When I lived in Manhattan, I completely avoided the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, or Times Square on New Year’s Eve. “Who wants those crowds?” I asked. “How great can it be, to wait in that line??”
Now that I live in Maui, of course, I wish I hadn’t been such a snob.
I keep that in mind when someone invites us for a “tourist” activity – and I’m glad I do, because I have seen some truly wonderful things on Maui (check out the Top Maui Tips section of our book for our recommendations).
That’s why James and I found ourselves taking the afternoon off (James’ friends are gasping out loud at that) last week to join our pal Jeannie Wenger for her Maui Culinary Tour. (We met Jeannie last year at Capische? – her son works there – and bonded over good food.)
We met the tour at its start at a municipal lot in Kahului. After piling into a Ford Expedition driven by the super nice Michael of All in One Executive Services, we cruised up to Makawao via Hali’imaile for lunch at Market Fresh Bistro, where I had something I’d been craving for three days: fresh sliced tomatoes with goat cheese.
From Makawao we wound up the Kula Highway to Tedeschi Winery. James and I have been here several times; we love to walk the grounds. But Jeannie had arranged a private tour of the winery with a stitch of a guide named Haunani.
When Haunani described the sweet Maui Gold Pineapples (which she is correct, are sooooo delicious), I started to worry she would burst a blood vessel. She actually skipped a little as she walked, thinking about how good they are. Later, she showed us the wine cellar, which is – surprisingly – open to the elements and yet very, very cold. The stainless steel tanks (no wood, to avoid termites) soared above our heads. Gorgeous.
After a tasting and a little walk around the grounds, we got back in the van and headed back down the highway. After a short stop at Jeannie’s favorite roadside farmer’s market (where we bought an indulgent amount of strawberries), we turned down a side road to get to Evonuk Farms, where we were shown around by Walter Evonuk.
Some people just seem to belong where they are, doing what they’re doing, and Walter is one of those lucky people. He has a permanent smile etched onto on his face as he lopes around his farm plucking herb after herb for his guests. James and I would take the tour again just to meet Walter and taste his garlic chives, Thai basil, sorrel, mint, and … how can I not remember the rest? Must have been the sensory overload from all those delicious smells.
We buy Evonuk herbs all the time (Mana Foods and Whole Foods Market carry them, for example), but after seeing how hard Walter works and how everything is done by hand – from picking to bagging to stapling to labeling – we will never again wonder why fresh herbs are expensive. They are so darn labor intensive!
We dragged our feet back to the car, but the beautiful ride back into town cheered us up as we realized that – at 6pm – it was dinner time, and we were just minutes away from Flatbread Pizza. What a lovely six hours of “playing tourist.” We were completely relaxed and happy at the end.
Overall, I highly recommend Jeannie’s tour. Throughout the 6 hours she was funny, informative, and incredibly down-to-earth. Maybe it’s her experience as a real estate agent that makes her relaxed but efficient in her timing – we never felt rushed or that we were “on a schedule” even though I know we were. Jeannie knows the island and its people well, and her stories were entertaining. She’s also a good listener, and an excellent conversation facilitator, which is so important on smaller tours like this one.
The tour itinerary can vary depending upon which farmers and restaurants are open, the season, and other variables. But Jeannie’s got the in on all sorts of foodie activities, and she can design a tour for you if you want something more exclusive and/or tailored. You can get more details on her website, Maui Culinary Tours.
Did we get tickets gratis? Yes – she’s been asking us to come for a year. Was she hoping we’d write about it? Yes, of course she was. Would I honestly recommend her tour to you? You betcha. And please tell her Molly sent you.
I also must mention that the vehicle we rode in was so clean I wanted to lick the sparkly windows. (I didn’t.) Michael was the perfect professional – competent, quiet, easy-going, and always helping the ladies out of the car. I don’t have much call for private car service on the island, but the next time we go to a dinner and don’t want to drive home, I’m calling him. He also does airport greetings, limos, and executive services. Here is his website.
Maui Culinary Tours, $150 per person for tour and lunch, Tuesday – Thursday, 12pm pick up and 6pm return, reservations required, minimum 6 persons, 808-283-5924, book your tour on www.MauiCulinaryTours.com
DISCOUNT FOR MAUI RESTAURANTS BLOG READERS: Jeannie just read this post and offered to give readers of our blog a discount! Just for readers of this blog: when you book your tour, give the code #062310 for a $15.00 per person discount! (Not combined with other offers.)