Supporting local agriculture includes supporting local businesses that buy local ingredients. Three Kona establishments do just that. You can sample some of Kona’s best local produce included in delicious one-stop recipes. Gypsea Gelato, Kona Sweets and the new cafe, Happy Heart Kona, are all under one roof at 79-7491 Mamalahoa Highway in Kainaliu.
Kona Sweets owner Janel Panek attended a San Francisco baking school 20 years ago and has been a baker ever since. For the past 10 years, she has provided discerning Kona residents with delicious special occasion pastries and cakes from Kona Sweets. She uses local ingredients when and where she can get them. She regularly incorporates apple bananas, local lilikoi and mangoes in her pastries and cakes. She also often includes local macnuts, white pineapple, and Kona coffee in her recipes.
“I have made birthday cakes for Diana for many years, her choice was always either lilikoi or chocolate. One year, she even ordered one of each, ”recalls Janel.
Yes, her cakes are fabulous, but so are the pastries she bakes daily.
You can sample his daily offerings in front of his kitchen at Gypsea Gelato. To add some freshness to your summer snacks, you might want to take a look at Gypsea Gelato’s freezer case. They not only offer Janel’s pastries, but they offer over 20 different ice cream flavors every day.
Gelato is a frozen dessert of Italian origin, made with rich whole milk and sugar. It is less fatty than ice cream, has less air and more flavor. Its density and richness distinguish it from ice cream. The recipes that Gypsea owners Tim and Sandra Heaton create usually include local ingredients. Some of their combinations are ingenious. All of them are delicious.
Local ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, and a special mint grown by Steve Mann at Old Ways Farm in South Kona provide some of the flavor bases. George of the Kona Kahili farm drops bananas and apples from his farm every week, and several farmers regularly come with fresh ginger root. Other local farmers provide golden mangoes, white pineapples, lemons, limes, oranges, dragon fruit, lychees, and Kona coffee. All of these go into ice creams or sorbets. Big Island’s milk at the rate of about 1,000 gallons per month provides a basis for most of their recipes. The ingredients are combined locally at their ice cream factory in the Shojin building, across from their store.
Although they started across the highway at Mango Court in 2014, after purchasing gear from Gio’s Gelato, Gypsea Gelato has since expanded its locations as well as its offerings. Gypsea Gelato opened a store on Ali’i Drive in Coconut Grove in 2017 and moved to their larger space in Kainaliu in 2019. Expanding their locations has also allowed them to create new flavors.
“We create recipes based on what farmers give us,” Sandra suggested.
Tim agrees that farmers often come with produce to sell.
My favorite gelato is Tom Kha which uses ginger, lemongrass, coconut and turmeric. They also make a London Fog ice cream that incorporates the Earl Gray flavor into a vanilla base. A new flavor called Salad is just that and includes goat cheese, strawberries, and pecans topped with balsamic glaze.
The recipe duo both received top-notch ice cream making training at Gelato University in Carpigiani, where they studied with Gianluigi Dellaccio and current Ice Cream Ambassador to the United States, Gianluigi Dellaccio. Tim and Sandra both love to create new recipes, but also love to tweak proven flavors.
“We love working with chocolate and are delighted that Mauka Trail remains our most popular flavor.”
This recipe incorporates coffee, chocolate and mac nuts in an ice cream topped with a chocolate drizzle. This combination continues to appeal to Kona.
When asked what inspired the name Gypsea, Tim reported on their search for the right name. The search ended on one of their commercial fishing trips to Canada. Since they had always considered themselves travelers, when they saw a fishing boat named Gypsea, they knew they had the name of their new ice cream shop in Kona.
Happy Heart Kona is a new addition to the address. Isabel Thottam and Neil Bhave also base their recipes on ingredients supplied by local farmers and distributors.
The couple met in Kona three years ago. They fell in love with each other and Kona and have been here full time for over a year. They share East Indian ancestors as well as health issues that prompted them to focus on healthier eating habits.
Improving their health has motivated them to share some of their favorite foods. They decided to open a stand at the Pure Kona Green Market offering vegan pop pies, with a gluten-free option, incorporating delicious fresh fruits like mangoes and lilikoi. Neil also came up with a gluten-free granola recipe that was a popular breakfast item at the market.
“Food is part of my culture. I was brought up in a family of cooks. My Indian dad and American mom both made delicious meals using great recipes, ”says Isabel.
Many of these recipes have inspired the ones she uses in the cafe for her breakfast and lunch offerings. The spices included in her Mexican-Indian burrito certainly go back to the flavors she enjoyed as a child.
Isabel’s pop tarts have brought many fans from the market to the cafe. Neil always makes his delicious granola which is served in the cafe all day with fresh fruit and oat milk. Their offerings of vegan meals and gluten-free choices have garnered a lot of support from the community.
Calling their cafe “Happy Heart” has a double meaning for the couple.
“Of course, our recipes are heart-friendly, but also opening the cafe opened my heart.” Neil noticed.
He indicated that they wanted to have a place where the community could gather, mingle and share food. The menu and the place they have created make him happy and he hopes that this feeling of joy is contagious.
Not only the food, but also the decor adds to the joy. Colorful murals, tables and walls were painted by several different local artists including Noel Badges Pugh, Kerry Green, Siena Baldi, Katie Lynn, Naia Elle and Betty Moon Studios ”. Vibrant art definitely adds flavor to the coffee as well as the food they serve.
The owners of these three businesses are all committed to offering different delicious products in a healthy environment using as many organic and local ingredients as possible. They enjoy working together and find clients who like to combine coffee and pastry with a meal at the cafe and leave with an ice cream cone and a piece of Janel’s lilikoi cheesecake. It is a joyous day.
Diana Duff is a plant counselor, educator and consultant living part-time in Kailua-Kona.
Every Saturday: “Work Day at Amy Greenwell Garden” from 9 am to 12:30 pm Meet at the Garden Visitor Center in front of the Manago hotel in Captain Cook. Come with a mask and be prepared to practice social distancing. Volunteers can help with the maintenance of the garden and are welcome to bring a brown bag for lunch. Water and snacks provided. Call Peter at (808) 323-3318 for more information.
Save the dates: October 8-9 – Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers Conference on “Mango Makers and Food Preservers” at the Maui County Business Resource Center. Virtual and in person. Mini-sessions and tours October 10-14 in Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, Hilo and Kona. More information, registration forms and fee schedule are available at www.htfg.org or by contacting Ken Love at [email protected] or Mark Suiso at [email protected]
Direct Farmers Markets (check websites for latest hours and online markets)
Wednesday: “Ho’oulu Farmers Market” at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa in Keauhou Bay
Saturday: “Keauhou Farmers Market” from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Keauhou Shopping Center
Information about their online market at keauhoufarmersmThursarket.com/onlinemarket
“Kamuela farmer’s market” from 7:30 am to noon at the Pukalani stables
“Waimea Town Market” from 7:30 am to noon at Parker school in the center of Waimea
“Waimea Homestead Farmers Market” from 7:30 am to noon on the playground of secondary and primary schools in Waimea Sunday: “Pure Kona Green Market” from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm at Amy Greenwell Garden at Captain Cook
“Hamakua Harvest” from 9 am to 2 pm on highway 19 and rue Mamane in Honoka’a
Plant advice lines
Anytime: [email protected]; Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the UH-CES in Kainaliu at (808) 322-4893.