My first visit to Merriman’s Kapalua really was my “aha” moment. I had been to Maui before, and I knew I loved it passionately. But it was at Merriman’s is where I realized I was absolutely addicted to the Island, and all it had to offer. I wasn’t in the restaurant 30 seconds before I realized I was about to have the best dinner of my life, in the most beautiful setting.
The hostess greeted us as though we were their special guests that evening. “Mr. Griffith, we’ve been expecting you. Right this way, please.” We were led past the bar where, evidently all the world’s most beautiful people come together in one spot to be beautiful together and drink expensive vodka. I looked down at my little black dress and zebra-striped heels and thought, “I’ll do my best to fit in.” My husband’s camera was tucked under his left arm, his sport coat looking very sharp indeed, and a huge smile spanning his entire face. We were both excited to try this place on! We had read all about it. From diners’ reviews, to local advertisements and recommendations, and as a highly rated restaurant in our coveted “Maui Revealed” book, we were going in expecting “wonderful”. We were NOT expecting “MIND BLOWING”.
On our table was a bottle of champagne and two glasses. “Happy Anniversary”, she said, as she pulled my chair out. We settled into our “spot” (The best table in the house), which was overlooking the blue Maui waters, directly on Kapalua Bay. Waves crashing just beneath us, Tikis lit around the perimeter of the building just beyond our table, sun setting. Going, going, gone. For a moment, it was just us. We toasted to our love and to our evening. I nearly forgot that I was supposed to look at the menu. But when I finally opened it, it was like entering another world.
From the “No Aquaponics used” salads with up-country greens, Maui onions, and Hawaiian goat cheese, to the Day Boat Mahi Mahi caught JUST off-shore, each dish was more intriguing than the next. How could I choose? I decided on a Filet with black pepper Gnocchi and a Butter-Poached Lobster. Uhm…no words. Literally…I don’t know if there are words that could describe the taste. Just suffice it to say: “mmmmmmmmm”. I ate every bite and washed it down with the best Dirty Martini I’ve ever had. OK, I had two.
When I caught wind of Peter Merriman hand-signing his brand new cookbook just as the holiday season started in November 2015, I started looking at flights to Maui. I was going to get on a plane and go get one. Simple as that! My husband brought me back down to earth, reminding me that our next trip was only a couple of months away and I would just have to wait. Darn it. I was going to have order the book and have it shipped.
To my surprise, even though we agreed not to exchange gifts (as we do year after year so that in lieu of gifts we can just keep purchasing trips to Maui, hehe), under the Christmas tree I found a package with my name on it, from my husband. There it was. The signed copy of the coveted cookbook which is now my kitchen bible. I thumbed through the pages of Merriman’s Hawai’i (purchase your copy here), and drooled over the gorgeous photos of the food I missed so desperately. Just 5 weeks separated me from my next trip to Merriman’s. Or maybe, this time we would try Monkey Pod; Peter Merriman’s 2nd Maui restaurant, in Kihei. We’ll probably visit both.
“But 5 weeks seems so lonnnnnnnnnng!”, I said in my most whiny voice. I decided in that moment that I would cook these recipes at home. I would have to use produce, meat, fish, etc which was local to me vs. Maui…but isn’t that the ENTIRE POINT? Peter Merriman’s entire culinary crusade is based on true Farm-to-Fork. Using what is available to you where you are, and reflecting the natural flavors of those ingredients in simplistic, yet exciting ways. I plan to spend 2016 cooking my way through “Merriman’s Hawaii”. Every recipe in the book; 75 in all, by using as many locally available ingredients as possible. I hope you become as inspired by Peter Merriman’s innovative recipes as I am.
Have fun cooking!
… Read more about the genius, the culinary magician, the philanthropic hero who is Peter Merriman here.