It's vacation time, and here I am in Maui, one of these most beautiful places I've had the fortune of seeing twice. My first dinner out this time was at Mama's Fish House, a Pa'ia landmark that has justifiably earned the envy of many a restaurateur on this idyllic Hawaiian island. The seafood is impossibly fresh and flavorful. The half-open dining area, laden with fresh orchids and birds of paradise, makes you feel one with the environment. The service is friendly and formal without being haughty.
The setting surrounding the restaurant is as close to paradise one could want, with a view of Ku'au Cove, dotted by surfers and windsurfers, that will make you want to move here.
Can you understand why I promised myself a return trip to Mama's if ever I made it back to the island?
I couldn't wait to taste some of that brilliant just-caught fish again. Would it be something I hadn't been able to find since my first visit, such as uku, or would it be a fish I had only read about? Perhaps it would be a new way to prepare mahi-mahi, the sweet-fleshed Hawaiian fish that has certainly earned a national following.
Yes, there were temptations galore, but one dish overrode everything else on the menu. And that was because it promised a taste of home mixed with the islands: lobster guacamole.
Two of my favorite words paired together. What could be better?
This wasn't your typical Tex-Mex guac.
The view of Ku'au Cove from Mama's Fish House in Maui.
Instead of corn chips, the plate came garnished with a series of sweet potato crisps in various colors and shapes, all made in-house. (Once I get back home and make this for myself — and I will make this at some point — Terra chips will do just fine.)
The guacamole was made with buttery rich, ripe avocados mashed with a tiny touch of heat. I would probably use minced serrano and maybe some minced sweet onion to the mix, but the beauty of the dish was that the flavor of the avocado was enhanced, not masked. It was then topped with diced lobster meat and crowned with a wreath of microgreens that carried just a tiny bite.
Together, the ingredients offered a reminder of home while opening my eyes to a new world of flavor combinations. That's the joy of giving comfort food a boost. It also makes travel all the more fun. I had the same feeling last fall when I tasted the truffled macaroni and cheese at Virginia's Inn at Little Washington. And it's what makes me start to dream of return trips.