I experienced a great deal of culture shock the first time I returned to the Santa Monica Farmers Market some Wednesday a few weeks ago.
There were so many vendors, so much food, so many people. I was overwhelmed.
I had forgotten just what a scene it was and I sure missed the smaller more personable local markets of Atlanta.
Familiar Faces, Finding My Groove
The first thing I did when I got to the market was to find Carlsbad Aquafarm where I was met with with smiling faces who even after a year remembered me and a couple of oysters, chucked to-order.
How I missed the taste, "like a nice swim in the ocean" is how I put it, so fresh, so yummy.
I used to buy bags of oysters, clams and mussels from them almost weekly. And more often than not I would simply throw them on a open fire and just wait as they would pop open showing they were done and ready to be eaten up, so good, so easy.
I've been quite content with getting my fix with a few on the half-shell, but I did notice a little Weber grill in the backyard of the place we're house-sitting, so I bought a back of mussels and oysters. I think we'll grill them on Friday as part of a Whale Wars Finale.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
After finishing up a couple of bivalves, I head out to try to figure out who to buy what from, so many choices. It all looks so delicious. I used to go to the market pretty regularly, so I decided to search out some of my old favorites. Lo and behold they were still there and in there same spots.
Once I got over how crowded it was and how there is an unspoken pecking order with celebrities and chefs at the top and myself and other plebs much closer to the bottom of that stack, I was able to begin to appreciate the market. The quantity, diversity, quality and vast array of local and organic foods is second to none, besides the one in San Francisco.
Finally after being back for several weeks and only a couple till we're off again, have I been able to take a breath, take a step back and really enjoy the experience.
The next four pictures are taken from the center of the market, any one of these "arms" would have more vendors than the biggest of the farmers markets in Atlanta which still do, by the way, have a lot to offer. But you really can't beat California after all when it comes to agriculture, which is actually one of the challenges at the market, that is discenrning which vendors are actually "organic" or "sustainable", "local" or a "small farm". I know plenty that obviously aren't but it can be tricky to determine which ones are.
An informal chat about how and what they grow, a couple questions about where their farm is and how they're doing, what crops are coming up. It's all part of the field-trip and educational aspect of the trip to the market.
Not the one of Bob Dylan fame but Maggie's Farm over in Auguora Hills where they have always have an incredible selection of greens and herbs.
I picked up some amazing pesto,over at Basiltops, actually I picked up a few of them, my favorite being Pesto Habanero.
In an attempt to go for a more plant-based diet I've been getting some of protein from nuts. Over at Fat Uncle Farms, they've got almonds in several different incarnations. I went for some crunchy almond butter with sea salt, a jar of almond milk and a couple of bags of almonds, sea-salt and cajun flavored, all of them delicious.
These were just a few examples of the deliciousness that make being an Angeleno localvore quite doable.
I have loved being back on the Westside where we can at least bike to a couple of the farmers markets.
I sort of prefer the Venice Farmers Market on Fridays because it is so much more low-key. Carlsbad Aquafarm doesn't make it over there, so I try to make it to Santa Monica on Wednesday.
Nothing like a nice ride along the bike path with the Ocean on your side to make it an easy to choose two wheels over four. Plus no fussing over parking.