The 2021 Frolic Foodie Gift Guide to ‘Onolicious Hawai‘i Treats
The Frolic team’s 12 tastiest picks from local makers and purveyors for any foodie on your gift list.
The Frolic team eats all year; in this season we gift. Check out our top picks for sweet, savory and drinkable items made in Hawai‘i or sold by small local purveyors.
Chichi dango from Nisshodo Candy Store
Located in the neighborhood of my youth and smelling like my grandma’s kitchen during the holidays, Nisshodo Candy Store occupies a special place in my stomach. While I love the traditional mochi filled with sweet red azuki bean paste, after I was gifted Nisshodo’s chichi dango pack a few years ago it quickly became my favorite to give as gifts. Small, pillowy morsels of individually wrapped mochi, infused with creamy evaporated milk powder and different fruit flavors, these rice jewels are perfect for those who like to snack while enjoying their holiday festivities. —Gregg Hoshida
Gingerbread hut kits from Mānoa Chocolate
Having just participated in my first gingerbread house competition, I have profound new respect for gingerbread structures, especially those you actually want to eat after the contest is over. Mānoa Chocolate’s gingerbread hut kits feature walls and floors of 60% dark milk chocolate infused with Hawai‘i-grown ginger powder and topped with gingerbread crumbs from Kailua’s Mother Bake Shop, and a roof of white chocolate and nibs (can we get a hallelujah?). To assemble, you just melt some of the six bars to use as glue, so it’s chocolate on chocolate on chocolate. Even better, it’s all Hawai‘i-grown chocolate. After our contest, no one wanted to eat the hardened pre-made gingerbread slathered with royal icing, food coloring, sprinkles, parsley and variously manipulated gummy bears. With Mānoa’s gingerbread hut I’m tempted to forego the structure and just eat the chocolate. —Mari Taketa
Islander Sake and locally made sake cups
Sake gets a bad rap, with too many people downing shots, serving it too hot or fixating on one label (“I only drink sake if it’s Kubota Manju”—Give. Me. A. Break). So I like gifting sake almost as much as I like drinking it, because this helps people understand and savor the sublime. Islander Sake is good for both aficionados and novices: The first set will appreciate that it’s hand-crafted in Kaka‘ako, fresh and unpasteurized, and is the only sake being made in Hawai‘i; and the second set will love the light, dry fruitiness that comes through in Islander’s liliko‘i and pineapple ginjo sakes.
Sake cups I give because I can’t resist buying them. Through January, you can find an array of ceramic cups for sale at The Sake Shop in Kaka‘ako, all handmade by potters in Hawai‘i Craftsmen organization. —MT
Liliko‘i and pineapple sake, $18 each, cups, $10. Islander Sake is available at The Sake Shop, Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room, Bottleheads, Fujioka’s Wine Times, Kahala Mkt. and other retailers and online at islandersake.com for pickup at Islander Sake Brewery, 753 Queen St., @islandersake
Kid in a Candy Store from La Gelateria
Back when we could walk into La Gelateria, the tiny gelato shop behind the old Meadow Gold Dairies, we pored over twin bins holding fantastical gelato and sorbetto creations and felt exactly like kids in a candy store. Now we order online, judiciously selecting a few pints at a time, feeling more like adults but missing the plentiful variety of the candy store days. That’s why I ordered La Gelateria’s Kid in a Candy Store, which lets you choose 12 or 18 cups bundled in an insulated tote, the day after I found out about it. Scrolling through scores of flavors like azuki bean, gianduia chocolate hazelnut and POG can be overwhelming—clicking on “What’s in stock?” narrows the selection to a few dozen—Selecting 12 cups will make you giddy. Note that pickup dates are after Dec. 10, which gives you plenty of time to clear out some freezer space. —MT
Maui Ku‘ia Estate Chocolate
Visiting a private cacao estate and enjoying a legitimate chocolate tasting has been one of the great experiences I’ve had lately on Maui. I try to support local farms and businesses as much as I can, and Maui Ku‘ia Estate allows you to do both. Their unique farm-to-bar chocolate operation is a real gem in Lahaina. The chocolates are deeply rich and smooth, with the Maui dark chocolate and dark peppermint being my favorite.
For your foodie friends or anyone who appreciates chocolate, Maui Ku‘ia is a beautifully packaged, delicious gift that’s easy to order online. With 100% of net profits going to local charities, it’s a feel-good purchase, too. —Rebecca Pang
Mele Pineapple Shape box from Honolulu Cookie Co.
It was my first trip to Japan and I was visiting a friend. I wanted to get him something that would remind him of Hawai‘i. Something that could fit in my luggage. And that wasn’t too cliched as far as Hawai‘i-themed gifts went.
The image that I kept coming back to was the pineapple. There were always some pineapple-shaped cookies in the company kitchen. They didn’t last too long, since I was the main person snacking on them. Turns out they were from Honolulu Cookie Co. I went to the kiosk in Ala Moana Center’s Makai Market food court and found the cookies in an actual pineapple-shaped box.
With more than double the flavors, I figured the large was the better deal. Plus my friend has two young daughters, so more cookies would be a good thing. And it fit nicely in my carryon. In Tokyo, my friend thought the pineapple-shaped box was hilarious. The next time I saw him, I asked how he liked the cookies. He never got a chance to try them. His daughters ate them all. —Eric Baranda
Olympia Coffee Holiday Blend
Calling all coffee lovers: The Curb Kaimukī has packages of Holiday Blend coffee from Washington state’s Olympia Coffee for this special season. An annual tradition, this year’s Holiday Blend combines beans from Guatemala and Ethiopia to pull together rich flavors of chocolate and caramel with citrusy notes. Breathe in the aroma and find a hint of fresh Christmas trees. The Holiday Blend is my favorite coffee this year. —Lauren Kaneshiro
Pidginmoji fortune cookies
I love giving these Pidginmoji fortune cookies as gifts cuz dey make people happy. I gave one bag to my friend for her birfday and she open da ting and it said “No trust da person on your right.” Da person to her right wuz her newborn baby. Both parents wuz fully rolling. No sked ’em, go get ’em! Garans going—pardon da pun—crack you up!
Pro-style tip: Each 4-ounce bag get eight to nine fortune cookies inside. I dunno about you, but even though might be slightly smaller, I raddah have NINE! Mo’ chance you might get one good fortune das why! —Lee A. Tonouchi
Rice Factory gift sets
I always take notice when someone mentions that a restaurant has good rice. And by good rice, I mean exceptional rice, because for them to mention that plain white rice is good, it must stand out. Whether it’s the inherent sweetness, the texture after it’s cooked or even its ability to stay plump after it has cooled, that’s enough to tell me that it probably came from a cadre of Japanese people whose obsession with rice inspired them to create a shop dedicated to it. That shop is the Rice Factory.
Gift your favorite foodie a bag of luxe Japanese rice milled to order in one of The Rice Factory’s gift sets. These sets include an assortment of their most popular rice varietals, shoyu and other accouterments to elevate the rice-eating experience. I promise, once they have a taste of Niigata Koshihikari or Hokkaido Oborozuki, they’re going to have a tough time going back to the yellow-and-white bags. —Thomas Obungen
$12 to $100, pre-order online: the-rice-factory-honolulu.square.site/2021holidaygift. 955 Kawaiaha‘o St., (808) 800-1520, the-rice-factory-honolulu.square.site,@thericefactory
Som’ Good salts
Local seasoned salts are my go-to gift this year. They’re versatile, useful and a great way to showcase island flavors and support a small Hawai‘i business. While a number of local vendors offer seasoned salts, the one that caught my eye at the recent Made in Hawai‘i Festival was Som’ Good Seasonings, Sauces and Snacks. From the ones I’ve got to keep for myself because I put them on everything (Hawaiian Smoke and Garlic-KY) to the ones I send off to friends and family on the Mainland (Hawaiian Sea Salt with Furikake and Shiso, Hawaiian Spice, Hawaiian Chili Mix and the lovely reddish Hawaiian ‘Alae Sea Salt), they’ve got a variety of attractively packaged options to spice things up. —Tracy Chan
$6.50 for a 5-ounce bag, $16.50 for a 15-ounce bag. Available at Times Supermarkets, Tamashiro Market, various farmers markets and Hawai‘i military commissaries, or on the web at somgoodhawaii.com
Tempesta Artisan Salumi
In Calabria, Italy, families keep this spreadable delicacy in their kitchens, ready to smear on crusty bread—or anything really. In fact, before ‘Ili‘ili Cash & Carry in Mō‘ili‘ili started selling it I used to smuggle this salami back from the Mainland. Produced by generations-old Tempesta Salumi in Chicago, it’s available in OG spicy style or truffle flavor—yup, you heard me. Pro tip: Melt down a gob in a pan before tossing in leftover rice and veggies to make the sexiest fried rice around. This is the perfect gift for your favorite charcuterie connoisseur. —Maria Burke
$17 at ‘Ili‘ili Cash and Carry. 2065 S. Beretania St., (808) 367-0606, pre-order from Toast Tab, @iliili_cash_carry
Vanilla beans from Lā‘ie Vanilla Co.
Lā‘ie Vanilla Co. vanilla beans are one of my favorite foodie gifts, especially for friends on the mainland. These are high quality beans (very plump!) and are one of the least expensive locally grown vanilla beans I’ve found. You can usually get a 10-bean pack for $50. That’s $5 a bean, which—if you know vanilla beans around the world, is a great price. And because I’m Chinese, I love that they are light and flat, which makes them reasonable for mailing. —Melissa Chang
$50 for a pack of 10 beans. Available at the Saturday Kaka‘ako Farmers Market or laievanilla.com