Hawaii

It’s not every day, or every year (or every decade, unfortunately) that I get to spend some time with my family in Los Angeles. So I was excited by the chance to join them, not in L.A., but in Hawaii. Europeans don’t generally go to Hawaii because of the distance, I suspect, and because there are other tropical islands closer to home that don’t require two-to-three flights, and crossing nearly half a dozen time zones to get there and back. Yet I took one for the team, and moved my office to the beach for a week.

I’ve been to Hawaii a number of times, when I lived in California, having gone to Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. I even think I went to the Big Island of Hawai’i before, when I did a chef’s event with Nancy Silverton. I don’t remember much about the beach, but do recall spending a lot of time in the kitchen while everyone else splayed themselves across the sand, and sipped cocktails. (Including the others chefs who were supposed to be cooking with us.) On the other hand, I can’t imagine anything more fun than baking with Nancy S. So I can’t complain.

This time, it was all play, and no work. One thing I’ve learned from the French is how to unplug. When French people go on vacation, they mean it. I’ve gotten good at doing the same, although I need to check in every once in a while and see how everyone is. Last time I went away, however, when I did that, I saw that my site had gone down, so spent three days talking to tech people in Michigan from a remote island in Provence at 6 am to get things back up.

So I tried to let things slide this time around when I was gone, because who needs tech issues when there’s a fabulous beach right outside your hotel room? (Let’s not count as a tech issue the person who copied my Facebook and Instagram page in my absence and was messaging people, posing as me…) I had a little more drama once on the trip; we snorkeled out too far and couldn’t get back in due to the currents of the open sea, which my arms and legs, even with fins on, were no match for.

However, my time had not come (yet) and I made it back to shore by relaxing (after a brief moment of freaking out…) and gently backstroking back to safety. And speaking of safety, there was a lot of concern about the Kilauea volcano, which was erupting and causing havoc on one side of the island. So it was decided that we should check things out from the air.

On a helicopter, we soared (or whatever you call what helicopters do…lift?) over the island, passing over green grids of Macadamia trees. While Macadamia nuts are commonly associated with Hawaii, they’re indigenous to Australia, and named after a Scottish-Australian chemist named John Macadam.

They sold Dramamine at the helicopter launch site and I’d never been in a helicopter (the “comfort bags,” as they called them, once we boarded, didn’t quell my fears), but it was the smoothest ride I’ve ever had. It was even smoother than riding a bike or car in a city. We flew over holes where things once spewed out of (above), which were pretty quiet, but the Big Island of Hawai’i, as it’s called, is the “newest” of the islands and less than .07 million years old.

And the island is still being formed; when lava hits the water, it creates more of the island. It also creates lave haze, or laze, which is something you shouldn’t breathe in. So we didn’t get too close.

But thanks to our skilled helicopter pilot, Josh, we were able to dive into deep valleys and get up close to wild vegetation or land in remote areas that were otherwise inaccessible. We dove into this area and made a stop to get a closer look at this waterfall, and it was spectacular.

Heading back out, we got a glimpse of the lava spewing from the Kilauea volcano, before circling back home.

As we did, an enormous rainbow arced before us, with the “pot of gold,” so to speak, at the end of the rainbow, i.e.; another beautiful coastline. Hawaii is truly a beautiful place and that lava makes parts of it uninhabitable, so there are wide stretches of craggy areas where the ocean meets the waves, with nothing in between the two.

Visitors to Hawaii are also spoiled with a bounty of fish and fruits, although the Big Island is also famous for its beef as well. I tasted a local distillation called Okolehao, made from the roots of a ti plant, which the server described as “like moonshine.” It was pretty strong and I was the only one at the table able to handle it. But I think living in France, I’m used to eau-de-vie, and this wasn’t much different, although it was slightly sweet.

I know there are farmers’ markets on the island, sushi bars, and other places to eat. But to be honest, we were here to relax (and I was with a few dozen others) so we mostly stayed close, and close to home. Us city-dwellers were also catching up on all the sleep we’ve been deprived of. The first night I slept an unheard of eleven hours and had my head on the pillow by 9 pm almost every night. Yes, that was also heaven.

So we dined mostly at our hotel. The breakfast buffet has everything you might want for breakfast, and although I’m a little too western for Japanese breakfasts (which I learned when I was in Japan, in spite of how much I love Japanese food), I went for it most mornings and had rice, pickles, broiled fish, and seaweed.

Another thing Hawaii is famous for is shave ice, a bowl or cone of shaved ice with lots of goodies, here and there. This one (below) had coconut ice cream on the bottom, fresh fruit, candied red beans (hiding in the back), toasted coconut, passion fruit syrup, and cubes of almond jelly, although one version I ate swapped out cubes of flan for the almond jelly, which were even better. I love this dessert and if you ever go to Hawaii, often there are food trucks parked on the side of the road which are well-worth stopping at.

The best thing ever may have been these Kona coffee-candied Macadamia nuts at Hamakua Nut Company. I know, I know – recipe, please! You can visit the factory (and store, of course) and see them making them, and Coconut-Macadamia brittle, or packing up bags of various flavors of Macadamia nuts, even though I generally go for the ones with sea salt. (Although I took a chance and made an exception for the coffee-glazed ones, and was glad that I did.)

If I wasn’t with family members who I don’t see very often, I would have wolfed down the whole bowl. But I was trying to be on my best behavior, and also to still fit into a swimsuit, so I enjoyed them in modération.

Back at the beach, the midday sun was pretty intense, which gave us time to do lunch – and then dinner after we’d had enough sun and surf for the day.

Our hotel had a lobster fest of all-you-can-eat lobsters. One side of my family hails from New England, so we’re no strangers to lobster.

I managed to eat two, and that was my limit. But there was plenty of others things to fill up on.

Another great memory of when I cooked at the chef’s festival was when the staff of locals invited me to a party one night. Rectangular aluminum roasting pans were piled high with mayo-rich macaroni and potato salads, amongst a lot of other food, and the object of the event (obviously) was eating. Happy to see even nice hotels continue with that Hawaiian tradition.

We were able to go local when some in our party who’d gone on a deep-sea fishing expedition (which I declined, since last time I did, most of the “comfort bags” got used), pulled what they said was a spearfish out of the water. But a Google search I checked on that when I was writing this post showed that it was swordfish. This (above) isn’t swordfish, as the fish they showed me a picture of when they caught it didn’t have a sword on it, but it was excellent and sparkling fresh. We had it first as sashimi and tempura-battered, then grilled. The fish was so big, even after all twenty-eight of us ate some, there was plenty leftover for the staff.

We didn’t dine out much elsewhere but did have a meal at Merriman’s, where the website emphasizes the chef’s commitment to local and regional fare.

I had an outstanding salad of local tomatoes with Point Reyes blue cheese (from the Bay Area) and crispy capers. Then had a sautéed piece of mahi-mahi (a Hawaiian fish) as well as a slab of local grass-fed beef with jalapeño whipped potatoes. The fun thing about the menu, for those (like me) who don’t like to spend two-thirds of their meal passing around plates and asking “Do you want to taste this…and this…and this?” around the table, again and again, was they had a menu option that allows one to order a half-portion of two main courses as a main course, if they want it. And I did.

On the liquid side of the meals, I mostly drank wine since that seemed to be the thing to do. At one restaurant, I did ask about the Mai Tai on the menu and the waiter exclaimed, very wide-eyed, “It’s served in a bucket!” which wasn’t quite a selling point.

But I did have Barrel Bonfire (below), a sort of new-fashioned old-fashioned with Knob Creek rye, pineapple, and honey, and a bit of smoke. However after spending a few days lolling in the surf, I could see why too much alcohol wasn’t the way to go (especially since it was a struggle for me to stay awake even until 9 pm), so I mostly stuck to wine.

After a week of lazy days on the beach, it was time to head back to the mainland.

I already miss the tranquility of the island, and of Hawaii. When I was deciding where to move to many years ago, it was between Paris and Honolulu. I’d had success getting on a surfboard on my first try on a beach on Oahu and thought maybe I’d spend the next few years of my life surfing. But that didn’t happen.

I’m a little older now, and a little wiser. (And I also learned that surfing is mostly paddling out to catch the waves…) So perhaps the beach life wasn’t meant to be, for me, but it sure is a fun idea to revisit every now and then.

Vacation in Hawaii, on the Big Island

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86 comments

  • Geraldine
    July 2, 2018 1:40pm

    WOW, looks like a FAB change of pace and food. Hawaii is an enchanting place indeed.
    Geraldine in Spain

  • Susan Penner
    July 2, 2018 1:41pm

    Love, love your photography and sense of humour..

    Make lots of your recipes as well.

    An eastern Canadian.

  • Linda Amstutz
    July 2, 2018 1:45pm

    Were you at Mauna Kea? The beach looked a bit familiar and it is one of my fondest memories. What a nice vacation you had! Thanks for sharing.

  • Sarahb1313
    July 2, 2018 1:57pm

    Ooh. We had the privilege of visiting Hawaii twice and it did not disappoint. I confess that we tend to need vacations after our vacations. With snorkeling and exploring just so appealing.

    What I did struggle with was that the very beat food was often at the big hotels. The little off the beaten track places did not have the most inspired style of cooking – took a lot of research to find those special places.
    I did visit the “most southern bakery” in Punalu but that is very near the volcano so not a great destination until the summers down. Of course their Malasadas with guava are the specialty. You chose a shave ice that was my choice of options exactly!!!

    The one thing at a Merriman place was a Mai Tai that had Lilikoi foam on top of rum, essentially. I found that anything passion fruit didn’t let me down.

    On Maui we had some lunch with restaurants that were pricey but manageable. On Tje Big Island we were able to get fresh catch of mahi mahi and tuna and throw them on the grill of our lanai and eat salad with star fruit and the best pineapple I have ever had for dessert many nights.

    Thank you for helping me reminisce, I may need a real vacation soon, I just hope that adventure doesn’t keep me from hanging at the beach… with a lilikoi margarita in hand :-))

    • July 2, 2018 2:03pm
      David Lebovitz

      One thing I’ve learned is that you don’t need to do a lot of things, or go everywhere, when you’re on vacation. Sometimes it’s nice just to stay put and not worry about driving, traffic (and getting lost), and just sit on a beach and de-stress. There’s a lot to do in Hawaii but I’ve found good food in Honolulu (especially the sushi!), which is a city so they cater to a wide variety of people. I agree that it’s nice to find a place that just grills the wonderful fresh fish they get in Hawaii, simply, and have some tropical fruit for dessert. (And yes, anything with lilikoi is bound to be good, too.)

    • janey
      July 2, 2018 6:45pm

      The best halo halo I’ve ever had was at a tiny Thai hole in the wall on the outskirts of Honolulu (Kaimuki), years ago. It was full of paper thin shard-like sheets of ice – very very thin so that they shattered delicately in your mouth and disappeared instantly. How they made them is a mystery and I’ve never seen it anywhere else. It was also the first time I’d ever had larb and lettuce wraps, both of which also blew my mind, lol. The food scene in general however, especially in the smaller towns, could use a lot more love, it is just waiting for knowledgeable chefs (with strong marketing plans) to move there! Lots of local produce, grass-fed beef and what remains of the ocean’s seafood.

  • July 2, 2018 1:58pm

    Looks like a good time. Glad you made it home!

    Interestingly, I just heard last night about a dessert similar to the shaved ice you described, when I watched Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown when he was Koreatown in LA.While there he tries filipino fast food at Jollibee called Halo Halo–strata of red beans, white beans/chick peas, cubes of red and green jello, coconut, shaved ice, flan, ice cream and more! Both desserts sound yummy and outside my sphere of familiarity. Must be an omen to hear about it twice in 12 hours!

  • Georgeann Brown
    July 2, 2018 2:03pm

    Good for you.

  • Issi
    July 2, 2018 2:06pm

    David, What fabulous photos! Pleased you had a great R&R. If you have a stop over in NYC on the way back check out the Supermoon Bakehouse at 120 Rivington on Lower East side!

    • July 2, 2018 2:19pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve been and really like what Ry is doing there. I wrote about it here.

  • Mrs. Gibson
    July 2, 2018 2:20pm

    Same question as above; the Mauna Kea? I stayed there for weeks at a time when it was a Rock resort. What splendid walks and plantings they have. Is the quilt collection still there? No mahi mahi? Or Lilikoi juice???

  • Kathryn
    July 2, 2018 2:21pm

    Wonderful photos and commentary, David! It looks like you had a memorable time with lots of rest, good food, and spending time with family – a classic recipe for a perfect vacation! Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

  • Margery Bridstrup
    July 2, 2018 2:25pm

    Also an expat on this side of the pond, I love Hawai’i, especially Maui. Love the photos and recommendations. The article makes me want to drop everything and hop on a plane to Maui. While all your articles are fun and interesting, this ones a keeper

  • Marshall
    July 2, 2018 2:32pm

    David,

    You pictures are beautiful. Thank you for taking the time to share with us.

  • July 2, 2018 2:40pm

    Dear David reading this post transported me to beautiful Hawaii, but this time through the eyes of my favorite chef/writer! How languidly glorious was the vacation you described! Living in SF, I would love details such as hotel & restos where you stayed and ate. I’ll take my comments off-line
    PS reading all of your books has been a Godsend for me these last months as I mourned the loss of my husband. A thousand thanks! Kit

  • Francoise P.
    July 2, 2018 2:56pm

    Beautiful pictures, thank you !

  • Elizabeth Davis
    July 2, 2018 3:04pm

    Ahh. Merrimans and their Puna goat cheese cheesecake with lilikoi sauce. For your next trip: Teshimas, an old historic Japanese restaurant on the Mamalahoa Hwy, Angel’s Bakery in the heart of Kona country for breakfast, Miyo’s (also Japanese) in Hilo (kinda hole in the wall), Punalu`u Bakery at the south end and Tropical Dreams ice cream that you can get at Lava Java in Kailua Kona. Makes a great breakfast with some Kona coffee. And a trip up to Hawi in the north, also for ice cream, and a beautiful store selling exquisite carved koa wood pieces.

    • redbean
      July 8, 2018 8:29pm

      Love the suggestions. I am definitely putting these down on my list of places to eat and check out.

    • Moya Gray
      July 8, 2018 11:28pm

      Ha! Teshima’s! What memories this brings back – i was taught to make “real” Japanese tempura by this restaurant’s chef when I waitressed there one summer!

  • Kim
    July 2, 2018 3:05pm

    Love it. We go to Honolulu about twice a year, but were just living in Paris for four years. (13 yrs total in France for me) I kept joking, but not joking, that we should ship our Paris apartment furtniture directly to Honolulu. Alas, we moved it exactly one year ago to our home in Colorado (not bad either), and have since had two long visits to this dynamic city in the Pacific. The culinary diversity, and creativity in Honolulu is off of the charts and is one of my favorite reasons to go to Oahu over the other islands. We have cousins there too, so have the advantage of local knowledge which makes all the difference. Fun to read of the link between Paris and Hawaii. We actually visited Hawaii twice during our four years in Paris. Can’t stay away!!

    • Sali
      July 2, 2018 5:31pm

      I am so happy to see someone else who loves Honolulu! Our friends think we are crazy to go there every year instead of Maui, but we prefer to swim in the ocean early in the morning before Waikiki is busy, then we relax by the hotel pool (Royal Hawaiian) until midday, then we go shopping, walking and eating. We always book a table at one the restaurants by the beach for a sunset dinner (House Without a Door, Orchids, Le Mer and Beachhouse at the Moana are our favs). Merrimans just opened an outpost in Honolulu, so we will be going for their fabulous Mai Tais! We are heading there again next month!

  • Aimee M
    July 2, 2018 3:05pm

    Yow. My parents (who live on Maui) often complain of vog (“volcanic smog”) that can be quite nasty depending on how the wind is blowing … but laze is a whole new level of nasty. Stay in the helicopter! A much safer way of seeing all that magic.

  • Paula Tyner
    July 2, 2018 3:11pm

    So love your blog and photos and commentary! Happy you had some down time and with family.

  • July 2, 2018 3:13pm

    What an absolutely fabulous trip! iI have never been, but long to go. The colors! A watercolorists dream. And the bountiful seafood! Must start saving and planning. Thank you!

  • Mari S
    July 2, 2018 3:34pm

    I recognize the orange towels :) –a truly restorative place to stay. I spent time just walking around admiring the building and art and plants and breeze and views. Your family is very lucky. LOVED reading of your experiences and seeing your beautiful photos of the island. Thank you.

  • Julie Cade
    July 2, 2018 3:48pm

    David, Your Big Island post brought back wonderful memories of living north of Hilo in Onomea. We had a commercial tropical fruit company and sold to Merriman’s and a few large hotels in North Kohala area. Vacationing in Hawaii is quite different from living there, of course, but we still get there from the Bay Area once a year. I love your work and play, and I know you do, too! Mahalo nui loa.

  • Trish Lacefield
    July 2, 2018 4:06pm

    What a wonderful looking place! So glad you had a fabulous vacation. Also, thank you for mentioning the macadamia nut company AND including a link to their web site. I finished catching up with you and then made an order. Many thanks again!

  • Holoholo
    July 2, 2018 4:16pm

    Thank you for a lovely post about Hawaii. Right now, sipping coffee and eating toast with lilikoi jelly on an island in Lake Superior. Not Hawaii by any stretch of the imagination, so being transported there a wonderful vicarious experience. Big mahalos!

  • Janet
    July 2, 2018 4:16pm

    I knew exactly where you were by the fabulous beach photo. I happened to be in Maui at the same time. And Mr. Merriman also has a restaurant there. Thanks for sharing.

  • July 2, 2018 4:18pm

    Was remembering a candy (with a great legend) that I had in Hawaii: macadamia nuts, shredded coconut, and dark chocolate – I made them as “Paleo Donkey Balls.” Their factory is in Kona – might be a good time to order some online?

  • Gay Robbins
    July 2, 2018 4:19pm

    You need to go to the NYC Botanical Gardens for the Georgia O’Keefe in Hawaii exhibit. You have photographed many of the same plants. Her paintings of these plants is revelatory.

    • janey
      July 2, 2018 6:51pm

      Yes! I lived in Hana for a couple years, where she painted many of those paintings. They really capture the essence of the nature there.

  • Bernadette
    July 2, 2018 4:20pm

    Gorgeous photos David! Glad you had such a relaxing time. All of those fruits and nuts look terrific!

  • Jen
    July 2, 2018 4:24pm

    I think we were on the Big Island at the same time! Looks like you had less vog (volcanic fog), though, compared to where we were in Kona. So glad you had a wonderful and relaxing time, and that your bravery in going on a helicopter was rewarded with those lovely views! I came home obsessed with shave ice and am now amassing a variety of homemade syrups so we can have a shave ice party with friends. :)

  • July 2, 2018 4:24pm

    I lived in Hawaii for almost 10 yrs, it always has a place in my heart. What I know having been a local is that you didn’t shop a single picture. Those are the amazing colors of the islands. Glad you had a nice time!

  • Mare
    July 2, 2018 4:55pm

    Great photos — loved this post! Have never been to Hawaii, but hope to go there some day! Happy for you, that you had some well deserved down time!

  • Yvonne
    July 2, 2018 5:26pm

    I had the same snorkel experience a few years ago but in Maui. Went out with a group (including DH) and found myself having trouble getting back in to shore. Thank God my bff Carole was able to swim alongside of me, encourage me and get me back to shore. It took almost an hour to get back in.

    We go to Maui every year in September and stay in a condo. There is a farmers market twice a week within a half mile of the condo that we visit to get fresh local fruits and veggies. We do most of our meals in and enjoy eating at the picnic tables overlooking the beach. Glad you had some r&r.

  • donna lynn houston
    July 2, 2018 5:27pm

    It is 90 plus degrees with extremely high humidity in Oklahoma. It is difficult to take a deep breath, the air is so heavy. So…..thanks for sharing your trip. I enjoyed the mental vacation with your pictures and commentary. It was a wonderful little, vicariously enjoyed trip from the confines of my cool house. Thanks again.

  • Ruthie
    July 2, 2018 5:58pm

    Thank you for the beautiful photos and story of your vacation!! Now that I’m living in Switzerland all I can afford is to go back to S. CA. once a year to visit my family and friends. I really miss being able to go to Hawaii. One of my favorite places in the world!!! My favorite food was the fresh pineapples and mangoes!

  • choosie soosie
    July 2, 2018 6:00pm

    Aloha David, so glad you had a great time in our former home. It is interesting to us, having lived on Maui for 6 years, that visitors are always so excited abut the food there. Almost all of it is imported; Hawaii does not even come close to producing all the food it consumes, only about 20%. Even tropical fruits like mangoes are often imported from other locations with lower land and labor costs. The food can be excellent, but sadly, 80% is imported.

  • Row
    July 2, 2018 6:03pm

    I did get a friend request supposedly from you. Thought it was odd and wondered if it really was you. :-)

  • Teresa
    July 2, 2018 6:14pm

    Aloha from Maui and so glad that you had a wonderful stay on the Big Island. If you ever find yourself on the Valley Isle, there is a bakery that makes delicious pies with Ulu (breadfruit), another that makes pies with lilikoi (passion fruit), and another that makes a version of Key lime with a local lime variety. Who knew that pies would be so big here? And then there are the malasadas……I always enjoy your emails and posts. Mahalo!

    • Susan
      July 2, 2018 8:47pm

      Teresa, would you share the name(s) of the bakeries on Maui since we are returning there in a few months? Thanks!

  • Karen
    July 2, 2018 6:42pm

    I had to look up the origin of macadam–the type of road surface–to see if the nut guy was connected to that, too, which would be weird, I think. Turns out it came from someone with the last name MacAdam, a Scot! So glad you got to spend time with family and catch up on your sleep (and eating). But all those hours in the air–both ways–Yikes!

    • Bebe
      July 25, 2018 6:40pm

      I wondered the same thing as you…

      McAdam (road surface inventor) was a Scottish engineer. Macadam (for whom macadamia nuts were named) was a Scottish scientist who moved to Australia.

      I was fortunate to be involved in a resort-development project on the Big Island some years ago so spent a lot of time there and in Honolulu. After being to Oahu and spending time on Maui (especially the old Hana), the Big Island was quite a change. Fascinating place. Your relaxed report and beautiful photos so accurately reflected the spirit of Hawaii.

  • Kristen
    July 2, 2018 7:11pm

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures.

  • Patricia Garvey
    July 2, 2018 7:19pm

    Amazing pictues.maybe someday….

  • Denise
    July 2, 2018 7:28pm

    We were there at the same time. Had I seen you I’d have had to resist gawking! Sounds like you found the good places, as usual. I’m born and raised in Honolulu and lived on the Big Island for 5 years back in the 80s, Hilo and Kona. Next time try a trip to Hilo. A sleepy but beautiful little city that’s been holding its own for generations against eruptions, tsunamis, floods, and droughts both economic and weather. There are many good little local restaurants and activities. The farmers market is fabulous and the flower farms are the best in the state. You’d get some awesome pics! Aloha!

  • July 2, 2018 7:36pm

    Your helicopter photos are worthy of framing. Not everybody gets a chance to see Hawaii like that.
    Hawaii was one of my first trips out of the Midwest. I was gobsmacked.

  • Stephanie Oshman
    July 2, 2018 8:16pm

    I recognize those orange towels anywhere! I happen to be sitting on our lanai as I write this overlooking the Mauna Kea resort. My husbands family have been coming here for over 40 years and this place holds a very special place in our hearts. The people, the food and the love of they have for their land and heritage makes this place magical. Hope you had the Mauna Kea’s legendary Fredricko?! That drink certainly puts you in vacay relaxation mode!

    I have to agree on the coffee brittled macadamias- you can’t stop with just one!

    Question, did you ever make it to Hawaiian Style? A glutton of punishment on your arteries. It would have been a place Anthony Bourdain would have loved. You go there before the rush of the tourists and you feel like part of the Ohana.

    I adore the pictures you took. You captured the essence of this very special place. Thank you for that.

  • Moya Gray
    July 2, 2018 8:28pm

    David – Aloha! So glad you enjoyed our beautiful islands. Your words, as usual, were delicious in describing the Hawaii experience. Please come again! Aloha!

  • July 2, 2018 8:36pm

    Back in the early 80’s, my mother (she’s now 81) had to go to Hawaii (Maui, to be precise) every year for some bigwig IBM executive’s’ annual festival of self-congratulation. she would endure the preliminaries and then, given that IBM paid for all of this, she would simply a book, book a helicopter flight around the island…..then book it again…..and then book it again….and thus escape all the other corporate wives (all of whom she regarded as ninnies). I love that story……and thank you for your stories.

    • aqua6
      July 21, 2018 5:41pm

      I’m sure the wives weren’t all awful but can understand her want to escape. We know someone about the same age, also female, at IBM at that time – in San Jose. I wonder if they worked together?

      • July 21, 2018 6:19pm

        Oh, good Lord…no. My mother is irretrievably Southern, born and raised and lives in East Tennessee and (like me) has never been West of Memphis except in a plane bound for outside-the-continent. My father’s the one who worked for IBM. She didn’t enjoy the corporate stuff or any of the “sort of people” (a phrase she would and still does use) who were there. To say that she never quite gave them a chance would be an understatement, of course. One would have to be familiar with her background and class not to be surprised by this. We weren’t surprised.

        • aqua6
          July 21, 2018 8:04pm

          Too funny. We’re the crazy Californians near San Jose, close enough to see DL at cookbook signings in SF.

          My husband grew up in east TN though, not far from the Oak Ridge Lab. Such a small world in some ways.

  • July 2, 2018 10:26pm

    Aloha! Thanks for sharing your vacation with us. So beautiful. We just got home from Scotland; your Scotland posts inspired us. Mary’s Milk Bar was a revelation!

    My favorite Hamakua Mac nut: Spam flavor! Just because it’s so Hawaiian, and I prefer savory over sweet.

    • BelleD
      July 2, 2018 11:53pm

      Thank you for the info on the spam-flavored mac nut. My neighbors asked for this on our last trip to Maui and I think I about scoured the entire island looking for them.

    • July 3, 2018 3:41pm
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you liked Mary’s Milk Bar – it’s a wonderful place!

  • Joanne
    July 2, 2018 11:36pm

    WOW – thanks for sharing. ALL of your pictures are beautiful.

  • July 3, 2018 1:01am

    What’s your camera that you’re using for these photos?

    Great shots.

    • July 3, 2018 3:38pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve been using a Sony Alpha 6000 for some photos, which is easier to carry around than a heavier DSLR. I’ve written more about my photo gear here.

      • July 5, 2018 9:02am

        Awesome. You’re good at responding to your readers, much appreciated. I’m a Nikon dslr guy, the Sony tip is interesting though. Will read more about it.

  • Sandra Myers
    July 3, 2018 1:24am

    It sounds like you and Romain had an amazing trip, albeit long flights which were worth it. S

  • Alicia
    July 3, 2018 2:06am

    Loved your post which brought me all the amazing memories I have of Hawaii. I recognized the buddha and the open areas at Mauna Kea, what a treat to be able to stay there. The beach is one of the nicest in Hawaii. It is true that it is far for Europeans. It is also far for us in Eastern Canada but Hawaii is just Paradise! Thank you, David.

  • Amy
    July 3, 2018 3:29am

    Love the shout out for Merriman’s. Pittsburgh born and raised chef. ❤️

  • July 3, 2018 5:05am

    I love the Mauna Kea, I love Hawaii and since I live in California I go as often as I can. There is something very special about Hawaii. Great photos David.

  • Donalda Maunakea
    July 3, 2018 6:50am

    So nice you had time to chill with family. I have been living on the Big Island for almost 30 years now. Get your newsletter and enjoy your books~ aloha

  • Fabienne
    July 3, 2018 8:33am

    Lovely! I am so happy you had a little down time here. Take care!

  • Fabienne
    July 3, 2018 8:35am

    P.S. I am sure Hamakua Mac Nuts will send you whatever you want, but if you need another person to send you some, let me know. I live up the road.

    • July 3, 2018 3:41pm
      David Lebovitz

      I brought a tin back but know it’s best to eat those in “moderation” – but thanks for offering to send more. It’s be dangerous to live so close to them!

      • Fabienne
        July 3, 2018 7:13pm

        Proximity and time has made it easy, I forget-until you come and remind us of the goodies nearby! Mahalo David. :)

  • Nancy
    July 3, 2018 7:51pm

    David you are my hero. Mahalo for letting folks know that our island is awesome. The US mainland news makes it sound like those of us living on Da Big Island are living in harms way so close to an erupting volcano when, in fact, the island is very big, Kīlauea has been erupting for thousands of years and in Kona the only physical manifestations of the most recent flow was a quake at the start and vog on days when the winds shift which is no worse than everyday air in LA. All parts of the eruption are considered sacred, part of Pele the volcano goddess. What has been hardest to bear for most of us is the devastation of our local economy with massive cancellation rates for the entire summer season because people don’t know the geography. Most shop owners say business is down by 50-75% and when I walked downtown Kailua Kona last week many of the boutiques were shuttered. The Mauna Lani resort hotel has chosen to close now for 14 months to remodel throwing even more out of work. My husband’s golf club rental business was down 50% last month. Hmm…the sea keeps pounding, the snorkeling remains the best in the islands, you can find an open farmers market 6 days a week (Keauhou market has FRESH shrimp big as prawns for $12/#) and a glut of great restaurants. OMG Merriman’s smashed potatoes! No pix of Mauna Kea resorts free nightly manta ray show where you stand on shore and watch them just a few feet below? Please look at Andrew Hara’s Facebook page for the most amazing photos and video of the eruption. He is a Big Island resident, National Geographic photographer working with the authorities and his art is amazing. His most recent photo is taken standing at the summit of Mauna Kea on a moonlit night looking south to see the cinder cone at Fissure 8 and the river of lava to the sea. Mahalo nui loa for the banana upside down cake recipe; someday you should taste it using our island apple bananas which are pint-sized, pack a powerful banana taste and make a very pretty top to the cake. Yes, that’s just what a Fourth of July in Hawaii party needs!

    • Sarahb1313
      July 4, 2018 11:21pm

      Nancy- I am so sorry to hear the island is struggling. It is such a jewel. I hope the news cycle improves. We loved the time we spent there and even in a whole week could barely explore 1/3 of the island.
      Our friends just returned from the Big Island a few weeks back and had a beautiful visit.
      We hope to be back soon.

    • July 4, 2018 11:28pm
      David Lebovitz

      The news is a little disquieting for some, but there didn’t seem any reason not to come. I know from living in Paris that people often cancel trips when they read the news. Sometimes (of course) cancelling a trip is merited, but the planes to the Big Island were full and places like our hotel and Merriman’s had plenty of guests, so hopefully the other parts of the island economy will spring back quickly.

      The manta rays are pretty beautiful at night and another place we had dinner at, had moray eels, which weren’t as…um, enjoyable, to watch : 0

  • Meri
    July 4, 2018 8:41pm

    Dear David,
    Glad you went to and enjoyed the beautiful islands.

    I love that you have the eye and the soul to take awesome nature images as well as food photography.

    Wouldn’t it be amazing to combine the two a little bit?

    Would love to see more of your fabulous food Photography in a natural setting.

    It would be very peaceful and a lovely art form since many ppl appreciate both elements. Nature and food.

    You are a clever lad, I know you could bring this to the table. There isn’t a lot of this killer combo out there!

    Thank-you for bringing beautiful art and priceless humor to the world.!

  • July 4, 2018 10:20pm

    Been to the Big Island twice now and it’s hands down my favorite Hawaiian island and favorite tropical getaway anywhere. Adore Merriman’s, adore Hamakua (always come home laden down with gifts); beyond the good restaurant offerings, their produce and fresh fish make cooking there a highlight. It’s been nearly three years since we were last there and your photos have me looking into flights!

  • Suzanne
    July 5, 2018 8:31pm

    Mauna Kea. My happy place. Your pictures captured its essence. Thank you for sharing your wonderful, relaxing vacation. I hope you got to snorkel and I hope you had a waffle at breakfast with Waimea strawberries and coconut syrup.

  • redbean
    July 7, 2018 5:47am

    Wonderful post and great photos. I’m actually heading to the Big Island as well for vacation and reading about your stay makes me excited to go (and spend money). It does make me sad that the economy has been adversely affected by volcanic activity.

    I love the comments and suggestions of places to visit and restaurants and foods to eat. Thanks to everyone for the recommendations.

  • tgt
    July 9, 2018 7:01am

    Thank you so much for this post. How fun that you were able to spend so much quality time with your family. We have stayed at the same hotel – perfect!

  • Teddi
    July 13, 2018 1:24am

    I’m probably too late asking, but I would love to know what beach your pictures taken on. We travel to Europe quite frequently for our business and take extra time for us, but when we go to Hawaii we leave the business behind. Such a treat. We were lucky enough to stay in the Onion House on outlast trip.

    • Fab
      July 13, 2018 2:07am

      Mauna Kea