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It turns out that February is a really great time to escape to a tropical island. In this particular case, Maui. Not only is it thrilling to lie on the beach and watch Humpback whales breaching and flipping and tail-slapping, but diving into warm water to swim with giant sea turtles and Hawaii's state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua'a, is a deeply soul-satisfying experience. The coral was surprisingly healthy this year, and colorful sea urchins abundant.

Hawaii's food scene has turned an important corner in the last decade. While the choices were once limited to overpriced, underwhelming restaurants and corner stores stocked with staples flown in from the mainland, chefs and food culturists like Alan Wong and Arnold Hiura have beckoned a new era of farmers markets and native fish and fruit. Even the Safeway on Maui had swordfish pulled right out of the water, as well as three full cases of high-quality poke salads. We attended Pukalani's Upcountry Farmers Market, where I sucked down sugar cane juice infused with lime and ginger, stuffed myself with a mochiko chicken plate, and bought 24 deep-water Wailea shrimp to cook and eat raw. This was easily the sweetest, freshest, best shrimp I've ever eaten.

Driving around Maui's more rural roads, we stopped at one of the oldest bakeries on the island, famed for their creamy doughnuts. We stepped into an old church and afterward were offered a bunch of just picked bananas by a neighbor. We kicked back at an authentic tiki bar for refreshing mai tais. And we were admonished by a wily roadside stand salesman, "Banana bread! Park it!" (Which we did, and were rewarded handsomely). There's nothing wrong with lying on the beach from sunrise to sunset, but Maui has many beautiful vistas, drives, and historic sites to visit (we managed to see so much in a week without ever going in to tourist-ridden Lahaina), so if you go:

SHOP FOR FOOD:

Upcountry Farmers Market for some of the freshest Hawaiian fruits, vegetables, fish and meat, as well as homemade juices, coconut milk, poke, and that mochiko chicken thing, which was to die for. Every Saturday, 7-11 a.m.

T. Komoda Bakery and Store in Makawao opened in 1916. The donuts are fabulous, but there is also much to look at in the shop, from old photos of the store and owners that line the walls to abandoned back-of-the-shop shelves filled with store stock from the 1960's. If you love old stores like I do, this is a must-stop.

Julia's Best Banana Bread is on the stunningly beautiful, winding drive between Wailuku and Kaanapali. The dramatic vistas and one-lane adventure along this road has always been a favorite of mine when I visit Maui, and a stop half way at this banana bread shack is the cherry on top. You will be handed a warm loaf of banana bread fresh out of the oven, and you will understand why they call this paradise.

EAT:

Tin Roof is a tiny lunch canteen owned and run by Sheldon Simeon, nearly the winner of this season's Top Chef. Humble in its locale and size, it is serving up some serious aloha. The "kau kau tins" are huge and satisfying (pork belly and mochiko chicken over rice were our favorites), and side dishes are $1. A perfect place to stop on your way to or from the airport, as it's only about two blocks away.

Nuka is a terrific Japanese restaurant and sushi bar in the tiny town of Haiku, just past Paia. The miso butterfish was the best thing we ate here, and so perfect it was worth the drive through an oncoming storm, with palm fronds falling in front of our car as the wind whipped around us.

Mama's Fish House is an historic tiki bar and restaurant that has been in Paia since 1973. The tropical drinks are made with care and attention, and the whole fish in banana curry was heady and unique, in the best way.

 
 

BONUS:

If Maui just isn't in your future, you can make Julia's Best Banana Bread at home. Here's the recipe, courtesy of Bon Appetit:

Julia's Best Banana Bread

This simple, moist banana bread recipe can also be baked in three small (5¾x3¼”) loaf pans, which is how you’ll find them at Julia’s stand; cooking time will be 40–50 minutes. For the deepest flavor, use ripe bananas with lots of freckles.

Ingredients

8 SERVINGS
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1½ cups sugar
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
¾ cup vegetable oil

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9x5x3” loaf pan with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, sugar, bananas, and oil in a large bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and stir just until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake until a tester inserted into the center of bread comes out clean, 60–70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let bread cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around inside of pan to release the bread. Turn out onto rack and let cool completely.

DO AHEAD: Banana bread can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Sincerely,

Celia Sack, Owner
Omnivore Books on Food
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Upcoming Events at Omnivore Books

 

Tues. March 7 • Sarah Britton • Naturally Nourished: Healthy, Delicious Meals Made with Everyday Ingredients • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

Sarah Britton, author of My New Roots, streamlines vegetarian cooking by bringing her signature bright photography and fantastic flavors to an accessible cookbook fit for any budget, any day of the week. With recipes for vegan and gluten-free options and ideas for substitutions, this beautiful cookbook shows readers how to cook smart, not hard.

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OFF-SITE EVENT! Wed. March 8 • Andrea Nguyen and the Evolution of Pho • At the JCCSF • 7:00 p.m. $18

In her newest work, The Pho Cookbook, she thoughtfully chronicles Vietnam’s national food and comfort soup, pho. Join us for a conversation and tasting as Andrea dives deep into pho’s origins, dispelling myths of a colonial history and discussing pho’s place in present-day America. Andrea will walk us through pho’s intricate ingredients in a cooking demonstration and tasting. BUY TICKETS!

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Fri. March 10 • Anita Verna Crofts • Meet Me at the Bamboo Table • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

A.V. Crofts has spent decades eating (and learning) her way around the world. She's studied in China, taught in Italy, and conducted humanitarian communications trainings in war-torn Sudan. Here, she traces a lifetime of meals across states and continents for the ways that food ties us together.

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Tue March 14 • Rebecca Katz • The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, Second Edition: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery •6:30pm-7:30pm • FREE

This new and revised edition of the IACP award-winning cookbook brings the healing power of delicious, nutritious foods to those whose hearts and bodies crave a revitalizing meal, through 150 new and updated recipes. Featuring science-based, nutrient-rich recipes that are easy to prepare and designed to give patients a much-needed boost by stimulating appetite and addressing treatment side effects including fatigue, nausea, dehydration, mouth and throat soreness, tastebud changes, and weight loss.

 

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Wed. March 22 • Colu Henry • Back Pocket Pasta: Inspired Dinners to Cook on the Fly • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

As much a mindset as it is a cookbook, Back Pocket Pasta shows how a well-stocked kitchen and a few seasonal ingredients can be the driving force behind delicious, simply prepared meals. Pantry staples—a handful of items to help you up your dinner game—give you a head start come 6pm, so you can start cooking in your head on the way home from work.

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Sat. March 25 • COOKIE CONTEST!!!! 3:00-4:00 p.m. • FREE to entrants, $5 for tasters/judges

Here's the deal: Make your favorite cookies - a lot of them - and bring them to Omnivore to compete in the contest for best cookie of 2017! If you want to just eat cookies and not bake them, pay us $5 and judge for yourself (and for us). The winner splits the door money with us, and there will be runner-up prizes as well. Get ready to crumble! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself).

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OFF-SITE EVENT! Sun. March 26 • Tipple & Snack: Cocktail Book Fair at Bar Agricole! 3:00-5:00 p.m. $25

Join us for our first ever book fair and cocktail party at Bar Agricole. We plan to make this a regular quarterly series, with drinks, snacks, and food and drink books, both vintage and new. Each event will have a theme, and this one is, appropriately, cocktails! Omnivore will have some wonderful and unique books for purchase at the event, so we hope you can join us! GET TICKETS

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Thurs. March 30 • Joy Wilson • Joy the Baker Over Easy: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Leisurely Days • 6:30-7:30 p.m. FREE

Joy Wilson is the voice behind the popular blog Joy the Baker. She's obsessed with butter, sugar, cream, and dark chocolate. Here are 125 recipes to tackle any brunch craving—from juices and coffees, to breads, eggs, pancakes, sandwiches, salads, and definitely bacon.

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Omnivore Books on Food • 3885a Cesar Chavez Street • San Francisco, CA 94131
415.282.4712 • Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm