Monday, November 19, 2007

We're Back - Pt. 2

Here's part two of our Maui Guide. Sorry for the delay in getting this up here. Enjoy!

So, last time we spoke, I took you through how we got to Maui and where we stayed. Now for the good part - what we ate and how we played!

First and foremost, make reservations! Restaurants were really busy each night and it was vital that we asked our concierge for help - she scored us reservations at all sorts of places.
Also think about the timing of your dinner reservations. We managed to get sunset dinner times for a few of these places and it was great. Bella loved watching the sun go down (and so did we - so romantic!).

Second, we mentioned the peanut allergy wherever we went, no matter how big or how small. We were amazed by the warm reception we got and the accommodations that were made for Bella (without affecting other diners - like at the teppan yaki place we went to against my better judgment). We got many comments in the range of "of course we don't use peanut oil anymore - too many people are allergic" and "let me know what you are interested in ordering and we'll make sure that it's safe for you or advise you against it if it isn't".

Ahem, and on to the food.

We avoided the obvious places (ice cream parlors, Vietnamese, and Thai), but here is a sampling of where we went along with a mini review. All are in walking distance from the Sheraton except for Sansei Sushi and Aloha Mixed Plate.

In the hotel:
Keka'a Terrace
This is a mundane, boring place to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Kids under 12 eat free with a paying adult. Standard kid's menu with no PBJ. Breakfast buffet fairly safe. The only items with nuts were on a separate counter (baked goods). All the cereal in the buffet were in the mini boxes too. Pricey though.

Teppan Yaki Dan
So many of you are going to think I am a complete moron, but here goes. This place is one of those Benihana-type cook at your table places. Cross contamination abounds!!! BUT (and there is a big BUT here) everything was fine. I spoke to the host, then the manager, then the chef himself about Bella's allergy. No peanuts on the menu, but their dipping sauces had macadamia nuts. Some of the dishes have a sauce with tree nuts, and some of them have a nutty garnish. We let them know that she could indeed have sesame oil (to which I know they sighed with relief). Since we were seated at a table with 5 other people, you couldn't tell them what to order, but they made it work.

Everyone ordered. Some folks ordered the scallops with a macadamia nut pesto. I guess they usually stick that on the grill, but at our table, they didn't! Everything was cooked without the sauces. Bella had chicken teriyaki so they did hers first, then the subsequent dishes. But beyond that, the folks who got the scallops - not only did they not put the nut garnish on the grill, the chef walked around the table and sprinked the garnish on their dishes to avoid any possible contact near Bella.

All in all, it was a great meal and I would highly recommend it.

Lagoon Bar (poolside)
This is the bar next to the pool that has cocktails as well as a light lunch/dinner menu (think burgers, sandwiches, and nachos). Pricey (do you see a trend here?) but consistent - consistently mediocre, but easier than getting out of the pool, back to the room, dressed, and out the door. You understand me, I know you do.

They serve a snack mix with your cocktail. It's kind of like a really spicy pretzel mix without nuts. I didn't check any labels, but I assumed it was safe for Bella. But she wouldn't eat it since it was so spicy. Crisis averted!

But this place DOES have PBJ on the menu, which was annoying, but that's life. We ended up going with a hot dog each day for Bella. Be advised, though, that all the cooking is done in a makeshift grilling area near the pool. There isn't much in the way of separate cooking areas. I did, however, let the server know about Bella's allergy, so I hope this contributed to the fact that she was reaction free!

Room Service
We only had one instance to eat room service and thankfully we didn't have to pay for it. See my previous post for a description.
Hula Grill (in Whaler's Village)
This place offered by far the best food and best eating experience during our trip. We didn't have reservations, but only had to wait about 20 minutes for a table. They have a couple of areas to eat here: a beach bar (basically an outdoor patio that is over sand - no thanks, don't want a 3 year old under the table the whole time, a bar, and an indoor seating area). This is a nice restaurant inside and a very casual one outside. We opted for a table inside and we weren't disappointed.

We had a very laid back waiter who I swear was Jan Michael Vincent's son, so I was a little nervous about explaining the whole peanut allergy thing, but I needn't have worried. Here's what I said (and actually what I usually say when I eat out with Bella): "So my daughter has a peanut allergy. If you can advise us about any peanuts or nuts in the dishes on your menu I would appreciate it." And he says, "No problem. We are very used to dealing with food allergies here. First I'll double check with the chef on what you are ordering to make sure it's nut free, then when I submit your order, I let them know it should be a nut free table, then when the orders come out, our managers check the order before the food comes to the table". Except he said it in a voice that sounded like Jeff Spiccoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. His name was Cameron, I believe. What a great server (and all around dude). Then he brought me a glass of chardonnay, my husband a glass of merlot, and Bella a big old virgin strawberry daquiri (her drink of choice on maui).

Great kids menu too. Normal food, not just chicken fingers and grilled cheese. Bella had the grilled fish with a beurre blanc sauce and loved it! Kids have palates too and the folks at Hula Grill know it. Bravo! We'll definitely be back again when we head to Maui again.

Leilani's on the Beach (in Whaler's Village)
This is one of those restaurants that has been around forever and is mediocre. It was smooth sailing with Bella's peanut allergy, but the food wasn't good at all. We really just went for the sunset (which was fantastic!). Save your money and go to Hula Grill and sit inside. The food is much better. And it's owned by the same restaurant group (amazingly), so your money is going to the same place.

Nikki's Pizza (Food Court in Whaler's Village)
Great, simple pizza by the slice and salads with no hidden landmines. Good for lunch or dinner.

Maui Tacos
Sometimes you just want a taco. This is the place to go on Maui. No peanuts to speak of anywhere. Messy and delicious. Yum.

Aloha Mixed Plate
This is the place we go right after we land every time we go to Maui. It sits right next to the Old Lahaina Luau (and is part of them in fact). Except instead of having to sit through hulas and fire dancing (not that there's anything wrong with that), you can sit and have your kalua pork, lomi lomi salmon, and poi in a casual environment overlooking the water with the locals. We ate here three times during this trip - we just love it. Totally relaxed, totally casual, and safe for Bella. Heads up though, they DO have a Thai noodle dish on the menu with a peanut sauce, but they were really allergy aware so I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Sansei Sushi (located in the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua compound)
So I hate to say it, but this was the one place that I believe Bella had a reaction. Can I be 100% sure? No. But my gut tells me that cross contamination was the culprit. After eating there, she had some GI issues (down south if you get my drift). This is a 3 year old who eats sushi at home, so it's the only explanation I have. Mark, Bella, and I all ate the same things exactly. Puzzling. We were assured that there was no peanut oil or peanuts in any of the food we ordered. Maybe she was just having a bad day, but GI issues were one thing (along with the hives) that initially tipped us off to her PA in the first place. She never (honestly never) has GI issues. Ah well, if it was a reaction things could have been MUCH worse.

But this was another one of those places where the hype didn't match up with the final product. The sushi was so-so, the ramen was just OK, the tofu alright. Not sure if we're just spoiled by being in the Bay Area with all the sushi places, but I don't know if I would go again. Actually, scratch that, I would go again, but I would sit at the bar and see what the sushi chefs recommend. Maybe we just got a dud waitress? Suffice it to say, we were underwhelmed. Maybe it was a bad sign when the waitress told us that she really didn't like sushi?!? Yikes.

So this post is getting long, so I'll be brief with the next two sections: Playing and Sightseeing.

Here's a brief list of what we did on Maui:
  • swimming - every day at least twice a day. bring two bathing suits.
  • beaches - but watch out for those currents - someone actually died on the beach outside our hotel while we there!
  • snorkeling - so much to see for the mere cost of a snorkel rental. be safe though and swim with a friend and don't go too far out.
  • inner tubes - get one to just chill in the pool at the hotel
  • ABC stores - ABC is the store of Hawaii. i put this under playing because at these stores you can have loads of fun buying tacky souveniers for all your friends back home. they are like starbucks - one on every corner.
Of course this isn't ALL we did, but here are some recommendations for Maui.
  • Maui ocean center - a great, small aquarium to visit. a good diversion on a particularly hot day.
  • reef dancer - we didn't get to go on this, but it is a glass bottom boat. the plus is that there is no height requirement unlike the submarine rides.
  • hula shows - there are a ton of free hula shows in shopping centers and at hotels.
  • luau - again, these abound everywhere. they had one at the sheraton (which we watched from our balcony), but your concierge can set you up with one of many in the area.
  • Kaanapali beach hotel - this is worth going to at around 6pm. There is a nightly music show that is right out of the movie Swingers. Except it's Hawaiian music. The entertainment value is off the charts. Plus the drinks are cheap.
Final Words
  • Maui seemed very peanut aware. There wasn't a single restaurant where they were shocked to hear about a peanut allergy and/or didn't already have peanut precautions in place. What a relief. That being said, going to Maui with tree nut allergies will be challenging for you. Everything is macadamia nut this and macadamia nut crusted that. While Bella didn't knowingly ingest anything with macadamia nuts, the likelihood that there was cross contamination was VERY high. I don't doubt that she was exposed to them inadvertently.
  • Maui is expensive. Save your pennies before you go. $8 hot dogs and $10 cocktails abound. I warned you.
  • Sunscreen and rash guards are a must! Kids don't care what time it is and whether or not it is a 'good time' to go out in the sun. Slather the sunscreen on! Better yet, slather it on AND get your kid (and heck, you) a rash guard with the highest SPF you can. You can get them online or you can buy one there. Trust me, they work and you wont ruin your vacation with 3rd degree sunburn (which actually happened to Mark one time - but that's another story).
  • Bring less than you need - you can always buy things there.
I hope this little guide helped anyone out there traveling to Maui - with or without a peanut allergy. Just know that folks there are really all about you having a good time, so give it a shot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your article about places to eat in Maui. I have a 4 year old daughter who is allergic to peanuts. Last year when we went to Maui we basically stayed at the house and cooked the whole time we were there because we were afraid. Your article will help us have a better dining experience when we go back in two weeks!