Eat Local, Eat Fresh: Farm-to-Table Options for Farmers Market Finds
The thrill of the hunt and the acquisition of a great treasure define the farmers market shopping experience. Ensnarl your senses and sharpen your mind as we explore this ancestral instinct at the farmers market.
Jewels are found in heirloom tomatoes, pungent leafy basil or the fresh scent of locally harvested fish. The efficient hunter/gatherer knows that the best find is dependent upon the season.
The child-like enthusiasm of market shoppers is matched with an equal naiveté. We know we should eat locally and we know it’s important to eat fresh and support local farmers; however it has been several generations since we only ate what we grew in our own gardens. The connection has been lost.
Enter Orange County’s talented chefs.
In Newport Beach, the Lido Farmer’s Market invites local chefs to showcase how to use local produce and handmade products in a Chef-to-Farmer Series. During these weekly farm-to-table cooking adventures, chefs from Orange County create simple recipes using ingredients supplied by local vendors. Bakers like Jonathan Eng of Le Pain Quotidien toss and knead fresh dough, teaching us how to make homemade bread. The entertainment and education serves to give all shoppers a reason to stay a bit longer.
In Anaheim, Chef Katie Averill, owner of Eat Street Culinary School, has planned several classes around the Downtown Anaheim Farmer’s Market on Center Street Promenade. “Since my school is around the corner from the farmers market, I count on buying the freshest most seasonal vegetables and fruits at the very last minute from the markets. My menu for class becomes spontaneous, depending on what my students and I find. And part of the fun is the find. Students who are learning how to cook get the idea that everything does not have to be pre-planned and you can suddenly use pomegranate, squash blossoms or fresh spinach to create totally different dishes with the same protein. The farmers markets help me educate.”
A block away, Chef Corey Miller of the Anaheim Gypsy Den, spends his Thursday mornings strolling through Center Street Promenade as local farmers set up for a full day of selling their wares. Based on what he finds, Corey creates the day’s farmers market special. Last week he made fresh cactus salsa, created with cactus, garlic, oregano, onions, cilantro, lime and salt.
Local farms and produce growers, such as OC Produce, help increase the localization of our OC bounty in restaurants. They provide fresh produce for Chef Pierre at Pelican Hill, Chef Kathy at Cafe Lucca, Chef Ives at Andrei's and Chef Jenny at 118 Degrees.
If you want to eat in season, you need to respect the seasons. Part of the pleasure of shopping at your local market is developing an appreciation of fresh, local foods at the height of their natural season. Find the jewel. Develop a relationship with the wonderful people who grow and cook your food. Slow down to enjoy (and maybe cook) a good, locally grown meal. It invokes a small town feel that can extend a special warmness whether visiting for a short time or a longtime OC resident.