Eat Me!

These days, food is big business. Even organic food: today, massive supermarkets like Whole Foods and Earthbound Farm sell billions of dollars worth of healthy foods every year. Walking into one of their superstores is like entering another world, with ceilings that seem impossibly high and fully stocked shelves to stretch on for what must be miles. What gets lost in all that is a connection between the consumer and the producer. So this year, we decided to find out who actually makes food on Maui. What follows is a run-down on some local companies—many family-owned—that sell wonderful pastries, jams, sauces, beers, vegetables, meats and desserts. There’s a lot here, so take your time digging in.


In operation for just three years, Waiakoa Farms keeps things very simple. “We grow strawberries,” farmer Tony Rodriguez (pictured on our cover) told me. “We’re going to plant sweet onions, but that’s in the future.” The farm pictured here and on the cover is their six-acre Kula operation, but they also have a farm in Ulupalakua. Both Rodriguez and his partner Roy Kanauara have decades of farming experience. Rodriguez, in fact, spent 30 years growing strawberries in California. They currently sell their fruit to Kula Produce. Located at 601 Waiakoa Rd., Kula. 878-6134. [ANTHONYPIGNATARO]


Saturday morning just isn’t Saturday morning without at least one Maui Jelly Co. jar on the breakfast table. This family-owned business makes products that are so yummy and diverse that it’s even been featured on Food Network. Which is fantastic, as long as they can produce enough tropical food items, exotic condiments, relishes and candies to supply the new found mainland demand while still providing us locals with a steady supply. I don’t know how they make such tasty treats, but it probably has something do with using only the best locally produced produce and Maui cane sugar. There are too many delicious options to list, but some of my personal favorites include banana butter, ginger marmalade, guava jelly, chocolate macadamia nut bark, tropical fudge, papaya seed dressing, Maui onion seed dressing, garlic peppercorn ketchup, guava BBQ sauce, jalapeno mustard, coconut syrup and macadamia nut honey. You can find these onolicious creations at Longs, Whalers General, EZ Discounts, Napili Market, Wal-Mart, Mana Foods, DFS at the Kahului Airport and online. Maui Jelly is also available on the islands of Oahu and Kauai. For more information call 242-6989 or visit [STARR BEGLEY]


Ali‘i Kula Lavender sits high up on the Kula hillside. At this elevation many species of these delicately fragrant and edible pale purple flowers thrive on the cool morning air and intense sun exposure, coaxing the lavender fields to bloom year round. The blossoms can typically be found in flower arrangements, potpourri and in essential oil form. Soaps, lotions and perfumes are common uses for the flower, but Ali‘i and its partners have created an entire culinary line of lavender products. Their Royal Velvet culinary lavender can be blended into jellies and baked goods, such as their own scone mix. These scones, with just a touch of water, come out marvelously dense and flakey with an aromatic hint of sweetness from the lavender flakes sprinkled throughout. Smear warm scones with Ali‘i-infused honey for the ultimate experience. But the lavender products are not just for people with a sweet tooth. The lavender gourmet seasoning mixes dill, thyme, pepper, basil, sea salt and several other herbs with lavender—a blend that can be added to marinades, used as a rub, or sprinkled on eggs, potatoes, vegetables and an endless list of other foods. Ali‘i also sells herb dressings, pepper jelly, chocolate, brownies and coffee infused with local lavender. The possible uses are endless and their website offers dozens of recipes and suggestions for using lavender at every meal. Locatetd at 1100 Waipoli Road, Kula. For more information call 878-3004 or visit [JESSICA ARMSTRONG]


I couldn’t believe it when I discovered that it was only in 2002 that Maui Cattle Company sold its first steak. What did we do before then? Seriously, having eaten their steaks, I can’t really remember a time when they weren’t around. I must have blocked all the chewy hormone and antibiotic-ridden beef that’s met my palate from memory. But just because the Maui Cattle Co. has only been selling beef for the last six years doesn’t mean that they’ve only been in the cattle business that long. In fact, Maui Cattle Co. has been around since 1873 and they’re still raising cattle the good old-fashioned way, with plenty of lush green pastures for roaming and grazing and zero growth stimulants, antibiotics or artificial ingredients. You can buy Maui Cattle Co. beef at many local markets, including Ah Fooks, Alive & Well, Hanzawa Store, Hasegawa General Store, Kula Ace Hardware, Longs Drug Stores, Mana Foods, Morihara Store, Pine Isle Market, Pukalani Superette, Rodeo General Store and the Ulupalakua Ranch Store (they also offer elk, in season). Or if you prefer someone else to cook your meat for you, try Maui Cattle Co. beef at Aloha Mixed Plate, Aroma D’Italia, Maui Brew Co., Hali‘imaile General Store, Hard Rock Café, Ichiban Okazuya, Maui Tacos, Roy’s, Stella Blues and Young’s Kitchen. For more information call 871-8706 or visit [SB]


As Maui’s only microbrewery, Maui Brewing Co. could bank on that novelty alone. But owners Garrett Marrero and Melanie Oxley have used their passion for beer, love of Maui, and dedication to ecologically sound business practicesto create a brewery that strives to make the smallest dent possible on the island’s fragile ecosystem. For instance, Maui Brewing Co.’s used oil is converted into biodiesel fuel, which then powers their vehicles. And all grain used in their brews goes to local farmers for raising Maui cattle and free-range chicken, as well as agricultural composting. Currently, the Lahaina brewery is churning out three canned beer products for distribution–“canned,” by the way, being far superior to flavor-and-freshness-depleting glass bottles. Brewmaster Tom Kerns creates “handcrafted ales and lagers brewed with aloha,” often using local ingredients, including small seven-barrel batches of Bikini Blonde Lager, Big Swell IPA and CoCoNut Porter, which utilizes real toasted coconut. From April 15 to May 1, their Kahana restaurant (previously, the Maui Fish & Game Brewing Co. & Rotisserie) will undergo an intensive remodel, even changing the menu to feature more traditional “brewpub”-ish fare. Both Maui Brewing Co.’s brewery and brewpub will also be completely solar-powered. Hmm… powered by beer and sun: what could be more Maui-style? Maui Brew Co.’s brewery is located at 910 Honoapi‘ilani Hwy., Lahaina, 1-877-MAUI-BREW. Its brewpub is located at 4405 Honoapi’ilani Hwy., Kahana, 669-FISH. For more info, check out [SAMANTHA CAMPOS]


Jeffery Gomes of Makawao is the chef and owner behind the amazing flavors of Jeff’s Jams and Jellies. Born and raised on Maui, this American Culinary Federation-certified chef creates and combines the delicious flavors found in Hawai‘i into fresh jams, jellies, marmalades, chutneys, butters and island-style seasonings. Favorites include the guava strawberry jam, li hing mui mango jam, Kula onion jelly, lilikoi lavender jelly, mango chutney, Kona coffee butter and the kiawe smoke salt. Jeff’s Jams and Jellies has more than 40 flavors to choose from, but Gomes warns that certain jams and jellies are only available when the fresh fruits needed are in season on the island. People can enjoy his creations by picking them up at the Kula Lodge Marketplace, Maui Tropical Plantation, Napili General Store, Oluwalu General Store, Ono Gelato Company, Waikapu on 30, Broke Da Mouth Cookie Company, Maui Marriott Ocean Club, Sunrise Country Market, Who Cut the Cheese and Hana Tropical Farms. For more information call 276-6671 or check out [SB]


O‘o Farm is nestled up high on Haleakala’s misty slope, where cool breezes and quenching rains alternate with cloudless skies and scorching heat, sometimes during the course of a single afternoon. The climate there is unique, and allows non-native vegetation to thrive on the eight and a half acres of land owned and operated by the chefs and proprietors of I‘o and Pacific‘O restaurants in Lahaina. Rows of spinach, arugula and lettuce grow heartily on the farm, awaiting their noble destiny as fare at the restaurants. The vegetable garden seasonally bursts with asparagus, fennel, Japanese and Crescent Moon eggplant, cucumbers and peas. Fragrant lime, Thai and sweet Italian basils grow alongside blooming cilantro, rosemary and mint in the herb garden. Lemongrass, which absolutely blooms on the farm, acts as a border crop that protects other plants from weeds and insects. A citrus orchard yields several varieties of oranges, lemons and limes as well as a unique citrus fruit called Buddha’s Hand. The stone fruit garden, an oddity on tropical Maui, bears apricots, peaches, plums and pears. Basically, O’o Farm grows a little bit of everything, including apples, cherries, figs, strawberries, grapes and wild poha berries. The idea is to grow 100 percent of the produce for both restaurants and the Feast at Lele luau, which allows them to stop relying on expensive, imported food. They haven’t yet attained that goal, but the farm is on its way to being certified organic. Farm tours and lunches are available twice a week for anyone hoping for a fresh look. Located in Waipoli, near Kula. Call 667-4341 for reservations. [JA]


Nearly 20 years ago, Rene and Eileen Comeaux of Hana Herbs and Flowers began farming pohole–fresh, succulent, gourmet tropical fern shoots. Depending on where you’re from, pohole is known by a few other names like “pako” in the Philippines, “warabi” in Japan and “ho‘i‘o” on the Big Island. According to the Comeauxs, the pohole grown on Maui is some of the best in the world–large, especially tender and, because of Hana’s climate, available year-round. The shoots are crunchy in texture, mild in flavor (some say it’s similar to an asparagus or okra) and contains lots of good-for-you stuff like iron, vitamin C, beta-carotene and fiber. Pohole grows wild in Hawai‘i and is native to the Islands. The Comeauxs were the first people to have it FDA-approved for export–a process that took nearly two years. People can try pohole in many of the fine dishes served at Hotel Hana Maui, Maui Prince or the Ritz Carlton. Chef Mark Avalon is also apparently a big fan. Hana Herbs and Flowers delivers pohole once a week to “this” side of the island so those of you interested can always place an order of your own. As an added bonus, their website has some great pohole-based recipes. For more information call 248-7407 or visit [SB]


Michael “the Candy Man” Capuano created Wow Wee Maui candy bars nearly 12 years ago after trying unsuccessfully to sell a friend’s chocolate covered chewy bananas to Maui consumers. “Why not throw in some macadamia nuts and make a bar out of it?” he thought. It was a brilliant idea, giving birth to the original Wow Wee bar. That fudgey concoction was quickly followed by another delicious idea: Kona coffee and caramel blended into a milk chocolate bar, which became Capuano’s personal favorite. Delicious as these candy bars may be, Capuano didn’t stop there. He created a dark chocolate bar with Hawaiian coconut and a bar with white and dark chocolate and a hint of raspberry crunch. Then he pulled the chewy banana out of his original bar for macadamia nut purists (like me) who prefer their milk chocolate candy bar without fruit. Toffee bits arrived in a Wow Wee bar with Ka‘anapali Estate coffee. And then there’s the kava bar—a blend of Wow Wee’s mouth-watering cocoa goodness and Hawai‘i’s beloved awa root potion. Capuano has pretty much mastered the candy market here on Maui, but he plans to push forward with new recipes like a Maui Gold rum and raisin bar and a Kauai red sea salt and chocolate bar. I’m not a very hard sell, though, because by the time a Wow Wee Maui candy bar is melting like sweet molten lava in my mouth I’m already reaching for another one. Plus, I love the retro wrappers. Wow Wee Maui candy bars are available at Longs Drug Stores, Wow Wee Maui Café and various other Maui retailers. Wow Wee Maui Café is located at 333 Dairy Rd., Kahului. For a complete list of candy bar retailers call 871-1414 or visit [JA]


Ah, Ulupalakua Red. The name, like the flavor, is just plain luxurious. I’ll say it again: Ulupalakua Red. Yes, still love it. In fact, this has been my preferred wine since the day I turned 21. I have many fond memories of sipping glass after glass of the stuff while reading a book by the fireplace during Olinda winters. Tedeschi Vineyards first opened in Ulupalakua back in 1974. Three years later they released their first bottle of Maui Blanc Pineapple. By 1980 the first grapes of the vineyard were harvested; in 1984 they released Maui Brut—Blanc de Noirs. Today, Tedeschi puts out many great wines like the Plantation Red. Depending on availability, there’s even a Raspberry wine. You can pretty much get their wines anywhere on the island, as well as many locations across the U.S. and even in Canada and Switzerland. For those of you who crave the ambiance of actually sipping Tedeschi wine in Ulupalakua, you can always visit their lovely and historic tasting room. Call 878-6058 for more information or visit [SB]


Surfing Goat Dairy boasts the best goat cheese on the island. Using just local organic products, Thomas Kafsack and his wife Eva-Maria have created more than 30 cheeses that are both popular and unique. The smooth goat cheese comes in mango, herb and horseradish and goat’s milk feta. The idea of the surfing goat came 10 years ago when the husband and wife team realized there was a lack of fresh cheese on the island. “We didn’t want to eat imported cheese anymore,” Tom Kafsack said. “We decided we would create fresh cheese ourselves.” The Kafsacks went to France, Austria and Switzerland to learn the trade of making goat cheese, then returned to the island and purchased a little over 42 acres in Kula. Today, there are 218 goats on the farm and more than 75 percent of Surfing Goat Dairy cheeses have received second place or better in world-renowned competitions. The cheeses are made fresh daily, with the goats being milked twice a day. The Kafsacks don’t use any pesticides or herbicides on their farm, nor do they use growth hormones, steroids or antibiotics on the goats. The vegetable products within the cheeses come from local organic farmers or themselves. You can find Surfing Goat cheeses at Down to Earth in Kahului, the Honolua Store in Kapalua, Kihei Wine & Spirits and Café Ciao at the Fairmont Kea Lani Resort in Wailea. 3651 Omaopio Rd., Kula. Call 878-2870 or visit [LINDSEY RIESINGER]


I drink vodka, probably a bit more often than my mother would approve of, so I know from personal experience that your typical vodka connoisseur has a wide range of choices when selecting a spirit. Even though vodka, by definition, is clear and virtually odorless, each variety and brand has distinct qualities that make it unique. Ocean Vodka is in a class of its own. It’s hand-crafted in small batches in a quaint Kahului distillery, making it the only local vodka to grace the Valley Isle. The process begins with water collected more than 3,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of Hawai‘i. Cold, pure and free of surface pollutants, the water is gently desalinated but not stripped of the minerals that make it smooth and unique. Organic grains of corn and rye, processed carefully to remove any impurities, are fermented through a four-column distilling procedure that creates a very drinkable, smooth product. The result is 80 proof premium vodka that’s so naturally near to perfect–so genuinely flavored by the wide waters that surround us–that blending in a flavor additive would only cheapen it. I’ll take mine shaken, with just a touch of fresh, tropical juices, and served in a martini glass. Available island-wide at grocery stores, restaurants and other retailers. For more information visit [JA]


This is one of Maui’s sort-of hidden treasures. “Sort-of,” referring to the fact that not everybody knows about it. There’s no dispute over it’s treasure-like qualities. Valley Isle Seafood not only provides wholesale fresh fish caught right here in Maui waters, but they have a fantastic deli where people can walk in and buy just as much seafood as they need–whether it’s for a family dinner or baby’s first luau. Speaking of luau’s, Valley Isle Seafood’s lunch items are the absolute bomb when it comes to real local food. Everyday they serve up something fresh like squid luau, kalua pork, fish plate, fresh fish & chips and lau lau. The food is always good, very authentic and never frozen. The fish & chips are, in my humble opinion, the best on the island. They use whatever is fresh and available. Every time that I’ve been there they’ve used Maui-caught Mahi. Do yourself a favor and don’t buy anymore of those frozen halibut fish sticks at the grocery store. Not only will your taste buds thank you for shopping at Valley Isle Seafood, but you’ll be supporting local business and local fishermen. Located at 475 Hukilike St., Kahului. For more information call 893-0497. [SB]


Sweet, succulent scents escape from Home Maid Bakery. The bakery is one of Maui’s premier spots for the best baked goods around. In 1960, Joseph and Monica Kozuki, both born and raised on the island, decided to open the bakery to make desserts using locally grown products. Before long, customers came to know Home Maid Bakery as the “Home of the Crispy Manju.” The specialty of the house, the Crispy Manju has a fruity filling and cookie-like crust. Although the Manju is top choice on many people’s list, the bakery offers a lot of other treats. The products used within the pastries, such as the pineapple and sweet potatoes, come from local farmers. There are no preservatives in their products—just natural additives. Of course, this means the breads and pastries have a shelf life of a mere three days. “We make homemade cookies, cakes, doughnuts and breads, to name a few,” Steve Tarnoff, Buyer and Facilities Manager, told me. “There are roughly 70 employees here working in their departments to make the site friendly and the smells worthwhile.” 1005 Lower Main St., Wailuku, 244-7015. [LR]


Roselani Ice Cream has passed the test of time in a major way. After more than 70 years, it’s not only still a Maui favorite, but also the preferred ice cream across the state. Way back in 1932, Manuel Nobriga of Maui Soda & Ice Works in Wailuku began making ice cream from scratch to supply the local ice cream parlors. By the 1960s, Nobriga and his son Buddy perfected the recipe for the haupia, or coconut pudding, which is today’s top selling flavor. “I can’t add a single ingredient,” Cathy Nobriga-Kim, Manuel’s granddaughter, said. “It would be sacrilegious.” Today Nobriga-Kim runs Roselani Tropics and oversees the production of about 3,000 cartons a day that are distributed statewide. All the ice cream is still produced right here in Wailuku and is available just about everywhere, from little Mom & Pops to high-end resorts and chain super markets. 918 Lower Main St. Wailuku. 244-7951 [SB]


Kula Country Farms is a fourth generation farm. Currently run by Chauncy Monden, it was started by his great grandfather. Monden grew up on the farm, and has run it full-time for the last decade. They grow, in no particular order: strawberries, onions, blueberries, daikon, yellow and green zucchini, Chinese peas, sugar snap peas, regular bush beans, carrots and celery. The December 2007 storms—which drumped more than a foot of rain on Upcountry—hurt the farms badly. “We lost a lot of crop in the ground,” Monden told me. “We’re short of onions. But we replanted.” In all, Monden lost about $100,000 worth of products and farm equipment, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. You can find the farm’s products at Pukulani Superette, Safeway, All Star Produce, Kula Produce and Morihara Store. “In a month, we’re going to open a fruit stand on the highway across from Rice Park,” Monden told me. “We’ll finally sell directly to the public.” Located at 365 Koheo Rd., Kula. 878-8381. [AP] MTW