13 Local Made in Hawai‘i Festival Food Finds To Buy Now
Stuck inside but still have electricity? Shop for some of our favorite tasty finds at the recent Made in Hawai‘i Festival. Because canned goods only go so far.
Photo: GREGORY YAMAMOTO
A long line of drivers waiting to go into the Neal Blaisdell Center during the statehood holiday weekend could only mean one thing. The annual Made in Hawai‘i Festival is described by Amy Hammond, the festival’s executive director, as a “start-up incubator.” This year it attracted crowds to meet the more than 400 vendors from across the islands who came to showcase their products.
The three-day event is a celebration of all things local. And what would a celebration be without food? From cookies to coffee, honey to hot sauce, the Made in Hawai‘i Festival offered dozens of tasty Hawai‘i culinary creations. Here are some of my favorite food finds from this year’s festival and where you can buy them now.
Pineapple Liliko‘i Hot Sauce by Da Big Island Burn
photos: Jennifer Mennella Fields
This sweet and spicy hot sauce is one of four varieties that Da Big Island Burn showcased this year. It was also the mildest of the bunch. A few drops will give you the fruit flavors followed immediately by the spice. The company’s ethos is to source local ingredients like mango, Hawaiian chili peppers, honey and 100-percent Kona coffee from the Big Island. Want to feel the burn? You can visit dabigislandburn.com to find a list of shops that carry the hot sauce or to order online.
Cornflake cookies by Kawa Kookies
$6 a bag
If you add cereal to a cookie can you eat it for breakfast? Kawa Kookies’ cornflake cookie is a buttery-good rendition of this old-school favorite. The Kawa Kookies team is truly a family-run operation. Hono Shimokawa and her husband make the snacks, while their daughter does the packaging and their son handles labeling. This team of four bakes up five different cookies from mochi crunch to chocolate macadamia nut. You can email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to place an order.
Guava Fruit Jelly by Maui Fruit Jewels
Maui Fruit Jewels’ fruit jellies are candies for grown-ups—think sophisticated fruit snacks. Designed as a Hawaiian twist on the French pâte de fruit, these jellies are made by husband-and-wife team Chris and Lin ter Horst using local fruit. I tried the guava and liliko‘i jellies and enjoyed the intense flavor. There’s nothing artificial about these – the sugar takes a back seat and lets the fruit shine. The gourmet candies are available online at mauifruitjewels.com.
O‘ahu Bourbon Peaberry by Big Island Coffee Roasters
$25-$60 (depending on size)
The Big Island is known for its coffee and Big Island Coffee Roasters is only adding to the island’s coffee-making pedigree. Located in Puna, the company uses beans from across Hawai‘i. The O‘ahu Bourbon Peaberry, pronounced bore-bone, was smooth with almost no bitterness. The company offers between 10 and 20 coffee varieties depending on the season. Visit its website to order the java or find a nearby store that carries it. bigislandcoffeeroasters.com
Sweet Bread & Butter Pickles by Waikapū Pickles
$7-$30 (depending on size)
Waikapū Pickles’ founder Jen Fordyce’s passion for pickles comes from her Rhode Island roots where she says she always enjoyed fresh pickles. The company specializes in three types: crunchy dill garlic, Hawaiian chili pepper, and sweet bread & butter—my personal favorite. These taste exactly as they’re described; one bite was sweet and buttery, with the crunch that you want in a high-quality pickle. You can get Waikapū Pickles at Whole Foods locations on O‘ahu and visit waikapupickles.com for a list of where to find the pickles across the islands.
Waimea Strawberry and Mango Jams by Steve’s Akaka Falls Farm
$69 for 6 jars
Steve Stefanko told me he grows almost 100 different types of peppers and fruit at his farm on the Big Island, all of which are jarred (he doesn’t sell any actual fruit). Whatever he can’t grow himself, he’ll source locally from the islands to make more than forty jams, butters and honeys in varieties ranging from passion fruit jalapeno to POG. Two of my favorites were the mango and strawberry; the flavors were vibrant with a fresh fruit finish. You can order online at akakafallsfarms.com or find his products at a variety of farmers markets across Hawai‘i.
Sea Salt Caramels by Sweet Brown Hawai‘i
$5 to $7 for a box of 6 pieces
Steve and Ruiko Miller, the husband and wife duo behind Sweet Brown Hawai‘i, make small-batch, handcrafted caramels using local ingredients like Big Island macadamia nuts, Hawaiian sea salt and Kona Coffee. These caramels are small in size, but not in flavor. The fan-favorite is the sea salt and I can see why; you can taste the quality vanilla—Steve tells me they use 100-percent vanilla extract—and the salt counters the sweetness. Get them at specialty stores like Red Pineapple or all three Hallmark stores on O‘ahu. Visit sweetbrownhawaii.com for a complete list of stores.
Totally Turmeric Hummus by ‘Ulu Mana Hawaiian Hummus
Forget the garbanzo beans, at ‘Ulu Mana they’re substituting breadfruit for chickpeas to make five types of hummus. Flavors include turmeric, sweet potato, beet (above), jalapeño and sundried tomato (the first four were available to try at the Made in Hawai‘i Festival). The Totally Turmeric was a personal favorite because of the standout spices. The Kaka‘ako-based company’s mission is to “increase the production and consumption of `ulu in Hawai‘i,” and I think they’re well on their way. Pick it up at health food stores and farmers markets on O‘ahu. ulumanahawaii.com
Macadamia Nut Basil Pesto by For J’s Hawai‘i
Janis Tanga puts the J in For J’s Hawai‘i. Her business is known for its flavored salts and sugars but it was her macadamia nut basil pesto that left me wanting more. She uses her Hawaiian chili pepper sea salt to flavor this pesto that’s loaded with Big Island macadamia nuts. This pesto is decadent. Some products are available online and in stores, but if you want her pesto, you’ll have to call, text or email her to place an order. forjshawaii.com
$10 a bag
Growing up, Ryan Oshiro loved when his aunt made pizzelles. Rather than waiting for her to make the thin, Italian-style waffle cookies for special occasions, he asked for the recipe so he could enjoy the cookies all year round. His chocolate pizzelle uses dark cocoa powder, which creates a rich, chocolate dessert. The company is just over a year old. He makes everything by hand without a stand mixer; a large feat considering he produces enough to stock Baldwin’s Sweet Shop and both Dean & Deluca locations in Hawai‘i.
Lavender Chocolate Bar by Mānoa Chocolate Hawai‘i
Mānoa Chocolate works with small farms across the globe to source cacao for its chocolate bars, including farms here in Hawai‘i. Dylan Butterbaugh, the head chocolate maker at Mānoa, tells me that the company makes more than 20 types of chocolate ranging in flavor from ghost pepper to lavender, which is my favorite. The lavender bar is less bitter than its darker chocolate counterparts and you get notes of lavender, which creates a mellow taste. You can order the bars online; find them at retailers across Hawai‘i or head to one of Mānoa’s shops on O‘ahu. manoachocolate.com
Chai Honey by HoneySown Herbs
$8-$38 (depending on the type of honey)
It was the medicinal benefits of honey that first intrigued John Webley and his wife, Matie Minasie, to start HoneySown Herbs. The company now offers 15 delicious varieties, from turmeric to coffee, that they make from 25 beehives on the Big Island. The chai is a bestseller, probably because the sweetness of the honey nicely balances the spiciness of the chai. It’s available online at honeysownherbs.com and in select stores on the Big Island.
Spiced Tomato Jam by Monkeypod Jam
Starting at $5.50
Aletha Thomas started Monkeypod Jam in 2010 to make extra money while she was planning her wedding. Now, it’s her full-time job. The Kaua‘i-based entrepreneur works solely with farmers on the Garden Island to showcase local, seasonal produce. Her most popular flavor is the spiced tomato jam, which is both spicy and sweet. You get notes of cumin, chili peppers and cinnamon, which work together to create this savory spread. Check out monkeypodjam.com to find a store that offers her products or to order from her current online selection.