Where to buy local — besides the obvious, the farmers markets, and by investing in Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) box programs (See list, pg. 28.)? Even a dedicated foodie can’t know every small shop, fish store or butcher in town. We’ve brought together the ones we know and use on O’ahu and would love to hear from you for future editions about any treasures we may have forgotten. First and foremost, if you’re truly committed to buying local, you’re going to have to leave your shy, local-person, no ax questions persona behind: You must ask if the item is grown locally, by whom, where? You must question labeling. You must learn something about seasonality and about the names of companies that are as committed to being local as you are to buying local. You may have to pay more. You’ll almost certainly have to venture farther afield.
You can find pretty much anything locally grown in season at Whole Foods, Foodland and Kokua Market. For example, local eggs from Tin Roof Ranch at Kokua Market, as well as fresh produce from Ko Farms, Palolo Valley and more. All three stock Naked Cow Dairy butter and cheeses, vegetables from MA’O Organic Farms, Otsuji Farms and others. Foodland has the largest variety of Asian vegetables (excluding Chinatown and ethnic markets), as well as Hawaiian Crown “Sweet gold” Pineapple from a family-owned farm in Kunia. You can also purchase Hamakua Springs (Big Island) or Ho Farms (Oahu) tomatoes at many grocers.
Tired of frozen imported fish? Tamashiro Market is perhaps the best known of the purveyors for fresh, local whole fish including aawa, flounder and opakapaka. You can also buy live crustaceans and mollusks, Samoan crabs and lobsters. (Depending on the season, the market also stocks, greens, fruit and non-seafood Polynesian- and Filipino-oriented produce such breadfruit, jackfruit and lychee.) Of course, poke is everywhere, but not all of it is free of gas treatment meant to retain the fish’s appetizing-looking blush color. Whole Foods promises wild-caught ‘ahi without any carbon monoxide. Foodland, Poke Stop, Yama’s Fish Market, and Tamura’s Market all have a great selection of poke and limu.
You can buy Maui Cattle Company beef at Whole Foods–for example, a beef boneless shoulder steak at $6.99 per pound and at Foodland. (They also have pork, chicken, lamb, buffalo and quail selections.) But if you’re looking for some variety, head to Aala Meat Market or Higa Food Service. Selections include Shinsato pigs and Puuwai ranch lamb. Meats from other local ranchers may be selectively available in local supermarkets.
These treats can be found at your nearby local supermarket, which makes it hard on your waistline but absolutely convenient for your sweet tooth. Madre Chocolate, for example, can be found in their flagship store in Kailua, but also at Down to Earth. For creamy, dairy goodness, buy Roselani ice cream from Walmart, Foodland or Shimazu Store. Want some mocha with your ice cream? Head to Whole Foods to buy a box of green tea Bubbie’s. You can of course, visit Bubbie’s original store near the old Varsity Theatre and UH Manoa. For popsicles, try Ono Pops, unbelievable combinations of local fruits, herbs, aromatics, spices and juices, at Whole Foods (or an Eat the Street event) or dare to special-order via their website. For locally made jams, jellies, cookies and other baked goods, try Made in Hawaii foods or Pat’s Island Delights.
6. Roadside Vendors
This is a no-brainer, but roadside vendors usually sell the freshest, straight from the ground produce. Your best bet is to drive down north of Kane’ohe on Kamehameha Highway around the Hygienic Store for smoked meat, pasteles, dried fish, shrimp trucks, fresh produce, with stands and small stores full of one-of-kind, handmade stuff continuing all the way to Haleiwa.
Aloha Tofu has been making soft and firm tofu since 1950 in their factory, but most people don’t know they also make natto, aburage and even konnyaku. You can purchase these products at the factory or in supermarkets. Honda Tofu has also been at it for more than 90 years, and although you can also buy their handmade products at stores, you can get the freshest pieces from their factory in Wahiawa.
Tea Hawaii & Company makes Mauka Oolong from tea bushes grown at the base of Kilauea Volcano. The leaves are all harvested and processed by hand, and are 100 percent organic. Order the tea online.
Hawaiian honey is everywhere and sold at natural food stores. Brands include The Manoa Honey Co., Nalo Meli Hawaiian Honey and Rhea’s Hawaiian Honey.
For Samoan specialty food, try Tammy’s Polynesian Market, which is known for sweet, locally made pani popo (coconut milk buns).
Be aware that ethnic markets often carry a small amount of produce or fresh-made food from their sources; and if they don’t sell, say, kalimansi, they’ll know where you can buy some. Check out Mercado de la Raza, (Mexican and South American), Pacific Supermarket (Filipino in Wahiawa), India Grocery, the many small stores in Kalihi that cater to South Pacific Islanders, Marukai and Don Quixote (Japanese and pan-Asian), Queen’s Market or Palama Market (Korean) or smaller, neighborhood Thai/Lao/Cambodian shops.
More ideas? [email: Foodie]