Move over, Sugar Plums
Diva Divulges 5 Divine Desserts
As one whose sweet tooth is frequently indulged, I’ve enjoyed more than my share of triple-berry and hula pies, molten-lava and pineapple upside-down cakes, and that most decadent of sweet temptations — no, not Johnny Depp — the Black Pearl at Mama’s Fish House. I’ve loved each of them dearly, but there comes a time when a diva should move on.
To expand my confectionary horizons (and, alas, my horizontal stature), I have combed the island, and feted on untold riches (i.e., gobs of butter and mounds of sugar) in a paradise overflowing with milk and honey, spiced with cinnamon, covered in chocolate and often set ablaze.
Magnanimous to a fault, I have decided to generously share my findings. Without further ado: Dining Diva’s list of Maui’s Best (Hidden Treasure) Desserts.
1. Flaming Pina Colada Creme at Japengo, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa
One of the first things Executive Chef Gregory Grohowski did upon his recent return to the Hyatt Regency Maui was to change the dessert menu at Japengo. “I wanted to incorporate more local flavors,” he explained during a recent chat at the sushi bar. (We’d come to try the new dessert menu but found it impossible to pass by the sushi bar without indulging in the Honolulu and SWAT rolls first.)
The restaurant’s gorgeous setting, just off the lobby, overlooking the ocean and the island of Lanai, attracts crowds for pau hana and sunset. During our visit the sun upped the ante with an amazing cloud-shrouded corona and that elusive feat of prestidigitation known as the green flash. As if to compete, moments later our server ignited our dessert.
The flaming pina colada creme starts with a slice of pineapple, flashed with sugar over fire to reduce the acid. Over that Chef Greg places an intensely moist single serving of pineapple upside-down cake. Balanced on that is a ramekin-size serving of coconut creme brulee that is doused with rum and set ablaze (which creates the “brulee” in a dramatic fashion highly appealing to any self-respecting diva). Each of the elements would be delicious on its own; together they become one of Maui’s best desserts.
» 200 Nohea Kai Dr., Kaanapali • 808.661.1234 • Dinner nightly, 5:30-9:30 pm
2. Baklava Ice Cream Cake at Pita Paradise
I remember as if it were yesterday. I had just moved to Maui and was homesick for the Middle Eastern foods of my native city. A compassionate soul directed me to Pita Paradise, where a lunch of grilled pita, authentic Greek salad, and fresh-hooked fish kabobs revived my spirits. My favorite ethnic cuisine existed on Maui! Maybe I would stay. Raise a family, get a job.
With renewed vigor and hope, I glanced at the neighboring tables on the lanai, wondering if divas were expected to bus their own plates. That’s when I spied it: Baklava ice cream cake. I had to have it.
Baklava, dessert of the gods! Its multiple paper-thin sheets of dough are layered with butter and chopped walnuts, doused with cinnamon-spiced honey syrup, then baked until the dough is golden and flakey. Imagine such a confection wedged between sky-high layers of Roselani vanilla-bean ice cream. It’s a match made in heaven that’s sweet as sin.
Order an entire cake for your next holiday bash. Buy it for me and I’ll follow you anywhere.
» Kihei Kalama Village, 1913 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei • 808.875.7679
» 34 Wailea Gateway Center, Wailea • 808.879-7177 • Open daily, 11 am-9:30 pm
3. Checkerboard Coconut Cake at Black Rock Steak & Seafood, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa
Has your cake and ice cream ratio ever been off? It’s as annoying as a stone in your stiletto. Either you have cake left over at the end of your ice cream, or ice cream left over at the end of your cake. What’s a diva to do? Fortunately, the pastry chefs at the beautiful Sheraton Maui Resort have created an ingenious method for achieving perfect proportions with this stunning dessert.
The chefs bake, then freeze, dense layers of dark-chocolate cake, then mold Roselani coconut ice cream into the same size pan while it’s creamy and not yet frozen solid. Next, the chocolate cake and coconut ice cream are each cut into slices and assembled together in alternate layers: cake, ice cream, cake, ice cream . . . then frozen again. Finally, the combined layers are sliced one more time and rotated alternately. Check. Mate.
Voila! Equal amounts of cake and ice cream effectively turn every bite into the perfect mouthful. That hint of coconut in the ice cream imparts an unmistakable and delightful island twist. With a flourish of whipped cream on top and strawberries on the side, few desserts are more fetching in a holiday photograph.
» 2605 Kaanapali Pkwy., Kaanapali • 808.661.0031 • Dinner nightly, 5:30-9 pm
4. Banana Lumpia Sundae at Cafe on the Green, Makena Beach & Golf Resort
Chef Marc McDowell insists that everything on the menus at Makena Beach & Golf Resort be made from scratch — from the salad dressings to the dinner rolls — so it’s no surprise we found the desserts scrumptious. In the Molokini Dining Room we tried molten-lava cake (best anywhere!) and a trio of superluscious creme brulees. But it was at Cafe on the Green, located in the Makena Golf headquarters, where we uncovered the banana lumpia sundae.
Sitting on the trellised lanai at the Cafe, we sipped a pau hana (happy hour) cocktail to celebrate our find while anticipating Chef’s interpretation of the classic Filipino dessert. Chef starts with a locally grown apple banana, rolls it in cinnamon sugar, wraps it in a lumpia skin (similar to a wonton), deep fries it, and presents it atop two scoops of Maui’s own Roselani ice cream drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce (all homemade, but of course!). Paradise found.
» 5400 Makena Alanui, Makena • 800.321.6284 • Open daily, 11 am-6:30 pm
5. Lilikoi Creme Brulee with Almond Brittle Cup at Hali'imaile General Store
Regular vanilla-bean creme brulee is so passe — not enough flavors going off to be exciting. Ah, but Chef Bev Gannon’s stunning lilikoi creme brulee is another story entirely.
Beyond our shores, lilikoi is better known as “passion fruit.” There are reasons (most of which we dare not elaborate here), but suffice it to say that its tart flavor and distinctive scent evoke passion, and are one reason this particular creme brulee ranks on Diva’s dessert list.
Chef also serves the delectable custard with another of my favorite treats — almond brittle. The burnt sugar flavor mixed with a nutty scent on the nose and crunch between the teeth provides the perfect counterbalance to the creamy, silky custard.
This isn’t the only dessert Chef Gannon excels at, but I’m guessing it’s the one that netted the restaurant the ‘Aipono Award for Best Dessert a few years back. (Nothing like variety, I always say; Haliimaile has won so many Gold and Silver ‘Aiponos for Best Hawaii Regional Cuisine, it was getting downright predictable.)
» 900 Haliimaile Rd., Haliimaile • 808.572.2666 • Lunch Monday-Friday, 11 am-2:30 pm; dinner nightly, 5:30-9 pm
Diva wishes you holidays filled with sweetness! Mele Kalikimaka and Olioli! (Merry Christmas! Eat, drink and be merry!)