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Saturday, July 16, 2005

 

Market Forces - $7 breakfast? No thank you


I just gotta draw the line someplace. Today we voted with our feet and decided not to buy Chef Chai's featured breakfast at the KCC Saturday Farmers' Market. And to blog about it here, because I think it's important to share this view.

I am willing to pay more at a farmers' market for fresh-picked Island-grown produce -- it tastes better, I'm supporting a local business and the concept of sustainable agriculture, and no oil or jet fuel was expended to bring it here. I love the products sold at the market that are made from local ingredients for similar reasons.

Besides shopping, the market is a happening -- food, music, the chance to meet friends with similar interests, the chance to meet farmers and discuss what they have brought with them. The markets bring town and country closer together.

Once upon a time everyone shopped at a market. Then and now, vendors compete with the best products and prices for the customers' money. In return, shoppers tend to build loyalty to a particular vendor and return week after week.

Part of the attraction of the KCC Saturday market is that each week different restaurants or caterers are featured with one or more breakfast offerings. There's music, and usuall a place to sit in the shade and enjoy a fresh breakfast as part of the total experience.

But a market is a market, and this morning I think I and other shoppers standing in front of Chef Chai's tent looked, sniffed, asked, and mostly didn't buy. I didn't see the long lines that typically form and might have formed today. I can tell you why we chose to give this a pass.

First, there was no menu, no sign. Everyone had to ask, "What is it?". "How much?". The answer to the second part was $7, which I think is over the $5-$6 barrier for a morning market. Oh, what was it? Loco Moco with braised shortribs, which was probably excellent, but maybe for lunch and maybe not at the market at that price. Chef Chai was there, and I don't know if he considers his visit a success or not, but I hope he'll come back and do it differently, more in the spirit of a morning market.

So what did we eat? There were several other choices. We mosied over to Kaiulani's Kitchen where Greg Yee of Blue Lotus Farms had a large sign out with several breakfast choices. We picked Kalua Chicken with cabbage, kim chee and rice. $5.

We also have not purchased as much durian as we'd like to. At $2.50 a pound, a 10-pound durian is quite an investment. We love durian and it's worth buying, but again -- market forces. The frozen kind in Chinatown don't compare (I'm ashamed to mention them in the same paragraph) but they can be had for under a dollar a pound.

I have no way of knowing if $2.50/pound is a fair price -- I'm sure it is, that's not the point really. Durian is in high demand, and probably they can sell as many as they bring over at that price. Indeed, that's also market forces at work (in Singapore, even poor people will scrimp and save in order to be able to buy a durian once and awhile).

I hope the fine breakfast offerings will continue at the KCC market, and I'm also hopeful that they will hold the line on price. Sure, the folks from nearby Kahala won't blink at the chance to enjoy a Chai's Bistro breakfast, but they are in the minority. Shopping at the market should be a rewarding experience for everyone.




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