Saturday, August 16, 2008

KCC Farmer's Market

Brewed Coffee from Coffee Talk

There's nothing like a brisk morning hike through the local farmer's market to start off the day. I had heard about the KCC Farmer's Market but since I expected to be in Ka'a'awa this morning, I figured the one in Kailua would have to suffice.

Of course, with Doc Rhee going deep past inebriation last night and our resultant crash at Sree and Joey's house suddenly, the KCC Farmer's Market was within striking distance. With the sunlight peeking through the window and shining on my face at 7am, I was up and ready in no time. First stop: coffee.

Normally, I'm not a coffee drinker. Meaning, I don't need a cup 'o joe in the morning to get my day going. Like any sensible drug dealer, I don't get hooked on my own dope. Maybe it was the brilliant Hawaiian morning or maybe it was just a desire to sample as much of the local foods as I possibly can on this trip, but I made my way over to Kaimuki's Coffee Talk coffeehouse.

A Crowded Market

Coffee Talk is Honolulu's venerable coffee spot. It's been there since 1992 and has been a leader on Hawaii's coffee scene ever since. It's got one of the few La Marzocco's on the island and offers free wi-fi internet. The last time I was in town, I would park myself at Coffee Talk in the late evenings to catch up on emails.

Sadly, a coffee shop that doesn't keep its' portafilters locked into their groupheads at all times isn't worth risking a shot. I only want one coffee and I want it to be good - or at least try to find a way to mitigate it being bad. Instead, I decided to go with their regular brewed coffee, and since flavored coffee is not an option I would choose (goodness, no!), I opted for the Indonesian Sumatra coffee.

Oh So Sweet Watermelon

Finding a rich, brewed coffee is always a joy. One that has robust flavor and proper brewing parameters is exciting. When you come across such a cup you just want to savor it. To nurture it. To finish your cup and ask for another. Hell, it's such an exciting cup, you want to pay for another.

Unfortunately, my cup of Sumatra at Coffee Talk was anything but the above.

Instead, it was light. Too light, which meant poor brewing techniques and standards. The cup tasted about half the Gold Cup Standard. Instead of 3 ounces of coffee for every 48 ounces of brew, this was maybe two. The cup was light, watery and devoid of definitive flavor. Disappointing isn't the proper descriptive. It's a crappy way to start off your morning. I couldn't wait to find a rubbish bin to dump it into.

Pineapples and Papayas

I figured that maybe I could buy a cup of coffee at whatever coffee vendor was at the farmer's market. In the end, I was too spooked to drop another buck fifty on a cup at Koko Crater Coffee Roasters booth. That's not to say their coffee isn't good because I don't know whether it is or not. All I know is that the first cup of coffee was so bad that I just wasn't willing to risk more of my hard-earned money on unknown coffee.

However, if the first cup at Coffee Talk had been good, I probably would have been game to try another cup at Koko Crater. It's a shame since I would like to have tried their coffee, but the first cup compounded with the long line just burned my resolve.

Fresh Edamame

Visiting a new farmer's market is always exciting and KCC is a good one. Staged by the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, their rule is that all the product being sold at the market must be produced in Hawaii. This bodes well for my shopping adventure and the market is chock full of all kinds of local goodness.

The market is packed. To the gills. Even though Kapiolani Community College has plenty of parking, it's tough to find a space. The place is jamming. The produce looks beautiful. First order of business is to get the lay of the land. I spend the first forty minutes just wandering the aisles looking at product and planning my assault.

Manzanillo from Hale'iwa.

Early on, I spy some incredible looking oranges. Oh, and how about that butter lettuce? There's the ubiquitous kettle corn vendor, but next to him is a lady selling Filipino baked goods like hopia, puto and bibingka. Locally grown baby bok choy? This ain't Maryland, folks. And what about those papayas? Not to mention the array of wonderful flowers that make me wish I had a home to decorate.

Baby Bok Choy

But there's something slightly off about this farmer's market. I've gotten used to the whole "let's be green" nature of the Baltimore farmer's markets and while there's that "green" feeling here, I can't help but to feel a disconnect with the widespread practice amongst the produce vendors that bag all of their produce in plastic bags. I mean everything from baby bok choy to lettuce to mixed greens to tomatoes are packaged in plastic, with printed labels. Mind you, these aren't the slick packages you see at the supermarket from commercial producers, these are simple plastic bags.

I just have to wonder why these local farmers would use so much plastic.

Kamuela Sweet Tomatoes

With my reconnaissance complete, I start the buying. First, is a small box of puto, a form of sweet rice cake, from the Filipino lady. Then, it's back to that organic farmer selling the beautiful butter lettuce. A package of Waimanalo sweet corn, some yellow swiss chard, a package of baby bok choy and Kamuela tomatoes. Some thin asparagus for the grill, and finally some sweet watermelon from Aloun Farms in Ewa.

And not to forget: a couple of pounds of beef short ribs and a couple of New York Strip steaks from North Shore Cattle Company. As far as I can tell, they're the only 100% grass-fed and pasture-raised beef on Oahu and I'm excited to give them a try. Note: I went with the New York Strips only because they were out of ribeye and bought what little ribs they had left.

Thin Asparagus

My biggest problem at the farmer's market is that I never travel lightly. No matter how carefully I may choose my purchases, I always seem to end up with lots of bags and piles of ingredients. By the time I got to the watermelon, I was swamped. I needed a cart or at least another set of hands. This made for a very long walk back to the jeep.

But no matter, I'm buying groceries for our merry band of party people at the beach house. The nice thing about traveling with Sree, Joey and Rhee is that they have an appreciation for fine foods and are pretty darn good cooks in their own right. I left the market with the jeep loaded and confident that these great ingredients will be handled carefully and thoughtfully by our crew.

Looking for Lau Lau?



Yellow Orchids

Filipino Baked Specialties

Shopping for Flowers

Coffee Talk
3601 Waialae Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-7444

The Saturday Market at Kapiolani Community College
Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation
4303 Diamond Head Road
Honolulu, HI 96816

Nalo Farms
41-574 Makakalo Street
Waimanalo, HI 96795

Ho Farms
PO Box 569
Kahuku, HI 96731

Aloun Farms
91-1440 Farrington Highway
Kapolei, HI 96707

Ma'o Organic Farm
86-210 Puhawai Road
Wai'anae, HI 96792

North Shore Cattle Company
PO Box 2339
Ewa Beach, HI 96706

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