HONOLULU — Many people travel to Hawaii for the surf and sun; I go for the weather and the breakfasts, especially this time of year. Nothing melts away the late winter doldrums like a basket of Banana Macadamia Nut Muffins, (recipe below) a hot drink, and a glass of fresh pineapple juice. Unless it's a coconut waffle topped with guava syrup with a side order of Portuguese sausage and half a papaya with a squeeze of lime.
Some winters, only my imagination is free to travel halfway across the Pacific Ocean to my three favorite Honolulu breakfast places.
Eggs n' Things is an unprepossessing diner that serves breakfast from 11 p.m. to 2 p.m., odd hours by my time, but perfect for weary air travelers who wake up still on mainland time, hours too early for breakfast.
This is the place for banana whipped cream waffles and a dozen other variations of waffles and pancakes as well as Big Island French toast, made from thick slices of Portuguese sweet bread. All of these are even more delicious topped with coconut and guava syrups. And if you're really fortunate, the day's special might include fresh-caught mahi-mahi.
Orchids at the Halekulani Hotel, offers a completely different experience. From this elegant, open-air terrace, the view includes Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean; a hedge effectively hides the clutter of the public beach. A glass of chilled passion fruit juice; sliced pineapple with guava coulis; the hotel's famed popovers, served with poha berry jam; and whole-wheat pancakes with macadamia nuts are among the intriguing possibilities.
At the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel's Hau Tree Lanai, the patio tables, level with the beach, are shaded by the same hau trees that poet Robert Louis Stevenson once sat under. A tasty light breakfast option here may include muffins of the day, which might be papaya or banana spread with guava jelly, and a Hawaiian smoothie - a blend of banana, pineapple, and papaya.
For heartier appetites, there is the poi waffle, made from pounded taro root, which has an intriguing pinkish-purplish tinge (and virtually no taste), or the Hawaiian breakfast platter featuring miniature poi pancakes; Portuguese, Kauai, and longanisa sausages; two eggs any style; and a quarter-sliced pineapple.
Recalling these past pleasures inspires me to brighten my weekend breakfasts at home. Although I'm not be able to find an apple banana to top my corned beef hash here in New England, other tropical touches that are more readily available such as guava jelly, pineapple, papaya, and macadamia nuts.
If breakfast includes a view of palm trees swaying in the soft trade winds so much the better, but in a pinch, an orchid in a vase will suffice to evoke that faraway, vacation feeling.
Banana Macadamia Nut Muffins
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup milk (more if using salted nuts - see below)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If using dry roasted nuts, cover them with milk to remove salt. Let soak for 20 minutes; drain. Finely chop nuts. Sift together flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. In another bowl, beat the eggs and add butter, 3/4 cup of milk, honey, and banana.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; add liquid ingredients and nuts. Using a spoon, combine liquid and dry ingredients with a few quick strokes. Pour into greased muffin tins and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Makes approximately 12 muffins.