7 Kaimukī Sweet Spots to Satisfy Your Sweet Cravings
When it comes to desserts, Kaimukī is tops.
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2. Hawaiian Nougat Co.
Hawaiian Nougat Co’s nougat is packed with macadamia nuts.
Photos: Steve Czerniak
In a white pastry chef coat, smiling, Liz Anderson carefully unwraps a piece of vanilla nougat with visible chunks of macadamia nuts.
“Everything but two ingredients in this is local,” she says. The egg whites are from O‘ahu eggs, the cane sugar and vanilla from Maui, and the macadamia nuts and honey from the Big Island. When she makes chocolate nougat, she uses cacao and nibs grown on O‘ahu. Her caramel is made from local milk, sugar and butter. And the fruits, including dehydrated pineapple, and coffee that she sometimes adds to the vanilla nougat base are locally sourced, too. (She even walked into the nearby crack seed shop for li hing mui and incorporated that once.)
That drive toward local is the reason she decided to venture into nougat-making, starting Hawaiian Nougat Co. in 2008 and moving into a larger Kaimukī location two years ago.
“When I first looked at the ingredients in nougat, I thought, ‘We have all of these ingredients here,’” she says. “I realized 90 percent of the ingredients could be sourced here. This is a truly Hawaiian product.”
Anderson, 58, worked most of her career in finance in San Francisco, followed by several years as a special-education teacher in Hawai‘i. When she burned out from teaching, she signed up for a three-month-long pastry program at École de Cuisine LaVarenne in Paris, where she learned how to make a proper nougat.
And it’s not like the hard, sticky Big Hunk bar or the fluffy center of a Milky Way.
Traditional nougat de Montélimar (the small town of Montélimar in France is known as the nougat capital) is a dense, white candy made of egg whites, sugar and honey, studded with toasted almonds and pistachios. The texture is like a chewy marshmallow, slightly tacky but still soft and smooth. And Anderson—with her staff that includes students from the nearby
Hawai‘i School for the Deaf and Blind—nails it.
Her French-inspired nougat, all made in an 11,000-square-foot production and retail space on Wai‘alae Avenue, can be found at various retailers, including Whole Foods and Red Pineapple. She sells them at her shop and online, too.
“I like that it’s in between taffy and a marshmallow,” she says. “It’s simple. I use natural ingredients. And I can put whatever I want inside.”
3613 Wai‘alae Ave., 926-4885, hawaiiannougat.com
3. Chocolate + Vanilla Bakery
A woman shyly walked into the tidy little Chocolate + Vanilla Bakery on 12th Avenue and, without making eye contact with owner/baker Jill Yamashita, ordered, “My usual two.”
With just a nod and a smile, Yamashita slid open the display case, grabbed two oversize pieces of her decadent caramel macadamia nut brownies, and packed them to go. The woman left as quietly as she came in.
“She comes in two to three times a week and orders the same thing,” Yamashita says, smiling. “And I don’t even know her name.”
That’s what happens when you run your own bakery, bake everything yourself, even manage the social media. You might not know the names of your regular customers—but you always know what they order.
Yamashita, who went to Le Cordon Bleu in Portland and worked at all the Roy’s Restaurants on O‘ahu, opened Chocolate + Vanilla Bakery with her sister, Jayna Matsukawa, in April 2014. (Matsukawa has since left.) The sisters, whose parents run Carval Café in Restaurant Row, both grew up baking and cooking at home. While it’s not the fancy boulangerie Yamashita dreamed of running, this not-quite-500-square-foot bakery is plenty work. She pulls 10-hour days, six days a week, more if she’s baking for a special event or big order.
Customers come from as far away as Mililani for her cheery macarons, fudgy brownies and Instagram-perfect cupcakes in such flavors as blueberry streusel, haupia-filled, red velvet, and the bakery’s signature chocolate and vanilla. She also makes single servings of crème brûlée and panna cotta and sells the crunchy edges of her rich brownies in a clamshell for $5.
“I try to make desserts for all generations,” she says. “And this is really an up-and-coming area. It’s just getting better.”
1115 12th Ave., 737-2462, @chocolateandvanilla808