Farmers market days
Between the move, finding a kitten on the freeway, a string of birthdays, day job fun, and a major holiday, going to the farmers market hasn’t exactly been a priority. By this I mean it hasn’t even been on the list. Not even the top five.
Lily from ABC Rhubarb Farms – her shitakes are legendary. And according to Jonathon Gold, she smells like lemon verbena.
It hurts to say that. Right in my tender market-loving heart. I adore going to the farmers markets. Have for many a year and almost every weekend without fail. Pasadena and Hollywood are my favorites and over time I have developed a short list of preferred vendors who have become good friends.
Love P & H for different reasons – Pasadena because it was my childhood market, it’s just plain cozy, you can get all your staples in one shot, and I know almost every vendor. Hollywood because of its size and variety; hot, jellied aebleskivers; freshly shucked oysters from Carlsbad (the blondes…mmmm); a few friendly associations that I renew every time I go; and just having the option of buying chanterelles. Chanterelles are so alluring to me – the aroma, the flavor, that chewy, lovely mouthfeel. Their price scares me in the truffle kind of way though – I love eating them but am not keen about cooking with them lest I inflict a costly injustice. But just knowing that there’s a vendor there who has them (at a rather reasonable price as the market flies) gilds the Hollywood market lily for me.
Really though, they all had me at hello.
This past weekend, I walked down Ivar starting at Sunset under an impossibly blue sky. The stated goal was to collect info for my LA Weekly market report. But I was mostly rehydrating the dried-out sponge of my market soul.
Winter market days in L.A. are usually pretty sparsely populated. More so the weekend after Thanksgiving. A few vendors take advantage of this and get a much deserved weekend of rest – I counted maybe four empty stall spaces. The rest were still in full swing.
Maybe it’s the fact that it’s in Hollywood. Maybe they know that this particular crowd needs a little more visual zazz in order for them to go from Morning Sampler to Avid Shopper. The produce displays at Hollywood are all about abundance, color, and texture. Good props don’t hurt either.
My favorite displays use rustic, well-used baskets with colorful or graphic tablecloths underneath. It’s superficial, but it helps. Plus, it’s nice to see so many growers so proud of what they’ve brought. Not saying a bright yellow plastic farm crate doesn’t have a good aesthetic or function – economy produces some beautiful reality. I’m just a visual texture whore.
Good signage helps, too. One, I like knowing more about my produce. Two, not every vendor has time to answer your questions on a busy market day. Explanations on paper help the decision-making process and leave room for more casual conversation at the scale. Suggest ways to prepare. Tell me where it was grown. When it was picked. How to select them. How many trees or fields you have. What you do for the holidays. How many kids you do or don’t have.
Tell me your name. I’ll tell you mine. And I’ll come back again and again.
Thompson Raisin grapes. I thought I knew sweet grapes. Oh no. They were all sugary pretenders to the throne. The fruit on these was like a small pebble, but it was like getting a mouthful of syrup. Absolutely decadent.
There’s also something really special about biting into a sun-warmed piece of fruit. If I were patient enough I might consider giving my fruits a sunbath at home before I bit into them. But the market happily provides samples – almost all of them out front and center and if not, most vendors will freely provide you with one if they can and you ask like your momma taught you.
I can’t believe I stayed away so long. See you next week.
Pasadena Farmers Market (Victory Park): Saturdays, North Sierra Madre Boulevard and Paloma Street, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Hollywood Farmers Market: Sundays, Ivar Avenue between Sunset and Hollywood boulevards, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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