‘Grab Some Bags’ of Ohana Cookies
“Get yourself some bags, Marla Walters.”
That was the last line of an email I received from Esket Padeken, describing his Ohana Cookies, baked here on the Big Island.
How could I resist? I love cookies, I loved his quirky email and I had to meet a guy with a name like Esket. So, a few Sundays ago, we piled into the car and drove out to the Maku‘u Market.
I easily found Padeken in the produce section of the market, wearing a Cookie Monster T-shirt. He was selling cookies as fast as he could ring them up. I sampled one, and then another, and okay, yet another, while I listened to his pitch to customers.
Now, there are a lot of good cookies on this island, from shortbread to stone, so Esket had to come up with something a little different. He has. His cookies contain no eggs or dairy—even in their chocolate. He estimates the cookies have only eight calories each.
I was a little skeptical, because c’mon, how can you make a good cookie without eggs or dairy? Well, as it turns out, he can. They are sweet, crunchy and absolutely addictive.
Padeken is a recent transplant from O‘ahu. He spent 22 years in food service and also had a cookie business on O’ahu. When he retired, he and his wife, Elaine Maes-Padeken, were thrilled to move to the Big Island, where they had visited for years.
His enthusiasm reminded me of other food entrepreneurs I have met lately, who share a common vision of sustainable, innovative food and produce.
“It’s the new Wild West,” said Padeken, who had already made fast friends with Erin Sharkey, another forward-thinking farmer. (Padeken uses Sharkey’s 76% cacao in his cookies.)
“You are only limited by your imagination,” he said, and rattled off other cookie flavors such as Mochi Crunch, Peanut Butter and Mac Nut.
Big on using local fruits, he also makes his own fruit extracts, such as mango, coconut and lilikoi, to go into the cookies. He likes to use what is in season. They are all handmade and hand-packaged (which was evident; none of the cookies in my bag were broken). He will also ship the cookies.
While we chatted, the cookies kept selling. Padeken noted he had sold 300 bags just that day.
On O‘ahu, he did school fundraising with the cookies; he hopes to continue that, here. I know if any of the neighbor kids came to our door with them, they would make a sale.
Go get yourself some bags, readers. Padeken sells the cookies at the Hilo Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and at the Maku‘u Market on Sundays. More information is available on his website.