on the Big Island: Waimea, Kailua Kona and back to Seattle

from the Mauna Kea access road

One more Hawaii post, then it’s back to our regularly scheduled programming.

On our last full day on the island we drove up the Saddle Road to Mauna Kea, which was very cool. We got to see a silver sword plant, saw a truly great warning sign, and used what was possibly the worst bathroom on the island (in Mauna Kea State park – consider yourself warned). We just went as far as the Mauna Kea Observatories visitor’s center at 9000 feet elevation – the road up to the summit looked kinda nasty. Besides, it was time for lunch.

cinder cones near Waimea

When we came down we went straight into Waimea for lunch, at the Hawaiian Style Cafe. This was our chance to experience a real plate lunch. The menu at this place has it all: plate lunch, loco moco, pancakes substantially bigger than your head, spam, sausages, eggs, oxtail stew…I considered getting a basic loco moco (rice, two hamburger patties, eggs, gravy) but decided that it might actually kill me, so I went with plate lunch, which I figured had a half-and-half chance of killing me.

Korean pork plate lunch

My plate lunch was Korean pork, which was good but very fatty – although the fat did have lovely crisp edges. It came with the usual two scoops of rice and one scoop of macaroni salad, which in this case was actually potmac – potato and macaroni salad – and was sort of appalling. I ate a lot of it anyway, just because I have a weakness for this sort of thing, but I think I got my Miracle Whip quota for the year.
Korean beef rib plate lunch

J got Korean beef ribs, which he quite liked. After lunch we had to go back to our room and digest for a long time – this is the kind of lunch that makes you feel you’ll never have to eat again.

However, a few hours later we did get ourselves back down into Kailua Kona to try another important Hawaiian experience: shave ice.

making shave ice

We went to Scandinavian Shave Ice and watched in horror as the kids in front of us ordered enormous rainbow-striped objects. Apparently shave ice doesn’t come in any size smaller than vast. When our turn came up we attempted to keep things simple: coconut-flavored ice packed around a scoop of chocolate ice cream.
shave ice

I can’t say it was good, really, but it was an experience. I loved the combo straw/spoons.  We sat on the seawall in the sun and did our best. Afterwards, we needed a drink.

Canoe Club

We went back to the Canoe Club, which was practically empty, and J got his first (and possibly only) mai tai.
mai tai

I toyed with the idea of a dacquiri, but got scared at the last minute and got a beer instead. I’m just not a tropical-drinks person.
Kailua surf

We wandered around the shore for awhile, then headed up the hill to the King Kamehameha Mall to check out a place we’d seen a couple days before, Mixx Wine Bar. It looked like a cool place, with a pleasant bar area, an outdoor patio, and a small plates menu. We did have fun there, but there were a few odd things about the concept – the food was almost all Asian, with lots of noodles and stirfry, which didn’t really go with the mostly-California wines beverage selection.

chardonnay options at Mixx

I had a pleasant enough glass of viognier (don’t remember which), and J asked for a chardonnay from the list. They were out of that particular chard, so the bartender brought us all these bottles to choose from, which was kind of fun. We got a plate of fried tofu with garlic and chiles that didn’t go too badly with the wine. After that we got glasses of red wine and shared a plate of steak frites and some stirfried bok choy. The menu boldly proclaimed that they served “the best fries in Kona!” which may have been true, assuming the best fries in Kona are from the Wendy’s up the hill. They tasted exactly like fast food fries. The steak was OK, and the greens were fine. If we were to come back here, it would be for their bourbon selection.

But in any case, we didn’t get another visit to Mixx, since the next day we flew out. I won’t distress you with details of the “chicken and rice” dish we ate on the airplane. We got into Seattle late and headed directly to a place we knew would be able to feed us – the Palace Kitchen.

Palace Kitchen

It was such a relief to have a glass of good wine, a plate of good bread with oil and olives, and a huge plate of really top-notch clams roasted with lemon and fennel, all at half past midnight. I love Seattle.
clams at Palace Kitchen

The clams and bread revived us enough for the hour’s drive home, where we thankfully passed out in our own bed.

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