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.
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.)
Recipe Source: LickMySpoon.com.
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