Big Island Baby
While in Hawaii last week, we went to the Big Island where we had one of the better dinners it has been my distinct pleasure to consume. We ate at Monette's in the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
If you've never been the the Big Island, or never visited the Mauna Kea, I can certainly recommend both. The Big Island really is big, as big in area as the state of Connecticut and very diverse as to climate and landscape. There can be snow on the top of Mauna Kea when it's 85 degrees in Kailua Kona and 60 degrees and raining at the steaming vents of the volcano. The newly formed land looks like a moonscape but the older parts are as lushly green and tropical as the travel posters of Hawaii always promise. We enjoy the diversity of landscape on the Big Island, and the change of weather from place to place.
And the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is a wonderful place. It's down on the coast, where it's warm and mostly always sunny. It is one of the few large hotels that is designed to give you that true, open air Hawaiian experience. All the public rooms are open to the breeze and all have stunning views. The beach is lovely, fine white sand. A friend of mine who lived in Hawaii for many years remarked that the Mauna Kea "is the way God would have done a resort if He had had the money." I'm inclined to agree. We can't afford to stay there but we have enjoyed meals in their restaurants and watching the sunset from their lanai with a drink and a plate of pupus to hand.
We had a splendid dinner but what was really memorable was a fresh, ripe, local tomato salad in late November. Red all the way to the center and dressed simply with a tad of goat cheese, some nippy little greens and a light vinaigrette, they were richly, ripely delicious. And they were grown less than 10 miles away.
They are growing lots of local produce on the Big Island now and Waimea tomatoes are some of the best. We visited a couple of farmer's markets in Kamuela and found lettuce so beautiful that it could have been used ornamentally in a garden, local fresh fruits and vegetables, poi, Hawaiian plate lunches, local fresh fish and even malasadas hot from the oil and crinkling with sugar. Less and less is being imported from the Mainland as Hawaiians take full advantage of their climate to grow fresh veggies right there.
The Big Island has always been ranching country, home to one of the largest privately owned ranches in the United States, the Parker Ranch. The beef is wonderful and we saw many sheep as we drove along. The Big Island is shaping up to be a foodie heaven.
We always enjoy our trips to the Big Island of Hawaii and look forward to the next one each time we leave. I could easily become a Big Island baby - just give me the chance!