Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop

meter-ha-Everybody likes pie, and everybody likes Hawaii. So what’s a person to do when they want both at the same time? They go to Leoda’s of course. Simple.

"You got your pie shop on my island!" "You got your island under my pie shop!"

“You got your pie shop on my island!” “You got your island under my pie shop!”

” It was as though angels had trained a thousand tiny unicorns to poop apples instead of candy corn “

During one of our many drives around Maui, my wife and I decided that we could use an afternoon snack. We’d have been fine making a meal of it, but we had dinner plans for later so an hors d’ oeuvre would have to do. A friend had recommended to us that we check out this pie place in Lahaina, and since we were in the area we headed into town and started looking around …and we found absolutely nothing. Huh? Oh, alright fine, what does Google Maps say? Seven miles away. In Hawaii that’s 90 minutes of driving. As it turns out, you see, Lahaina is an entire district and not just a town. Heavy sigh.

State of Hawaii: 1
Clueless tourists: 0

Feeling better educated and also somewhat silly, we got back in the car and drove down the road while quietly starving to death. Eventually the Terse Navigation Lady that lives inside Hertz GPS units alerted us to make a left turn RIGHT NOW into oncoming traffic, which we did, and hey! There was a big sign with “Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop” written on it right in front of us. Totally worth the risk to life and property.

Just look at all those pies! piespiespiespiespiespiespiespiespiespiespies

Just look at all those pies! piespiespiespiespiespiespiespiespiespiespies

A funny thing occurs when you’re hungry enough to eat your own cargo shorts and are suddenly faced with several hundred delicious pies. Your jaw begins to flap around on its own while your brain attempts to work out the quickest way to absorb as many calories as possible, making comprehensible speech quite a challenge. Luckily my wife was there to translate my slurred caveman mumbles into “One apple hand pie and one banana cream mini pie please.” We walked to a nearby table (I shuffled), sat down, and got to work on our noms.

A flaky, sugary pouch of pure apple goodness.

A flaky, sugary pouch of pure apple goodness.

It’s possible that our harrowing navigation experience made me appreciate life more or maybe I was just that hungry, but the apple hand pie was damn near the finest dessert food I have ever experienced. I don’t know why they call it a “hand pie” though. Despite the fact that it appeared to be travel friendly and pick-uppable, even so much as a sideways glance was enough to make it disintegrate into a flaky pile of pureed pie bits. This weakness was also the crust’s strength, however, because it was amazingly delicate and light while at the same time being flavorful, buttery, crispy… It was perfection, really. The apple filling, believe it or not, was slightly better than that. It was as though angels had trained a thousand tiny unicorns to poop apples instead of candy corn, and then made a pie out it. It was unreal.

What a cute little pie. I could just eat it all up! (Actually, I did.)

What a cute little pie. I could just eat it all up! (Actually, I did.)

We were so impressed with the pies (the banana cream was crazy good too) that we came back a couple days later for lunch. Of course we got another apple hand pie and also a rather tasty burger. I decided to make a late breakfast out of the meal and ordered a savory biscuit (herbs and cheese) as well as a bacon and egg hand pie. This turned out to be about five times more food than we needed, but we were very keen to try as much of the menu as possible. I’m happy to report that everything we ate at Leoda’s was amazing, but nothing quite matched the magic of that first apple pie.

Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop qualifies as a must-visit whenever you find yourself on Maui and earns 999 out of 1,000 tiny, angel-trained unicorns. Bring your appetite, a pair of elastic pants, and a shop vac for cleaning up pie crust crumbs.

Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop
820 Olowalu Village Road
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 662-3600
Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop on Urbanspoon

The bacon and egg handheld isn't exactly a typical Hawaiian breakfast, but it sure is tasty.

The bacon and egg handheld isn’t exactly a typical Hawaiian breakfast, but it sure is tasty.

Cast iron, part 2: Cooking and cleaning

Alright, so you’ve gone and got yourself a cast iron pan like I asked and maybe even thought about preparing a meal or two in it. At this point you’ve probably said to yourself, “Gosh, that cast iron thingy looks so cool sitting in my kitchen!” Yes, it sure does, but the time has come to actually start cooking with the darned thing.

A hot pan is a happy pan.

A hot pan is a happy pan.

” It’s the same material battleships and wrecking balls are made out of “

If you want your cast iron to behave in a civilized, non-stick manner, there is a key step you’ll need to remember: Always start with a hot pan. Not only does it ensure a perfectly sanitary cooking surface, but it also makes unruly foods you’re preparing cooperate with you. Like most of the so-called advice I dole out, I have no idea exactly why this works; it just does. Someone once told me I should preheat my pans before cooking, I did, and it made kitchen life a lot easier – now it’s my turn to pass the knowledge on. So what does “hot” mean? Well… that’s tricky to explain, and dialing in that just-so temperature takes a bit of practice. Different dishes will require that you start with a hotter or cooler pan, but generally speaking your cast iron should be hot enough to make a light spray of water droplets “dance” but not so hot that the pan starts to smoke. You can test the temperature of your cooking surface by putting butter on it. (REAL butter, people. From cows.) The pan should be hot enough to make the butter sizzle deliciously but not change color. Dab a small wad of paper towel in the sizzling buttery goodness and have a look at it. If it has a brownish hue to it, your pan is too hot. Dump the burnt butter, wipe the pan, and start over. (Super snazzy tip: Adding a bit of olive oil first will help prevent your butter from burning.)

Butter should sizzle but not burn. Mmmm, butter...

Butter should sizzle but not burn. Mmmm, butter…

Great. Now I’ve gone and made you get your cookware all dirty. Well don’t get your apron in a bunch, because cleaning cast iron ain’t so bad. You’ve probably heard horror stories about how someone or other used soap on their grandmother’s favorite cast iron whatever and it was RUINED FOREVER. Yeah, that’s a myth. It’s cast iron for Pete’s sake. It’s the same material battleships and wrecking balls are made out of. It’s tough. Soap ain’t going to hurt it. The seasoning, on the other hand, does take a little more care.

Here’s what you need to know: The seasoning that develops on a well-used piece of cast iron cookware is actually polymerized oil. (Polymerized is just a fancy word for “baked on”.) This thin coat of mysteriously transformed oil not only prevents the cast iron from rusting, but it also provides awesome nonstickiness – a word I made up just now. Each layer of polymerized oil is like a delicate coat of paint, and many layers add up to become the glossy sheen of seasoning that makes other cast iron cookware owners envious of you. Seasoning comes and goes; it’s no big deal. Cooking adds to it, and washing strips it away. Soap strips it away faster, and steel wool strips it away completely.

Sometimes you just need to scrape.

Sometimes you just need to scrape.

When it comes time to clean a cast iron piece, you should do your best to preserve the seasoning. Your first priority should always be clean cookware, but the seasoning should be a very-close-behind second priority. Don’t worry, it’s actually pretty easy. Because I’m so nice, I’ll even give you a specific set of steps to follow every time you clean:

  1. Wipe with a paper towel
    • No matter how bad it looks, always start with a simple paper towel and see how it goes – it’ll usually work a lot better than you think it will. As your cast iron develops its seasoning, this step will most often be the only one you need to follow.

  2. Scrape with a metal spatula

    • When you encounter a stubborn bit of food that refuses to be wiped away with a mere paper towel, break out your metal spatula. You won’t hurt the seasoning or the cast iron, so scrape away and follow up with another round of Step 1.

  3. Scrub with salt

    • When scraping and wiping aren’t getting the job done, put a couple teaspoons of table salt in your pan and add a dab of vegetable oil to make a thin, grainy paste. Get in there with your fingers (they are clean, aren’t they?) and scrub. Follow up with Step 1.

  4. Simmer some water

    • If you’ve really got a mess on your hands, this technique will usually do the trick. Pour a thin layer of water into the bottom of your cast iron pot/pan (enough to cover the messy parts) and turn on the heat. As the water heats up and begins to simmer, scrape with your metal spatula and watch the gunk magically lift away. Pour out the water, wipe thoroughly dry, and apply a very thin layer of oil to help replace some of the seasoning that was probably just lost.

  5. Soap and sponge

    • Sometimes you just need soap. Avoid this if at all possible, but there are times when there’s just no other choice. Scrub only the parts that really need it, and stop the very moment you’ve got it clean. As with Step 4, dry completely and add a thin layer of oil afterwards.

  6. Steel wool

    • Geez, what did you cook? Napalm? Whatever it was, don’t make it again. This step is an absolute last resort, and one that I have never personally resorted to. Scrub your little heart out and re-season your cookware from scratch. Apologize to your cast iron and tell it this was all your fault.
Scrubbing with a salt-and-oil slurry will get you out of a lot of messy situations.

Scrubbing with a salt-and-oil slurry will get you out of a lot of messy situations.

You are now armed with all the knowledge you need to cook with cast iron, clean it afterwards, and bore the pants off of people at cocktail parties with polymerized oil factoids. Go get ’em.

Maui Shave Ice Extravaganza

As if Hawaii wasn’t fabulous enough with its tropical climate, breathtaking views, and go-with-the-flow mentality, it’s also home to the mother of all hot weather refreshments: Shave ice. My wife and I make it a point to consume as many of these icy, sugary heaps of wonderful as we possibly can whenever we find ourselves on the islands.

Before we get started, let’s talk about the name. It’s “shave ice”, not “shaved ice”. There is no D after “shave”. Yes, technically “shaved” is the grammatically correct approach, but anyone who says it that way is probably from the mainland and thinks that Magnum, P.I. was a reality show. So why is the wrong way to say it the right way? Because that’s how they say it in Hawaii. Why is a “po’ boy” sandwich not called a “poor boy”, and why does Mr. T say “I pity da fool!” instead of “Verily, I feel sympathy for individuals in predicaments such as that one”? Same answer. Local dialect + awesome food = stop complaining. On a related subject, if you’re high strung enough to let the name “shave ice” get on your nerves, you could probably use a Hawaiian vacation. Just hang loose.


Those dark specks are kiwi seeds. Why? Because Ululani's smashed up a bunch of kiwis and made their own syrup out of them, that's why.

Those dark specks are kiwi seeds. Why? Because Ululani’s smashed up a bunch of kiwis and made their own syrup out of them, that’s why.

Our very first visit, Ululani’s, turned out to be our favorite spot for the entire trip. There are several locations dotted around Maui, and we visited three of them over the course of the week. Ululani’s standout feature is the fact that they make most of their own syrups from scratch and sweeten them with cane sugar. Unlike the fake bottles of dye everyone else uses, these syrups actually need to be refrigerated to keep them from going bad. They’re actually made out of real fruit! *gasp* Their list of flavors is astronomical, from kiwi to wild cherry to mango to lychee and dozens more. It’s probably the best shave ice I’ve ever had, and that’s saying something.

Ululani’s Shave Ice
Flavor options: Mind-boggling
Snow cap: Yes
Ice cream: Yes
Ice texture: Fine, dense, almost powdery
Rating: Your head asplode


Given the choice between Maui Barista and no shave ice at all, I suppose I'd go with Maui Barista out of sheer desperation.

Given the choice between Maui Barista and no shave ice at all, I suppose I’d go with Maui Barista out of sheer desperation.

Maui is home to dozens of charming towns, lush tropical vegetation, and breathtaking coastal views. Whalers Village shopping center features none of these things. It was an unfortunate turn of luck, then, when my spouse and I found ourselves there due to a bit of devious GPS trickery. There’s nothing especially wrong with Whalers Village per se, but it’s just not special. And it’s certainly nothing like the tropical paradise we inexplicably left behind in order to trudge through retail hell.

To help make something worthwhile out of our journey (and to validate our parking stub), we paid a visit to Maui Barista Coffee & Smoothies. They make shave ice too, but apparently it wasn’t important enough to include in their business name along with everything else. Just like the mall in which it’s located, Maui Barista isn’t bad so much as it’s unremarkable. (In a remarkable place like Hawaii, however, I suppose that probably is bad.) The flavor selections are limited and very standard; banana is about as crazy as it gets. Further compounding the issue of mediocrity, additional options (e.g., snow cap) are nonexistent and prices are a bit on the high side. Service was prompt and friendly and there’s a nicely shaded seating area nearby, but that just about sums up all the good points. If you happen to find yourself trapped in Whaler’s Village and aren’t sure what to do with the extra $4.75 in your pocket, I guess you could consider stopping by.

Maui Barista Coffee & Smoothies
Flavor options: Meh
Snow cap: No
Ice cream: No
Ice texture: Loose and a bit grainy
Rating: zzZZzzzZzzzzZzZz


A shave ice shop owned by surfers. It just doesn't get any more Hawaiian than that.

A shave ice shop owned by surfers. It just doesn’t get any more Hawaiian than that.

Breakwall Shave Ice Co. is one of those places you wish you owned. It was founded by a bunch of surfer dudes from the Midwest who decided they were tired of living in the middle of corn fields and moved to Maui. Their first priority was to find some sweet waves, which they did. They then decided that making money probably wasn’t a bad idea, so they opened a shave ice shop. Now why didn’t *I* think of that?? The subtle genius of their simplistic approach is startling.

Personal jealousy aside, the guys at Breakwall sure do know how to make a mean shave ice. Although the flavors aren’t homemade, the selection is as deep as what you’d find at the venerable Ululani’s. Their snow caps are thick and seem to be nearly pure condensed milk. Although I like this particular style quite a bit, my wife wasn’t really a fan and prefers the thinner type snow caps. The texture of the ice at Breakwall is absolutely spot on, and there are seating areas both indoors and outdoors where you can chill and enjoy some surfing videos. Tubular!

Breakwall Shave Ice Co.
Flavor options: Extensive
Snow cap: Yes
Ice cream: Yes
Ice texture: Light and snowy
Rating: Highly recommended, dude

The Melt

meter-great+The people who work at The Melt have been spying on me. They must have been. It’s one thing for a restaurant to have exactly what I want to eat and just the right sides and drinks, but to have only those things? Yeah, coincidence my butt.

The other day I found myself wandering around Stanford Shopping Center, a well-to-do outdoorsy mall type place right in the middle of Palo Alto. It’s a nice place to shop and all, but it’s not really my cup of tea. If I was in the market for a size minus three cocktail dress or a Swarovski encrusted penguin, I’d probably think this mall was the bees knees. What I really wanted was lunch, though, and the standard mall fare I’d found so far just wasn’t cutting it. After what seemed like tens of minutes of searching, I finally located a directory with actual directions on it. (Mini rant: Why has every mall in America replaced their maps with advertisements? Ads do no good at all if I can’t find the stupid stores they go to.) As I scanned the the directory I spied The Melt. That sounded to me like either a heated yoga studio or a Modern English souvenir store, both very likely choices in a place like Palo Alto. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check it out.

With a name like The Melt, there'd better be cheese involved. Lots of it.

With a name like The Melt, there’d better be cheese involved. Lots of it.

I made my way to the other end of the mall, dodging Armani baby strollers by the dozen and doing a pretty good OJ-Simpson-in-an-airport impersonation in the process. As I made my way through yet another swarm of people in overpriced Pilates outfits, I caught a glimpse of The Melt. The restaurant sports a clean, utopian orange-and-white color scheme and a menu straight out of my dreams.

First thing on the menu: Grilled cheese. OMG

Second thing on the menu: Grilled cheese. …and then I fainted.

The interior decorating style is half In-N-Out Burger, half IKEA.

The interior decorating style is half In-N-Out Burger, half IKEA.

” That sounded to me like either a heated yoga studio or a Modern English souvenir store “

The entire menu, in fact, revolves around this single, exquisitely perfect food. There are different choices for bread, cheese, and various add-ins (like bacon!), and there are also soups and salads to be had. The beverage menu is equally brief, with the primary choices being iced tea, lemonade, and water. It’s perfect.

It took me exactly 12.7 seconds to notice the Mac Daddy, a grilled cheese WITH MACARONI AND CHEESE IN IT. Holy heck I love this place. One of those please with, oh yes, a side Caesar salad and an iced tea. Talk about a slam dunk. To top things off the cashier asked, “Would you like chips or a pickle?” PICKLE! Hot dang this place is on fire.

Macaroni and cheese IN a grilled cheese sandwich. *eye twitch*

Macaroni and cheese IN a grilled cheese sandwich. *eye twitch*

I filled up the environmentally friendly plastic-like cup with tea and settled down to enjoy my golden, crispy, macaroni-y lunch. The thing that surprised me was not the high quality of the food, but how well portioned everything was. My grilled cheese wasn’t a super duper über mega glutton-size sandwich – it was just a sandwich. The iced tea was a respectable (and refillable) 20 ounces, and the salad was …well, salad-sized. Outstanding. It was just enough to eat without making me split my pants, and yet it was still delicious and awesome. Somewhere along the way our society has managed to forget that more doesn’t always equal better; it’s nice to see that someone remembered. Add to that some snazzy online ordering tools and lightning quick service, and we’ve got ourselves a real winner here.

If I had to nitpick something, it would be what my lunch was served in. Instead of plates or plastic containers, The Melt opts for reusable wire mesh baskets lined with a single sheet of what looks like wax paper. I well and truly appreciate the environmentally friendly approach – really, I do – but eating salad off of a piece of paper just doesn’t work. By the end of my meal the paper had soaked through with dressing, leaving large soggy holes for the lettuce to fall through to the maybe-clean counter top directly below. Gross.

In spite of the eating receptacle issues, I rate The Melt a phenomenal 9.3 out of 10 metric tons of cheddar. If you’re a grilled cheese fanatic like I am, you owe it to yourself to grab a bite here.

The Melt
Multiple locations around the Bay Area (and many other places)
The Melt on Urbanspoon

I may never eat anywhere else again.

I may never eat anywhere else again.

Ulupalakua Ranch

meter-good-greatBelieve it or not, there are elk on Maui. I know that’s an odd way to begin a food blog entry, but there’s a very good reason for that: You can eat them. Granted, you have to drive halfway up a mountain to do it, but it’s worth the trip. Unless you’re one of the elk.

Ulupalakua Ranch (say that three times real fast) is not exactly the type of place you just swing by for a bite, unless perhaps you have a helicopter. [Note to self: Buy helicopter, move to Maui.] Getting to this place takes time, research, a potentially voided rental car contract, and the better part of a tank of gas. Ulupalakua Ranch is nestled on the side of Haleakala, Maui’s eastern most mountain peak. Fun fact: That last sentence represents 100% of my knowledge of Hawaiian geography.

Open 11am to 3pm. My kind of working hours.

Open 11am to 3pm. My kind of working hours.

After a somewhat tiring but breathtakingly scenic drive, my blushing bride and I found ourselves standing outside the ranch store. The only thing we’d had to eat for the past several hours was a half a package of dried pineapple and some samples of lavender tea, so we were good and ready for some real food, dammit. We walked to the back corner of the store and found a modestly-sized menu board with a number of tasty options. As you’d expect from an eatery located on a ranch, most of the menu choices had hooves at one point – no complaints here. For the more empathetic types out there, Ulupalakua Ranch also offers salads and garden burgers.

Hey, cows eat grass right? So eating cows is like eating green stuff by delegating. Works for me.

Hey, cows eat grass right? So eating cows is like eating green stuff by delegating. Works for me.

” Most of the menu choices had hooves at one point “

I considered the elk burger for a while (apparently it’s excellent), but I was feeling more hungry than adventurous so I ordered the beef burger with Swiss and bacon. Baaacconnnnn. My wife was braver than I was and decided on a lamb burger with cheddar and barbecue sauce. Hmm, not too sure about that, but I guess we’ll see. Lamb is one of those things that’s either just amazing or absolutely horrifyingly awful, depending on the quality and freshness of the cut. The closer it is to prancing and bleating, the better.

While we waited for our food we browsed the rest of the store. It contained a charming and eclectic mix of Hawaiian knick-knacks and cowboy gear, as well as a decent collection of locally produced food items. We grabbed a couple bags of Maui onion potato chips (that were made in Texas *cough*) and headed out to the patio.

Just look at that beefy, bacony masterpiece.

Just look at that beefy, bacony masterpiece.

Our burgers came straight off of the grill a few minutes later, perched atop impossibly fresh toasted buns and accompanied by a standard collection of toppings. The beef burger, although straightforward and otherwise unremarkable, was one of the juiciest and most flavorful I have experienced in a very long time. I guess it helps when your beef comes from the other side of your own property instead of the globe.

As for the lamb burger… Ok, honestly I was a bit apprehensive to give it a try but hey! It wasn’t bad at all. In fact it was downright superb, and I was quite pleasantly surprised. My wife began thwacking me on the head with a plastic utensil as I stole another large bite of her sandwich, saying something about “Hey, go get your own!” I was too engrossed in the excellent flavor to really notice, so I just pretended not to hear. (It works when I’m being beckoned outside for yard work, so why not right?)

Ulupalakua Ranch earns an honest and enjoyable 11.3 out of 15 gallons of rental car gas. It’s a bit too far off the beaten path to really make it worth the effort, but if you’re already on that side of Maui definitely pay this place a visit. If you’re crazy enough to attempt the drive to Hana, this also makes a very nice stop along the way.

Ulupalakua Ranch
HC 1
Box 901
Kula, HI 96790
Ulupalakua Ranch Store on Urbanspoon

Lamb and cheddar with barbecue sauce. It shouldn't work, but it does.

Lamb and cheddar with barbecue sauce. It shouldn’t work, but it does.