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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Seafood As Penance No More

As you may know if you read my last post,  I am writing from Maui. Ironically, I am going to write today about some of the seafood we are enjoying on this trip. I say ironically because I must confess, I was raised a "fish on Friday" Catholic in St. Louis. Fish was penance for our sins and tasted accordingly. That usually meant the generic Mrs. Paul's fish sticks. Maui will force anyone to let go of the seafood as penance nonsense who might still be clinging to that concept.

The first night's meal at Coconuts, with the best fish tacos in the world, would seem to be the final word on seafood culinary delight. But we had learned of a little shop that sells fresh seafood caught by locals the same day. We bought some opakapaka the second day we were here. My husband, who is gifted in culinary techniques, lightly coated the opakapaka with seasoned, coarsely ground almonds and rice chex and fresh herbs, baking it according to the Canadian method: 450 degrees, 10 minutes per inch. I pronounced it sublime and perhaps the most flavorful food I had ever eaten. I did not even exclude dark chocolate from the comparison. For me this is almost a St. Paul conversion. Not to be confused with Mrs. Paul.

Two days ago, at Stella Blue's for lunch, I had fresh tuna salad on up-country greens. The only similarity to canned tuna salad from my youth was...well, the name and a little celery. There was no mayonnaise obscuring the flavor or binding the tuna together. I'm not sure there was any dressing at all. The menu had promised dolphin-safe tuna. The waitress delivered a big taste of heaven. We are not always able to manage three meals a day. A lunch at Stella Blues requires a rest that evening. Maybe a glass of wine and crackers or a cup of milk before bedtime, depending on your inclination.

For another lunch we had feasted on fresh mahi-mahi from Foodland. I had broiled, using the "Dorothy method": stay close to stove and remove when my nose tells me it's done. My nose method  is very reliable for baked goods and vegetables. With seafood it may just indicate the surface is browning. I like my fish cooked completely so I supplement my smell test by poking the fish in the middle and peeking. My husband prefers slightly rare to over-cooked fish and is happy with the fish when it smells done to me. He ordinarily cannot tell by his sense of smell alone when food is done. We topped our mahi-mahi with up-country lettuce and tomato slices on toast. Mine was eaten on rice bread due to my gluten allergy.

Last night the restaurant we ate at was Sansei, a popular sushi and Japanese restaurant that usually is too crowded to get in unless you make a reservation well in advance or are prepared for a long wait. Last night was Kihei 4th Friday. Which as best I can tell is some type of music, drinking festival in the area where we are staying. We had planned to try the Brick Oven, a new restaurant that features Italian-style food, including pizza. The draw for me, having celiac, was that EVERYTHING in the restaurant is gluten free. Due to the 4th Friday festival we were not able to drive, let alone park,  anywhere near the Brick Oven. Ironically though, the usual crowd was trapped on the other side of Kihei and were not able to get to Sensei so we waltzed right in. Our good fortune.

I ate spearfish for the first time. "Meaty," if you will forgive the term. And very flavorful though not as rich as opakapaka. The spearfish was served with kale risotto and grilled asparagus and a light lemon sauce on the side. Yum. My husband was delighted with the Japanese tempura he had ordered.

Tonight is our wedding anniversary and we are dining at Sarento's on the Beach. I'm sure the food will be good but the main draw from my perspective is the spectacular ocean view, particularly at sunset. I've already eaten enough wonderful seafood meals to satisfy my gastronomic memory for a lifetime. But if the seafood is memorable I promise to write about it.

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