Dessert in Maui, HI
Ululani (oo-loo-LAH-nee) means “heavenly inspiration,” and there is no doubt that this tiny shave ice shack on Lahaina’s busy Front Street is divinely sent. It’s tucked away, but you will find it – the sometimes hour-long lines will be the clue you’re near. What makes it worth the wait? This is the best shave ice on Maui, and easily rivals the best on Oahu. Every syrup is made from real fruit sweetened with cane sugar, and they are layered over the fluffiest, flakiest, most carefully-shaved ice in the state. The result is bright, genuine flavor that surprise before melting to nothing (bonus: no artificial flavors means no funky aftertaste). Each is delicious, but try the Haleakala: coconut and dulce de leche syrups topped with sweetened condensed cream. Another favorite: Sunset Beach: guava, mango, and passion orange syrups. Each treat is guaranteed: if you lose flavor before you reach the bottom of your gigantic serving, they’ll top it off.
Food lovers who have strolled the ancient streets of Rome, Florence or Venice inevitably roll their eyes when they hear Maui has fantastic gelato. One taste of Ono Gelato Company’s endless varieties halts the skeptics in their tracks; the only eye-rolling that happens is to the back of the head. With a third generation Italian gelato maker churning out the classic chocolates and hazelnuts as well as only-in-Hawaii flavors such as seamist (lemongrass, lime, mint and green tea) and dragonfruit (a deep pink color, a playfully sweet flavor), made from local, organic fruit, everyone from purists to vegans love Ono Gelato Company. The original Paia location has spawned joints in Lahaina and Kihei, which means locals and visitors alike get to enjoy “ono” (Hawaiian for “delicious”) gelato every day of the week.
Lahaina Grill is that rare Maui restaurant that doesn’t have a fabulous view, which means they have to feature great food to keep crowds coming. They do with the big, bold, layered flavors have been drawing in locals and visitors for decades. Saving room for dessert may be hard, but you’ll be glad you did. The perennial favorite, named The Road to Hana, Maui, is layers of chocolate cake, chocolate sour cream mousse, and macadamia nut caramel. If you drive the winding road to Hana, Maui, in real life, you’ll recognize the swooping swirls in the dessert (and you won’t need Dramamine to enjoy this road). A local favorite is the humbly named Triple Berry Pie -- raspberries, blueberries and black currants baked in a light, flaky crust with only enough sugar and lemon to brighten their natural sweetness. Served on a simple bed of whipped cream, this pie and a cup of coffee -- perfection!
The desserts at Mama's Fish House (known as "the most Hawaiian of restaurants") range from simple homemade sorbets to fancier concoctions like the silky creme brulee made with fresh liliko’i (passionfruit). Our particular favorite is the Banana Macadamia Nut Crisp: ripe local bananas tumbled with brown sugar streusel and macadamia nuts, served warm and topped with vanilla bean ice cream. As delicious as it is, the presentation does not inspire the oohs and ahhs heard when the restaurant’s signature dessert, the Polynesian Black Pearl, is served. Talk about a jewel setting: an oyster-shaped pastry seashell opens to showcase a “pearl” of chocolate mousse and liliko’i cream enrobed in more chocolate. The delicate, lemony-orange passionfruit offsets the mousse brilliantly, making this not only the most spectacular dessert on Maui, but one of the most delicious.
The Grand Wailea Resort features over-the-top pools, a multi-million dollar art collection, and an upscale restaurant set in a lagoon stocked with live fish ... yet few locals know that the best malasadas on Maui can also be found here. These Portuguese treats – a type of round donut – are beloved in Hawaii, and we will go far and wide to find the best version. The Grand’s pastry chefs have perfected every step of the process: the yeast dough is full-flavored and light, the size yields the perfect three bites, the frying is just long enough to crisp the outside but leave the inside slightly underdone, and the sugar coating is only enough to provide crunch and a kiss of sweet. They are made in front of the Sunday Champagne brunch crowd, and you may need to wait in line as the malasada maker hustles to keep up with demand. Have another glass of champagne while you wait – these malasadas are worth the price of the brunch.