Hawa1'1, Day 5: "Happy Anniversary."

Our fifth day in Hawai'i, our tenth anniversary, and our last day on Maui. We finish packing our suitcases, and call our friends the bellboys to come lug our suitcases downstairs to the hotel lobby. We've managed to keep the number of suitcases the same at three (I've got my smaller suitcase full of clothes stuck inside my larger suitcase, in anticipation of Kona coffee from the Big Island) but we do end up with an additional piece of carry-on luggage.

One of the many ways that the staff of Kā'anapali Beach Hotel shows their Aloha is that the hotel gives a kukui nut lei ceremony to its departing guests. The kukui nut is also called a candlenut, since the nut's oils used to be used for lighting homes; our friend Malihini explains as she puts our leis on that the symbolism is that they want to share their light with us and to have us carry it when we go. Some people might think that giving out kukui nut leis is a little kitschy or gimmicky, but in my opinion the sentiment behind it is pretty cool.

We pick up our Jeep for the last time and make our way across the island to Kahului, I drop off Lucie and our luggage at the airport and drive to the car drop off location. The airport is very efficient today -- before I finish dropping the car off, Lucie texts me that she was able to find porters to assist, the luggage has been checked, and she's got our tickets ready. The flight to the Big Island is almost as fast -- just enough time to hand out a mini bag of macadamia nuts and a drink (POG, since we're still in Hawai'i) and we're on our favorite island.

Our car for this leg is a convertible Mustang, whom I name Sally (trite and obvious, I know, but it still makes me smile) -- back when we were having trouble with our SUV Leasa and we had to rent cars, I tried out a Mustang one time but wasn't able to fit behind the wheel. Now, however, I'm not only able to fit behind the wheel, but I don't even need a seat belt extender like I did with the Jeep. Lucie says this is proof that I'm actually losing weight with my diet and exercise; I'm still a bit of a pessimist about it so my suggestion is that they're just making Mustangs bigger than they did a few years ago. Either way, I put the top down, and cruise happily back to the airport to pick up Lucie and our luggage. We need to put the two large suitcases in the back seat -- convertibles aren't really known for their trunk space -- but we get in and head toward Kailua.

Halfway there, we start to feel the intense sun and heat, and make a quick stop for some slushy drinks. We both enjoy the icy beverages for about twenty seconds before we're both incapacitated by dual brain freezes, but eventually recover, look around to make sure there are no witnesses, and get to the Royal Kona Resort where we check in. Not to be outdone by Maui, the Royal Kona has also congratulated us on our anniversary by upgrading our room and giving us a bottle of champagne.

I wonder if we can use this every time we check in to a hotel... seems to be a good way to get some nifty perks...

We drop off our luggage and make our now-traditional trip down the Mamalahoa Highway to Kealakekua where have appetizers at Aloha China BBQ. The food here isn't extravagant or amazing; it's simple Chinese food, good and well priced (especially for Hawai'i), and we still remember how on our first trip to Hawai'i they helped bring me down from my first Kona-based caffeine high. We don't actually want a full meal, since we're slated to have a private dinner in just a couple of hours, but since we didn't have time for breakfast before leaving Maui this is our first solid food of the day, and it's very appreciated. We have some cold drinks and have crab and cream cheese purses (because of the cheese content, these are mostly for me), egg rolls, and fried shrimp; mostly sated and cooled down, we head back to the hotel.

We relax for a bit and enjoy the air conditioning, then change into "formal clothes" (meaning I put on something other than shorts) and meet our dinner concierge Ashley by the lobby. She introduces us to our musician for the evening, Kula, and we proceed over to the private bungalow at Nohea Point where we'll be having our sunset dinner.

Michael, our waiter for the evening, greets us and gives us flower leis, and we sit down for our anniversary dinner. As the sun slowly sets in front of us and Kula plays a selection of Hawaiian mood music for our enjoyment, we have one of the best meals we've ever had. And I'm including the five course meal with Kobe beef we had at Alexander's in Cupertino.

We both chose the same appetizer, a jumbo lump crab cake, served on a mound of corn salad, and with dollops of roasted bell and mango tartar sauce placed in the sweet chili sauce along the edge of the plate. The crab cake is big, meaty, and flaky, and perfectly crispy on the outside while remaining moist on the inside; the sweet corn mixes incredibly well with the chili sauce, and the tartar adds a nice savory touch. There's an orchid also on the plate, adding a nice touch of color with its deep magenta; Michael informs us that they're edible ("but they look a lot better than they taste.")

Our second course is a Caesar salad; they serve the croutons and Parmesan cheese on the side for Lucie because she'd told them when we arranged the dinner that she's lactose intolerant and they're going above and beyond in their efforts to make sure everything's acceptable. Their obvious efforts in this regard (her appetizer didn't have tartar sauce, for the same reason) is impressive, and exceedingly considerate, and very much appreciated. The salad itself is light and tasty, with an anchovy fillet placed unobtrusively along one side in case we wanted the extra flavor (I do, Lucie doesn't.)

Shortly before the main course begins, Kula says that he's about to play his last song for the night, and that he hopes the rest of our evening is wonderful. We take a break from our dinner and dance to the song we specified when we made the arrangements, the final song that played at our wedding, Adam Sandler's Grow Old with You from The Wedding Singer.

Our entrees arrive next; Lucie has chosen the beef Wellington and I've opted for the fish. The beef is a tenderloin, cooked perfectly and topped with a portobello mushroom mixture and a wine reduction sauce drizzled alongside, roasted potatoes, and a grilled baby bok choy with truffle oil. My seared ahi is draped over a mound of coconut rice, surrounded by a ginger-wasabi sauce, with grilled asparagus, lychees, and a seaweed salad accompaniment. The bite Lucie gives me of her beef is incredibly tender -- as it is every time I taste Parker Ranch beef; my ahi is also cooked perfectly, and the ginger wasabi sauce has a good sharp bite while still being mild enough where it doesn't drown out the delicate flavor of the raw center of the tuna.

Halfway through the main course, it begins to rain. It begins as gentle, whispering and warm, a soft background white noise as we eat and talk and reminisce about the wedding; before long it becomes much heavier, and we hear the sounds of the distant luau falter slightly before resuming. Michael is stoic and accepting of the weather (he's Hawaiian, after all), and Ashley makes an appearance to give us emergency rain ponchos for the walk back after dinner (the thatched roof of the hut above is impressively waterproof and is keeping us dry during our meal), but the rain doesn't bother us -- tonight, I believe nothing could.

Our dessert arrives during a lull in the rain. The chef has created a mixed fruit tarte tatin for Lucie, but has somehow managed to form it without a crust to avoid milk content; my dish is a banana liliko'i creme brûlée, with some fresh berries and mint leaves. The creme is thick and warm, and the crust is crispier than any creme brûlée I've had before, without having any hint of bitter burned flavor at all -- it's simply amazing.

The entire meal has been simply amazing, really. The rain, which had picked up some during dessert, even stops completely before our dinner is ended; so the walk back to our room is merely humid, with the ponchos unneeded and kept in their sealed bags.

The new winner of the most expensive meal we've ever had, as well as the best meal we've ever had, has ended. The rain has ended. Our first day back on the Big Island has ended. And our tenth anniversary has ended.

The rest of our lives together remains ahead of us.

We can't wait.


1 comment:

-=m=- said...

Where's the "like button" when you need it?