brought with it the start of a new job at Tellme. In an attempt to adapt to my job, my regularly scheduled blogging hours have dwindled.

But here it is, some of the very best the Big Island had to offer, counted down from delicious to pure joy:

10: Given that it was holiday time, there was no lack of sweets around. Some of the homemade highlights included chocolate stuffed figs (more than one fig could keep you awake for days), cranberry pistachio biscottis, double chocolate cookies from an industrial recipe that yielded 100 cookies (and they still didn't last long), italian rice cake with cherry peach compote, and Mathilda fruit cake (yes, an edible fruit cake)!

9. For Christmas dinner we roasted prime rib. This was my first attempt at prime rib, and while it didn't come out as good as say, Cruts' or Amy's, the thing to note was that it was local Hawaiian grass fed beef - leaner and tastier than other beefs.

8. Can't go to Hawaii without mentioning the macadamia nuts. We were treated by Whitey to some of the island's infamous handmade chocolate covered mac nuts and coffee beans. YUM!

7. There's always at least one outing to Cafe Pesto when we are visiting the Big Island, usually at lunch time when we need to get out of the sun at the beach. Big fresh salads and sandwiches there are always a hit. I had a green salad topped with a tender piece of ono, which is the wahoo fish. Ono also means delicious, and it was!!

6. Like butta! The avocados on the island are the very large, light skinned avocados, possibly the Bacon variety. They take quite a long time to ripen partly because when you buy them from the store they were probably just picked. When they do ripen, you are in for a treat - creamy, soft and delicious, just like butter!

5. Jan and John's place, where we stayed, has lilikoi growing all along the fence. Lilikoi are known here as passion fruit. Jan takes the juice of ripe lilikoi and freezes it in ice cube trays to be able to then grab some lilikoi juice for morning smoothies. Lilikoi's have an orangey flesh inside with many seeds, sweet with hints of lemon sour flavors. One of the cooking/baking projects when we were there was a lilikoi cheesecake!

4. No monkeying around - the bananas on the island are incredible. The apple bananas are my favorite - small bananas that have a sweetness like apples, and whose texture is firmer than regular bananas. Jan and John have 2 banana trees that didn't produce ripe fruit while we were there but we did have frozen home grown bananas from the freezer in our morning smoothies.

3. We had papayas with lime almost every morning for breakfast - locally grown juicy papaya with fresh lime juice. If you've never had these flavors together I strongly recommend it.

2. The ahi, in every shape and flavor, is always my favorite food. Ranging from $8.99 to $11.99 at the supermarkets or fish stores you can get ahi poke in different "flavors" - shoyu poke (big chunks of ahi with shoyu and seaweed), sesame poke, or sometimes as many as 5 other flavors. Poke and poi are staples for us when we go Hawaii. If we don't finish the daily poke, we fry it up the next day for breakfast or lunch. When we want something just a little lighter, we'll buy a slab of ahi at the store, bound to be some of the freshest ever, and have some ahi sashimi on rice.

1. Merriman's for New Years was incredible. We started with a salad of fresh hearts of palm simmered in coconut milk with sweet Maui onions and greens. Every bite was tender and sweet. I ordered the panko and kefir lime crusted scallops - soft, tender and delicious. Nino had the fish of the night which was a specially prepared onaga which was also excellent - so tasty and moist. Absolutely every morsel was incredible, service was wonderful and the ingredients so fresh. Basically, Peter Merriman is the Alice Waters of the Big Island, using the freshest ingredients from the locals.