And back from Kauai!
Supermarkets, restaurants, smoothie places, and natural food stores tended only to have common produce, so we relied on farmers markets for the interesting stuff. See Real Kauai’s website for a table of hours and locations. Things sell out quick, so it’s best to get there when they open, or before if you’re permitted.
Kapaa Farmer’s Market shopping here was a culinary highlight of the trip. The market is from 3-5, but we got there at 2:45 and got tons of peak ripeness fruit including ice cream bananas, Apple bananas, calamansi lines, and star fruit. My two favorite finds were sapodilla, which has a kiwi-like rind and a flesh that tastes like dates and caramel, and dragonfruit, which wasn’t the tasteless jicama-like version I’ve had elsewhere, but a fruit with a soft flesh and lychee-like flavor.
Lihue Farmers Market smaller than Kapaa, but still had tons of great stuff an hour after it opened. We picked up some wing beans and eggplant to grill, lilikoi, dragonfruit, basil, butter avocados, lemongrass, arugula, and various fruits.
Koloa Fish Market best to get there early— we snagged the last of their ahi to grill and dregs of poke at 4:30pm.
Living Foods market and Café (Koloa) expensive, but a good option for cold salads and sandwiches to bring on the plane for the ride home. I was fond of their farro and caper salad, eggplant salad, and molokai potato salad. Their specialty sandwiches aren’t available until 11:30 AM.
Costco (Lihue) had packaged poke, ahi filets, and a mix of local and non-local fish. A whole butterfish (black cod) grilled up nicely. Some kind of oyster-liked mushroom piqued my interest. The standard Costco rustic breads were better looking than those we saw at other markets, and they had good prices on greens.
Koloa Culinary Market (Wednesday, Koloa) : I picked up some local jam and drooled at the Right Slice’s pies. The produce selection was minimal and geared toward tourists— unripe fruits, nothing too exotic.
Long’s drugs has plenty of Mauna Loa and other cheap items to bring back as gifts to the mainland.
The Right Slice (multiple locations) everyone loved their butter-crusted pies. I liked their blueberry pina colada the best, and also enjoyed the lilikoi cheesecake, which used passion fruit to cut the richness of the cheesecake; mango lilikoi, chocolate, coconut chocolate, and a lemon pie.
Mark’s place (Lihue) mmm… butter mochi.
Kauia Kookie has a store with a sample bin to try their products, many of which bordered on sawdust.
I intended to eat lots of acai bowls and smoothies, but we did well enough with shopping that breakfasts were at the condo. Exotic farmers market fruits were the nectar of the gods when I first tasted them, they lost their novelty after a few days. Pineapple had lasting power— an enormous $3 pineapple from Costco had some coconut-like flavors to it and was the best I’ve ever eaten.
My favorite breakfast concoction was Avocado toast made from mashed butter avocados (pine nutty flavor), calamansi juice, and sprinkled with coarse salt.
Henelei Taro Wagon and Juice Company Kalua pork was juicy and a bit smokey. Steamed rice was perfect, best consistency of any lunch place, and great macaroni salad. Lomi Lomi salmon was very salty, so good with rice, and was like lox mixed with pica de gallo. Lau lau and veggie burger were also good.
Ishihara fish market (Waimea) during the week, teriyaki butterfish collar was my favorite item. Spicy lobster (langostine, actually) poke and wasabi poke were good, but seasoning hid the flavor of the seafood. I enjoyed my bites of others’ mixed plates including chicken teriyaki and a chicken katsu loco moco. We returned on a Sunday, but the hot offerings were limited and we ate elsewhere.
Pono market (Kapaa) had excellent Kalua pork, the shreds more fine than at the Taro Wagon. Shoyu poke was my favorite in Hawaii, and let the ahi shine. Salmon presence was less in the Lomi Lomi salad than at the Taro Wagon, but that might be some people’s presence. Mixed plates that contained vegetables (e.g. broccoli) were overcooked. Spam musubi has spam sandwiched between rice instead of on top. I’ve had it with spam on top, like nigiri, before— is the sandwich style done to preserve freshness? Chicken musubi had passed its prime. Passion, orange, guava chi chi mooch was tasty.
Island taco (Waimea for tacos and Poipu for a burrito) Mahi mahi taco was the best dish— elastic and flavorful tortilla, nice slaw, not too much rice, and lots of fish. I liked that they out the sauce on the side. The wasabi ahi burrito was dominated by the wasabi sauce. The tortilla, though delicious and fresh, had too many bulky bits. The teriyaki chicken taco was also a sauce monster. Favorite bite here was the (flour) tortilla chips dipped in a mixture of teriyaki sauce that had dropped in some tartar sauce.
Dinner is really expensive on Kauai, especially if you want local fish as an entree. On two nights, we followed advice on threads encouraging people to cook/grill at their rentals and to visit Costco, fish markets, and farmers markets.
Keoki’s Paradise @Aloha recommended them for happy hour, and I would be comfortable recommending them for dinner too. Four types of local seafood to choose from. Scallop appetizer was paired well with a thick piece of Durok bacon, which allowed me to adjust the ratio of flavors to my desire. They had a delicious vegetable side-- a stubby type of carrots we had spotted at a farmers market, roasted, and a generous portion of roasted local mushrooms similar to oyster mushrooms. I found the ricotta gnocchi too dense, but palatable only becaise they were small. Good drinks.
Beach House had a great view of the sunset. A Thai corn chowder was a great use of lemongrass, and a Thai influenced lobster stew was also tasty. Their kale salad was the best of the four I had on Kauai. There’s a good snorkeling spot there too.
Merriman’s burger and pizza (different than Merriman’s Seafood) was a good pick for a casual dinner. I dug the burgers and loved the very crispy fries. Hawaiian pizza (Kalua pork, pineapple, and pesto) was a mistake— the Hawaiiian elements got lost in the pesto. Lilikoi lemonade was the bomb.
Eating House 1849 was mixed. I liked the potstickers and the black cod (though, the sauce itself was too gloopy). They list no vegetarian entrees or sides, and the server did a poor job handling a vegetarian request. It’s a modern space (big tables, open kitchen, loud).
Plantation gardens left people dissatisfied with their meals. The menu wasn’t too interesting, so I got a burger, which was good.