Category: What’s Cooking?



SOMEWHERE ON SUNDAY between early morning and late afternoon falls the time for brunch. Because after a late night out all we really want is to sleep in and wake up whenever it feels like we can honestly say that we had a great nights sleep.

There is something unique about waking up in Hawai‘i if you are kama‘aina or an in-love visitor. We always remember Hawai‘i and especially her food. Recently I had the opportunity to visit for 4 weeks; a week on each of the four main Hawaiian Islands known as Hawai‘i to locals, Maui, O‘ahu and Kaua‘i. Each of the islands had something very different to offer but I was going after coffee and really good food.


I specifically want to talk about brunch. Technically that super casual meal that falls between morning and afternoon on a Sunday. That meal you go to with a wrinkled white t-shirt, sweat pants and bed hair and an don’t care attitude.

I love to stay local when I travel, but nothing wrong with a fancy hotel either. On Maui we stayed in Historic Lahainatown at The Pioneer Inn. An establishment that has been a Maui fixture since 1901, Recently the restaurant and bar was taken over by one very talented hard-working chef, Lee Anne Wong in 2020. It is the oldest hotel in Lahaina and on the island of Maui and the oldest in continuous operation in the state of Hawaii. Oh my, if the walls could talk.

But brunch has been popping up and becoming more and more popular all over the US mainland and Hawaii is now just coming around to this idea and thankfully this is Chef Wong’s creative comfort zone. Think freshly roasted, brewed Hawaiian coffee, hand-made donuts and perfectly cooked eggs all wrapped up and topped by a bright cocktail.

Left to Right: Kim Brisson-Lutz, Brew Master at Maui Brewing Company, Kihei, HI | Heather Brisson-Lutz, Master Roaster/Owner of Origins Coffee, Kihei HI | Qiana Di Bari, Owner of Sale Pepe Pizzeria e Cucina, Lahaina, HI | Pomai Wiegert of Go Farms, Hawai’i | Melissa Padilla of Melissa Padilla Creative & Co., Hawai’i | Kaili Scheer of Restaurant Marlow in Pukalani, HI and Olympia Etal, HI


Now brunch has some serious history behind it. The word brunch was first coined in the 1890’s. A writer pushed the words “breakfast” and “lunch” together. It was claimed to be “cheerful, social and indicting” along with “compelling talk”.


We woke late, rolled out of bed and took coffee to go choosing to walk around the Lahaina Harbor area. Fishing boats had already departed but the area was seedy in all the right ways to give character to our walk. Then we headed for brunch.

Chef Lee Anne Wong to many does not need any culinary introduction. From Top Chef alumni to working with the best chefs and food producers she moved to Hawaii in 1990 and opened the super popular Koko Head Café in Kaimuki, Oahu. Fast-forward 4 years she found her love-match with Lyle Cady, a successful graphic artist in his own right then came baby Rye. The entire family moved to Maui and Lee Anne struck a working relationship to transform the tired restaurant which has been renamed and reimagined as Papa’aina inside the historic Pioneer Inn.

There is no Chinese food on Maui to write home about, which is surprising on one hand with the local population made up of many Asian immigrants. Then you ask Lee Anne about this missing culinary craving and you can see her imagining a slew of older but knowledgeable Chinese aunties in the kitchen sitting on old wooden stools making handmade noodles and dumplings – it just doesn’t exist. Too labor intensive and with the current labor shortages, we get the picture loud and clear.


We begin brunch with a 100% local fruit plate. And Lee Anne is serious about local. She is often found at the farmers’ market close to her home on Saturday mornings. We are told by the best farmers that Lee Anne was here and gone before the sun came up. We counted over a dozen different fruits, described in detail in the photo.

Then we ordered Avocado Pancakes. We inhaled them. More please was running through our mind as a second cup of coffee was offered with perfect timing.

My partner wanted fresh fish since we were near the Lahaina Harbor. She was 100% right. It was better than the over saturated poke found all over the island on ever street corner and food truck. The smoked Kanpachi was refined, fresh and delicious.

At Koko Head Café the Chef creates a skillet dish, which we understand is a throw back to the way locales have breakfast. Papa’aina continued the tradition with Baked Eggs with Garlic Cream. So good we asked for the recipe.

Since my partner doesn’t eat eggs (can you imagine?) there are many other selections for the eggless personalities and she ordered Beef Noodle Soup. The broth was hot, rich and flavorful – the best soup we ate during our entire trip.

The atmosphere feels authentic and steeped in history. The food is bright and contemporary. Service is like visiting friends home which was caring, attentive and comfortable. [ eHI ]


100% Local Fruit Plate
Baked Eggs with Garlic Cream
Beef Noodle Bowl

Left to Right
> Kim Brisson-Lutz – Brew Master at Maui Brewing Company, Kihei, HI
> Heather Brisson-Lutz – Master Roaster/ Owner of Origins Coffee, Kihei HI
> Qiana Di Bari – Owner of Sale Pepe Pizzeria e Cucina, Lahaina, HI
> Pomai Wiegert – Go Farms, Hawai‘i
> Melissa Padilla – Melissa Padilla Creative & Co., Hawai‘i
> Kaili Scheer – Restaurant Marlow in Pukalani, HI and Olympia Etal, HI 




During the winter, we eat a lot of hardy squashes. Like most cooks, we usually cut them into wedges or cubes, throw them in oven until they’re caramelized and tender and call it done. During our stay in Sicily, Fabrizia Lanza made us a dish of grilled winter squash that forced us to look at the vegetable in a completely different way and showed off the depth and subtlety of Sicilian food. Cooking sliced delicata rings quickly over a grill produces squash that still has a bit of snap and a flavorful hint of its vegetal roots, one that doesn’t surrender completely to its sugary nature.
Servings: 6


  • 1 delicata squash
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 shallots sliced
  • .25 cup olive oil
  • .25 cup golden raisins
  • .25 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • Cut off one end of each of the squashes to reveal the seeds and core. Using a long-handled spoon, scrape out the seeds and discard (or save for another use). Cut the squash crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices.
  • Heat a grill or a grill pan over moderate heat. Do not oil the grates of the grill or the pan, but make sure they are very clean. Have a platter and a piece of foil on hand. 
  • Dry-grill the squash until charred on one side, about 5 minutes, then use tongs to flip the squash and continue to cook until the slices are well browned and almost tender, about 5 minutes more. As the slices are grilled, transfer them to a platter and cover with foil. Season lightly with salt and keep tightly covered while you make the agrodolce.n sheet about 5 minutes before placing on a wire cooling rack until cooled completely.
  • Combine the shallots and olive oil in a skillet over moderate heat and cook, stirring from time to time, until softened and golden brown in spots, about 10 minutes. 
  • Stir in the raisins, vinegar, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper and simmer until the mixture has reduced to a juicy glaze, about 2 minutes. 
  • Immediately pour the shallot mixture over the squash and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving.





  • 1 Medium Kabocha Squash I used a kabocha and a pumpkin
  • 1 local onion rough chop 
  • 3 local carrots peeled & rough chop
  • 3 cloves garlic rough chop
  • 2 inch piece of ginger peeled and rough chop
  • 4-6 cups Vegetable or Chicken Stock depending on squash size
  • 1 tbs Olive Oil 
  • 1 tbs Garam Masala
  • 1 Can full fat coconut milk 
  • 2-3 tsp sea salt to taste 
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste 


  • Slice the squash in half and remove the seeds. Place on a sheet tray lined with parchment, skin up for 30-40 minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool. While the squash is cooling, prepare the other ingredients. 
  • Sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent about 3 minutes. Add ginger and garlic, sautéing until fragrant 1-2 minutes. Add veggie/ chicken stock. Once squash is cool, scoop the flesh out of the skins and add to the warm stockpot. Add garam masala, sea salt and black pepper. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes to infuse flavors. 
  • Using a Vitamix or high-speed blender carefully add the soup to the Vitamix in small batches (I fill about ½ way with hot liquids) I add about ¼ - 1/3 C full fat coconut milk to the blender while pureeing. If too thick, add a touch more of the cooking stock. Taste, and adjust seasonings before moving to the next batch, if needed.


Extra coconut milk to swirl on top
Toasted pumpkin seeds



½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 cup taro chips, crushed

½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup white chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.

3. Add eggs one at a time and then beat in vanilla extract.

4. In a large bowl sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add taro chips and coconut. Add to the wet mixture in three additions, then stir in white chocolate chips.

5. Place about a tablespoon of batter an inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8-12 minutes until the edges start to brown. Cool on sheet about 5 minutes before placing on a wire cooling rack until cooled completely.



Servings: 6


  • 2 lbs taro
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock or broth 
  • .5 lemon lemon juice
  • .5 bunch kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • .5 bunch fresh cilantro roots, stems and leaves
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 7 cloves crushed garlic
  • .5 tsp salt
  • .25 tsp ground pepper


  • and cut taro into 1” cubes
  • broth in a deep pan and add taro. lemon juice and boil about 25 minutes or until tender
  • In a large fry pan, ½ cup water and the chopped kale and cilantro along with the salt and pepper
  • over high heat until the kale has wilted. Transfer the kale-cilantro mixture to a blender and puree
  • Melt butter in a frying pan, add garlic and fry until beginning to brown
  • the pureed greens and cook for a further 5 minutes
  • the kale mixture to the taro and bring to a boil. Serve and enjoy



MY AFFECTION FOR SALE PEPE WAS INSTANT. In 2014, barely a few weeks into their opening, the word about Maui’s brand new Italian restaurant had gotten around swiftly. Maybe it was the spirited Italian banter between the kitchen and the servers, the intoxicating scent of garlic and herbs wafting through the space, the sacks of Italian flour or the cans of San Marzano tomatoes stacked by the counter. Who knows – but something delicious was clearly happening.

Diners flocked to enjoy dishes created by Chef Michele Di Bari and his business partner and wife, Qiana Di Bari. The couple set the bar for Italian cuisine on Maui, enriching the neighborhood and our palates in the process.

Michele rolls and cuts the pasta and pizza dough every morning. He learned the art of pasta making from his mother and was schooled at La Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli (The Italian School of Pizza). His food marries locally sourced ingredients with the rich traditions he grew up with in Rozzano, Milan and his deep familial roots in southern Italy’s Lavello and Lacedonia, where the Di Baris are currently building their dream home. The cooking is simple and honest; the end-result, superb. Kauai prawns top house made grilled crostini; arancinis rest on Maui Cattle Company Bolognese; and a fresh, local catch can be found on the special most evenings.

Brooklyn-raised Qiana manages front of the house. No stranger to building a following on the laurels of authenticity and artistry, Qiana managed one of the best hip-hop groups from the genre’s 1990’s golden era, A Tribe Called Quest, before becoming a restaurateur. Her gentle demeanor, warmth and sharp wit lend a sincere hospitality to the dining room.


Bu’ono, you might guess, is a combination of buono and ‘ono, respectively Italian and Hawaiian for delicious. The initial launch was done in collaboration with R. Field Wine Company, the gourmet and artisanal section of Foodland Farms Lahaina and Foodland Kehalani in Wailuku. Soon, Bu’ono will be available at Whole Foods Market on O’ahu and Maui, quite a win for this family endeavor.

Three types of pasta will be in production: spaghetti rigatoni, penne and strozzapreti, which literally means priest choker as it was traditionally served as an after-mass meal where the priests supposedly overindulged on pasta. Bu’ono offerings also include vibrant marinara, and a pesto sauce that highlights beautiful basil by local growers like Kumu Farms and Oko’a Farms. The fresh pasta and sauce provide a quick, wholesome and well-crafted dinner option for a family.

While Michele credits Qiana for most of the new menu specials and big-picture ideas, Qiana is quick to deflect some shine back on her partner. “We collaborate, that’s our thing,” shared Qiana. “He’s always moving, he’s never still. There’s not a lot of time for reflection. It’s hard for me to keep up with him during the day cause he’s just flying. His speed and power are really strong. But then he’ll stop in the middle of a dash, and say, ‘I remember when I was little; we would always eat panzarotti at the beach. I think I’m going to do that today.’ And he’ll come out of the blue with something epic. It is totally reciprocal.”


“We go to Italy to connect with the roots and to remember how to maintain the Italian standard,” said Qiana. “What happens in Italy is that we’ll be sitting at the most mundane table somewhere, maybe someone’s house that I’ve sat in a million times or maybe a café. And something will come out on the table and I’ll say, ‘Why don’t we show people that?’ Then we go to New York, and it gets me excited about the future.”

Italian travels are for visits to Michele’s family who now live in Ripaldina, two hours from Milan. The time is also spent sourcing better products. “There are always new products we can find,” said Michele. “Better prosciutto, better flour, better olive oil, better semolina, and that’s a big deal.”

Last summer, he spent a birthday dinner at a farm with the family, something he hadn’t done in 20 years. Sunday suppers are called pastasciutta and consist of “slow, legacy cooking of braised meat and pasta that roots the rest of the week.” Michele’s mother would make ravioli and orecchiette, and the family would spend hours eating and enjoying each other’s company. Michele’s mother holidays on Maui at times, and when she does, she can often be seen making her own special pastas for the restaurant; it’s a sight to behold.

“We work hard because we see how much people love it,” said Qiana. “We are motivated by our community, the locals and the visitors, but we want to get excited too. We want to be titillated by our creative process.”





Recipe Courtesy of Michele Di Bari of Sale Pepe, Lahaina, Maui HI

Photography by Mykle Coyne

Serves 6


3 small potatoes

½ pound green beans

1 ½ pounds Bu’ono spaghetti

10 ounces Bu’ono pesto sauce

½ cup Grana Padano cheese

Salt and pepper

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)


1. Boil potatoes with the skin on. Once cooked, peel and slice them small.

2. Snap both ends off the green beans, wash, and boil them in salted water for 1 minute. Drain.

3. Cook spaghetti till al dente. When draining the pasta, save some of the cooking water.

4. Toss the cooked spaghetti with potatoes, green beans, pesto sauce and Grana Padano cheese.

5. Drizzle with EVOO and serve immediately.


Recipe Courtesy of Michele Di Bari of Sale Pepe, Lahaina, Maui HI

Photography by Mykle Coyne

Serves 5


3 to 4 cups Italian Arborio rice cooked al dente, cooled

¼ cup basil, chopped

¼ cup capers

¼ cup pickled pearl onions

¼ cup green olives, pitted

¼ cup black olives, pitted

¼ cup green peas

¼ cup corn

¼ cup chick peas

¼ cup cannellini beans

¼ cup black beans

1 small or ½ large red or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped

½ cup celery, chopped

½ cup carrot, chopped

2 tablespoons honey mustard

¼ cup vinaigrette, made with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, plus more as needed

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper

¼ cup Grana Padano cheese


1. Combine the honey mustard, olive oil and red wine vinegar in a small dish.

2. Put the rice and all the vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and use two big forks to combine. Add the Grana Padano cheese, tossing gently to separate the grains.

3. Stir in the parsley, taste, and adjust the seasoning or moisten with a little more vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for up to a day, bringing the salad back to room temperature before serving.


Recipe Courtesy of Michele Di Bari of Sale Pepe, Lahaina, Maui HI

Photography by Mykle Coyne

Serves 4-5


1½ pounds eggplant

Olive oil as needed (at least ½ cup)

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

1½ pounds of San Marzano canned peeled tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh oregano

¼ teaspoon basil

1 pound of Bu’ono rigatoni

¼ teaspoon parsley, chopped

½ cup grated Ricotta Salata or Pecorino Romano


1. Slice the eggplant about ½ inch thick. Cook in abundant olive oil, without crowding, sprinkling with salt and adding more oil as needed. You will undoubtedly have to cook in batches; take your time and cook until the eggplant is nicely browned and soft. Remove to a plate. Meanwhile, put a large pot of water on to boil and salt it.

2. After cooking the eggplant, the pan will ideally have a couple of tablespoons of oil left. If there is more or less, drain some off or add a bit. Turn the heat to medium. Add the garlic and onions and cook until the garlic and onion color a little bit. Add the tomatoes, oregano, and basil along with some salt and pepper; cook until saucy but not too dry, stirring occasionally.

3. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 1 minute and half, While the pasta is cooking, cut the eggplant into strips and reheat for a minute in the tomato sauce. Drain the pasta and toss it with the tomato sauce and the eggplant. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then top with the parsley or basil and grated cheese and serve.




Photography by Kate Winsland and Guy Ambrosino
Course: Side Dish
Servings: 6 People
Author: Kate Winsland and Guy Ambrosino


  • Pot
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Medium Baking Dish
  • Small Skillet


  • 2 lbs. Mixed Small Onions Such as Pearl Onions, Cipollini, and / or Shallots
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Strips Bacon Chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Grainy Mustard
  • 1 tsp. Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Flat-Leaf Parsley Finely Chopped


  • Heat the oven to 400°F. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop in the onions and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain well and run under cold water.
  • When cool enough to handle, peel the onions and trim the root ends, dropping the onions into a mixing bowl as you work. Add the olive oil and season with ½ teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper.
  • Arrange the onions in a single layer in a medium baking dish and put in the oven. Roast until tender and lightly browned in spots, about 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a small skillet over moderately high heat, stirring from time to time, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the bacon and transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Keep any fat that remains in the skillet.
  • Return the skillet to the heat and add the vinegar, mustard, sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  • Pour the hot dressing over the roasted onions, along with the crisped bacon. Toss everything gently together, garnish with the parsley, and serve warm.