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Menus’ claims get Kaua‘i dairy’s goat

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Posted: Saturday, February 12, 2011 11:30 pm

LIHU‘E — It was a rude surprise for the Wooton family, owners of Kaua‘i Kunana Dairy in Kilauea, to discover their goat cheese on the menus of several Kaua‘i restaurants that are not ordering their product.

Of the four restaurants making false claims, two have never ordered their goat cheese, one has not placed an order in more than a year, and the other has not ordered since October, Kunana Dairy owner Louisa Wooton said.

“Buyer beware when you sit down for a fine dining experience with the comforting thought that you are supporting local farmers,” she said.

“You can run here on Kaua‘i, but you can’t hide,” Wooton said. “This isn’t L.A. where you can get away with things like this.”

After the discovery, Wooton contacted the restaurants and found their excuses “truly novel.”

Brennecke’s Beach Broiler, Po‘ipu

“False advertising was not the intent,” Brennecke’s owner Bob French said Thursday.

The restaurant’s website menu, copyright 2008, lists an “organic Kaua‘i arugula with warm Kunana Dairy goat cheese” salad.

Wooton said they have never supplied Brennecke’s with their cheese.

French said they don’t offer the salad on their in-restaurant menu and the item only appears on their website because they have yet to update it.

“It’s just an oversight,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to misrepresent the facts . . . We were having trouble with our Kaua‘i arugula supply and took it off menu, but not off of website,” French said. “We’ve been running a different salad altogether on the menu. It was our full intention to use the Kunana Dairy product.”

French added that he sympathizes with Wooton. “If someone used our name, it would bother me,” he said. “I get it. I just have to apologize to them, that’s all.”

Kalaheo Steak & Ribs, Kalaheo

Wooton said Kalaheo Steak & Ribs is the other restaurant that has never been a customer of her dairy. Yet, the restaurant’s dinner menu lists an “island fresh arugula salad” tossed with Kilauea goat cheese.

Restaurant owner Caroline Frederiksen said the restaurant’s previous chef, Shane Farkash,  put it on the menu six months ago.

“We wanted to buy it from him (the Wootons), but they don’t want to sell it to us,” Frederiksen said.

Wooton said, “So you’re dishing out to the customers every night for six months? How can that be right?”

Frederiksen said the menu will be changed soon after Valentine’s Day.

Casablanca Restaurant, Po‘ipu

Farkash is also a former chef of Casablanca Restaurant, which stopped ordering from Kunana Dairy in October. But the restaurant’s menu still lists the Kilauea dairy as the goat cheese on their cheese platter.

Sarah Foster, the restaurant’s chef for the past year, said she would order the cheese but it’s not available.

Wooton said that’s simply not true. Supply levels vary by season; however, the cheese is available.

During their seasonal peak, the dairy produces some 300 pounds of cheese per week. “Right now, we’re doing 100 to 120 pounds per week,” she said.

The cheese is sold wholesale to restaurants and is sometimes offered at farmers markets. She said they no longer supply grocery stores with their cheese because of the packaging requirements.

Casablanca owner Elizabeth Foley-McGinn said sometimes an employee would pick up the Kunana goat cheese at a farmers market.

When they didn’t have it to serve to customers, they would inform them of its unavailability and double up on some other type of cheese offered on the platter, such as gorgonzola, she said.

Foley-McGinn said it was never about deceiving customers.

“You run out of stuff in the restaurant business, and people understand that,” she said. “We’ll say sorry, we don’t have this or that tonight.”

She called Kunana’s goat cheese “the best on the market.”

“Once you try it, you’ll never go back to anything else,” she said. “It’s pricey, but well worth it.”

Following the interview, Casablanca placed an order with Kunana Dairy, Wooton said. “At least they’re trying to do the right thing.”

Kukui’s, Marriott Resort and Beach Club, Kalapaki Beach

The Marriott restaurant has not ordered cheese from Kunana Dairy since October 2009, Wooton said, but Kilauea goat cheese remains on the menu.

When restaurant manager Grace Lontoc was asked about the discrepancy, she said executive chef Guy Higa is responsible for the menu. He declined an opportunity to comment.

Wooton said when she called Higa about the issue a few weeks ago, he told her it cost too much to reprint the menus.

“Marriott was one of our first accounts when we opened in 1999,” Wooton said, and the hotel maintained a standing order with them. But in 2009, the dairy was informed by the hotel’s purchasing department that they could get cheese cheaper elsewhere and would not be ordering from them anymore.

“They didn’t give us any warning,” Wooton said. “We were just left sitting there looking at all of this packaged cheese.”

On Thursday, a customer ordering a “Hawaiian Heirloom tomatoes, watermelon and Kilauea goat cheese” salad on the “from the ‘aina” side of the menu was repeatedly assured by staff members that the salad contained Kaua‘i Made goat cheese.

“How do I know?” the customer asked.

Because that’s what the menu says, some replied.

“If there’s any confusion on that, we apologize,” resort manager Steve Yarenel said Friday. “We’ve removed it from our menu as of today. I have no other comment.”

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  • kalaheo123 posted at 4:32 am on Fri, Feb 18, 2011.

    kalaheo123 Posts: 1052

    Pete 8:11 pm

    LOL .......hahahahah

  • Joeanon posted at 1:52 am on Fri, Feb 18, 2011.

    Joeanon Posts: 2

    And remember - don't feed the trolls

  • PeteAntonson posted at 8:11 pm on Thu, Feb 17, 2011.

    PeteAntonson Posts: 2460

    I hear Joeanon fired a shotgun at a fly and took out 4 kitchen appliances.

  • Joeanon posted at 6:16 pm on Thu, Feb 17, 2011.

    Joeanon Posts: 2

    Boycott these restaurants and the problem will disappear.

    If the restaurant that lies and cheats pays no penalty, soon they will have many imitators.

  • KauaiDreaming posted at 11:45 pm on Wed, Feb 16, 2011.

    KauaiDreaming Posts: 14

    I completely agree with your statement " Despite all remarks to the contrary, the Universe that is Kauai does not revolve around the sensibilities inherent in Kilauea (Thank God) or any dairies therein."
    This was a terrible way for the Kunana Dairy to try make their point. Shame on them. They could have simply written a formal letter of complaint to these establishments, demanding them to immediately cease their false advertisement. Instead, they have chosen to take it to a personal level with these restaurants. Come on guys..this is Kauai. Let's help one another rather than bring down the hands that feed many of us.

    And Ryan. just remember, the wheel of karma turns slowly but surely. Wait till the day you happen to sell some spoiled Kunana Farm Goat Cheese at the F.M. that gets a lot of people sick. Perhaps we should contact G.I. to run that cover story?? You never know.

    To Brennecke, Marriott, Casa Blanca, and Kalaheo Grill...sorry this little dairy has made it so personal

  • Kunana posted at 12:15 pm on Tue, Feb 15, 2011.

    Kunana Posts: 6

    Only last week, the blog pictured Organic Arrugula with Warm Kauai Kunana Chevre. Scroll to the bottom today & read that it was changed on Feb. 14th. The foodie was served a meal in Dec. 2010 from a menu with false claims. My original letter to the Forum intentionally mentioned no names. My purpose, whether moral or outrage, was to let the public know what was going on. Freudian slip, arrugula unavailable, web-site designer's fault? Just tell the truth, easier to remember. Don't know any Aloha92. We "pick & choose" according to who pays on time & who historically has maintained a standing order. First come, first pay, & stay loyal is how we do business around here. Attitude, you bet! Our cheese is superior to any imported cheese. After all, it's from Kilauea-Center of the Universe! It sickens us to have it misrepresented. Hard work does not come close to describing us. Come by: 5:30 a.m. for 1st milking & stay til lights out at 9:00 p.m. You just might share the attitude! Aloha, Louisa

  • Aloha1992 posted at 9:21 am on Tue, Feb 15, 2011.

    Aloha1992 Posts: 1

    I have to agree with Manuwai and all those who read between the lines. I have called these people numerous times trying to buy their cheese for our restaurant. I either got no answer or the biggest attitude! They say in peak season they make 300# of cheese a week, so why do you pick and choose who you want to sell it to? If it were my business, first come, first serve. In the past we have done business with them and there is no such thing as "advance notice" if prodcut was not available. We would find out on the day of delivery that it was short or not available. I do realize that is nature of the farming industry, but what you people are saying, I have not found any truth to that. Just be honest - IF GET, GET - IF NO MOA, NO MOA!! That's it!

  • ryan67 posted at 7:02 am on Tue, Feb 15, 2011.

    ryan67 Posts: 49

    Dave That's Hilarious. When we first posted that it was called Organic Arugula with Warm Kunana Dairy Chevre. Most people that went to that blog saw it. I'm glad you had the persuasion to get it changed. I love that. You'll do anything to avoid the truth.

  • daveORL posted at 7:22 pm on Mon, Feb 14, 2011.

    daveORL Posts: 1

    After reading Louise's last comment, I feel I should comment. Louise,as you know I was one of your very 1st and loyal supporters. I am very sorry our busness freindship ends like this. Truth in menu is very imporant to both sides. We (I) have always,and still do try to be diligent in this area, this is not always easy especially when using fresh, local product. This is never an excuse. I thank you for linking the blog listing our goat chz salad. As it was printed on our menu is how it was copied on the blog. The goat chz had no description at all. As you stated, when we put goat chz on the menu I tried to call you twice and never got a response, or a message of a response. I then, before the menu was ever printed, redid the item description w/out your farm name or any place name. What I never knew was, the first drart, of the menu had gone to our web designer. Shame on us, we made a honest mistake. Its sad, poor communication, can divide r small Kauai. God Bless you, Dave Boucher

  • PeteAntonson posted at 4:13 pm on Mon, Feb 14, 2011.

    PeteAntonson Posts: 2460

    Here's two basic facts of life here:
    1) Pulehu is an exposed phony on this blog.
    2) Despite all remarks to the contrary, the Universe that is Kauai does not revolve around the sensibilities inherent in Kilauea (Thank God) or any dairies therein.

  • wheeulz posted at 12:27 pm on Mon, Feb 14, 2011.

    wheeulz Posts: 2420

    dmorel, 7:47 am yesterday:

    It was quite courageous of you to name-the-name of your former employer who lied to the Health Department inspector. Very impressive.

  • wheeulz posted at 8:23 am on Mon, Feb 14, 2011.

    wheeulz Posts: 2420

    "... mahalo to Vanessa for your righteous outrage and tenacious reporting."

    A'men! Very nicely done, Vanessa.

  • Kunana posted at 6:31 am on Mon, Feb 14, 2011.

    Kunana Posts: 6

    This is a final word from the old goat lady herself. We produce goat cheese 365 days of the year. Goats are seasonal breeders. (many mainland goat dairies shut down in the winter) All of our accounts are aware of this and are up-and-up with their customers. The chef at Kalaheo Steak House inquired about our cheese and flat out said it was too expensive. We played phone tag with Dave Boucher at Brennecke's for a week, and never ordered, not once. Arrugula in short supply? A Freudian slip?
    Check it out here from a blog written in December 2010:
    The Marriott was totally blatant, serving customers counterfeit cheese last week, almost two weeks after we called and asked them to stop.(I shudder to think how it tastes!!)
    I thought my letter to the editor would be the end of it, but, mahalo to Vanessa for your righteous outrage and tenacious reporting.
    Listen to Pulehu and the tutu wahine and tutu kane. Live ALOHA!

  • PeteAntonson posted at 5:21 am on Mon, Feb 14, 2011.

    PeteAntonson Posts: 2460

    Oh, I'm sure that people at the restaurants were contacted. I simply don't believe this was discussed with these owners.

  • ryan67 posted at 11:31 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    ryan67 Posts: 49

    If you read the article it lists what the owners and chefs said when we first called them about this issue over a month ago. It was after no action to correct their false advertising, that Louisa wrote her letter to the editor a few weeks ago. After that a reporter contacted us wanting to know who these restaurants are that are falsely claiming to use Kauai products. We told her who we had problems with and what we were told when we confronted them with this. The fact is our name is off all these menu's know. So I guess we did accomplish what we first attempted to do by talking to the owners and chefs, but got little to no response.

  • PeteAntonson posted at 10:48 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    PeteAntonson Posts: 2460

    It's quite evident from this story that the press was the first to hear about this matter and the restaurant owners then heard about it from the reporter. I therefore conclude that this was more about publicity than some moral imperative. I maintain that this sort of public embarassment will prove to be a disadvantage to the business in the long run. It is the same principle as when confrontational activists get attention; but, never quite seem to acccomplish any of their (not "there") goals.

  • ryan67 posted at 9:46 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    ryan67 Posts: 49

    First I delivered to most our Restaurants today and they were all excited about the article. One of them had it framed over there stoves. Second if you need any confirmation here is one link to a foodie blog where someone ate at Brennecke's in December wrote down what they ate and actually took a picture of there meal. Check it out.
    Second look at this Marriott Newspress.
    look at when it's dated less than three months ago and you can see us down in the desserts section.
    Everybody else made haste on changing there menu's today.
    I guess they were finally motivated.

  • ryan67 posted at 9:04 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    ryan67 Posts: 49

    Here is a list of Restaurants that use our cheese from North to South: Bar a Cuda, Kauai Grill(St. Regis), Nanea(Westin),
    The Tavern(Roy's), The Light House Bistro, The Garden(Common Ground), Kilauea Bakery, Moloa'a Fruit Stand, Kauai Pasta Kapaa, Oasis on the Beach, The Hukilau Lanai, Kauai Pasta Lihue, Duke's, 22 North, The Sheraton, Roy's Poipu, Merrimans, Living Foods Cafe. We also supply several caterers and many private chefs. If you have any questions about any other restaurants claiming to use our cheese you can always call us directly.
    You can buy the cheese from us directly at the Tuesday Market in Hanalei, Wednesday Market at Kukui'ula, and Saturday markets in both Hanalei, and at the college.

  • kapaaa posted at 8:31 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    kapaaa Posts: 40

    This is the best story that I have read in the GI for a long time! Locavores Unite!

  • PeteAntonson posted at 8:15 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    PeteAntonson Posts: 2460

    Straight off I will say that I side with Manawai's comment. He was the first and only one so far to read between the lines of this story and smell something cheesey. Manawai's posts usually involve critical thinking in contrast to the emotional rhetoric on display everywhere else here today. I also know something about the character of some of the people quoted; and I believe them. All I know of the Dairy is the attitude on display in the story and comments. If I were a current customer of their's, I would quietly disengage my business from this Dairy. In the wisdom of Consigliary Tom Hagen: "This is business not personal."

  • wheeulz posted at 8:05 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    wheeulz Posts: 2420


    Would you mind giving us a list of the Honest restaurants you sell to?

    I damn sure won't eat -- or stay -- at the Marriott again.

  • wheeulz posted at 8:03 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    wheeulz Posts: 2420

    7:26 pm:

    Wailuachef, please DO get started on Kauai beef.
    I for one would like to hear what you have to say.

  • wailuachef posted at 7:26 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    wailuachef Posts: 3

    And manawai, part of supporting local ag is realizing that production and availability of real food is subject to weather and other unforeseen circumstances. From a sourcing and labor perspective, real farm-to-plate is twice as hard as a traditional restaurant. Don't even get me started on Kauai beef...

  • ryan67 posted at 6:59 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    ryan67 Posts: 49

    The other two restaurants have never ordered from us so this excuse does not work for them. The facts are that these retaurants know they can get more money for a meal if it uses popular local items like our cheese. The only catch is you actually have to use the local farm products that you claim to use. Be honest with your customers and don't decieve them. Just so you know the marriott started a ongoing special in December in a private Cabana for $165/person with a menu that claims to use our cheese. Over a year after they stopped ordering from us. I would be interested in hearing the other side of this story since thats what you claim manawai.

  • wailuachef posted at 6:50 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    wailuachef Posts: 3

    [quote]Manawai said: "I’m sorry but from the restaurants’ comments it sounds like the dairy might not be the most reliable or consistent supplier. I’d be pissed if I printed an expensive menu and then the cheese wasn’t coming in on time or at all or their prices rose too high. I think there may be two sides to this story. "[/quote]As a chef I've been buying from the Wootens for over 12 years. They've run out maybe once, and gave me plenty of notice. This "they won't sell to us", or "they're inconsistent" is BS. If I list 'prime' on my menu, or worse 'Kauai-grown', and it isn't, it's my responsibility as a restaurateur to change my menu to reflect the truth. This kind of misrepresentation is rampant, and is unfair to the restaurants that are actually doing the work and spending the money to support local farms.

  • ryan67 posted at 6:48 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    ryan67 Posts: 49

    [quote]Manawai said: "I’m sorry but from the restaurants’ comments it sounds like the dairy might not be the most reliable or consistent supplier. I’d be pissed if I printed an expensive menu and then the cheese wasn’t coming in on time or at all or their prices rose too high. I think there may be two sides to this story. "[/quote]
    I'm Ryan from Kauai Kunana Dairy. We have accounts with over 30 restaurants. Our supply fluctuates by season and we inform all our accounts of this before we decide to deliver to them. Of the two restaraunts that we formerly did business with. One canceled there order since they could get cheapah cheese. Our price never increased they just found a lower quality cheese for a lower quality price, and decided to remain calling it our cheese over a year later. The second account will go 5 -6 months without ever recieving a check from, with us ultimately having to call them and show them every single invoice before recieving any kind of payment.

  • ekm768 posted at 2:28 pm on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    ekm768 Posts: 1

    unsavory for sure!
    would have been nice to list some of the restaurants who do use kunana's products. it is a quality chevre and feta, it is pricy but worth it. they have raised their prices once in the past 3 years. reasonable by any measure. support local farmers!

  • Regular Guy Giving Just Retorts posted at 11:12 am on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    Regular Guy Giving Just Retorts Posts: 941

    [quote]Manawai said: "I’m sorry but from the restaurants’ comments it sounds like the dairy might not be the most reliable or consistent supplier."[/quote]

    I think your wrong here.

    The first car I ever had, and I bought it brand new at 17 with my own money that I made from a dairy cow I owned. Right after birth is the largest volume of milk you get and it slowly tappers off from there to the point were you have to stop milking them. I explained this to my customers and they understood this cycle was necessary.

    Small dairy operations will experience this same effect but with a ongoing supply of various volumes. The larger the dairy the better they can regulate the the steadiness of volume flow.

    I'm certain the Wooton's would make mention of this to their clients they regularly supply; if they don't maybe after reading this they will.

    So what if the output flow isn't regular because of this so long as the consistency of the product is high the demand will remain.

  • Manawai posted at 10:31 am on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    Manawai Posts: 309

    I’m sorry but from the restaurants’ comments it sounds like the dairy might not be the most reliable or consistent supplier. I’d be pissed if I printed an expensive menu and then the cheese wasn’t coming in on time or at all or their prices rose too high. I think there may be two sides to this story.

  • Russ Winter posted at 10:16 am on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    Russ Winter Posts: 8

    This kind of business ethnic is a product of extremely hard times and serious food inflation. I think it systematic and is showing up as well in shoddy products at almost all retailers.

    I just bought a plastic spoon at Wal Mart that turned to mush the minute I used it, a can opener that completely failed to function, a pair of PJs that ended up with a hole in the crotch after two nights of use.

    In a mad scramble to give consumers so called stable prices and phony value for their diminished buck, there has been some serious "coin shaving" (defacto inflation) going on.

  • jr1956 posted at 9:31 am on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    jr1956 Posts: 1263

    Next time you go to a restaurant, just to be sure toy are getting the right cheese, ask the wait staff to "cut the cheeses" at your table. I know that was a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad
    joke. :D)

    Any lawyers reading this story, sounds like an easy pay-day!

    Aloha, Kimobama

  • pjmack posted at 8:28 am on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    pjmack Posts: 1

    I have been visiting Kauai for 30 years now. I have had a meal at 2 of these places and many, many meals at the other 2. I will not be returning to ANY of them on my next trip in May. I would question anything I am told at any of these establishments.

    Brennecke’s Beach Broiler, Po‘ipu
    Kalaheo Steak & Ribs, Kalaheo
    Casablanca Restaurant, Po‘ipu
    Kukui’s, Marriott Resort and Beach Club, Kalapaki Beach

    Thank you for the great job in reporting!!

  • rednksurfer posted at 7:48 am on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    rednksurfer Posts: 54

    There's nothing like a fresh tossed salad with lots of stuff like sliced boiled eggs, chunks of spam, avacado on it, top with goat cheese. Now listen to the old man, try it mixed in with scrambled eggs. Or Cook some choriza and drain, then mix in half goat cheese for a breakfast side dish called flambiado queso to be added to a fork full of eggs. Nothing like it! Yum.

  • dmorel posted at 7:47 am on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    dmorel Posts: 1096

    Notice these restaurants are a distance from the Wooten's farm in Kilauea. When the cat's away.

    Flimsy excuses. Most diverted their crime to someone else...or stood standing wide eyed like Betty Boop saying, "I didn't know the Wooten's cheese is still listed on my menu or web site!"

    Nice job Louisa pursuing this. Your hard work is being exploited by some who profit in false advertisement. The Marriot Resort?

    Nice reporting Vanessa; seems you turned all the stones until you got answers. How many more menus and web sites you reckon are being "revised" right now?

    I worked PT at Silver Falls Ranch. Outings $$$. Lunch provided for guests. Owner, Uri, and Ranch manager, Robin, ran hidden kitichen.

    Kitchen door kept closed, w/ sign on it, "Do NOT Enter." Cabbage for cole slaw kept in the refrigerator drawer w/ viles of horse blood and medicine.

    Manager lied to HD Inspector, "We only buy Subway sandwiches for guests--no kitchen."

    If you have an iron deficiency, have $$$ lunch at SFR.

  • pulehu posted at 7:44 am on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    pulehu Posts: 386

    Our tutu lady and tutu man taught us at a very young age that it all began with Adam & Eve's fall. And sad to say it continues until today. Be good, honest, always malama aina, ohana and pono. They teach us "think" before you do something that will make ohana shame; no hurt nobody. Kauai too small and we will find out; look out. As kupunas, our ohana continue to teach this valuable lesson. Mahalo tutu lady and tutu man for loving and teaching us.

  • JustinCase posted at 6:45 am on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    JustinCase Posts: 318

    Support our local farmers! Restaurants should be more diligent in their advertising or face false advertising in court!

  • kealiahana posted at 6:27 am on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    kealiahana Posts: 289

    interesting but not surprising. Exploitation, fraud, where has that happenned before?

  • manoaborn posted at 5:54 am on Sun, Feb 13, 2011.

    manoaborn Posts: 159

    All these restaurants have been doing this for months, if not years? If I had eaten at those places, I would immediately demand my money back for my meals. If I payed for Kilauea goat cheese and got something else, well, its called FRAUD!


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