How far would you travel for a coco puff?
I’m not talking about the popular breakfast cereal, but the universally adored chocolate-pudding-filled cream puff available only at Liliha Bakery in Honolulu. This sweet confection has been the bakery’s best seller since the early 90’s, something locals constantly crave and visitors make a point of eating whenever they’re in town. Google Yelp or Urban Spoon, and you’ll find rave after rave after rave about these coco puffs — for many, dessert nirvana, a type of pastry you’d sell your second child for.
Now, here’s where I hang my head in shame — though I grew up in Hawai’i, and have been back to visit many times, until last week I had never eaten a Liliha Bakery coco puff (gasp!). This is like admitting to never having eaten shave ice or saimin or spam musubi. Total sacrilege. Don’t ask me why. Major tsk, tsk.
So, I made it my sole mission to finally try them on our recent trip. All through the excruciatingly l – o – n – g plane ride from Virginia, the only thing that kept me going was the promise of creamy smooth chocolate filling encased in tender puff pastry, topped with buttery Chantilly frosting. Coco puffs, coco puffs, coco puffs . . .
The thing with Liliha Bakery is that no matter when you go, the place is buzzin’. People patiently stand in line to eat in the adjoining diner (I hear their pancakes are THE FLUFFIEST), and you must take a number for bakery service. Of course it’s worth the wait. I have never had anything from there that I didn’t like. Take this lemon coconut square, for example. Moist. Rich. Buttery. So, so good.
Or these divine blueberry scones — HELLO!
Everything is baked on the premises and doesn’t stay on the shelves for more than a few hours. I love the constant turnover of fresh pastries tempting the customer, and the place is open 24 hours every day except Monday. Rumor has it they sell between 5-7000 coco puffs every day. The bakery calls it, “The Magic Puff,” because it has the power to settle disputes, “impress your significant other’s family,” and is the perfect celebratory treat anywhere, anytime.
Such a build-up! Such anticipation! Just how good could this perfect little puff be?
I cut it in half to appreciate its layers and textures. Lovely.
I licked a bit of the Chantilly topping, which is like German Chocolate Cake frosting without the coconut and nuts. Mmmmm.
I dipped my finger into the chocolate filling. Fond memories of childhood pudding.
Then I bit into the whole thing, pudding oozing out the side of my mouth. Slowly chew. Contemplate. Hmmm.
Better take another bite just to make sure.
After traveling 5,000+ miles, feeling lame for missing them all this time, and waiting in line for I don’t know how long, my verdict was . . . Meh.
I was not loco over the coco. What was wrong with me? What was I missing? Truly, it was a good little cream puff. I wouldn’t refuse another if it were offered to me. And I would enjoy and savor it. But to me it didn’t live up to the hype. My Dad loved it. He ate one with much relish after polishing off a big piece of lemon meringue pie. He made room for it. But my mom and even Len agreed it was just okay. Phew! I thought it was just me.
This must be a sign that I need to go back, maybe try the green tea cream puff or even the regular one. For you, I would once again make the big sacrifice of consuming another apricot danish, more chocolate chip cookies, an ensemada, or some Chantilly Cake. Biting into any one of these treats is experiencing a small slice of Hawai’i’s cultural history. You just keep wanting more.
Aloha, sweet coco puff. For now, let’s agree to see other people. ☺
Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.