Kauai: Top Tastes

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1 - Marta_Lane
1 - Marta_Lane

I interviewed Marta Lane for the September 2015 issue of Marin Magazine on her favorite places to eat on Kauai. Marta began writing the columns “Tastes of Kauai” and “On the Farm,” which ran every week in MidWeek Kauai and The Garden Island newspaper, respectively in 2010. Her stories and restaurant reviews have also been published in AAA Hawaii magazine, Edible Hawaiian Islands magazine, on the Hawaiian Airlines website and in HILuxury magazine. She is the founder of Tasting Kauai, a company that offers four intimate food tours where guests sample the island’s culinary culture while meeting some of Kauai’s top farmers and chefs. Lane is the author of Tasting Kauai Restaurants: An Insider’s Guide to Eating Well on the Garden Island. Best Authentic Hawaii Experience “I think the best authentic Hawaiian experience is participating in Poi Day at the Waipa Foundation, which happens every Thursday on the North Shore. Every week, aunties and uncles get up before the sun rises and gather in the ‘poi garage.’ Fifty-gallon barrels, which have been cooking taro overnight, are poured into large buckets. Everyone gathers around and peels cooked corms, which are warm and slippery. Your hands take on a slight purple hue (which easily washes off) as you talk story with families who have lived on Kauai for many generations. Afterward, everyone sits at a long picnic table in the shade and shares a lunch made of local favorites such as chicken long rice, laulau, Waipa garden kale salad and of course fresh poi. The poi is delivered to needy families across the island, so it’s a fantastic way to volunteer while connecting with the local culture.”

Favorite Hotel Dining “Whenever someone asks me where to celebrate a special dinner, and they are not constrained by budget, I always recommend the Kauai Grill or Makana Terrace. Both are located at the St. Regis Princeville and both have a world-class view of Hanalei Bay. The food is terrific and the surroundings are luxurious.”

Malasadas Go-To “I love to get malasadas at the Kauai Malasada stand in the Kmart parking lot. They are sweet, springy and absolutely addicting.”

Sushi “If I’m feeling like I need to be pampered, I get sushi at Stevenson’s Library, which is located in the Grand Hyatt Kauai. You can sit on the lanai and enjoy a gorgeous ocean view while having a light dinner of sushi and cocktails. If I’m on a budget and in a hurry, I go to Makai Sushi, which is tucked inside Kukuiula Store in Koloa Town.”

Luau or Event Dining “I always advise first-time visitors, including friends and family, to attend a luau and I always recommend Luau Kalamaku at Kilohana Plantation. The evening starts with a generous and delicious buffet dinner under a giant pavilion. It’s the only luau on the island that tells the story of how the first Polynesian settlers came to Kauai and it’s done in Cirque du Soleil style.”

Lunch Spot Between the Airport and Poipu “My favorite lunch spot from the airport on the way to Poipu is The Greenery Cafe. It’s located in Lihue and it’s a charming spot with outdoor dining. Owners Dayne and Neina make everything by hand with organic ingredients. His family is from the (American) South and her family is Filipino. They blended their heritage with what the island has to offer and serve Southern food with a Filipino and Hawaiian twist. My favorite dish is the rosemary chicken with corn bread and yams. They also have a fantastic curry special that has chunks of taro.”

Lunch Spot Between the Airport and Princeville “I would say Oasis on the Beach, which is in Kapaa, tucked behind the Waipouli Resort. It’s oceanside, so you immediately know you’re in paradise. The open-air restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating and a farm-to-table menu with full- and half-size portions. And the handcrafted cocktails are perfect after a long flight.

Lunch Spot on the Way to Waimea Canyon “I absolutely love Kauai Ramen, located in Eleele. It’s a clean and affordable family-owned restaurant that serves large portions. Besides terrific ramen, you can get a variety of pan-fried or steamed dumplings such as gyoza and wontons.”

Best Food Trucks “We bring our food tour guests to try the succulent Paniolo Tacos with freshly made chili verde sauce at Al Pastor in Kapaa. We also stop at Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. for our favorite lau lau made with local pork and taro leaves from the family’s farm. One of our last North Shore stops is dessert at Trucking Delicious, but Chloe is better known for her unique sandwich combinations such as the Angry Goat with mango, goat cheese and Hawaiian chili peppers served with a side of house-made pickled vegetables.”

Favorite Mom-and -Pop Spot “I really like the Hukilau Lanai owned by Ron and Krissi Miller. It’s fine dining by night, but you can get amazing poolside lunches for a steal. Several weeks ago my husband and I got the teriyaki burger made with freshly ground filet mignon for $6.99.”

It’s a Chain That’s Actually Really Good “We don’t have many chain restaurants on Kauai, for which I am very grateful. As far as chains go, the grocery store Foodland sells fresh and affordable fish and Kauai Shrimp as well as prepared meals and side dishes.”

Sunset Meal “Besides splurging at The St. Regis Princeville? I’d grab a bottle of locally made Nani Moon Mead from the Princeville Wine Market, pair it with Foodland’s ahi poke, edamame poke and SPAM musubi, head to the beach and watch the sun set over Hanalei Bay. Magical!”

Up-and-Coming Chefs “Does resurrection count? Re-up and coming chef and regional legend Jean-Marie Josselin owned the very popular A Pacific Cafe, one of eight restaurants he had in the ’80s. He, along with 11 chefs, created Hawaii Regional Cuisine in the mid-’80s. In 2000, he let all his restaurants go and traveled around the world. We were thrilled when he opened Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill in 2010. Last October, he opened Jo2 in Kapaa. It’s dinner only, but guests on our Royal Coconut Coast Kauai Food Tour get to meet him during a private tasting.”

Favorite Ingredients From This Island “I really like Kauai Shrimp, which is available at several island locations including Living Foods Gourmet Market & Cafe in Poipu. It is only sold with the heads still attached, which is good form in Europe. They are plump, sweet and succulent. My mom is from Barcelona, Spain, so I cook them like she taught me: in tomato sauce with fresh bread for dipping. Mom likes to suck the juices from the heads, but I just save them in the freezer to make shrimp bisque. There is also a new ranch on the West Side that raises and processes grass-fed beef. I buy Makaweli Meat Co. steaks from Big Save in Kapaa and grill them quickly. Since they’re grass-fed, they are super lean so you only want to cook them about five minutes per side. Of course, if you’re not in the mood to cook, you can always get Kauai Shrimp and Makaweli meat at Kauai Grill or Hukilau Lanai.”

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Book Cover - md