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What should I bring as a gift to a Hawaii family?

leetmom7 Jul 31, 2007 05:32 AM

Hawaii Chowhounds -

I'm going to be meeting a family in Honolulu mid August. Their son and my son have hooked up and started a friendship. I've been invited to dinner with my two teens and want to bring something, and being a chower, I figured food/food prep related would be practical.

So far I have a Penzeys basket in mind, any other suggestions?

I picked up Penzeys cinnamon, Northwoods Fire, Mural of Flavor, Chesapeake Bay (for fish).


  1. KaimukiMan Jul 31, 2007 11:50 AM

    You are on the right track - anything edible is a good gift for people in Hawaii. Even better are things we can't get here. I am sure that the Pezeys spices will be great by themselves. Not only is it not something we can shop for here, but since it can be ordered on line, if they like it, they can get more.

    If you are thinking that is not enough (although it probably is), anything from Trader Joes (esp. if it has a TJ label on it). Put it this way. If someone were to walk through TJ's blindfolded and throw 5 items into the cart, three of them would not be available here, one would be available but at 3x the cost, and the last one would be someone's favorite. Something "shareable" (like something to put out at a party "our son's friends from LA brought this for us, try some... its so ono yeah?") is always a good choice. Sort of like Hawaii people bringing Kona Coffee or Macadamia nuts with us when we go mainland.

    13 Replies
    1. re: KaimukiMan
      leetmom7 Jul 31, 2007 08:44 PM

      Oh good point, TJs, thats my main store! Chili-lime pistachios....

      Any restrictions on what I can bring in?

      1. re: leetmom7
        KaimukiMan Aug 1, 2007 01:16 AM

        The Chili-lime pistachios should be a big hit. Anything packaged should be ok. Fresh fruits or vegetables could be a problem, there is a form you have to fill out on the plane declaring agricultural items you are bringing in, better not to have any, unless it is pre-inspected.

        Wow, Mid-August is right around the corner. I am sure you will have a great time. It's been a nice summer so far, not too hot, some rain but not a lot. Do you know where the "host family" lives, what neighborhood? Are you staying in Waikiki (or even on Oahu for that matter?)

        Oh, one more thing... depending on how "local" they are, they will be obligated to send you off with a commensurate departing gift based on what you brought for them - dem's da "omiage"• rules, and they are not to be messed with....LOL. So unless you want to bring home a suitcase full of wasabi peas, dried cuttlefish, li-hing mango, Kona coffee and a dozen varieties of macadamia nuts... don't go overboard on your gifts.

        * oh-me-yah-gay: a Japanese word I translate as "obligatory gifts". It's a science - very traditional families keep books going back decades on who gave what to whom on which occasion, makes my mom's Christmas card list look like a game.

        1. re: KaimukiMan
          kinipela Aug 1, 2007 04:01 PM

          i would also add bath and body and victoria's secret.. but these are boys... so... but for the families, hand soaps from these places would be nice too... and KM is right, although we call is "pasalubong" re filipino customs... when i come back to visit fam and friends, i still get gifts to bring back to the mainland, even though i've lived there/go back every year, etc.. even though i protest, i come back with crackseed, cookies, lilikoi, li hing anything and even zippy's benefit chili...

          1. re: kinipela
            leetmom7 Aug 1, 2007 05:06 PM

            OMG KaimukiMan I just got back from TJs with WASABI PEAS in the bag! So glad you gave me a heads up! Into MY pantry they go. Coals to Newcastle, eh?

            kinipela, could I sub Trader Joes soaps for the mom? I imagine there are plenty of fun soaps available based on the abundant flora.

            So far I picked up: chili lemon pistachios, two boxes of ginger lemon creme cookies, a jar of roasted red pepper and eggplant spread, and a dry salami made with Pinot Grigio. I'm also thinking of throwing in a can of California Graber olives, but they are very mild if one likes strongly flavored olives.

            The family is ewa of Honolulu, and I am staying in Kaneohe/Kailua, in a place a bit mauka of the beach (howze my haole Hawaiian). I looked at Waikiki and quickly abandoned that idea. We're staying in Waikiki our last night and doing the (touristy?) Magic show for my kids. Dinner at the International Market Place?

            I totally understand the Omiage rules. She offered to feed me dinner so I"m trying to be prepared.

            1. re: leetmom7
              KaimukiMan Aug 1, 2007 06:28 PM

              it all sounds good... even the wassabi peas would have given everyone a big laugh. Windward Oahu is not known for it's food... but

              at the Makapuu side of Kailua is a neighborhood called Enchanted Lake, there is a place there called "the shack" (the original one, it is a small chain now). Best known for their portugese sausage hamburger. All their burgers are good, and they do a pretty good variety of salads as well. Broad spectrum bar food. In Kailua town itself you might try Big City Diner, Teddy's Bigger Burgers (both small local chains), and I am told the Kalapawai market at the entrance to Kailua town has decent sandwiches - but haven't tried them myself. In Kaneohe Pahke's chinese is a local favorite. I'm sure some of the windward people might have more info...

              Sounds like you have been here before.


              1. re: KaimukiMan
                manomin Aug 2, 2007 05:04 PM

                Aloha from the beautiful windward side! And might I add, I did not move here for this as a culinary destination! However there are one or two places in Kailua (Assagio, Lucy's) the aforementioned newest Kalapawai location, Teddy's and Morning Brew for breakfast/lunch. In
                Kaneohe I could starve were I to rely on the offerings here. I don't think Pah Ke's is as good as it was, at this point Panda's would be my choice. Although we do have Hot Dog on a Stick in the mall....

                1. re: manomin
                  kinipela Aug 3, 2007 05:18 PM

                  yes i just heard from my cuzin... she used to work over at assagio's... =) i've never been there, so i can't attest to it, but she says that they have different locations....

              2. re: leetmom7
                kinipela Aug 2, 2007 12:52 PM

                shoots! (yes!) that should be fine =) i'm not too familiar with the windward side either... i don't have much info.. except in kailua there is a japanese restaurant that serves a pretty good tempura ice cream... i think it was pretty good in that it was large enough for 2-3 to share... it was pretty busy when we went too, so i think it's rather popular... there's also an italian restaurant in kaneohe that my cuzin used to work at... i think she said it was a gourmet place, but unfortunately i have never gone, and i actually don't remember what it was called.... i can ask her and report back though....

                aloha!!! =)

                1. re: kinipela
                  leetmom7 Aug 3, 2007 05:30 AM

                  Thanks folks.

                  We are staying at a house and because I have a picky 12 YO, and we are interested in sightseeing as much as possible, I am planning on having two meals a day in the house (breakfast and lunch/dinner, more control over veggies/fruits). My 14YO will eat pretty much anything! Plate lunches for sure are on the menu, but we will never know where we are so I'll just ask a local where to go.

                  I'll plan on shopping at the Farmer's Market on Thursday night and pick up the rest at the Safeways. I live in Los Angeles so access to Hawaiian food is more interesting than say Italian, Dim Sum, Chinese, etc.

                  I would like to show my 14YO 'conveyor belt' sushi, anywhere on the island, driving is not an issue. Any recommendations? We'll be staying at the Ala Moana our last night and going to the Polynesian Magic show - Genki on Ala Moana Blvd.?

                  1. re: leetmom7
                    KaimukiMan Aug 3, 2007 12:31 PM


                    oh the joys of traveling with picky kids. that was my brother and I many years ago.... and I played "stepdad" for a few years to one as well.

                    Many plate lunch places sell hamburger sandwiches. in general they do not taste anything like McDonald's. Try and steer the younger one towards a spagetti or chili plate - most places will give fries instead of rice on a plate if you ask. As we all know, teens can exist indefinately on fries and soda.

                    I am not sure what farmer's market you are talking about. I don't know of any that are open on any evening. The one at KCC (near Diamond Head is only open Sat. AM. The peoples markets (traveling) are only open in the mornings, their schedule is:


                    the selection varies and in general is limited.

                    The Oahu market in Chinatown,and other markets in that area, have various vendors with their own hours, but very few are open past 4 or 5pm, if that late. Stuff is pretty picked over by then.

                    I haven't been to the Genki at AlaMoana, I'm sure its good. The Kapahulu one is only a few blocks from me, so that is where I usually end up. I have no idea what the younger one will eat there.

                    1. re: leetmom7
                      kinipela Aug 3, 2007 01:10 PM

                      my friends seem to like genki's... they've been to the one at ala moana... i'm familiar with both the one on kapahulu and ala moana.. but i've never gone.. the one at ala moana seems to be crowded A LOT whenever i go there... and on a side note, i dunno why the guy looks so angry... sushi makes me happy...

                      the 10 year old may like gravy fries if you are goign to plate lunch places.. i LOVE gravy over everything... and since i'm on the mainland now i've been having a serious craving of gravy fries... does your 10 year old like frie dchicken? mochiko chicken could be good for him then... if i recall correctly, kailua has lots of chain restaurants... so that should be okay for your 10 year old i would suppose...

                      and if you are over at ala moana, the makai market has lots of places to grab a quick bite to eat that your 10 year old would like.... there's a japanese fast food joint in the makai market across from the curry place that sells a MEAN portuguese sausage musubi with furikake and other pickled ingredients... last time i went it was $2.75 i think....

                  2. re: leetmom7
                    Indy 67 Aug 3, 2007 05:40 AM

                    A gentle reminder... Your proposed jars of roasted red pepper-eggplant spread and olives will probably counts towards in your limit of liquids/gels in carry on luggage. (The issue will be the packing liquid for the olives jar.) Coming home from Italy, our balsamic vinegar was inspected at each airport along the way. Only the kindness of the TSA inspectors in both Bologna and Paris allowed me to keep the vinegar bottle in the original sturdy packing rather than transfer it with no protective packing into a one-quart zip lock plastic baggie. You might feel comfortable packing these jars in your checked luggage, but I had zero risk tolerance.

                    1. re: Indy 67
                      leetmom7 Aug 3, 2007 04:23 PM

                      KaimukiMan, according to the net there is a farmer's market Thursday night in Kailua by the Long's Drugs. I'm glad you feel my pain about picky kids. My 14YO has outgrown it and I'm sure the 12YO will too since I was notorious myself.

                      Thanks Indy, I'm keeping that in mind. FYI there is no limit to how many 3oz bottles I can bring as long as they fit in a quart size ziplock. The red pepper spread is 12 oz and would be in my carryon. If they confisticate it so be it, I'll be out $1.69. I'm not checking luggage.

                      kinipela, we have an L&L not far from where I live, I might try and see if he likes the 'gravy' first :-).

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