Story by Shannon Wianec| Photography by Jason Moore
Love is in the air . . . so why not woo your valentine with an outdoor feast? Sure, Maui may have some of the world’s most romantic restaurants . . . but this year rather than scrambling for reservations, why not try packing a basket? We’re not talking macaroni salad and cold chicken, folks. Thanks to the gourmet grocers scattered around the island, we can easily fix picnics that are the toast of the upper crust. Below you’ll find recipes for Maui’s most luxurious moveable feasts.
Before you get rolling on the menu, make sure your actual basket meets muster. Nothing is worse than being stranded in paradise with the perfect wine and no corkscrew! Here’s a checklist: basket with insulated pockets or separate cooler, thermos, silverware, stemware, plates, knife, cheese board, wine opener, cloth napkins, blanket, pillows, mini table, and large umbrella.
Locale: Sun Yat Sen Park, Keokea
Picnic by John Paul Fine Foods and Kula Marketplace
Kula’s brisk air and 360-degree views set the stage for romance. Make the most of the your sigh-inducing surroundings with a proper country feast. Begin building your basket-o-plenty at John Paul Fine Foods in Pukalani Square. Everything here reflects artful care, from the bright walls to the garnished salads. Start with Chef John Paul’s lightly dressed spinach salad with caramelized walnuts—a simple but delicious first course.
For the main course, choose between succulent slivers of prime rib and Copper River salmon on a fresh baguette. Hit the deli case for expertly prepared side dishes: crisp asparagus with pecorino shavings, fresh crab cakes, and house-made soups. (Pour your soup directly into the thermos to keep it piping hot.) The final touch? A basket of fresh Kula strawberries harvested from the roadside stand two-and-a-half miles down winding Oma‘opio Road, off Kula Highway. The only thing sweeter than these ripe, dark red beauties are the smiles of the ten-year-old entrepreneurs selling them alongside the family farm. They’re not out every day, but the $3 baskets are worth the short reconnaissance mission. Plus, if you so desire, you can continue down the road to
Surfing Goat Dairy, the home of highly romantic heart-shaped goat cheese.
If all that sounds like a little too much work for you, phone John Paul’s in advance to order a special Valentine’s Day picnic complete with beef tenderloin, lobster, and a sexy dessert meant to be shared.
Further up the mountain, the friendly staff at Kula Marketplace will also attend to the dinner alfresco details for you. They specialize in champagne baskets, and will pack yours with sandwiches made to order. The Marketplace is a quaint art boutique and gourmet deli featuring high quality, locally made products. When you arrive for pickup, be sure to toss a jar of Tahitian Goddess mango chutney into your basket. Enjoy this divine spread with a smear of goat cheese on crackers. (Baskets can also be purchased separately; they come with settings for two and insulated pockets for bottled water and wine.)
Once you’ve gathered what you need for a splendid repast, drive leisurely south along Kula Highway. Unpack your goodies at Sun Yat Sen park in Keokea. Named for China’s first president, who resided briefly in Kula, this fragrant garden is ripe for romance: mockingbirds flirt in the peach trees and a rare Chinese gardenia exudes sweet perfume. Air temperature can be cool up here, especially as the sun sets. Bring extra blankets for extra coziness.
Bliss by the Beach
Locale: Wedding Beach, Makena
Picnic by Who Cut the Cheese, Wailea Wine, and Caffe Ciao
South Maui picnickers have it made: near-perfect weather, secluded beach locations, and several shops dedicated to pleasing the palate. Venture into Who Cut the Cheese and let the cheese whizzes behind the counter seduce you with shavings of asiago. They’ll ply you with cheesy jokes and chunks of soft cream flecked with black truffles, dollops of fragrant Humboldt Fog, and slices of soppresseta. We should warn you: the culinary cupids at this fromagerie are tried-and-true. Last year they paired cheeses with half-bottles of wine for a client who planned to propose during a picnic at the beach. It worked; the couple will wed this April. For just $20, you can order a “Jetsetter,” your choice of three cheeses, salami, olives, and two La Brea par-baked baguettes.
Conveniently, the shop also stocks attractive picnic totes and backpacks with settings for four and adorable travel-sized salt-and-pepper shakers.
For a more expansive wine selection, continue on to Wailea Wine. This beloved institution (formerly called Kihei Wine & Spirits) was the first to supply the island with wild greens and other gourmet must-haves. It’s still on the cutting edge, so to speak. Reidel stemware and professional kitchenware can be purchased here. Don’t leave without a jar of Napa Valley Harvest’s red onion and fig spread. Says shop owner Alan Beaurline, “It’s dangerous for me to take it home because I eat it right out of the jar.”
As you head out to Makena, stop by Caffe Ciao at the Fairmont Kea Lani. Spend a moment ogling the picture-perfect dessert case before selecting a small assortment of freshly made fruit tarts, éclairs, or cakes.
Now you’re ready. Park just south of the third entrance to “Big Beach,” beside the lava-rock wall at 6900 Makena Alanui Road. You’ll find the path to the pocket-sized beach known as “Wedding Beach.” As the name implies, it’s a popular spot for ceremonies: secluded, quiet, and downright gorgeous. Sand-avoidance is critical to a beach picnic’s success. Achieve this by setting up a small two-to-three-foot tall table, available at Longs or Costco. With simple preparations, you can sit back and lazily scan the horizon for turtles and occasional whales or dolphins.
West Side Wilderness
Locale: Nakalele Coast
Picnic by Mr. Wine, Maui Prime Fine Foods, and the Fish Market
Start your West Side adventure by swinging by Mr. Wine on Waine‘e Street in Lahaina. This store is packed with liquid gems. Quiz the owner for the very best bottle of bubbly to impress your date. You’ll want to choose something light and dry that goes well with seafood. With your bottle and two flutes in tow, head to Maui Prime Fine Foods. Haven’t heard of it? That’s because this treasure trove is relatively new. Plus, it’s hidden behind a Rolls Royce repair shop across from Lahaina’s Cannery Mall. “Rolls Royce” aptly describes the quality of the delectables you’ll find inside this foodie haven. Shop owners Cary and Karin Buttons stock prime meats, fish, and a variety of preserves, marinades, and spice rubs. Choose your appetizers from their yummy gourmet spreads and crackers.
Final stop: the Fish Market in Honokowai. While Maui Prime carries excellent seafood, the tiny fishmonger’s haven in Honokowai is our favorite. The staff is spirited and full of fun fish facts. Fill a thermos up with their tummy-warming seafood chowder (made from premium local fish). Fill your cooler with ice and a sampling of fresh oysters, the food of lovers. After all, wasn’t Aphrodite, the goddess of love, poised temptingly on a half shell? Throw in some jumbo shrimp and cocktail sauce for good measure. If you’re really looking to dazzle somebody, consider fishing two lobsters from the market’s tank. Don’t forget to bring a heavy knife or shell-cracker! (As cute as Darryl Hannah was in Splash gamely biting into her lobster—shell and all—you don’t want a repeat performance.)
Cruise north to the wild landscape beckoning beyond Kapalua. Set up a hibachi along the rugged Nakalele coastline. Roast your lobsters drizzled with butter and a squeeze of lemon. Watch the sea exhale misty breaths against the cliffs. Let the aphrodisiac qualities of the oysters and champagne sink in. Don’t blame us if you find yourself whispering sweet nothings into your date’s ear. . . .
Voila! Romance is served!
Satisfy your sensual appetite:
John Paul Fine Foods
81 Makawao Avenue, Kula
15200 Haleakala Highway, Kula
Who Cut the Cheese
Azeka II Shopping Center
1279 S. Kihei Road, Suite 309, Kihei
Wailea Wine Shop
Wailea Town Center
161 Wailea Ike Place, Wailea
The Fairmont Kea Lani
4100 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea
808 Waine‘e Street #101, Lahaina
Maui Prime Fine Foods
Emerald Plaza Business Park
142 Kupuohi Street Unit #7, Lahaina
The Fish Market
Lower Honoapi‘ilani Highway,