Dinner on the Beach and Food From a Farm on The Mountain
The Dining Experience
Pacific ‘O’ s romantic restaurant is located absolutely beachfront, on the leeward side of Maui. It sits on the quieter south end of the famous Front Street in the historic town of Lahaina, once the epicenter of the Pacific Whale hunt.
Herman Melville experienced this town when writing ‘Moby Dick,” and we enjoy the same “New England in the tropics” environment today. Of course, it helps that we don’t sleep in hammocks and eat hardtack!
The restaurant enjoys sunset views over the Pacific and three nearby islands. It sits one-quarter mile from the huge Banyan tree, which marks the center of town. It is located at “505 on Front Street,” a small plaza of shopping, galleries, and eateries.
These are designed in the New England style and sit on the location of Whaling-era buildings. As tropical island vacations go, Maui has a unique vibe, and Pacific ‘O picks up on that charm. Imagine, if you can, “Missionary Chic”!
Hawaiian Regional Cuisine
In the early days of its tourist industry, Hawaiian visitors ate imported everything. Your plate consisted of vegetables from South America and frozen fish from Asia. It was not local, not fresh, and certainly not Hawaiian!
A group of leading chefs on the islands decided in the early 1990s that they had the skills, the land, and the culinary traditions to develop a cohesive regional cuisine of their own. Pacific ‘O, established about 1993 was certainly one of the earliest and possibly the first such restaurant.
At the same time, the founders acquired 8 acres of orchards, coffee plants, and garden space. This is located in the prime growing land in the “Upcountry” part of the island on the volcanic slopes of Mt. Haleakala. This is an extinct volcano. Standing at the summit, you look down on the clouds! It is the best view you can get without earning airline miles.
Maui’s Farm to Table Tradition Today
Hawaii Magazine lists the five best Farm to Table restaurants on Maui. We were fortunate to eat at three of them. The others are The Mill House and Mama’s Fish House. You can read about them here.
If you like memorable dining at beautiful, romantic locations as part of your travel, Maui has some choices you won’t forget.
What Makes it Work?
- Farming-despite its high land values, the island has areas of farmland where the farmers work in its notable, rich volcanic soil. In Hawaii, it is often cheaper to import food than to grow it. However, an increasing number of farmers are focused on producing unique local produce you won’t want to miss.
- Fishing-the state supports deep-sea fishermen and their efficient catching, which can put fish on your table within 24 hours.
- Ranching is an old Hawaiian tradition. Now, an increasing number of ranches are emphasizing grass-fed and organic beef, lamb, pork, and elk. The animals avoid the feedlot existence, and we avoid the antibiotics of grain-fed beef. (See Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm for more detail.)
How It Works On This Restaurant With Its Own Farm
For Farm to Table dining to work, the restaurants and the chefs need to make changes. The supply chain is more complicated. When working directly with producers, you have more suppliers, not fewer. In addition, the chefs can no longer say, I need these few products in constant quantity, and when produce is not in season, serve imported food.
In a restaurant like Pacific ‘O, the chef deals with what is delivered. I might make a salad one way on Monday and need to adjust the ingredients a little on Tuesday as new materials are ripe in my garden. Cooking in a farm-fresh restaurant requires that same sense of immediacy!
Chefs seem to take more vertical control; we see Maui’s leading chefs taking the fresh produce grown around them and making their own jams and cheeses and aging their own meats.
This can affect the Mixologist also. The citrus available today can produce a new fresh cocktail offered tonight.
For the diner, especially on vacation, it means a sense of surprise with every meal! It adds to the adventure.
Pacific ‘O’s Fish Delivery
At this oceanside restaurant, fresh fish comes in, like the diners, through the front door. Someone will put it on a little trolly and parade it through the dining room so you know what new fresh food is coming! It is a great custom; you feel like part of the action.
In these circumstances, you cannot avoid knowing what you are eating. This should make us more discerning consumers. Here is the restaurant’s website message following the historic fire.
Farm Products Unique to Hawaii
Here are some things to sample when exploring the menus. You will find familiar offerings like Won Ton and Taco’s, but check the specific ingredients for unique flavors.
Maui’s warm climate provides a long growing season and its rich volcanic soil is a valuable growing medium. It is mineral-rich, it drains well but also retains enough moisture for growing plants.
- Maui Beets-Maui is successful at growing beets. The Golden Kula Beets are special. If you see a beet salad, particularly with local cheese, don’t pass it up.
- Purple Sweet Potato-about the time of Columbus, the orange-colored sweet potatoes that we know so well traveled from Central America to the Pacific. On Okinawa, which has rough storms that can damage crops, they were appreciated and evolved into the purple vegetable popular in Hawaii today. It is the inside which is bright purple. Try them in chips.
- Maui Sweet Onions- Having lived in the South, we learned to appreciate the Vidalia Onion. An old Georgia farmer once told us that you should be able to pick a Vidalia from the field, like an apple from an orchard, and eat it out of hand. The Maui sweet onion has similar features. This is because they both grow in low-sulfur soil, and this creates great flavor. Don’t miss them.
- Asian-style cabbage varieties grow here, avocados are varied and large, stone fruits are delicious, and coffee is a local favorite and is used, both roasted to drink and in cooking too. There are many varieties of bananas, and banana bread is a popular dessert with coffee.
Pacific ‘O Restaurant-times and service
Lunch, evening cocktails, appetizers, and dinners are offered with seating indoors and on a beachside patio. Sunsets are desirable. If you want a sunset meal, it is a good idea to check sunset times and make reservations before you travel. A really good meal is a visual treat as well as on the taste buds. With the ocean, the distant mountainous islands, and the setting sun, your evening can fire on all cylinders.
During our visit, parking was offered on the street and in a parking lot across the street. It appears limited. Plan ahead.
Pacific ‘O’s Farm
The farm is available to visit. Check the Website. Tours are offered with coffee tasting and lunch under the trees. It can make the highlight of a day spent visiting “Upcountry.”
“Upcountry” Maui-What to Know?
The beautiful, mountainous, cool area called “Upcountry” is one of Maui’s six distinct regions. For a description, see ‘Discover Maui’s Six Distinct Regions-What to See and Do.’
O’O’s Farm is located in the farming town of Kula. This is a relaxed and breezy tour of an area of rolling green hills, coffee, interesting restaurants, and entertainment, such as lavender farms, cheese-making goat farms, a glassblower, and a Vodka farm and distillery.
The farm produces mixed produce. You will see fruit, vegetables, orchards, and coffee. You can buy jams, coffee beans, and marmalade. Several tours are offered. There is a morning coffee tour with breakfast, an afternoon coffee tour, and a farm tour with lunch.
You can pick some of the salad materials you will eat, and your meal is prepared in a wood-burning oven. Breakfast and lunch are served at long rustic tables under the shade. You can bring wine with you.
On this tour, you will walk through the fields. Comfortable closed-toed shoes, a hat, sunscreen, and bug spray are good ideas. For expected rain, you will be notified with an offer of cancellation. If you cancel, I understand that there is a strict cancellation policy.