O'ahu abounds with small bakeries; here's a sampling
By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic
Cookies. A more emotional connection to any other food would be hard to find.
Cookies conjure up the best of our childhood. That special time spent with Mom in the kitchen, the messy fun of mixing the batter, the smiles, the unmistakable aroma, and finally, the sweet and chewy morsel of nirvana, warm from the oven.
The multibillion-dollar success of huge international bakery conglomerates has motivated entrepreneurs to take a chance on their own smaller cookie businesses. Here is a look at several of Hawai'i's best.
Kapuakea Products (439 Kamani St., 596-7855) was the inspiration for this article. When I first tasted the liliko'i lemon bars made by Pua O'Mahoney (co-owner with Mary Spreen) I was hooked for life. Covered in powdered sugar and with a crumbly bottom crust, there's no way to hide the fact that you've got a piece of heaven in your mouth. The same applies to their guava raspberry macadamia nut squares, Kona coffee brownies, chocolate raspberry drizzles and coconut shortbread cookies. Order at least 48 hours in advance.
School Kine Cookies (456-8577) is run by Steve Gold, who describes his job as "a feel-good business that's very rewarding." These cookies are for fund-raising by schools, nonprofit groups and athletic organizations. There are several varieties shortbread, peanut butter, chocolate-chip with macadamia nuts, cornflake nibbles and a straight macadamia nut cookie. They are delicious, bite-sized and very crunchy.
Auntie Nalani's (841-4615) is headed up by Nalani McLaughlin, whose father ran Guam-based Chamorro Chip Cookies for many years. Seven years ago, she opened her own business on O'ahu. Her flavors are chocolate-chip macadamia nut, butter macadamia nut, chocolate-chip butter macadamia nut, pineapple macadamia nut and vanilla. They custom-package for Dole Plantation, Royal Hawaiian Hotel and DFS Hawaii, among others. Her cookies are quarter-sized, very light and luscious.
Mikey's Favorites (841-0373) is a family business, owned by Gregory and Renee Teshima, brother and sister. They manufacture about 10 varieties. Among the flavors are chocolate-chip walnut, macadamia nut, peanut butter, pineapple coconut, and "Rainbow Delight," the newest in their line, topped with colorful sprinkles. They are best known for their melt-in-your-mouth "Golden Flakes" cookie. They also make a killer poi cookie with macadamia nuts. Mikey's are at Longs Drugs in Kane'ohe, Tama-shiro Market and The Art of Chocolate.
Cookies in Paradise (486-3013) is the brainchild of Mark and Rachel Shomura, who started the business about six years ago after dabbling in it as a hobby. Their specialty is tropical-flavored macadamia nut shortbread cookies. They also make "Snowflakes," Chinese pretzels broken into pieces. Their hot-selling products are sold at Costco, Sam's Club, Longs Drugs and Daiei, among others.
Honolulu Cookie Co. (845-1517) is run by a husband-and-wife team, Keith and Janet Sung. They call themselves "shortbread specialists." Their cookies are shaped like pineapples and individually wrapped. They come plain or dipped in chocolate. The mango (available July-October) and pineapple cookies have dried fruit on them. There also are liliko'i, Kona coffee, chocolate macadamia and butter macadamia nut. Stop by their shop in Kalihi (1717 Homerule St.) to taste samples.
Ishiharaya (671-3175) is run by Ira Ishihara and is a manufacturer of Japanese tea cookies. These are called Plantation Tea Cookies, less sweet than most cookies. Flavors are original, kawara, sesame and ginger. The kawara cookies taste similar to a sugar cone and would be a perfect match for ice cream. The ginger cookie is intensely gingery and my own Ishiharaya favorite. The cookies are at Marukai, Daiei (Waipahu, Pearl City and Kailua), and at their retail bakery in Waipahu (94-101 Depot St.)
Clara Confectioners (a.k.a. Hawaii Gourmet Cookies, 682-7066) is run by Michael K. Ching and his mother Clara, for whom the line was named. They are the hands-down winners for best packaging and presentation. Flavors include mango, liliko'i, pineapple, Kona coffee, chocolate chip, and green tea. They also hand-dip their cookies in fabulous dark chocolate. This cookie line is Miss A's all-time favorite. They are the No. 1 food product nationwide at Neiman-Marcus. Need I say more?
Cookie prices vary widely; call companies for details.
Reach Matthew Gray at email@example.com.