It was a rainy grey weekend here in SF, but knowing that in a few short days I’ll be heading to sun-soaked Maui kept my spirits up! Yayyy!!! Warm sunshine, and pineapples, and umbrella drinks, here I come. Oh, and shave ice. Mountains of shave ice.
So excited to get a huge fluffy shave ice the size of my head.
We’ll be in South Maui this time around, covering the Wailea Wine and Food Festival. Yeaaap, life does not suck. It’ll be great too because we will be staying right by this great spot we discovered on our last trip: Monkeypod Kitchen…and their awesome Watermelon and Feta Pizza with Arugula! Gotta love a place where you can get sweet watermelon in December.
Monkeypod Kitchen is one of chef Peter Merriman’s spots. It has a kind of low-key surfer vibe meets Cali-fresh gastropub, with an island twist. It’s casual and comfortable, but the food is thoughtfully composed with the attention to regional and sustainable cuisine that Merriman is known for.
We got chatting with GM/Partner Ryan Schooley (and his adorable baby boy) and found out that he was a San Francisco transplant. In fact, he had played a big role in the opening of SF staple, Tacolicious. The more we chatted, the more Monkeypod Kitchen reminded me of California, from the handcrafted food to the focus on sustainability. The restaurant is proud of its locally sourced menu, using ingredients like range-fed Maui beef, sustainably caught fish, and no bottled products, except for wine.
Well, we can vouch for the Maui beef, that’s for sure. Pete’s Classic Burger was big, juicy, and flavorful, topped with umami mushrooms, gruyere, and arugula, with horseradish crema spread over a freshly baked bun. The side of Garlic Truffle Oil Fries were, dare I say, better than Gilroy’s, and came with house-made ketchup and whole grain mustard aioli.
And, that sustainable fish made for a mighty fine Fish & Chips. The catch-of-the-day is featured here in a crispy golden tempura-style batter. It’s a generous portion too – none of this more-batter-than-fish nonsense you get sometimes with fish and chips. At Monkeypod, there is no question you are eating tender, meaty, fresh fish here, and big hunks of it at that. The malt vinegar aioli is a nice touch too.
The pizza from the kiawe wood-burning oven was fantastic. The crust was spot-on, with just the right amount of crisp and chew. I adored the specialty pizza of the day: Watermelon Pizza with Feta. It was fresh and light, yet satisfying, with a totally winning flavor combination: sweet watermelon, salty feta, and spicy fresh arugula over a creamy white béchamel cheese sauce. I really hope they still have this on the menu.
You will want to save room for pie. Homemade pies from scratch. Like this Banana Cream Pie. My only regret was that we were too full to sample more pie. The Banana Cream was wonderful and classic, with a thin, flaky crust, and drizzles of salted caramel, but it was a painfully hard decision. There was also chocolate, coconut, Kula strawberry, lilikoi, and mango! From mangos plucked off of Ryan’s personal mango tree!! Ryan owns a mango tree!!! (Ok, I’ve used up my exclamation point quota for the day, but it’s understandable why this is all so exciting, right? Like three exclamation points exciting.)
I’m so looking forward to returning to Monkeypod Kitchen (and maybe pilfering Ryan’s mango tree). This place hits a really nice balance between approachable and creative. It’s the perfect spot to visit after a day at the beach, especially with 36 craft beers served on tap and a tempting menu of “culinary cocktails.” Like the pie menu, you’ll want to try all of them. You’ve been fairly warned.
Watermelon, Feta, and Arugula Pizza
Fresh and light, yet satisfying, with a totally winning flavor combination of sweet watermelon, salty feta, and spicy fresh arugula over a creamy white béchamel cheese sauce.
(Adapted from Monkeypod Kitchen, Maui, HI.)
7 oz your favorite pizza dough
2 oz (1/4 cup) Béchamel Pizza Sauce
4 oz mozzarella, provolone, parmesan mix
2 oz feta cheese
3 oz watermelon, diced
2 oz baby arugula
EVOO and Balsamic Reduction to drizzle
- Put a pizza stone or baking sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheat to 550Â° (or as high as oven will go), at least 25 minutes. Set the pizza dough on a well-floured pizza peel (or a baking sheet flipped upside down) stretch to 10 inches in diameter.
- To stretch into a 10-inch circle, first tap down center of ball with your fingertips to gently deflate it. Next, push it outward from the center with your fingertips. Then pick up the dough circle and, holding it under the rim, turn it like a steering wheel, letting the gravity of the dough help it stretch. Drape the dough over the backs of your hands and gently stretch outward, rotating periodically. Flop the stretched dough down onto the pizza peel (or baking sheet).
- Apply the sauce, pizza cheese, and feta cheese.
- Place the tip of the pizza peel/upside down sheet onto the pizza stone/preheated sheet and quickly shove the pizza onto the stone. Bake 5-10 minutes until the crust is golden brown and firm.
- Brush the edges with EVOO and garnish with baby arugula and watermelon. Drizzle with balsamic reduction to taste.
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 1/3 cup
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
- Pour the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer on low. Stir occasionally and let the mixture simmer until it has reduced to a thick and syrupy consistency.
- Allow to cool, transfer to an air-tight container, and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
Béchamel Pizza Sauce
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 1 cup
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups milk, heated
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
- Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don’t let it brown â€” about 2 minutes.
- Add the hot milk and garlic, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more.
- Remove from the heat. Add cheese and stir until it is melted and evenly mixed in.
Cook’s Note: To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper or pour a film of milk over it to prevent a skin from forming.
Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman
10 Wailea Gateway Place, #B-201
Wailea, Maui, HI 96753