February 28, 2011

Santa Monica Farmers Market

Part III Eating My Way Through LA

A friend in LA gave me a beautiful cookbook from the famous Santa Monica Farmers Market for my birthday last year and over my visit in January, I was lucky enough to go visit it in person! We caught the Sunday market on Main Street, which actually runs four days a week year-round. Lucky California.

Coming from Seattle in the winter, it was wonderful to see all the fresh produce. The giant strawberries smelt like summer and we saw raspberries that were pink, blue, and white. This is definately a place you could visit weekly to stock up on all your fresh produce. My personal favorites were the pistachios in all different flavors and the dried apricots, plums, and pluots. We chose the unsulfured variety and had a snack for the remainder of the afternoon. Here is a piece on the Farmers Market by my good friend and "welovenice.com" eats&drinks editor, Laura Malcolm:

It’s easy in Southern California to forget that it’s snowing and flooding in the rest of the country half the year. While we do realize it’s not normal for most people to wear flipflops in February, we probably do overlook the fact that this has more subtle effects as well – namely, our year round access to a variety of produce that beats what’s available in most parts of the country any season, let alone in the dead of winter.

While we may not have major lapses in the growing seasons, there are certainly still prime times to find certain items. Trust me when I say if you like any of these items and have never experienced them straight from the farm at the peak of their season, you may be in for a religious experience.

Luckily for me, there is a farmer’s market within 5 miles of me every day of the week – that is hundreds of farmers selling thousands of items that I can buy directly from the source - no shipping, packaging, handling, refrigerating or storing. However, I do most of my shopping at the Santa Monica Wednesday market, one of the largest and most well known in the country. Shopping alongside some of the most elite chefs in the country, picking through baskets of tomatoes and herbs with sauce in mind, selecting from twenty varieties of citrus from one farm, having a farmer advise you on which of the four avocados would be best in your salad – this is food on entirely different level.

One of the Santa Monica chefs that’s known for highlighting goods from the Wednesday market is former Top Chef contestant and current Executive Chef at The Yard, CJ Jacobson. His in-season favorites of the moment? Cara Cara oranges, kumquats and broccoli rabe (excellent for a ragout, he says). The highlight of my farm-to-table dining experiences was once noticing the height of peach season at the market, going to dinner at The Yard and having my choice of four dishes incorporating peaches, and knowing that I had just been squeezing those same peaches hours earlier.

I hope that those of us jetting down to the Wednesday market from our offices at lunch, or going to one of several Saturday markets for breakfast and a leisurely shop, realize how truly lucky we are to have this rainbow of fresh food available to us and that we continue to support the farmers that are making it happen – because without them, we’ll all be buying our produce packed, stored, shipped and optimized.

And isn’t it all perfect just the way it is?

-Pictures and feature by Laura Malcolm

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