Stalking The Delectable Vegetable

When you think of your favorite dishes, vegetables probably don’t top the list. Sure, they’re good for you, but are they yummy? As our intrepid reporter discovers, it’s all in the preparation.


Story by Becky Speere

delicious vegetables at Maui restaurants


And on the Seventh Day, the Lord Went to the Booch for Mango Crepes with Coconut Cardamom Mousse and a Love Buzz, And It Was Good. . . .
—Scott Johnson, Boochologist

Maui Kombucha is my go-to place when I need rejuvenating, or just love-love-love. It’s located at the rear of the old Shishido Juice Cannery in Haʻikū town’s Aloha ʻĀina Center. Grab a fizzy, healthful, fresh-island-fruit- or herb-infused kombucha on-tap; they’re both guaranteed to rev your engines and help you dance through your day. Nearly all the fruits, vegetables, herbs, coconuts and macadamia nuts are sourced locally: vegetables, greens and herbs from Hale Akua Farms in Huelo; fresh macadamia nuts from Waiheʻe Valley Plantation; GMO-free corn comes from farmer Sam Rosenbaum. Upcountry Fitness trainer Jordan Kolton’s huge garden fills the rest of the needs of this popular establishment. Owners Jan Swatzke and Chris Burke’s love for great-tasting live and cooked vegan food is turning this cafe into a buzzing community hub for breakfast-all-day sweet Hawaiian toast: a banana-bread bed with layers of almond butter, coconut meringue, seasonal-fruit jam, and fresh bananas. For lunch, you may find “Alfredo pizza” (zucchini bread topped with nut cheeses and savory, herb-infused portobello “sausage”), rainbow roll sushi, and corn fajitas with chipotle sour cream and Mexi-slaw.

Maui Kombucha’s menu changes daily, with three lunch specials and a dinner special served after 5 p.m. Desserts are a must; my favorite is a luscious lime coconut mousse cake on a hazelnut, hemp seed, and cashew crust. It’s live, airy and bursting with flavor. Or how about a banana-coconut crepe with raw hazelnut sauce? Go to the ‘Booch and get yours today!

810 Kokomo Rd., Ha‘ikū • (808) 575-5233 •
Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–8 p.m. • Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.


delicious vegetables at Maui restaurantsKO AT THE FAIRMONT KEA LANI

Not all restaurants have software that calculates the nutritional value of their menus. Happily for the health-conscious among us, Kō does. Executive Sous Chef Richard Ramirez says the Plantation Era-inspired restaurant enters all its Lifestyle Cuisine Plus recipes in the resort’s food-analysis software. “If it doesn’t meet the requirements [of calories, protein, sodium, fat, sugar], we adjust the recipe to fit the needs. It’s not easy because it has to taste good, too.” And it does. Chef Ramirez says, “About 20 percent of the diners order from our Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menu.”

Thirty different items are listed under such headings as “Gluten Free,” “Vegan,” Sugar Balanced,” “Macrobiotic Meal,” “Raw” and “DASH/Heart Healthy.” (DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.) Perusing the one-page menu, I recognize a true spa cuisine designed to fit every need and taste. Ah, taste! Kō’s Living Green Medley is a meal in itself: julienned green papaya, cucumber, summer squash, carrots, green kale, pea sprouts, red bell pepper, asparagus, and pohole (Maui-grown fiddlehead fern shoots) served with a macadamia-nut lemon vinaigrette. The spicy Thai coconut curry is made with Kula squash, grilled shiitake mushrooms, Moloka‘i purple sweet potato, kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), red bell pepper, and Maui onion over brown rice.
Who knew going vegetarian could be so delicious?

4100 Wailea Alanui, Wailea • (808) 875-2210 •
Daily 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m.


kale and beet salad mauiDOWN TO EARTH

The grand reopening of the Down to Earth Kahului store in June 2013 is welcoming nothing but happy sighs and praise for the completion of a major renovation and 3,000 square foot expansion that converted storage  into additional retail space. The deli offers a salad bar with no fewer than twenty-nine salad embellishments and six dressings, choices such as creamy yogurt, tofu tahini, papaya seed, and even a fat-free tomato-basil dressing. In addition to ready-to-eat salads and soups, the store boasts a noodle bar (choose your noodle dish and they’ll heat it while you’re at the register); and lovingly prepares all its selections using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. Kale-and-beet salad, Indonesian rice salad, roasted garlic-herb Yukon Gold potatoes, black-bean chili, cream of spinach soup, and mock chicken tofu are just a sampling of the bounty that awaits. [Be careful; the more items you list, the more this will read like an inventory rather than a review.] Ready-to-go sandwiches and wraps line the refrigerated case along with a variety of hummus, plated salads, treats and sweets. Or special order a veggie cold-cut submarine on a whole-wheat roll with vegetarian salami, turkey or ham, tomatoes, pepperoncini, olives, lettuce, vegenaise, mustard, and choice of vegan Cheddar, Swiss or jack cheese. The Down to Earth hummus wrap is a whole-wheat flour tortilla filled with house-made hummus, tomatoes, mock-chicken strips, cucumber, sprouts and tofu tahini dressing.

All Down to Earth’s breads, sub rolls and wraps are vegan. Helpful and happy employees staff the deli and checkout. Sit in the upstairs dining room, at an outside table (though they front the parking lot), or take your bounty to the beach, on the plane, or 10,000 feet up to the top of Haleakalā mountain for a sunset picnic. Down to Earth’s motto is “E Mālama I Ka ʻĀina; E Ola Pono” (“Cherish the Land; Live in Health and Harmony”). I say, “Eat ono (delicious) food and eat well at Down to Earth.” E hele mai ai!

305 Dairy Rd., Kahului • (808) 877-2661 •
Monday–Saturday 7 a.m.–9 p.m. • Sunday 8 a.m.–8 p.m.


gado gado salad on MauiHONU SEAFOOD AND PIZZA

Yellow and blue . . . sunshine and ocean. That is what hits you when you enter Judy and Mark Ellman’s newest restaurant, Honu, in Lahaina. You almost feel healthier as soon as you walk in—feng shui? Huge turtles (honu in Hawaiian), the restaurant’s guardian and namesake, bob gently in the surf at the water’s edge. Open the menu and succumb to vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free euphoria. Although this restaurant isn’t meat-free, it offers a bounty of vegetarian options, such as fresh, locally grown kale salad with dates, pomegranate, walnuts and pecorino cheese tossed with a citrusy preserved lemon vinaigrette; and exotic gado-gado salad teeming with beans, kale, potatoes, tofu, red quinoa, and more. It’s served with a side of creamy Indonesian coconut peanut sauce. (I usually ask for seconds on the sauce.) Honu’s gluten-free pizza with sautéed ali‘i mushrooms, truffle cheese and truffle oil (yes, oh so sublime), will quell any hunger pangs. The staff excel in practicing aloha, doing their best to grant your every food wish. Relaxing atmosphere, beautiful views, and great food—what more could a person want?

1295 Front St., Lahaina • (808) 667-9390 •
Daily: Lunch 11 a.m.–3 p.m. • Happy Hour 3–4:30 p.m. • Dinner 4:30–9:30 p.m. (Sunday 4:30–9 p.m.)


maui fried brussel sprout saladLEODA’S KITCHEN AND PIE SHOP

Fact is this: Leoda’s has changed the traffic pattern permanently in Olowalu. This bustling little restaurant offers some of the tastiest sandwiches, salads, and desserts on Maui. And in keeping with national food trends, Leoda’s has managed to create some great vegetarian/vegan options that are soul-satisfying and homey-licious. The fried salad is one of Leoda’s most popular menu items: brussels sprout leaves that are separated and deep fried to a delicate crispness. The leaves lend an umami flavor to the dish, just as bacon does atop a hot spinach salad, except it’s virtuously vegetarian. This garnishes a salad of fresh, locally grown hydroponic lettuce, mint, and thinly sliced spicy red radish tossed with a bright and tangy burnt citrus vinaigrette.

Another popular seller is the veggie burger; Hoaloha Farms taro is the protein on a fresh-baked, house-made potato bun. The creamy-crisp, pan-fried taro patty is draped meltingly with your choice of American Cheddar, provolone, or Swiss cheese, and a generously thick slice of sweet, sun-ripened Olowalu tomato, Maui onion and lettuce. It’s one of the best taro burgers I’ve eaten. Or try the handheld corn pie for an on-the-fly snack; it’s made with locally grown Kula corn encased in a savory flaky pastry that’s both crunchy and chewy. Leoda’s offers many more choices, so next time you are driving through Olowalu, stop in for some creative veggie eats.

820 Olowalu Village Rd., Olowalu • (808) 662-3600 •
Daily 10 a.m.–8 p.m.


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